Over the weekend, the latest nuclear-powered supercarrier was officially commissioned into the United States Navy. CVN-77 was christened the “U.S.S. George H. W. Bush,” and, for the first time in history, the namesake of a carrier was on hand to see his legacy go on duty.
It was a remarkably moving ceremony. Both Presidents Bush were in attendance, and it was a reminder that our 41st president is, whatever else you may say about him, a genuine war hero.
George H. W. Bush signed up for the Navy on his 18th birthday, and served as a torpedo-bomber pilot in the war. He flew many missions, quite successfully, and was shot down once–but was rescued before being captured. By the end of the war, he had three Air Medals, a Distinguished Flying Cross, and a portion of a Presidential Unit Citation awarded to his ship, the light aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto (CVL-30).
There is a world of difference between the old San Jacinto and the George H. W. Bush. The new carrier is several orders of magnitude larger:
USS San Jacinto: 622 feetlong, 109 feet wide, 11,000 tons displacement, 1,549 crew, 45 aircraft, top speed 31.6 knots.
USS George H. W. Bush: 1,092 feet long, 252 feet wide, 97,000 tons displacement, 5,700 crew, 90 aircraft, top speed “in excess of 30 knots.”
And in a truly moving surprise-tribute during the commissioning ceremony, the Navy scrounged up a fully-functional Grumman TBM Avenger, the very model Bush himself piloted during the war, and had it fly over in honor of the former Navy pilot and president.
There may be a world of difference between the USS San Jacinto and USS George H. W. Bush, but the heroism embodied by the men and women who serve on vessels such as these remains consistent. This weekend’s christening is a testament to the indomitability of the American armed forces in general, and one hero in particular..