Military career of Pres. Bush

Jordan Rushie

The military career of George W. Bush on May 27, 1968, 12 days before his student deferment ran out during the height of the Vietnam War, when the death rate was roughly 350 soldiers per week.

The son of Congressman George H.W. Bush was placed in the 147th Fighter-Interceptor Group at Ellington Air Force Base, Houston.

Despite scoring in the 25th percentile on his “pilot aptitude” test, the minimum requirement for being able to operate a military aircraft, Bush was selected to attend pilot training. In fact, he was sworn in as an airman the same day he applied.

Bush later described his reasoning for joining the Texas Air National Guard. According to the Houston Chronicle, on May 8, 1994, he said, “I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes.”

He was then assigned to fly the F-102 Delta Dagger. The Air Force had ordered all overseas F-102 units shut down as of June 30, 1970, just three months after Bush finished his flight training. Since flight training is specific to a pilot’s plane, it would be impossible for Bush to ever see any combat.

Bush’s entrance to the Guard would eventually become the subject of many inquiries.

During his 1994 campaign against Ann Richards for governor of Texas, she accused him of buying his way into the Guard and using his father’s influence in order to avoid overseas military combat.

Bush insisted that he did not receive any special treatment in getting into the Guard. “I’m proud of my service and any allegation that my dad asked for special favors is simply not true,” he said. “I don’t believe I received any special treatment.”

Bush and his staff claimed that he was placed ahead of the other 150 applicants on the waiting list because he was willing to fly an airplane and there were openings. “I can tell you what happened. Nothing happened. My Guard unit was looking for pilots and I flew for the Guard,” Bush said.

However, according to Tom Hail, historian for the Texas Air National Guard, there was no pilot shortage in the Guard squadron at that time.

Bush’s unit had 27 pilots at the time. While they were authorized for 29 pilots, there were two more already in training and one awaiting a transfer, in addition to the waiting list.

Many people were curious about Bush’s ability to avoid serving in the Vietnam War. Could it have been just a mere coincidence or was there more to the story?

According to Ben Barnes, former Texas House Speaker and lieutenant governor, he was the one behind Bush’s rise to the top of the National Guard.

When this news first broke it was not a major scandal due to the fact that Barnes is a democrat, making it seem very hard to believe he would do Bush any special favors.

But when Ben Barnes was subpoenaed in 1998, he testified that he indeed landed Bush his cushy position in the Texas Air National Guard. Barnes admitted that he suggested to General James Rose, commander of the Guard, at the request of close Bush friend and oil baron Sidney Adger, that he find a safe spot for him.

To the public, Barnes said, “I got a young man named George W. Bush into the National Guard when I was Lieutenant Governor of Texas … and I’m not necessarily proud of that, but I did it.

“And I got a lot of other people in the National Guard because I thought that was what people should do when you’re in office, you helped a lot of rich people… and I walked through the Vietnam Memorial the other day and I looked at the names of the people who died in Vietnam and I became more ashamed of myself than I have ever been… because the worst thing I did, was kept a lot of wealthy supporters, and a lot of people who had family names of importance get into the National Guard, and I’m very sorry for that, and I’m very ashamed, and I apologize to you as voters of Texas.”

According to the Dallas Morning News on July 4, 1999, when confronted with all of this, Bush responded, “There was no special treatment. I don’t know if Ben Barnes did or did not [put me into the Air National Guard] – but he was not asked by me or my dad.”

The fact remains that many of the 150 men on the Texas Air National Guard waiting list eventually died in Vietnam in combat, a war George H.W. Bush supported. Congressman Bush sent thousands of men off to die in Vietnam, but when it came to his own son, he found a safe spot for him in the National Guard.

The Bush camp claims that their family had no knowledge of Bush receiving special treatment in order to be placed in the Guard unit – Adger worked of his free will to put him in a safe stateside unit where he could work on political campaigns and eventually attend Harvard’s MBA School. What reason would Adger, a close friend of the Bush family, have for making sure Bush got a safe position in the National Guard?

I’m not sure. But, in the words of Greg Palast, “I’m not complaining, mind you. After all, the Bush family has given us the best democracy money can buy.”

Maybe money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy your way out of Vietnam.