WASHINGTON – President Bush’s father told an Air Force major general that his son was a “gung ho” military man and predicted “he will make a good pilot as well,” according to new documents released Friday by the Pentagon.
The elder Bush’s praise came in a letter written to Maj. Gen. G.B. Greene Jr., who in 1968 commanded the military training center in San Antonio, Texas, where the younger Bush was undergoing basic training.
The letter, written when the elder Bush was a Republican congressman representing Houston, came a few months after his son had enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard, an arrangement that many critics have described as a move sheltering him from combat duty in Vietnam.
Greene apparently had written to Rep. Bush commending his son’s performance in the early phase of his training.
The Bush letter and nearly 200 pages of historical National Guard reports were released Friday following a renewed controversy over the president’s military service in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In this election year, the White House repeatedly has released new documents despite its insistence earlier that all available material had been made public.
The latest batch of documents did not include the initial letter from Greene to the senior Bush.
In his letter to Greene, dated Sept. 11, 1968, and written on congressional stationery, Bush said he was “surprised … that a major general in the Air Force would take interest in a brand new Air Force trainee” and that it “made a big impression on me.”
Bush said his son was “anxiously looking forward to going to flight school and with parental pride, I do have a feeling that he will be a gung ho member of the U.S. Air Force. I think that he will make a good pilot as well.”
“I know that the Air Force … helped awaken the very best instincts in my son,” Bush wrote. “In this day and age when it has become a little bit fashionable to be critical of the military, I was delighted to see him return to our house with a real pride in the service and with a great respect for the leaders that he had encountered at Lackland.”
From basic training, Bush went on to a year of extensive training on fighter jets and was promoted to first lieutenant. He flew F-102 interceptors.
But in the spring of 1972, the younger Bush suddenly stopped flying and transferred to inactive duty in a Guard unit in Montgomery, Ala. He went there to work on a Senate campaign for a friend of his father’s.