Swift Vets and POWs for "Truth" v. The Truth
[Formerly Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth" v. The Truth]

 

Acknowledgements


Home Page Kerry Purple Heart 1 Kerry Bronze Star Kerry and Cambodia
Bush campaign and SBV Kerry Purple Heart 3 Kerry Silver Star Kerry - Other War Related
Who's behind SBV? Other Lies or B.S. SBV v. SBV Who served "with" Kerry? 
Appendix A: Republicans saved by Kerry  Appendix B: The Double-Standards Game
Appendix C: GOP Attack Dogs Inc.  Appendix D: The "He-Said, She-Said" Game

JOHN KERRY'S BRONZE STAR

 

SUMMARY FACTS
(For detailed proof, scroll down or click here)

  • SBV's claim that Kerry did not receive any fire in the incident that led to his Bronze Star and that there were no bullet holes in any of the boats is completely and categorically false. This has become apparent from a variety of sources other than Kerry.

    • A key accuser of Kerry is Larry Thurlow, who was in a different boat but obtained a Bronze Star as a result of the same incident. Thurlow had refused to refused to divulge the citation on his own award but it was obtained by the Washington Post independently, and it shows that there was indeed fire from the enemy. Moreover, the eyewitness cited in Thurlow's Bronze Star is Robert Eugene Lambert - who also won a Bronze Star that day - and not Kerry, thereby laying to waste Thurlow's claim that Kerry was responsible for the mention of enemy fire in his after-action report. 

      • Mr. Thurlow's fake outrage over his "discovery" that he had been awarded a Bronze Star even though there wasn't enemy fire is less than compelling. If he knew all along that there was no enemy fire, what did Thurlow think he did that deserved a Bronze Star in the first place? After all, Thurlow was trying to rescue other soldiers just as Kerry did. Why did he even accept a Bronze Star for this act, if it was no different from what Kerry did, considering he thinks Kerry was undeserving? Not to mention that it is impossible to believe someone did not hear or read their Bronze Star citation when awarded one!

    • Lambert, who dislikes Kerry, has now stated that there was indeed enemy fire that day and that Thurlow is mistaken because he was probably too distracted during the incident. Lambert received a Bronze Star himself, on that same day, for rescuing Thurlow under enemy fire. His Bronze Star citation, which could not have been written by Kerry either because it mentions details that Kerry simply could not have known given the relative positions of their boats, clearly mentions enemy fire and "suppressing fire" from Lambert.

    • Two other eyewitnesses (who were not on Kerry's boat) - Wayne Langhofer and Jim Russell -  plus after-action reports and a Navy Task force report indicate conclusively that there was enemy fire that day (not to mention bullet holes)

    • Moreover, Thurlow's claim that there were no shots fired at all is contradicted by his fellow SBV member Alfred French who claims that any shots fired were from U.S. soldiers. Both French and George Elliott backtracked from their accusations against Kerry by saying they really had no first hand information about what happened and are relying on the statements of other SBV members. Van O'Dell later stated under questioning that "he did not have "a single document" to prove Kerry fabricated reports of enemy fire that won him two medals."

  • Kerry's crewmates at the time, including the one whose life he saved (Jim Rassmann), back up Kerry's record and version of events, including the fact that Kerry did not simply "flee" as SBV has alleged, but actually turned around to save his crewmate's life, under fire. Indeed, the records show that all the boats had left the enemy fire zone, not just Kerry's. Larry Thurlow himself admitted that Kerry did not "flee", contradicting his own charge.

  • SBV's claim that the incident report was authored by Kerry because it showed his initials is utterly false. Not only does the report NOT have Kerry's initials, the Navy has stated that the initials belong to the recipient of the report - not the author. 

  • SBV's claim that the incident report was authored by Kerry because of the numerical identifiers on top of the form is also false. The identifiers are of the Swift Boat unit - not of Kerry or the author, and Hoffman backpedaled from that claim by saying it's "not cast-iron"..

  • SBV's claim that Kerry and Thurlow won the Bronze Star solely based on Kerry's report is also utterly false as is evident from their self-contradictory statements.

 

DETAILED FACTS

1. SBV claim on Kerry's truthfulness regarding his Bronze Star - and that there was no enemy fire during the incident

1A. SBV claim that every officer on duty the day of the Bronze Star incident backs their story that there was no enemy fire when Rassman was rescued by Kerry

2. SBV claim that Kerry wrote his own (incident) report to win his Bronze Star/medals 

3. SBV claim that Kerry (and Thurlow) won the Bronze Star based solely based on Kerry's report

4. SBV claim that Kerry admits "he fled" and "everyone else stayed" 

 

1. SBV CLAIM ON KERRY'S TRUTHFULNESS REGARDING HIS BRONZE STAR AND THAT THERE WAS NO ENEMY FIRE DURING THE INCIDENT

[via FactCheck.org]: Van O'Dell, a former Navy enlisted man who says he was the gunner on another Swift Boat, states in his affidavit that he was "a few yards away" from Kerry's boat on March 13, 1969 when Kerry pulled one of his crewmen from the water. According to the official medal citations, Kerry's boat was under enemy fire at the time, and Kerry had been wounded when an enemy mine exploded near his own boat. O'Dell insists "there was no fire" at the time, adding: "I did not hear any shots, nor did any hostile fire hit any boats" other than his own, PCF-3.

