Favoritism for Quayle is alleged Report questions Guard unit's actions

September 20, 1992|By Kevin Sack and Jeff Gerth | Kevin Sack and Jeff Gerth,New York Times News Service

INDIANAPOLIS -- At a time when Republicans are stressin military records as a campaign issue, a re-examination of Vice President Dan Quayle's enlistment in the Indiana National Guard shows a striking pattern of favoritism and raises new questions about the fairness of the enlistment practices for the Guard unit that saved him from the draft.

Twenty-three years ago, when thousands of young men trying to escape service in Vietnam were placed on waiting lists for the National Guard, Mr. Quayle secured a coveted spot in the Indiana Guard because he was directed to the headquarters unit, where openings were largely unavailable to those without special connections, knowledge or qualifications.

In 1988, Mr. Quayle acknowledged that he asked a former Guard official to help him gain entry into the Guard.

But it had never been clearly established before now that his unit doled out enlistment slots to some men while turning others away -- at a time when Washington had ordered all Guard units across the nation to enlist men on a first-come, first-serve basis.

jTC Just after George Bush chose him as his vice-presidential candidate in 1988, Mr. Quayle argued that the telephone call made on his behalf by a retired Guard general, an employee of his grandfather's newspaper, ultimately had little impact on his ability to join the Guard because his unit, in Indianapolis, had a number of vacancies.

That argument quickly defused what had been a mushrooming controversy. Mr. Quayle has been bothered by few questions about the matter since, and now he is helping to lead the Bush campaign's assault on Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton's draft record. But the explanation by Mr. Quayle and his supporters does not tell the whole story.

The headquarters unit in which Mr. Quayle enlisted did not appear to be operating on the Washington-ordered first-come, first-serve basis, according to interviews with Indiana National Guard officers, enlisted men and others who were turned away from the Guard.

Former Indiana Guard officials acknowledged, in 1988 and now, that they looked for particularly intelligent and presentable people for the headquarters unit. But the New York Times inquiry indicated that special connections were often the most important factor.

More than 30 interviews and an examination of records by the New York Times found that Mr. Quayle's family connections were crucial because, without them, Mr. Quayle probably would not have discovered the headquarters unit and its vacancies.

Several Indianans with qualifications similar to Mr. Quayle's told the Times that they found hopeless waits in conventional Guard units in Indianapolis and elsewhere in the state that year and were never told of the openings in the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment unit, known as HHD, the administrative unit for the entire Indiana National Guard.

When Mr. Quayle enlisted in May 1969, the Indiana National Guard had long waiting lists probably numbering in the thousands, according to officials involved with recruiting at that time. Nationally, the Guard had more than 100,000 men on waiting lists.

It is impossible to know precisely how long the waiting lists were for the Indiana National Guard when Mr. Quayle enlisted on May 19, 1969. The lists were kept casually by unit commanders in each of the state's 90 units, and most records were destroyed years ago.

But in interviews, several former guardsmen and others who sought enlistment at the time all recalled that the lists were forbidding.

Retired Capt. John J. Svabik Jr., who was a battalion officer for the Guard in Gary, Ind., said he remembered that the units in Gary regularly had waiting lists of as many as 1,000 men for about 900 slots.

Asked to comment, David C. Beckwith, Mr. Quayle's spokesman, said: "Despite heroic efforts, the Times has failed to find anything new or different from what journalists discovered in 1988: There were dozens of openings in the Indiana National Guard in spring 1969, and family influence was not used in securing one.

"Dan Quayle fulfilled his military obligation even while Bill Clinton was seeking to evade service. Dan Quayle was doing his basic training at Fort Bragg even while Bill Clinton was organizing anti-U.S. demonstrations in England. Dan Quayle has freely and truthfully answered every question put to him, while Bill Clinton has contradicted himself, dissembled, and run from the press."

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