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Navy Names Carrier After Former President Bush

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2002 -- Former President George H.W. Bush told a Pentagon audience today that he's not a hero, despite flying off a carrier and having his plane shot down in the Pacific during World War II.

The current president's father joked that he's only called a hero because his plane got shot down. "There are plenty of them in this building who have earned (the moniker) for true heroism," he said.

The Navy bestowed one of the nation's highest honors on Bush here today by naming the service's 10th Nimitz class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier after the former naval aviator.

"The USS George H.W. Bush will serve as a worldwide deployable symbol of our nation's resolve," Navy Secretary Gordon England said during a naval ship-naming ceremony in the Pentagon.

England called Bush "a great, great American (and) a great patriot." Bush enlisted in the Navy at age 18 in 1942 and became the youngest pilot in the Navy before his 19th birthday. He flew a bomber off the carrier USS San Jacinto and was shot down in the Pacific in 1944. The future president went on to earn the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals for his service.

Later, as president, with "the modesty and grace that are his hallmarks, he presided over the end of the Cold War," England said.

Bush said he was "deeply honored" by the ship's designation. "I'm overwhelmed by this, and very, very grateful," he said.

In characteristic good humor, Bush urged representatives of Northrop Grumman's Newport News shipbuilding yard to finish the carrier quickly, before his grave is dug at Texas A&M University.

Bush took the focus off himself when he lauded today's service members. "I don't think of my generation as the greatest generation, . because I've been around some of the kids that are serving now," he said. "There isn't a 'greatest' generation."

At 1,092 feet in length and a displacement of 97,000 tons fully loaded, Nimitz-class carriers are the largest warships in the world. They have 4.5 acres of flight deck and carry 75 aircraft. More than 5,000 crewmembers, including the air wing, serve aboard them. The USS George H.W. Bush is scheduled to join the fleet in 2009.

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