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Texas Cmdr. Praised Bush To Pop

GENERIC George W. Bush, Military Service, Texas National Guard
CBS
A packet of Texas Air National Guard records released Friday showed that the commanding officer of President Bush's basic training unit took a special interest in him as a trainee and wrote to his father to praise his son.

Bush's father, then a congressman from Texas, said in reply to the commander, "That a major general in the Air Force would take interest in a brand new Air Force trainee made a big impression on me."

Bush went on to say that his son "will be a gung ho member" of the Air Force and that Air Force instructors had "helped awaken the very best instincts in my son."

The letter and other material were the latest in a stream of documents released about Bush's service three decades ago during the Vietnam War, when Bush's critics say he got preferential treatment as the son of a congressman and U.N. ambassador. Critics have also questioned why Bush skipped a required medical examination in 1972 and failed to show up for drills during a six-month period that year.

The White House has said repeatedly that all of Bush's Guard records have been disclosed, only to be embarrassed when new documents have turned up. The long-running story took an unusual turn when CBS uncovered documents purportedly showing that Bush refused orders to take a physical examination in 1972 — but then the authenticity of the documents came under doubt.



CBS issued this statement Friday:
"CBS News is determined to answer the questions that have emerged about documents in a report originally broadcast on 60 MINUTES Wednesday. We will continue to aggressively report on those documents and all aspects of the story until the matter is resolved and, when it is, broadcast our findings as soon as possible. The network has provided two e-mail address for viewer feed back, one for general audience viewers and another for 60 Minutes viewers.

In addition to the letter from Bush's father, the latest documents contain news releases that the Texas Air National Guard sent to Houston newspapers in 1970 about young Bush, then a second lieutenant and new pilot. "George Bush is one member of the younger generation who doesn't get his kicks from pot or hashish or speed," the news release said. "Oh, he gets high, all right, but not from narcotics."

Three decades later, a new book by Kitty Kelley has alleged that Bush used cocaine while he was a student at Yale University and later at Camp David while his father was president.

The White House has denounced Kelley's book, "The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty," and denied the charges.

The new packet of documents also contained two single-page orders documenting Bush's guard training in May and June of 1973 after he returned from Alabama. Those documents note that Bush was not allowed to fly. A year earlier, he had lost his flying status when he failed to take a required medical exam.

The letter written by Bush's father, former President Bush, was addressed to Maj. Gen. G.B. Greene Jr., commander of the training center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where Bush took his basic training. The file does not contain Greene's letter to Bush's father, but shows the letter his father wrote back.

"I was surprised and very, very pleased to receive your letter of Aug. 27th," Bush wrote, adding that he was impressed that a senior officer would take interest in a new trainee.

"Naturally, as a father I was pleased to read your comments about George," Bush wrote. "He is anxiously looking forward to going to flight school and with parental pride, I do have the feeling that he will be a gung ho member of the U.S. Air Force. I think that he will make a good pilot as well."

The letter went on to say that young Bush, on his first trip back home, was full of enthusiasm and kept the family up talking about his first instructor, Sgt. Henry Onacki, who had impressed Bush with his love of country and dedication to the Air Force.

"In this day and age when it has become a little bit fashionable to be critical of the military, I was delighted to see him return to our house with a real pride in the service and with a great respect for the leaders that he had encountered at Lackland."

Both Mr. Bush's and John Kerry's military service records have become a major issue in the presidential race. New records that have surfaced in recent weeks have raised more questions.

Mr. Bush's critics say the president got preferential treatment as the son of a congressman and U.N. ambassador. Critics also question why Mr. Bush skipped a required medical examination in 1972 and failed to show up for drills during a six-month period that year.

Mr. Bush has repeatedly said he fulfilled all of his Air National Guard obligations.

The controversy over Mr. Bush's military service sharpened last week when CBS News' 60 Minutes disclosed memos said to be written by the late Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, Mr. Bush's National Guard commander.

The memos indicated that Killian had been pressured to sugarcoat Mr. Bush's performance, and that the future president had ignored an order to take a physical.

The authenticity of the memos have been challenged by critics who say the documents appear to have been prepared on a modern computer rather than a 1970-era typewriter, as would have been the case when Mr. Bush was in the guard.

Skeptics have also said the memos contain stylistic differences with other documents attributed to Killian, dated information and improper military lingo. Meanwhile, associates of the Col. Killian are split on whether the content of the memos reflected his thinking at the time.

CBS flew Killian's former secretary, Marian Carr Knox, 86, from Texas to New York for an interview. In the interview, Knox said she believed the documents were fake, but their content accurately reflected Killian's opinions.

"I know that I didn't type them," she said. "However, the information in those is correct."

Acknowledging questions raised about the documents suggesting lapses in Mr. Bush's National Guard service, CBS News promised a concerted effort to determine their authenticity while standing by its story.

"Enough questions have been raised that we are going redouble our efforts to answer those questions," CBS News President Andrew Heyward said.