More than a week after a court-imposed deadline to turn over all records of President George W. Bush’s military service, the Texas Air National Guard belatedly produced two documents Tuesday that include Bush’s orders for his last day of active duty in 1973.
The orders show Bush was on “no-fly” status for his last days of duty because he had been grounded almost a year earlier for skipping an annual medical exam.
The files, released to The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, are orders for Bush to appear for two stints of active-duty training: a 1971 exercise in Canada and eight days of duty in July 1973.
The records released Tuesday are the fifth set of documents related to Bush’s Vietnam-era National Guard service to be released in response to the AP lawsuit. The federal judge overseeing that case ordered the Pentagon to disclose all of Bush’s records by Sept. 24. Tuesday’s four pages of records were the second set of files released after that deadline.
The Texas Air National Guard did not explain the delay in releasing the records.
The 1973 orders come from the most controversial period in Bush’s years in the Texas Air National Guard. After May 1972, Bush skipped training for six months, failed to appear for the required physical examination, got permission to train at an Alabama unit whose commanders say he never showed up and put in a flurry of training in 1973 in an effort to meet minimum requirements before leaving for Harvard Business School.
Bush has insisted he fulfilled all of his Air National Guard duties and says he is proud of his service. Democrats have criticized Bush’s Guard performance, saying he shirked his duties in his final years in the service.
By July 1973, Bush was finishing a four-month stretch that included 40 days of active-duty service and drills. The orders released Tuesday direct Bush to report for equivalent active-duty training for eight days in July 1973.
The equivalent-training notation means Bush was making up for active-duty training he either had already missed or would be unavailable for in the future. The orders do not say what Bush would be doing since he could not participate in the job code listed on the orders — F-102A fighter pilot.
The last day of the orders is July 30, 1973, Bush’s final day in the Texas Air National Guard. Previously released documents include a form Bush signed that day stating he had been counseled on his plans to leave his Texas unit because he was moving out of the area.
Bush started Harvard Business School in September 1973 and the Texas Air National Guard honorably discharged Bush into the Air Force Reserves, effective Oct. 1 of that year. The Air Force discharged Bush in November 1974.
The records released Tuesday also include orders for an August 1971 training mission in Canada, where Bush impressed his commanders. An evaluation written nine months later said Bush’s “skills as an interceptor pilot enabled him to complete all his ADC (Air Defense Command) intercept missions during the Canadian deployment with ease.”
With national security and the war on terrorism looming large in the November elections, supporters of Bush and Democratic nominee John Kerry are attacking the other candidate’s military records. Republicans have accused Kerry, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, of fabricating the events that led to his five medals. Democrats point to gaps in Bush’s Air National Guard service in the United States in 1972 and 1973 to say Bush shirked his duty.