[Van O'Dell]: John Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star. I know. I was there. I saw what happened.

[Van O'Dell]: There was no enemy fire from either bank.

[Jack Chenowith]: His account of what happened and what actually happened are the difference between night and day.

[via the Boston Globe]: Elliott, in the interview yesterday, said that based on the affidavits of the veterans on other boats, he now thinks his assessment about the Bronze Star and third Purple Heart may have been based on poor information.

[Larry Thurlow on CNN, via Atrios]: Now, two members in this boat, keep in mind, are in the river at that time. They're picked up. The boat that picks them up starts toward Lieutenant Rassmann at this time, that's the 23-boat (ph). But before they get there, John does return and pick him up. But I distinctly remember we were under no fire from either bank.

[O'Neill via Daily Howler]: There's not a bullet hole in any of those three boats, not one.

FACT
(i)
SBV's claim that Kerry did not receive any fire in the incident that led to his Bronze Star and that there were no bullet holes in any of the boats is completely and categorically false. This has become apparent from a variety of sources other than Kerry.

  • A key accuser of Kerry is Larry Thurlow, who was in a different boat but obtained a Bronze Star as a result of the same incident. Thurlow had refused to refused to divulge the citation on his own award but it was obtained by the Washington Post independently, and it shows that there was indeed fire from the enemy. Moreover, the eyewitness cited in Thurlow's Bronze Star is Robert Eugene Lambert - who also won a Bronze Star that day - and not Kerry, thereby laying to waste Thurlow's claim that Kerry was responsible for the mention of enemy fire in his after-action report. 

  • Lambert, who dislikes Kerry, has now stated that there was indeed enemy fire that day and that Thurlow is mistaken because he was probably too distracted during the incident. Lambert received a Bronze Star himself, on that same day, for rescuing Thurlow under enemy fire. His Bronze Star citation, which could not have been written by Kerry either because it mentions details that Kerry simply could not have known given the relative positions of their boats, clearly mentions enemy fire and "suppressing fire" from Lambert.

  • Two other eyewitnesses (who were not on Kerry's boat) - Wayne Langhofer and Jim Russell -  plus after-action reports and a Navy Task force report indicate conclusively that there was enemy fire that day (not to mention bullet holes)

  • Moreover, Thurlow's claim that there were no shots fired at all is contradicted by his fellow SBV member Alfred French who claims that any shots fired were from U.S. soldiers. Both French and George Elliott backtracked from their accusations against Kerry by saying they really had no first hand information about what happened and are relying on the statements of other SBV members. Van O'Dell later stated under questioning that "he did not have "a single document" to prove Kerry fabricated reports of enemy fire that won him two medals."

(ii) Kerry's crewmates, including the one whose life he saved (Jim Rassman), back up Kerry's record and version of events.

REFERENCES
Daily Howler:

Every crewman on Kerry’s boat says they were under hostile fire. Rassmann, the man whose life was saved, says there was hostile fire too. And now, three different crewmen from two other boats have also come forward to describe hostile fire. Let’s make sure we recall who they are. You won’t hear about them on cable:
  1. Wayne Langhofer, PCF-43 (skipper: Dan Droz). Reported by the Washington Post, 8/22/04.
  2. Jim Russell, PCF-43 (skipper: Dan Droz). Reported by the Associated Press, 8/23/04.
  3. Robert Lambert, PCF-51 (skipper: Larry Thurlow). Reported by the Mail Tribune, 8/26/04.
These men join Kerry’s entire crew and Rassmann in saying there was enemy fire. Meanwhile, Newsweek’s John Barry reported yesterday that Lambert’s Bronze Star citation describes “small-arms and automatic weapons fire from the river banks.” There was no chance that this account could have come from Kerry, he said.

Nor is this the only incident in which Kerry has received recent support. On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune’s William Rood wrote a front-page essay supporting Kerry’s account of the Silver Star incident, in which Kerry saved the lives of his crew. Aside from Kerry himself, Rood is the only surviving officer who witnessed the events of that day. Rood complained that the Swift Boat Vets were “armed with stories I know to be untrue.” He twice mentioned John O’Neill by name, directly contradicting his accounts of this incident. (In today’s New York Times, the widow of that day’s third officer also supports Kerry’s view. More below.)

Readers, isn’t it time for America’s “journalists” to conduct a damage assessment? More specifically, isn’t it time for the lords and ladies to confront the slander campaign against Kerry—a campaign that is changing America’s White House election?

Joseph Galloway, Knight Ridder (via Atrios):

Military records back John Kerry's account of his service in Vietnam and have backed at least two of his accusers into a corner.
...
Thurlow said he had lost his medal citation for that incident over two decades ago and stood by his account that there was no enemy fire at the time.

His account was further called into question by a battle damage assessment report on another Swift boat, PCF-51, involved in the March 13 action. The report listed three .30-caliber bullet holes in the superstructure of the 50-foot patrol boat.

