Cover image for All the best, George Bush : my life in letters and other writings
Title:
All the best, George Bush : my life in letters and other writings
Author:
Bush, George, 1924-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Scribner, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
640 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
"George Bush" in the title appears as his signature.

"A Lisa Drew book."

Includes index.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780684839585
Format :
Book

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Central Library E838.5 .B86 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

Though reticent in public, George Bush openly shared his private thoughts in correspondence throughout his life. This collection of letters, diary entries, and memos is the closest we'll ever get to an autobiography.

Organized chronologically, the volume begins with eighteen-year-old George's letters to his parents during World War II, when, at the time he was commissioned, he was the youngest pilot in the Navy. Readers will gain insights into Bush's career highlights--the oil business, his two terms in Congress, his ambassadorship to the U.N., his service as an envoy to China, his tenure with the Central Intelligence Agency, and of course, the vice presidency, the presidency, and the post-presidency. They will also observe a devoted husband, father, and American. Ranging from a love letter to Barbara and a letter to his mother about missing his daughter, Robin, after her death from leukemia to a letter to his children two weeks before Nixon's resignation to one written to them just before the beginning of Desert Storm, the writings are remarkable for their candor, humor, and poignancy.

This new edition includes new letters and photographs that cover the last fifteen years, highlighting the Bush family's enduring influence on history and including letters that cover topics such as George W. Bush's presidency, 9/11, Bush senior's work with President Clinton to help the victims of natural disasters, and the meaning of friendship and family.

All the Best, George Bush provides a memorable, surprisingly intimate, and insightful portrayal of the forty-first president of the United States.


Author Notes

George Herbert Walker Bush was born on June 12, 1924 in Milton, Massachusetts. He attended Phillips Academy in Andover. At the age of 18, Bush enlisted in the Navy and became the youngest pilot in the Navy when he got his wings. He flew 58 combat missions during World War II and received the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in action when he was shot down during a mission. After the war, Bush attended Yale, and after graduating, began a career in the oil industry.

Much like his father before him, Bush became interested in public service and served two terms as the Texas Representative to Congress. He had two unsuccessful runs for a Senate seat before receiving some high profile assignments. He was appointed as an Ambassador to the United Nations, followed by an appointment as Chairman of the Republican National Convention, the Chief of the United States Liaison Office in the People's Republic of China and finally, Bush became the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1980, Bush tried for the Republican bid for President, but was chosen instead as Reagan's running mate. After serving as Vice President of the United States, Bush won the Republican vote in 1988 for President, running with Dan Quayle and defeating Dukakis for the position of President.

During Bush's presidency, he was well favored for his role abroad in Dessert Storm, but Americans were disillusioned with the way things were run domestically. In 1992, Bush lost the reelection to William Jefferson Clinton, a democrat.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In lieu of a memoir (which the author declares he will not write), the former president presents this collection of his letters. A prolific thank-you-note writer, Bush has been capable of writing longer, more reflective missives. Both kinds, plus transcripts of a dictated diary Bush sporadically kept during his years near and at the top of the government, are represented here. Far the most interesting letter was one the 20-year-old Bush wrote to his parents, describing being shot down by the Japanese. The hundreds that follow recall the well-known course of Bush's career, from setting up family and business in Texas, to first steps up the political ladder, and thence to his drives for the presidency. Amid the "business" correspondence with supporters and political patrons such as Nixon, readers will find many personal notes (birthday greetings to his wife, paternal advice to his children) that personalize the author, a feature appealing to anyone interested in politicians, no matter their personal political proclivities. --Gilbert Taylor


