New questions raised on Bush military record
U.S. President Bush fell short of meeting his military obligations during the Vietnam War and was not disciplined despite irregular attendance at required training drills, The Boston Globe said on Wednesday.
The White House pointed to five previously released documents to show Bush was assigned to an Obligated Ready Reserve unit in Denver, Colorado, and was not required to report to duty in Massachusetts.
"These documents show the president fulfilled his obligations," said White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan.
The military records of Bush and of his Democratic opponent John Kerry, who was decorated for service in Vietnam, have featured prominently in the campaign for the presidential election on Nov. 2.
Republicans have made Bush's leadership of what he calls a global war on terrorism central to his campaign.
In February, the White House released hundreds of pages of Bush's military records that showed he was absent for long periods of his final two years of National Guard duty but said nonetheless he met service requirements.
However, the Globe focused on documents Bush signed in 1968 and 1973 in which he pledged to meet training commitments or face a punitive call-up to active duty.
The Globe said in July 1973, before Bush left Houston to attend Harvard Business School, he signed a document saying: "It is my responsibility to locate and be assigned to another Reserve forces unit or mobilization augmentation position. If I fail to do so, I am subject to involuntary order to active duty for up to 24 months... "
Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett told the Washington Post in 1999 that the future president had served at a Boston-area Air Force Reserve unit after leaving Houston. But Bush never joined a Boston-area unit, the Globe said.
"I must have misspoke," Bartlett, now White House communications director, was quoted as telling the Globe in a recent interview.
White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan, responding to the Globe report on Wednesday, said, "The president was honored to serve his country. He met his obligations, and was honorably discharged."
The Globe also looked at a 1968 pledge by Bush in which he committed to "satisfactory participation" in Guard training.
But the newspaper said he performed no service over a six-month period in 1972 and nearly a three-month stretch in 1973 -- erratic attendance that could have prompted his superiors to discipline him or order him to active duty in 1972, 1973 or 1974.
Instead, Bush's unit certified in late 1973 that his service had been "satisfactory," the Globe said.
The National Guard and reserves, rarely called up during the Vietnam War, came to be regarded as "draft havens for relatively affluent young white men," the Air National Guard says in a history on its Internet site.