Bush military record 'has been destroyed'

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The Independent US

Records that could have helped clarify whether President George Bush fulfilled his Air National Guard duties in Alabama during the Vietnam War, as he has insisted, were inadvertently destroyed several years ago, the Pentagon has conceded.

Records that could have helped clarify whether President George Bush fulfilled his Air National Guard duties in Alabama during the Vietnam War, as he has insisted, were inadvertently destroyed several years ago, the Pentagon has conceded.

Defence officials say that payroll information relating not only to President Bush but to dozens of others serving in the Guard at that time were ruined in 1996 and 1997 during attempts to salvage deteriorating microfiche film.

"The Defence Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) has advised of the inadvertent destruction of microfilm containing certain National Guard payroll records," confirmed C Y Talbott, chief of the Pentagon's freedom of information department, who was responding to requests for access to the records from The New York Times, the Associated Press and other news organisations.

The Pentagon said there were no paper records to back up the information contained on the microfilm.The records were destroyed when staff tried to unspool 2,000ft rolls of the film.

"Those are records we've all been interested in," said James Moore, whose recent book, Bush's War for Re-election, examines the issue. "I think it's curious that the microfiche could resolve what days Mr Bush worked and what days he was paid, and suddenly that is gone."

Mr Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard from 1967 to 1973, mostly as a pilot, but never served in Vietnam. According to the President's version, he moved to Alabama in May 1972 to work on a political campaign and to carry out Guard duty there for one year. His story began to attract attention, however, when other officers from the period said they could not remember seeing him.

The issue is especially sensitive in a campaign where Mr Bush finds himself pitted against John Kerry, a bona fide hero of the Vietnam War era. Mr Kerry has kept a low profile in the controversy.

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