Publisher's Weekly Review

To the present governors of Texas and Florida, his sons George and Jeb, who worried that they might upstage their famous dad, former President Bush wrote: "Do not worry when you see the stories that compare you favorably to a Dad for whom English was a second language." President Bush was indeed famously inarticulate in public. But in this collection of diary entries, memos and letters written between 1942, when he started navy flight school, to March 1999, when he wrote a friend to express his consternation that his e-mail server was down, Bush proves himself to have been a gracious and staggeringly prolific correspondent. There are long letters, such as the September 1944 missive to his parents relating how he was shot down over the Pacific. And there are truly funny diary entries from his presidency about the Scowcroft Award, a running gag in the Bush cabinet named after National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, who apparently had an uncanny knack for napping in meetings: "A fantastic challenge by Ed Derwinski. very firm eye closure and a remarkable recovery gambit." Naturally, there are long letters to world leaders such as Deng Xiaoping, King Hussein, Mikhail Gorbachev and others about matters of historical import. Diary entries cover the Tiananmen Square massacre, the failed coup against Gorbachev, the Gulf War and other crises (though there's hardly anything about the Iran-contra scandal). Rarely does Bush display any partisan bitterness, and even then it's not very pungent (though he's consistently irked by the press). Bush must have been tempted to write a memoir intended to beat historians to the interpretive punch. This modest alternative is refreshing and, in many ways, will shed more light on the man's personal character and public persona than any memoir or biography could. It offers an intriguing picture of a man who takes fierce pride in his modesty. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

