Wedged between America's Independence Day and a summit of world leaders, President Bush's 62nd birthday got shortchanged this year.

His advisers tried hard to mark his milestone.

As he flew to Japan, White House press advisers quietly gathered in a darkened conference room aboard Air Force One. A steward stuck a single candle in a coconut cake. Bush and first lady Laura Bush were invited inside.

"Surprise! Happy Birthday!" they exclaimed.

"He dutifully pretended to be surprised," press secretary Dana Perino said.

The party for the president's birthday on Sunday was informal; the gift was not.

The staff presented him with a wooden box made from a giant oak tree that fell on the White House lawn in 2007. Some of the wood from the tree, planted by Benjamin Harrison's daughter in 1892, had been sent to Texas to be fashioned into a box about 12-by-18 inches. They filled it with notes and cards from members of his senior staff.

Bush's birthday also was recognized early, as it has been in the past, on the Fourth of July at the White House where people gather on the South Lawn to watch fireworks.

Bush isn't the only Group of Eight leader celebrating a birthday in July. The summit host, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also were born in July.