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Guard plane was more dangerous than war

August 02, 2008

Recently, The Herald-Mail published a phone call in which the caller asserted that George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam war did not count as "military service." Liberals have beaten this drum for nearly eight years, attempting to smear Bush as having "sat out" Vietnam. Did he "sit it out?"

President Bush graduated from Yale in June of 1968. This was three months after President Johnson had initiated the four-year bombing pause. With far fewer missions, over far less dangerous territory, there was suddenly a sharp drop in the demand for new fighter pilots. For George Bush to get an assignment as a fighter pilot, his best bet was the Texas National Guard. But was this ducking out of dangerous duty?

If Bush had joined the Army or Marine Corps, in all probability the earliest time that he could have completed his training and arrived in Vietnam would have been around July 1970. By 1970, troop strength in Vietnam was down 39 percent from its peak. That is, nearly 40 percent of the billets to which he could have been sent no longer existed. Therefore, the probability of being sent to Vietnam had been reduced.


The next year, 1971, his probability of being sent to Vietnam was even smaller since troop strength was down 71 percent from the peak. There was a steadily reducing amount of dangerous duty for Bush to avoid.

From July 1970, until the end of U.S. troop involvement in April 1973, 5,424 men were killed in combat.

During that same period of time 515,650 served in Vietnam. Therefore the probability of someone serving in Vietnam being killed in action during this period was about 1 percent.

In the Texas Air National Guard George Bush flew the F-102 Delta Dagger. This was a dangerous aircraft. The U.S. purchased a total of 875 Daggers, of which 259 crashed, killing 70 pilots - all peace-time accidents. The number of pilots killed constitutes approximately 1.4 percent of all the pilots who ever flew the F-102. In other words, George Bush "sat out" the Vietnam War by exposing himself to a risk of death that was approximately 40 percent higher than he would have been exposed to had he gone to Vietnam. It is fair to ask liberals, "Precisely what risk was Bush avoiding by flying the F-102?"

In addition to the risk of death, fighter pilots face a very high risk of long-term disability resulting from injuries sustained in high-speed ejections. As one who has, himself, ejected from an F-4 Phantom fighter plane at over 600 knots (which is nearly 700 mph), I can attest that it is not as much fun as it sounds. With the old-style ejection seat used in Vietnam, the ejection in itself subjects the crewmen to about 20 to 24 times the force of gravity, or "G's."

Nearly everyone I know who has ejected using one of these seats has some degree of physical disability as a result of injuries sustained by the force of the ejection. The seats are designed to save lives, first, and then to prevent injury, if possible. With the old-style ejection seats, it was rarely possible. If 70 pilots were killed, most of the other 189 were injured, sometimes severely.

In other words, the assertion that Bush went into the Texas Air National Guard to avoid danger is based upon an erroneous premise. When dealing with Vietnam, regardless of the story, just as is the case when dealing with President Bush, liberals frequently start with faulty premises, and just as frequently, in the words of Josiah Royce, they "willfully misplace their ontological predicates." (If you are a liberal and don't know what those big words mean, sue your alma mater for educational malpractice. If you are a conservative, I have every confidence that you will consult a dictionary.)

The judgment of perpetually indignant liberals is so skewed by anger and hatred that they cannot perceive objective reality.

There is a psychological phenomenon known as "projection" in which one who is unwilling to confront and acknowledge his own shortcomings finds those same shortcomings in someone else.

It is difficult not to believe that liberals are projecting their own fears onto the president. As for me, I would have been proud to have George Bush as my wingman in combat. In the Marine Corps, that is the highest compliment one can give.

James H. Warner is a retired attorney. He was a naval flight officer in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, flying F-4 Phantom fighter/bombers. He served as a domestic policy advisor to President Reagan from 1985 until 1989.

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