The Swift boat veterans also have cast doubt on Kerry's account that a second mine explosion damaged his boat, PCF-94, and blew an Army Special Forces officer, Jim Rassmann, overboard. Kerry's Bronze Star was awarded for his rescue of Rassmann, who credited Kerry with saving his life.

Among the records was a battle damage report filed the following day, March 14, which stated that PCF-94 had three windows blown out, radios and radar inoperable, the boat's auxiliary generator inoperable, screws curled and chipped, aft helm steerage control not working. The boat was judged incapable of executing patrols without repairs.

David Corn, The Nation (via Atrios):

Although the citation for Kerry's Bronze Star notes he rescued Rassmann in the face of sniper fire and Kerry, Rassmann and PCF-94 crew members all say Rassmann was under fire when Kerry pulled him aboard, the anti-Kerry vets insist that was not how it happened, that there was no enemy fire. Their campaign against Kerry took a hit yesterday when The Washington Post disclosed that the military records of Larry Thurlow--a leader of the anti-Kerry outfit who also won a Bronze Star for actions taken during this engagement--contradict Thurlow's claim that there was no enemy fire at the time. (See here.) Military records obtained by The Nation provide more evidence that there was enemy fire during this episode.

Three Navy men won Bronze Stars for their actions that day: Kerry, Thurlow, and radarman first class Robert Eugene Lambert, a petty officer in the boat captained by Thurlow. The citation for Lambert's Bronze Star--previously undisclosed but obtained today under the Freedom of Information Act from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis--repeats the description of the incident included in the citation for Thurlow's Bronze Star: "all units came under small arms and automatic weapons fire from the river banks." Lambert's citation also notes that Lambert--who assumed command of PCF-51 after Thurlow went to assist another Swift boat damaged by a mine--"directed accurate suppressing fire at the enemy." The citation praises Lambert's "coolness, professionalism and courage under fire."

In an affidavit Thurlow signed last month, he said "no return fire occurred....I never heard a shot." He said to the Post, "I am here to state that we weren't under fire." But the individual citations for Thurlow, Kerry and Lambert each refer to enemy fire. And the Lambert citation also suggests there was a need for his boat to engage in "suppressing fire."

Asked about the discrepancy between his own account and his citation, Thurlow, who was the senior skipper in the flotilla involved in this engagement, said that Kerry was often able to present his own (presumably self-serving) descriptions of events to superiors. But neither Thurlow nor the Swift Boat group has substantiated this claim. And did Kerry rig not only his own award recommendation but those of Thurlow and Lambert? In the award recommendation for Thurlow's Bronze Star, Lambert--not Kerry--is listed as the eyewitness. (And Del Sandusky, a crew mate of Kerry, was the eyewitness listed in the award recommendation for Kerry. According to the National Personnel Records Center, Lambert's file no longer contains the award recommendation for his Bronze Star.)

Kerry has posted his award citation on his web site (click here), and Thurlow's Bronze Star citation was posted by the Post (click here). Lambert's citation describes what seems to have been a harrowing situation.

AP via MSNBC:

A Swift Boat crewman decorated in the 1969 Vietnam incident where John Kerry won a Bronze Star says not only did they come under enemy fire but also that his own boat commander, who has challenged the official account, was too distracted to notice the gunfire.

Retired Chief Petty Officer Robert E. Lambert, of Eagle Point, Ore., got a Bronze Star for pulling his boat commander — Lt. Larry Thurlow — out of the Bay Hap River on March 13, 1969. Thurlow had jumped onto another Swift Boat to aid sailors wounded by a mine explosion but fell off when the out-of-control boat ran aground.

Thurlow, who has been prominent among a group of veterans challenging the Democratic presidential candidate’s record, has said there was no enemy fire during the incident. Lambert, however, supports the Navy account that says all five Swift Boats in the task force “came under small arms and automatic weapon fire from the river banks” when the mine detonated.
...
A career military man, Lambert is no fan of Kerry’s either. He doesn’t like Kerry’s post-Vietnam anti-war activity and doesn’t plan to vote for him.

“I don’t like the man himself,” Lambert said, “but I think what happened happened, and he was there.”

A March 1969 Navy report located by The Associated Press this week supports Lambert’s version. The report twice mentions the incident and both times calls it “an enemy initiated firefight” that included automatic weapons fire and underwater mines used against a group of five boats that included Kerry’s.
...
“When they blew the 3-boat, everyone opened up on the banks with everything they had,” he said. “That was the normal procedure. When they came after you, they came after you. Somebody on shore blew that mine.”

“There was always a firefight” after a mine detonation, he said.

“Kerry was out in front of us, on down the river. He had to come back up the river to get to us.”

Lambert retired in 1978 as a chief petty officer with 22 years of service and three tours in Vietnam. He does not remember ever meeting Kerry.

Also see Lambert's account reported by the Mail Tribune (via reader EE and Josh Marshall).

