George H.W. Bush at age 12, 1936
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

George H.W. Bush at age 12, 1936
June 12, 1924

George H.W. Bush is born in Milton, Massachusetts. His mother, Dorothy Walker Bush, wants to name her son after her father, George Herbert Walker, but can not choose between George Herbert Bush and George Walker Bush, so she decides not to choose, and names him George Herbert Walker Bush. He is the second of five children.


1937-1942

George Bush, known as "Poppy," attends Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. In 1940 he contracts a staph infection that puts him in the hospital. He repeats a year at Andover. His sister, Nancy Bush Ellis, refers to 1940 as "the making of George Bush."


Barbara Pierce (Bush) in her late teens
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Barbara Pierce (Bush) in her late teens
December 7, 1941

The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Bush hears news of the attack while walking across campus and has what he calls "the typical American reaction that we had better do something about this." A few weeks later at a Christmas dance, he meets Barbara Pierce.


US Navy Primary Flight Training, Minnesota, 1942
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

US Navy Primary Flight Training, Minnesota, 1942
June 12, 1942

Bush enlists in the Navy on his 18th birthday, which also happens to be the day he graduates from Andover. On June 9, 1943, he becomes the youngest commissioned pilot in the naval air service when he is presented with ensign's bars and gold wings. That December, the Navy assigns Bush to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. San Jacinto in the Pacific. As a member of the torpedo squadron VT-51, Bush flies an Avenger bomber on which he inscribes the name "Barbara."


September 2, 1944

Bush is shot down over a Japanese island, Chichi Jima. Bush radioes his two crewmen, Ted White and John Delaney, telling them to "hit the silk," or bail out. Only one of the two crewmen bails out, and that man's parachute never opens. Bush then bails out himself. He is rescued by the submarine U.S.S. Finback and spends a month on the sub before being dropped off in Midway to return to his squadron aboard the San Jacinto.


George and Barbara Bush on their wedding day in Rye, NY, January 6, 1945
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

George and Barbara Bush on their wedding day in Rye, NY, January 6, 1945
January 6, 1945

George H.W. Bush marries Barbara Pierce while on leave in 1945. The war ends before he returns to duty, and he is honorably discharged on September 18, 1945. In total, he has flown 58 missions, logged 1,228 hours of flying time and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions over Chichi Jima.


George W. Bush sits on his father's shoulders in New Haven, CT
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

George W. Bush sits on his father's shoulders in New Haven, CT
July 6, 1946

George and Barbara's first son, George Walker Bush, is born in New Haven, Connecticut, while Bush is a student at Yale. Bush graduates in two and a half years with honors, is captain of the baseball team, and is admitted to the elite secret society Skull and Bones.


Summer 1948

Upon graduating from Yale, Bush takes a job in the oil industry with Dresser Industries, a subsidiary of Ideco, and moves his family to West Texas. Later, Barbara Bush will recall, "we wanted to get out from under the parental gaze, be on our own!"


December 20, 1949

George and Barbara's second child, Pauline Robinson Bush, who will be called Robin, is born in Compton, California, where Bush's job has taken the family. They will live in Whittier, Huntington Park, Bakersfield and Compton before transferring back to Midland, Texas, in 1950.


George H.W. Bush and Hugh Liedtke in Zapata Oil offices, Midland, TX
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

George H.W. Bush and Hugh Liedtke in Zapata Oil offices, Midland, TX
1952

Bush co-founds Zapata Petroleum. In 1950 he had formed an oil development company in Midland, Texas, with a neighbor, John Overbey. In 1952 Overbey and Bush join together with William and Hugh Liedtke to form Zapata Petroleum. Zapata soon hits it big with an oil field in Coke County, Jameson Field.

Bush's father, Prescott Bush, is elected to the U.S. Senate from Connecticut. His father will serve as Bush's model for public service.


Bush and his firstborn daughter, Robin
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Bush and his firstborn daughter, Robin
February 11, 1953

John Ellis Bush is born. Known as "Jeb," his name is derived from his initials. A few weeks after Jeb is born, his three-year-old sister Robin is diagnosed with leukemia.


