Kerry's heroism...for what it's worth

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Moi, Mar 21, 2004.

  1. Moi

    Moi Active Member

    Sep 2, 2003
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    Several articles of note:

    Veterans and the Kerry Controversy
    By Thomas D. Segel
    February 23, 2004

    It seems the spin-doctors have gone to work early in the John F. Kerry campaign. As he makes his run to be the Democrat nominee in the race for the presidency, there is great trumpeting of his combat service in Vietnam, along with the medals he was awarded for that service. In true political fashion the spin machine wants to proclaim him a distinguished hero, while at the same time cautioning all who happen to raise an eyebrow that nobody should question Kerry's service or valor.

    I would argue that anyone who experienced shots fired in anger has the right to ask questions about any other person who makes similar claims. John Kerry and company have opened some ugly wounds and brought back to the surface sad memories of a painful war. They should be prepared to field and reply to any and all questions about the candidate's actions in that long ago Vietnam.

    To be objective, it must be pointed out Kerry did serve off the coast of Vietnam aboard the USS Gridley for six months between December 1967 and June 1968. He was an officer in the electrical department during a relatively uneventful short tour.

    On December 1, 1968 Kerry arrived in Vietnam and assumed command of Patrol Boat Fast 'Swift Boat' #44, on which he served until late in January 1969. Records show that on December 2, 1968 he was slightly wounded in his arm, earning his first Purple Heart.

    In late January, Kerry was transferred to 'Swift Boat' #94. Records indicate the boat had 18 missions during the next 48 days. Almost all were in the MeKong Delta.

    According to military documents, Kerry sustained a minor shrapnel wound to his left thigh on February 20, 1969. He was awarded his second Purple Heart.

    The actions, which unfolded on February 28, led to Lt. Kerry's first award for valor. When his patrol craft received rocket fire from shore, he ordered his boat beached in the center of the enemy position. An enemy fighter jumped from an emplacement just a few feet from where the boat beached and attempted to flee. He was shot and wounded by the patrol craft gunner, firing a twin 50-caliber machine gun. As the wounded Viet Cong darted behind a shack for protection, the gunner fired an estimated 50 rounds through the building. Kerry than leaped from the boat and ran to the shack. Though it is not stated in the citation, Kerry¹s later remarks were that he administered a 'coup de grace' to the wounded enemy and returned to his boat with a B-40 rocket and launcher. He then moved his boat approximately 800 yards further up river to suppress enemy fire. He again ordered his boat beached and personally led a landing party ashore in pursuit of the enemy. Later, sweeping the area the crew uncovered a supply dump, which was destroyed. The citation lauds Kerry's daring and personal courage in attacking a numerically superior force during that highly successful mission. He was awarded the Silver Star.

    On March 13, 1969 when his 'Swift Boat' was exiting the Bay Hap River a mine detonated wounding Lt Kerry in the right arm. The five boats in that patrol all started receiving fire from the riverbanks. Kerry discovered he had a man overboard and went to assist. While in an exposed position in the bow of the boat, he pulled the man aboard, and then directed his boat to assist another damaged boat to safety. For this action, Kerry was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat 'V'. He was also awarded his third Purple Heart.

    On March 17, 1969, just four days after the Bay Hap River action, Lieutenant (jg) John F. Kerry requested relief under a rule, which allowed recipients of three Purple Hearts to be reassigned to a non-combat duty. He was returned to the United States. Shortly after his return, Kerry requested an early release from the Navy so that he might campaign for Congress.

    This is the brief four-month combat duty of John F. Kerry, as closely as it can be reconstructed. He has talked repeatedly of his Navy service, but has never explained the details of his personal involvement.

    Retired Marine Major Frank Stolz of Round Rock, Texas has some deep concerns about Kerry's 'Swift Boat' exploits and his swifter tour of duty in Vietnam. "He returned to the USA after all of four months with the swift boats", says Stolz. "He reminded his Commanding Officer that he had three Purple hearts and should be allowed to leave the combat zone. His behavior during this period was reckless and his medals are in question. There was killing of unarmed civilians and later a wounded soldier, which earned him a Silver Star. He had to do a lot of the writing for this award himself, or he talked his crew members into writing him up, as he was the only officer."

    Stolz points out an important fact that is never mentioned when Kerry campaign personnel speak of their candidate's heroism. "Wounded enemy soldiers are brought to the rear for questioning, as required by the Geneva Conventions, UN policy and U.S. military doctrine. Only when the enemy soldier is fighting or when returning him would jeopardize your unit is it permissible to kill him. Obviously that wounded soldier could have been carried to the swift boat, taken to the medics and then to the interrogators."

    Retired Army Colonel George R. Givens of Paige, Texas also has reservations as to the propriety of Kerry¹s action under fire. "As I understand it, the enemy attacked his boat and he responded by grounding the boat, leaping off, and personally pursuing a wounded enemy, which he killed."

    "At the time he was Commander of his Swift Boat. Think about it. In the middle of an attack, the Captain of the Ship runs his boat aground, leaves the boat and crew of five enlisted men behind, and conducts needless, single handed pursuit of a fleeing enemy, while his boat and crew are especially vulnerable to further attack by possible hidden forces."

    "Swift Boats were not heavily armored or armed. One of the few defensive weapons they had was maneuverability, including leaving the area to call in air strikes or artillery. By intentionally grounding his boat so he could get off and conduct a one man chase, he took away one of the primary defenses of his boat."

    There are still more questions veterans have about the four months of John Kerry's combat service. Most notable in the mind of this writer, are more than 100 email messages wanting to know the details of his three Purple Heart awards.

    There are many who point to something which is traditional among combat troops and a concern of those in command; large numbers fail to report minor wounds, knowing that if they do so it most likely will mean their removal from the unit and treatment at some medical facility. They just don¹t want to leave the members of their squads, platoons, or companies. Most men in combat units develop an unbreakable bond with their brothers in arms. They won¹t abandon those in their units, if there is any way to avoid separation.

    So, in the case of John Kerry ALL want to know IF the wounds were minor, who treated them? IF there were no medical personnel, who decided they were combat wounds? IF it was decided they were wounds, who recommended they be submitted to receive the Purple Heart? And finally IF three Purple Hearts were the ticket out of combat, why did it take four long days for this officer to request relief and abandon those in his command?

    There are dozens upon dozens of related "Kerry Questions" but they must be addressed in another commentary.


    He won his first Purple Heart when he was wounded slightly on an arm. But if a wound draws blood — "even shaving," as irreverent GIs often say — it's worth a Purple Heart. Three months later a piece of shrapnel pierced his left thigh and he qualified for his second. Eight days later, he won the Silver Star when his swift boat took a rocket shot from the shore and he beached the boat in the midst of several enemy positions. An enemy soldier sprang from a hidey hole and sprinted into a "hootch," or hut. A gunner aboard the swift sprayed the hootch with .50-caliber machine-gun bullets, and Lt. Kerry leaped from the boat to administer the coup de grace to the wounded Viet Cong. He returned triumphantly, holding high the rocket and launcher used to damage his boat. The beau geste was worth the Silver Star. The very next month he won his third Purple Heart when a mine detonated near his boat and a piece of shrapnel hit his right arm. He later said his wounds cost him two days' service. Nevertheless, the three wounds were worth an assignment stateside, when he applied to take advantage of a Navy rule that entitled a thrice-wounded man to take his leave from a combat zone.

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