The George W. Bush military service controversy reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Apr-2004
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George W. Bush military service controversy

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There is a controversy over whether President George W. Bush fulfilled his military service obligation in the Texas Air National Guard during his early life. The issue came up during both the 2000 and 2004 U.S. presidential campaigns.

Background

During the Vietnam War, Bush enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard on May 27, 1968, with a commitment to serve until May 26, 1974. In his Statement of Intent at the time, he wrote, "I have applied for pilot training with the goal of making flying a lifetime pursuit and I believe I can best accomplish this to my own satisfaction by serving as a member of the Air National Guard as long as possible." He served as an F-102 pilot until 1973, and was twice promoted during his service; first, to 2nd Lieutenant and then to 1st Lieutenant.

In November, 1970, the commander of the Texas Air National Guard, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian recommended that Bush be promoted to 1st Lieutenant, calling him "a dynamic outstanding young officer" who stood out as "a top notch fighter interceptor pilot." He said that "Lieutenant Bush's skills far exceed his contemporaries," and that "He is a natural leader whom his contemporaries look to for leadership. Lieutenant Bush is also a good follower with outstanding disciplinary traits and an impeccable military bearing."

Criticism of his service

Prominent Democrats, including Michael Moore and Terry McAuliffe, as well as the White House press corps, have questioned whether Bush's father used political influence to keep him out of the war by sending him into the National Guard. Because Presidents Johnson and Nixon decided against calling up the National Guard for extended service in Vietnam, National Guard service at the time was widely seen as a way to avoid going to war. The waiting list for the Guard at that time was extremely long, but there have been charges that men from influential families were put to the top of the list (a similar accusation was leveled at Dan Quayle, vice-president while Bush's father was president). Ben Barnes, the former speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, stated that he called the head of the Texas Air National Guard to recommend Bush for a pilot spot at the request of a Bush family friend [1]. Serving in the same unit as Bush were the sons of other prominent men, including the sons of Democratic Governor John Connally, Democratic Senator and future Vice-Presidential nominee Lloyd Bentsen, and Republican Senator John Tower, as well as seven Dallas Cowboys and a man named James R. Bath, who would become a longtime friend of Bush's. The Air National Guard did see limited Vietnam service in 1965 and 1968, and a pilot program to consider using F-102 airplanes as bombers in Vietnam was underway. According to a pilot from Bush's squadron, Bush inquired about this program but was advised by a supervisor (Maj. Maurice Udell) that he did not have the desired experience (500 hours) at the time and that the program was winding down and not accepting more volunteers. In a 1994 interview, Bush stated that his reason for joining the guard was a standard one: "I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes" [1]

Accusation Bush was "Away Without Leave"

Opposition charges concerning his military service were brought up during both the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns. Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, at the beginning of February 2004, accused Bush of being AWOL from the National Guard, for having insufficient documentation of his service for one of the six years of his active duty. McAuliffe had been chief fund-raiser for former President Bill Clinton, who himself had completely avoided service during the Vietnam war, despite having volunteered for ROTC and then reneged on that commitment. [1]

President Bush released documents from the Alabama National Guard including, most recently, pay stubs and a record of a dental examination. His mid-February release of never-before-seen Guard documents seem to contradict his February 8, 2004 statements to Meet the Press interviewer Tim Russert that "We did [authorize the release of everything] in 2000, by the way."; however, Bush contends that he was referring only to documents already in his possession, as opposed to the new documents, which were just recently received from the Alabama national guard. More than 700 additional documents were released on February 13, 2004.

The files show an excellent service record up until May of 1972, but still have gaps after that date. Pertaining to the dates of controversy, records show that on May 24, 1972, Bush filled out a form requesting a transfer to the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron in Montgomery, Alabama. According to his application, he was already in Alabama at work on the Senate campaign of Winton Blount, who was a friend of his father. Bush was employed by the firm of Allison & Travalan in Montgomery; Jimmy Allison was also a longtime family friend. On May 26, Reese H. Bricken, commander of the 9921st, wrote to Bush to tell him that his application had been accepted. However, there has been controversy over the question of whether he reported for duty or not. No records have been offered to show that Bush did any work for the 9921st. Pay sheet summaries and attendance records contain no entries for the period of May, 1972, to mid-October, 1972.

On July 21, 1972, the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver ruled against Bush's reassignment to Alabama, and noted that as "an obligated Reservist" he could only be "assigned to a specific Ready Reserve Position." The ARPC wrote that Bush "is ineligible for assignment to an Air Reserve Squadron." According to Bricken, in an interview with 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.. This rejection would have left Bush obligated to complete his duty with the 111th at Ellington Air Force Base near Houston; however, Bush had already left for Alabama two weeks prior.

