January 10, 2009
Carrier Named For Bush's Father
By Sara A. Carter, The Washington Times
Former President George H.W. Bush will be honored for his military career when the U.S. Navy commissions its new aircraft carrier Saturday at Naval Station Norfolk.
The president's son, President Bush, will speak as the Navy commissions the 1,092-foot CVN-77, which will be named the USS George H.W. Bush.
"The president is honored to participate in the commissioning of the USS George H.W. Bush both as the commander in chief and as a proud son," White House spokesman Carlton F. Carroll told The Washington Times.
On Friday, workers finished the last details on the nuclear-powered carrier, which towers 20 stories above the waterline and has a flight deck width of 252 feet. More than 10,000 people are expected to attend the 11 a.m. event Saturday, according to Navy officials.
Dorothy "Doro" Bush Koch, the former president's daughter, will give the order to "man our ship and bring her to life," following tradition.
Mr. Bush, 84, is a decorated Navy pilot in World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mr. Bush, who was then 18, decided to join the Navy. After finishing his 10-month course, he became the youngest naval aviator to that date.
Mr. Bush flew an Avenger torpedo bomber in combat from the carrier USS San Jacinto. He nearly lost his life during an attack on enemy installations near Chichi Jima in September 1944, when his plane was hit by enemy fire and heavily damaged. Nevertheless, he completed a strafing run on the target before bailing out of the doomed craft.
Mr. Bush parachuted into the sea and was rescued by the submarine USS Finback.
Mr. Bush flew 58 combat missions. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals and the Presidential Unit Citation, which was awarded to his squadron based on the USS San Jacinto.
Capt. Kevin O'Flaherty, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1981, will be the new carrier's first commanding officer. He will lead a crew of more than 5,500 men and women, including embarked air wing personnel, according to Defense officials. The USS George H.W. Bush will initially homeport in Norfolk and be assigned to the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
Construction of the 10th Nimitz-class ship began at Northrop Grumman-Newport News, Va., in September 2006.
The ship will support the F/A-18C Hornet and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters, the E-2C/D Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning aircraft, the C-2 Greyhound logistics aircraft, the EA-6B Prowler and the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, multi-role SH-60 and MH-60 helicopters and other future carrier-based aircraft, according to a Defense Department news release.
The USS George H.W. Bush will be the 77th aircraft carrier to be delivered to the Navy since 1922, when the Navy commissioned the USS Langley.
The aircraft carrier will be the 10th and final Nimitz-class sub and the ninth in the Navy's fleet.
January 10, 2009
Carrier namesake called 'huge honor'
By Tony Freemantle
NORFOLK, VA. — George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, began his career in public service as a Navy pilot flying a torpedo bomber off the USS San Jacinto in the South Pacific during World War II. Today, at the age of 84, he caps that career with the official commissioning of the USS George H.W. Bush, the 10th and last of the Nimitz class aircraft carriers and the only carrier to be named for a carrier pilot. He recently spoke with Chronicle Metro Editor Tony Freemantle about what the event means to him.
Q: You've told me several times that having this ship named for you is one of the highlights of your life. Why?
A: One of the biggest of anything that could have happened to me. And there's a lot of reasons. One, I was in the naval aviation as a young pilot flying off a much smaller carrier, and I really have great respect for those who are serving in the Navy and the other armed services, so that's an additional kick and it's just great. I never dreamed that an aircraft carrier, particularly like our new one, CVN 77, would be named for me. It's a huge honor. And I'm also a little, not concerned, but certainly excited and a little apprehensive about what it's going to be like that day. I'm probably going to lose my composure because it's going to a very emotional day.
Q: From what I can gather, there are only two naval aviators who have had carriers named for them. Former Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal and you. And you are the first Navy pilot who actually flew off a carrier to have one named for them.
A: That's an exciting part of this, too. There are not many of my squadron mates left, but the ones that are are showing up for this commissioning.
Q: What is it like to take off and land on an aircraft carrier?