John Barry, Newsweek:

A previously undisclosed Navy record obtained by NEWSWEEK supports John Kerry’s claim that he was under fire when he rescued a U.S. Green Beret who had pitched overboard from Kerry’s 50-foot Swift Boat during a short but intense engagement in Vietnam's Mekong Delta in March 1969.
...
The third Bronze Star was won by one of Thurlow’s own launch crew, Robert Eugene Lambert, who was radarman and the senior noncom on Thurlow’s boat. NEWSWEEK obtained a copy of the citation for Lambert’s Bronze Star from the National Personnel Records Center in St Louis under a Freedom of Information Act filing. This citation, like the others, says that following a mine explosion that wrecked one of the Swift Boats, the flotilla of five boats “came under small-arms and automatic weapons fire from the river banks.” Lambert won his Bronze Star for an action precisely paralleling Kerry’s: Lambert picked someone out of the river. In Lambert’s case, that someone was his skipper, Thurlow.

Thurlow had steered his Swift Boat to the aid of its companion damaged by the mine, personally leaping into the foundering craft to aid its badly wounded crew while Lambert “directed accurate suppressing fire at the enemy,” according to the citation. In the swirling confusion, Thurlow was then knocked overboard from the wrecked launch. Lambert “from an exposed position and with complete disregard for his personal safety” pulled Thurlow back on to his Swift Boat, the citation says. It concludes by commending Lambert’s “coolness, professionalism and courage under fire.”

Lambert’s surviving military records do not include the initial recommendation for this medal, so there is no way to know who filled the required role of witness to vouch for Lambert’s actions. But the citation contains such detail about the actions of both Thurlow and Lambert—actions that Kerry cannot have known since his launch was on the far side of the river—that it seems implausible Kerry could have written the recommendation.

Michael Dobbs (Washington Post):

Until now, eyewitness evidence supporting Kerry's version had come only from his own crewmen. But yesterday, The Post independently contacted a participant who has not spoken out so far in favor of either camp who remembers coming under enemy fire. "There was a lot of firing going on, and it came from both sides of the river," said Wayne D. Langhofer, who manned a machine gun aboard PCF-43, the boat that was directly behind Kerry's.

Langhofer said he distinctly remembered the "clack, clack, clack" of enemy AK-47s, as well as muzzle flashes from the riverbanks. Langhofer, who now works at a Kansas gunpowder plant, said he was approached several months ago by leaders of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth but declined their requests to speak out against Kerry.

Digby:

As with Mr. Rood yesterday, via Susie, I see we have another eyewitness coming forward and disputing the swift boat lies.
Dear Editor,

This letter is in response to the new attacks on John Kerry's war record by a group calling itself the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." As for most veterans of any war and as people who know me will testify, it is not easy for me to talk about my experiences in Vietnam. However, because of these new ads and, I understand, a new book recently published by an old Charles Colson "Enemies List" hit man, I feel compelled to speak out. Unfortunately, the veterans featured in these attacks are being used by extreme right wing Bush supporters to spread their lies and malign John Kerry.
...
Since I happened to be along on one of the "excursions" where the boats that we were on were attacked and after which Lt. Kerry was cited for valor, I thought it appropriate to give my recollection of that event. This happened on March 13, 1969. I was assigned as Psychological Operation Officer for the Swift Boat group out of An Thoi, Vietnam, from January 1969 to October 1969. As such, I was on No. 43 boat, skippered by Don Droz who was later that year killed by enemy fire. We were second in line while exiting the river and going through the opening in a fish trap when a mine blew up under the No. 3 boat directly in front of us and we started taking small arms fire from the beach. Almost immediately, another mine went off somewhere behind us. All boats, except the one hit, immediately wheeled toward the beach that most of the fire came from (a tactic devised by Lt. Kerry, I later learned) and commenced showering the beaches with so much lead, that it could probably be now mined there. The noise was of course, deafening.

Three things that are forever pictured in my mind since that day over 30 years ago are: (1) The No. 3, 50-foot long, Swift boat getting huge, huge air; John Kerry thought it was about two feet. (He was farther away from it than I). I think it was at least four feet and probably closer to six feet; (2) All the boats turning left and letting loose at the same time like a deadly, choreographed dance and; (3) A few minutes later, John Kerry bending over his boat picking up one of the rangers that we were ferrying from out of the water. All the time we were taking small arms fire from the beach; although because of our fusillade into the jungle, I don't think it was very accurate, thank God. Anyone who doesn't think that we were being fired upon must have been on a different river.

The picture I have in my mind of Kerry bending over from his boat picking some hapless guy out of the river while all hell was breaking loose around us, is a picture based on fact and it cannot be disputed or changed. It's a piece of history drawn in my mind that cannot be redrawn. Sorry, "Swift Boats Veterans for the Truth"- that is the truth.
...
Jim Russell
Vietnam veteran,
USN (1966-71)

Mary Dalrymple, AP via Kevin Drum (Political Animal):

Kerry also picked up support from Wayne D. Langhofer, who told The Washington Post he was manning a machine gun in a boat behind Kerry's and saw firing from both banks of a river as Kerry dived in to rescue Special Forces soldier James Rassmann, the basis for Kerry's Bronze Star.

Until now, the Post noted on its Web site, Kerry's version of acting under fire had come from crewmen on his own boat. It quoted Langhofer as saying he was approached by leaders of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth several months ago but declined to join them in speaking against Kerry.

