6 facts about the longest-living president's military career

Former President George H. W. Bush recently surpassed former President Gerald Ford as the longest living president

Updated June 2018

By Military1 Staff

At 94 years old, former President George H.W. Bush holds the title as the longest living U.S. president. He overtook the distinction from former President Gerald Ford, who died in December 2006 at 93 and 165 days old.

The revelation was first reported on by political writer Gabe Fisher, who tweeted the current list of presidential longevity as it stands.

Bush, who is one of five living former presidents, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, one of the few modern American presidents with a military background.

1. He abandoned his education to serve

Bush was a senior in high school, destined for Yale University, when the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Six months later, on this 18th birthday, he enlisted in the Navy, determined to serve his country.

2. He made history as the youngest aviator

After enlisting at 18, Bush went on to become a naval aviator after completing a 10-month course learning takeoffs and landing on the USS Sable. He was commissioned as an ensign on June 9, 1943, a mere three days before turning 19, making him the youngest naval aviator ever at the time.

The later U.S. president George Herbert Walker Bush as a pilot, seated in a Grumman TBM Avenger aircraft. (U.S. Navy photo)

3. He survived an air attack that forced him to eject from his aircraft

While flying a mission as a bomber pilot, Bush found himself attacked, along with the rest of his squadron, by Japanese anti-aircraft fire. The mission called for Bush to attack a Japanese installation on the island of Chi Chi Jima, when his aircraft was hit. He managed to release his bombs and make a turn back towards the U.S. aircraft carrier, but his engines caught fire on the way. He was forced to eject over the water, where he floated for more than four hours before being rescued.

4. He paid tribute to that jump in his later years

After completing that first spontaneous, emergency jump in 1944, Bush has jumped with veteran members of the U.S. Army Parachute Team for this 75th, 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays. 

5. He was a highly decorated naval aviator

During his time in the Navy, Bush earned an impressive number of medals for his actions and bravery. He flew 58 combat missions, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals and the Presidential Unit Citation that was awarded to the USS San Jacinto.

6. He is one of the few modern presidents to have served in the military

Former Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and George H. W. Bush. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

While not a requirement, many people believe that having a military background is a positive characteristic for those running for president. Of the last five presidents, only two have served in the military: Bush and his son, former President George W. Bush. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as President Donald Trump, have not served.