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February 22, 2004

Some Veterans' Views on Kerry

John Kerry recently had the gall to chide the President in an open letter for raising the issue of his post-Vietnam protests and voting record on defense spending and national security issues:

"As you well know, Vietnam was a very difficult and painful period in our nation's history, and the struggle for our veterans continues. So, it has been hard to believe that you would choose to reopen these wounds for your personal political gain. But, that is what you have chosen to do."

This is stunning, given that it was Kerry's campaign that decided to make Vietnam a central issue in the 2004 Presidential campaign. This decision was even more ironic when you consider Kerry's stinging public rebuke to Senator Bob Kerrey in 1992:

We do not need more division. We certainly do not need something as complex and emotional as Vietnam reduced to simple campaign rhetoric. What has been said has been said, Mr. President, but I hope and pray we will put it behind us and go forward in a constructive spirit for the good of our party and the good of our country.

It was Mr. Kerry who, while magnanimously not joining Terry McAuliffe in calling Mr. Bush AWOL, equated his National Guard service with such options as "avoiding the draft... going to Canada, going to jail, being a conscientious objector.". Determined to remain above sordid partisan politics, Senator Kerry reasoned, "Those are choices people make."

Since Mr. Bush is apparently not allowed to question Mr. Kerry's service, perhaps it would be allowable for a Marine who served in Vietnam to offer an opinion? In FrontPage Magazine, a retired Master Sergeant who served on CTF-116 (PBRs) in the Delta shortly after John Kerry went back to the States offers his take on Kerry's service:

Here we have a JFK wannabe (the guy Halsey wanted to court martial for carelessly losing his boat and getting a couple people killed by running across the bow of a Japanese destroyer) who is hardly in Vietnam long enough to get good tan, collects medals faster than Audie Murphy in a job where lots of medals weren't common, gets sent home eight months early and requests separation from active duty a few months after that so he can run for Congress. In that election, he finds out war heroes don't sell well in Massachusetts in 1970, so he reinvents himself as Jane Fonda, throws his ribbons in the dirt with the cameras running to jump start his political career, gets Stillborn Pell to invite him to address Congress and has Bobby Kennedy's speechwriter to do the heavy lifting. A few years later he winds up in the Senate himself, where he votes against every major defense bill and says the CIA is irrelevant after the Berlin Wall came down. He votes against the Gulf War (a big political mistake since that turned out well), then decides not to make the same mistake twice so votes for invading Iraq -- but that didn't fare as well with the Democrats, so he now says he really didn't mean for Bush to go to war when he voted to allow him to go to war.
I'm real glad you or I never had this guy covering out flanks in Vietnam. I sure don't want him as Commander-in-Chief. I hope that somebody from CTF-115 shows up with some facts challenging Kerry's Vietnam record. I know in my gut it's wildly inflated.

Read the entire account - the details are interesting. I don't pretend to have enough knowledge of combat protocols or Swift boat operations to know whether his observations are valid, but anyway it is food for thought. I especially have questions about the wisdom of beaching the boat and leaving it to pursue a single fleeing combatant. Normally I'm hesitant to question what people do in a firefight because I have never been in one (nor am I likely to), and it's easy to sit on the sidelines and take cheap shots from the comfort of your Barcolounger, Corona Lite and pretzel in hand.

However, it does seem pretty obvious that a commander should not do anything that endangers the lives of his crew. From the Boston Globe account of the same incident:

When Kerry returned to his base, his commanding officer, George Elliott, raised an issue with Kerry: the fine line between whether the action merited a medal or a court-martial.
"When [Kerry] came back from the well-publicized action where he beached his boat in middle of ambush and chased a VC around a hootch and ended his life, when [Kerry] came back and I heard his debrief, I said, `John, I don't know whether you should be court-martialed or given a medal, court-martialed for leaving your ship, your post,"' Elliott recalled in an interview.
"But I ended up writing it up for a Silver Star, which is well deserved, and I have no regrets or second thoughts at all about that," Elliott said. A Silver Star, which the Navy said is its fifth-highest medal, commends distinctive gallantry in action.
Asked why he had raised the issue of a court-martial, Elliott said he did so "half tongue-in-cheek, because there was never any question I wanted him to realize I didn't want him to leave his boat unattended. That was in context of big-ship Navy -- my background. A C.O. [commanding officer] never leaves his ship in battle or anything else. I realize this, first of all, it was pretty courageous to turn into an ambush even though you usually find no more than two or three people there. On the other hand, on an operation some time later, down on the very tip of the peninsula, we had lost one boat and several men in a big operation, and they were hit by a lot more than two or three people."
"I don't think they were exactly ready to court-martial him," said Wade Sanders, who commanded a swift boat that sometimes accompanied Kerry's vessel, and who later became deputy assistant secretary of the Navy. "I can only say from the certainty borne of experience that there must have been some rumbling about, `What are we going to do with this guy, he turned his boat,' and I can hear the words, `He endangered his crew.' But from our position, the tactic to take is whatever action is best designed to eliminate the enemy threat, which is what he did."

The Vietnam Vets against John Kerry describe the incident differently:

When Kerry's Patrol Craft Fast 94 received a B-40 rocket shot from shore, he hot dogged his craft beaching it in the center of the enemy position. To his surprise, an enemy soldier sprang up from a hole not ten feet from Patrol Craft 94 and fled.
The boat's machine gunner hit and wounded the fleeing Viet Cong as he darted behind a hootch. The twin .50s gunner fired at the Viet Cong. He said he "laid 50 rounds" into the hootch before Kerry leaped from the boat and dashed in to administer a "coup de grace" to the wounded Viet Cong. Kerry returned with the B-40 rocket and launcher. Kerry was given a Silver Star for his actions.
In April 1969, having engineered an early transfer out of the conflict because of his three minor wounds, John Kerry left his crew behind and returned home to a sweet assignment as an aide to Rear Admiral Walter F. Schlech, Jr. Navy rules, he pointed out, allowed a thrice-wounded soldier to return to the United States immediately. In October 1969, while Kerry was still on active duty assigned to Admiral Schlech, Kerry was flying Adam Walinsky (Robert F. Kennedy's former speech writer), around New York state to deliver anti-war speeches. BY Jan. 3, 1970, Kerry had become so inspired by Walinsky's anti-war beliefs that he petitioned Admiral Schlech, "to tell his boss that his conscientious dictated that he protest the war, that he wanted out of the Navy immediately so that he could run for congress." Admiral Schlech consented and Kerry received an honorable discharge from the Navy six months early.

It is interesting to see the unsanitized version of Senator Kerry's war record - especially since he will not release the medical details surrounding his three Purple Hearts. One would hardly recognize the dashing war hero depicted in his campaign speeches: a hero who applied for early transfer back to the States after only 4 months of combat in country and then obtained an early release from active duty in order to run for Congress after vocally criticizing George Bush for taking time off from National Guard drill to help with a family friend's campaign during the final months of the war, when we were no longer sending troops over to Vietnam.

Update: Well, I thought I'd been rough on Kerry lately, but one of Jen Martinez' readers is really ticked off. Strong language. Well deserved.

- posted by Cassandra

February 22, 2004 at 01:29 PM | Permalink


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Although I think Bush is a lamer than lame president I find your blog to be a well-done defense of him. The arguments are well constructed and the sources you find are interesting.

I am just disappointed because I saw the title on "recently updated blogs" and I thought Jet Noise was going to be about a Japanese punk rock band or something. Anyway, nice blog.

Posted by: Evan at Feb 22, 2004 1:47:54 PM

Thank you Evan. I'd try to find something about Japanese punk, but I think I'm may be too old and out-of-touch :)

Posted by: Cassandra at Feb 22, 2004 2:03:45 PM

I also need to check my typing before I hit the post button...

Posted by: Cassandra at Feb 22, 2004 2:04:58 PM

Sounds to me like you're just another Right-winger engaging in the politics of personal destruction. questioning the senator's patriotism, and bringing up the touchy subject of Vietnam, which Kerry studiously tries to avoid. Now he will have to go back into counseling for PTSD, and get medication for the tic.

On a serious note, I have wondered if there are witnesses to the two scratches and one boo-boo received by the thrice-decorated haughty, French-looking Massachusetts senator, during his Vietnam service. How lucky can a guy get? Four months of service, sufficient woundings to get a ride home, so he writes up his own recommendations for these medals and asks for cushy stateside duty!

