THE 41st president of the United States, George HW Bush, has died at the age of 94.

The former president, who served in the Second World War and also presided during the collapse of the Soviet Union and the final months of the Cold War, died shortly after 10pm on Friday, family spokesman Jim McGrath said.

His wife of more than 70 years, Barbara Bush, died in April. Bush’s son, George W Bush, described his father as a “man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for”.

In a statement, he added: “The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens.”

The former president served from 1989 to 1993, and eight years later watched his son George W become the 43rd president – only the second father-and-son chief executives, following John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

He entered the White House in 1989 with a reputation as a man of indecision and indeterminate views.

After Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Bush quickly began building an international military coalition that included other Arab states.

After winning United Nations support and a green light from a reluctant Congress, he unleashed a punishing air war against Iraq and a five-day ground juggernaut that sent Iraqi forces back to Baghdad.

Despite his brutish actions in war, his approval ratings soared to nearly 90%.

After freeing Kuwait, he rejected suggestions that the US carry the offensive to Baghdad, choosing to end the hostilities a mere 100 hours after the start of the ground offensive.

The defeat did not lead to the regime’s downfall, as many in the administration had hoped.

His legacy was dogged for years by doubts about the decision not to remove Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi leader was eventually ousted in 2003, in the war led by Bush’s son that was followed by a long, bloody insurgency.

The elder Bush’s prime interest was foreign policy. Under his watch, the Berlin Wall came down, the Warsaw Pact disintegrated and the Soviet satellites fell out of orbit.

The other battles he fought as president, including a war on drugs and a crusade to make American children the best educated in the world, were not so decisively won.

Paying tribute to Bush, current US president Donald Trump said: “Along with his full life of service to country, we will remember President Bush for his devotion to family – especially the love of his life, Barbara.

“His example lives on, and will continue to stir future Americans to pursue a greater cause.”

Barack Obama, the 44th president of the US, said: “While our hearts are heavy today, George HW Bush’s life is a testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling. It’s a legacy of service that may never be matched, even though he’d want us all to try.”