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Definitive Bush in the Guard -- AWOL
Nineteen seventy-two was the year George W. Bush dropped off the radar
He abandoned his once-prized status as a National Guard pilot by
failing to appear for a required physical. He sought temporary
reassignment from the Texas Air National Guard to an Alabama unit but
for six months did not show up for training. He signed on as an
official in the losing campaign of a Republican Senate candidate in
Alabama, and even there left few impressions other than as an amiable
bachelor with a good tennis game and a famous father.
"To say he brought in a bunch of initiatives and bright ideas," said a
fellow campaign worker, Devere McLennan, "no he didn't."
This year of inconsequence has grown increasingly consequential for
Bush because of persistent, unanswered questions about his National
Guard service — why he failed to take his pilot's physical and whether
he fulfilled his commitment to the Guard. If anything, those issues
became still murkier this past week, with the controversy over the
authenticity of four documents disclosed by CBS News and its program
"60 Minutes" purporting to shed light on that Guard record.
Still, a wider examination of his life in 1972, based on dozens of
interviews and other documents released by the White House over the
years, yields a portrait of a young man like many other young men of
privilege in that turbulent time — entitled, unanchored and safe from
combat, bouncing from a National Guard slot made possible by his
family's prominence to a political job arranged through his father.
In a speech on Tuesday to a National Guard convention, Bush said he
was "proud to be one of them," and in his autobiography he writes that
his service taught him respect for the chain of command. But a review
of records shows that not only did he miss months of duty in 1972, he
also may have been improperly awarded credit for service, making
possible an early honorable discharge so he could turn his attention
to his new interest: Harvard Business School.
Bush, nearly 26, went to Alabama in mid-May 1972 to work on the
campaign of Winton M. Blount, a construction magnate known as Red who
was a friend of Bush's father. The Democratic opponent was Sen. John
J. Sparkman, chairman of the Banking Committee, a legendary power in
what was still a solidly Democratic South.
Bush, while missing months of the Guard duty that allowed him to avoid
Vietnam, was the political director of the Blount campaign, which
accused Sparkman — a hawk on the war — and the national Democrats of
supporting "amnesty for all draft dodgers" and of showing "more
concern for coddling deserters than for patriotic American young men
who have lost their lives in Vietnam."
In the last week of the race, the Blount campaign ran a radio
advertisement using an edited recording of Sparkman that made him
appear to support forced busing of schoolchildren, which he in fact
Although campaign records list Bush as third in command, people who
worked in the race said he was not involved in those tactics or with
the overall agenda. Bush's connection was Jimmy Allison, a political
operative from Midland, Texas, who was running the campaign and was a
close friend of George H.W. Bush, having managed the elder Bush's 1966
congressional victory in Houston.
Allison's widow, Linda, who volunteered in the Blount campaign, said
she became curious about the young Bush's job after noticing him
coming into the office late and leaving early.
"I asked Jimmy, 'What does Georgie do?'" Linda Allison, 73, said in an
interview, repeating the account she had given to Salon, the online
publication. "He just said George had called him and told him that
Georgie was having some difficulties in Houston. Big George thought it
would be beneficial to the family and George Jr. for him to come to
Alabama to work on the campaign with Jimmy."
FLYING, THEN GROUNDED
In Houston, nearly five years out of Yale, Bush had been adrift,
without a career or even a long-running job. He had been rejected by
the University of Texas Law School and had briefly considered, then
abandoned, a run for the Texas Legislature. Acquaintances recall him
tooling around town in his Triumph sports car, partying with a crowd
of well-to-do singles.
His jobs had mostly come through family ties, and in 1971 he was hired
as a management trainee at Stratford of Texas, an agricultural and
horticultural conglomerate owned by a Bush family friend, Robert H.
Gow. Bush's immediate supervisor, Peter Knudtzon, then Stratford's
executive vice president, recalls him as a smart, dutiful worker who,
while lacking direction, was keenly interested in the process of
politics — "how people get elected, where the power is."
Every so often, he would take off work to fly with the National Guard.