Perhaps he should buy a lottery ticket?

Posted by: MathMom at Feb 22, 2004 3:18:38 PM

You're right MathMom...I don't know what gets into me sometimes. Kerry has been so reticent on the issue of his Vietnam days that I really ought to respect his silence and declare a moratorium on the subject. Mea culpa.

Posted by: Cassandra at Feb 22, 2004 4:42:47 PM

Old friends.


Posted by: spd rdr at Feb 22, 2004 10:36:49 PM

Does it trouble you to be promoting information that's been proven false?

Posted by: Anil at Feb 23, 2004 3:40:49 PM

Good job.

I demand that Kerry reveal his military records! He appears to be hiding something and the only way he can rebutt this is by proffering his records! Does that sound familiar, Democrats? What's good for the goose ...

Posted by: Colorado Conservative at Feb 23, 2004 3:50:28 PM

I was a junior officer in Vietnam from 1971-72. In view of the fact that Kerry slandered and questioned the honor of every officer who ever served in Vietnam in his now infamous comments as a member of the VVAW, it's mind-boggling that he has the audacity to whine that his "patriotism" is being questioned. If revealing the truth about his record is the same as questioning his "patriotism," so much the worse for him. I have been a registered Democrat in the State of Maryland for the last decade, but if Kerry gets the nomination, I guarantee you I will become an activist in favor of Bush. We're supposed to be nominating him because of his "electability??" Give me a break!

Posted by: Doug Drake at Feb 23, 2004 4:08:18 PM

Ofcourse it doesn't bother him that's it's been proven false, glenn would have never linked to something true. Anyhow, it's all for their own rightwing consumption to begin with, if Kerry gets elected they have to build up that irrational Kerry hatred now.

Posted by: laddy at Feb 23, 2004 4:13:19 PM

Er, Anil? When did Snopes graduate to the Almighty Everlasting Absolute Font of Truth? Their sources, especially Joe Klein, ain't exactly what I'd call unbiased, unquestionable mortal locks of veracity.

Let's see the medical records, Sen. Kerry. I've seen W's teeth; show me your scars!

Posted by: TC at Feb 23, 2004 4:16:24 PM

Are you asserting that Snopes' record isn't immeasurably better as an unbiased source of fact than FrontPage's? I'd find it difficult to believe anyone could make that assertion with a straight face.

Posted by: Anil at Feb 23, 2004 5:43:10 PM

No, Anil, we saw Bush's teeth, we demand to see Kerry's boohoo history ;)

Posted by: capt joe at Feb 23, 2004 6:00:42 PM

To say that Joel Klein isn`t biased is rediculous. Front Page may lean toward the right but their credibility hasn`t been questioned. Snopes has.

Posted by: joatmoaf at Feb 23, 2004 6:02:19 PM

No, I'm just asserting that anybody who includes Klein as a source. I have had the displeasure to meet Klein when I was editor at my college newspaper and paid a fat speaking fee for twenty-five minutes of him bragging about "Primary Colors" and skipping out on the Q&A session he was booked for. I'd never believe anything he said without a polygraph hooked up to him.
FrontPage admits they're biased. Klein just smiles and denies it.

Posted by: TC at Feb 23, 2004 6:05:22 PM


Exactly what did I say that was proven false? I didn't say Kerry wasn't wounded - he obviously was. I quoted exactly the same source your Snopes link did - the Boston Globe article. In fact, I quoted several sources, as I always do, in order to allow the reader to evaluate several opinions.

The point is that he was wounded very slightly - the worst of his 3 wounds only required 2 days light duty. He only served 4 months combat and used an obscure reg to get a cushy billet as an admiral's aide - those don't come easily. And then he short-toured again out of the Navy to run for Congress. And not everyone who got scratches got a Purple Heart over there.

Just to put this whole thing in perspective, my father in law served 2 tours over there in the same brown water Navy Kerry did. He volunteered to go back over after his first hitch, and he had a wife and three small children back home. He had a lot more to lose than Mr. Kerry.

