- WASHINGTON - Documents that
should have been written to explain gaps in President Bush's Texas Air
National Guard service are missing from the military records released about
his service in 1972 and 1973, according to regulations and outside experts.
- For example, Air National Guard regulations at the time
required commanders to write an investigative report for the Air Force
when Bush missed his annual medical exam in 1972. The regulations also
required commanders to confirm in writing that Bush received counseling
after missing five months of drills.
- No such records have been made public and the government
told The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit
that it has released all records it can find.
- Outside experts suggest that National Guard commanders
may not have produced documentation required by their own regulations.
- "One of the downfalls back then in the National
Guard was that not everyone wanted to be chief of staff of the Air Force.
They just wanted to fly or maintain airplanes. So the record keeping could
have been better," said retired Maj. Gen. Paul A. Weaver Jr., a former
head of the Air National Guard. He said the documents may not have been
kept in the first place.
- Challenging the government's declaration that no more
documents exist, the AP identified five categories of records that should
have been generated after Bush skipped his pilot's physical and missed
five months of training.
- "Each of these actions by any member of the National
Guard should have generated the creation of many documents that have yet
to be produced," AP lawyer David Schulz wrote the Justice Department
- White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said there were
no other documents to explain discrepancies in Bush's files.
- Military service during the Vietnam War has become an
issue in the presidential election as both candidates debate the current
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Democrat John Kerry commanded a Navy Swift boat in Vietnam
and was awarded five medals, including a Silver Star. But his heroism has
been challenged in ads by some veterans who support Bush.
- The president served stateside in the Air National Guard
during Vietnam. Democrats have accused him of shirking his Guard service
and getting favored treatment as the son of a prominent Washington figure.
- The AP talked to experts unaffiliated with either campaign
who have reviewed Bush's files for missing documents. They said it was
not unusual for guard commanders to ignore deficiencies by junior officers
such as Bush. But they said missing a physical exam, which caused him to
be grounded, was not common.
- "It's sort of like a code of honor that you didn't
go DNF (duty not including flying)," said retired Air Force Col. Leonard
Walls, who flew 181 combat missions over Vietnam. "There was a lot
of pride in keeping combat-ready status."
- Bush has said he fulfilled all his obligations. He was
in the Texas Air National Guard from 1968 to 1973 and was trained to fly
- "I'm proud of my service," Bush told a rally
last weekend in Lima, Ohio.
- Records of Bush's service have significant gaps, starting
in 1972. Bush has said he left Texas that year to work on the unsuccessful
Senate campaign in Alabama of family friend Winton Blount.
- The five kinds of missing files are:
- _A report from the Texas Air National Guard to Bush's
local draft board certifying that Bush remained in good standing. The government
has released copies of those DD Form 44 documents for Bush for 1971 and
earlier years but not for 1972 or 1973. Records from Bush's draft board
in Houston do not show his draft status changed after he joined the guard
in 1968. The AP obtained the draft board records Aug. 27 under the Freedom
of Information Act.
- _Records of a required investigation into why Bush lost
flight status. When Bush skipped his 1972 physical, regulations required
his Texas commanders to "direct an investigation as to why the individual
failed to accomplish the medical examination," according to the Air
Force manual at the time. An investigative report was supposed to be forwarded
"with the command recommendation" to Air Force officials "for
- Bush's spokesmen have said he skipped the exam because
he knew he would be doing desk duty in Alabama. But Bush was required to
take the physical by the end of July 1972, more than a month before he
won final approval to train in Alabama.
- _A written acknowledgment from Bush that he had received
the orders grounding him. His Texas commanders were ordered to have Bush
sign such a document; but none has been released.
- _Reports of formal counseling sessions Bush was required
to have after missing more than three training sessions. Bush missed at
least five months' worth of National Guard training in 1972. No documents
have surfaced indicating Bush was counseled or had written authorization
to skip that training or make it up later. Commanders did have broad discretion
to allow guardsmen to make up for missed training sessions, said Weaver
and Lawrence Korb, Pentagon personnel chief during the Reagan administration
from 1981 to 1985.
- "If you missed it, you could make it up," said
Korb, who now works for the Center for American Progress, which supports
- _A signed statement from Bush acknowledging he could
be called to active duty if he did not promptly transfer to another guard
unit after leaving Texas. The statement was required as part of a Vietnam-era
crackdown on no-show guardsmen. Bush was approved in September 1972 to
train with the Alabama unit, more than four months after he left Texas.
- Bush was approved to train in September, October and
November 1972 with the Alabama Air National Guard's 187th Tactical Reconnaissance
Group. The only record tying Bush to that unit is a dental exam at the
group's Montgomery base in January 1973. No records have been released
giving Bush permission to train with the 187th after November 1972.
- Walls, the Air Force combat veteran, was assigned to
the 187th in 1972 and 1973 to train its pilots to fly the F-4 Phantom.
Walls and more than a dozen other members of the 187th say they never saw
Bush. One member of the unit, retired Lt. Col. John Calhoun, has said he
remembers Bush showing up for training with the 187th.
- Pay records show Bush was credited for training in January,
April and May 1973; other files indicate that service was outside Texas.
- A May 1973 yearly evaluation from Bush's Texas unit gives
the future president no ratings and stated Bush had not been seen at the
Texas base since April 1972. In a directive from June 29, 1973, an Air
Force personnel official pressed Bush's unit for information about his
- "This officer should have been reassigned in May
1972," wrote Master Sgt. Daniel P. Harkness, "since he no longer
is training in his AFSC (Air Force Service Category, or job title) or with
his unit of assignment."
- Then-Maj. Rufus G. Martin replied Nov. 12, 1973: "Not
rated for the period 1 May 72 through 30 Apr 73. Report for this period
not available for administrative reasons."
- By then, Texas Air National Guard officials had approved
Bush's request to leave the guard to attend Harvard Business School; his
last days of duty were in July 1973.