Bush enlisted in the U.S. Navy on his 18th birthday, June 12, 1942, as a Seaman 2nd Class. He was commissioned an ensign and pilot and served aboard the USS San Jacinto flying Grumman Avener bombers with the 3rd and 5th Fleets.
On September 2, 1944, Bush was assigned to take out a radio station located in the Bonin Islands. In the course of the action, Bush's plane was hit with enemy fire. Though the plane was on fire, he completed his strafing run on the targeted Japanese installation before flying towards sea to bail out offshore from Chichi Jima, a Japanese-held island near the more well-known Iwo Jima. He was rescued by a Navy submarine, the USS Finback. A genuine hero, Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals. He was discharged in September 1945 with the rank of lieutenant (j.g.)
Bush next turned his energies toward completing his education and raising a family. In January 1945 he married Barbara Pierce. They had six children--George, Robin (who died as a child), John (known as Jeb), Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy.
After his graduation, George and Barbara Bush moved to Texas, where he worked as an oil field supply salesman for Dresser Industries. In 1951, he co-founded a small royalty firm, The Bush-Overbey Oil Development Company. Two years later he co-founded the Zapata Petroleum Corporation. In 1954, at the age of 30, he became co-founder and president of a third firm, Zapata Off-Shore. Zapata pioneered experimental offshore drilling equipment.
Following an unsuccessful bid for a Senate seat in 1964, Mr. Bush was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1966 from Texas' 7th District. He was reelected to the House two years later without opposition. Mr. Bush lost a second campaign for the Senate in 1970.
In 1980 Bush campaigned for the Republican nomination for President. He lost, but was chosen as a running mate by Ronald Reagan. As Vice President, Bush had responsibility in several domestic areas, including Federal deregulation and anti-drug programs, and visited scores of foreign countries. In 1988 Bush won the Republican nomination for President and, with Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana as his running mate, he defeated Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in the general election.