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Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - Page updated at 11:27 A.M.
Bush releases more files from his Guard years
By Dana Milbank and Mike Allen
The White House, seeking to quell a revived controversy over Bush's Guard service, released hundreds of pages of previously withheld records. The documents include what the White House describes as all nonmedical elements of Bush's personnel file, including performance evaluations, documentation of his honorable discharge and a bureaucratic paper trail of applications, promotions and transfers.
The records, while showing Bush was an eager fighter pilot who said he wanted to spend a lifetime in aviation, provided no evidence that he did military service in Alabama, to which he had requested a transfer in May 1972 to work on a Senate campaign that ended in November 1972.
A 1971 evaluation by a superior said Bush had the potential to "promote well ahead of his contemporaries" and added: "Lt. Bush's main strengths are his eagerness to participate in the unit's activities and his ability to work harmoniously with others." A 1970 letter recommending him for a promotion to first lieutenant called him "a dynamic outstanding young officer" who "clearly stands out as a top notch fighter interceptor pilot."
But the tone of Bush's military file changed abruptly, and with no documented explanation, in May 1972, when he sought to transfer to Alabama. That began a period of months in which, documents suggest, Bush did not pursue Guard service actively and was not pursued actively.
From May 1972 to May 1973, he earned 41 "points" for Guard service and was granted an additional 15 "gratuitous" points by superiors, bringing him above the 50-point minimum requirement for the year. There are no records confirming that he participated in Guard activities from May 1972 through October 1972.
On May 24, 1972, Bush had sought to transfer from his Houston Guard unit to the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron for an unpaid assignment. The commander accepted him two days later but wrote: "The continuation of this type unit is uncertain at this time and we may last 3 months, 6 months, a year or who knows! With this in mind, if you are willing to accept assignment under these circumstances, welcome! We're glad to have you."
But there is no evidence Bush reported, and the Air Force Reserve Personnel Center overruled the commander July 31 and returned Bush's application, calling him "ineligible for assignment to an Air Reserve Squadron."
The next move from Bush apparently came in a Sept. 5 letter in which he requested permission to perform "equivalent duty" with the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group in Montgomery, Ala. The Alabama Guard approved Bush on Sept. 15 and directed him to report to Lt. Col. William Turnipseed. Turnipseed has said he never met Bush, and the only documentation that Bush was at a Guard facility in Alabama was a previously released one-page dental exam from January 1973.
White House communications director Dan Bartlett said the files were released to try to dispel "this wrong impression that there was something to hide." Bartlett complained about the "innuendo" of reports that he said suggested the files might contain embarrassing information that the White House was covering up. He said the public had been left with the idea that Bush did not take his Guard requirements seriously.
Bartlett pledged that he had put out "absolutely everything" he had of Bush's nonmedical military records. "The only thing being redacted is the Social Security number that's it," he said. However, the military already had blacked out much of the data, including Bush's grades from Yale.
Washington Post reporters Thomas E. Ricks, Lois Romano and Josh White, and researchers Lucy Shackelford and Margot Williams contributed to this report.
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