The sixty-first minute or the 61st minute?

From a post on Powerline that we thought was lost: “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 Mac Dougald direct us to a FreeRepublic thread 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 Palatino 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 an 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”

There’s more of this thread at Command Post. We thought this post had oddly disappeared from Powerline because googling 61st minute leads to a different post. So we sought to preserve it via the Command Post entry. However, we have now discovered that the original is intact.

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