Navy Christens Newest Carrier: USS George H.W. Bush
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
NEWPORT NEWS, Va., Oct. 7, 2006 The U.S. Fleet Forces Band caught the mood of the people attending the christening of the USS George H.W. Bush today when it played Richard Rodger’s music for the World War II documentary “Victory at Sea.”
President George W. Bush joins his father, former President George H. W. Bush, and Northrop Grumman President Mike Petters, as his sister Doro Bush Koch breaks the champagne bottle to christen the George H.W. Bush in Newport News, Va., Oct. 7. White House photo by Eric Draper
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Many of the World War II veterans sprinkled among the crowd greeted the former president. All ignored the rain to watch Bush’s daughter Dorothy Bush Koch smash a champagne-filled bottle to officially name the 90,000-ton aircraft carrier.
The former president began his government career as the Navy’s youngest pilot in 1942. He flew missions against the Japanese during World War II. Later he served as a congressman from Texas, U.S. ambassador to China, director of central intelligence and vice president before being elected president in 1988. Following the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, Bush served again and with former President Bill Clinton, led efforts to aid the people of the region.
His son, President George W. Bush, said the USS George H.W. Bush “honors a generation that valued service above self.”
“In the four years of that war, 16 million Americans would put on the uniform,” the president said. “And the human costs were appalling: from the beaches of Normandy to the jungles of Southeast Asia, more than 400,000 Americans would give their lives.”
But even then, there were people who believed democracy could not stand up to the challenge that imperial Japan and Nazi Germany posed. “There were those who argued that freedom had seen its day, and that the future belonged to the hard men in Tokyo and Berlin,” the president said. “Yet the war machines of imperial Japan and Nazi Germany would be brought down by American GIs who only months before had been students, and farmers, and bank clerks and factory hands.
“The generation of World War II taught the world's tyrants a telling lesson: There is no power like the power of freedom – and no soldier as strong as a soldier who fights for a free future for his children.”
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the USS Bush will remind future generations President George H.W. Bush’s service. “And in the almost 6,000 men and women who will man this vessel, they will see the kind of courage that inspired a young George Bush to volunteer for the Navy on his 18th birthday,” Rumsfeld said.
The secretary said the traits of strength and love of country are Bush family hallmarks. “We saw them in the distinguished senator from Connecticut, Prescott Bush, we saw them in the man we honor today, and we see those traits today in our president who has such courage and determination in our nation’s time of peril,” he said. “In times of great peril, character counts. Those of us who are privileged to serve this president, we see that character, that grit, every single day to the great benefit of human freedom.”
Former President Bush said “the United States Navy started to make a man out of a very scared 18-year-old kid.”
He also said that he wanted to set the record straight. “Tom Brokaw wrote a magnificent book talking about World War II guys as the ‘greatest generation,’” he said. “In my humble view, we were no greater than the kids who serve today – all volunteers, all fighting. We are very proud of all who are serving.”
The current president agreed, saying the USS George H. W. Bush “will serve a new generation of Americans every bit as brave and selfless as those who have come before them.”
Freedom is once again under attack, the president said, and since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 1.6 million Americans have volunteered for military service. “Today they serve in distant lands and on far seas – from the islands of Southeast Asia, to the Horn of Africa, to the mountains of Afghanistan and in Iraq,” he said. “And once again, with perseverance and courage and confidence in the power of freedom, a new generation of Americans will leave a more hopeful and peaceful world for generations to come.
“The men and women of the United States military represent the best of America. And they deserve the best America can give them,” he said. “And the George H. W. Bush is the best America can give them.”
Adm. Mike Mullen, chief of naval operations, thanked the former president for sharing his great name with the Navy. He said the ship will find plenty of work as the America battles the enemies of freedom in places and ways that could have imagined.
“It was an aircraft carrier that we sent to New York harbor on the 12th of September 2001,” he said. “(It was) an aircraft carrier that first struck back at the Taliban from the waters of the Indian Ocean, and an aircraft carrier with supporting ships that we sent to Indonesia in the wake of the most devastating natural disaster that nation, or any nation, has ever seen.”
The former president was visibly moved by the ceremony. “Whatever happens, I hope the American people accept my deepest gratitude for the chance to serve this nation: an honor that touches deep in my heart,” he said.