The sixty-first minute

Today’s big Boston Globe story on President Bush’s Air National Guard service is based on memos to file from the personal records of the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian: “Bid cited to boost Bush in Guard.”

The Globe story is itself based on last night’s 60 Minutes report: “New questions on Bush Guard duty.” The online version of the 60 Minutes story has links to the memos. Killian died in 1984; CBS states that it “consulted a handwriting analyst and document expert who believes the material is authentic.” Readers Tom Mortensen and Liz MacDougald direct us to the FreeRepublic post and thread (see post no. 47) to this effect:

Every single one of the memos to file regarding Bush’s failure to attend a physical and meet other requirements is in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatine or Times New Roman. In 1972 people used typewriters for this sort of thing (especially in the military), and typewriters used mono-spaced fonts.

The use of proportionally spaced fonts did not come into common use for office memos until the introduction high-end word processing systems from Xerox and Wang, and later of laser printers, word processing software, and personal computers. They were not widespread until the mid to late 90’s.

Before then, you needed typesetting equipment, and that wasn’t used for personal memos to file. Even the Wang and other systems that were dominant in the mid 80’s used mono-spaced fonts. I doubt the TANG had typesetting or high-end 1st generation word processing systems.

I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old. This should be pursued aggressively.

UPDATE: Thanks to all the readers who have written regarding this post. Several have pointed out that the Executive line of IBM typewriters did have proportionally spaced fonts, although no reader has found the font used in the memos to be a familiar one or thought that the IBM Executive was likely to have been used by the National Guard in the early 1970’s. Reader Monty Walls has also cited the IBM Selectric Composer. However, reader Eric Courtney adds this wrinkle:

The “Memo To File” of August 18, 1973 also used specialized typesetting characters not used on typewriters. These include the superscript “th” in 187th, and consistent ? (right single quote) used instead of a typewriter’s generic ‘ (apostrophe). These are the sorts of things that typesetters did manually until the advent of smart correction in things like Microsoft Word.

UPDATE 2: Reader John Risko adds:

I was a clerk/typist for the US Navy at the Naval Underwater Systems Center (NUSC) in Newport RI for my summer job in 1971 when I was in college. I note the following with regard to the Killian memos:

1) Tom Mortensen is absolutely correct. Variable type was used only for special printing jobs, like official pamphlets. These documents are forgeries, and not even good ones. Someone could have at least found an old pre-Selectric IBM (introduced around 1962). Actually, I believe we were using IBM Model C’s at the time, which was the precursor to the Selectric.

2) I also used a Variype machine in 1971. I fooled around with it in my spare time. It was incredibly difficult to set up and use. It was also extremely hard to correct mistakes on the machine. Most small letters used two spaces. Capital letters generally used three spaces. I think letters like “i” may have used one space. Anyway, you can see that this type of machine was piloted by an expert, and it would NEVER be used for a routine memo. A Lt. Colonel would not be able to identify a Varitype machine, let alone use it.

3) US Navy paper at the time was not 8 1/2 x 11. It was 8 x 10 1/2. I believe this was the same throughout the military, but someone will have to check on that. This should show up in the Xeroxing, which should have lines running along the sides of the Xerox copy.

4) I am amused by the way “147 th Ftr.Intrcp Gp.” appears in the August 1, 1972 document. It may have been written that way in non-forged documents, but as somone who worked for ComCruDesLant, I know the military liked to bunch things together. I find “147 th” suspicious looking. 147th looks better to me, but the problem with Microsoft Word is that it keeps turning the “th” tiny if it is connected to a number like 147. And finally……

5) MORE DEFINITIVE PROOF OF FORGERY: I had neglected even to look at the August 18, 1973 memo to file. This forger was a fool. This fake document actually does have the tiny “th” in “187th” and there is simply no way this could have occurred in 1973. There are no keys on any typewriter in common use in 1973 which could produce a tiny “th.” The forger got careless after creating the August 1, 1972 document and slipped up big-time.

In summary, the variable type reveals the Killian memos to be crude forgeries, the tiny “th” confirms it in the 8/18/73 memo, and I offer my other points as icing on the cake.

UPDATE 3: We have received so much information from readers that it’s hard to keep up. Reader Fred Godel points us to Kevin Drum’s Washington Monthly “Smoking gun update” stating that the White House has released copies of two of the memos and left their authenticity undisputed.

