When the news came out that President Bush's Air National Guard records had been "inadvertently" destroyed, the anti-Bushes said they suspected there was more to the story than the Pentagon was revealing.

The payroll records, which would indicate where Lt. Bush served in Alabama from May to August 1972, were lost when the microfilm was destroyed by Defense Department payroll employees.

No records exist for three crucial months, and his National Guard unit members say they never saw him. The White House said they're sure he was there during that period.

I am one of the few people who know where he was.

Bush was grabbed off his base in May of 1972 by a CIA operative and flown to Langley, where he was told, "Georgie boy, we want you to parachute into Vietnam and find out if the Viet Cong are smuggling weapons of mass destruction along the Ho Chi Minh Trail."

"Yes, sir."

"Your mission will be top secret, and must never be revealed."

"What's my cover?"

"We have listed you as serving in the Air National Guard. Your records will show you were in Alabama."

"This could be the makings of a movie."

"Now here comes the hard part. If you are captured, we will deny we ever heard of you. You will be on your own."

"I can't even tell Dad?"

"No, and you can't mention it to a Higher Being, either."

"My lips are sealed."

Bush was flown to an aircraft carrier, where he was dropped behind enemy lines, near Haiphong. He had a map, a pistol, a knife and a shortwave radio. He was ordered to communicate every other night.

On his first night he radioed to Langley.

"No WMD on Ho Chi Minh Trail. Natives say they were moved to Cambodia a few weeks ago. Do you want me to go to Cambodia?"

"Stay where you are and keep your ear to the ground."

A few nights later Bush messaged his contact at the CIA.

"I just heard from an unimpeachable source that Ho Chi Minh's people and an al Qaeda terrorist met in Prague. I will swear on a stack of Bibles there is a connection between the two."

"Good work -- this is the kind of stuff the White House needs if it wants to justify our involvement in Vietnam. Any news where Ho Chi Minh is hiding out?"

"No one is talking. Even our offer of $25 million has no takers."

"How's the war going?"

"It has to get worse before it gets better. But American power always wins over sandal-footed insurgents."

The next day, Langley radioed, "How long will it take for Vietnam to become a democracy?"

"Any day now. Can I come home?"

"We're sending a special-ops team to get you out. You'll be flown to Saigon and then sent by submarine to Mobile, Alabama, where you will rejoin your National Guard outfit. You are not to talk to anyone about what you did for the last three months."

"What about my pay?"

"We've destroyed your records."

"Hot dog."

(c)2004 Tribune Media Services