What the Boston Globe Found Out in 2000 About Bush's Military Record

Roundup: Media's Take

Walter V. Robinson, writing in the Boston Globe (Feb. 5, 2004):

A detailed Globe examination of the records in 2000 unearthed official reports by Bush's Guard commanders that they had not seen him for a year. There was also no evidence that Bush had done part of his Guard service in Alabama, as he has claimed. Bush's Guard appointment, made possible by family connections, was cut short when Bush was allowed to leave his Houston Guard unit eight months early to attend Harvard Business School.

Bush received an honorable discharge in 1973. The records contain no indication that Bush's commanding officers, one of them a friend, ever accused him of shirking his duty.

In an interview yesterday, Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, asserted that Bush "fulfilled his military requirements." Bartlett acknowledged that Bush's "irregular civilian work schedule could have put strains on when he served, when he performed his duty."

Before the Globe report in May 2000, Bush's official biography reported erroneously that he flew fighter-interceptor jets for the Houston Guard unit from 1968 to 1973. In a 1999 interview with a military publication, Bush said that among the values he learned as a pilot included "the responsibility to show up and do your job."

Most Democrats consider Moore's accusation of desertion unsupportable.

Still, according to the records and interviews in 2000, Bush's attendance record in the Guard was highly unusual:

* Although he was trained as a fighter pilot, Bush ceased flying in April 1972, little more than two years after he finished flight school and two years before his six-year enlistment was to end, when he was allowed to transfer to an Alabama Air Guard unit. The records contain no evidence that Bush performed any military duty in Alabama. His Alabama unit commander, in an interview, said Bush never appeared for duty.

* In August 1972, Bush was suspended from flight status for failing to take his annual flight physical.

* In May 1973, Bush's two superior officers in Houston wrote that they could not perform his annual evaluation, because he had "not been observed at this unit" during the preceding 12 months. The two officers, one of them a friend of Bush and both now dead, wrote that they believed Bush had been fulfilling his commitment at the Alabama unit.

Two other officers, in interviews, offered a similar account of Bush's absence, saying they had assumed Bush completed his service in Alabama.

* Bush's official record of service, which is supposed to contain an account of his duty attendance for each year of service, shows no such attendance after May 1972. In unit records, however, there are documents showing that Bush was ordered to a flurry of drills - over 36 days - in the late spring and summer of 1973. He was discharged Oct. 1, 1973, eight months before his six-year commitment ended.

Through Bartlett, Bush insisted in 2000 that he had indeed attended military drills while he was in Alabama during 1972 and in 1973 after returning to his Houston base. At the time, Bartlett said Bush did not recall what duties he performed during that period.

Albert Lloyd Jr., a retired colonel who was the personnel officer for the Texas Air National Guard at the time, said in an interview four years ago that the records suggested to him that Bush "had a bad year. He might have lost interest, since he knew he was getting out."

Lloyd said he believed that after Bush's long attendance drought, the drills that were crammed into the months before Bush's early release gave him enough "points" to satisfy the minimal requirements to earn his discharge. At the time, Lloyd speculated that after the evaluation of Bush could not be done, his superiors told him, 'George, you're in a pickle. Get your ass down here and perform some duty.' And he did."

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