Reuters:

A veteran [Van O'Dell] who has disputed Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's Vietnam war record admitted on Sunday he did not have "a single document" to prove Kerry fabricated reports of enemy fire that won him two medals.

Note from reader PO:

French says that any shots that were fired when Kerry plucked Rassman out of the water "came from U.S. sailors providing cover." But Thurlow has sworn under oath that, "I never heard a shot." So either there were no shots or there were cover shots. It can't be both.

[eRiposte note: Here are the articles referring to the quotes above]

Noelle Crombie, The Oregonian:

French said any shots that were fired came from U.S. soldiers providing cover as Rassmann and two others were rescued.

Andrea Stone, USA Today:

One of the other swift boat commanders on the Bay Hap River that day, Larry Thurlow, swore in an affidavit that he "never heard a shot."

FactCheck.org:

None of those in the attack ad by the Swift Boat group actually served on Kerry's boat. And their statements are contrary to the accounts of Kerry and those who served under him. 

Jim Rassmann was the Army Special Forces lieutenant whom Kerry plucked from the water. Rassmann has said all along that he was under sniper fire from both banks of the river when Kerry, wounded, helped him aboard. Rassmann is featured in an earlier Kerry ad, in fact, (see script at left) saying "he (Kerry) risked his life to save mine."

The Kerry campaign put Rassmann and some of Kerry's former crewmen on a conference call with reporters to rebut the new ad. Gene Thorson told reporters, "These assertions are garbage; these people weren't there with John Kerry."
...
Another major discrepancy raises a question of how close Kerry's accusers actually were to the rescue of Rassmann. Tour of Duty describes Rassmann's rescue (and the sniper fire) as happening "several hundred yards back" from where the crippled PCF-3 was lying, not "a few yards away," the distance from which the anti-Kerry veterans claim to have witnessed the incident.

Media Matters:

O'Neill's claim that Kerry fled is inconsistent both with Rassmann's firsthand account and with the account of Kerry's actions in his Bronze Star citation (pdf) for which Rassmann nominated him: "Kerry's calmness, professionalism and great personal courage under fire were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

On FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes, O'Neill also took issue with "the position that Kerry came under fire" in the events surrounding his saving of Rassmann. But official Naval documents specifically detail the boats involved receiving, "HEAVY A/W (automatic weapons) AND S/A (small arms) FROM BOTH BANKS." Kerry's Bronze Star citation states: "For heroic achievement while serving with Coastal Division ELEVEN engaged in armed conflict with Viet Cong communist aggressors in An Xuyen Province, Republic of Vietnam, on 13 March 1969."

And, after investigating Kerry's military career, the authors of John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best, wrote that a mine blast threw Rassmann into the water and made him "a bobbing target as he dodged the bullets whizzing around him" (p.106).

DCBlues, DailyKos:

A simple Google search reveals a completely different story in American History magazine from this past April. While Kerry was rescuing Rassman,

"Thurlow was struggling to get PCF-3's wounded gunner out of his hole and onto the deck when the damaged Swift ran aground hard on a shoal on the right side of the river, sending Thurlow somersaulting into the water. At the same moment, the five Swifts came under fire from the right side again, and Kerry remembered thinking that was it -- they were going to get completely cut off and annihilated in a crossfire."

Thurlow noted in the IP interview that he was thrown into the water that day, but didn't say why. The American History article also notes:

"Kerry and the other wounded men received medical attention aboard a Coast Guard cutter, which was the closest ship capable of treating them. Along with a third Purple Heart for the injury to his right arm, Kerry was also awarded a Bronze Star for his bravery, as was Larry Thurlow."

In other words, if Kerry doesn't deserve his bronze star, seems that Thurlow doesn't deserve his either...

(See more here).

Michael Dobbs (Washington Post) via Atrios (bold text is eRiposte emphasis):

But Thurlow's military records, portions of which were released yesterday to The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act, contain several references to "enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire" directed at "all units" of the five-boat flotilla. Thurlow won his own Bronze Star that day, and the citation praises him for providing assistance to a damaged Swift boat "despite enemy bullets flying about him."
...
Last month, Thurlow swore in an affidavit that Kerry was "not under fire" when he fished Lt. James Rassmann out of the water. He described Kerry's Bronze Star citation, which says that all units involved came under "small arms and automatic weapons fire," as "totally fabricated."

"I never heard a shot," Thurlow said in his affidavit, which was released by Swift Boats Veterans for Truth. The group claims the backing of more than 250 Vietnam veterans, including a majority of Kerry's fellow boat commanders.

A document recommending Thurlow for the Bronze Star noted that all his actions "took place under constant enemy small arms fire which LTJG THURLOW completely ignored in providing immediate assistance" to the disabled boat and its crew. The citation states that all other units in the flotilla also came under fire.

"It's like a Hollywood presentation here, which wasn't the case," Thurlow said last night after being read the full text of his Bronze Star citation. "My personal feeling was always that I got the award for coming to the rescue of the boat that was mined. This casts doubt on anybody's awards. It is sickening and disgusting." [eRiposte Note: Yes, isn't it, Mr. Thurlow!?]
...
Thurlow and other anti-Kerry veterans have repeatedly alleged that Kerry was the author of an after-action report that described how his boat came under enemy fire. Kerry campaign researchers dispute that assertion, and there is no convincing documentary evidence to settle the argument. As the senior skipper in the flotilla, Thurlow might have been expected to write the after-action report for March 13, but he said that Kerry routinely "duked the system" to present his version of events.

