Section Front• Section Front

E-mail This StoryE-mail This Story  Printable VersionPrintable Version

New Scrutiny Of Bush's Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2004

Bush Guard Duty Scrutinized

Lt. George W. Bush scored high marks on exams but failed to show up for a 1972 physical  (Photo: AP)

"For anybody to try to interpret or presume they know what somebody who is now dead was thinking in any of these memos, I think is very difficult to do."
Dan Bartlett, the president's communication director

Barnes claims he was contacted by the late oilman Sid Adger, a friend to both Barnes and then-Congressman George Bush, to get George W. Bush into the Guard.  (Photo: CBS)

A decorated Vietnam combat veteran, John Kerry recently has faced questions over his record as a Navy officer and an anti-war protester. (Photo: AP)

Dig Deeper
View the following documents obtained by 60 Minutes:

Memorandum, May 4, 1972

Memo to File, May 19, 1972

Memorandum For Record,
Aug. 1, 1972

Memo to File, Aug. 18, 1973

Read a transcript of Dan Rather's interview with Ben Barnes:

Also view documents released by the White House reflecting President Bush's National Guard service:

Memo from retired Lt. Col. Albert C. Lloyd on whether Mr. Bush satisfied Guard requirements

Personnel Card listing points Mr. Bush earned from May 1972 to May 1973

Service Record showing days Mr. Bush was credited with service from October 1972 to May 1973

Service Record showing days Mr. Bush was credited with service from May 1973 to July 1973

Pay Record listing days of service in 1972 and 1973, along with computer printouts of each quarter

Dental Record showing the results of a dental examination Mr. Bush had on Jan. 6, 1973.

(CBS/AP) President Bush received preferential treatment in gaining entry to the National Guard during the Vietnam War and did not meet standards during his service period, a CBS News interview and newly released documents suggest.

In an interview broadcast Wednesday, former Texas House Speaker and Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes told CBS News Anchor Dan Rather that in 1968, at the request of a Houston businessman friendly with the Bush family, he helped arrange to get George W. Bush into the Texas National Guard.

Having graduated from Yale near the height of the U.S. presence in Vietnam, Mr. Bush could have been drafted. Enlistment in the Guard reduced the chances of being sent overseas.

Barnes, then the 29-year-old speaker of the Texas House, claims he was contacted by the late oilman Sid Adger, a friend to both Barnes and then-Congressman George Bush.

"It's been a long time ago, but he said basically would I help young George Bush get in the Air National Guard," says Barnes, who then contacted his longtime friend Gen. James Rose, the head of Texas' Air National Guard.

"I was a young ambitious politician doing what I thought was acceptable," says Barnes. "It was important to make friends. And I recommended a lot of people for the National Guard during the Vietnam era - as speaker of the house and as lieutenant governor."

"I would describe it as preferential treatment. There were hundreds of names on the list of people wanting to get into the Air National Guard or the Army National Guard," says Barnes.

Mr. Bush has denied he received special treatment.

The White House ascribed Barnes' remarks to political motives. Barnes is an adviser to Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry. A decorated Vietnam combat veteran, Kerry recently has faced questions over his record as a Navy officer and an anti-war protester.

"I chalk it up to the politics they play down in Texas. I've been there. I've seen how it works. But the bottom line is that there's no truth to this," the president's communication director, Dan Bartlett, told Senior White House Correspondent John Roberts.

The president's service record emerged as an issue during the 2000 race and again this winter.

In May 1968, Mr. Bush signed a six-year commitment to fly for the Air Guard. The questions about his service center on how Mr. Bush got into the Guard and whether he fulfilled his duties during a period from mid-1972 to mid-1973, during which Mr. Bush transferred to an Alabama unit because he was working on a campaign there.

Earlier in his military career, Mr. Bush received glowing evaluations from his squadron commander, Col. Jerry Killian. Documents released this week show Mr. Bush with scores of 88 on an airmanship test, 98 on aviation physiology and 100 on navigational abilities.

Killian called Lt. Bush "an exceptionally fine young officer and pilot" who "performed in an outstanding manner." That is part of the public record.

But previously unseen documents from Killian's personal file obtained by 60 Minutes include a memorandum from May 1972, where Killian writes that Lt. Bush called him to talk about "how he can get out of coming to drill from now through November."

Lt. Bush tells his commander "he is working on a campaign in Alabama…. and may not have time to take his physical." Killian adds that he thinks Lt. Bush has gone over his head, and is "talking to someone upstairs."

One of the Killian memos is an official order to Mr. Bush to report for a physical. The president never carried out the order.

In an Aug. 1, 1972 memo, Killian wrote, "On this date I ordered that 1st Lt. Bush be suspended from flight status due to failure to perform to USAF/TexANG standards and failure to meet annual physical examination ... as ordered."

The same memo notes that Mr. Bush was trying to transfer to non-flying status out of state and recommends that the Texas unit fill his flying slot "with a more seasoned pilot from the list of qualified Vietnam pilots that have rotated."