A: Well, it's a great thrill, because it starts obviously when you take off, usually with catapults we did in those days — you could run down the deck and take off, but every takeoff I made I think was catapult — and you go scooting down the deck and then duck as it goes off the end of the ship. It wasn't harrowing, but it was always a thrill. And once in a while the catapult would not work right, and the guy would end up, safely, but end up in the drink. Then the landing was the big thing. I mean, you'd get into a landing pattern, you'd come around 90 degrees off the ship on the port side and just make a turn — Navy pilots, wrap it up, we'd call it — come round that side of the ship and then you'd look for the landing signal officer, the guy standing with the flags, and he would tell you to go faster or slower, and you're too high or you're too low, and you'd just let him land the plane. Now, it's so different because you've got all this electronics, you know, that flies the plane in for you. But it was harrowing at times.
Q: The price tag I've seen on this ship is I think about $6 billion at this point. What does the taxpayer get for that kind of money?
A: I think he gets an enormous assurance that the United States will be able to project power and protect its forces all around the world. I mean, the carrier is more than a ship floating around out at sea. It packs an offensive punch and brings it to bear on the targets, and it's a great assurance that the U.S. will do everything it can to protect its ground troops. So, I'm a great believer in carriers now and in the future. There are some who say the carrier is going to be obsolete. I don't think so.
Q: I have a sneaking suspicion that you will arrive on that ship (today) by parachute. Any plans to surprise everyone?
A: I wish I were, but I'm not. There was some suggestion of it. But actually, you know, it would kind of clutter up airwaves. But it would be easy to do. The fact that I'm making these tandem jumps these days removes the risk of jarring the old hip because you are in the arms of some great big Golden Knight and when you go to land he says 'Pick your feet up, pick your feet up.' You pick 'em up, and he takes the shot if there is one. But it's not going to happen on this go round. Wish it were.
Q: About 200 members of the Bush clan are going to be at the commissioning. Is that all of them?
A: I think so. There may be one or two missing, but 200? Where do they get 200? I didn't know we had 200. But cousins are coming out of the woodwork, and they are for this thing. But there will be in-laws and distant relatives. But it's exciting. It's a really big thrill for Barbara and me and for the family. And it's great having the president still in office. That adds, from our standpoint, a lot to it.
Q: And everyone from Supreme Court justices down to plumbers from Maine are on the guest list?
A: That's right. All walks of life. I'm overwhelmed, I really am. I'm not just saying that. I mean the list is just enormous, and they are from all walks of life. The guy that does the yard in Maine and the plumber up there and all this kind of thing. And, uh, people that have helped us in the kitchen in the vice president's house and in the president's house and in our house. The stewards, a bunch of them are coming. Former Secret Service guys. A lot of them are coming. It's so exciting. I'm afraid I'm not going to recognize some. Our grandkids of course. Military aides that I had when I was in the service. Nurses, the White House nurses. A lot of them are coming down. Some of the butlers in the White House. I know a lot of Houstonians are going to be there. Some of Barbara's authors that read at her readings. David Baldacci. Our past Cabinet, a lot of them will be there. Christopher Buckley, the famous, or infamous Christopher Buckley will be there. An old friend. On and on. It'll be a madhouse, I tell ya.
Q: As the president prepares to leave office, any thoughts about the future direction of the nation under the new president?
A: I'm sure I have some thoughts on it, but basically I'm a fundamental optimist that the country will do well. And we're still a beacon of hope for most countries around the world. People say, 'Oh, they threw a shoe at the president' or whatever the hell it was, and yet I think half the people in that room would love to have come here. So, we have ups and downs, but I think in balance I'm a firm believer that the United States will be No. 1, is No. 1 and will continue to be. Maybe that's a little ... This beating up on America. I don't understand it, and I'm too old to try to figure it all out. I don't spend anywhere near the time today on these matters that I used to. But I have this fundamental confidence in the goodness and the greatness of America.
Q: Are you looking forward to not having the Bush name in the headlines, especially since much of it has been negative of late?