For much of the episode, Kerry was not in a position to know firsthand what was happening on Thurlow's boat, as Kerry's boat had sped down the river after the mine exploded under another boat. He later returned to provide assistance to the stricken boat.

eRiposte note: Mr. Thurlow's fake outrage over his "discovery" that he had been awarded a Bronze Star even though there wasn't enemy fire is less than compelling. If he knew all along that there was no enemy fire, what did Thurlow think he did that deserved a Bronze Star in the first place? After all, Thurlow was trying to rescue other soldiers just as Kerry did. Why did he even accept a Bronze Star for this act, if it was no different from what Kerry did, considering he thinks Kerry was undeserving? Not to mention that it is impossible to believe someone did not hear or read their Bronze Star citation when awarded one!

Information at John Kerry.com:

Van O'Dell was NOT a crewmate of John Kerry's

The Simple Truth: John Kerry was nominated for the Bronze Star by James Rassmann and eyewitness accounts, official naval documents and independent analyses all state that Kerry and his crew were under fire on the day in question.

Official Naval documents available to the public at the Naval Historical Center in Washington, DC and available at www.JohnKerry.com include the after action reports, also known as "spot reports." These reports contain the details of the four boats involved in these actions on March, 13. 1969-including Kerry's boat PCF-94. These reports contain specific details of time, personnel, combat action and even maps. These report specifically detail the boats involved receiving, "HEAVY A/W (automatic weapons) AND S/A (small arms) FROM BOTH BANKS. FIRECONTINUED FOZNABOUT 5000 METERS."

Kerry's injury report for this action, also available at the Naval Historical Center in Washington DC, reads:

	KERRY, JOHN F., XXXXXX, USN WOUNDED IN ACTION - 
	13 March 1969 vicinity of Song Bay Hap, South 
	Vietnam. Received shrapnel wounds in the left 
	buttocks and contusions on the right forearm 
	when a mine detonated close to PCF-94 while 
	engaged in operations on river. CONDITIONS AND 
	PROGNOSIS EXCELLENT. RESULT OF HOSTILE ACTION

The Boston Globe, which has repeatedly criticized John Kerry for any exaggeration or misstatement for the past 30 years, did their own investigation into Kerry's military career. The Globe wrote in their book, "John F. Kerry; A Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best", that a mine blast threw James Rassmann into the water and made him "a bobbing target as he dodged the bullets whizzing around him." [p.106]

Eyewitness account from James Rassmann also detail the fact that PCF-94 and other boats were under fire. In March of 2004, Rassmann, a registered Republican who had not seen Kerry in more than 30 years before their reunion in Iowa this year, recalled the following: "Viet Cong snipers fired at him, and Rassmann submerged over and over to avoid being hit. The bullets came from both banks, and Rassmann had nowhere to go. He began thinking his time had come, but the fifth time he came up, he saw the convoy had turned around. Kerry had ordered the boats back to pick up the man overboard. Kerry's boat, under heavy fire, sidled up to the struggling soldier. Rassmann tried to scramble up a cargo net at the bow but was too exhausted to make it all the way. He clung to the net as bullets whizzed past." [Los Angeles Times, 3/13/04]

Kerry's Bronze Star citation recounts the events of that day and include this sentence, "In addition, all units began receiving small arms fire and automatic weapons fire from both banks." Versions of this citation were signed by the Secretary of the Navy and the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Vietnam. This citation is available for the public to read at www.JohnKerry.com.

...

Jack Chenowith was NOT a crewmate of John Kerry's

Mysterious Vet Named Chenoweth Appears Out of No Where to Accuse U.S. Navy & Fellow Vietnam Vets of Lying: Its Not Kerry's Account on the Bronze Star Citation-It's the Account of the U.S. Navy, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Commander U.S. Naval Forces in Vietnam and backed up by Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley, the Boston Globe, James Rassmann and the Crewmate of PCF-44 & PCF 94.

...

Thurlow's Statements Do Not Fit With History - Says Navy is Lying?
On the day Kerry pulled Rassmann from the water, "Larry Thurlow had maneuvered his PCF-51 over by this time and he hopped aboard PCF-3 to offer assistance. The boat was in shambles but they were still shooting too hard to assess any damage" "BOATS RECEIVED HEAVY A/W [automatic weapons] & S/A [small arms] FROM BOTH BANKS…ALL BOATS AND MSF RETURNED FIRE…PCF-94 [Kerry's boat] PICKED UP MSF ADVISOR WHO WENT OVERBOARD…PCF-94 TOWED PCF-3." [Tour of Duty, Brinkley, 2004, p. 314; U.S. Navy After Action Report: http://www.johnkerry.com/pdf/jkmilservice/SpotReports_March1969.pdf]

Atrios/Eschaton:

End of story. Bored now.
The Kerry campaign has denounced the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, saying none of the men in the ad served on the boat that Kerry commanded. The leader of the group, retired Adm. Roy Hoffmann, said none of the 13 veterans in the commercial served on Kerry's boat but rather were in other swiftboats within 50 yards of Kerry's.