He died in his early fifties of colon and liver cancer that came on suddenly. A vets org contacted his widow, trying to get her to sue the federal govt because he had been exposed to so much Agent Orange while in Vietnam. He would never have approved of doing something like that to the country he served. So you see, I don't have a lot of brief for guys like Mr. Kerry.

My Dad served over there, too, but he was on board a battleship and he never had to experience the horrors of combat - he was just away from his family for a long, long time on that, and other ships.

None of this would be germane if Kerry hadn't made an issue of it himself. He is a hypocrite of the worst kind. He pulled strings himself - he tried to avoid the draft by going to Paris and only joined the Navy because he thought he could avoid combat. I'm glad he served, I'm sorry he saw combat just like I'm sorry any American boy say combat. Although at 27, he was hardly a boy. I deplore what he did when he came back. There are honorable ways to protest. His protest was not honorable.

Calling your fellow soldiers murderers, rapists, and torturers is not honorable - especially when you are quoting men who were not even vets. Marching under a Viet Cong flag when we have POW's being tortured is not honorable. Publishing a book where they mock the Iwo Jima memorial is not honorable.

How you can defend these things escapes me, but maybe you have a different definition of honor than the one I grew up with.

Posted by: Cassandra at Feb 23, 2004 6:07:22 PM

NOTE: insert "leaves me dubious" at the end of that first sentence. My Bad!

Posted by: TC at Feb 23, 2004 6:08:51 PM

About Snopes' alleged refutation -- why assume they are perfectly impartial here. I've come across various arguments from time to time that Snopes does have an agenda at times.

Posted by: newscaper at Feb 23, 2004 6:23:59 PM

Snopes also conveniently only quotes the Boston Globe. There have been other accounts of the same incident that were far less flattering to Kerry. Frankly, I was tempted to use them, but most were so vitriolic that I wasn't sure they were objective. The Globe, on the other hand, has been pretty much pro-Kerry. So if anything, you got an anti- and a pro-Kerry view. And I left out some very damaging material from vets who were there or served in PBR's who had very nasty things to say about Senator Kerry.

I think I was more than fair. I threw away more material than I used.

Posted by: Cassandra at Feb 23, 2004 6:36:12 PM

The Snopes piece actualy reinforces the claim. Non-military (or those who don't read past "false") don't get it, and that's too bad.

To have claimed the first two purple hearts is pathetic.

The Silver Star incident was worthy of Court Martial. He broke from tactics - the gunner even admits Kerry put him in a position where his weapons - the best defense the boat had, were useless. But when you're a young family friend of the Kennedy's and the boss has a choice between Silver Star or Court Martial...

Get ready for this: The last episode sounds deserving of recognition.

The problem is, he used it and all the others to abandon his command in time of war. Reprehensible and inexcusable.

Posted by: Greyhawk at Feb 23, 2004 11:04:24 PM

You should also note the Bronze Star which "Mr." Kerry was awarded for "rescueing" Jim Rassman,an Army Green Beret soldier, who fell overboard off of Kerry's PCF (Swiftboat).

The Bronze Star is awarded for "Valor above and beyond the call of duty." A U.S.Navy officer, acting as C in C of a U.S. Navy vessel is required by regulations to search and rescue men overboard. To not do so is a Courtmartial offense.

As rescueing Rassman was a duty to which Kerry was required, there should have been no award.

Posted by: ET at Mar 29, 2004 7:46:50 AM

My dad served in vietnam, im very proud of him for that. my brother James was born while my dad was on duty over there. My father came home but James came a month late- after my father had left to go back to vietnam and my dad did not get to see his son once for more than a year after james was born, because he was doing his duty. my dad got shot in the butt and stayed there to serve his country it makes me mad to see hot some little rich punk get out of serving his time and getting medal's of honor on top of that.

Posted by: tabby at Aug 16, 2004 8:41:42 PM

I don't know if your Dad is still alive, tabby, but if he is, please tell him how grateful we are for his service. That's something I don't think most Vietnam vets have heard nearly often enough. While you're at it, thank your Mom too. I watched what my Mom and my friend's mothers went through while their husbands were away.

We owe them all a tremendous debt of gratitude.

Posted by: Cassandra at Aug 16, 2004 9:09:51 PM