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White House Releases Bush Military Service Records - 2004-02-14

The White House has released more documents relating to the president's military service during the Vietnam War to answer opposition charges that Mr. Bush failed to show up for some of his National Guard duty.

The White House has released what it says is the president's entire record of service in the Texas Air National Guard.

Mr. Bush trained as a fighter pilot in the voluntary state militia where, after six months of basic training, most guardsmen complete their service part-time.

Mr. Bush joined the guard in 1968, as U.S. troop levels in Vietnam were reaching their height. Four years later, he was allowed a temporary re-assignment to Alabama so he could work on the Senate campaign of a friend of his father, who was then a U.S. Congressman.

Democrats question whether Mr. Bush used his father's political connections to get into the guard and avoid the draft. After the transfer, Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe says the president failed to show up for duty in Alabama as there are no records of his service there between May of 1972 and May of 1973.

The White House last week responded by releasing documents showing he was paid during that time, but those records did not indicate where that service was performed. So the administration released dental records showing that he was examined at a guard base in Alabama in January of 1973.

But that failed to quiet media demands that the president meet a televised promise to release all his documents. So the administration late Friday complied with a thick stack of papers detailing the president's service in Texas.

White House communications director Dan Bartlett said the files were released to dispel what he says is this wrong impression that there was something to hide.

While the documents provide new details of the president's life during his days as a first lieutenant in the Texas guard, they may not end the political controversy as they offer no further proof of service in Alabama during the time in question. The files do include several glowing assessments of Mr. Bush. One by Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian, who called him a dynamic, outstanding young officer who stands out as a top-notch pilot. It called him a natural leader who his contemporaries look to for leadership and said Mr. Bush should be promoted well ahead of his contemporaries.

The issue of the president's military service is particularly attractive for Democrats as the frontrunner for the party's nomination to challenge Mr. Bush is Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who is a decorated Vietnam veteran.

Mr. Bartlett said all the records show Mr. Bush fulfilled his obligation in the guard and was honorably discharged. He said anyone who says otherwise is more interested in what he called partisan conspiracy theories than getting to the truth.