USS George H.W. Bush to be commissioned

Dec. 30, 2008 at 6:52 PM
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NORFOLK, Va., Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Former President George H.W. Bush is set to be the keynote speaker Jan. 10 when a nuclear aircraft carrier bearing his name is commissioned in Virginia.

Bush's daughter, Dorothy "Doro" Bush Koch, as sponsor of the Nimitz-class carrier will deliver the traditional Navy order to "man our ship and bring her to life!" the Navy announced in a news release Tuesday.

Bush is a former Navy pilot, who was the youngest ever to do so when he received his commission and naval aviator wings before his 19th birthday.

He flew Avenger torpedo bombers from the carrier USS San Jacinto in the South Pacific during World War II. He was shot down by enemy fire in September 1944 but completed a strafing run on his target in his burning plane before parachuting into the sea.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals for his war-time service.

Capt. Kevin O'Flaherty of Los Angeles will be the ship's first commanding officer, leading a crew of more than 5,500. The George H. W. Bush initially will have its home port in Norfolk, Va., assigned to the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

Construction of the carrier, the 10th and last of its class, began 2003, and it was christened in 2006. It is 20 stories tall, 1,092 feet long, 252 feet wide and displaces 95,000 tons of water.

Its two nuclear reactors are capable of more than 20 years of continuous service without refueling and it has a top speed in excess of 30 knots.

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