Minnesotans remember George H.W. Bush's Navy pilot training in Minneapolis

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Photo credit: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

As Americans look back on the legacy of their 41st President, they can also remember the time he spent in Minnesota.

Long before becoming President, George H.W. Bush underwent some of his naval training in Minneapolis.

Bush arrived at Wold-Chamberlain naval airfield in Minneapolis in 1942. At 18-years-old, he was poised to become one of the youngest Navy pilots to fly in World War II.

The former president was stationed in Minnesota during the winter months. At one point, he wrote his mother telling her about the frigid cold temperatures.

“His first flight here, the temperature was 16 degrees Fahrenheit and he flew the open cockpit airplane for an hour, 20 minutes,” said Bob Jasperson, the director of Wings of the North Air Museum. “We have copies of [the] log book that show on January 28 and February 5 of 1943, President Bush sat in the rear cock pit and soloed that plane.”

In a letter to his parents, Bush wrote about one of his first times in the air, saying, “I was so nervous that in the beginning my legs were shivering around. Once in the air I was completely cool much to my surprise.”

Two years later, his plane was shot down over the Pacific, video capturing the moment a submarine crew rescued him from open water. Nobody else on the mission survived.

After the war, Bush would eventually become a big name in the Republican Party, rising up the ranks to serve as President.

Former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson says the President campaigned in Minnesota several times. In 1990, he showed up to campaign for the then-hopeful gubernatorial candidate.

“He had a whale of a good sense of humor,” said Carlson. “He really did…very warm, very friendly, very funny.”

Bush was also great friends and Yale classmates with Minnesota businessmen Wheelock Whitney and George Pillsbury. According to Carlson, when the former President was in town, he would go out to Lake Minnetonka to hang out with his buddies.

“He had very close contacts in Minnesota,” said Carlson. “In fact, one of the last acts in Wheelock Whitney’s life was to fly out to Houston say goodbye.”

Today, Carlson reflects on private moments with the Bush family and speaks of the former President with great respect.

“If you were to ask him his value system it would be country first and then family,” he said. “He would never allow his personal political ambitions to overshadow service to others.”

Carlson suggests politicians today could learn something from Bush, saying he was a man that left a mark on every person he met.