Bush's Military Record Reveals Grounding and Absence for
Two Full Years
By Robert A. Rogers (USAF - Ret)
January 24, 2004
"I think that people need to be held
responsible for the actions they take in life. I think
that's part of the need for a cultural change. We need to
say that each of us needs to be responsible for what we do."
– George W. Bush in the first Presidential debate, October
''I did the duty necessary ... That's why I was honorably
discharged" – George W. Bush, May 23, 2000
From the beginning of his Presidential
campaign, George W. Bush has forcefully and repeatedly
insisted that he faithfully fulfilled all his military
obligations by serving his time as a member of the Texas Air
But the first independent investigation of Bush's military
record by a former Air National Guard pilot has revealed the
1. Pilot George W. Bush did not simply "give up flying" with
two years left to fly, as has been reported. Instead, Bush
was suspended and grounded, very possibly as a direct or
indirect result of substance abuse.
2. The crucial evidence – a Flight Inquiry Board – that
would reveal the true reasons for Bush's suspension, as well
as the punishment that was recommended, is missing from the
records released so far. If no such Board was convened, this
raises further questions of extraordinary favoritism.
3. Contrary to Bush's emphatic statements and several
published reports, Bush never actually reported in person
for the last two years of his service – in direct violation
of two separate written orders. Moreover, the lack of
punishment for this misconduct represents the crowning
achievement of a military career distinguished only by
This in-depth investigation and analysis of Bush's apparent
misconduct over the last two years of his six year
obligation suggests that Bush did not fulfill all of his
military obligations to the Texas Air National Guard and to
his country, contrary to his repeated assertions.
Moreover, Bush's misconduct could have resulted in
significant disciplinary action by his Commanding Officer,
ranging in severity from temporary or permanent grounding, a
career-damaging letter of reprimand, to forced reenlistment
in the US Army (including active duty in Vietnam), to a
less-than honorable discharge.
These issues are not trivial, nor are they ancient history.
This cloud of questions goes to the heart of George W.
Bush's promises to restore honor and integrity to the White
House, to strengthen the military, and to speak the plain
truth on the campaign trail.
If Bush had received a less-than honorable discharge, it is
safe to say that he would not be the Republican candidate
for President today. But the absence of any sign of severe
disciplinary action in the records we obtained raises
serious questions that can only be answered if Bush himself
requests the release of his full military service record.
Avoiding Vietnam through Preferential
George W. Bush graduated from Yale in May of
1968, at the height of the Vietnam War when half a million
young American men were fighting for their country and dying
at the rate of 350 per week. Bush, who mostly distinguished
himself at Yale through his social activities, vocally
supported the war. But he was not prepared to put his own
life on the line. He had no desire "to be an infantry guy as
a private in Vietnam," he said.
Instead, Bush wanted to become a fighter pilot like his
father, who flew heroic combat missions in the Pacific
during World War II. "I wanted to fly, and that was the
adventure I was seeking," he told the New York Times in
July. Bush denies that he was trying to avoid combat. "One
could argue that [I] was trying to avoid being the
infantryman but my attitude was I'm taking the first
opportunity to become a pilot and jumped on that and did my
time," he said.
But Bush did not join the full time active duty military.
Instead, he chose to enlist for "weekend warrior" duty in
the Air National Guard, where he could fulfill his military
obligation far away from the risk of combat and pursue his
civilian career, including working in several Republican
Senate campaigns. "Had my unit been called I would have gone
... to Vietnam," he said. But like everyone else at the
time, he knew the chances of that happening were slim. And
when his application form asked about an overseas
assignment, he checked "do not volunteer."
Competition for the few openings in the National Guard was
intense, and there was a waiting list of 100,000 nationally
at the time. Bush took the Air Force officer and pilot
qualification tests on January 17, 1968. He scored 25%, the
lowest possible passing grade on the pilot aptitude portion.
On his application form, he listed his "background
qualifications" as "none." But despite the waiting list, his
low score and his lack of qualifications, Bush was given a
highly-coveted spot and was sworn in on May 27 for a
six-year commitment, taking a solemn oath to protect and
defend the U.S. Constitution and the United States of
Bush and his father have adamantly denied that he received
preferential treatment, despite the fact that his father was
then a U.S. Representative from Texas and his grandfather
Prescott had been a prominent U.S. Senator from Connecticut.
But the Speaker of the House in Texas at the time, Ben
Barnes, admitted under oath last year that he had received a
request from a longtime Bush family friend, Sidney Adger of
Houston, to help Bush get into the Air National Guard.
