George Herbert Walker Bush was an aviator in the US Navy, Honorary Chairman of the American Air Museum and, of course, 41st President of the United States. Following his death, aged 94 on 30 November 2018, we look back at his impact on the wars of the 20th Century and his relationship with the American Air Museum.
Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts on 12 June 1923. On his 18th birthday, six months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, he enlisted in the US Navy. After completing his training and earning a commission as an aviator with the US Navy Reserve on 9 June 1943 (just before his 19th birthday) he became the youngest Naval Aviator to date. From 1944 he flew from the aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto where he took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, one of the largest air battles of the Second World War.
On 2 September 1944, on a mission to attack Japanese installations on Chichi-jima, Bush's TBM Avenger was hit by flak and his engine caught fire, he continued the sortie, releasing his bombs over the target before bailing out in the Pacific Ocean. He was rescued by the submarine USS Finback after 4 hours aboard a life raft, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service. Though he later learned that the other aviators shot down that day had been captured and executed by Japanese Forces. Bush was honourably discharged in September 1945, a month after the surrender of Japan.