Letter from Bush Squadron-mate

Washington Times today publishes a letter to the editor from a Colonel William Campenni vouching for George Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard:

George Bush and I were lieutenants and pilots in the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS) . . .


The mission of the 147th Fighter Group and its subordinate 111th FIS, Texas ANG, and the airplane it possessed, the F-102, was air defense. It was focused on defending the continental United States from Soviet nuclear bombers. The F-102 could not drop bombs and would have been useless in Vietnam. A pilot program using ANG volunteer pilots in F-102s (called Palace Alert) was scrapped quickly after the airplane proved to be unsuitable to the war effort. Ironically, Lt. Bush did inquire about this program but was advised by an ANG supervisor (Maj. Maurice Udell, retired) that he did not have the desired experience (500 hours) at the time and that the program was winding down and not accepting more volunteers.

If you check the 111th FIS records of 1970-72 and any other ANG squadron, you will find other pilots excused for career obligations and conflicts. The Bush excusal in 1972 was further facilitated by a change in the unit’s mission, from an operational fighter squadron to a training squadron with a new airplane, the F-101, which required that more pilots be available for full-time instructor duty rather than part-time traditional reservists with outside employment.

Interesting. If this checks out, I suspect it will be more compelling than the pay stubs and whatnot released yesterday.

Hat tip: Bithead

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tuna says:

    This doesn’t clear up anything about the question of Bush’s attendance in 1972 and 1973. Nobody has disputed that Bush served his duties in Texas in 1970 and 1971.

    There’s a clever bit of re-direction on the drug test issue. Bush himself claims that he hasn’t used drugs since 1974. This clearly begs the question, was he taking narcotics while serving in the National Guard? Bush has not denied this, only responding that he quit using drugs in 1974 and quit drinking alcohol on his 40th birthday.

    In addition, Bush’s spot in the Guard was secured by a family friend to keep Bush out of Vietnam. Yes, it is dangerous to fly a jet anytime, but there was considerable less risk serving in Texas’ Champagne Unit. Let’s not forget that Ben Barnes, the former Texas Lt. Governor that arranged for Bush’s spot in TANG, testified to the fact in a 1998 whistleblower lawsuit concerning the Texas Lottery commission. So this isn’t necessarily just a 30 year old issue.

    This letter indicates that Bush did serve in Texas during an undisputed period. Great. But Rove needs to find people that served with Bush in Alabama if he wants to defuse this issue.

  2. McGehee says:

    Funny how Bush has to prove his innocence, which makes it possible to disregard any evidence offered because the standard of evidence is set by those demanding to be convinced.

    Nuh-uh, Tuna. Your guys have to prove something here, not Bush.

  3. Desert Cat says:

    If you read the entire letter at the Times (not just the excerpt here) it did go a long way to explaining just that, given the circumstances at the end of the war with a glut of pilots, etc. Of course it is up to you as to whether you put any credence in it.

    Anyway the demands yesterday were, “where are his comrades”, not “why can’t they explain his whereabouts in minute detail thirty years later?”

    Something tells me the partisans will not be satisfied, no matter what evidence is presented for their consideration.

    Perhaps conducting a seance in order to have a press conference with Maj. William Harris and Lt. Col. Jerry Killian would do the trick?

    The continuing pursuit of this issue is beginning to smack of tinfoil-hat nuttiness. Either that or it is a concerted effort to blow smoke to cover what is known about Kerry’s dishonorable post-discharge activities.

  4. Kate says:

    I’m waiting for Kevin Drum to do a trackback.

  5. Tuna says:


    I don’t have anything to prove. I think this AWOL issue is a moot point. If I was digging for dirty, I’d focus on the relationship between George W. Bush and Ben Barnes (the guy who pulled strings to get Bush into TANG). In case you don’t know, Ben Barnes made $20+ million as a lobbyist in Texas while representing GTech, and Governor Bush’s office assured GTech a no-bid contract to operate the Texas Lottery. In 1997, a whistleblower lawsuit forced Barnes to testify that he pulled strings for Bush in ’68. If the Dems want to make political hay, I think they would have more luck going in that direction.

    But it’s a joke to think that this letter clears anything up. This guy was flying in Pennsylvania in 1972 IIRC. He wasn’t anywhere close to Alabama, and can offer no testimony of Bush’s activities during the disputed time period. The Dems have called for any of Bush’s Alabama Guard buddies to vouch for him, not his Texas Guard buddies. No offense, but what is this letter supposed to prove?

    I’m from Texas, and have heard these discussions about Bush’s record for nearly a decade now. I don’t expect any serious political fallout from these allegations. But I am certainly familiar with his family history, and it’s common knowledge that Bush was a party guy while he was in the guard. I’m not sure if the ardent Bush defenders are trying to say that this activity doesn’t matter or if they are trying to deny it. I don’t think that it really matters now, but Bush shouldn’t be ashamed to speak of it.

  6. Kate says:

    “But I am certainly familiar with his family history, and it’s common knowledge that Bush was a party guy while he was in the guard.”

    I lived for several years just outside CFB Cold Lake in the late 70’s, early 80’s.

    They were ALL party guys.

  7. Frank says:

    Was I the only one to notice that the letter writer defended Bush’s non-call up saying blame Johnson, not Bush? Nixon was the President at the time.

  8. James Joyner says:

    Frank–True. But Johnson was the President who was most responsible for decisions in Vietnam. Nixon took over explicitly promising to get us out of there with honor.

  9. Paul says:

    Interesting. If this checks out, I suspect it will be more compelling than the pay stubs and whatnot released yesterday.

    James I don’t know I’ve ever accused you of being naive.

    The dems don’t give a shit about the truth. They know they have nothing. They are proving right the critics that say they are the party of sleaze.

    Look at Kevin Drum’s site and tell me these people are sane and rational. If so I have so swamp land for you.

  10. James Joyner says:


    True enough. But I’m not concerned about the radical left–just the swing voters.