Details of Michael Dukakis' military career will probably never be known because a fire that ravaged a government warehouse in St. Louis 15 years ago destroyed millions of files.
Records that do exist, however, indicate that the Democratic presidential candidate spent two uneventful years in the service of his country as an enlisted man in post-war Korea.The issue of military service has received unusual prominence this political season since the disclosure that Republican vice presidential nominee Sen. Dan Quayle secured a spot in the Indiana National Guard during the 1960s rather than face duty in Vietnam.
Dukakis' rival, Vice President George Bush and Dukakis' running mate, Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, both served with distinction as pilots in World War II.
By accident of birth, Dukakis belonged to the Korea generation, sandwiched between World War II in the 1940s and the Vietnam War in the 1960s.
"Governor Dukakis' records were destroyed in a fire that went through the National Personnel Records Center back in 1973. A significant number of records were destroyed in that fire," said Lt. Col. Greg Rixon, an Army spokesman in Washington.
Dukakis graduated at age 17 from Brookline High School in suburban Boston in 1951, the year that ultimately proved to be the bloodiest of the Korean war.
That September, Dukakis enrolled at Swarthmore College outside Philadelphia. When he turned 18 in November, he registered for the military draft. But as a college student, he applied for and received a student deferment from the military draft. He was classified 2-S.
The deferment was routinely renewed during his sophomore and junior years as Dukakis met the requirements by remaining a student in good standing. In the meantime, an armistice signed on July 27, 1953, ended the fighting in Korea.
In 1955, during his senior year, he applied to Harvard Law School and got accepted. But he chose not to apply for a graduate deferment, telling his family he wanted to get his military service behind him so when he finished law school he could plunge directly into his career.
Dukakis volunteered and promptly went on active duty in the regular Army on July 19, 1955. After basic training at Fort Dix, N.J., Dukakis went to Camp Gordon, Ga., for training as a radio operator.
Later, he was assigned to Munsan, South Korea, just south of the demilitarized zone in a unit supporting the Military Armistice Commission attempting to maintain the United Nations cease-fire.