Jim Rassmann, an Army veteran who was saved by Kerry, said there were only six crewmates who served with Kerry on his boat. Five support his candidacy and one is deceased.

Michael Kranish (Boston Globe) - bold text is eRiposte emphasis:

As in the case of the Silver Star, it was Elliott who recommended Kerry for the Bronze Star. According to the recommendation signed by Elliott, a mine exploded under a boat accompanying Kerry's craft.

''Almost simultaneously, another mine detonated close aboard [Kerry's] PCF-94, knocking First Lieutenant Rassman [sic] into the water and wounding Lt. JG Kerry in the right arm."

Elliott then described how Kerry ''managed to pull Lt. Rassman aboard despite the painful wound in his right arm." Elliott concluded that Kerry had been ''calm, professional, and highly courageous in the face of enemy fire."

Elliott, in the interview yesterday, said that based on the affidavits of the veterans on other boats, he now thinks his assessment about the Bronze Star and third Purple Heart may have been based on poor information.
...
Elliott, asked about the contradiction between his recommendation and his new questioning of Kerry's third Purple Heart, responded, ''It makes me look kind of silly, to be perfectly honest."

But he said: ''I simply have no reason for these guys to be lying, and if they are lying in concert, it is one hell of a conspiracy. So, on the basis of all of the information that has come out, I have chosen to believe the other men. I absolutely do not know first hand."

Thomas Lang, Campaign Desk:

According to Lt. Kafka, the U.S. Navy spokesman, the Bronze Star is awarded for bravery, independent of any wounds a soldier may or may not suffer in battle.

Matt Kelley, Associated Press via Atrios and Jules Siegel:

A Navy report filed five days after a disputed incident in Vietnam supports John Kerry's version and contradicts critics who say the Democratic presidential nominee never came under enemy gunfire when he won two medals.

The Navy task force overseeing Kerry's swift boat squadron reported his group of boats being fired on during the March 13, 1969, incident.
...
The March 18, 1969, weekly report from Task Force 115, which was located by The Associated Press during a search of Navy archives, is the latest document to surface that supports Kerry's description of the event. Crew members on Kerry's boat and a Special Forces soldier Kerry pulled from the water that day insist there was enemy fire, and they have appeared on behalf of the Kerry campaign.

The task force report twice mentions the incident and both times calls it "an enemy initiated firefight" that included automatic weapons fire and underwater mines used against a group of five boats that included Kerry's.

Task Force 115 was commanded at the time by retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffmann, the founder of the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which has been running ads challenging Kerry's account of the episode.
...
The document, part of thousands of pages of records housed at the Naval Historical Center, is one of several that say Kerry and other servicemen were shot at from the banks of the Bay Hap River on March 13, 1969.

The anti-Kerry group has not produced any official Navy documents supporting its claim.

 

1A. SBV CLAIM THAT EVERY OFFICER ON DUTY THE DAY OF THE BRONZE STAR INCIDENT BACKS THEIR STORY THAT THERE WAS NO ENEMY FIRE WHEN RASSMAN WAS RESCUED BY KERRY 

[via Daily Howler]: O’NEILL (8/22/04): Now let's move to the question of was there enemy fire when he finally returned? Here's what we have. We have ten different people, every other officer on the scene that day, all of whom, four of them, who say there was no enemy fire after the original mine.

FACT
I guess Mr. O'Neill spoke for a dead person without checking if that person would actually support SBV. No surprise there.

REFERENCE
Daily Howler:

But that other statement was blatantly false too—the amazing statement about the four officers. After all, one of the four other officers that day was Kerry’s friend, the late Daniel Droz. Does O’Neill now claim to speak for the dead? Here’s what Droz’s widow says about his view of these matters:

JUDITH DROZ KEYES (8/27/04): On Feb. 28, 1969, my husband was the commander of one of three Swift boats traveling the Dong Cung in Vietnam to carry troops and supplies upriver [Silver Star incident]. The events of that day, and what happened almost two weeks later on another Swift boat patrol [Bronze Star incident], have become a source of controversy in the presidential campaign, with a group of veterans saying that John Kerry did not deserve the medals he won for what he did then. I know my husband thought otherwise.

“I know my husband thought otherwise,” she says, referring to O’Neill’s nasty accounts of the Bronze and Silver Star events. She describes a letter she received from her husband, and personal conversations they had two weeks before his death.

Yes, Daniel Droz died in Vietnam. And last Sunday, O’Neill went on This Week and lied about Droz, right in Stephanopoulos’ face. But can your “press corps” smell a dissembler? Stephanopoulos gazed into air as O’Neill lied about the honored dead.

 

2. SBV CLAIM THAT KERRY WROTE HIS OWN INCIDENT REPORT TO WIN HIS BRONZE STAR/MEDALS

[via NY Times]: Several veterans insist that Mr. Kerry wrote his own reports, pointing to the initials K. J. W. on one of the reports and saying they are Mr. Kerry's. "What's the W for, I cannot answer," said Larry Thurlow, who said his boat was 50 to 60 yards from Mr. Kerry's.

