President George W. Bush will deliver the principal address at the christening ceremony of the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, named for his father, former President George H. W. Bush, at a 10 a.m. EDT on Saturday, Oct. 7 at Northrop Grumman Newport News Shipyard, Newport News, Va.
The last of the Nimitz-class carriers is named in honor of World War II naval aviator and America’s 41st President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush. The former president was born in Milton, Mass., on June 12, 1924, and began a lifetime of service to America when he joined the Navy on his 18th birthday as a seaman. He became the youngest pilot in the Navy at the time, receiving his commission and naval aviator wings before his 19th birthday.
Bush flew the Avenger torpedo bomber in combat from the carrier USS San Jacinto. During an attack on enemy installations near Chichi Jima in September 1944, his plane was hit by enemy fire while making a bombing run. Although the plane was on fire and heavily damaged, he completed a strafing run on the target before bailing out of the doomed aircraft. Bush parachuted into the sea and was later rescued by the Navy submarine USS Finback. He was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals for his Navy service in the Pacific theater during World War II.
After his Navy service ended in September 1945, Bush served America in a number of public service roles that included two-terms as a U.S. congressman from Texas, ambassador to the United Nations, chief of the U.S. Liaison Office to China and director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He then served two terms as vice president under former President Ronald Reagan before being elected himself as President of the United States in 1988. As commander-in-chief, Bush led the United States and a coalition of nearly 30 other nations during Operation Desert Storm, which ended Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and liberated the people of the small Persian Gulf nation.
Doro Bush Koch, daughter of former President George H.W. Bush, will serve as ship’s sponsor. The ceremony will be highlighted by Koch breaking a bottle of American sparkling wine across the ship’s bow to formally christen the ship, which is a time-honored Navy tradition. The former president and his wife, Barbara, are scheduled to attend the ceremony.
America’s carriers serve a vital role in the defense of the American people. Deploying around the globe in support of U.S. interests and commitments, U.S. aircraft carriers are in place to immediately respond to emerging military and humanitarian crises and in various roles ranging from peacetime presence to full-scale war.
Capt. Kevin O'Flaherty, a native of Los Angeles, Calif., and a 1981 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, is the prospective commanding officer. In that capacity, he will be responsible for more than 5,000 crewmembers, to include the embarked air wing, when the ship is commissioned and fully operational.
Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, at 1,092 feet in length and 97,000 tons displacement, are the largest warships in the world. Traveling at speeds in excess of 30 knots and with flight decks encompassing 4.5 acres, they can easily support an air wing of about 75 aircraft.
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