File photo of President Bush with Texas National Guard fighter plane
Reuters file
George W. Bush is shown climbing the steps to his Texas National Guard fighter plane in this undated photo.
updated 10/15/2004 5:56:00 PM ET 2004-10-15T21:56:00

Weeks after Texas National Guard officials signed an oath swearing they had turned over all of President Bush’s military records, independent examiners found more than two dozen pages of previously unreleased documents about Bush.

The two retired Army lawyers went through Texas files under an agreement between the Texas Guard and The Associated Press, which sued to gain access to the files. The 31 pages of documents turned over to AP Thursday night include orders for high-altitude training in 1972, less than three months before Bush abruptly quit flying as a fighter pilot.

The discovery is the latest in a series of embarrassments for Pentagon and Texas National Guard officials who have repeatedly said they found and released all of Bush’s Vietnam-era military files, only to belatedly discover more records. Those discoveries — nearly 100 pages, including Bush’s pay records and flight logs — have been the result of freedom of information lawsuits filed in federal and Texas courts by AP.

A Texas National Guard spokesman defended the continuing discoveries, saying Guard officials didn’t find all of Bush’s records because they are disorganized and in poor shape.

“These boxes are full of dirt and rat (excrement) and dead bugs. They have never been sitting in an uncontrolled climate,” said Lt. Col. John Stanford. “It’s a tough task to go through archives that were not set up in a way that you could easily go through them.”

Two Texas officials had signed sworn affidavits insisting they had reviewed the files in those boxes and released copies of all that related to Bush’s 1968-1973 Guard service, however.

Bush’s time in the Texas Air National Guard has come under scrutiny in this wartime election season. Some Democrats accuse Bush of shirking his Guard duties in 1972 and 1973, when Bush didn’t show up for training for as long as six months at a time. Democrats have contrasted nominee John Kerry’s combat service in Vietnam with Bush’s stateside service as an F-102A fighter pilot in Texas.

Bush says he fulfilled all of his service obligations and did nothing wrong. The newly released documents shed no new light on the most controversial periods of Bush’s guard tenure.

Texas Tech University law school professors Richard D. Rosen and Calvin Lewis, both former Army lawyers, reviewed the boxes of files earlier this week under an agreement in the AP lawsuit. They found three other boxes with files from Bush’s unit that previous searches did not turn up, Stanford said.

The newly released documents include a January 1972 order for Bush to attend three days of “physiological training” at Laredo Air Force Base in Texas. His Texas payroll and attendance records, released earlier, show Bush was credited for serving on active duty training for the three days involved.

At the time, pilots had to renew their high-altitude training every three years, said retired Maj. Gen. Paul A. Weaver Jr., a former head of the Air National Guard. Bush’s first altitude training came in 1969 when he was in pilot school at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.

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The training involved instruction about the effects of lack of oxygen on the body and exercises in which the pilots are exposed under supervision to the thin air of high altitudes. The purpose is to familiarize pilots with the effects of lack of oxygen so they can recognize them and take appropriate action to avoid blacking out at the controls.

The altitude training came six weeks before Bush began an unexplained string of flights on two-seat training jets and simulators. On April 12, 1972, Bush took his last flight in the single-seat F-102A fighter.

The future president skipped a required yearly medical exam and was ordered grounded as of August 1972. Bush says he missed the exam because he was planning to train with an Alabama Air National Guard unit which did not fly the F-102A.

Bush went to Alabama that year to work on the U.S. Senate campaign of a family friend.

Records show Bush did no Guard training at all between mid-April and late October 1972. He’s credited with six days of training in October and November 1972, presumably with the Alabama unit.

The Alabama unit’s commanders say they never saw Bush or any paperwork showing he performed drills there. A January 1973 document says Bush got a dental examination at the Alabama unit’s base.

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