Reader John Burgess adds:

I’m afraid the Post 47 at Free Republic is not compelling. By 1969, I was using an IBM Selectric typewriter, with proportional type balls. They were widely available in the public sector-and thus readily available to the military. I do not recall having used a Palatine typeface, but Times Roman was certainly common. While I do think the entire argument about “Bush/AWOL” is bull, the raising of type faces is not useful. In fact, it’s counterproductive because it’s demonstrably false.

Reader Chris Rohlfs points to another “document in Bush’s record ( which, if real (I got that link from here) appears to have some typing from the same typewriter. Look at the word ‘Recommend.'” Reader Larry Nichols adds:

What a freakin’ joke! I served in the Air Force for 21 years — 1968 to 1989 — the first 7 as a Personnel Specialist and the remainder as a PSM (Personnel Systems Manager). I also spent 2 years as an inspector at Hq SAC, Offutt AFB, NE in Omaha, inspecting Personnel Offices at all 26 SAC bases. As a PSM I had to know every job in Personnel, including the proper filing of documents in individual military records. Memos were NOT used for orders, as the one ordering 1LT Bush to take a physical. This would have done as a letter, of which a copy should have been sent to the CBPO (Consolidated Base Personnel Office) to be filed in 1LT Bush’s military record. Memos DID NOT get filed in personnel records.

I first used a computer in the Air Force in 1971 while stationed at Albrook AFB, Canal Zone. The computers were used only for updating records data. The Air Force was the first branch of the military to use a mainframe (Burroughs B-3500) computer for updating military records. Punch cards were used up until then. There were no Word Processors used until the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. Typewriters were still used extensively until the mid-1980s. These memos appear to be bogus.

As far as an Officer Effectiveness Report (OER) on Bush, unless he was under a supervisor for X number of days during a reporting period, no report could be written. Under special circumstances, a report could be written with only 60 days of supervision. The period may cover an extended period. Example: FROM 1 JUN 1970 THRU 15 DEC 1971 (more than 1 year) DAYS SUPERVISED: 60. The “vanilla civilian” Liberals and Journalists should quit trying to talk and write about things they know nothing about. In Sen. Kerry’s case, that includes almost everything!

Finally — finally for the moment — reader Joshua Persons writes:

I’ve written a post regarding the forgery post on my weblog (click here). Mostly a rehash, but I googled and found a comparable, unrelated government memo from 1972 for visual comparison. Check it out at .

UPDATE 4: Charles Johnson has written to let us know that he has resolved the issue: “Bush Guard documents: Forged.”

UPDATE 5: Reader Timothy Sampson writes:

There is no confirmation of authenticity by the White House. See Kevin Drum’s update:

I now have copies of the memos the White House released, and they are just versions that CBS faxed to the White House the day before the 60 Minutes segment aired. There’s no indication that the White House had its own copies of these memos and had been sitting on them. Apologies.

UPDATE 6: Reader Elbow Elbow provides this “link to the PDFs of the memos the White House released.” We are unable to confirm that the White House has “released” anything other than copies of the memos it may have been provided by CBS.

UPDATE 7: INDC Journal has posted an interesting summary of the review of the memoranda by forensic document examiner Dr. Phillip Bouffard: “Are the National Guard documents fake?”

UPDATE 8: The signatures on the CBS documents do not appear to be authentic. Check out the two signatures below, courtesy of Michele Catalano of The Command Post. The one on the left is an actual signature of Lt. Col. Jerry Killian. The one on the right is from one of the CBS documents. It’s not even close; in fact, it doesn’t even look like the person who signed it made any attempt to copy Killian’s signature:

Since I posted this, a number of readers have written to disagree with me–they think the signature on the right is a crude effort at forgery. Dafydd ab Hugh’s characteristically thorough and brilliant analysis is too long to include here, and Diana Magrann also argues persuasively that the signature is an attempt at a forgery.

UPDATE 9: Reader Andy Devlin takes issue with John Burgess, quoted above:

From 1973 until late 1982 I was a repairman for the Office Products Division of IBM. I can assure you that the comments on your site by Mr. Burgess regarding the Selectric typewriter are incorrect. The Selectric was available only in mono type. At that time my customers who wanted proportional type used either the IBM Executive typewriter or IBM Composer. The Composer was an expensive and complicated piece of equipment which would normally be found only in printing and communications departments. I doubt that it would be used to write memos to file.

UPDATE 10: Reader Jon-Erik Prichard adds what strikes me as an especially persuasive point:

[A]nother aspect of the type on [the August 18, 1973 memo] suggests, perhaps proves, forgery.

1. The type in the document is KERNED. Kerning is the typsetter’s art of spacing various letters in such a manner that they are ‘grouped’ for better readability. Word processors do this automatically. NO TYPEWRITER CAN PHYSICALLY DO THIS.

