Friday, October 14, 2016

Walt Disney’s Final Visit to Disneyland - A Medal of Honor Family Remembers

By Dave Mason

In follow-up to last week's article on Walt Disney's final official visit to Disneyland where he paid tribute to the Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, Disney historian Dave Mason has provided Disney Avenue readers with another WWII story of remarkable courage. The article includes, for the first time ever, a rare unpublished photograph of Walt Disney on the historic stage of "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" during his final visit to the Park on Friday, October 14, 1966. Join us as we journey back exactly 50 years to the day and see Walt for the last time in the Park he loved so much…

In grateful appreciation for the encouraging response to last week’s article on Walt Disney’s tribute to the WWII Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, the family of Robert E. “Bob” Bush has provided what may be the only known photograph of Walt Disney upon the stage of the Lincoln Theatre (Opera House) on his final visit to Disneyland; taken immediately following their private presentation of “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln." The family of Robert E. Bush kindly asks that this rare photo of Walt not be shared on any other site. Please respect the family's wishes by not circulating this photo around the web. (c) 1966 - Family of Robert E. Bush

The above, never-before-published photograph was taken by Medal of Honor recipient Bob Bush on Friday, October 14, 1966 and is offered to the readers of Disney Avenue for the first time in commemorating today’s 50th Anniversary remembrance of that historic occasion.

In his 1998 book on the courageous heroes of WWII, “The Greatest Generation”, Tom Brokaw included a profile of Bob Bush within the best-selling publication (appearing on the New York Times list of best-selling nonfiction books for nearly two years).

We are proud to provide a brief overview of this remarkable man’s service to our country… as honored at Disneyland by Walt Disney a half century ago.

Robert E. Bush, wartime portrait, US Navy Reserve (Courtesy of Bob Bush)

Bob Bush and Company (Courtesy of Bob Bush)

Bob Bush (1926 – 2005) left high school in 1944 and entered the US Navy Reserve as WWII raged throughout the Pacific. At only 18 years of age, he served as a Medical Corpsman during the battle for Okinawa. On May 5, 1945 Bush rushed to the aid of a fallen and seriously wounded Marine lieutenant. While administering plasma with one hand, he used his other hand to fire his weapon in defense of their exposed position in the direct line of Japanese fire. While help was arriving to evacuate the fallen officer, a grenade hit Bush’s location, severely wounding his eye and exploding shrapnel into his arm and chest. After one year, six months and 26 days, he was discharged from the service and he returned home to California.

On October 5, 1945, Robert D. Bush, for his valor on the battlefield of WWII, was called upon to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman on the lawn of the White House during “Nimitz Day” celebrations; the youngest WWII Navy man ever to receive the Medal of Honor.

Robert E. Bush receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman at the White House on
October 5, 1945.  Additional information on Robert Bush’s selfless acts of courage during the Battle of Okinawa can be found at the following web site by clicking HERE.

Two decades later, Bob’s family, including his wife Wanda, and his children, Susie, Rick and Larry, were seated together at Disneyland’s Lincoln Theatre (eldest son, Mick, had to work and was unable to attend). They were mesmerized as Walt Disney rose to the microphone to greet his honored guests. After being seated in the dark near the side of the theatre, Walt rose to center stage as the house lights came up. Following Walt’s greeting to the Medal of Honor recipients and his heart-felt welcome to Disneyland, Bob encouraged his 13-year-old son, Rick, to make his way to the stage to greet Walt in person. (Their family had been among the millions of faithful weekly viewers of Walt Disney’s “Wonderful World of Color” Sunday night television program.) Though most of the crowd had dutifully left the theatre when the exit doors opened, Rick stepped up to Walt Disney and said “Hi Mr. Disney. I’m Rick Bush.” Walt’s response gave all the reassurance that a somewhat nervous teen could have needed. “Well hey, Rick. How are you today?”

In remembering the encounter, Rick shared that “I’ll never forget that moment because he repeated my name so it made me feel important. And he looked right at me with that smile he had… that Walt Disney smile. To this day I still see that just like it was yesterday…It made such an impression on me.”

From there, the Medal of Honor recipients gathered in front of the Opera House and once Walt had exited the theatre they had the chance to personally greet their famous host. While they thoroughly enjoyed their personal moment with the man himself, no one could have known that his remaining time on this earth would be so brief.

As Rick continued, “Of course I was devastated when he passed away not long after that. We couldn’t believe it. It was really heart felt when he was gone. I was still 13… and it was just a shock when he passed on.”

How does anyone have a face-to-face encounter with a lifetime hero, only to feel the loss of their passing only days later? They do what millions of appreciative viewers of Walt Disney films and television programs would do. They treasured their experience and continue to share the “story behind the story” for the rest of their days.

50 years later… each surviving member of the Robert Bush family still treasures the memory of their special visit to Disneyland; along with the photographs and framed animation art that has been acquired for their individual homes since that day so long ago… since their remarkable “day with Walt.”

Chapter 1: The Story of Walt Disney’s Final Official Visit to Disneyland 

Chapter 3: Walt Disney's Final Public Appearance 

Chapter 4: Forever Remembered: The Lasting Influence of Walt Disney


Dave Mason was born in Anaheim, California within a month of Disneyland’s grand opening premiere and dedication. Growing up in a community that celebrated every success of their adopted hometown “park", the stories of his family members serving as carpenters on Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle or sales clerks at the souvenir shops on Main Street, U.S.A. would provide for tales as wonderful as those found in Disney’s best storybooks. In fact, when Disneyland launched their summer fireworks extravaganza for the first time, the back yard of his family home on Anaheim’s Haster Street would serve as the perfect location to receive the best benefits of the Disney experience without having to buy an admission ticket.

Today, Dave Mason serves as the founder of, launched on April 1, 1994 (yes, “April Fools Day”). Among the earliest entrepreneurs to make the leap into internet sales, Dave joined a handful of Disney enthusiasts in offering auctions on AuctionWeb (later to become known as eBay). In addition, Dave is honored to serve as the Director of Development with the all-volunteer team of The Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases ( He is a founding member of both the Walt Disney Family Museum and a global Disney research organization known as The Hyperion Historical Alliance.

You can find all of Dave's articles here.


  1. Great follow-up article! It's important to keep the memory of Walt Disney alive; but also important to keep the memory of heroes like Bob Bush alive as well. His family can be very proud of him, so are we!

  2. I agree whole heartedly with Al. Thanks for your site, Dave, I really enjoy it.

  3. This is the truth of the greatest generation - people like the Bush family and Walt Disney who cared for the intrinsic & authentic values of our nation. Thank you Bob & Walt for being such role models !!