This memo is addressed to Maj. William Harris, Killian’s second in command, and the man responsible for writing the Officer Efficiency Training Reports (OETRs) for pilots in the unit.
The memo asks Harris to “Update me as soon as possible on flight certifications. Specifically—Bath and Bush.”
When we aired this story, we knew something that had not yet been reported: that in February 1972, Lieutenant Bush had started having trouble landing his F-102. In fact, Lieutenant Bush had been bumped back to the T-33, a training plane. Then he was bumped back to the copilot position on the T-33. Then he began logging additional time in the flight simulator. This was a huge change from his previous flight logs and training pattern in 1970–1971.
The February date on this memo, coupled with what we knew about the February flight difficulties Lieutenant Bush was having, underscored the likelihood that the content of this memo was authentic.Unfortunately for Mapes she links to an AP story which gives the details of Bush's use of the T-33 trainer in early 1972, and in no way does it support what the FLUBA has emphasized in the above quote. An Air National Guard expert clearly offered one obvious and innocent explanation:
The [flight] logs also show that Bush...required two passes to land the F-102A fighter on March 12 and April 10, 1972....
Former Air National Guard chief, retired Maj. Gen. Paul A. Weaver said Bush could have been simply practicing landing skills. 'It doesn't mean anything to have multiple approaches,' Weaver said.
Which is the sound of Mary's claim exploding; pilots practice avoiding crash landings. End of story.
And as for Mapes claim that Bush was flying a T-33 trainer because his performance was suffering on the F-102, that is also demolished in the AP article:
Air Force experts said...He could have beenf practicing a skill he was struggling with, trying to learn a new skill, or help train another pilot.
Retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd, a former head of the Air National Guard, said Bush may have jumped into the T-33 in his effort to put in enough hours to stay current with his pilot requirements if there wasn't a F-102A jet available for him.
'....This is just speculation, but it may have had to do with the availability of aircraft.'
Which is exactly what other pilots from Bush's unit say it was, availability of cockpit hours was limited at the time because of the glut of pilots stateside with the end of the American presence in Vietnam:
In Lt. Bush's fifth year — which included parts of 1972 and 1973 — the Vietnam War was winding down due to President Nixon's Vietnamization program. Many pilots had difficulty obtaining flying slots. According to Col. William Campenni (Ret.), a former fighter/interceptor pilot with Lt. Bush in the ANG, there was then "an enormous glut of pilots." At that time, I was a B-52 Wing Commander and recall this Air Force-wide pilot surplus developing. When Lt. Bush requested a transfer to the Alabama Air National Guard for employment reasons, his superior officers granted this routine request. "In fact, you were helping them solve their [glut] problem," said Col. Campenni.
But the coup de grace for this stupidity by Mapes might be the annual report on Bush which is signed by both Maj Harris and Col Killian at the end of May 1972, in which Lt Bush is given an 'exceptionally fine' overall rating. And in both 'Judgment' and 'Adaptability' gets the highest marks possible:
Consistently arrives at the right decision even on highly complex matters.
Outstanding performance under extreme stress. Meets the challenge of difficult situations.
In the Comments section, we can read that:
Lt Bush is an exceptional fighter interceptor pilot and officer....During the past year he participated in several target force deployments and an F-102 aircraft element deployment to Canada. His conduct and professional approach to the mission were certainly exemplary and apparent to observers. His skills as an interceptor pilot enable him to complete all his ADC intercept missions during the Canadian deployment with ease...Lt Bush should be retained in his present assignment. He...would be a welcome addition to any fighter squadron.
How, in the face of the official documentation in the ANG files, can Mary Mapes, with a straight face, claim that:
The Killian memos, when married to the official documents, fit like a glove. There is not a date, or a name, or an action out of place. Nor does the content of the Killian memos differ in any way from the information that has come out after our story....
Sure, if you ignore, exceptional fighter interceptor pilot...exemplary...complete all his ADC intercept missions ...with ease...a welcome addition to any fighter squadron, you mean.