Bush Aides Possibly Altered National Guard Records
For Immediate Release: November 4, 2000
Full documents available at: www.smokingjet.com
Bush Aides Possibly Altered National Guard Records To Conceal Grounding
and Missed Duty
by Bob Fertik
Aides to Texas Governor George W. Bush visited the Air National Guard
archives at Camp Mabry in 1997 and possibly altered Bush's military
service records to conceal Bush's grounding from flight in 1972 and
subsequent missed duty, according to a former senior official of the Texas
Bill Burkett, a Lt. Colonel who was the State Plans Officer of the Texas
National Guard at the time, said Bush operative Dan Bartlett headed a high-
level operation to "scrub" Bush's Air National Guard record, to make sure
it was in synch with the biography that the campaign was preparing.
The book, "A Charge to Keep," was authored by Bush and his principal
spokeswoman, Karen Hughes. Hughes was recently exposed during the DUI
sidebar involving reporter Wayne Slater as the person who strictly
controls what Bush is allowed to say.
At the time, Bartlett was Governor Bush's liaison to the Texas National
Guard. Bartlett is now the campaign spokesman who has provided misleading
information to the press on several occasions about Bush's military
In "A Charge to Keep," Bush briefly mentioned his National Guard service.
After completing flight training in June 1970, Bush wrote, "I continued
flying with my unit for the next several years."
In fact, according to reports by the Boston Globe, Democrats.com and
TomPaine.com, Bush stopped flying only 22 months later in April 1972. He
was subsequently grounded from flight on August 1, 1972 because he "failed
to accomplish his annual physical."
There is no mention of the grounding in Bush's biography, which falsely
implies that Bush continued flying until he left the National Guard.
When questioned by the press, Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett has offered
several different reasons for this grounding. Initially Bartlett said that
Bush could not get to Houston for his physical, but this was proved wrong
when it was shown that Bush could have visited flight surgeons stationed
in Alabama. Bartlett then said the F-102 fighter that Bush was trained to
fly was removed from service, but this was proved wrong when it was shown
that the F-102 remained in service in Bush's unit for two more years.
Democrats.com has speculated that Bush skipped his annual physical in 1972
because the Pentagon that year imposed random drug testing for the first
time, and Bush feared he would fail the exam. Bush has admitted drinking
heavily at the time, and has refused to deny using cocaine before 1974.
Similar allegations have been reported in the Times of London and the New
Democrats.com has stressed the significance of Bush's grounding. Bush's
pilot training cost the government nearly $1 million, and this was a huge
investment that the Pentagon would not lightly abandon with two years
remaining of a pilot's obligation. Moreover, pilots were badly needed at
the time because of the war in Vietnam.
According to Democrats.com, Bush's grounding would normally have been
reviewed by a Flight Inquiry Board of three senior officers, but there is
no record that such a board was convened in Bush's case. Democrats.com has
called for Bush to reveal his full military records, to put these and
other charges to rest.
Moreover, Democrats.com and TomPaine.com have revealed that Bush did not
report for duty for at least a year after he stopped flying, and possibly
two years. Bush's official record shows no duty after April 1972, and his
superior officers in both Alabama and Texas say they never saw him after
An official report issued on April 30, 1973 says "Lt. Bush has not been
observed at this unit during the period of this report," from May 1 1972
to April 30, 1973. Rewards for proof that Bush reported for duty have been
offered in Alabama and Texas and on the Internet, but no one has claimed
During the campaign, Bush has attempted to fend off charges that he did
not report for duty. When charges were raised about the time he spent in
Alabama in the fall of 1972, Bush insisted that he reported for duty. "I
can't remember what I did. I just - I fulfilled my obligation," he said.
Bush has specifically disputed the recollection of ret. Brig. Gen. William
Turnipseed, who says he is "dead-certain" that Bush did not report for
duty in Alabama. ''I read the comments from the guy who said he doesn't
remember me being there, but I remember being there," Bush said.
