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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush Releases Disputed Military Records

WASHINGTON -- The White House released 18 months of U.S. President George W. Bush's National Guard payroll records Tuesday, showing what administration officials asserted was proof that Bush had fully completed his service in the guard during the Vietnam War.

But the records, which the White House obtained from blurry 30-year-old microfiche files in Colorado, only show the specific days in 1972 and 1973, 82 in all, that Bush was paid for his service.

Although Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said the documents "clearly show that the president fulfilled his duties," he would not say, under repeated questioning at a contentious White House briefing, that the records definitively prove that Bush reported for duty on those dates.

"These documents show the days on which he was paid," McClellan said. "That's what they show." The president, he said, "does recall showing up and performing his duties."

McClellan could not say why some of Bush's commanding officers did not recall his turning up on the dates he was paid, but he suggested they might have forgotten.

"We're talking about 30 years ago," McClellan said.

The White House released the records under intense election-year pressure from the Democrats, who have accused a president who sent men and women into battle in Iraq and Afghanistan of shirking his own military duty during Vietnam. Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has called Bush "AWOL," or absent without leave, from the National Guard. Senator John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran who is the Democratic front-runner, has repeatedly called on the president to answer questions about his record.

The White House has appeared to be caught off balance by the aggressiveness of the Democrats, who have put Bush in the rare defensive position of having to respond to their attacks.

By Monday night, White House officials said they had obtained the payroll records, which they said they had not previously known were available, from the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver.

After the release of the records Tuesday, Kerry then said he had no comment. "It's not my record that's at issue, and I don't have any questions about it," he said between campaign stops in Tennessee and Virginia.

The payroll and other records show that Bush did not report for service from mid-April to late October 1972, a period when he was working as the campaign manager for Winton Blount, a Republican Senate candidate in Alabama and a friend of his father.

Bush never served in Vietnam. His service in the guard has previously erupted as a political issue in his two campaigns for governor of Texas and his 2000 presidential campaign. Then, as now, the period in contention has always been May 1972 to May 1973, and where, when and how often Bush reported for duty during that time.

What is indisputable is that for part of that year, from May 1972 through November 1972, Bush lived in Alabama to work on Blount's campaign. He received permission to train with an Alabama unit of the Guard while there, and has always said he reported for duty.

But one of Bush's commanding officers, Lieutenant Colonel William Turnipseed, has said that while he is not sure, he does not remember Bush reporting for duty. He also has said, however, that he does not recall how often he himself was not on the base at that time. The Alabama Guard, meanwhile, has no record of Bush's service in the state.