In last night's Democratic Presidential debate in New Hampshire, broadcast on the Fox News (Nuisance?) Channel and ABC's Nightline, Peter Jennings went after Wesley Clark -- and me -- because I said I want to see Clark debate Bush... "The General vs. The Deserter."
Jennings, referring to me as "the controversial filmmaker," asked if Clark wanted to distance himself from me and my "reckless" remark. Clark would not back down, stating how "delighted" he was with my support, and that I was entitled to say what I wanted to say -- AND that I was not the only one who had made these charges against Bush.
The pundits immediately went berserk after the debate. As well they should. Because they know that they -- and much of the mainstream media -- ignored this Bush AWOL story when it was first revealed by an investigation in the Boston Globe (in 2000). The Globe said it appeared George W. Bush skipped out in the middle of his Texas Air National Guard service -- and no charges were ever brought against him. It was a damning story, and Bush has never provided any documents or evidence to refute the Globe's charges.
George W. Bush was missing for at least a 12 month period. That is an undisputed fact. If you or I did that, we would serve time.
Senator Daniel Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii and a World War II veteran, joined with Vietnam vets Sen. Max Cleland and Sen. Bob Kerrey to challenge Bush on the gaps in his military record. "The question is, where were you, Governor Bush? What would you do as commander-in-chief if someone in the National Guard did the same thing? At the least, I would have been court-martialed. At the least, I would have been placed in prison," Inouye said.
The most comprehensive piece I've seen was on Tom Paine.com with all the relevant links and documents.
There are far more important issues to deal with in this election year. Poor Peter Jennings. What was he doing on Fox? All that seems left of his Canadianess is the way he pronounced my name ("Michael Moooore"). The question he posed to Clark was typical of a lazy media looking for a way to distract the viewers from the real issues: the war, the economy, and the failures of the Bush administration. But if they want to really get into the issue of Bush and his "service record," then I say, bring it on! The facts are all there, including the empty flyboy suit.
PS: This is the second time I've been thrown into a New Hampshire presidential debate. Four years ago, Republican Alan Keyes was asked why he jumped into Michael Moore's mosh pit to the music of Rage Against the Machine. Now THAT was an issue of substance!
PPS: You can read the exchange between Jennings and Clark here.
Boston Globe: Bush Let Guard Down
Boston Globe: BUSH PRESSURED ON MILITARY GAPS
Washington Post: Bush Let Guard Down
Dallas Morning News: RECORDS OF BUSH?S ALA. MILITARY DUTY CAN?T BE FOUND
The New Republic: Notebook
TomPaine.com: FINALLY, THE TRUTH ABOUT BUSH'S MILITARY SERVICE RECORD
Washington Post: "The General Vs. The Deserter"
TRANSCRIPT: Peter Jennings asks Wesley Clark about my charge that George W. Bush is a deserter
ONE YEAR GAP IN BUSH'S GUARD DUTY
NO RECORD OF AIRMAN AT DRILLS FROM 1972-73
By Walter V. Robinson, Boston Globe Staff, 5/23/2000
AUSTIN, Texas - After George W. Bush became governor in 1995, the Houston Air National Guard unit he had served with during the Vietnam War years honored him for his work, noting that he flew an F-102 fighter-interceptor until his discharge in October 1973.
And Bush himself, in his 1999 autobiography, ''A Charge to Keep,'' recounts the thrills of his pilot training, which he completed in June 1970. ''I continued flying with my unit for the next several years,'' the governor wrote.
But both accounts are contradicted by copies of Bush's military records, obtained by the Globe. In his final 18 months of military service in 1972 and 1973, Bush did not fly at all. And for much of that time, Bush was all but unaccounted for: For a full year, there is no record that he showed up for the periodic drills required of part-time guardsmen.
Bush, who declined to be interviewed on the issue, said through a spokesman that he has ''some recollection'' of attending drills that year, but maybe not consistently.
From May to November 1972, Bush was in Alabama working in a US Senate campaign, and was required to attend drills at an Air National Guard unit in Montgomery. But there is no evidence in his record that he did so. And William Turnipseed, the retired general who commanded the Alabama unit back then, said in an interview last week that Bush never appeared for duty there.
After the election, Bush returned to Houston. But seven months later, in May 1973, his two superior officers at Ellington Air Force Base could not perform his annual evaluation covering the year from May 1, 1972 to April 30, 1973 because, they wrote, ''Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of this report.''
Bush, they mistakenly concluded, had been training with the Alabama unit for the previous 12 months. Both men have since died. But Ellington's top personnel officer at the time, retired Colonel Rufus G. Martin, said he had believed that First Lieutenant Bush completed his final year of service in Alabama.
