WASHINGTON – The White House released more documents to support President Bush's service in the Alabama Air National Guard (search), while several members of the Guard unit said in interviews they don't remember ever seeing Bush at their Montgomery base. But, they told The Associated Press, that doesn't mean he didn't serve.
Bush, who piloted jets as a Guard 1st lieutenant in Texas, was assigned temporarily to the unit in Alabama in 1972, where he worked on a political campaign for a family friend. Democrats have charged there is no proof that Bush actually showed up for duty.
"I don't remember seeing him. That does not mean he was not there," said Wayne Rambo, who was a first lieutenant with the 187th Supply Squadron at Dannelly Air National Guard Base at the time. The AP contacted more than a dozen former members of the unit on Wednesday, and none could recall ever running into Bush.
However, all were quick to point out that it was a large unit with up to 800 members and Bush was not a celebrity then.
Retired Maj. Norman Rahn, 74, who was with the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group in 1972-73, said he doubts anyone would remember an out-of-state pilot who spent a total of six to 10 days on base in a three-month period 32 years ago.
"He was not a member of our unit," Rahn told the AP on Wednesday. "We didn't own him."
The White House hardened its defense of Bush's National Guard service, saying documents released Tuesday and Wednesday had proven that Bush fulfilled his military obligation.
Bush's spokesman, Scott McClellan (search), said requests for additional records show that some people "are more interested in trolling for trash for political gain" with the presidential election nine months away.
The White House late Wednesday released a copy of a dental evaluation Bush had at Dannelly on Jan. 6, 1973, which McClellan said documented that the president had served in Alabama as required.
The White House obtained the dental record, along with other medical records it did not release, from the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver, McClellan said. The record was accompanied by a statement from Dr. Richard J. Tubb, the president's current physician, who stated that he read Bush's records, which covered a period from 1968 to 1973, and concurred with the doctors' assertion that Bush was "fit" for service.
"The records reflect no disqualifying medical information," Tubb said.
Meanwhile, a retired Texas National Guard officer said Wednesday he overheard a conversation in 1997 between then-Gov. Bush's chief of staff, Joe Allbaugh, and then-Adjutant Gen. Daniel James of the Texas Air National Guard in which he contends those two men spoke about getting rid of any military records that would "embarrass the governor."
Former Lt. Col. Bill Burkett told the AP that he saw documents from Bush's file discarded in a trash can a few days later at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. Burkett described them as performance and pay documents. He said the documents bore the header: "Bush, George W. 1lt." — meaning first lieutenant.
James and Allbaugh denied the allegations, which Burkett said he had previously discussed on Web sites and in letters to Texas legislators in 1998.
"The alleged discussion never happened," said James, who appointed by the president in 2002 to lead the Air National Guard. "I have never been involved in, nor would I condone any discussion or any action to falsify any record in any circumstance for anyone."
Allbaugh, now a Washington lobbyist, told The Dallas Morning News that Burkett's assertions were "hogwash."
Bush, who spent most of his service in Texas, received permission to perform his duties in Alabama while working on the unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign of Winton "Red" Blount, a family friend.
Democrats say they want to see paperwork that would shed light on why Bush missed an annual physical exam in May 1972. The White House says he did not need to get one because he was not flying at the time.
Democrats have been delving into Bush's service ever since Vietnam veteran John Kerry (search) became the Democrats' presidential front-runner. The party chairman, Terry McAuliffe (search), helped resurrect long-running questions about Bush's record when he charged that the president had been "AWOL," or absent without leave, during his time in Alabama.
Bush enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard at Ellington Air Force Base in May 1968. In May 1972, records show he requested and got permission to perform non-flying duties in Alabama.
Democrats are focusing on a one-year period, from May 1972 to May 1973, when Bush was assigned in Alabama and then was back in Texas.
Payroll records released by the White House show Bush was paid for 25 days during that one-year period. But there are gaps in service that Democrats have questioned.
The records, for example, show Bush was not paid for any service during a period of more than five months in 1972, from April 17 to Oct. 27. He was paid for two days in late October 1972, four days in mid-November 1972 and no days in December 1972.
He then was paid for additional days in 1973.
McClellan says Bush recalls serving in the Guard both in Texas and Alabama. The pay records do not say where he served on the days he was paid, or what he did.