Even so, the Bush administration has made it difficult for researchers to gain access to unclassified Guard files. For months, all requests relating to Bush's military service were referred to one public affairs officer at the Pentagon, Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke. The Freedom of Information Act officer assigned to the Bush records case, James Hogan, declines to talk directly to reporters.
This week, in response to complaints about lack of access, the Pentagon permitted a Post reporter to inspect records held by the Air National Guard history office in Crystal City. The Post has so far been unable to gain access to more detailed records preserved by the 147th in Houston or the Texas adjutant general's office, including a collection of "special orders" that could shed light on Bush's Guard service.
_____More From The Post_____
Parallels Drawn Between CBS Memos, Texan's Postings (The Washington Post, Sep 18, 2004)
CBS Guard Documents Traced to Tex. Kinko's (The Washington Post, Sep 16, 2004)
Gaps in Service Continue to Dog Bush (The Washington Post, Sep 12, 2004)
Some Question Authenticity of Papers on Bush (The Washington Post, Sep 10, 2004)
Records Say Bush Balked at Order (The Washington Post, Sep 9, 2004)
After Decades, Renewed War On Old Conflict (The Washington Post, Aug 28, 2004)
Swift Boat Accounts Incomplete (The Washington Post, Aug 22, 2004)
Records Counter a Critic of Kerry (The Washington Post, Aug 19, 2004)
Most records at the Air National Guard history office are unclassified unit histories releasable to the public. But the Pentagon failed to release the 147th unit history until Sept. 17, more than six months after the Associated Press filed Freedom of Information Act lawsuits for them and five years after reporters first began requesting them.
A Nov. 28, 1999, letter to the National Guard history office from a Texas National Guard historian, Tom Hail, noted that the 147th unit's histories were generating great interest "by the press scouring for dirt on Governor G.W. Bush." He said requests for copies of the documents were being handled through the Freedom of Information Act process. A Guard public relations officer, Col. Tom Schultz, said more research was required to establish what happened to the 1999 requests.
The unit histories undermine the initial contention of the Bush camp that he gave up flying because his services as an F-102 pilot were no longer needed. They show that the F-102 remained the workhorse of the 147th through mid-1972, when Bush moved from Texas to Alabama to take part in a political campaign, even as pilots were being trained on the more sophisticated F-101. Fifteen F-102 planes were in service in the 147th that year, compared with 18 planes in 1968, the year Bush joined the Guard.
The use of F-102s expanded in October 1972, when the group assumed a new "24-hour active alert mission" to safeguard the southern boundary of the United States against "surprise attack," according to the unit history. The new mission required that two F-102 fighter-interceptors be on five-minute alert at all times. The plane was not phased out until September 1974, 2 1/2 years after Bush stopped flying.
The unit histories also cast doubt on a 1999 statement by Bush that there were "five or six flying slots available" in the 147th when he first expressed an interest in applying, in January 1968. At that time, the unit was two pilots short of its assigned strength of 29 pilots. Two pilots were undergoing training to take over the positions, and one pilot was on the transfer list.
Researcher Alice Crites contributed to this report.