A Bush spokesman, Dan Bartlett, said after talking with the governor that Bush recalls performing some duty in Alabama and ''recalls coming back to Houston and doing [Guard] duty, though he does not recall if it was on a consistent basis.''
Noting that Bush, by that point, was no longer flying, Bartlett added, ''It's possible his presence and role became secondary.''
Last night, Mindy Tucker, another Bush campaign aide, asserted that the governor ''fulfilled all of his requirements in the Guard.'' If he missed any drills, she said, he made them up later on.
Under Air National Guard rules at the time, guardsmen who missed duty could be reported to their Selective Service Board and inducted into the Army as draftees.
If Bush's interest in Guard duty waned, as spokesman Bartlett hinted, the records and former Guard officials suggest that Bush's unit was lackadaisical in holding him to his commitment. Many states, Texas among them, had a record during the Vietnam War of providing a haven in the Guard for the sons of the well-connected, and a tendency to excuse shirking by those with political connections.
Those who trained and flew with Bush, until he gave up flying in April 1972, said he was among the best pilots in the 111th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. In the 22-month period between the end of his flight training and his move to Alabama, Bush logged numerous hours of duty, well above the minimum requirements for so-called ''weekend warriors.''
Indeed, in the first four years of his six-year commitment, Bush spent the equivalent of 21 months on active duty, including 18 months in flight school. His Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore, who enlisted in the Army for two years and spent five months in Vietnam, logged only about a month more active service, since he won an early release from service.
Still, the puzzling gap in Bush's military service is likely to heighten speculation about the conspicuous underachievement that marked the period between his 1968 graduation from Yale University and his 1973 entry into Harvard Business School. It is speculation that Bush has helped to fuel: For example, he refused for months last year to say whether he had ever used illegal drugs. Subsequently, however, Bush amended his stance, saying that he had not done so since 1974.
The period in 1972 and 1973 when Bush sidestepped his military obligation coincides with a well-publicized incident during the 1972 Christmas holidays: Bush had a confrontation with his father after he took his younger brother, Marvin, out drinking and returned to the family's Washington home after knocking over some garbage cans on the ride home.
In his autobiography, Bush says that his decision to go to business school the following September was ''a turning point for me.''
Assessing Bush's military service three decades later is no easy task: Some of his superiors are no longer alive. Others declined to comment, or, understandably, cannot recall details about Bush's comings and goings. And as Bush has risen in public life over the last several years, Texas military officials have put many of his records off-limits and heavily redacted many other pages, ostensibly because of privacy rules.
But 160 pages of his records, assembled by the Globe from a variety of sources and supplemented by interviews with former Guard officials, paint a picture of an Air Guardsman who enjoyed favored treatment on several occasions.
The ease of Bush's entry into the Air Guard was widely reported last year. At a time when such billets were coveted and his father was a Houston congressman, Bush vaulted to the top of a waiting list of 500. Bush and his father have denied that he received any preferential treatment. But last year, Ben Barnes, who was speaker of the Texas House in 1968, said in a sworn deposition in a civil lawsuit that he called Guard officials seeking a Guard slot for Bush after a friend of Bush's father asked him to do so.
Before he went to basic training, Bush was approved for an automatic commission as a second lieutenant and assignment to flight school despite a score of just 25 percent on a pilot aptitude test. Such commissions were not uncommon, although most often they went to prospective pilots who had college ROTC courses or prior Air Force experience. Bush had neither.
In interviews last week, Guard officials from that era said Bush leapfrogged over other applicants because few applicants were willing to commit to the 18 months of flight training or the inherent dangers of flying.
As a pilot, the future governor appeared to do well. After eight weeks of basic training in the summer of 1968 - and a two-month break to work on a Senate race in Florida - Bush attended 55 weeks of flight school at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, from November 1968 to November 1969, followed by five months of full-time training on the F-102 back at Ellington.
Retired Colonel Maurice H. Udell, Bush's instructor in the F-102, said he was impressed with Bush's talent and his attitude. ''He had his boots shined, his uniform pressed, his hair cut and he said, `Yes, sir' and `No, sir,''' the instructor recalled.
Said Udell, ''I would rank him in the top 5 percent of pilots I knew. And in the thinking department, he was in the top 1 percent. He was very capable and tough as a boot.''
But 22 months after finishing his training, and with two years left on his six-year commitment, Bush gave up flying - for good, it would turn out. He sought permission to do ''equivalent training'' at a Guard unit in Alabama, where he planned to work for several months on the Republican Senate campaign of Winton Blount, a friend of Bush's father. The proposed move took Bush off flight status, since no Alabama Guard unit had the F-102 he was trained to fly.
At that point, starting in May 1972, First Lieutenant Bush began to disappear from the Guard's radar screen.
