John Kerry, quoted by the Boston Globe:
“I didn’t really want to get involved in the war”, Kerry said in a little-noticed contribution to a book of Vietnam reminiscences published in 1986. “When I signed up for the swift boats, they had very little to do with the war. They were engaged in coastal patrolling and that’s what I thought I was going to be doing.”
But two weeks after Kerry arrived in Vietnam, the Navy changed the swift boats’ mission to patrolling the Mekong river to attract enemy attention, a dangerous job to be sure. (hat tip: Spinsanity)
But John Kerry also said last February that President Bush’s Air National Guard service was a way to avoid Vietnam:
Bush was referring to remarks such as those made by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), his likely presidential challenger, equating Guard service with avoiding the draft during the Vietnam era. But Kerry said,
“I’ve never made any judgments about any choice somebody made about avoiding the draft, about going to Canada, going to jail, being a conscientious objector, going into the National Guard.” (Emphasis added)
Kerry seems to think that draft dodging and volunteering for the Guard were equivalent.
Anyway, the situation is this:
Kerry went to Vietnam and asked to be assigned to a swift-boat unit in the hope he wouldn’t see combat. His unit’s mission was changed and he did see combat.
G. W. Bush, OTOH, became an F-102 fighter pilot in the Texas Air Guard and was assigned to a fighter wing that was sending pilots to fly in Vietnam. It is a common misconception that the Air National Guard was a safe place for military duty during the Vietnam War. In actuality, pilots from the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group, as it was called at the time, were actually conducting combat missions in Vietnam at the very time Bush enlisted. In fact, F-102 squadrons had been stationed in South Vietnam since March 1962. It was during this time that the Kennedy administration began building up a large US military presence in the nation as a deterrent against North Vietnamese invasion.
F-102 squadrons continued to be stationed in South Vietnam and Thailand throughout most of the Vietnam War. …
… the F-102 was serving in combat in Vietnam at the time Bush enlisted to become an F-102 pilot. In fact, pilots from the 147th FIG of the Texas ANG were routinely rotated to Vietnam for combat duty under a program called “Palace Alert” from 1968 to 1970. Furthermore, Bush asked to be sent to Vietnam. Fred Bradley, a friend of Bush’s who was also serving in the Texas ANG, reported that he and Bush inquired about participating in the Palace Alert program. However, the two were told by a superior, MAJ Maurice Udell, that they were not yet qualified since they were still in training and did not have the 500 hours of flight experience required.
Bill Hobbs has exhaustively documented Bush’s military record.
[Via One Hand Clapping]
Last night I found myself repeating this story at the dinner table. I find this story to be very revealing about the character of the two men and probably a good indicator of how the two men would respond to a future terrorist crisis. This is not meant to criticize either man’s decision. I find the irony of the results amusing. I also dealt with the question, “Should I volunteer for Viet Nam?” when I was growing up. This was a very serious and complex decision for a high school boy. Fortunately my draft number was high and the war ended before I had to make a decision. I do wish this subject would fade away and the political ads could start to focus on real political issues. I have already decided that there is a great uncertainity in how John Kerry would respond to the events leading up to a crisis. The good news and the bad news is that he will be a weak president who out of necessity will be heavily reliant on his staff.