WASHINGTON – Newly discovered payroll records from President Bush's 1972 service in the Alabama National Guard (search) shed no new light on the future president's activities during that summer.
A Pentagon official said Friday the earlier contention that the records were destroyed was an "inadvertent oversight."
Like records disclosed earlier by the White House (search), the newly released computerized payroll records show no indication Bush drilled with the Alabama unit during July, August and September of 1972. Pay records covering all of 1972, released previously, also indicated no guard service for Bush during those three months.
The records do not give any new information about Bush's National Guard training during 1972, when he transferred to the Alabama National Guard unit so he could work on the U.S. Senate campaign of a family friend. The payroll records do not say definitively whether Bush attended training that summer because they are maintained separately from attendance records.
White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Bush kept his service commitments, pointing to the fact that Bush was honorably discharged in 1973. The White House says Bush attended enough training during other months in 1972 to fulfill his service commitment for that year.
The release came days before Democrats began their national convention in Boston to officially nominate Sen. John Kerry (search) as their presidential candidate. Military veterans are being tapped at the convention to help tell Kerry's story as he prepares to accept the party's nomination next week.
A spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, Jano Cabrera, called the discovery Friday of Bush's records "highly questionable."
"If the Bush administration continues to search, maybe they'll find answers to the long list of unanswered questions that remain about George W. Bush's time in the Air National Guard," Cabrera said. "Bush's military records seem to show up as randomly as he did for duty."
Democrats have sought to contrast Bush's National Guard service with Kerry's Vietnam War record. Kerry enlisted in the Navy, volunteered for combat in Vietnam and earned several medals including a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. After returning from Vietnam, Kerry became a prominent anti-war activist.
The Associated Press had asked a federal judge on July 16 to order the Pentagon to quickly turn over a copy of the pay records. The AP had sued under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the records from a state library records center in Texas.
Records of Bush's National Guard service released previously did not explain the apparent gaps in his Guard service in 1972 and 1973.
Bush had transferred to an Alabama National Guard unit while he worked on the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Winton Blount.
The Pentagon had said that the payroll records for that time period had been inadvertently destroyed.
"Previous attempts to locate the missing records at the Federal Records Center had been unsuccessful due to the incorrect records accession numbers provided," the Pentagon's Office of Freedom of Information chief C.Y. Talbott said in a letter Friday to The Associated Press.
"The correct numbers were obtained ... and the records were found."
Talbott wrote that the Defense Department "regrets this inadvertent oversight during the initial search and the delay it caused in your receipt of these materials."