The Navy named a new aircraft carrier yesterday for former president George H.W. Bush.

The current president's father, who created the international coalition that defeated Iraq and liberated Kuwait in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, said at a Pentagon ceremony he was "overwhelmed by this and very grateful."

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the president was "honored that his father was honored."

"This ship will provide a worldwide, deployable symbol of our nation's resolve and the character of President George Herbert Walker Bush," said Navy Secretary Gordon England.

The former president was a Navy torpedo bomber pilot during World War II and at 18 became the youngest decorated bomber pilot in that war. He flew 58 combat missions and was shot down in September 1944 near Chichi Jima, a Pacific island about 600 miles south of Tokyo.

The USS George H.W. Bush is under construction at Northrop Grumman's Newport News shipyard in Virginia. Completion of the massive nuclear-powered vessel is scheduled for 2009. The ship will be the last of 10 Nimitz-class carriers, which cost about $4.5 billion each. The ninth, scheduled to be commissioned in May, is the USS Ronald Reagan.