As former president Bush evidently does not intend to write an autobiography, this volume of selected letters, diary entries, and memos will have to do. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Preface June 1, 1999 Dear Reader, When I left office and returned to Texas in January 1993, several friends suggested I write a memoir. "Be sure the historians get it right" seemed to be one common theme. Another: "The press never really understood your heartbeat -- you owe it to yourself to help people figure out who you really are." I was unpersuaded. Barbara, in her best-selling Barbara Bush: A Memoir, wrote a wonderful book about our days together both in and out of public life and about our family. Then last year General Brent Scowcroft and I finished our book, A World Transformed, which dealt with the many historic changes that took place in the world when we were in the White House. I felt these two books "got it right" both on perceptions of the Bushes as a family and on how my administration tried to handle the foreign-policy problems we faced. But then along comes my friend and editor Lisa Drew, who suggested that what was missing is a personal book, a book giving a deeper insight into what my own heartbeat is, what my values are, what has motivated me in life. And then she said something that got me interested: "You already have done such a book. I am talking about a book of letters already written." But there was a major sticking point. The private life I have returned to is challenging and rewarding and chockablock full of things to do. I have never been busier; nor, might I add, happier. I knew I did not have the time to do the research necessary to find, edit, and then publish the letters -- letters that start when I was eighteen years old and go right on up through the present time. So I turned to my trusted friend Jean Becker, who had helped Barbara with her memoir. We became partners, Jean and I. I told her, I have done my part -- I wrote all these letters. Now it's your turn. Jean spent endless hours contacting people whom I had written, digging through endless boxes of letters now in the archives at the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University, going through my records from my United Nations and CIA days, listening to pathetic little scratchy tapes I had made for my spotty diary. She dug, and edited. She cajoled and pleaded for letters. She pushed me for my ideas as to what to include, what to leave out. She never gave up. I will never be able to properly express my gratitude to Jean Becker. So what we have here are letters from the past and present. Letters that are light and hopefully amusing. Letters written when my heart was heavy or full of joy. Serious letters. Nutty letters. Caring and rejoicing letters. Along the way we expanded our original mission and decided also to include diary entries, mainly to fill in some blank spaces. Please keep in mind, as you read some of these disjointed entries, that I dictated my diaries to a tape recorder. The diary entries are really me thinking out loud. This book is not meant to be an autobiography. It is not a historical documentation of my life. But hopefully it will let you, the reader, have a look at what's on the mind of an eighteen-year-old kid who goes into the Navy and then at nineteen is flying a torpedo bomber off an aircraft carrier in World War II; what runs through the mind of a person living in China, halfway around the world from friends and family; what a President is thinking when he has to send someone else's son or daughter into combat. It's all about heartbeat. It took me fifty-seven years to write this book. If you enjoy reading it even just a tenth as much as I've enjoyed living it, then that is very good indeed. All the best, George Bush Copyright © 1999 by George H. W. Bush Chapter One: Love and War When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, I was a seventeen-year-old high school senior at Phillips Academy, Andover. I could hardly wait to get out of school and enlist. Six months later, Secretary of War Henry Stimson delivered our commencement address and advised my class to go to college. He predicted it would be a long war, and there would be plenty of time for us to serve. My dad, Prescott Bush, with whom it was not easy to disagree, hoped I would listen to Secretary Stimson and go on to Yale. After the ceremony, Dad asked me if I had changed my mind. I told him no, I was "joining up." Dad simply nodded his okay. On my eighteenth birthday, June 12, 1942, I enlisted in the Navy's flight training program as a seaman second class. My mother kept all the letters I wrote to her and Dad during World War II, so most of these come from her collection. You will find only one letter to a Barbara Pierce of Rye, New York. Barbara lost her "love" letters during one of our many moves after we got married. This first group of letters was written from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where I was enrolled in Naval Aviation Pre-Flight School. For some reason I did not date these letters, but I was stationed there from August to October of 1942. ------ Dear Mum and Dad, ...Today I felt better than I have since I've been here. It was hot but not unbearable. One fellow fainted at drill just to remind us that it was still hot. It is amazing how our moods change here. So many little things affect us. A cold Coke after drill can do more for one than you can imagine. I have never appreciated little things before. Ice cream, movies, a 15 minute rest, a letter, a compliment to our platoon. All these little things amount to so much in your mind and it is fun. Spirits go way up and way down, but when they're up you feel so wonderful... I have gotten to know most of the fellows in the platoon. They