Friday, February 20, 2004

Up until now, I've been assuming that Bush's AWOL stint in the summer of '72 was just, essentially, laziness. He knew he would suffer no consequences for leaving Texas to go work for Red Blount, so he simply made a half-hearted effort to get approval to be there.

One question is really starting to bug me though. Why did he request transfer to the 9921st in the first place?

Look at the chronology again:

- early/mid May 1972: Bush leaves Texas for Alabama (he was gone by May 15 at the latest).

- May 24, 1972: Bush requests transfer to the 9921st. Transfer is subsequently denied.

(Note the original transfer request called for Bush to be at the 9921st until September.)

- Bush misses his July flight physical, with two years yet to go on his stint, and is grounded.

- September 5, 1972 (just as his transfer to the 9921st should have been expiring): Bush requests assignment to the 187th through November.

For all intents and purposes, Bush's record would be squeaky clean if not for that darn transfer denial. He split Texas in May to go to a non-paying unit for three months (June, July, August), then switches over to Dannelly for another three months (September, October, November).

But why didn't he simply request a transfer to the 187th initially? The argument will go, of course, that Bush didn't have time for drilling during the summer months because of all the heavy lifting he was doing on the Blount campaign. But that seems, well, absurd. The summer prior to a November election is busier than the two months leading up to election day? Huh? If anything the reverse would have made more sense -- serve at Dannelly through the summer, then switch to the paper unit for the fall during campaign crunch time.

It's the fact that Bush left Texas before requesting the transfer that also raises eyebrows though. If one had reason to suspect, for instance, that young Lt. Bush was in the grips of some personal crisis, one could very easily view the chronology as an attempt to cover over his paper trail. But his presence in Montgomery has been pretty clearly established -- Emily Curtis, for one, recalled meeting Bush that summer. So it wasn't like he dropped off the face of the earth.

Some big piece of this puzzle is still missing... maybe lost at the bottom of Bill Burkett's 15 gallon trashcan. If I had to guess, I'd say the point of it all was simply to get Bush the hell out of Houston (even after his three month transfer to Dannelly ended he was still going back there for dental exams and drills and such.) But that's pure specualtion, nothing more.

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