Barnes further testified that he contacted the head of the
Texas Air National Guard, Brig. Gen. James Rose, to pass
along Adger's request.
When asked about this sworn testimony, Bush was evasive: "I
have no idea and I don't believe so," he said. But according
to the Boston Globe, Bush "vaulted to the top of a waiting
list of 500."
This preferential treatment in gaining entry to the Air
National Guard set the pattern for Bush's treatment
throughout his six-year obligation, including his rapid
promotion to pilot and 1st Lieutenant, his sudden
disappearance from the skies with two years left to fly, and
his failure to report for a single day of duty in his final
two years contrary to two specific orders.
After he completed only six weeks of basic airman training,
Bush received a commission as a second lieutenant in the
Texas Air National Guard. This was by means of a 'special
appointment' by the commanding officer of his squadron, with
the approval of a panel of three senior officers. This 2nd
Lt. commission was extraordinary, since it normally required
eight full semesters of college ROTC courses or eighteen
months of military service or completion of Air Force
officer training school. It was so unusual that Tom Hail,
the Texas National Guard historian, told the Los Angeles
Times that he "never heard of that" except for flight
Despite a score of only 25% on his pilot entrance aptitude
test, Bush was then assigned to flight school, a posting
that was normally reserved to pilots graduating from ROTC
training or Air Force officer training. That was immediately
followed by further favoritism in being 'fast tracked' over
those on the existing pilot applicant waiting list into the
111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, a standby runway alert
component of the 143rd Group, one of several tactical Guard
units responsible for defending the Southern coast of the
Continental U.S. against attack.
Along with the rest of his squadron, Bush was trained to fly
the missile-equipped supersonic F-102 Delta Dart jet
interceptor fighter. By July of 1970, Bush had earned his
wings and racked up approximately 300 hours of training
flight time in the F-102. This qualified him to fly the
F-102 without an instructor, but was far short of the 500
hours of experience required for volunteer active duty
combat operations in Vietnam.
At this point in the Vietnam War, the US Air Force
desperately needed additional F-102 pilots to fly the
dangerous reconnaissance missions so important to the fate
of American troops on the ground. With only a small amount
of solo flying experience, Bush applied for a voluntary
three month Vietnam tour, perhaps counting on preferential
treatment once again to overcome his lack of readiness, or
perhaps safe in the knowledge that his request would
certainly be rejected.
When Bush was summarily turned down for this volunteer
active duty option, he was left to fly as a "weekend
warrior" in the Texas Air National Guard out of Ellington
AFB near Houston Texas. On November 3, 1970, while Bush's
father was being re-elected to Congress from Houston, Bush
was promoted to 1st Lieutenant by Brig. General Rose, the
same man who got Bush into the Texas National Guard at the
request of the Bush family friend.
The Clouds Set In
The newly-released records reveal that 1st
Lt. Bush was credited with 46 days of flight duty from June
1970 to May 1971, expected Guard weekend duty and 'extra'
runway standby alert time for that year. However, that would
be the last time that Bush fully met his qualified jet
fighter pilot obligation to serve four complete years as a
fully trained and qualified fighter pilot.
Beginning sometime after May of 1971, Bush stopped living up
to his sworn obligation to the Texas Air National Guard and
thereby his country. By May of 1972, he was credited with
only 22 flight duty days, 14 days short of the minimum 36
days he owed the Guard for that year. And then things went
from bad to worse.
Astonishingly, Bush suddenly disappeared from the skies
altogether near the start of his fourth year. Bush flew for
the last time in the cockpit of an F-102 in April of 1972.
From that point on, Bush never flew again, in spite of the
fact that he still had two full years remaining of his
six-year pilot service commitment. And on May 15, 1972, Bush
simply "cleared this base" according to a written report by
one of his two Squadron supervising officers, Lt. Col.
William D. Harris Jr.
On May 24, Bush requested in writing a six-month transfer to
an inactive postal Reserve unit in Alabama, for the stated
purpose of working on the campaign of a Republican Senate
candidate. If Bush had been temporarily transferred there,
he would not have continued flying until he returned to
Texas, because the Alabama unit had no airplanes.
In fact, Bush's transfer request was denied by National
Guard Bureau headquarters on May 31 1972, and Bush should
have returned to his base in Houston and continued with his
flying duties. Instead, he remained in Alabama until late in
the fall. And something critical happened on August 1, 1972
– George W. Bush was summarily suspended from flying
1. Was pilot George W. Bush suspended and grounded
with two years left to fly as a direct or indirect result of
"George Walker Bush is one member of the younger generation
who doesn't get his kicks from pot or hashish or speed ...
