With all the wingnut crowing about CBS and 60 Minutes, you'd think they blew the story that Bush had been AWOL. Fact is, CBS got one
piece of evidence wrong, from a while truckload of evidence.
Fact is, the Associated Press did the most work on the issue, filing a whole slew of FOIA requests and lawsuits to get the necessary docs. Salon summarized their findings.
Upon being accepted for pilot training, Bush promised to serve with his parent (Texas) Guard unit for five years once he completed his pilot training.
But Bush served as a pilot with his parent unit for just two years.
In May 1972 Bush left the Houston Guard base for Alabama. According to Air Force regulations, Bush was supposed to obtain prior authorization before leaving Texas to join a new Guard unit in Alabama.
But Bush failed to get the authorization.
In requesting a permanent transfer to a nonflying unit in Alabama in 1972, Bush was supposed to sign an acknowledgment that he received relocation counseling.
But no such document exists.
He was supposed to receive a certification of satisfactory participation from his unit.
But Bush did not.
He was supposed to sign and give a letter of resignation to his Texas unit commander.
But Bush did not.
He was supposed to receive discharge orders from the Texas Air National Guard adjutant general.
But Bush did not.
He was supposed to receive new assignment orders for the Air Force Reserves.
But Bush did not.
On his transfer request Bush was asked to list his "permanent address."
But he wrote down a post office box number for the campaign he was working for on a temporary basis.
On his transfer request Bush was asked to list his Air Force specialty code.
But Bush, an F-102 pilot, erroneously wrote the code for an F-89 or F-94 pilot. Both planes had been retired from service at the time. Bush, an officer, made this mistake more than once on the same form.
On May 26, 1972, Lt. Col. Reese Bricken, commander of the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, informed Bush that a transfer to his nonflying unit would be unsuitable for a fully trained pilot such as he was, and that Bush would not be able to fulfill any of his remaining two years of flight obligation.
But Bush pressed on with his transfer request nonetheless.
Bush's transfer request to the 9921st was eventually denied by the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver, which meant he was still obligated to attend training sessions one weekend a month with his Texas unit in Houston.
But Bush failed to attend weekend drills in May, June, July, August and September. He also failed to request permission to make up those days at the time.
According to Air Force regulations, "[a] member whose attendance record is poor must be closely monitored. When the unexcused absences reach one less than the maximum permitted [sic] he must be counseled and a record made of the counseling. If the member is unavailable he must be advised by personal letter."
But there is no record that Bush ever received such counseling, despite the fact that he missed drills for months on end.
Bush's unit was obligated to report in writing to the Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base whenever a monthly review of records showed unsatisfactory participation for an officer.
But his unit never reported Bush's absenteeism to Randolph Air Force Base.
In July 1972 Bush failed to take a mandatory Guard physical exam, which is a serious offense for a Guard pilot. The move should have prompted the formation of a Flying Evaluation Board to investigation the circumstances surrounding Bush's failure.
But no such FEB was convened.
Once Bush was grounded for failing to take a physical, his commanders could have filed a report on why the suspension should be lifted.
But Bush's commanders made no such request.
On Sept. 15, 1972, Bush was ordered to report to Lt. Col. William Turnipseed, the deputy commander of the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group in Montgomery, Ala., to participate in training on the weekends of Oct. 7-8 and Nov. 4-5, 1972.
But there's no evidence Bush ever showed up on those dates. In 2000, Turnipseed told the Boston Globe that Bush did not report for duty. (A self-professed Bush supporter, Turnipseed has since backed off from his categorical claim.)
However, according to the White House-released pay records, which are unsigned, Bush was credited for serving in Montgomery on Oct. 28-29 and Nov. 11-14, 1972. Those makeup dates should have produced a paper trail, including Bush's formal request as well as authorization and supervision documents.
But no such documents exist, and the dates he was credited for do not match the dates when the Montgomery unit assembled for drills.
When Guardsmen miss monthly drills, or "unit training assemblies" (UTAs), they are allowed to make them up through substitute service and earn crucial points toward their service record. Drills are worth one point on a weekday and two points on each weekend day. For Bush's substitute service on Nov. 13-14, 1972, he was awarded four points, two for each day.
But Nov. 13 and 14 were both weekdays. He should have been awarded two points.
Bush earned six points for service on Jan. 4-6, 1973 -- a Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
But he should have earned four points, one each for Thursday and Friday, two for Saturday.
