Dan Rather Got It Right: George W. Bush DID go AWOL
The new issue of Texas Monthly delves into the long-neglected story of George W. Bush's less than stellar military career in the Texas Air National Guard. The Monthly lays out the surprisingly complicated machinations that led to Bush Jr. landing his plum spot in TANG. I always suspected something like this was the case.
That George W. got special treatment at a time when draftees were likely to end up slogging through the jungles of Viet Nam shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to anyone who knows how America routinely gives special treatment to the offspring of the 1%. What did come as a surprise was why George W. stopped flying, and that he apparently did so with the tacit approval of his commanding officers in TANG. They viewed Bush's move to Alabama to work on Winton "Red" Blount's campaign for the U.S. Senate as his effective departure from their unit, and apparently from his six-year obligation to the National Guard as well.
Truth or Consequences (subscription)
by Joe Hagan
But the CBS documents that seem destined to haunt Rather are, and have always been, a red herring. The real story, assembled here for the first time in a single narrative, featuring new witnesses and never-reported details, is far more complex than what Rather and Mapes rushed onto the air in 2004. At the time, so much rancorous political gamesmanship surrounded Bush’s military history that it was impossible to report clearly (and Rather’s flawed report effectively ended further investigations). But with Bush out of office, this is no longer a problem.
While the Linkes were there, Bush’s former commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian, allegedly told them that Bush had stopped flying because he became afraid to land the plane. “He was mucking up bad, Killian told us,” Janet said to a Florida newspaper.....
But by the time Linke went public with her allegation, the press had already abandoned the Bush National Guard story for the Dan Rather controversy. Also ignored was some possible corroborating evidence...
What’s clear, however, is that Bush’s superiors made it unusually easy for him to quit flying and leave Houston. They first attempted to sign him up for a postal unit in Alabama that met once a month. (The commander of the outfit told Bush he couldn’t guarantee that the group would even exist in three months but added, “We’re glad to have you!”) When Bush was informed that he couldn’t fulfill his duty by doing that, he sent a letter requesting “equivalent duty” with the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group, at Dannelly Air Base, in Montgomery. The unit commander, in official memos, said Bush could start by attending two drills in September 1972. He didn’t show up for the drills.
When Bush lost his flight status, in August 1972, the official military protocol of the Texas Air National Guard was to open an internal investigation and review why the pilot didn’t show up for his physical. It says so on Bush’s own documents. That never happened.
Bush’s go-to expert on his military record, Albert Lloyd, said a report wasn’t necessary because Bush’s commanders knew he had stopped flying to go to work in Alabama—proof only that the Air National Guard blew off the rules when it came to Bush.
Also see the last in exlrrp's series on Bush's TANG career Bush Military History Project—still at it.
Here's a link to the military's own records with a hat tip to exlrrp.