[via the Washington Post]: In a telephone interview, the head of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, retired Adm. Roy Hoffmann, who commanded all Swift boats in Vietnam, said he believed that Kerry wrote the March 13 after-action report on the basis of numerical identifiers at the top of the form.

FACT
False and false. 
(i) The initials were those of the recipient of the report, not the author! There were many after-action reports for incidents that Kerry was not even involved in, that contained the same initials.
(ii) The numerical identifiers on top of the form referred to the Swift Boat unit, not the author. And Hoffman, after coolly trying to insert yet another lie into the media narrative, acknowledged that his claim was "not cast-iron". 

REFERENCES
Kate Zernike and Jim Rutenberg, New York Times [via Hesiod]:

Mr. Kerry's middle initial is F, and a Navy official said the initials refer to the person who had received the report at headquarters, not the author.

Michael Dobbs (Washington Post):

O'Neill has said that the initials "KJW" on the bottom of the report "identified" it as having been written by Kerry. It is unclear why this should be so, as Kerry's initials are JFK. A review of other Swift boat after-action reports at the Naval Historical Center here reveals several that include the initials "KJW" but describe incidents at which Kerry was not present.
...
Even if Kerry did write the March 13 after-action report, it seems unlikely that he would have been the source of the information about "enemy bullets" flying around Thurlow. The official witness to those events, according to Thurlow's medal recommendation form, was his own leading petty officer, Robert Lambert, who himself won a Bronze Star for "courage under fire" in going to Thurlow's rescue after he fell into the river. Lambert, who lives in California, declined to comment. 
...
In a telephone interview, the head of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, retired Adm. Roy Hoffmann, who commanded all Swift boats in Vietnam, said he believed that Kerry wrote the March 13 after-action report on the basis of numerical identifiers at the top of the form. He later acknowledged that the numbers referred to the Swift boat unit, and not to Kerry personally. "It's not cast-iron," he said.

3. SBV CLAIM THAT KERRY (AND THURLOW) WON THE BRONZE STAR BASED SOLELY ON KERRY'S REPORT

[via Liberal Oasis]: ELLIOT: I did not expect my officers to be submitting inaccurate reports.

FACT
False. Elliott contradicted himself.

REFERENCES
Liberal Oasis:

From today's NY Times:

The group says Mr. Kerry himself wrote the reports that led to the medal.

But Mr. Elliott and [Adrian] Lonsdale, who handled reports going up the line for recognition, have previously said that a medal would be awarded only if there was corroboration from others and that they had thoroughly corroborated the accounts.

 

4. SBV CLAIM THAT KERRY ADMITS "HE FLED" WHILE "EVERYBODY ELSE STAYED"

[via Media Matters]: O'Neill...claimed on Limbaugh's show that Kerry "admits that he fled and everybody else stayed."

[O'Neill via Media Matters]: O'NEILL: It's not what happened, Pat. ... John Kerry fled.

[via FactCheck.org]: Others in the ad back up that account. Jack Chenoweth, who was a Lieutenant (junior grade) commanding PCF-3, said Kerry's boat "fled the scene" after a mine blast disabled PCF-3, and returned only later "when it was apparent that there was no return fire." And Larry Thurlow, who says he commanded a third Swift Boat that day, says "Kerry fled while we stayed to fight," and returned only later "after no return fire occurred."

FACT
All the swift boats had left the enemy fire zone and Kerry ordered his boat around as soon as he realized that Rassman had fallen into the river and was continuing to take enemy fire.  

Larry Thurlow himself admitted that Kerry did not "flee", contradicting his own charge.

REFERENCES
Media Matters:

Of the incident in which Kerry rescued Jim Rassmann from the Bay Hap River in Vietnam on March 13, 1969 -- which led to Kerry receiving the Bronze Star -- O'Neill falsely claimed on Limbaugh's show that Kerry "admits that he fled and everybody else stayed." As Media Matters for America has noted, O'Neill's claim that Kerry's boat fled while the other boats remained is inconsistent not only with Rassmann's firsthand account but also with the account of Kerry's actions in his Bronze Star citation. As Rassmann noted, "[A]ll the swift boats had left, and I was alone taking fire from both banks," before Kerry returned to rescue him from the water.

Tom Infield and Meg Laughlin, Knight-Ridder:

Swift boat veteran Larry Thurlow flew in from Bogue, Kan., after the group offered to pay his and his wife's expenses. Thurlow said he was hesitant to become involved but Hoffmann kept asking him to join the group.

"The admiral helped me to see in hindsight what was really going on with Kerry," Thurlow said.

The veterans and a Studio City, Calif., film producer, Harry Kloor, moved to a Washington studio to film interviews for a later commercial that would be put together by LaCivita and another political ad man, Rick Reed, a member of a team that had worked for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in his 2000 campaign for president.

Thurlow said the vets were told some of what to say, with the caveat that they weren't expected to say anything they didn't believe.

"I was told to say, `On the river that day, Kerry fled.' But `fled' connotes fear and I understood why Kerry left, then returned, so I didn't use that word," Thurlow said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hit Counter