Washington President Bush ranked in the middle of his Air National Guard flight class and flew 336 hours in a fighter jet before letting his pilot status lapse and missing a key readiness drill in 1972, according to his flight records belatedly uncovered Tuesday under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Pentagon and Bush's campaign have claimed for months that all records detailing his fighter pilot career have been made public, but defense officials said they found two dozen new records detailing his training and flight logs after The Associated Press filed a lawsuit and submitted new requests under the public records law.
"Previous requests from other requesters for President Bush's Individual Flight Records did not lead to the discovery of these records because at the time President Bush left the service, flight records were subject to retention for only 24 months and we understood that neither the Air Force nor the Texas Air National Guard retained such records thereafter," the Pentagon told the AP.
"Out of an abundance of caution," the government "searched a file that had been preserved in spite of this policy" and found the Bush records, the letter said.
Bush has repeatedly said he is proud of his Air National Guard service. White House spokesmen said as late as last week the administration knew of no other records of Bush's military service.
"These documents confirm that the president served honorably in the National Guard," White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said Tuesday.