Weekday training was the exception in the Guard. For example, from May 1968 to May 1972, when Bush was in good standing, he was not credited with attending a single weekday UTA.
But after 1972, when Bush's absenteeism accelerated, nearly half of his credited UTAs were for weekdays.
To maintain unit cohesiveness, the parameters for substitute service are tightly controlled; drills must be made up within 15 days immediately before, or 30 days immediately after, the originally scheduled drill, according to Guard regulations at the time.
But more than half of the substitute service credits Bush received fell outside that clear time frame. In one case, he made up a drill nine weeks in advance.
On Sept. 29, 1972, Bush was formally grounded for failing to take a flight physical. The letter, written by Maj. Gen. Francis Greenlief, chief of the National Guard Bureau, ordered Bush to acknowledge in writing that he had received word of his grounding.
But no such written acknowledgment exists. In 2000, Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett told the Boston Globe that Bush couldn't remember if he'd ever been grounded.
Bartlett also told the Boston Globe that Bush didn't undergo a physical while in Alabama because his family doctor was in Houston.
But only Air Force flight surgeons can give flight physicals to pilots.
Guard members are required to take a physical exam every 12 months.
But Bush's last Guard physical was in May 1971. Bush was formally discharged from the service in November 1974, which means he went without a required physical for 42 months.
Bush's unsatisfactory participation in the fall of 1972 should have prompted the Texas Air National Guard to write to his local draft board and inform the board that Bush had become eligible for the draft. Guard units across the country contacted draft boards every Sept. 15 to update them on the status of local Guard members. Bush's absenteeism should have prompted what's known as a DD Form 44, "Record of Military Status of Registrant."
But there is no record of any such document having been sent to Bush's draft board in Houston.
Records released by the White House note that Bush received a military dental exam in Alabama on Jan. 6, 1973.
But Bush's request to serve in Alabama covered only September, October and November 1972. Why he would still be serving in Alabama months after that remains unclear.
Each of Bush's numerous substitute service requests should have formed a lengthy paper trail consisting of AF Form 40a's, with the name of the officer who authorized the training in advance, the signature of the officer who supervised the training and Bush's own signature.
But no such documents exist.
During his last year with the Texas Air National Guard, Bush missed nearly two-thirds of his mandatory UTAs and made up some of them with substitute service. Guard regulations allowed substitute service only in circumstances that are "beyond the control" of the Guard member.
But neither Bush nor the Texas Air National Guard has ever explained what the uncontrollable circumstances were that forced him to miss the majority of his assigned drills in his last year.
Bush supposedly returned to his Houston unit in April 1973 and served two days.
But at the end of April, when Bush's Texas commanders had to rate him for their annual report, they wrote that they could not do so: "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of this report."
On June 29, 1973, the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver instructed Bush's commanders to get additional information from his Alabama unit, where he had supposedly been training, in order to better evaluate Bush's duty. The ARPC gave Texas a deadline of Aug. 6 to get the information.
But Bush's commanders ignored the request.
Bush was credited for attending four days of UTAs with his Texas unit July 16-19, 1973. That was good for eight crucial points.
But that's not possible. Guard units hold only two UTAs each month -- one on a Saturday and one on a Sunday. Although Bush may well have made up four days, they should not all have been counted as UTAs, since they occur just twice a month. The other days are known as "Appropriate Duty," or APDY.
On July 30, 1973, Bush, preparing to attend Harvard Business School, signed a statement acknowledging it was his responsibility to find another unit in which to serve out the remaining nine months of his commitment.
But Bush never contacted another unit in Massachusetts in which to fulfill his obligation.
This Associated Press story also highlights the White House's shifting explanations
(er, lies) trying to explain Bush's refusal to meet his obligations.
Note, none of this information depends on the CBS memos, but the Right successfully used questions about those memos to obscure the real issue, and that issue -- that Bush was AWOL for large periods of time and failed to fulfill his duty -- remained salient.
Congratulations to them -- they successfully defended a deserter who not just failed his duty, but whose actions forced someone else to head to Vietnam in his stead. This from a man who is forcing soldiers that HAVE fulfilled their duty to stay past their obligations to fight his unecessary and incompetently waged war.
They can pat themselves in the back, content in the knowledge that they gave a pampered shirker yet another free pass.
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