Bush Guard Service

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The story of George Bush's Texas Air National Guard service is an integral part of the story of Rathergate. It is the claims regarding the facts of Bush's service that formed the basis for the story that became known as Rathergate. There were five essential claims made about Bush's Guard service.

Ancillary to these claims were additional claims that, as a result of the facts alledged, Bush was "AWOL", "a deserter" and "a coward" and that he "joined the Guard to avoid going to Vietnam".


Contents

Bush received special treatment to get into the Texas Air National Guard

The basis of this claim is the Dan Rather interview of Ben Barnes. Ben Barnes, a Democrat Party supporter, was the former Speaker of the Texas House and former Lieutenant Governor of the state of Texas. According to his daughter, who spoke to a Dallas radio show shortly after the story was aired, Barnes lied about helping Bush get into the Guard. She claimed his motivations were "to gain publicity for a book he is writing" and "the desperation of the Kerry campaign at this moment in time."

Barnes first made the claim, in a 1999 Dallas Morning News article, that oilman "Sidney A. Adger, a longtime Bush family acquaintance who died in 1996", had interceded on George Bush's behalf to secure him a spot in the Guard. Both Bush and his father stated at the time that they were unaware of any contacts between Adger and Barnes or of any influence exerted by Barnes or anyone else to help Bush to get in the Guard.

Barnes later repeated the claim in a Washington Post interview stating that neither the elder nor the younger Bush had asked for his help but that he had approached Gen. James Rose (Texas Air Guard commander) at the behest of Adger. At the time that Barnes made his claim, Adger was already deceased, so it was not possible to ask for confirmation or refutation of the story from Mr. Adger.

Two months prior to the Dallas Morning News article, the Amarillo Globe News reported that Barnes "doesn't recall whether his office interceded with the Guard on behalf of Bush". A Barnes aide, Nick Kralj, testified under oath "that Barnes and one of his assistants, sometimes passed on to him names of people wanting to get into the Guard". However, Kralj, when asked under cross examination whether he had helped Bush get in the Guard, stated "I didn't do it because I think that it would have been something that I would have remembered. He was a United States congressman. It would have been his son. I think I would have recalled something of that."

The Dallas Morning News, in their research for the story, discovered that there were "two or three" openings for pilots when Bush applied. Furthermore, Gen. Staudt, who signed Bush up for the pilot slot was, according to witnesses, engaged in "a personal feud" with Gen. Rose, Barnes' contact, at the time. According to Staudt, "Mr. Bush got in because he was willing to undertake the yearlong training and time-consuming duty as a pilot" and not because of any political influence.

Bush's flight instructor stated that he didn't even know that Bush's father was a Congressman until he spoke at Bush's graduation from flight school.

Bush received special treatment to transfer to Alabama

The claim that Bush received special treatment in his transfer to Alabama is based upon Dan Rather's exposition of the supposed Guard documents that we now know to be forgeries. The specific claim made in one of the forged documents is that Gen. Staudt was "pushing to sugar coat" Bush's evaluation to assist his transfer to Alabama. However, Gen. Staudt had already been retired for eighteen months when the document was supposedly written. Furthermore, the widow of the supposed author of the document stated "I just can't believe these are his words" and claimed that her husband "was a fan of the young Bush." Her son supported her statements. According to the Guard documents released by the Bush administration, Killian had agreed with a glowing review of Bush, writing, I concur with the comments and ratings of the reporting official", just seven days after the forged memo was purported to have been written.

Another eye witness claimed they were forgeries as well. "Rufus Martin, the personnel chief in Killian's unit at the time told CNN, 'They looked to me like forgeries. ... I don't think Killian would do that, and I knew him for 17 years.'"

Maj. Gen. Bobby W. Hodges, whom CBS named as a source who confirmed the authenticity of the documents claimed he was "misled" by CBS and "Now that I have had a chance to see them, I think they are fake".

Marian Knox, a former secretary at Ellington Air Base, said "they're forgeries" stating that she "never typed them." However, she also claimed "I did not type those, no, but the information in them is correct," Knox's statements about Bush are contradictory, claiming in separate interviews less than a week apart both that she remembered "vividly" Bush's time in the Guard and that she "had no first-hand knowledge" of Bush's time in the Guard.

Gen. Staudt stated that he "'never pressured anybody about George Bush.'"

