Skip to comments.The Real Military Record of George W. Bush: Not Heroic, but Not AWOL, Either-The Original Story
Posted on 02/03/2004 2:58:59 AM PST by backhoe
| Democratic Senators Sound Off
Like many georgemag.com forum users in recent weeks, Democratic officials have lingering questions for Texas Governor George W. Bush about his period of military service in the Texas Air National Guard. Hear what Senators Bob Kerrey and Daniel Inouye said by teleconference to a rally of veterans, congressmen and military officials in Tennessee on November 2, 2000. Both senators are decorated war veterans who were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The Original Story (Published 10/10/00)
The Real Military Record of George W. Bush: Not Heroic, but Not AWOL, Either
For more than a year, controversy about George W. Bush's Air National Guard record has bubbled through the press. Interest in the topic has spiked in recent days, as at least two websites have launched stories essentially calling Bush AWOL in 1972 and 1973. For example, in "Finally, the Truth about Bush's Military Record" on TomPaine.com, Marty Heldt writes, "Bush's long absence from the records comes to an end one week after he failed to comply with an order to attend 'Annual Active Duty Training' starting at the end of May 1973... Nothing indicates in the records that he ever made up the time he missed." And in Bush's Military Record Reveals Grounding and Absence for Two Full Years" on Democrats.com, Robert A. Rogers states: "Bush never actually reported in person for the last two years of his service - in direct violation of two separate written orders."
Neither is correct.
It's time to set the record straight. The following analysis, which relies on National Guard documents, extensive interviews with military officials and previously unpublished evidence of Bush's whereabouts in the summer and fall of 1972, is the first full chronology of Bush's military record. Its basic conclusions: Bush may have received favorable treatment to get into the Guard, served irregularly after the spring of 1972 and got an expedited discharge, but he did accumulate the days of service required of him for his ultimate honorable discharge.
At the Republican convention in Philadelphia, George W. Bush declared: "Our military is low on parts, pay and morale. If called on by the commander-in-chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report, 'Not ready for duty, sir.'" Bush says he is the candidate who can "rebuild our military and prepare our armed forces for the future." On what direct military experience does he make such claims?
George W. Bush applied to join the Texas Air National Guard on May 27, 1968, less than two weeks before he graduated from Yale University. The country was at war in Vietnam, and at that time, just months after the bloody Tet Offensive, an estimated 100,000 Americans were on waiting lists to join Guard units across the country. Bush was sworn in on the day he applied.
Ben Barnes, former speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, stated in September 1999 that in late 1967 or early 1968, he asked a senior official in the Texas Air National Guard to help Bush get into the Guard as a pilot. Barnes said he did so at the behest of Sidney Adger, a Houston businessman and friend of former President George H. W. Bush, then a Texas congressman. Despite Barnes's admission, former President Bush has denied pulling strings for his son, and retired Colonel Walter Staudt, George W. Bush's first commander, insists: "There was no special treatment."
The younger Bush fulfilled two years of active duty and completed pilot training in June 1970. During that time and in the two years that followed, Bush flew the F-102, an interceptor jet equipped with heat-seeking missiles that could shoot down enemy planes. His commanding officers and peers regarded Bush as a competent pilot and enthusiastic Guard member. In March 1970, the Texas Air National Guard issued a press release trumpeting his performance: "Lt. Bush recently became the first Houston pilot to be trained by the 147th [Fighter Group] and to solo in the F-102... Lt. Bush said his father was just as excited and enthusiastic about his solo flight as he was." In Bush's evaluation for the period May 1, 1971 through April 30, 1972, then-Colonel Bobby Hodges, his commanding officer, stated, "I have personally observed his participation, and without exception, his performance has been noteworthy."
In the spring of 1972, however, National Guard records show a sudden dropoff in Bush's military activity. Though trained as a pilot at considerable government expense, Bush stopped flying in April 1972 and never flew for the Guard again.
Around that time, Bush decided to go to work for Winton "Red" Blount, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate, in Alabama. Documents from Ellington Air Force Base in Houston state that Bush "cleared this base on 15 May." Shortly afterward, he applied for assignment to the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron in Montgomery, Ala., a unit that required minimal duty and offered no pay. Although that unit's commander was willing to welcome him, on May 31 higher-ups at the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver rejected Bush's request to serve at the 9921st, because it did not offer duty equivalent to his service in Texas. "[A]n obligated Reservist [in this case, Bush] can be assigned to a specific Ready Reserve position only," noted the disapproval memo, a copy of which was sent to Bush. "Therefore, he is ineligible for assignment to an Air Reserve Squadron."
Despite the military's decision, Bush moved to Alabama. Records obtained by Georegemag.com show that the Blount Senate campaign paid Bush about $900 a month from mid-May through mid-November to do advance work and organize events. Neither Bush's annual evaluation nor the Air National Guard's overall chronological listing of his service contain any evidence that he performed Guard duties during that summer.
On or around his 27th birthday, July 6, 1972, Bush did not take his required annual medical exam at his Texas unit. As a consequence, he was suspended from flying military jets. Bush spokesperson Dan Bartlett told Georgemag.com: "You take that exam because you are flying, and he was not flying. The paperwork uses the phrase 'suspended from flying,' but he had no intention of flying at that time."
Some media reports have speculated that Bush took and failed his physical, or that he was grounded as a result of substance abuse. Bush's vagueness on the subject of his past drug use has only abetted such rumors. Bush's commanding officer in Texas, however, denies the charges. "His flying status was suspended because he didn't take the exam,not because he couldn't pass," says Hodges. Asked whether Bush was ever disciplined for using alcohol or illicit drugs, Hodges replied: "No."