Also in 1972, for unknown reasons, Bush skipped his pilots physical, taking him off of active duty as a pilot. Kevin Drum, author of [Calpundit.com], noted that Bush's pay records from Alabama are Air Reserve Force records, documents released seem to confirm this transfer [1]. Transfer to ARF was historically been a disciplinary action; ARF members, while not required to perform actual duty, were at risk to be drafted for the Vietnam war under the Obligated Reserves Section (ORS) [1].

In 2004, a man named John "Bill" Calhoun, a former Alabama Air National Guard officer who had served at the Dannelly Air National Guard Base in Montgomery, home of the 187th Tactical Recon Group, claimed he had seen Bush report for duty eight to ten times between May and October of 1972. His recollection has been questioned due to the fact that Bush didn't even apply for reassignment to the 187th until September of that year.

On September 5, 1972, Bush requested permission to "perform equivalent duty" at the 187th "for the months of September, October, and November," and he quickly received approval to do so. He was told to report to Lt. Col. William Turnipseed, the base commander, for drills on October 7th and 8th, and November 4th and 5th. Turnipseed has said that he was uncertain as to whether Bush reported on those occasions. Bush's records do not list any service on those dates, but they do show that he was paid for two days of service on October 28 and 29. The location of the service and the duties performed are not described in the records.

Bush received a dental examination at Dannelly in Alabama on January 6, 1973, and then returned to his home base, the Ellington Air Base, in Houston, Texas. Pay sheet summaries indicate 11 possible days of service from January 1973 to May 1973: January 4-6 and 8-10, April 7-8, and May 1-3. The April and May service presumably occurred at Ellington, however there is nothing in the files showing that he reported on those days.

Between 1972 and 1973, Bush dated Mavanee Bear, another member of Bount's campaign. Bear stated "I know he served" because he had to regularly reschedule meetings, but also stated "I didn't see him in uniform". When later back in Texas, she frequently saw him in uniform, stating "I think he was mostly just flying in circles over Houston." [1].

A column in the Birmingham News (Alabama) elicited memories from people who remembered Bush when he was there: "None have specific recollections about Bush and the National Guard. Some heard he was serving but never saw for themselves." Opinions of him during this time ranged from bad (bragging about drinking and allegations he trashed a cottage where he was living) to good (amiable, well liked, and fond of sports). One coworker on the campaign, a relative of Blount, claimed that Bush was known during this time as the "Texas Souffle", for his supposed character of looking good on the outside but not having much on the inside. Samuel Blount, the candidate's son who also worked with Bush, said he doesn't remember such behavior from the future president. He points out that Archibald, his cousin, is "very, very liberal." "I like him. But I would take what he says with a big grain of salt," Blount said. [1]

On May 2, 1973, his immediate superiors did an annual performance review covering the period from May 1, 1972 to April 30, 1973, which stated that "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of the report." Apparently unaware that Bush had been in Texas since January of 1973, Lt. Col. William D. Harris, Jr. and Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian wrote, "A civilian occupation made it necessary for him to move to Montgomery, Ala. 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."

After the election, Bush returned to Houston in December of 1972. While in Houston, Bush worked for an inner-city poverty program, Project P.U.L.L. (Professionals United for Leadership for Youth) which was the brainchild of the late John White, a former professional football player and civic leader. The next reported date of service in his record is May 29th, 1973.

On September 5, 1973, Bush requested his discharge from service, to be effective on October 1. He wrote, "I am moving to Boston, Massachusetts to attend Harvard Business School as a full time student." Jerry Killian recommended approval of the discharge the following day. He had completed 5 years, 4 months and 5 days toward his 6-year service obligation, and was honorably discharged from the Texas Air National Guard on October 1, 1973. He was immediately transferred to the inactive reserves in Denver, Colorado, and then discharged from the Air Force Reserve on November 21, 1974.

Reward offered for information

On February 23, 2004, in an attempt to establish the truth and generate publicity prior to the 2004 Presidential election, cartoonist Garry Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury, personally offered a highly-publicized $10,000 reward (in the form of a donation in the winner's name to the USO, which entertains U.S. troops) to anyone who had "personally witnessed" Bush reporting for drills at Dannelly Air National Guard Base between May and November 1972 [1]. Nobody has been able to claim the reward.

On February 27, 2004, Trudeau announced that despite over 1,300 responses, his offer had unearthed no new evidence to show that Bush actually turned up for duty in the time period in question. A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee dismissed the reward as a "silly stunt." Trudeau agreed, saying, "She's right, but as a simple investigative cartoonist, I don't have a very big tool kit." [1]

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