are a darn good-hearted bunch...There are so many different types here. We have a pretty friendly platoon -- also good spirit... On our 5 hr. hike tomorrow my heart'll be with you in the "docks." So drink a sip of water for me. It is our greatest luxury -- a swallow of cold water. I think I'm really going to get a lot out of this place. Already we have learned a lot about people & discipline and tired muscles. Much love, Pop ------ This is a letter to my sister, Nancy, who was two years my junior. I was one of five children: Prescott (whom we called Pres or Pressy), myself, Nancy, Jonathan, and William (nicknamed Bucky), who was only four years old when I joined the Navy. Dear Nance, ...There is not much "news" here. We live by the day -- a wholesome life, at times seemingly futile, but looking at it philosophically I wouldn't change positions with any fellow in civilian life. The Navy itself is great, but what we are here for is even greater, and if at all times I can keep my objective in view I am hopeful of a successful conclusion to this one year course. After having been here just one month my desire to win my wings and become an officer is tremendous. I'm afraid if I fail for any reason my disappointment will be very deep. I am proud to be here, Nance, and as I said before wouldn't change for the world. ...I have to write Bobsie now. I miss her more than she knows, Nance. I don't know why but she seems so perfect a girl -- beautiful, gentle, a wonderful sense of humor, so much fun etc. I think of her all the time and would love to see her. Give her my love especially -- Much love to you and write if you get another minute -- so long, Pop ------ Dear Mum and Dad, ...The only thing wrong with this place is, they don't realize the average intelligence. They hand out so much crude propaganda here. It is really sickening -- Many of the men here realize it -- also the intelligent officers. Stuff like "Kill the Japs -- hate -- murder" and a lot of stuff like "you are the cream of American youth." Some fellows swallow it all. These are the fellows many whom are below average intelligence, 2 of my roommates, for example, get a big kick out of hearing it. Maybe it is good. All the well educated fellows know what they are fighting for -- why they are here and don't need to be "brainwashed" into anything... Much love, Pop ------ Dear Mum, Well the war strikes home, as it were, doesn't it -- c.c. with the very sad news of George Mead. I didn't know him very well, but from all sides all you could hear was praise. He died the way all of us would like to die when our time comes -- Mum, it's a very funny thing. I have no fear of death now. Maybe it's because I am here safely on the ground that I say this. I do not think I will change. All heroics aside, I feel, and every fellow here I'm sure feels, that the only part of the whole thing of any worry would be the sorrow it might cause to our families. I cannot express myself as clearly as I see it in my own mind. Once in the air death may strike at any time, but I shall not fear it. Perhaps with this fleet it will be different -- God grant it won't!... Much, much love, Pop ------ Dear Mum, Well today sure was wonderful. ...I met Barbara at the Inn at 12. She took a cab over from Raleigh. She looked too cute for words -- really beautiful. We had a sandwich in town and then walked. I showed her the plant and then we walked over to Keenan Stadium. When we started it was clear, but once there it poured -- just buckets. We got some protection from the canvas covered press box, but couldn't leave there....Not thrilling but such fun just seeing her. We laughed at everything. I had formation at six so we went back to the Inn. She took a bus for Raleigh where she is staying overnight with a girl from school. She was so swell to come way over here. I sure am glad you said "grand idea" to Mrs. Pierce.... Much love to all, Pop ------ This next group of letters were written from Wold-Chamberlain Naval Air Station, Minneapolis, where I was based from November 1942 to February 1943. It was here that I finally began to learn how to fly. Dear Mum, Well today was the big day -- in fact one of the biggest thrills of my life, I imagine. We marched down to the #1 hanger and they read out the names for the first hop. I was in. I went down, got my gear, and then consulted the board. Plane P-18 1st hop -- 2nd hop Plane P-18 check pilot Boyle. I immediately went around trying to find out what kind of a check Boyle is. All I got was "pretty tough". This was quite disheartening. I then went out and warmed up the ship waiting for Ens. Crume (CRUME pronounced croom) to arrive....The fog was pretty thick but they let us go up. Crume came and we were off. I did it all myself and everything went O.K. However, I was so nervous, that in the beginning my legs were shivering around. Once in the air I was completely cool much to my surprise. We did some emergencies and landings and then came in. I gave him one poor landing so I wasn't sure about my "up", but when we got out he told me "O.K." Then for the real check. Ens. Boyle came out. Once in the plane we didn't say a word. I taxied out, revved up the engine, locked the tailwheel, adjusted my goggles & seat, checked the instruments & the tower, swung into the wind and we were off. For about one turn of the field I was pretty nervous. First he signaled (wouldn't talk) to make 2 landings (When I speak of landings I mean "touch and go" except for this final one before the plane stops rolling, gun her and take off again.) The first landing was swell -- the 2nd rather rough. We then dove into the fog and went off and did 2 1,000-foot emergencies. (That is he cuts the gas, and I have to establish a glide, get going into the wind to land on a field which I select -- we don't actually land, just go down to about 75 feet) Once I picked out a good field but the other time I'm afraid it'd have been a pretty rough procedure if I had had to land. He then indicated to head back to the field -- For a minute I was lost -- couldn't see the field through the mist, but luckily I located it. I did 2 more landings and taxied in. My nervousness, which had subsided after the first takeoff, came on again. As he climbed out I looked for the verdict. "Did you get an up from your instructor," he said. "O.K. -- then take it up yourself," and off he walked. There I was alone in the plane: I gave the "thumbs up" to the plane captain, he removed the chocks and I was off. I wasn't shaky on the controls, and was completely confident for some reason. I had to taxi way down between rows of army bombers to get to my take off point. My solo was just "2 landings" -- that's your first solo assignment. Off I zoomed -- climbed to 300 ft at 65 knots; level off -- pass under the traffic circle. Nobody was there saying all this, this time yet I did it -- The needle seemed to stay right at 500 -- whereas with the instructors I'd drop or gain. Everything seemed so free and easy and really wonderful. My landings weren't good -- I bounced and didn't cut quite soon enough, but I didn't worry as I have before. This was the thing that made it so much fun. I turned back in and it was over -- just as quickly as it had come. I felt good though -- Mum, It was the first time I have climbed out of the plane without worrying or having a touch of discouragement. Yes, tonight I am very happy. When we leave here we want to specify the type of flying we want to do. I have been considering the Marines (I'd be commissioned 2nd Lt. instead of Ensign) The reason is they fly a lot in attack bombers -- fly low and strafe as well as bomb. They clear the way for advancing troops. This or long range bombing appeals to me more than anything else, and from all I can gather, the Marines do more of it than the Navy. I have 2 months before I choose anyway, and besides you don't always get your choice. I'll let you know what I decide as soon as I know more about flying and find out what I'd be best in... Well, Mum, I better go back and get some sleep -- Much love to all, Pop ------ Dear Mum, ...Thanksgiving comes tomorrow. I guess that I will hardly notice it here -- that is outwardly as we can't leave the base and just get 1 hr. off, but it won't just be a regular day Mum. We all do have something to be thankful for, even though the days are darker than when we could all be together. I guess I'm the most thanks-giving fellow here, because even though I'm a couple of thousand miles off I'm lucky, Mum -- Lucky for you and Dad and all the family and so many other things. I thought when I was away at school I understood it all, but being away in the Navy for this long and with so many different types of fellows has made me see more clearly still how much I do have to be thankful for.... Much love, Mum dear Pop ------ Dear Mum, Gosh it was wonderful hearing your voice today -- It was swell of you to call. I got the message just after I came back from church.... It was interesting to see a lot of these fellows, today. Some tough ones, some common, other grand fellows. We all are up to our beds for a few minutes after church, and most of the fellows were quiet -- thinking of other Thanksgiving days. For many it was the first time away and it was a bit strange. It will always be strange to me, to be away on a day like this, at least until I have my own home. It's days like this that makes me anxious to be out fighting -- though I know I can never become a killer, I will never feel right until I have actually fought. Being physically able and young enough I belong out at the front and the sooner there, the better. The job seems so tremendous, yet it must end and when it does and we have won perhaps days like this will once again be symbolic of happiness and freedom and the ironic note added by a brutal war will be far removed.... Much love, Pop ------ Dear Dad and Mum, ...Yesterday a friend of mine cracked up. His motor cut on him and all landing sites were poor. He managed to get it fairly well down but then he nosed over, flipped onto his back, and was hanging by his safety belt -- about 1 ft. from the ground (his head). The tail was wiped right off the plane. Luckily he unhooked his belt and could slip out O.K. Poor Ed. He hasn't been doing too well anyway and this may be just what he doesn't need. The motors are apt to cut on cold days -- Once I started looking for a field but the thing got going O.K. again... Barbara knitted me a pair of socks which she claims don't look at all like socks but she's sending them anyway. Maybe I can make a neck protector out of 'em if they are too big.... Much love, Pop ------ Dear Mum and Dad, Well my first Xmas away is over and gone, but I don't believe I'll ever forget it. I missed you all very much, yet I wasn't homesick. Your lovely presents are wonderful. I've got the bracelet on and it'll never be taken off permanently until I'm back for good. It's beautiful, Mum, and it means an awful lot to me. The goggles I wore today and they are wonderful. I'm surprised you could get such grand ones. They are just what I needed -- good protection by that rubber and it holds my face mask firmly in place and also they don't hurt across the nose. The bathrobe is swell, too. Thank you so much -- oh yes, the stocking too -- I only hope that we'll never think we're too old for them... ...My Xmas take was good. $25 from Gampy, and numerous socks and the like. Got a big box of food from the Pierces and Barbara is sending me soon what I asked for; namely a decent picture of her... As always, Pop ------ Occasionally in my letters