Internet claim on Bush award disputed

By GENE J. KOPROWSKI, United Press International   |   Sept. 13, 2004 at 3:32 PM   |   0 comments

CHICAGO, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- The Air Force has knocked down allegations by a Web site that said President Bush, when serving as an officer in the Texas Air National Guard, wore a ribbon he was not authorized to wear -- a military offense that could have led to a bad-conduct discharge from the service if true.

The original story was offered to United Press International during late August by operatives from Democrats.com, an Internet activist group whose founder had earlier this year served as a source for The Boston Globe and other media outlets on stories about Bush's service in the guard in the 1960s and 1970s.

A summary of the story was also posted on the DemocraticUnderground.com Web site by Walt Starr of Democrats.com last month, along with a photo from the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library of Lt. George W. Bush wearing the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.

An e-mail message to UPI on Aug. 27 from Bob Fertik, founder of Democrats.com, stated, "Walt Starr called the Air Force and discovered that the only AFOUA given to Bush's unit was in 1975 -- five years after the photo. Case closed!"

The Air Force and the White House last week in interviews with UPI said the allegations were misleading. White House spokesman Trent Duffy referred UPI to the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Colorado where Technical Sgt. Rob Mims is the spokesman.

Mims said the claims were "not true. I verified that (Thursday). Lieutenant Bush received Air Force Outstanding Unit Award while he was in basic training with the 3724th Basic Military Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas."

Starr sent UPI a copy of a file of his research, including correspondence he had with the Air Force seeking to obtain the service records of Bush.

"This means, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that George W. Bush was photographed wearing a ribbon he clearly did not earn," wrote Starr. He said awards earned by the unit were given before Bush joined the unit.

Mims said that personnel records in the military are often incomplete due to "clerical errors."

"But I did verify that that unit did get the award while he (Bush) was there," said Mims.

The sergeant added that the photo in question was "taken after pilot training."

Mims said he confirmed his information about the medal with the Air Force's history office. "It's all there in black and white, we've spelled it out," said Mims.

The White House, through Duffy, said: "Lieutenant Bush at the time was completely authorized to wear those ribbons he has in those pictures. He could only wear those ribbons if he has the wings. He earned his wings in 1969."

When contacted by UPI Monday about the Air Force's statements, Fertik refused to comment.

The news of the Air Force and White House disproving the allegations about the Bush medal came Friday, as CBS News and other news organizations were reeling from the disclosure that they had published or aired possibly forged documents about Bush's military service record.

The source of the CBS story has not been disclosed, but CBS is conducting an internal investigation into the controversy.

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(Please send comments to nationaldesk@upi.com.)

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