When the Globe first raised questions about this period earlier this month, Bartlett, Bush's spokesman, referred a reporter to Albert Lloyd Jr., a retired colonel who was the Texas Air Guard's personnel director from 1969 to 1995.
Lloyd, who a year ago helped the Bush campaign make sense of the governor's military records, said Bush's aides were concerned about the gap in his records back then.
On May 24, 1972, after he moved to Alabama, Bush made a formal request to do his equivalent training at the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. Two days later, that unit's commander, Lieutenant Colonel Reese H. Bricken, agreed to have Bush join his unit temporarily.
In Houston, Bush's superiors approved. But a higher headquarters disapproved, noting that Bricken's unit did not have regular drills.
''We met just one weeknight a month. We were only a postal unit. We had no airplanes. We had no pilots. We had no nothing,'' Bricken said in an interview.
Last week, Lloyd said he is mystified why Bush's superiors at the time approved duty at such a unit.
Inexplicably, months went by with no resolution to Bush's status - and no Guard duty. Bush's evident disconnection from his Guard duties was underscored in August, when he was removed from flight status for failing to take his annual flight physical.
Finally, on Sept. 5, 1972, Bush requested permission to do duty for September, October, and November at the 187th Tactical Recon Group in Montgomery. Permission was granted, and Bush was directed to report to Turnipseed, the unit's commander.
In interviews last week, Turnipseed and his administrative officer at the time, Kenneth K. Lott, said they had no memory of Bush ever reporting.
''Had he reported in, I would have had some recall, and I do not,'' Turnipseed said. ''I had been in Texas, done my flight training there. If we had had a first lieutenant from Texas, I would have remembered.''
Lloyd, the retired Texas Air Guard official, said he does not know whether Bush performed duty in Alabama. ''If he did, his drill attendance should have been certified and sent to Ellington, and there would have been a record. We cannot find the records to show he fulfilled the requirements in Alabama,'' he said.
Indeed, Bush's discharge papers list his service and duty station for each of his first four years in the Air Guard. But there is no record of training listed after May 1972, and no mention of any service in Alabama. On that discharge form, Lloyd said, ''there should have been an entry for the period between May 1972 and May 1973.''
Said Lloyd, ''It appeared he had a bad year. He might have lost interest, since he knew he was getting out.''
In an effort last year to solve the puzzle, Lloyd said he scoured Guard records, where he found two ''special orders'' commanding Bush to appear for active duty on nine days in May 1973. That is the same month that Lieutenant Colonel William D. Harris Jr. and Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian effectively declared Bush missing from duty.
In Bush's annual efficiency report, dated May 2, 1973, the two supervising pilots did not rate Bush for the prior year, writing, ''Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of report. A civilian occupation made it necessary for him to move to Montgomery, Alabama. He cleared this base on 15 May 1972 and has been performing equivalent training in a non-flying status with the 187 Tac Recon Gp, Dannelly ANG Base, Alabama.''
Asked about that declaration, campaign spokesman Bartlett said Bush told him that since he was no longer flying, he was doing ''odds and ends'' under different supervisors whose names he could not recall.
But retired colonel Martin, the unit's former administrative officer, said he too thought Bush had been in Alabama for that entire year. Harris and Killian, he said, would have known if Bush returned to duty at Ellington. And Bush, in his autobiography, identifies the late colonel Killian as a friend, making it even more likely that Killian knew where Bush was.
Lieutenant Bush, to be sure, had gone off flying status when he went to Alabama. But had he returned to his unit in November 1972, there would have been no barrier to him flying again, except passing a flight physical. Although the F-102 was being phased out, his unit's records show that Guard pilots logged thousands of hours in the F-102 in 1973.
During his search, Lloyd said, the only other paperwork he discovered was a single torn page bearing Bush's social security number and numbers awarding some points for Guard duty. But the partial page is undated. If it represents the year in question, it leaves unexplained why Bush's two superior officers would have declared him absent for the full year.
There is no doubt that Bush was in Houston in late 1972 and early 1973. During that period, according to Bush's autobiography, he held a civilian job working for an inner-city, antipoverty program in the city.
Lloyd, who has studied the records extensively, said he is an admirer of the governor and believes ''the governor honestly served his country and fulfilled his commitment.''
But Lloyd said it is possible that since Bush had his sights set on discharge and the unit was beginning to replace the F-102s, Bush's superiors told him he was not ''in the flow chart. Maybe George Bush took that as a signal and said, `Hell, I'm not going to bother going to drills.'
''Well, then it comes rating time, and someone says, `Oh...he hasn't fulfilled his obligation.' I'll bet someone called him up and said, `George, you're in a pickle. Get your ass down here and perform some duty.' And he did,'' Lloyd said.
That would explain, Lloyd said, the records showing Bush cramming so many drills into May, June, and July 1973. During those three months, Bush spent 36 days on duty.