home I would include diagrams to illustrate what I was learning. This is a typical example: Dear Mum, Well the sky is clear today and it looks like I'll get my hop in... My inverted spins were really pretty good fun. You are really thrown outward with terrific force and if it weren't for the belt you'd fly through space. I also had immelman's and falling leaf. An immelman's starts off like a loop. Dive to pick up your 125 knots, pull back to upside down -- now here's the difference -- instead of coming on around you do a slow roll from the upside down position and fly on out. They are about the hardest but are also good fun.... Pop ------ Please keep in mind as you read this letter that I was a very innocent eighteen-year-old, and it was 1942. Things were very different way back then. Having said that, I do not think it would be a bad thing if more eighteen-year-olds today were just as innocent. As to the reference to my sister, Nancy, I suspect Mum had caught her kissing a beau. Dearest Mum, Now about your question, Mum. I do love to kid you and did this summer but I agree with you in part. I would hate to have Nancy a necker at heart. Nothing could be worse. Kissing is not an obligation a girl owes a boy regardless of how often he takes her out or how much money he spends... but I don't think that it is entirely wrong for a girl to be kissed by a boy. Let us take this famous case Pierce vs. Bush summer '42. I kissed Barbara and am glad of it. I don't believe she will ever regret it or resent it, and I certainly am not ashamed of it. I'd tell you, Mrs. Pierce, or anybody but at the same time I might as well tell you I have never felt towards another girl as I do towards her. Whether the feeling is mutual I cannot say. To get back to my example, however, if Barbara sort of forgets me, which is not unlikely, as I have no chance to see her at all, I don't believe she will ever dislike me more for having kissed her. She knows how I felt towards her and she must have shared some of the same feeling or she would not have allowed me to kiss her. I have never kissed another girl -- this making myself just as much of an oddity as Nancy, since most of the boys do not stop with kissing -- (how terribly true that is here, more than home, but then again most of these fellows are grown men -- also men with different background.) It's not because I have honestly disapproved of it, however. If I said it were I would be lying. In conclusion a Mrs. Simmons kiss, both sides willing, I believe harmless; to neck -- entirely wrong -- for a girl to be kissed by someone whom she loves (or thinks she love) and who -- she is sure cares for her -- O.K. This is a very uncoordinated piece of writing and unorganized but I've said about what I mean. For a kiss to mean engagement is a very beautiful idea, Mama, but it went out a while back I guess. Now for me to continue and tell you the facts of life -- of the life I'm living in 1940's -- Apparently Mum you seemed so terribly surprised when Pressy and I hinted around about the "things that went on?" Pressy and I share a view which few others, very few others even in Greenwich share. That's regarding intercourse before marriage. I would hate to find that my wife had known some other man, and it seems to me only fair to her that she be able to expect the same standards from me. Pres agrees as I said before, but not many others our age will. Daddy has never discussed such things with us -- of this I am very glad. But we have learned as the years went on by his character what is right and what is wrong. Most fellows here -- true some are engaged and some believe as I do -- but most fellows take sex as much they can get. This town in particular seems full of girls (working in offices etc.) rather attractive girls at that, who after a couple of drinks would just as soon go to bed with some cadet. They are partly uniform conscious I suppose, but the thing is they, as well as the cadet, have been brought up differently. They believe in satisfying any sexual urge by contact with men. They all say "I'm not that type of girl, but all-right -- just for you!" Every single girl says this. These girls are not prostitutes, but just girls without any morals at all. Somehow it does seem a little worse for girls to me, I suppose it shouldn't but it does. Leading the life we lead one cannot help but feel the desire for a woman. I would be most facetious were I to deny ever having experienced said feelings. The difference is entirely in what we have been taught; not only in "what" but in "how well" we have been taught it. This pertains not only to the N.A.S. [Naval Air Station] Minneapolis, Minn., but to every town in the country, to college campuses -- yes, even to Yale University. Boys you know -- boys I like very much -- and even boys I admire have had intercourse with women.... Some guys, you know one perfect example in New Haven, because they love a girl believe in relationships before marriage. This seems to me more excusable than just plain sex -- sex to satisfy physical biological emotions -- yet I know it is not right. Most of this you have probably known, but this is how I feel. I hope that this letter does not seem presumptuous. To think all this was brought on by your asking me what I thought about kissing. Much love, Popprofessor "sexology" Ph.D. ------ Dear Mum, Last night I really had quite a scare in night flying. I finished all my night flying last night. I just had one solo yesterday. The wind was almost from south -- a little southwest, but they had the runway laid out west. This meant we were landing somewhat crosswind to start with -- an undesirable setup. Furthermore they had the runway much narrower than usual. It was like landing on a pin. All the instructors were griping about how narrow