President George H.W. Bush’s Legacy
Includes Decisive Military Action
by Jim Garamone, U.S. Department of Defense
December 4, 2018
His background was a little different than most who join the
military at the age of eighteen, but his warmth, love of country and
drive to serve made him a leader respected up and down his chains of
Service members who worked with former President
George H.W. Bush, first as Ronald Reagan's vice president and,
later, during his presidential term, spoke of the way he remembered
their names and would ask about their families. They were loyal to
him and he was loyal right back.
Bush himself said it best in his inaugural address on Jan. 20,
1989 ... “We are not the sum of our possessions. They are not the
measure of our lives. In our hearts we know what matters. We cannot
hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account.
We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal
friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his
neighborhood and town better than he found it.
President George H.W. Bush meets with troops in Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving during the Gulf War, Nov. 22, 1990. (Photo courtesy of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum)
“What do we want the men and women who work with us to say when
we are no longer there? That we were more driven to succeed than
anyone around us? Or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had
gotten better, and stayed a moment there to trade a word of
Bush, who died November 30, 2018 at age 94, 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.
Flew Torpedo Bombers
future president flew torpedo bombers off the USS San Jacinto in the
Pacific. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for a mission
over Chichi Jima in 1944. Even though his plane was hit by
antiaircraft fire, he completed his bombing run before turning to
the sea. Bush managed to bail out of the burning aircraft, but both
of his crewmen died. The submarine USS Finback rescued him.
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. The crew was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto. (Photo courtesy of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum)
On Jan. 6, 1945, Bush married Barbara Pierce of Rye, New York.
They had six children: George, Robin (who died of leukemia in 1953),
Jeb, Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy Bush Koch.
After the war, Bush
attended Yale and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1948. He and his wife
moved to Texas, where he entered the oil business. Bush served in
the U.S. House of Representatives from 1966 to 1970.
then-President Richard Nixon named Bush as U.S. ambassador to the
United Nations, where he served until becoming chairman of the
Republican National Committee in 1973. In October 1974, President
Gerald R. Ford named Bush chief of the U.S. liaison office in
Beijing, and in 1976, Ford appointed him to be director of central
Vice President, Then President
In 1980, Bush ran for the Republican presidential nomination.
Ronald Reagan won the primaries and secured the nomination, and he
selected Bush as his running mate. On Jan. 20, 1981, Bush was sworn
in for the first of two terms as vice president.
Republicans selected Bush as presidential nominee in 1988. His
pledge at the national convention -- “Read my lips: no new taxes” --
probably got him elected, but may have worked to make him a one-term
Bush became the 41st president of the United
States and presided over the victory of the West. During his tenure,
the Berlin Wall – a symbol of communist oppression since 1961 – fell
before the appeal of freedom. The nations of Eastern Europe withdrew
from the Warsaw Pact and freely elected democracies began taking
Even more incredible was the dissolution of the Soviet
Union itself. Kremlin hard-liners tried to seize power and enforce
their will, but Boris Yeltsin rallied the army and citizens for
freedom. Soon, nations long under Soviet domination peeled away and
began new eras.
In 1989, Bush ordered the U.S. military in to Panama to
overthrow the government of Gen. Manuel Noriega. Noriega had allowed
Panama to become a haven for narcoterrorists, and he subsequently
was convicted of drug offenses.
But Bush is best remembered
for his swift and decisive efforts following Saddam Hussein’s
invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990. The Iraqi dictator claimed that
Kuwait historically was his country’s “19th province.” His troops
pushed into Kuwait and threatened to move into Saudi Arabia.
Bush drew “a line in the sand” and promised to protect Saudi Arabia
and liberate Kuwait. He put together a 30-nation coalition that
liberated Kuwait in February 1991. Operation Desert Storm showed
Americans and the world the devastating power of the U.S. military.
At the end of the war, Bush had historic approval ratings from
the American people. But a recession – in part caused by Saddam’s
invasion – and having to backtrack on his pledge not to raise taxes
cost him the election in 1992. With third-party candidate Ross Perot
pulling in 19 percent of the vote, Bill Clinton was elected
Bush lived to see his son – George W. Bush –
elected president, and he worked with the man who defeated him in
2006 to raise money for millions of people affected by an Indian
Ocean tsunami and for Hurricane Katrina relief.
In his inaugural address, the elder 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.
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,” he said.
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.”
It was the
mark of the man.
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