On September 5, Bush wrote to then-Colonel Jerry Killian at his original unit in Texas, requesting permission to serve with the 187th Tactical Reconnaisance Group, another Alabama-based unit. "This duty would be for the months of September, October, and November," wrote Bush.
This time his request was approved: 10 days later, the Alabama Guard ordered Bush to report to then-Lieutenant Colonel William Turnipseed at Dannelly Air Force Base in Montgomery on October 7th and 8th. The memo noted that "Lieutenant Bush will not be able to satisfy his flight requirements with our group," since the 187th did not fly F-102s.
The question of whether Bush ever actually served in Alabama has become an issue in the 2000 campaign-the Air Force Times recently reported that "the GOP is trying to locate people who served with Bush in late 1972 ... to see if they can confirm that Bush briefly served with the Alabama Air National Guard." Bush's records contain no evidence that he reported to Dannelly in October. And in telephone interviews with Georgemag.com, neither Turnipseed, Bush's commanding officer, nor Kenneth Lott, then chief personnel officer of the 187th, remembered Bush serving with their unit. "I don't think he showed up," Turnipseed said.
Bush maintains he did serve in Alabama. "Governor Bush specifically remembers pulling duty in Montgomery and respectfully disagrees with the Colonel," says Bartlett. "There's no question it wasn't memorable, because he wasn't flying." In July, the Decatur Daily reported that two former Blount campaign workers recall Bush serving in the Alabama Air National Guard in the fall of 1972. "I remember he actually came back to Alabama for about a week to 10 days several weeks after the campaign was over to complete his Guard duty in the state," stated Emily Martin, a former Alabama resident who said she dated Bush during the time he spent in that state.
After the 1972 election, which Blount lost, Bush moved back to Houston and subsequently began working at P.U.L.L., a community service center for disadvantaged youths. This period of time has also become a matter of controversy, because even though Bush's original unit had been placed on alert duty in October 1972, his superiors in Texas lost track of his whereabouts. On May 2, 1973, Bush's squadron leader in the 147th, Lieutenant Colonel William Harris, Jr. wrote: "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit" for the past year. Harris incorrectly assumed that Bush had been reporting for duty in Alabama all along. He wrote that Bush "has been performing equivalent training in a non-flying status with the 187 Tac Recon Gp, Dannelly ANG Base, Alabama." Base commander Hodges says of Bush's return to Texas: "All I remember is someone saying he came back and made up his days."
Two documents obtained by Georgemag.com indicate that Bush did make up the time he missed during the summer and autumn of 1972. One is an April 23, 1973 order for Bush to report to annual active duty training the following month; the other is an Air National Guard statement of days served by Bush that is torn and undated but contains entries that correspond to the first. Taken together, they appear to establish that Bush reported for duty on nine occasions between November 29, 1972-when he could have been in Alabama-and May 24, 1973. Bush still wasn't flying, but over this span, he did earn nine points of National Guard service from days of active duty and 32 from inactive duty. When added to the 15 so-called "gratuitous" points that every member of the Guard got per year, Bush accumulated 56 points, more than the 50 that he needed by the end of May 1973 to maintain his standing as a Guardsman.
On May 1, Bush was ordered to report for further active duty training, and documents show that he proceeded to cram in another 10 sessions over the next two months. Ultimately, he racked up 19 active duty points of service and 16 inactive duty points by July 30-which, added to his 15 gratuitous points, achieved the requisite total of 50 for the year ending in May 1974.
On October 1, 1973, First Lieutenant George W. Bush received an early honorable discharge so that he could attend Harvard Business School. He was credited with five years, four months and five days of service toward his six-year service obligation.
TALK ABOUT this story in the CAMPAIGN 2000 FORUM.
Maybe this will help return it to its grave. 'Rats!
Yes, it's going to be 2000 again, but worse...
And thanks for the reminder- I forgot to bookmark it!
I get that feeling, as well. Mayhap I can look into it later.
My big question and one that needs hammering is WHY DIDN'T HE REPORT the atrocities he supposedly witnessed?
On February 28, 1969:
When Kerry's Patrol Craft Fast 94 received a B-40 rocket shot from shore, he hot dogged his craft beaching it in the center of the enemy position. To his surprise, an enemy soldier sprang up from a hole not ten feet from Patrol Craft 94 and fled.
The boat's machine gunner hit and wounded the fleeing Viet Cong as he darted behind a hootch. The twin .50s gunner fired at the Viet Cong. He said he "laid 50 rounds" into the hootch before Kerry leaped from the boat and dashed in to administer a "coup de grace" to the wounded Viet Cong. Kerry returned with the B-40 rocket and launcher. Kerry was given a Silver Star for his actions.
Kerry commanded his first swift boat, No. 44, from December 1968 through January 1969. He received no medals while serving on this craft.
While in command of Swift Boat 44, Kerry and crew operated without prudence in a Free Fire Zone, carelessly firing at targets of opportunity racking up a number of enemy kills and some civilians. His body count included-- a woman, her baby, a 12 year-old boy, an elderly man and several South Vietnamese soldiers.
"It is one of those terrible things, and I'll never forget, ever, the sight of that child," Kerry later said about the dead baby. "But there was nothing that anybody could have done about it. It was the only instance of that happening." Kerry said he was appalled that the Navy's ''free fire zone'' policy in Vietnam put civilians at such high risk.
What more "comparisons" do they need then GWB's leadership as C in C?????? It's kind of like a resume - you go from the most recent "examples" back as far as you need to go - so, when you do THAT comparison, it's like Kerry is already DOA!!