October 12, 1953

George and Barbara's daughter Robin dies of leukemia. The Bushes hold a small memorial ceremony in New York, where she received treatment, before returning to their young sons in Texas.


January 22, 1955

Neil Mallon Bush, the Bushes' fourth child, is born in Midland, Texas.


October 22, 1956

Marvin Pierce Bush, the Bushes' fifth child and youngest son, is born.


The George Bush Family, Houston, TX, 1964
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

The George Bush Family, Houston, TX, 1964
August 18, 1959

Dorothy "Doro" Bush is born. Soon after her birth, the family moves to Houston.


1962

Bush becomes Chairman of the Harris County Republican Committee. His father retires from the U.S. Senate the same year, citing poor health.


1964

Bush runs against liberal Ralph Yarborough for the U.S. Senate seat from Texas. The political landscape leading up to the 1964 election indicates that Bush might win based on Texas' new conservative bent. The administration of John F. Kennedy had divided the Democratic Party, especially in Texas. However,Kennedy's assassination unites the party behind the new president and native Texan, Lyndon Johnson and squashing Bush's chances of defeating Yarborough.


Victory Night. Congressional Race, 1966
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Victory Night. Congressional Race, 1966
1966

Bush wins a seat in the U.S. Congress. The Republican Party in Texas revises their 1964 strategy of fielding as many Republican candidates as possible, and decides instead to only let a certain number of candidates run, in order to focus party attention on winning those few races. As a new congressman, Bush does not make much of a mark, but with his father's help, he becomes the first freshman in 63 years to be offered a seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee.


1970

Bush gives up his congressional seat to again challenge Ralph Yarborough for the U.S. Senate. Bush plans to position himself as the conservative alternative to Yarborough, but his plan is thwarted when Lloyd Bentsen defeats Yarborough in the Democratic Primary. Bentsen is seen as at least as conservative as Bush and defeats Bush in November. Bush writes to a friend that the loss "sent me to the depths."


Bush, US Ambassador to the UN, 1971-1973
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Bush, US Ambassador to the UN, 1971-1973
December 11, 1970

Keeping a promise to find Bush a job if his bid for U.S. Senate failed, Richard Nixon announces his appointment of Bush as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Nixon had offered Bush a role as a Special Assistant to the President, but Bush argued for the U.N. appointment.


October 8, 1972

Prescott Bush dies of lung cancer at Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital in New York.


January 1973

Bush leaves the United Nations to become chairman of the Republican National Committee. A month later, the Senate Watergate Committee is established to investigate the administration's involvement in the Watergate break-in.


August 6, 1974

In a cabinet meeting on August 6, 1974, Bush tells President Nixon that Watergate is sapping public confidence. The next day, he sends a letter to the president suggesting that he resign. President Nixon announces his resignation on August 8, 1974.


August 24, 1974

Bush waits at Kennebunkport to find out who President Gerald Ford has chosen as vice president. Bush is the first choice among party leaders. Ford calls Bush just before walking out to announce Nelson Rockefeller as his choice. A reporter with Bush in Kennebunkport says, "Mr. Bush, you don't seem to be too upset about this." Bush replies, "Yes, but you can't see what's on the inside."


1974

President Ford offers Bush an ambassadorship in the country of his choosing. Bush chooses China and becomes the U.S. Liaison in Beijing (then Peking). (The U.S. does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China in 1974 and therefore has a liaison office rather than a full embassy.)


Bush with Henry Kissinger in China, 1975
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Bush with Henry Kissinger in China, 1975
1975

While in China, Bush receives a cable from President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger asking him to return to Washington to become the Director of Central Intelligence. Bush's confirmation is held up on the grounds that he is too political for the C.I.A. post. To get Bush through the confirmation process, Ford writes a letter promising that if Bush is confirmed by the Senate, "I will not consider him as my vice-presidential running mate" in 1976. It is this promise that gains Bush the approval of both the Armed Services Committee and the full Senate. Bush acts as Director of Central Intelligence until 1977, when newly-elected Democrat Jimmy Carter chooses to replace Bush.


