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Friday, September 28, 2007

House GOP Leader John Boehner: When Was He Really In The Navy?

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The official entry for U.S. Rep. John Boehner in the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress says he served in the United States Navy in 1968. But something doesn't seem to add up. Either the congressional bio is not quite correct, or the House Minority leader is not quite correct. He seems to recall serving in the Navy's Seabees in 1969.

This is what The Daily Bellwether knows so far:

Boehner, who represents Ohio's 8th Congressional District, enlisted in the Navy after high school and has said he was discharged within weeks because of a bad back -- either after six or eight weeks. It has always been assumed he served briefly in 1968, as the bio states. To his credit, he volunteered for military duty during the Vietnam War. Boehner was not in the crowd that tried to dodge the draft or avoid serving his country.

Last year, the Minority Leader visited the Mississippi Gulf Coast with a congressional delegation to view devastation and cleanup efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Boehner was met by the local newspaper and recalled in some detail how he was with hundreds of Seabees and "had seen this picture before.'' He described working with the Seabees assigned to clean up rubble from Hurricane Camille. A link to the story that was published on March 4, 2006 is found on this Web site for people who live in Pass Christian, a small village on the Gulf Coast. (You have to scroll down the page to a headline called Tour de Force.)

But Hurricane Camille did not strike the United States in 1968. Camille made landfall on Aug. 17, 1969. It was one of the worst storms in U.S. history and packed winds reaching nearly 200 mph. If Boehner's official bio is correct, he wasn't supposed to be in the Navy when Camille slammed into the United States.

The Daily Bellwether has the pertinent paragraphs from the Sun Herald in Mississippi that report Boehner's recollections of his duties with the Seabees after Hurricane Camille:

"Posted on Sat, Mar. 04, 2006
Tour de force
Members of Congress see Coast damage firsthand
Congressman John Boehner has been here before. Actually, Boehner (R-Ohio), the recent successor to Tom DeLay as House Majority leader, has seen all this before, too - except it happened more than 36 years ago.
Boehner was a Seabee who arrived for a brief tour at the Gulfport Naval Construction Battalion Center in the early summer of 1969 and was there when Hurricane Camille left the Gulf Coast in ruins.
Decades later, Boehner found himself wandering through what must have seemed like the same piles of debris Friday, except this time he was here helping South Mississippi via the legislative branch of government.
"I've seen this picture before, but this is a whole lot worse," said Boehner, touring with 33 other Congress members as part of a visit arranged by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
Boehner said he was with the hundreds of Seabees after Camille who cleared roads, built schools and removed debris. He was re-deployed a few months after Camille, but the devastation seemed incredible to him then, and more incredible that it happened again.
Boehner said during a vacation several years ago, as he and his family passed through Gulfport, he told his young children about the giant ship that had landed across U.S. 90 during Camille. His kids did not believe him, until Katrina came and images of the casino barges and other ships strewn on the road made them believers.
Friday's tour of this part of the Coast, from Bay St. Louis to Keesler Air Force Base, made believers out of many in the delegation, too, some who wield real power to help."

Boehner's House Web site doesn't mention anything about his time in the Navy. No help there.

Something doesn't add up. At this point, there are questions without answers. Maybe Boehner enlisted in 1968 but didn't get to active duty until 1969. Yet it hardly seems possible he could have completed Navy Boot Camp and reached a Seabee battalion in just two months of active duty. Or maybe he did.

Perhaps some Navy veterans can offer insight.


  1. Boehner is a little older than I am so things could have been different. Having said that, in 1978 when I enlisted you initially joined the reserves in the Delayed Entry Program and then go in regular Navy when you go active. DEP period legally could not exceed 1 year. For most folks DEP time was much less than a year (2 days here). Boot camp was 8 weeks in 1978, but I remember hearing it had used to be 12 weeks. Boehner graduated high school in 1968 so he should not have needed to wait until June of 69' to go active. Sometimes if you enlist for special schooling you may have to wait in DEP until an opening for that school. We only had Recruit Training Centers in San Diego, Orlando and Great Lakes by the time I joined. However, years earlier recruit training was handled at many stations before it was standardized (now only Great Lakes is left). Giving him the benefit of the doubt, it is possible in a massive natural disaster they used all available manpower including recruits. I hope he wasn't posing. Best thing to do is to make an inquiry to his office and ask them to clear up the date discrepancies and see if the answers pass the smell test.

  2. Hi LargeBill --

    I'm trying to get something on the record. So far, no luck.

    I wonder why there is nothing is his House bio about the Navy?

    If I can't get more, I hope others press him. I don't question that he enlisted, but I can't figure out the rest of the story. And you seem to have questions, too.

    Can you circulate this to Navy guys? They may have more to say, either way. Thanks.

    1. How can you say you served when you never made it through boot camp. THAT is why Boehner doesn't have it on his bio. And he is lying about working with the SeaBees if he didn't get past boot camp. You go to specialized training for SeaBees. Also, if he was discharged for a "bad back" ( from alcohol maybe?) He would not have been working to help with clean-up

  3. Bill,

    I posted the generic details on a forum for Navy retirees asking for feedback. Only response so far is an old Seabee who remembers the CB reserve unit from Chicago being sent to assist. Will check it occasionally to see if anyone else posts.

  4. Hi LargeBill --

    That's a very good move, and we'll probably learn a lot from those old salts. If you want to get in touch with me, send something over That will be in confidence. I can call you if you leave a number, or we could correspond via personal e-mail. Thanks.

  5. So he was a "Boot Camp Washout" if anything at all...
    I can't see that helping his Chicken Hawk Status...