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Idaho Senator Mike Crapo mourns former president's death

Posted: 1:10 PM, Dec 01, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-01 20:11:09Z

Idaho Senator Mike Crapo issued a statement Saturday afternoon in response to the death of former president George H.W. Bus h, saying the 41st president's "service to the nation spanned decades."

“President George H.W. Bush lived a life of public service that demonstrated an unquestionable dedication and love of his country.  A World War II veteran, President Bush’s service to the nation spanned decades and across numerous roles from serving as a member of Congress, Ambassador to the United Nations, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  As President, he saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.  I join with Idahoans in sending my condolences to President George W. Bush, and the entire Bush family," the statement said.

Born in Massachusetts on June 12, 1924, George H. W. Bush was the son of wealthy Wall Street banker and future Connecticut Sen. Prescott Bush and Dorothy Bush.

He became the youngest naval pilot at age 18 following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and flew combat missions from the aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto. As a "flyboy" in the Pacific War, Bush flew 58 combat missions and won the Distinguished Flying Cross.

One mission in September 1944 was almost his last. Bush's air wing attacked a radio installation on the tiny Japanese-held island of Chichi Jima. During the raid, his plane was hit and as flames licked around the cockpit, Bush gave the order to abandon the aircraft. The bodies of his crewmen, Ted White and John Delaney were never found. Bush, after desperately paddling his life raft away from the island and Japanese boats sent out to capture him, was miraculously rescued by a U.S. submarine.

It took decades before Bush was able to speak publicly about his experiences in the war.

"It was just part of my duty. People say, 'war hero.' How come a guy who gets his airplane shot down is a hero and a guy who's good enough that he doesn't get shot down is not?" Bush told CNN in 2003.

Late in his life, the former president's heroism was recognized when the Navy named a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier after him.

After returning from the Pacific, Bush attended Yale University, where he was a noted athlete and then went west with his new wife, Barbara Pierce, to set himself up as an early Texas oil prospector.

By the mid-1960s, politics was calling and Bush ran for the US Senate, but lost. In 1966, however, he was on his way, winning a seat in the House of Representatives.

Chosen by President Richard Nixon to serve as envoy to the United Nations, Bush later served as the head of the Republican National Committee during the Watergate scandal.

Then, he became one of the few prominent Westerners to get into China, which had been closed to outsiders for decades. Bush headed the US Liaison Office in Beijing, the forerunner of the US Embassy. He later detailed his experiences, including trips into the Chinese countryside on bicycles, in diaries published in 2008.

In 1976, Bush became the head of the CIA. He only held the job for a year, but was so well remembered that the agency later named its headquarters in Langley, Virginia, after him, and he would later say it was his favorite job.

In 1980, Bush ran for the White House, challenging former California Gov. Ronald Reagan for the GOP nomination, slamming what he said was his foe's "voodoo economic policy."

After a sometimes rancorous campaign, Reagan won, and after briefly flirting with picking former president Gerald Ford as his running mate, handed Bush the vice presidential spot.

In a statement, Friday from former President George W. Bush reads: "Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro, and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died. George H. W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens."

PHOTOS: President George H.W. Bush through the years

The elder Bush served as president from 1989 to 1993, overseeing the United States' efforts in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm. Bush lost reelection in 1992, losing to Democrat Bill Clinton. 

Bush arguably had one of most extensive resumes before becoming president, having been a congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, envoy to China, CIA director, and vice president. 

Before serving as president, Bush was Ronald Reagan's vice president from 1981 through 1989. His partnership with Reagan came after an intense battle for the GOP nomination between Bush and Reagan during the 1980 primary season. 

Bush has experienced a number of health issues in recent years. He suffered from a form of Parkinson's disease, which forced him to a motorized scooter since 2012. 

Bush's wife of 73 years Barbara died in April. Just one day after his wife's funeral, Bush was hospitalized with a blood infection. 

His failing health also caused him to miss the inauguration of President Donald Trump in 2017. Bush was admitted to the intensive care unit for an acute respiratory problem.