May 1, 1979

Bush announces his candidacy for president at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.


Bush campaigns for the presidency, 1979
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Bush campaigns for the presidency, 1979
January 21, 1980

Bush wins a surprise victory over Republican front-runner California governor Ronald Reagan in the Iowa caucus. In his victory speech, Bush declares that he has "Big Mo" (momentum) on his side. "Big Mo" is seen as preppy and childish and is the type of phrase that will contribute to his image problem in both the 1980 and later campaigns.


February 23, 1980

Governor Reagan roars back to life in a debate in Nashua, N.H. Governor Reagan and Ambassador Bush are invited to a two-person debate by the Nashua Telegraph. National campaign rules, however, dictate that no third party can sponsor a debate that excludes other Republican primary candidates. To preserve the two-person debate format, the Reagan and Bush campaigns are asked to pay for the event themselves. Bush turns down the offer -- Reagan agrees to pay the cost of the event. When in response to criticism for excluding the other candidates, Reagan decides to change the rules, Bush sides with the debate moderator in refusing to include the candidates. When the moderator asks for Reagan's microphone to be turned off as Reagan is laying out his case for including the other candidates, Reagan responds with a line from a movie: "I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green." Never mind that the moderator's name is Breen, Reagan wins the debate in that moment and goes on to win the New Hampshire primary.


May 26, 1980

Bush officially pulls out of the race for the Republican nomination.


July 16, 1980

At the Republican National Convention in Detroit, Bush receives a phone call in his hotel room from Ronald Reagan, asking him to be the vice presidential nominee. Bush accepts the nomination and Reagan's platform. In a joint press conference the following day, Bush says "I won't permit myself to get bogged down in trying to find or accentuate -- or permit you to make me accentuate -- differences that I had with the governor during the campaign because they had been minimal." To George Bush this is a statement of loyalty to Reagan. To Bush detractors, this statement signals a lack of firm convictions.


November 4, 1980

Reagan-Bush defeats Carter-Mondale by a wide margin. The Reagan-Bush ticket captures 44 states to Carter's six states and the District of Columbia.


Vice president Bush and President Reagan walk in the West Wing, February 3, 1984
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Vice president Bush and President Reagan walk in the West Wing, February 3, 1984
January 20, 1981

George Bush is sworn in as the nation's 41st vice president. As vice president, he travels 1.3 million miles, visiting 50 states and 65 countries. He represents the United States at so many state funerals that his friend James Baker quips that his motto should be "You die, I fly."


Chaos outside the Washington Hilton Hotel
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Chaos outside the Washington Hilton Hotel
March 30, 1981

President Reagan is shot outside the Washington (D.C.) Hilton Hotel. Vice President Bush's reaction to the assassination attempt, especially his restraint, demonstrated in even small gestures like not sitting in the president's chair in cabinet meetings, cements the relationship between Reagan and Bush. His restraint also assuages doubts left over from the bruising primary campaign among Reagan's closest advisors about Bush's loyalty to President Reagan.


December 3, 1986

In his first public statement about the Iran-Contra affair, Vice President Bush admits that "mistakes were made." He continues, "I was aware of our Iran initiative, and I support the president's decision. And I was not aware of and I oppose any diversion of funds, any ransom payments, or any circumvention of the will of the Congress or the laws of the United States of America. And as the various investigations proceed, I have this to say: let the chips fall where they may. We want the truth. The president wants it. I want it. And the American people have a fundamental right to it. And if the truth hurts, so be it." This speech draws praise but does not keep Bush from being suspected of knowing more than he let on. Doubts about Bush's involvement will linger through his 1992 presidential campaign.


October 13, 1987

George Bush announces his presidential candidacy for the second time. The week he announces, aNewsweek magazine hits the stands with a cover photo of Bush with the headline, "Fighting the Wimp Factor."


August 18, 1988

Bush accepts the Republican nomination at the convention in New Orleans. His acceptance speech will be widely cited as the best speech of his entire political career.