Bush's last day in uniform before he moved to Cambridge was July 30, 1973. His official release from active duty was dated Oct. 1, 1973, eight months before his six-year commitment was scheduled to end.
Officially, the period between May 1972 and May 1973 remains unaccounted for. In November 1973, responding to a request from the headquarters of the Air National Guard for Bush's annual evaluation for that year, Martin, the Ellington administrative officer, wrote, ''Report for this period not available for administrative reasons.''
This story ran on page 01A of the Boston Globe on 5/23/2000. C 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.
The Boston Globe
November 3, 2000
HEADLINE: CAMPAIGN 2000 / GUARD DUTY;
BUSH PRESSURED ON MILITARY GAPS
BY SUSAN MILLIGAN
WASHINGTON - Democratic military veterans in the US Senate lashed out yesterday at Governor George W. Bush of Texas for failing to explain his apparent extended absence during his tenure in the Texas Air National Guard.
"The question is, where were you, Governor Bush?" said Senator Daniel Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii and a World War II veteran. "What would you do as commander-in-chief if someone in the National Guard did the same thing?" Inouye asked during a telephone address to supporters of Vice President Al Gore in Nashville yesterday.
Inouye joined several colleagues, Senators Bob Kerrey, Democrat of Nebraska, and Max Cleland, Democrat of Georgia, in raising harsh questions about Bush's role during the Vietnam War.
The remarks were in response to a Globe article this week showing that Bush stopped flying after 22 months within his unit of the Texas Air National Guard. Further, the article reported, Bush failed to show up for required Guard drills during a six-month stay in Alabama, and he was lax even after returning to Houston.
"At the least, I would have been court-martialed. At the least, I would have been placed in prison," Inouye said. Bush "made a commitment to the Texas Air National Guard, and God bless him for doing so," said Kerrey. But "if you're going to make a commitment to join the Guard, especially at that time, you've got to keep that commitment," Kerrey added.
Bush has refused to be interviewed by the Globe on the topic of his military service. His spokesman, Dan Bartlett, yesterday called the questions about the governor a "scurrilous charge" of a "desperate" Gore campaign.
The Washington Post
November 3, 2000, Friday, Final Edition
2 Democrats: Bush Let Guard Down; Gore Surrogates Revive Issue of Apparent Laxity in Candidate's Military Service
George Lardner Jr.; Howard Kurtz , Washington Post Staff Writers
Two high-profile surrogates for Vice President Gore, in an 11th-hour attempt to exploit a dormant issue, yesterday castigated George W. Bush over allegations that he did not fulfill some of his National Guard duties in the 1970s.
Democratic Sens. Bob Kerrey (Neb.) and Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), both Medal of Honor winners, were drafted to attack Bush on a 27-year-old controversy that the Gore campaign has avoided mentioning until now. They spoke by phone to a veterans rally in Nashville led by Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), a decorated Vietnam veteran. Reporters were invited to listen by conference call.
Bush says he fulfilled all his obligations as a pilot in the Air National Guard, but he has had difficulty rebutting charges that he played hooky for a year.
"Where were you, Governor Bush?" Inouye asked. "What about your commitment? What would you do as commander in chief if someone in the Guard or service did the same thing?"
Kerrey questioned how Bush immediately got into the Guard "even though there were 500 people ahead of him" at a time when "350 Americans were dying every single week in Vietnam." Kerrey has been drawing a sharp contrast with Gore, who served in Vietnam.
Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer called the attacks "the final throes of a campaign that has now lost any semblance of decency. The governor, of course, was honorably discharged, and these are inventions and fabrications. All the questions have been answered."
But Gore spokesman Mark Fabiani said the senators "seem to have raised some very important questions . . . that deserve an answer."
Bush signed up with the Texas National Guard for six years in May 1968, which allowed him to avoid the Vietnam draft. He became an F-102 pilot in 1970 but made his last flight in April 1972 before moving to Alabama to work on a GOP Senate campaign. The dispute centers on what he did in the Guard between that point and September 1973, when he entered Harvard Business School.
Bush campaign officials say their evidence shows that he did his duty in 1972-73, when he worked for six months on the Senate race in Alabama and then returned to his home base outside Houston. But other documents in his Guard record contradict that claim, and critics who have examined that record contend that he also skimped on his obligations in 1973-74. It is safe to say that Bush did very light duty in his last two years in the Guard and that his superiors made it easy for him.
The personnel officer in charge of Bush's 147th Fighter Group, now-retired Col. Rufus G. Martin, says he tried to give Bush a light load, telling him to apply to the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron in Montgomery, Ala.
