Why George HW Bush's Family Used a Code Word To Mark His Death


It isn’t unusual for U.S. presidents to have a few “code names” assigned to them during their time in office. The Secret Service has a tradition of giving a unique code to each member of the first family for clarity and rapid communication.

Ronald Reagan’s, for example, was “Rawhide,” a fitting name for a man who adored horseback riding and working his California ranch. John F. Kennedy was “Lancer,” while Richard Nixon was “Searchlight.”

The late George H. W. Bush was also given a memorable name by the Secret Service — “Timberwolf” — but when he passed away Friday night at the ripe young age of 94, the Bush family used a very different code name to pass the sad news among themselves.

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According to CNN, people close to the 41st president used the acronym “CAVU” to let each other know that the war veteran and president had died.

That’s a head-scratching name at first glance, but its origin is both intriguing and fitting for the former naval aviator. In pilot parlance, CAVU stands for “ceiling and visibility unlimited.”

“CAVU was the kind of weather we Navy pilots wanted when we were to fly off our carrier in the Pacific,” Bush himself explained in a letter he wrote to his family around the start of the first Gulf War, which he read to Larry King back in 2006.

During an era when Bush was the youngest naval pilot to fly in World War II, that term took on special meaning.

Do you think this code word accurately describes George H.W. Bush?

“We had little navigational instrumentation, so we wanted to CAVU, ceiling and visibility unlimited,” Bush wrote in that early 90’s letter to his family.

“And because of the five of you whose hugs I can still feel, whose own lives made me so proud, I can confidently tell my guardian angel that my life is CAVU and it will be that way until I die. All because of you,” he continued.

The patriarch of the Bush family had a plaque with the term CAVU in his office, as a reminder of that optimistic attitude toward life and a hat-tip to his time as a pilot.

That love of the sky continued even after the Second World War ended. In his later years, Bush made a tradition of literally jumping out of airplanes to commemorate his birthday — though these skydives were without a doubt less stressful than the time he bailed out of his own aircraft in the military.

“He’s leapt out of flying planes to commemorate his 75th, 80th, 85th, and 90th birthdays,” reported Insider.

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After news of his passing spread late Friday night, many admirers of the late president added CAVU to their tributes on social media.

Bush was certainly not perfect, but his long record of service and accomplishments is something that all Americans, regardless of party, can respect.

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Benjamin Arie is an independent journalist and writer. He has personally covered everything ranging from local crime to the U.S. president as a reporter in Michigan before focusing on national politics. Ben frequently travels to Latin America and has spent years living in Mexico.