Military Service

The following article includes excerpts from Fortunate Son by J.H. Hatfield, available from Soft Skull Press.

In his 1978 congressional campaign Bush claimed that he had served in the Air Force. "A pullout ad from the Lubbock Advance-Journal on May 4, 1978, showed a huge photo of George W. with a 'Bush for Congress' logo on the front. On the back, a synopsis of his career stated he had served in the U.S. Air Force and the Texas Air National Guard where he piloted the F-102 aircraft.' When confronted about the misleading ad years later, Bush claimed that while he was attending flight school from November 1968 to December 1969, he was considered to be on active duty for the U.S. Air Force. The military branch denied his assertion by stating that Air National Guard members were considered 'guardsmen on active duty' while receiving pilot training. They were not, however, counted as members of the overall active-duty Air Force."

"Four months before enlisting, Bush reported to Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts, a recruiting office near the Yale campus, to take the Air Force Officers Qualification Test. While scoring 25 percent for pilot aptitude on the screening test -- 'about as low as you could get and be accepted,' according to Retired Colonel Rufus G. Martin, a former Guard personnel officer -- and 50 percent for navigator aptitude in his initial enlistment test, Bush scored 95 percent in the 'officer quality' section, compared with a current-day average of 88 percent."

"His guard application form asked for 'background qualifications of value to the Air Force,' Bush wrote, 'None.'"

During his father's 1988 presidential campaign, George W. defended Senator Dan Quayle against media claims that he had used family or political influence to obtain a spot in the Indiana National Guard as a means of avoiding the draft. This put W.'s own military record under scrutiny. A former personnel officer in charge of a Texas Air National Guard squadron acknowledged that the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the house had considerable influence over the guard. Ben Barnes, the Texas speaker of the house at the time of W.'s Guard service, admitted that politically connected residents would contact his office for assistance in obtaining Guard positions for their sons, but denied receiving a call from then congressman George H.W. Bush (W.'s father).

Bush received a second lieutenant's commission only a few months after enlisting. The normal routes to such a commission, none of which Bush participated in, included a minimum nine-week training course, or eight weekend drill sessions and two summer camps. "In addition to his special commission, the Guard gave Bush immediate and considerable flexibility. After basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and his commissioning as a second lieutenant, Junior received what amounted to a two-month-plus vacation to Florida before heading to Georgia for yearlong flight school. During this time, Bush worked in the political campaign of Edward J. Gurney, a Republican candidate for the Senate, and a close friend of the elder Bush. He occasionally returned to Houston for weekend Guard duty."

The Boston Globe and other sources have reported that Bush stopped flying in April 1972 and was grounded in August of that year for failing to pass his annual physical. Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett, who was Bush's liaison to the Texas National Guard during his term as governor, has offered conflicting explanations, some of which have been disproved. Bartlett said Bush could not get to Houston for the physical, although he could have had the physical in Alabama. Bartlett later said Bush stopped flying because the plane he was trained to fly (the F102) was decommissioned. The plane was in service for another two years, however.

On November 2, 2000 Senators Bob Kerrey and Daniel Inouye, both recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, held a news conference to try to focus media attention on charges, originally reported by the Boston Globe, that there is a one-year gap in Bush's military service. "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," Senator Inouye said.