Martin said in an interview that he knew Bush wasn't eligible for the 9921st, an unpaid, general training squadron that met once a week to hear lectures on first aid and the like. "However," he said, "I thought it was worth a try. . . . It was the least participation of any type of unit." But Air Force Reserve officials rejected the assignment, saying Bush had two more years of military obligations and was ineligible for a reserve squadron that had nothing to do with flying airplanes. Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett said Bush didn't know that when he applied.
Bush had been notified that he needed to take his annual flying physical by his 26th birthday in July 1972, but the move to Alabama made that unnecessary. He had been trained to fly F-102 fighter-interceptors, and none of the units in Alabama had those planes. He could have taken the physical to preserve his pilot's status but chose not to do so. "Because he wasn't flying," Bartlett said.
On Aug. 1, 1972, Bush's commander in Houston, Col. Bobby W. Hodges, ordered him grounded for "failure to accomplish annual medical examination." Some critics say this should have triggered a formal board of inquiry, but Hodges said in an interview that this was unnecessary because Bush accepted the penalty and knew "he couldn't fly again until he takes a physical."
"It happens all the time," Hodges said of the grounding. "That is normal when a Guardsman is out of state or out of the country."
In September, Bush was assigned to another Alabama unit, the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group. Since "Lieutenant Bush will not be able to satisfy his flight requirements with our group," the unit told him to report for "equivalent training"--such as debriefing pilots--on the weekends of Oct. 7-8 and Nov. 4-5, 1972.
There is no evidence in his record that he showed up on either weekend. Friends on the Alabama campaign say he told them of having to do Guard duty, but the retired general who commanded the 187th, William Turnipseed, and his personnel chief, Kenneth K. Lott, say they do not remember Bush ever reporting.
The Bush campaign points to a torn piece of paper in his Guard records, a statement of points Bush apparently earned in 1972-73, although most of the dates and Bush's name except for the "W" have been torn off.
According to the torn Air Reserve Forces sheet, Bush continued to compile service credits after returning to Houston, winding up his fifth year with 56 points, six above the minimum needed for retention. However, Bush's annual effectiveness report, signed by two superiors, says "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of the report," May 1, 1972, to April 30, 1973.
Hodges also said he did not see Bush at the Texas base again after Bush left for Montgomery. "If I had been there on the day[s] he came out, I would have seen him," Hodges said.
Dallas Morning News
By Wayne Slater
Monday, June 26, 2000; Page A06
AUSTIN ?? After a thorough search of military records, George W. Bush's presidential campaign has failed to find any documents proving he reported for duty during an eight-month stint in Alabama with the Texas Air National Guard.
But a spokesman expressed confidence Saturday that inquiries will turn up former Guard members who can corroborate Bush's having been there.
"He specifically recalls pulling duty in Alabama," spokesman Dan Bartlett said of Bush. "He did his drills."
Bartlett said the Republican governor showed up "several" times while in Alabama, where he transferred from his Houston Guard unit in 1972 to work for the unsuccessful Senate campaign of Republican Winton Blount, a friend of Bush's father.
According to Bartlett, the governor could not recall specifically how many times he reported for duty during his months in Alabama.
After leaving Alabama in December 1972, Bush returned to Ellington Air Force Base near Houston, where he made up missed time in order to complete his obligation, said Bartlett.
Bush was a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard from May 1968 to October 1973, primarily flying F-102 fighter-interceptors.
The focus on Bush's service in the Guard--and the transfer to work on the Alabama political campaign--has raised questions over whether he received preferential treatment at a time when many young men were seeking to avoid the Vietnam War.
Both Bush and his father, who was then a U.S. representative from Houston, have denied that the younger Bush received special treatment.
Bartlett said Saturday that he reviewed a 200-page packet of documents last week from the National Guard's records repository in Denver. He said they largely duplicated documents the campaign already had obtained from Texas National Guard headquarters.
"What it shows is that Governor Bush met his annual requirements in order to fulfill his military obligation but doesn't show the portion of the training that took place in Alabama," he said.
While Bush was in Alabama, "most of his work was paperwork related," said Bartlett.
Campaigning Friday in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Bush was asked about his 1972 service in that state.
"I was there on a temporary assignment and fulfilled my weekends at one period of time," he said. "I made up some missed weekends."
"I can't remember what I did, but I wasn't flying because they didn't have the same airplanes. I fulfilled my obligations."
In May, retired Gen. William Turnipseed, the former commander of the Alabama Guard unit, said Bush did not report to him, although the young airman was required to do so. His orders, dated Sept. 15, 1972, said: "Lieutenant Bush should report to Lt. Col. William Turnipseed, DCO, to perform equivalent training."
"To my knowledge, he never showed up," Turnipseed said last month.
Bartlett said Bush recalls seeing then-Col. Turnipseed. The campaign aide suggested that because Bush was not a pilot, his commander might not remember him.
