American Elephants

It’s George Herbert Walker Bush’s 90th Birthday Today. Happy Birthday Mr.President! by The Elephant's Child

Bush 41, celebrated his 90th birthday in his own remarkable fashion — he jumped out of an airplane. In this case, a helicopter. He has lost the use of his legs, so he made the jump in tandem with Sergeant First Class Mike Elliot, who guided the parachute to a graceful landing in the Bush front yard at Kennebunkport.

Carl Cannon pays tribute at Real Clear Politics:

George Herbert Walker Bush, the second son of Prescott and Dorothy Bush, was born on this day in 1924, which means that the spring he turned 18, his nation was at war. Poppy Bush, as he was called, had just earned his high school diploma at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass, where captained the baseball team and earned a reputation as a handsome and friendly class leader.

With the assistance of Bush’s father, a future U.S. senator, Andover secured the services of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson as its 1942 commencement speaker. One of his tasks, Stimson decided, was advising the 213 all-male members of the graduating class that they not rush off to war. Go to college first, he advised. Your country will still need you in three or four years — as officers.

But Poppy Bush had quietly acquainted himself with the men assigned to the U.S. Navy’s local recruiting office. And as he and his family filed out of Cochran Chapel on June 12, 1942, Prescott Bush asked his son whether Stimson’s speech had changed his mind.

“No, sir,” the young man replied. “I’m joining up.”

It was George Bush’s 18th birthday. Days later, he was in the United States Navy.

A year after that, he was flying combat missions against the Japanese, the youngest Navy flier in the Pacific theater. He would fly 58 missions and be awarded the Navy’s Distinguished Flying Cross. On the last of these missions, on Sept. 2, 1944, his plane was shot down. His two crewmen did not survive, but Bush was rescued by a U.S. submarine after floating for hours in the ocean.

As president, Bush went back to Andover, and he recalled what he remembered of Henry Stimson’s long-ago commencement speech. “He observed how the American soldier should be brave without being brutal, self-reliant without boasting, becoming a part of irresistible might without losing faith in individual liberty,” Bush said. “I never forgot those words.”

Here are “41 things about Bush 41” that you probably didn’t know.

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I’ve already sent him a birthday card.

I worked for Poppy in the White House, and of the many things we would talk about were his Navy days (he and my maternal grandfather were at flight school at the same time, although they never met), and the fact that his parents, Prescott, and Dorothy once lived in Kingsport, TN, where I and my parents live (and where George’s older brother, Prescott, Jr., was born, in a building that still stands next to the Holston River (it’s apartments now).

I will always cherish the memories I have of working with this gentleman, and of the times I spent with the Bush family.

Happy Birthday, Poppy!

(As a side note, Happy Birthday to my baby sister, as well!)


Comment by Lon Mead

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