the runway was. You see with the crosswind there was considerable drift. In other words you'd have your plane pointing one way, and you'd be making true a different course over the ground. It was quite tough, but I surprised myself and really made some nice landings (Night flying is much easier alone as you can see all the signals more clearly and command a better view of the runway.) Well, I was coming in for my last landing. I got all "squared away" and even got a green light from the truck. Suddenly I heard this scraping noise -- I had hit a tree -- Well you can imagine my feelings. I didn't know whether the next second I'd hit one with my prop instead of my wheels. I gave full throttle and climbed up -- flew across the field and came in again. It turned out later that two instructors also hit this tree. The runway was too close to the woods on the east side of the field. I just thanked my lucky stars I wasn't 2 or 3 feet lower or I'd have hit the prop and then, well I don't really know. It's a funny thing -- you don't ever get scared till afterwards. Same with a dangerous landing or something.... So long for now, Mum Much much love, Pop ------ Dear Mum, Yesterday was one of the -- if not the -- most unpleasant days of my life -- at least 1 1/4 hours of it. I had my "D" check with Ensign Warren. He was very nice on the ground, but no sooner did we get in the plane than he started yelling. In no time in my life have I ever felt so uncomfortable. According to him I just couldn't do a thing right. Frankly, before my check I was confident but once in that plane I was lost. Taxing, climbing -- even on fundamentals like that -- he bellowed. I was so flustered I couldn't think. (How I pity guys with instructors like that) Well we got on the ground and I was beat. But after it was over he gave me a very weak "up" nevertheless it's an "up." It was an experience I'll probably have to undergo again. But I sure hope not. That must be the philosophy of some pilots to make you fly under tough conditions. The fact remains however, that I got an up.... ...The realization came upon me yesterday that I'm 2?3 on the way to my commission and wings almost. It is a wonderful feeling and I just hope that in 3 months more I'll actually get through... Much love to all, Pop ------ This next series of letters were written from the U.S. Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, where I was stationed from February to June 1943. Dear Mum, ...Today I went to church here. There were only about 12 cadets and 8 others there but it was very nice. The Chaplain was an awfully young fellow with a most appealing nature. It was held in ground school. I was very poor about churching in Mpls.... I got a letter from F. Von Stade. He was on a 14 day furlough at Aiken [S.C.] recovering from pneumonia -- what a break. Anyway he called up Barbara...He claims Barbara said she was glad I was in Texas where the girls are lousy so maybe I still am in. I sure so hope so. If she "fluffed me off" without warning I would be absolutely sick no kidding. Every day practically guys are getting "fluffed off" from girls they've left....All the time it happens. You know Mum it's funny being thrown in with a bunch of guys so much older -- They don't seem older, but here they are, all thinking and talking about getting married etc. Everyone asks me, after looking at Barbara's picture, when I'm going to marry her. Good heaven's! To think that last year at this time I was thinking along lines of prep school proms and stuff seems unbelievable. That's the hard part. Being around guys averaging 22 about it's only natural to think as they do on general things, and yet my 18 years keep coming up. I wish I were 20 or 21. It's not that I feel younger or anything, but I just wish I were. The fellows whose lives may be better for this thing are those who graduated last fall or Xmas from college. They have a degree and can probably get a decent job after the war and still will profit from having had military experience. Say the war ends in 2 years and I go to college. I'll feel like the old man...all my friends'll be through. That'll all straighten out though, and if you think I'd change with any of those fellows at Yale, you're sadly mistaken. I still would like to be 21 -- have a million dollars, and a beautiful wife. I can remember how I once said I wasn't going to get married. ...I do still love (I honestly feel sure of it) Barbara, Mum, yet I know that there is such a chance of her meeting some other guy. She is so very young and so darn attractive and I could hardly expect her to keep caring about me for years. ENOUGH OF THIS!!!!!!!! You both must think I'm crazy!... Much love, Pop ------ Dear Mum and Dad, Today was the big day and after a great deal of confusion it seems that your loving son is a torpedo bomber selectee. Yes I got my first choice and tomorrow morning, unless some unforeseen circumstances arise, I pack my belongings and move out to nearby (3 miles) Waldron Field, new home of the Torpedo squadron. I really am delighted with my lot and provided all goes well I should be home with you all in less than 6 weeks. ...John Buckby, one of my roommates now, 19 years old (the only other fellow I've met that young) is going to get married when he graduates. Naturally we all talk about these things, and he is convinced that he should -- however, he has no money aside from the $250 he'll be making and then his future is a bit of a "?" I don't quite see how these guys get married when they know that they have no means of support and probably will be out of this country in a short time.... Much love, Pop ------ Dear Mum, ...Barbara knit me another pair of socks. The last ones, except for the shape, were really swell. These, she says, are too heavy and miles too big. At