George H.W. Bush
George Widman  /  AP
Former President George H.W. Bush takes a last look before donating his World War II service revolver to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
updated 7/20/2007 2:00:07 PM ET 2007-07-20T18:00:07

Former President George H.W. Bush got his World War II service revolver back Wednesday, 60 years after giving it to a Navy lieutenant aboard the submarine that rescued him when his plane was shot down over the Pacific Ocean.

Bush donated the revolver to the National Constitution Center the same day the son of late Lt. J.G. Albert Brostrom returned the .38-caliber Smith & Wesson and its leather shoulder holster to him.

Brostrom was the sonar man on the USS Finback, which rescued Bush, a Navy pilot, after he was shot down by Japanese anti-aircraft fire on Sept. 2, 1944. Brostrom brought the future president to the infirmary and later shared his bunk with him.

“It was a little grubby in there, but that’s how it was done in those days,” Bush said. He gave Brostrom the revolver in gratitude.

Ron Brostrom, 59, of Chester Springs, Pa., said his father never spoke to his family about the war, except for the kindness and sense of humor of the combat pilot who gave him the revolver.

“We only knew it was a 20-year-old lieutenant,” Ron Brostrom said.

The family did not realize who the pilot was until 1980 when Bush — then a vice-presidential candidate — announced he was looking for crew members from the submarine.

“Dad was kind of like, ’The kid did OK,”’ Brostrom said with a laugh.

Bush presented the gun to Constitution Center president and CEO Joseph Torsella for permanent display in the museum.

Bush is chairman of the center’s board of trustees. The Constitution Center, a nonprofit organization founded in 2003, contains more than 100 exhibits dedicated to increasing public understanding of the Constitution.

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