Know Your Military

George H.W. Bush: A Life of Service

Dec. 1, 2018

George Herbert Walker Bush has died at age 94. He was born June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts. He graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, on his 18th birthday in 1942 and immediately joined the Navy.

With World War II raging, Bush earned his wings in June 1943. He was the youngest pilot in the Navy at that time.

Three WWII-era naval aviators stand in front of their aircraft.
Young Pilots
From left, radioman Joe Reichert, Navy Lt. jg. George H.W. Bush, and turret gunner Leo W. Nadeau, stand in front of their TBM-1C Avenger, Nov. 2, 1944.
Photo By: Courtesy George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
VIRIN: 441102-O-ZZ999-221Y

In his inaugural address on Jan 20, 1989, Bush spoke about America having a meaning “beyond what we see.” The idea of America and what it stands for is important in the world, he said.

“We know what works: Freedom works. We know what's right: Freedom is right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on Earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state,” Bush said.

“We must act on what we know,” he said later in the speech. “I take as my guide the hope of a saint: in crucial things, unity; in important things, diversity; in all things, generosity.”

President George H.W. Bush shakes hands with troops.
Thanksgiving Visit
President George H.W. Bush meets with troops in Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving during the Gulf War, Nov. 22, 1990.
Photo By: Courtesy of George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
VIRIN: 901122-O-ZZ999-221Y

Statement by Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis on the Passing of President George H.W. Bush

“President George Herbert Walker Bush, naval aviator, decorated in his youth for valor in combat, took his experience in war to build a better world as our commander in chief. His service to our nation demonstrated how we as a people can draw on our humility, diversity and devotion to our country to meet every challenge with fortitude and confidence. We will miss him, but at the going down of the day, his example will long guide our Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines for how to live life without regret.”

Navy Lt. j.g. George H.W. Bush sits in an aircraft cockpit.
Avenger Pilot
Navy Lt. j.g. George H.W. Bush in the cockpit of his TBM Avenger, ca. 1944.
Photo By: Courtesy of National Archives
VIRIN: 440101-O-ZZ999-101
Former President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush pose with a soldier.
Tandem Jump
Former President George H.W. Bush celebrates following a parachute jump for the 10th anniversary and rededication ceremonies of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas, Nov. 10, 2007.
Photo By: Courtesy George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
VIRIN: 071110-O-ZZ999-221Y

Statement by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. on the Passing of President George H.W. Bush

“The life of President George Herbert Walker Bush is an inspiration to all Americans. Today, we remember and honor his example of character, leadership, and service. His efforts throughout a long career of public service touched each of us in many ways, but none were more inspiring and impactful than his contributions to the defense of our nation.

From being the Navy's youngest pilot in the early days of World War II to serving as Commander in Chief in the last days of the Cold War and through Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, President Bush's five decades of defending the American people and American principles have few rivals in our history.

On behalf of U.S. military forces everywhere, we salute President Bush and his incredible legacy of leadership and service to our nation.”