To explain: the letter ‘O’ is curved on the outside. A letter such as ‘T’ has indented space under its cross bar. On a typewriter if one types an ‘O’ next to a ‘T’ then both letters remain separated by their physical space. When you type the same letters on a computer next to each other the are automatically ‘kerned’ or ‘grouped’ so that their individual spaces actually overlap. e. g., TO. As one can readily see the curvature of the ‘O’ nestles neatly under the cross bar of the ‘T’. Two good kerning examples in the alleged memo are the word ‘my’ in the second line where ‘m’ and ‘y’ are neatly kerned and also the word ‘not’ in the fourth line where the ‘o’ and ‘t’ overlap empty space. A typewriter doesn’t ‘know’ what particular letter is next to another and can’t make those types of aesthetic adjustments.

2. The kerning and proportional spacing in each of the lines of type track EXACTLY with 12 point Times Roman font on a six inch margin (left justified). Inother words, the sentences break just as they would on a computer and not as they would on a typewriter. Since the type on the memo is both proportionally spaced and kerned the lines of type break at certain instances (i.e., the last word in each line of the first paragraph are – 1. running, 2. regarding, 3. rating, 4. is, 5. either). If the memo was created on a typewriter the line breaks would be at different words (e. g., the word ‘running’ is at the absolute outside edge of the sentence and would probably not be on the first line).

3. The sentences have a wide variance in their AMOUNT of kerning and proportional spacing. Notice how the first line of the first paragraph seems squished together and little hard to read but the last line of the first paragraph has wider more open spacing. Even the characters themselves are squished in the first line (as a computer does automatically) and more spread out on the last line where there is more room.

There’s no way a typewriter could ‘set’ the type in this memo and even a good typesetter using a Linotype machine of the era would have to spend hours getting this effect.

UPDATE 11: CBS is sticking to its story. It’s not entirely clear which story, however. Initially, CBS spokeswoman Kelli Edwards said:

As is standard practice at CBS News, each of the documents broadcast on ’60 Minutes’ was thoroughly investigated by independent experts, and we are convinced of their authenticity.

Later, however, Ms. Edwards sent out an email that appeared to revise the nature of the “authentication” process:

CBS verified the authenticity of the documents by talking to individuals who had seen the documents at the time they were written. These individuals were close associates of Colonel Jerry Killian and confirm that the documents reflect his opinions at the time the documents were written.

So what CBS is now saying is not that the documents are authentic, but that the opinions they express are authentic, based on the hearsay reports of anonymous persons alleged to be close associates of Col. Killian, who recall his views of thirty-two years ago. This is what passes for “authentication” in the mainstream media.

UPDATE 12: In the August 18, 1973 memo “discovered” by 60 Minutes, Jerry Killian purportedly writes:

Staudt has obviously pressured Hodges more about Bush. I’m having trouble running interference and doing my job.

But wait! Reader Amar Sarwal, citing Peter Nuss, points out that General Staudt, who thought very highly of Lt. Bush, retired in 1972.
The more I look at these “memos,” the more obvious it appears that they are inept forgeries.

UPDATE 13: By the way, this is Rocket. I’ve been pitching in on these last few updates. Reader Theresa McAteer makes a good point:

I went to the “other document” cited by Chris Rohlfs (from the anti-Bush webpage “”) where Bush requests – on 5 Sep 73 – to be discharged. I note that Lt. Col. Killeen’s response is dated 6 Sep 73, and it is directed “TO: 147th Ftr Intcp Gp/CC”

Note: the “th” in “111th” and “147th” – from Killeen’s part of the memo — are not in superscript. As of 6 Sep 73, Killeen’s typewriter did not have the superscripting key. Yet on the CBS-produced “memo” dated 18 August 1973, it does.

Actually, several of the documents on this “” are from the Texas ANG in this 1972 and 1973 period (the same period as the alleged memos). NONE of them have a superscripted “th”, and ALL of them are in the same old 1970s-era typeface I remember from my college days (and NONE of them are in the typeface used in the alleged memos).

She’s right. On the left is Killian’s genuine typed memo of September 6, 1973. No superscript, and an authentically 1970’s look. On the right is CBS’s fake August 18 memo. Note the superscript, and the generally modern, word-processed look. Click to enlarge.

60 Minutes is toast.

FINAL UPDATE: Lest this post become too unwieldy, we will close our updates here, and begin with new posts on the subject. Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard has consulted with several experts who agree that the documents are, in all probability, a hoax. That will be our first new post on the subject.

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