In particular, I had hoped to learn what George W. and George discussed about military service when George W. was 18.
George W.’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, had joined the Connecticut National Guard in 1916 and was sent overseas in WW I as a field artillery officer.
A generation later, Prescott wanted George to go to university, rather than enlist when WW II began for America with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor at the end of 1941.
Instead George enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday. He had been outraged by the attack and felt a sense of obligation to serve as he had received the benefits of life in America.
In 1964 George W. was 18. He went to university at Yale and had a student deferment. In 1968 he joined the Texas Air National Guard which effectively kept him from serving in Vietnam.
The book has not a mention of any discussion between George W. and George when George W. was 18 about military service. George W.’s father and grandfather had fought in the wars of their respective generations. George W. could have joined the military but chose instead college. I would have been interested to know what George told George W.
It was a defining issue for every American father and son of that generation. It was the major decision of their teenage lives for my male South Dakota cousins turning 18 in the 1960’s.
I am positive the topic would have been discussed. Did George express a definite opinion as his father had discouraged him from joining the military or did he stay neutral? It is hard for me to think on such an important topic that there was no advice.
By 1967 George was a U.S. Senator and made a trip to Vietnam. It is fair to say he supported America’s intervention in Vietnam.
Once again the book has nothing about George W.’s student deferment about to end in 1968 and what he should do at that time. In a Washington Post article he described his decision:
In discussing his own decision, he has always said his main consideration was that he wanted to be a pilot, and the National Guard gave him a chance to do that. In 1989 he tried to describe his own thought process to a Texas interviewer. "I'm saying to myself, 'What do I want to do?' I think I don't want to be an infantry guy as a private in Vietnam. What I do decide to want to do is learn to fly."
Asked in a recent interview whether he was avoiding the draft, Bush said, "No, I was becoming a pilot."
There was advice from George on important issues. A few years later, after the Watergate scandal had finally ended, George shared his thoughts with his sons. After learning that Richard Nixon, who thought was his friend, had privately criticized him, as a “worrywart” and weak, George a letter to his sons about what he hoped they “would learn from the Watergate debacle:
Listen to your conscience. Don’t be afraid not to join the mob – if you feel inside it’s wrong. Don’t confuse being ‘soft’ with seeing the other guy’s point of view …. Avoid self-righteously turning on a friend, but have your friendship mean enough that you would be willing to share with your friend your judgment. Don’t assign away your judgment to achieve power.”
It would have been fascinating to learn what the Bush family discussed concerning the military and Vietnam when George W. was 18 and 22.
I have one more post about 41 and it includes my sons.