Internet activists led by Iowa farmer Martin Heldt and retired Air
National Guard pilot Bob Rogers have been campaigning to expose Bush's
failure to report for duty since May 23, 2000, when the Boston Globe first
reported on a "one-year gap" in Bush's military duty. Heldt created a
discussion board at Salon Magazine charging that Bush was "AWOL", which
spurred an explosion of grassroots Internet activism.
Heldt and Rogers filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Bush's
military records, which provided overwhelming evidence of Bush's missed
duty, and served as the basis of the articles in Democrats.com and
On Thursday, Congressional Medal of Honor recipients Bob Kerrey and Daniel
Inouye brought these charges to the attention of the national media, which
has almost entirely ignored the work of Heldt and Rogers. "The question is
where were you, Governor Bush?," said Inouye. "During my service, if I
missed training for two years, at the least, I would have been court-
martialed. I would have been placed in prison," he said.
To rebut this charge, the Bush campaign has relied on two mysterious
documents. The documents are neither dated nor signed, which makes their
legitimacy entirely questionable. Moreover, the document that the campaign
claims covers the year from May 1972 to May 1973 is badly torn and can
only be linked to Lt. George W. Bush by the letter "W". Finally, these
documents are directly contradicted by Bush's official record, several
signed memoranda, and the testimony of several witnesses.
Still, both the New York Times and George Magazine have used these
mysterious documents as the basis for dismissing all of the other
documents and witnesses which overwhelmingly show that Bush did not report
Thus, the assertion by Bill Burkett that Dan Bartlett and his operatives
modified Bush's Air National Guard records takes on exceptional
significance. Bartlett's "scrubbing" operation in 1997 could have inserted
these mysterious documents, or removed significant information from the
torn document. In addition, Bartlett's operation could have removed or
altered other revealing documents.
Indeed, there is corroborating evidence that Bush campaign operatives have
devoted considerable effort to "scrubbing" public records to conceal other
evidence of Bush's wrongdoing. For example, Bush got a new driver's
license after he was elected Governor, which appears to be completely
unprecedented. This prevented reporters from discovering Bush's DUI arrest
in Maine in 1976.
This new license may also be concealing a subsequent DUI or drug arrest in
1972 or 1973, when Bush went to work with an inner-city community service
group in Houston called Project PULL. There has been considerable
speculation that Bush performed this work as a form of alternative
sentencing for a DUI or drug arrest, but reporters have been stymied by
the fact that Bush's 1995 driver's license contains no prior information.
Moreover, Newsweek reported on July 9, 2000 that the Bush campaign
"launched a secretive research operation designed to scour all records
relating to his Vietnam-era service" during preparation for Bush's 1998 re-
election campaign. They paid "hard-nosed Dallas lawyer named Harriet
Miers" $19,000 to review the records. According to Newsweek, one result of
her work was to deflect charges that former Texas House Speaker Ben Barnes
helped Bush get into the Texas Air National Guard despite low
qualifications and a long waiting list. Barnes was later forced to testify
under oath that he helped Bush.
The same Newsweek article also discusses the absence of evidence that Bush
fulfilled his orders to report for duty in Alabama in the fall of 1972.
According to the article, "Dan Bartlett conceded that the records 'were
either lost or misplaced... we are not sure.'" If Burkett's charges are
true, Bartlett may have had a hand in losing or misplacing these records.
The Newsweek article also credits the Bush operation with locating as a
corroborating witness "an old girlfriend, Emily Marks, who got to know
Bush in Alabama. Marks said Bush told her he had to go back to Montgomery
after the election to make up some reserve requirements. 'This
corroborates what the governor has been saying,' Bartlett said." However,
Marks told the Decatur Daily that she "never actually drove him to Guard duty."
Newsweek concluded that: "For the moment, at least, it seemed that Bush's
damage-control team had gotten matters under control again."
Not any more.
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