Sun, Jul 25, 2004 - Page 7 News List

George W. Bush's service records surface

SUMMER OF '72 The Pentagon has released information it had previously said it didn't have. But we still don't know for sure how Bush spent a long-ago summer in Alabama


Now you don't see them, now you do.

Missing payroll records of US President George W. Bush's disputed service in the National Guard have turned up, more than five months after the White House reported them lost and four weeks to the day after the Defense Department said they were inadvertently destroyed, the Pentagon reported Friday.

The records -- two half-sheets of paper covered with codes and numbers -- confirm what other previously released records already show and the White House has acknowledged: that former 1st Lieutenant Bush did not perform service in the third quarter of 1972, when he left his Texas Air National Guard unit to transfer to Alabama where he worked on a political campaign.

But the records, released in response to a reporter's Freedom of Information request, do little to resolve other questions about how and where Bush performed his prescribed military service between May 1972 and May 1973.

Two other sets of payroll records, previously released, appear to conflict over whether Bush earned any service credits at all in 1972, but a White House spokeswoman attributed the discrepancy to accounting procedures.

The spokeswoman, Claire Buchan, said, "All the military records demonstrate he fully fulfilled his service."

How Bush got into the National Guard in 1968 during the Vietnam War and pursued his six-year commitment became an issue in his campaigns for Texas governor and president.

It erupted again in February when Democrats supporting Senator John Kerry said Bush had gone absent without leave, citing official reports that he had not been seen by military officers in Alabama. The White House on Feb. 10 countered by releasing hundreds of pages of National Guard records showing, in part, that Bush had accumulated sufficient payroll credits to back up his honorable, and early, discharge in October 1973, to attend Harvard Business School.

In releasing the data, the administration said that it was not including the payroll records from the third quarter of 1972 because, according to the Defense Financial Accounting Service, they "were apparently lost when they were being transferred to microfiche."

The Pentagon's Office of Freedom of Information and Security Review, on June 25, also omitted those records and ones from the first quarter of 1969 when it provided hundreds of pages of Bush's National Guard file -- basically what the White House had already released last February -- in response to a request filed Feb. 10 by The New York Times.

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