The New Republic
NOVEMBER 13, 2000 page 10
N 0 T E B 0 0 K
MILITARY READINESS CONT'D: It's no longer news that George W Bush, to avoid being sent to Vietnam, enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard in 1968. Nor is it news that Bush, contrary to assertions in his 1999 campaign autobiography A Charge to
Keep, appears not to have honored his commitment to the Guard after moving to Alabama for a period, apparently failing to report for duty there for a full year, between May 1972 and May 1973. (No one who was in the Alabama National Guard at the time recalls encountering Bush; the only person who vouches for him is a former girlfriend, who merely says Bush spoke of doing Guard service in Alabama.) What is news, though, is that the Bush campaign continues to lie about Bush's National Guard service.
"George W Bush served as a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard from 1968 until 1973;" reads a snippet from the biography posted on the campaign's website. This is demonstrably false on two counts. For one, although Bush began his Guard service in July 1968, he spent his first two years in basic training and flight school and did not begin serving as a pilot with the 111th Fighter- Interceptor Squadron at Houston's Ellington Field until June 1970. Secondly, as has been reported in The Boston Globe and in these pages, after Bush moved from Texas to Alabama in May 1972, he never flew again. Nor could he, because he skipped his annual medical exam in 1972 and was suspended from flying.
What had been assumed is that Bush, upon returning to Texas from Alabama in May 1973, made up for his missed service by performing nonflying duty At least, that's what Bush campaign spokesman Dan Bartlett told reporters in June. But now it seems unlikely that Bush did even that much. According to a report in the October 31 Boston Globe, "a Bush campaign spokesman acknowledged last week that he knows of no witnesses who can attest to Bush's attendance at drills after he returned to Houston in late 1972 and before his early release from the Guard in September 1973?" That means Bush probably skipped the final 17 months of his National Guard commitment, a period almost as long as the 22 months he served as an actual pilot. But, then again, in the early '70s W. hadn't yet ushered in "the responsibility era."
FINALLY, THE TRUTH ABOUT BUSH'S MILITARY SERVICE RECORD: George W.'s Missing Year
By Marty Heldt
Marty Heldt is a farmer. He told us, "I spent 17 years as a brakeman [for the railroad] before moving back to the farm. That job had some long layovers that gave me a lot of time to read and to educate myself." He lives in Clinton, Iowa.
Nearly two hundred manila-wrapped pages of George Walker Bush's service records came to me like some sort of giant banana stuffed into my mailbox.
I had been seeking more information about his military record to find out what he did during what I think of as his "missing year," when he failed to show up for duty as a member of the Air National Guard, as the Boston Globe first reported.
The initial page I examined is a chronological listing of Bush's service record. This document charts active duty days served from the time of his enlistment. His first year, a period of extensive training, young Bush is credited with serving 226 days. In his second year in the Guard, Bush is shown to have logged a total of 313 days. After Bush got his wings in June 1970 until May 1971, he is credited with a total of 46 days of active duty. From May 1971 to May 1972, he logged 22 days of active duty.
Then something happened. From May 1, 1972 until April 30, 1973 -- a period of twelve months -- there are no days shown, though Bush should have logged at least thirty-six days service (a weekend per month in addition to two weeks at camp).
I found out that for the first four months of this time period, when Bush was working on the U.S. Senate campaign of Winton Blount in Alabama, that he did not have orders to be at any unit anywhere.
On May 24, 1972, Bush had applied for a transfer from the Texas Air National Guard to Montgomery, Alabama. On his transfer request Bush noted that he was seeking a "no pay" position with the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron. The commanding officer of the Montgomery unit, Lieutenant Colonel Reese R. Bricken, promptly accepted Bush's request to do temporary duty under his command.
But Bush never received orders for the 9921st in Alabama. Such decisions were under the jurisdiction of the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver, Colorado, and the Center disallowed the transfer. The Director of Personnel Resources at the Denver headquarters noted in his rejection that Bush had a "Military Service Obligation until 26 May 1974." As an "obligated reservist," Bush was ineligible to serve his time in what amounted to a paper unit with few responsibilities. As the unit's leader, Lieutenant Colonel Bricken recently explained to the Boston Globe, ''We met just one weeknight a month. We were only a postal unit. We had no airplanes. We had no pilots. We had no nothing.''
The headquarters document rejecting Bush's requested Alabama transfer was dated May 31, 1972. This transfer refusal left Bush still obligated to attend drills with his regular unit, the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron stationed at Ellington Air Force Base near Houston. However, Bush had already left Texas two weeks earlier and was now working on Winton Blount's campaign staff in Alabama.