the last minute she always gets embarrassed and won't send them until I persuade her. ...Mum, I don't know why, but I can hardly believe that I'll be an officer soon. It just is something I've really wanted and now that it looks like I'm going to get it, I find it hard to believe. From what I can gather I will be the youngest flying officer (maybe officers) in the Navy. I'm not proud of being young -- but it's a fact so I've been told. The youngest in the Army is 19.... Much much love, Pop ------ Mum, De-ah, ...Mum, I'm really worried. I hope it's one of her lapses which she falls in occasionally either because she's busy or just to keep me anxious and interested; but I haven't gotten but 1 letter in 3 1/2 weeks. Before there were a couple of 2 week famines but never this. I don't know, hope it's not the "fluff." Being away from all nice girls I worry more than usual over Barb. It's silly but that's how its been. As I've said before Barb is really a smart girl in that she can be sweet and all that without committing herself to any great degree -- Oh well, not much I can do now.... Much love, Pop ------ I received my wings on June 9, 1943, in Corpus Christi, three days before my nineteenth birthday. After a short leave at home, I reported to the U.S. naval air station in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where I would learn how to fly torpedo bombers. Dear Mum, First of all and mainly is the matter of a glorious 5 days. Never in the world could any son ever have been given such a welcome. You and Dad just did too much for me. Not much else I can say about it, except that those short 5 days have made all my time away from home seem worthwhile. Trite though it may be, it's a short stay with those you love which re-clarifies in one's mind exactly what you're fighting for. From now on it will be no picnic. Two months here (no more). A week or so at Chicago and then as quickly as one squadron can form at either San Diego or Norfolk or Oklahoma, we head overseas. That takes perhaps a week, perhaps 2 months, depending on the men available. Being here and seeing these monstrous ships in their battle paint brings home the point that it won't be long now. I cannot wait -- not because of the glamour or of the thrills -- for heaven's knows I love my home like few others -- but because it is my job, clearly defined and it must be done.... One last thing, sweet Mama! The way you and Dad both were so wonderful about Barbara probably meant more to me than anything. After all you hadn't seen me in ages and yet you didn't object to my running off. I needn't bother to tell you how much Barbara means to me -- pretty evident I guess -- knowing this you must know how happy you made me by being so marvelous about having her up etc. Goodnight and much, much love, Pop ------ Dear Mum and Dad, ...I saw a Henry Aldrich movie here at the base tonight. Also heard Fred & am now back listening to Marian Anderson. I have used this radio almost incessantly.... I sent Barbara an alligator; he ate Mrs. Pierce's frog in her pool, and finally beat an escape into the woods. If you would like a 'gator' at home -- give me the word and he's as good as yours. Much love, Pop ------ I finished my training in Fort Lauderdale in August 1943 and then headed for the huge naval base in Norfolk, Virginia. For the next few months, as I entered my final stage of training, I bounced around quite a bit -- to the naval air station at Chincoteague, Virginia; back to Norfolk; up to Hyannis, Massachusetts; to Charlestown, Rhode Island; then back to Norfolk. During this period my squadron was formed, VT-51. (For some reason, I also started dating my letters about this time.) Monday, Nov. 1 Dear Dad, I've thought this over and I wasn't quite sure whether I should write or not, but I wanted to tell someone about it, and I think it wiser to tell you, cause Mum might do some unnecessary worrying. I hope you won't worry about me after hearing it. I wanted to tell you all about it though. Today on my last flight I was coming in for my final landing when I hit a vicious slipstream from 2 recently landed TBF's. I was ready to land but I shoved on full throttle to go around again -- by that time, however, the slipstream had one wing down on the runway. I swerved to that (the left side) going off the runway. As I went off -- my wheels hit and one gave way -- This sent me careening sort of half sideway on one wing and the belly over the ground. Everything happened so quickly that I can't exactly remember it all. The prop hit and stopped. I was scared we'd tip over, but luckily we didn't. As soon as she stopped -- I snapped off the switch, gas, and battery and leapt out and to the stern. My crewmen were scurrying out as I opened the back door. Luckily none of the 3 of us was injured at all. The plane is a total loss. Both wings smashed, fuselage slightly buckled etc.-etc. It gave me quite a feeling. While careening speedily and recklessly across the runway a feeling of helplessness not fear seized me. Then there flashed thru my mind the question "will Excerpted from All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings by George Herbert Walker Bush All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Glossary of Namesp. 11
Prefacep. 21
1. Love and Warp. 23
2. "Texas, Our Texas"p. 61
3. Potomac Feverp. 97
4. International Watersp. 131
5. The Eye of the Stormp. 165
6. Chinap. 199
7. Protecting Secretsp. 235
8. "Fire in the Belly"p. 269
9. A Heartbeat Awayp. 305
10. The Rough-and-Tumblep. 341
11. The Long Home Stretchp. 375
12. "Mr. President"p. 411
13. On the Front Linep. 453
14. Peaks and Valleysp. 499
15. The Worst of Timesp. 545
16. Looking Forwardp. 585
Timelinep. 627
Acknowledgmentsp. 631
Indexp. 633

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