His entree to the Guard had come through Ben Barnes, then the
lieutenant governor of Texas, who has said that he helped get Bush,
among other well-connected young men, a slot at the request of a Bush
family friend. When Bush applied, in 1968, one of the forms he filled
out asked if he would volunteer for overseas duty; he checked "I 'Do
Not' volunteer for overseas."
And he got off to a splashy start. After basic training and a year at
flight school in Georgia, he was assigned to Ellington Air Force Base
outside Houston, where he flew F-102 fighter jets. In March 1970, with
his father, himself a World War II Navy pilot, in Congress, the Texas
Air National Guard issued a news release announcing that the young
Bush "doesn't get his kicks from pot or hashish or speed," but from
"the roaring afterburner of the F-102." As he wrote in his
autobiography, "It was exciting the first time I flew, and it was
exciting the last time." In a November 1970 evaluation, his squadron
commander, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, called him a "top-notch" pilot
and a "natural leader."
By 1972, though, something had changed; the excitement seemed to have
waned. Bush's flying buddy from Ellington, Dean Roome, said Bush may
have been frustrated because the unit's growing role as a training
school left young pilots fewer opportunities to log hours in the air.
Others who knew him believe he simply lost interest. He was once again
at loose ends, without a regular job, having left Stratford after a
year or so, unhappy in the company's buttoned-down atmosphere.
Whatever precisely was drawing Bush away from flying, it was then, in
the spring of 1972, that the Alabama job came along. He had worked for
Jimmy Allison before — on a 1968 Senate campaign in Florida — but this
would be his first full-time job in the family business, politics.
Still, there was the matter of his commitment to the Guard. Moving to
Alabama meant taking a temporary leave from his Texas unit; Guard
officials say it was not unusual for civilian officers to take jobs
away from their home states. Bush did not wait to line up a spot with
an Alabama unit before arriving in Montgomery in mid-May.
Bush first tried to join the 9921 Air Reserve Squadron in Montgomery,
which was classified as a "standby reserve unit." Unlike his unit in
Texas, the Alabama unit had no planes and its members were neither
paid nor required to attend monthly drills.
In July, though, senior Guard officials rejected Bush's transfer,
saying he had to continue with a "ready reserve unit," which requires
monthly attendance. In that same period — the precise timing is not
clear — he did something that brought his dwindling flying ambitions
to a close: He failed to take the annual physical exam required of all
In his 1999 book, "A Charge to Keep," Bush did not mention the missed
physical or the suspension. "I was almost finished with my commitment
in the Air National Guard," he wrote, "and was no longer flying
because the F-102 jet I had trained in was being replaced by a
different fighter." In fact, when he missed his physical he had almost
two years left in the Guard.
Later, an aide to Bush explained that he had missed his physical
because he was waiting to get examined by his personal physician. But
pilots were required to be examined by military doctors.
More recently the White House has said that he did not take the
physical because Alabama units were not flying the F-102. But his
second application to transfer to Alabama — after the rejected
transfer in July — was filed in September 1972, at least two months
after he had missed his physical.
Whatever the reason, on Sept. 5, Bush was notified that he was
suspended from flying "for failure to accomplish annual medical
By that time, still without an Alabama unit, he had not attended a
required monthly drill for almost five months, according to records
released by the White House. Under the law at the time, he could have
been sent to Vietnam. But in the relatively relaxed world of the
Guard, and with hardly anyone being called up for active duty anymore,
officials took no action. He was free to stay in Montgomery and work
on the Blount campaign.
Richard Nelson, who had been Blount's political director, remembers
briefing Bush when he arrived in town. "He was a bright young man,"
Nelson recalled. "I knew who his father was."
The months in Montgomery were part of what Bush has described as his
"nomadic" years, when he "kind of floated and saw a lot of life." No
one remembers him worrying about his Guard status — or, for that
matter, much of anything else. He worked the phones in the Montgomery
office and drove around the state meeting with county chairmen. He
played tennis at Winton Blount's mansion and partied with the other
young campaign workers at watering holes like the Top of the Star, at
the Montgomery Holiday Inn.
Kay Blount Pace, 52, the candidate's daughter, said Bush did not act
like the son of the man who was then the U.S. ambassador to the United
Nations. "This was just Joe Blow — cute, fun George Bush, who fit in
with the campaign," she said.