Bush skipped a required physical, violating a direct order

The physical that Bush missed was required to continue flying. It was not required to remain in the Guard. At the time, Bush missed the physical because his assignment in Alabama didn't require flying. Bush was trained on the F-102. The Alabama Guard unit he was temporarily assigned to was transitioning to a new plane that Bush wasn't trained on. His home Guard unit was also transitioning to a new fighter jet, and, according to the men who flew with him it would have made no sense to have trained on a plane he would never have flown, since his Guard obligation would have ended about the same time his training did. During that same period of time, America's participation in the Vietnam war was winding down and hundreds of experienced pilots were returning and competing for slots in the Guard. Since active duty personnel took precedence over reserve personnel, Bush had little chance of every flying again, even if he had sought to.

Bush failed to report to his new duty station

Although the only documentary proof of Bush's time in Alabama is a dental exam record, four military witnesses have placed Bush in Alabama, including safety officer William Calhoun. According to Calhoun, Bush was "very dedicated" and showed up for drills "on at least six occasions."

Master Sgt. (Ret.) James Copeland remembers seeing Bush twice; once when he and Calhoun came to Copeland's office with a question about Bush's pay and once at the base canteen where Bush was "drinking coffee or a soft drink."

James Anderson, a base physician, recalls giving Bush a physical in 1972, and Joe LeFevers, a member of the 187th in 1972, recalls seeing Bush on the base while he was there. LeFevers recalls Bush because of his ties to the Blount Senate campaign.

According to William Campenni, who flew with Bush and later became a Guard commander, the lack of records in Alabama would have been normal practice at the time. "There may be a letter to authorize the out-of-state drills, as Mr. Bush had, but no formal transfer to the other unit, hence no other paperwork. In Alabama someone would be delegated to verify attendance, using a Form 105 punch card. These would be sent back to Texas for pay and then destroyed after a few years."

Several civilians also recall Bush's presence in Alabama. Patsy Burk, Calhoun's ex-wife, remembers Calhoun mentioning Bush.

Joe Holcombe, campaign manager for Winston Blount's unsuccessful Senate campaign, remembers Bush missing campaign meetings because he was at Guard drills.

Emily Marks Curtis also confirmed that Bush was in Alabama, stating that they met while working on a Senate campaign and that, after traveling home to Houston, he returned to Montgomery "to complete drilling days at an Alabama squadron to which he had been transferred that year."

The Birmingham News published an article on February 28, 2004 detailing several people who had seen Bush when he was in Alabama. Those who remember Bush include Winston Groom, author of Forest Gump, (Groom wrote an August 29, 2004 op-ed about the Bush Guard controversy for the Mobile Press-Register), lobbyist Fred Crawford, who knew him socially, Murphy Archibald, a Birminghan native, Mary Smith, from whose family Bush rented a home, Devere McLennan, with whom Bush played tennis and Samuel Blount, son of the Senate candidate, "Red" Blount, for whom Bush worked.

Bush didn't complete his service obligation

The claim that Bush didn't complete his service obligation is refuted by the records of his drill times. Here they are:

May-68 to May-69

Minimum Annual Requirement - 50

ANG Points Earned by Lt. Bush - 253

May-69 to May-70

Minimum Annual Requirement - 50

ANG Points Earned by Lt. Bush - 340

May-70 to May-71

Minimum Annual Requirement - 50

ANG Points Earned by Lt. Bush - 137

May-71 to May-72

Minimum Annual Requirement - 50

ANG Points Earned by Lt. Bush -112

May-72 to May-73

Minimum Annual Requirement - 50

ANG Points Earned by Lt. Bush - 56

Jun -73 to Jul-73

Minimum Annual Requirement - 50

ANG Points Earned by Lt. Bush - 56

Footnotes

F-102 in Vietnam

Excerpt: George W. Bush's military service began in 1968 when he enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard after graduating with a bachelor's degree in history from Yale University. The aircraft he was ultimately trained to fly was the F-102 Delta Dagger, popularly known as "the Deuce." The F-102 may have been old but was far from useless, and it continued to serve in large numbers with both Air Force and Air National Guard units well into the 1970s. Furthermore, the F-102 was deployed to Vietnam throughout most of the conflict, and the aircraft proved its value early by deterring North Vietnamese pilots from crossing the border to attack the South. Perhaps more importantly, the F-102 and its Air National Guard pilots performed a vital role in defending the continental United States from nuclear attack.

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