As far as kicks are concerned, Lt. Bush gets his from the
roaring afterburner of the F-102." Texas Air National Guard
press release, March 1970.
There is no dispute that George W. Bush stopped flying with
two years left in his commitment to the Texas Air National
Guard and to his country at the height of the Vietnam War.
The big question that has never been satisfactorily answered
According to the Boston Globe – the only major publication
that has examined the last two years of Bush's military
service in depth – Bush simply "gave up flying" to spend six
months on a Republican Senate campaign in Alabama.
But this explanation is highly suspect, because fully
trained and currently qualified pilots with two remaining
years of flying obligation are rarely permitted to simply
"give up" without some form of disciplinary action beyond
A pilot's completion of his six-year obligation is
especially important because of the heavy investment the
Government makes to provide jet fighter pilots with two full
years of active duty training. In today's money, the US
Government paid close to a million dollars to train 1st Lt.
Bush in a highly complex supersonic aircraft.
One of Bush's newly-released service documents provides a
significant clue to his sudden disappearance from the skies.
In a confirmation memo to the Secretaries of the Army and
Air Force dated September 29, 1972, Major General Francis
Greenleaf, then Chief of the National Guard Bureau in
Washington DC, confirmed the suspension of 1st Lt. George W.
Bush from flying status. This written confirmation cites an
earlier August 1, 1972 verbal order of the TX 147th Group's
Commanding Officer that suspended and grounded Bush from
flying duty for "his failure to accomplish annual medical
There are two ways to interpret this crucial memo: either
1st Lt. Bush took his mandatory annual flight physical for
pilots and failed it for some as-yet undisclosed reason, or
he refused to present himself in the first place to an Air
Force Flight Surgeon, who were readily available in almost
Campaign officials originally brushed off this crucial event
by suggesting that Bush was simply unable to travel to
Houston to visit his family physician. But the Boston Globe
reported that Air Force Flight Surgeons were assigned to
Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery Alabama, where he was
More recently, campaign officials claimed that Bush did not
technically need to take his flight physical. "As he was not
flying, there was no reason for him to take the flight
physical exam," campaign spokesman Don Bartlett told the
London Times in June. But this assertion is false, because
Bush was technically still qualified to fly until after his
"failure to accomplish annual medical examination," which
led to his suspension and grounding. Moreover, Bush should
have been flying from his home base in Texas at the time of
his scheduled annual physical in August, because his request
for a transfer to Alabama had been rejected on May 31.
Bush's spokesman admitted that Bush "knew the suspension
would take place" if he failed to complete his mandatory
annual flight physical. But he writes it off to mere red
tape, saying "it was just a question of following the
bureaucratic procedure of the time."
But this suspension meant, at least momentarily, the end of
his dream to be a pilot. This was something he worked hard
to achieve, something he was proud of and bragged about,
something important to his family, and something that senior
Texas Air National Guard officials had gone to great lengths
to make possible. Therefore, Bush's "failure to accomplish
annual medical examination," could not have been either
casual or accidental.
Moreover, Bush had to have known that this suspension could
subject him to a punishment beyond just temporary
suspension. In fact, Bush could have been permanently
suspended or even reprimanded for his actions.
Why would a physical exam present a problem for 1st Lt.
Bush? A little-know fact reported in the London Times
and the New York Post on June 18, 2000 gives a
powerful clue. In April 1972 – the same month that Bush
"gave up" flying – all the overseas and stateside military
services began subjecting a small random sample in their
ranks to substance abuse testing for alcohol and drugs. The
Pentagon had announced its intention to do so initially back
on December 31, 1969. If Bush reported for his scheduled
physical in August 1972, he could have been subject to
selection for a random substance abuse test.
Bush's spokesman told the London Times that Bush "was not
aware of any changes that required a drug test." But this
does not hold up under scrutiny. In 1969 – the year
following Bush's enlistment – the Pentagon notified every
unit in the military that it would implement random drug
testing at some point in the near future. When that moment
arrived – April 1972 – every enlisted person and officer
throughout the military, both overseas and stateside, would
have been aware of this dramatic change. After all, the
whole purpose of the random drug testing was to make it
absolutely clear to everyone in the Armed Forces that the
Pentagon would not tolerate substance abuse of any kind by
There is circumstantial evidence pointing to substance abuse
by Bush during this period. On the campaign trail, Bush has
stated that he has not used drugs or alcohol in excess since
1974. But this chronology makes it possible that he was in
fact abusing one or more of these substances in the summer
Moreover, interviews with friends during this period reveal
that Bush partied and drank regularly, and Bush admits he
was a hard drinker at the time. And over the Christmas
holidays, Bush got into a widely-reported emotional showdown
with his father after taking his 16-year-old brother Marvin
drinking, hitting garbage cans while driving home.