That September, grounded from flying but still obligated to his Guard
service, he wrote to his Texas squadron commander, Killian, asking for
permission to perform his monthly drills with the 187th Tactical
Reconnaissance Group in Montgomery for September, October and
November, according to documents released by the White House.
"We told him that was OK with us," said Bobby W. Hodges, then a
commander in the Texas Guard. He was told he would have to do drills
there, Hodges added. "He may or may not have done it. I don't know."
Payroll records released by the White House show that in addition to
being paid for attending a drill in Alabama the last weekend in
October, Bush was also paid for a weekend drill after the Blount
election, on Nov. 11 and 12, and for meetings on Nov. 13 and 14.
But there are no records from the 187th indicating that Bush, in fact,
appeared on those days in October and November, and more than a dozen
members of the unit from that era say they never saw him. The White
House said last week that there were no records from the Alabama unit
because Bush was still officially part of the Texas Guard. But Hodges,
the former Texas commander, said the 187th "should have a record of
Bush's former campaign colleagues remember being aware that he had
some relationship with the Guard. McLennan recalled going with Bush to
the dry cleaner to pick up his Guard uniforms. Joe Holcombe, who
managed the Montgomery office, remembers Bush missing a meeting at the
"Jimmy said, 'He's with the Guard,'" Holcombe said.
ADDING IT UP
After the election, Bush returned to Houston, moving out of his small
rented bungalow in Montgomery. He left the place a mess, with a broken
light fixture and piles of debris, according to Mary Smith, whose
husband was the bungalow's caretaker. Smith said her husband, who has
since died, sent Bush a bill for professional cleaning but never heard
By January 1973, Bush had a new job, with an inner-city youth program
organized by John L. White, a former professional football player who
knew his father. And he continued his erratic relationship with the
National Guard, where he had 18 months left of his six-year
By the summer of 1973, Bush decided to go to Harvard Business School.
According to documents released by the White House, he wanted an early
discharge from the Guard, but did not have enough service points for
1972 and 1973, since he had missed months of training. Guardsmen were
required to earn 48 points each fiscal year, or 4 points for each
weekend drill every month.
Although missed drills can be made up, regulations at the time said it
had to be done within 30 days and in the same fiscal year. As the time
for his early discharge neared, Bush was lacking enough points;
according to records for July 1973, he attended drills on 18 days that
When questions arose about Bush's guard service, the White House asked
a retired Air Force Lt. Col., Albert C. Lloyd Jr., to review his
record. In a memorandum released by the White House in February, Lloyd
wrote that from May 1973 through May 1974, Bush accumulated 35
training points and 15 points for being guard member "for a total of
56 points." It is not clear how Lloyd came up with 56, instead of 50.
Another military document released by the White House indicates that
Bush had earned only 38 points from May 1973 until his discharge that
A retired Army colonel, Gerald A. Lechliter, who has prepared an
extensive analysis of Bush's National Guard record, described Lloyd's
memorandum as "seemingly an attempt to whitewash Bush's record." Lloyd
declined comment last week.
Lechliter, who describes himself as a political independent, also said
that Bush was not entitled to 20 credits he received from Nov. 13,
1972, until July 19, 1973, because the service was being made up
Lechliter also said that Bush should not have been paid for these
sessions. "That would appear to be a fraud," he said in an interview
However the points added up, on Oct. 1, 1973, Bush was awarded an
honorable discharge. By that time he was already at Harvard.
On 20 Sep 2004 07:07:33 -0700, (WalterM140) wrote:
His jobs had mostly come through family ties,
At least Bush has had a bloody job instead of living off the taxpayers
his whole life like Kerry!
Date: 9/20/2004 4:03 PM Central Daylight Time
"WalterM140" wrote in message
Then you can show where competent military authority declared him AWOL. You
can, can't you?
You will have to explain what "competent military authority" is to walt. Walt
was never in the military and doesn't understand. Then again many of us have
tried to explain how the system is and walt either can't understand or refuses
to do so.
Dan, U.S. Air Force, retired
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