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.
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
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.
experts suggest that National Guard commanders
may not have produced documentation required by
their own regulations.
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.
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
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
House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said there were
no other documents to explain discrepancies in
service during the Vietnam War has become an issue
in the presidential election as both candidates
debate the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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.
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
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
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."
has said he fulfilled all his obligations. He
was in the Texas Air National Guard from 1968
to 1973 and was trained to fly F-102 fighters.
proud of my service," Bush told a rally last
weekend in Lima, Ohio.
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.
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 final determination."
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.
you missed it, you could make it up," said
Korb, who now works for the Center for American
Progress, which supports Kerry.
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.
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.
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.
records show Bush was credited for training in
January, April and May 1973; other files indicate
that service was outside Texas.
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 Alabama service.
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
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
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
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