Thus, the September 29 memo is a "smoking jet" which points
to a potentially devastating interpretation: that Bush
stopped flying two years short of his obligation because of
substance abuse – either directly, because he failed his
physical exam, or indirectly, because he refused to take it
out of fear that he would fail it.
Is it unreasonable to raise the possibility that 1st Lt.
Bush was suspended from flying as a direct or indirect
consequence of substance abuse? It might be if there was no
way for Bush to prove his innocence. But George W. Bush can
readily defend himself, if he so chooses, simply by
voluntarily releasing his complete military record.
A voluntary disclosure of this kind is not without
precedent. During the South Carolina Republican primary this
campaign year, rumors were spread by fellow Senators about
Senator John McCain's mental health as a result of his
imprisonment as a POW. McCain immediately quashed those
rumors by voluntarily releasing his entire military record,
which confirmed no indications of adverse physical or mental
Thus, Bush could easily put to rest the questions
surrounding "his failure to accomplish annual medical
examination" – and his subsequent suspension – if he would
simply release his complete military service record, which
cannot be released by the Air Force without Bush's explicit
2. Was a Flight Inquiry Board of senior Air Force
officers convened to determine the appropriate punishment
for Bush's misconduct?
Regardless of the explanation for Bush's suspension, there
is another crucial question: Was this suspension sufficient
disciplinary action for such a flagrant dereliction of duty
at a time when the Air Force was reeling from a serious
pilot shortage at the peak of the Vietnam War?
In the Air National Guard, expensively trained pilots are
not casually suspended. There is normally a Flight Inquiry
Board, which exercises the military chain of command's
obligation to insure due process. If one had been convened,
its three senior officer members would have documented why
such a severe action was justified in relation to the
country's military objectives at the time, as opposed to the
simple desire of a trained pilot to just "give up flying".
In the event of serious misconduct, such as substance abuse,
a Flight Inquiry Board would have determined the appropriate
punishment. The punishments could have included temporary or
permanent 'grounding,' a career-damaging letter of
reprimand, forced reenlistment in the US Army with active
duty in Vietnam, or a less-than honorable discharge.
In fact, there is no evidence now in the public domain that
a Flight Inquiry Board was convened to deal with Bush's
official reclassification to a non-flying, grounded status.
However, the records of such a Board would not be subject to
an ordinary FOIA request because of privacy protections
This absence of a Flight Inquiry Board is of particular
interest to veteran pilots who are intimately familiar with
normal disciplinary procedures. In the absence of Bush's
releasing his complete service record, the implication is
that Bush's misconduct in regards to "his failure to
accomplish annual medical examination" was handled like
everything else in his military service: aided and abetted
by powerful family connections with total disregard for the
needs of the military as well as Bush's solemn oath.
Once again, the only way to get to the truth would be for
George W. Bush to personally request the release of his full
3. Did Bush altogether dodge his subsequent scheduled
Guard duty obligations for two years after his grounding,
and should he have received additional punishment for this
"I spent my time and I went to the Guard. It's just not
true. I did the duty necessary...any allegations other than
that are simply not true." (George W. Bush, May 23, 2000,
The questions about Bush's unfulfilled service record do not
end with his suspension and effective grounding on August 1,
1972. The central question for the remaining two years is
whether he fully and legitimately completed his original
six-year attendance obligation to the Texas Air Guard and
his country, as sworn under oath upon his enlistment, or if
he simply dodged his remaining non-flying duties.
Bush has said repeatedly that he completed his service
obligations. But a careful review of his record tells a very
On September 5, 1972, more than three months after his
transfer request to an inactive Alabama unit was refused,
Bush was finally ordered to start serving three months in an
active but non-flying administrative Guard unit, the 187th
Tactical Reconnaissance Group in Montgomery, Alabama, for
four certain duty days in October and November.
Despite this direct written order, there is no official
notation in his service record that Bush ever showed up for
any of this duty. General William Turnipseed and Lt. Col.
Kenneth Lott, who commanded the base at the time, told the
Boston Globe that Bush never appeared. "To my knowledge, he
never showed up," Turnipseed said in May.
Bush insists he did, according to the Dallas Morning News.
