No one else can claim the distinction of rising from seaman second class to Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces. George Herbert Walker Bush was born on 12 June 1924 in Milton, Massachusetts. During his senior year in high school, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. On that day, Bush decided to enlist upon graduation. He enlisted in the Navy as a seaman second class on 12 June 1942, his eighteenth birthday. On 5 August 1942, he began Navy flight training, soloing in an NP-1 Spartan on 21 November 1942. He completed flight training, receiving his gold wings and commission as an ensign on 9 June 1943. At an age of 18 years, 11 months, and 27 days, he was one of the Navy’s youngest aviators. While transitioning to the TBM Avenger, he made his first carrier landing on 24 August 1943.
In September 1943, he reported to his combat unit, Torpedo Squadron 51. Bush and his crew embarked on the “light attack” carrier, USS San Jacinto, as part of Air Group 51, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 20 April 1944. He flew his first combat missions from 17 to 23 May 1944, attacking targets on Wake Island. As part of the Pacific Fleet’s Task Force 58, the USS San Jacinto began air operations against the Marianas on 12 June 1944. Bush flew combat sorties against Saipan and Rota Islands from 12 to 14 June 1944. On 16 June, he and others from his squadron flew through heavy anti-aircraft fire to bomb and strafe Japanese targets on Guam. On 18 June, Task Force 58 headed westward to intercept the Japanese fleet. During the ensuing “Marianas Turkey Shoot,” Bush and his crew sat out the battle on a destroyer, after having made an emergency water landing. On a bombing mission on 2 September 1944 against a radio station on the island of Chichi Jima, Bush and his crew were shot down.
Only Bush survived the crash, and he was rescued by the submarine, USS Finback. He flew his final combat missions in November 1944 against targets in the Philippines. During his combat tour in the Pacific, Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals. After leaving the Navy, he attended Yale University, graduating in 1948. His private career centered around oil companies in Texas. His political life began in 1967, representing Texas’s Seventh District in the US House of Representatives. Bush served two terms and was a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. He later became the US Ambassador to the United Nations; Chief of the US Liaison Office in the People’s Republic of China; Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; and Vice President of the United States. On 21 January 1989, George Bush became the 41st President of the United States.