Saturday, January 10, 2009

Former President George H. W. Bush will be honored for his military career when the U.S. Navy commissions its new aircraft carrier Saturday at Naval Station Norfolk.

The president’s son, President Bush, will speak as the Navy commissions the 1,092-foot CVN-77, which will be named the USS George H.W. Bush.

“The president is honored to participate in the commissioning of the USS George H.W. Bush both as the commander in chief and as a proud son,” White House spokesman Carlton F. Carroll told The Washington Times.

On Friday, workers finished the last details on the nuclear-powered carrier, which towers 20 stories above the waterline and has a flight deck width of 252 feet. More than 10,000 people are expected to attend the 11 a.m. event Saturday, according to Navy officials.

Dorothy “Doro” Bush Koch, the former president’s daughter, will give the order to “man our ship and bring her to life,” following tradition.

Mr. Bush, 84, is a decorated Navy pilot in World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mr. Bush, who was then 18, decided to join the Navy. After finishing his 10-month course, he became the youngest naval aviator to that date.

Mr. Bush flew the Avenger torpedo bomber in combat from the carrier USS San Jacinto. He nearly lost his life during an attack on enemy installations near Chichi Jima in September 1944, when his plane was hit by enemy fire and heavily damaged. Nevertheless, he completed a strafing run on the target before bailing out of the doomed craft.

Mr. Bush parachuted into the sea and was rescued by the Navy submarine USS Finback.

Mr. Bush flew 58 combat missions. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals and the Presidential Unit Citation, which was awarded to his squadron based on the USS San Jacinto.

Los Angeles Capt. Kevin O’Flaherty, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1981, will be the new carrier’s first commanding officer. He will lead a crew of more than 5,500 men and women, including embarked air wing personnel, according to Defense officials. The USS Bush will initially homeport in Norfolk and be assigned to the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

Construction of the 10th Nimitz-class ship began at Northrop Grumman-Newport News, Va., in September 2006.

The ship will support the F/A-18C Hornet and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters, the E-2C/D Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning aircraft, the C-2 Greyhound logistics aircraft, the EA-6B Prowler and the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, multi-role SH-60 and MH-60 helicopters and other future carrier-based aircraft, according to a Defense Department news release.

The USS George H.W. Bush will be the 77th aircraft carrier to be delivered to the Navy since 1922, when the Navy commissioned the USS Langley.

The aircraft carrier will be the 10th and final Nimitz-class sub and the ninth in the Navy’s fleet.

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