A: Yes I am. I'm looking forward to having my son outside the first strike zone of the New York Times. I'm not sure they'll ever let up. But it's been brutal and grossly unfair in my view, and I'm looking forward to having him come home to Texas and be back in the bosom of the family. He's served honorably and well, and I'm very proud of him. I'm glad to get him out of that rat-race up there, the mayhem. And I wish the new president well. I hope Obama finds a nice smooth path to popularity and prosperity, but I have a feeling it might not work that way.
Q: Do you think it's taken a toll on George W.?
A: Probably. But he's not in the mode of feeling sorry for himself or wringing his hands. He's a fundamental optimist about the country, and I think he projects that. When you look at his hair I think you can tell it's taken a toll. But in terms of relationships with Barbara and me, he calls a lot and we call him and its not about here's what you do now in Iraq or something, it's about how's the family, how are my brothers doing, how're the kids and that stuff. And we stay close. And that's been a blessing for Barbara and me.
Q: I think the only president in recent memory who didn't go gray in office was Reagan.
A: That's right. He didn't go gray. I didn't go too gray.
Q: Let me ask you again, about the L word (legacy). Are you still not going to go there and write a book?
A: We don't use that word, the L word, around here. You know, there's nothing I can do about it. I can't write a book about it. I can't remember it. My memory is such I that I couldn't put together what will be necessary to write a book. But I think, uh, I think to the degree there will be a legacy, I hope it will be positive. We made plenty of mistakes, but we did it with honor. We didn't have a lot of scandal. We treated the White House and the Oval Office with respect. That's the way it oughta be.
Q: The last time we spoke I asked you what you were looking forward to and you mentioned the commissioning of the ship. Well, that's coming and going. What follows that?
A: Family time. With the president coming back, and just close time with the family. I'm not doing much in the way of speaking any more, one or two speeches, but I'm very content to sit there with Barbara, watching TV, listening to Law & Order, and checking up on our kids. That's the way it ought to be. It shouldn't be hovering around wanting to be something all the time. I know you find that hard to believe, but it's so true.
Q: So are you finally retired?
A: I am retired. I really am. I don't come to work until 10 o'clock. I would have killed myself if I weren't here by 7:30 over many, many years. But the pace is entirely different, and I'm very happy with it. I come here and lie down on that couch after lunch and take a 30-minute, sleeping nap. I wouldn't have dreamed of it before. Age takes a toll.
January 11, 2009
Aircraft Carrier Honors Elder Bush
Trip to Commission Naval Ship Is Also Younger Bush's Last on Air Force One
By Dan Eggen, Washington Post Staff Writer
NORFOLK, Jan. 10 -- In a final presidential journey rife with pomp and nostalgia, President Bush joined family and friends here Saturday to commission a new aircraft carrier named for another U.S. president: his father.
After landing on the U.S. Navy's 13th active carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush, the current president praised "President 41" as a leader, public servant and father. Addressing a crowd of about 10,000 that included his parents and four siblings, Bush said he had come "to help commission an awesome ship and to honor an awesome man."
"We will always be inspired by the faith, humor, patriotism and compassion he taught us through his own example," Bush said, speaking for his siblings. "And for as long as we live, we will carry with us Dad's other lessons -- that integrity and honor are worth more than any title or treasure, and that the truest strength can come from the gentlest soul."
Bush's father, walking with the aid of a cane, told the sailors gathered for the ceremony that "you take with you the undying respect and admiration of the entire Bush family."
Barring an unforeseen emergency, President Bush's trip to Norfolk Naval Station marked his last scheduled journey on Air Force One before he hands over power to Barack Obama on Jan. 20. Saturday's ceremony had few overt signs of farewell, yet the event seemed a fitting coda to Bush's presidency and, at least for now, the family's political dynasty. Among those in attendance was the president's brother, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who announced last week that he does not plan on running for Senate.
The gargantuan USS George H.W. Bush is the last of 10 Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers to be commissioned by the Navy. Standing 20 stories high and more than three football fields long, the $62 billion "supercarrier" has been under construction since 2001 and is the latest in a long line of ships and submarines named for former commanders in chief.