In his annual evaluation report, Bush's two supervising officers, Lieutenant Colonel William D. Harris Jr. and Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, made it clear that Bush had "not been observed at" his Texas unit "during the period of report" -- the twelve month period from May 1972 through the end of April 1973.
In the comments section of this evaluation report Lieutenant Colonel Harris notes that Bush had "cleared this base on 15 May 1972, and has been performing equivalent training in a non flying role with the 187th Tac Recon Gp at Dannelly ANG Base, Alabama" (the Air National Guard Tactical Reconnaissance Group at Dannelly Air Force Base near Montgomery, Alabama).
This was incorrect. Bush didn't apply for duty at Dannelly Air Force Base until September 1972. From May until September he was in limbo, his temporary orders having been rejected. And when his orders to appear at Dannelly came through he still didn't appear. Although his instructions clearly directed Bush to report to Lieutenant Colonel William Turnipseed on the dates of "7-8 October 0730-1600, and 4-5 November 0730-1600," he never did. In interviews conducted with the Boston Globe earlier this year, both General Turnipseed and his former administration officer, Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Lott, said that Bush never put in an appearance.
The lack of regular attendance goes against the basic concept of a National Guard kept strong by citizen soldiers who maintain their skills through regular training. Bush campaign aides claim, according to a report in the New York Times, that Bush in fact served a single day -- November 29,1972 -- with the Alabama unit. If this is so it means that for a period of six weeks Lieutenant George W. Bush ignored direct instructions from headquarters to report for duty. But it looks even worse for Lieutenant Bush if the memory of Turnipseed and Lott are correct and Bush never reported at all.
After the election was over (candidate Blount lost), Bush was to have returned to Texas and the 111th at Ellington Air Force Base. Bush did return to Houston, where he worked for an inner-city youth organization, Project P.U.L.L. But, as I mentioned already, his annual evaluation report states that he had not been observed at his unit during the twelve months ending May 1973. This means that there were another five months, after he left Alabama, during which Bush did not fulfill any of his obligations as a Guardsman.
In fact, during the final four months of this period, December 1972 through May 29, 1973, neither Bush nor his aides have ever tried to claim attendance at any guard activities. So, incredibly, for a period of one year beginning May 1, 1972, there is just one day, November 29th, on which Bush claims to have performed duty for the Air National Guard. There are no dates of service for 1973 mentioned in Bush's "Chronological Service Listing."
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. He then began serving irregularly with his unit. Nothing indicates in the records that he ever made up the time he missed.
Early in September 1973, Bush submitted a request seeking to be discharged from the Texas Air National Guard and to be transferred to the Air Reserve Personnel Center. This transfer to the inactive reserves would effectively end any requirements to attend monthly drills. The request -- despite Bush's record -- was approved. That fall Bush enrolled in Harvard Business School.
Both Bush and his aides have made numerous statements to the effect that Bush fulfilled all of his guard obligations. They point to Bush's honorable discharge as proof of this. But the records indicate that George W Bush missed a year of service. This lack of regular attendance goes against the basic concept of a National Guard kept strong by citizen soldiers who maintain their skills and preparedness through regular training.
And we know that Bush understood that regular attendance was essential to the proficiency of the National Guard. In the Winter 1998 issue of the National Guard Review Bush is quoted as saying "I can remember walking up to my F-102 fighter and seeing the mechanics there. I was on the same team as them, and I relied on them to make sure that I wasn't jumping out of an airplane. There was a sense of shared responsibility in that case. The responsibility to get the airplane down. The responsibility to show up and do your job."
Bush has found military readiness to be a handy campaign issue.
Bush's unsatisfactory attendance could have resulted in being ordered to active duty for a period up to two years -- including a tour in Vietnam. Lieutenant Bush would have been aware of this as he had signed a statement which listed the penalties for poor attendance and unsatisfactory participation. Bush could also have faced a general court martial. But this was unlikely as it would have also meant dragging in the two officers who had signed off on his annual evaluation.
Going after officers in this way would have been outside the norm. Most often an officer would be subject to career damaging letters of reprimand and poor Officers Effectiveness Ratings. These types of punishment would often result in the resignation of the officer. In Bush's case, as someone who still had a commitment for time not served, he could have been brought back and made to do drills. But this would have been a further embarrassment to the service as it would have made it semi-public that a Lieutenant Colonel and squadron commander had let one of his subordinates go missing for a year.
For the Guard, for the ranking officers involved and for Lieutenant Bush the easiest and quietest thing to do was adding time onto his commitment and placing that time in the inactive reserves.
Among these old documents there is a single clue as to how Bush finally fulfilled his obligations and made up for those missed drill days. In my first request for information I received a small three-page document containing the "Military Biography Of George Walker Bush." This was sent from the Headquarters Air Reserve Personnel Center (ARPC) in Denver Colorado.
