Bush and Williams came from vastly different worlds — privilege and poverty, stability and instability, understatement and astronomical fame. With his crooked grin, 94-year-old Bush is diplomatic and quick to use humor. The boom of Williams’ voice rattled china and he never censored his use of profanity. But deep down, the left-handed ballplayers and combat pilots were united by a resolute work ethic and a humble willingness to serve their country.
In 1942, recruiting stations burst at the seams with millions of American men and women lining up to enlist in various service branches.
Fate would have it that Bush and Williams were selected from a pool of applicants by the Naval Aviation Cadet Selection Board in Boston. Their names were both misspelled on the memo to the chief of naval personnel as: WILLIANS, Theodore Samuel, and BUSH, George Herbert Nalker. The subject of the memo with slightly blurred lettering read, “Enlistment papers, transmittal, of.”
With his .406 season-ending batting record in 1941, Williams topped the list, followed by his service number, 705-53-11. Bush, 705-55-04, was the 15th enlistee on the page among 21 brave young souls who aimed to join the newest generation of fighter pilots.