And in a memo from Aug. 18, 1973, Killian says Col. Buck Staudt, the man in charge of the Texas Air National Guard, is putting on pressure to "sugar coat" the evaluation of Lt. Bush.

The memo continues, with Killian saying, "I'm having trouble running interference and doing my job."

The authenticity of at least one of the memos was questioned Thursday by the son of the late officer who reportedly wrote the memos.

"I am upset because I think it is a mixture of truth and fiction here," said Gary Killian, son of Lt. Col. Jerry Killian.

Gary Killian, who served in the Guard with his father and retired as a captain in 1991, said one of the memos, signed by his father, appeared legitimate. But he doubted his father would have written another, unsigned memo which said there was pressure to "sugar coat" Bush's performance review.

"It just wouldn't happen," he said. "The only thing that can happen when you keep secret files like that are bad things. ... No officer in his right mind would write a memo like that."

CBS stood by its reporting. "As is standard practice at CBS News, the documents in the 60 Minutes report were thoroughly examined and their authenticity vouched for by independent experts," CBS News said in a statement. "As importantly, 60 Minutes also interviewed close associates of Colonel Jerry Killian. They confirm that the documents reflect his opinions and actions at the time."

The White House distributed the four memos from 1972 and 1973 after obtaining them from CBS News. The White House did not question their accuracy.

Staudt, a longtime supporter of the Bush family, would not speak to CBS News.

Killian died in 1984. 60 Minutes consulted a handwriting analyst and document expert who believes the material is authentic.

Asked about Killian's statement in a memo about the military's investment in Mr. Bush, Bartlett told CBS News: "For anybody to try to interpret or presume they know what somebody who is now dead was thinking in any of these memos, I think is very difficult to do."

Bartlett also said Mr. Bush's superiors granted permission to train in Alabama in a non-flying status and that "many of the documents you have here affirm just that."

In another revelation, the Boston Globe this week reported that Mr. Bush promised to sign up with a Boston-area Guard unit when he left his Texas unit in 1973 to attend Harvard Business School. Mr. Bush never signed up with a Boston unit.

Bartlett claimed in 1999 that Mr. Bush had joined a Boston unit. Bartlett told the Globe this week that he "misspoke."

Facing poll numbers showing that attacks on Kerry's war record have damaged his candidacy, Democrats were quick to seize on the new questions about Mr. Bush's time in uniform.

Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe said, "George W. Bush needs to answer why he regularly misled the American people about his time in the Guard and who applied political pressure on his behalf to have his performance reviews 'sugarcoated.'"

Meanwhile, a group called Texans for Truth unleashed an ad Wednesday charging President Bush was AWOL from the Alabama National Guard in the summer of 1972.

©MMIV, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Florida Awaits 'Ivan The Terrible'
Another Major Hurricane Could Hit U.S. Early Next Week

• Osama's Deputy On Videotape
• New Scrutiny Of Bush's Service
• Car Bomb Kills 9 In Indonesia
• School Siege Survivor's Tale
Bush, Kerry Trade Domestic Barbs
Democrat Slams Bush On Healthcare; President Blasts Kerry On Taxes

• The Issues: Rx Drug Imports
• Kerry Campaign: What Went Wrong?
• New Scrutiny Of Bush's Service
• House Blocks New Overtime Rules

Back to Top Back To Top

Help  • Advertise  • Contact Us  • Terms of Service  • Privacy Policy
  • CBS News Bios  • Internships
©MMIV, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

• Interactives
• Washington Wrap
• Lynch: Political Points
• Meyer: Against the Grain
• CBS News Polls
• Politics Video
Their War Years
Details of President Bush's Guard service and Sen. Kerry's naval career.

Campaign 2004
In-depth campaign tools: the candidates, the conventions, the issues and more.

Video VideoGo

A day after 60 Minutes aired documents that spark fresh questions about the president's military service, John Roberts reports both campaigns fought furiously to gain advantage.
Video VideoGo

The Pentagon released "newly found files" on the president's National Guard service. Dan Rather reports they may clear up lingering questions about whether he fulfilled his duty.
Video VideoGo

In the wake of new questions about Bush's military record, White House officials insist the president fulfilled his duties and have blamed the latest flap on dirty politics, John Roberts reports.
Video VideoGo

With eight weeks to Election Day, Iraq remains the top issue in the race for the White House. President Bush still defends the war, Kerry calls it a presidential failure, Jim Axelrod reports.
Video VideoGo

An ad put out by a group called 'Texans For Truth' that accuses President Bush of misrepresenting his service in the armed forces. Lt. Col. Robert Mintz (Ret.) speaks in the ad.

Story StoryGo

Bush's Guard Duty Under Microscope
Story StoryGo

Report: Bush Short On Guard Duty
Story StoryGo

Bush Ranked 22 Of 53 Pilots
Story StoryGo

New Vietnam Storm Hits Campaign
Story StoryGo

Missing Papers On Bush's Service
Story StoryGo

Text Of Bush's RNC Speech
Story StoryGo

GOP Puts Kerry On The Spit
Story StoryGo

Saying Nary On Kerry
Story StoryGo

Dan Rather's Convention Journal