"I was there on temporary assignment and fulfilled my
weekends at one period of time. I made up some missed
weekends. I can't remember what I did, but I wasn't flying
because they didn't have the same airplanes. I fulfilled my
obligations," he said while campaigning in Alabama on June
But the Bush campaign conducted its own search of Bush's
military records, and could not find evidence that Bush
performed any duty in Alabama, the Dallas Morning News
reported. The only published reports were from personal
friends who say they remember Bush telling him that he
planned to report for duty, but no reports of anyone in the
Guard who actually saw him. Moreover, Interceptor Magazine,
a monthly official National Guard publication distributed
nationwide, ran advertisements asking for anyone to step
forward who remembered seeing Bush on duty. This inquiry
came up empty-handed.
This raises the next question of whether 1st Lt. Bush was
intentionally absent from assigned duty contrary to a
specific written order, which is the civilian/Guard Airman
equivalent of AWOL. This absence could normally result in
disciplinary action beyond a slap on the wrist by his parent
Squadron's Commanding Officer.
When the three-month term of his apparently unfulfilled
temporary order in Alabama ended in November 1972, Bush
returned home to Houston Texas until the fall of 1973.
However, he again did not report in person for non-flying
duty to his parent Texas 111th Squadron during this whole
Bush offers a different excuse for this period: that the
111th Squadron was switching to a newer jet, so he could not
fly. But the unit's commander told the Boston Globe that
Bush could have continued to fly the F-102, which remained
in service in his unit past the end of Bush's six-year
commitment. "If [Bush] had come back to Houston, I would
have kept him flying the 102 until he got out," he said.
"But I don't recall him coming back at all." Given that this
Commanding Officer used Bush extensively for publicity and
recruiting purposes during his flying days, it is unlikely
that he would have simply forgotten Bush from the day he
wrote that Bush "cleared the base" in May 1972.
Still, Bush reappeared on the Texas Air Guard's radar screen
in May 1973. Bush was ordered to attend nine certain duty
days in person during Summer Camp at Ellington AFB between
May 22 and June 7. But 1st Lt. Bush did not do so – making
him apparently absent contrary to a specific written order
for a second time in less than a year.
According to the Boston Globe, Bush "spent 36 days on duty"
from May until July of 1973, but this is a clear
misunderstanding of the record. Our more recent FOIA request
produced an unsigned and undated one page listing of 35
inactive Reserve temporary duty credit days starting May 25
through July 30, 1973. This document is a paper confirmation
that Bush did not actually report for duty in person at the
Texas Air National Guard on any of these days. In addition,
no one in the Texas Air Guard at the time, from the top
command down, has stepped forward to say they saw Bush in
person on a single day between May 22 and July 30, 1973 –
just as no one saw Bush during his three month assignment in
Instead, Bush in fact was credited with 35 "gratuitous"
inactive Air Force Reserve points – in other words,
non-attendance inactive Reserve credit time. The proof that
this time was "gratuitous" is the absence of any Bush duty
time of any kind on his official Texas Air National Guard
record all the way from the May 26 1972 entry of 22 pilot
duty days for the prior year. This is because "gratuitous"
time does not count as scheduled Texas Air Guard duty. This
leaves Bush without a single legitimate Texas Air National
Guard service day for his fifth and sixth years of service
to his Texas Air National Guard discharge on October 1, 1973
– a critical fact that has been misunderstood in several
previous reports of this period of Bush's service.
On October 1, 1973 – fully eight months short of his full
six-year service obligation and scheduled discharge on May
26, 1974 – Bush was prematurely discharged with honors from
the Texas Air Guard, in spite of his failure to report in
person for any for duty over the prior 18 months. This is
the very last entry on his official half-page Texas Air
Guard service record. Another Reserve archive record
released under our FOIA request goes on to indicate eventual
final inactive Reserve discharge with honors in November
1974, but civilian Bush was attending Harvard Business
School as a full-time student by that time.
There was no record received under our FOIA request that
indicate any more Reserve credit beyond July 30, 1973. This
is also puzzling, but does not add any further insight into
the fractured Texas Air National Guard attendance pattern
after April 1972.
Anyone seeking to be President of the United
States and its Commander in Chief, and who has campaigned
specifically on a promise to restore honor and integrity to
the office, strengthen the military, and tell the plain
truth, should be prepared to discuss his past record of
service to his country. Candidate Bush has a duty to the
American people, as well as his fellow military
comrades-in-arms, to fully and accurately answer all of
these grave questions about his exceedingly convenient and
prematurely short military service.
Bush's available service records raise very serious
questions that reflect heavily on his qualifications for
President. By disclosing the full contents of his official
service record, Bush could clear up the cloud of questions
that still linger 32 years after his first oath to the
Originally published at