Recalls Memphian [Bob] Mintz, now 63: “I remember that I heard someone was coming to drill with us from Texas. And it was implied that it was somebody with political influence. I was a young bachelor then. I was looking for somebody to prowl around with.” But, says Mintz, that “somebody” -- better known to the world now as the president of the United States -- never showed up at Dannelly in 1972. Nor in 1973, nor at any time that Mintz, a FedEx pilot now and an Eastern Airlines pilot then, when he was a reserve first lieutenant at Dannelly, can remember.
“There’s no way we wouldn’t have noticed a strange rooster in the henhouse, especially since we were looking for him,” insists Mintz, who has pored over documents relating to the matter now making their way around the Internet. One of these is a piece of correspondence addressed to the 187th’s commanding officer, then Lt. Col. William Turnipseed, concerning Bush’s redeployment.
Mintz remembers a good deal of base scuttlebutt at the time about the letter, which clearly identifies Bush as the transferring party. “It couldn’t be anybody else. No one ever did that again, as far as I know.” In any case, he is certain that nobody else in that time frame, 1972-73, requested such a transfer into Dannelly.
Mintz, who at one time was a registered Republican and in recent years has cast votes in presidential elections for independent Ross Perot and Democrat Al Gore, confesses to “a negative reaction” to what he sees as out-and-out dissembling on President Bush’s part. “You don’t do that as an officer, you don’t do that as a pilot, you don’t do it as an important person, and you don’t do it as a citizen. This guy’s got a lot of nerve.”
Though some accounts reckon the total personnel component of the 187th as consisting of several hundred, the actual flying squadron – that to which Bush was reassigned – number only “25 to 30 pilots,” Mintz said. “There’s no doubt. I would have heard of him, seen him, whatever.” Even if Bush, who was trained on a slightly different aircraft than the F4 Phantom jets flown by the squadron, opted not to fly with the unit, he would have had to encounter the rest of the flying personnel at some point, in non-flying formations or drills. “And if he did any flying at all, on whatever kind of craft, that would have involved a great number of supportive personnel. It takes a lot of people to get a plane into the air. But nobody I can think of remembers him."
“I never saw hide nor hair of Mr. Bush,” confirms [Paul] Bishop, who now lives in Goldsboro, N.C., is a veteran of Gulf War I and, as a Kalitta pilot, has himself flown frequent supply missions into Iraq and to military facilities at Kuwait. He voted for Bush in 2000 and believes that the Iraq war has served some useful purposes – citing, as the White House does, disarmament actions since pursued by Libyan president Moammar Khadaffi – but he is disgruntled both about aspects of the war and about what he sees as Bush’s lack of truthfulness about his military record.
“I think a commander-in-chief who sends his men off to war ought to be a veteran who has seen the sting of battle,” Bishop says. “In Iraq: we have a bunch of great soldiers, but they are not policemen. I don’t think he [the president] was well advised; right now it’s costing us an American life a day. I’m not a peacenik, but what really bothers me is that of the 500 or so that we’ve lost almost 80 of them were reservists. We’ve got an over-extended Guard and reserve.”
So who has shown the ultimate disrespect for the Guard and Reserves? The Democrats for bringing the issue up, or Bush for sending 80 reservists to their deaths — without managing to find a single weapon of mass destruction?