The sons of George Bush and Lloyd Bentsen say no strings were pulled to ensure their entrance into the National Guard during the Vietnam War.
George W. Bush, son of the GOP presidential candidate, and Lloyd M. Bentsen III, the son of the Democratic vice presidential candidate, discussed their military service Tuesday in response to the flap over whether family influence helped Republican vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle join the Guard and avoid being drafted for combat in Vietnam.The younger Bush and Bentsen were Guardsmen together at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston. Both said they applied to enter the Texas Air National Guard in 1968 when it was inevitable they would be called to serve in the military.
But the two, who had known one another in Houston before joining the same Guard unit, said they enlisted on their own without use of their fathers' influence. Their fathers have affirmed that position.
Both men said in interviews that they signed up after personally contacting the commander of the fighter group they wanted to join at Ellington.
Circumstances of joining the National Guard have become an issue in the case of Quayle, a youthful advocate of the Vietnam War who is now a hard-liner on defense in the Senate.
During the Vietnam era, entrance into the National Guard was viewed by some as a way to avoid being drafted and sent to Vietnam. Quayle has denied any such motivation.
Quayle's student deferment from the draft was about to expire in 1969 and he had been called for his pre-induction physical, an indication he was about to be drafted. Most of those drafted during the period were sent to Vietnam.
A retired Indiana Guard official acknowledged Tuesday that he told the Guard personnel office to hold open a space for Quayle after receiving a call from a Quayle family employee in 1969.
Both Bush's son and Bentsen's son acknowledged it was inevitable they would have to serve in the military after they graduated from college, so they chose National Guard service.
The younger Bentsen, 43, railed at a claim by New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu that Bentsen's father had rushed to get his son a spot in the National Guard when he learned of an opening.
"He was absolutely, categorically wrong," the son said.
"Shortly after I graduated, I went to a party with some of my friends and one of the people introduced me to Brig. Gen. Walter Staudt, who was the commander of the 147th Fighter Group in the Texas Air Guard." Bentsen said Staudt told him at a later meeting that because of his masters business degree, "he could use someone like me" for an accounting and finance officer.
Bentsen said he went home and discussed the matter with his father, a businessman at the time, and decided to enlist. He became a finance officer "as luck would have it," serving "past my six-year requirement," and achieving the rank of captain, he said.