Other recent commissions include the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier in 2003 and the USS Jimmy Carter submarine in 2005. A new-generation supercarrier named for Gerald R. Ford is now in the works.
The elder Bush, 84, was the youngest aviator in Navy history when he earned his wings at age 19, and he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross while flying 58 missions in the Pacific during World War II. His plane was shot down by Japanese antiaircraft fire in 1944; Bush parachuted into the sea and was rescued by a Navy submarine.
Saturday's commissioning ceremony included a flyover by an Avenger torpedo bomber, the type that George H.W. Bush flew during the war. The colorful commissioning ceremony also included a deafening 21-gun salute from the ship's cannons, followed by warm accolades and gentle teasing for the 41st president.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who served under both Bushes and will continue heading the Pentagon under Obama, said the elder Bush "had a courage and a toughness that impressed all those who worked for him. At the same time, he was, and is, a man of feeling."
President Bush, after sharing a few oft-told tales about his parents and himself, asked the crowd: "So what do you give a guy who has been blessed and has just about everything he has ever needed? Well, an aircraft carrier."
Bush's sister, Dorothy Bush Koch, lavished praise on her presidential kin, saying that her father "made us all very proud," and adding that the new aircraft carrier represents "the universal cause of freedom that our 43rd president has championed with unfailing devotion."
With 10 days left in office, the younger Bush seemed in a gregarious mood in Norfolk, where he also visited privately with teams of Navy SEALs.
After returning to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, Air Force One was towed into its hangar for a closed-door farewell between the president and the Presidential Airlift Group, the last in a series of goodbyes to those responsible for Bush's security and travel.
White House press secretary Dana Perino told reporters that "it hadn't dawned" on Bush that the flight to Norfolk was likely his last on Air Force One until he was asked about it by a television correspondent. "He said: 'You know, you're right. This is my last flight,' " Perino said.
When Bush returns to Texas on Jan. 20 on the same plane, it will no longer carry the presidential moniker.
After arriving on the aircraft carrier on Marine One, Bush joined his parents and his wife, Laura Bush, on a golf cart sitting far above the water on the flight deck. As he flashed a big grin, the aircraft elevator on which the cart was sitting suddenly jerked and then plunged some four stories to a lower deck, much to the surprise of reporters and onlookers.
Bush waved and laughed all the way to the bottom.
January 10, 2009
USS George H.W. Bush
NBC Nightly News (NBC), 7:00 P.M.
AMY ROBACH: Back here at home, one commander-in-chief paid tribute to a former who just happens to be his father. The two Presidents Bush were in Norfolk, Virginia, for the commissioning of an aircraft carrier named for the 41st president.
NBC’s Patty Culhane was on hand for that ceremony.
PATTY CULHANE: With a little prodding and a whole lot of pageantry, President Bush welcomed the newest ship into the Navy’s fleet.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From tape.) Laura and I are thrilled to be here to help commission an awesome ship and to honor an awesome man.
CULHANE: The man, his father, former President George H.W. Bush.
PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH: (From tape.) Those who were sitting out there where I was 65 years ago, preparing to serve aboard your new ship, I wish I was sitting right out there with you, ready to start the adventures of my naval aviation career all over.
CULHANE: He was shot down and rescued by a submarine at sea. Flying 58 combat missions in all, today remembering those he served with.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: (From tape.) I feel like Phyllis Diller when she said, “All my friends are dying in alphabetical order.” But I’m glad to be here.
CULHANE: The $6.2 billion aircraft carrier was contracted just six days into President Bush’s presidency, finished with just ten days left in office.
BUSH: (From tape.) So what do you give a guy who has been blessed and has just about everything he has ever needed? Well, an aircraft carrier. (Laughter, applause.)
CULHANE: With the former president’s daughter issuing the traditional call for sailors to come aboard –
MS. BUSH: (From tape.) And now, officers and crew of the USS George H.W. Bush, man our ship and bring her to life.
CULHANE: – the carrier officially enters the fleet. For the family that doesn’t talk much about legacy, this will be theirs for at least 50 years to come.
COHEN: In Norfolk, Virginia, Patty Culhane, NBC News.