Vice President Bush attends a campaign rally in Medina, OH, Oct. 7, 1988
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Vice President Bush attends a campaign rally in Medina, OH, Oct. 7, 1988
November 8, 1988

Bush-Quayle defeats Dukakis-Bentsen, capturing 40 states and 53 percent of the popular vote.


George H.W. Bush takes the presidential oath of office, Washington, DC, Jan. 20, 1989
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

George H.W. Bush takes the presidential oath of office, Washington, DC, Jan. 20, 1989
January 20, 1989

George H.W. Bush is inaugurated as the 41st President of the United States. In his inaugural address, he reiterates his call for a "kinder, gentler America," which many see as a subtle departure from the Reagan agenda.


June 3, 1989

The Chinese government brutally suppresses an uprising in Tiananmen Square. Bush's reaction is criticized for not being tough enough. This event is an example of Bush's proclivity to choose personal diplomacy over public pronouncements. Rather than publicly condemn the actions of the Chinese government, as many think he should, Bush writes a letter to the Chinese leadership laying out his thoughts and grave concerns about the event.


East German police observe the new opening in the Berlin Wall, Nov. 14, 1989
Defense Visual Information Center (DVIC)

East German police observe the new opening in the Berlin Wall, Nov. 14, 1989
November 9, 1989

The Berlin Wall falls. Bush famously says he will not dance on the wall. Critics charge he should take part in the celebrations of the symbolic end of the Cold War. Bush is concerned that celebrations of victory by the American president will provoke a backlash in the Soviet Union.


December 20, 1989

In response to the murder of a U.S. Navy seaman and the beating of two American witnesses by members of the Panamanian Defense Force, the United States invades Panama and captures Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to bring him to trial on drug trafficking charges in the U.S. Though it takes two weeks to find Noriega after the invasion, the administration celebrates a military action largely seen as a success.


June 26, 1990

Bush breaks his "no new taxes" pledge when he agrees to put taxes on the table in negotiating a budget deal with congressional Democrats.


President George H.W. Bush at a National Security Council meeting regarding Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, August 2, 1990.
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

President George H.W. Bush at a National Security Council meeting regarding Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, August 2, 1990.
August 2, 1990

Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invades neighboring Kuwait in a dispute over oil fields. George Bush, who came of age during World War II, sees Hussein in terms of Adolf Hitler and resolves from the start to eject Iraq from Kuwait entirely, regardless of whether or not force is required.


September 30, 1990

Bush and the bipartisan budget committee announce their budget agreement in a Rose Garden ceremony. Newt Gingrich, the House minority whip and a member of the bipartisan committee, refuses to attend the announcement ceremony and leads a Republican revolt against Bush's budget agreement.


President George H.W. Bush signs the Clean Air Act Amendments into law, Nov. 15, 1990.
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

President George H.W. Bush signs the Clean Air Act Amendments into law, Nov. 15, 1990.
November 15, 1990

Bush signs the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. The New York Times refers to the passage of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 as the single most distinguished policy achievement of the Bush administration.


A burning oil well in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm, Aug. 1, 1991
Defense Visual Information Center (DVIC)

A burning oil well in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm, Aug. 1, 1991
January 12, 1991

Going to war over Kuwait proves a hard sell on the U.S. Congress. Many Congressional leaders feel that the administration has not given enough time for economic sanctions imposed on Iraq to take effect and force Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. After a November U.N. vote backing the use of "all means necessary" to eject Hussein's army, Congress passes a war resolution of its own, though support is far from overwhelming. The Senate passes the resolution by a narrow margin, 52-47.


January 16, 1991

Operation Desert Storm begins. The first phase of the war is an air assault. The ground offensive begins five weeks later and will last only 100 hours before the decision is made to end the war.


February 28, 1991

A ceasefire is declared in the Persian Gulf War. On March 3, Iraqi and coalition military leaders meet to dictate the terms.


March 29, 1991

Lee Atwater, Bush's tough-knuckled 1988 campaign manager and political advisor, dies of brain cancer.



My American Experience

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