In this official summary of Bush's military service, I found something that was not mentioned in Bush's records from the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Virginia. When Bush enlisted his commitment ran until May 26, 1974. This was the separation date shown on all documents as late as October 1973, when Bush was transferred to the inactive reserves at Denver, Colorado. But the date of final separation shown on the official summary from Denver, is November 21, 1974. The ARPC had tacked an extra six months on to Bush's commitment.
Bush may have finally "made-up" his missed days. But he did so not by attending drills -- in fact he never attended drills again after he enrolled at Harvard. Instead, he had his name added to the roster of a paper unit in Denver, Colorado, a paper unit where he had no responsibility to show up and do a job.
Bush has found military readiness to be a handy campaign issue. Yet even though more than two decades have passed since Bush left the Air National Guard, some military sources still bristle at his service record -- and what effect it had on readiness. "In short, for the several hundred thousand dollars we tax payers spent on getting [Bush] trained as a fighter jock, he repaid us with sixty-eight days of active duty. And God only knows if and when he ever flew on those days," concludes a military source. "I've spent more time cleaning up latrines than he did flying."
?The General vs. The Deserter?
By David S. Broder
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 18, 2004; Page A05
PEMBROKE, N.H., Jan. 17 -- Retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark said Saturday he "has heard" charges that President Bush was a "deserter" from his duties in the Vietnam War-era Air National Guard but said, "I am not going to go into the issues of what George W. Bush did or didn't do in the past."
The term "deserter" was used by documentary filmmaker Michael Moore in introducing Clark to an enthusiastic rally of more than 1,000 people in this Concord suburb Saturday afternoon.
After noting that Clark had been a champion debater at West Point, Moore told a laughing crowd, "I know what you're thinking. I want to see that debate" between Clark and Bush -- "the general versus the deserter."
In a news conference after the event, Clark was asked if he had heard those words and if he agreed. "Well," he said. "I've heard those charges. I don't know if they are true or not. He was never prosecuted for it." But Clark said, "I am delighted with Michael Moore . . . man of conscience and courage."
Moore told reporters he was referring to published reports that, as he put it, "Bush left and did not show up for a year" when he transferred from Houston in the Texas Air National Guard to temporary duty at a unit in Alabama.
Clark said the real issue is to hold Bush "accountable for his performance of duty as commander in chief. That's what the issue is in this election."
The Boston Globe reported in 2000 that "there is strong evidence that Bush performed no military service as required when he moved from Houston to Alabama to work on a U.S. Senate campaign from May to November 1972."Maj. Thomas A. Deall, an Air Force personnel officer, was quoted as saying that "after looking at Bush's records, he met minimal drill requirements before his discharge."
The Dallas Morning News reported that "after a thorough search of military records, George W. Bush's campaign has failed to find any document proving he reported for duty during an eight-month stint in Alabama with the Texas Air National Guard." Bush was quoted as saying he remembers being at drills in Alabama.
The following is a rush transcript of the exchange between Peter Jennings (PJ) and Wesley Clark (WC) from this evening's debate in New Hampshire
PJ: General Clark, a lot of people say they don't know you well, so this is really a simple question about knowing a man by his friends. The other day you had a rally here and one of the men who stood up to endorse you was the controversial filmmaker Michael Moore. You said you were delighted with him. At one point Mr. Moore, said in front of you that President Bush, he was saying he'd like to see a debate between you the General and President Bush who he called a deserter. Now that's a reckless charge not supported by the facts so I was curious to know why you didn't contradict him and whether or not you think it would have been a better example of ethical behavior to have done so.
WC: Well I think Michael Moore has the right to say whatever he feels about this. I don't know whether this is supported by the facts or not. I've never looked at it. I've seen this charge bandied about a lot but to me it wasn't material, this election is going to be about the future, Peter, and what we have to do is pull this country together, and I'm delighted to have the support of a man like Michael Moore, of a great American leader like Senator George McGovern, and of people from Texas like Charlie Stenholm and Former Secretary of the Navy, John Dalton. We've got support from across the breadth of the Democratic Party, because I believe this party is united in wanting to change the leadership in Washington. We're going to run an election campaign that's about the future. We're going to hold the president accountable for what he did in office and failed to do, and we're going to compare who's got the best vision for America.
PJ: Let me ask you something you mentioned then because since this question and answer in which you and Mr. Moore was involved, you've had a chance to look at the facts. Do you still feel comfortable with the fact that someone should be standing up in your president, in your presence and calling the president of the United States a deserter?
WC: To be honest with you, I did not look at the facts Peter. That's Michael Moore's opinion; he's entitled to say that, I've seen, he's not the only person who's said that. I've not followed up on those facts, and frankly it's not relevant to me and why I'm in this campaign.
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