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Bush and Vietnam

From the "Wolf Blitzer Reports" staff

Wolf Blitzer Reports
George W. Bush

NEW YORK (CNN) -- It's an issue that has dogged the president almost since the day he first entered the political arena, as illustrated in a add that said, "George Bush used his father to get into the National Guard, was grounded and then went missing."

The recent ad was created to counter ads attacking John Kerry's Vietnam War service put out by the group calling itself the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Bush's guard record was an issue when he ran for president four years ago, and it erupted again early this year when filmmaker Michael Moore denounced the president as a "deserter" in his documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Then, there were these remarks from Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, "He went to Alabama for a year while he was in the National Guard, and he never showed up. I mean, I would call it AWOL."

The White House was quick to dismiss the charges as outrageous and baseless.

But despite their efforts, Bush campaign officials have been unable to clear up the apparent gaps in the president's military records.

There is no conclusive evidence that Bush's father -- who was a congressman at the time -- used his influence to get his son a highly-sought-after place in the Texas Air National Guard.

But according to the Boston Globe and other reports, Bush jumped to the top of a waiting list of 500.

The Globe also says he was assigned to flight school despite scoring 25 percent on a pilot aptitude test -- the lowest acceptable grade.

Bush joined the Guard right after he graduated from Yale and 12 days before his student deferment was to expire in 1968.

It was the height of the Vietnam War when more than 300 American troops were being killed every week.

Bush did what a lot of American men of draft age did during the war: join the National Guard or the Reserve.

Many others who didn't regard the military as an option burned their draft cards, sought medical or marriage deferments, went to prison or fled to Canada.

Tens of thousands were drafted, and there were those like John Kerry who enlisted and volunteered for combat in Vietnam.

Bush was honorably discharged from the guard in 1973, eight months before his six-year commitment was scheduled to end.

Still unresolved even today are the attendance gaps in his Guard service.

Bush flew for 22 months and never flew again after being suspended from flight status in 1972 for not taking a required annual physical exam.

Adding to the controversy, the question over whether he did part of his guard service in Alabama.

The Boston Globe, the Washington Post and others who examined Bush's military records say they do not support Bush's claims he did in fact do Guard duty in Alabama.

To substantiate Bush's version, the White House in February released what it said were all of Bush's military records.

"If you look at these records," said White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, "these records document that the president fulfilled his duties."

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