Evelyn Pringle August 31, 2004
Somebody needs to tell members of the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth that they can't have it both ways. They either falsified facts about war-time events in official records, reports and citations 35 years ago in Vietnam; or they are lying now.
Official Naval records obtained by various media organizations, reveal that several members of that group actually wrote the reports and recommendations that led to Kerry being awarded his 5 medals. Some even wrote the citations that accompany the medals.
If Kerry was awarded undeserved medals, they were part of a scheme that allowed it.
So, which is it? Were they lying back then or are they lying now? I think its safe to say that either way, such conduct would be illegal and would represent a grave breach of the military code of conduct.
Citizens For Honest Fighter Pilots calls for an investigation into the Conduct of the Swift Boat Veteran's For Truth during the war in Vietnam. Maybe its time for some of these lying criminals to be arrested, or in the alternative court marshaled.
The Return Of Nixon Hit Man O'Neill
John Kerry is a war hero unlike any other. In a matter of a few short years, he fought the Viet Cong on one side of the world, and the Nixon White House on the other, and withstood the heat of battle on both sides of the globe.
Thirty years later, it looks like former Nixon hit-man John O'Neill has decided to take another crack at Kerry. Only this time, on behalf of Bush, a worse crook than even Nixon. I guess he didn't learn his lesson the first time.
I recently reviewed the debate between O'Neill and Kerry on the Dick Cavett show. Kerry made a fool of O'Neill when he was Nixon's hired gun, and he'll make a fool of him again. I am going to thoroughly enjoy watching Kerry knock that shameless Republican liar back into the political gutter from which he came for the second time in one lifetime.
Premature Political Assassination
O'Neill and Swift Boat Veterans for Bullcrap have attempted to politically assassinate Kerry before he even takes office, with lies in TV ads and public interviews and in a book called "Unfit for Command."
O'Neill co-authored the book with the now infamous "Internet Bigot Corsi", that accuses Kerry of being a coward who fabricated wartime battles and used fellow crewmen for his "insatiable appetite for medals," and claims that Kerry's attack a Viet Cong displayed "stupidity, not courage," and that, "the only explanation for what Kerry did is the same justification that characterizes his entire short Vietnam adventure: the pursuit of medals and ribbons."
I learned something from the book. I never realized that fighting in Vietnam was an "adventure." I wonder if the families of the soldiers that were killed over there ever realized that. And hey, let's go talk to all the soldiers who survived Vietnam about how much fun they had on their adventure.
The Swiftvet's TV Ads
O'Neill's (aka, Bush's) web site calls group members Swiftvets. Well the first TV ad aired by the Swiftvets, amounted to 60 seconds of unsubstantiated lies. It began by showing John Edwards urging people to talk to "the men who served with" Kerry. Several Swiftvets then appeared on the screen, and said they "served with" Kerry.
This was deceitful because they knew full well that Edwards was talking about crewmates who were with Kerry on his swift boat. The Swiftvets featured in the ads may have been in Vietnam, but they never set foot on Kerry's boat.
The ad went far beyond mere exaggerations. It implied that people who weren't present at events were eyewitnesses to them and that Kerry intentionally injured himself so that he would be awarded medals and escape Vietnam.
The ad included generalized slanderous statements like: "You could not count on John Kerry," "John Kerry is no war hero," "John Kerry has not been honest," "John Kerry cannot be trusted," "He is lying about his record," and "He lacks the capacity to lead."
Swiftvet Louis Letson said: "I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury," implying that he has firsthand knowledge of the injury when he did not.
In the LA Times, Letson claimed said he "learned from some medical corpsmen that other crewmen had confided that there was no exchange of fire and that Kerry had accidentally wounded himself as he fired at the guerrillas. Letson said he didn't know if the crewmen giving this account were in the boat with Kerry or on other boats."
This means he went on national TV and tarnished Kerry's military service record by repeating third-hand hearsay, when by his own admission, Letson didn't even know the identity or location of any firsthand source.
Fellow Kerry crewman James Rassmann says the Swiftvet's attacks are worse than those waged in 1971 on Nixon's behalf. "This time their attacks are more vicious, their lies cut deep and are directed not just at John Kerry, but at me and each of his crewmates as well. This hate-filled ad asserts that I was not under fire; it questions my words and Navy records. This smear campaign has been launched by people without decency, people who don't understand the bond of those who serve in combat," he said.
Then O'Neill, went on the CNN's Crossfire, and said there "are more than 60 people that served with John Kerry that contributed to this book." That was also a blatant lie.
Only one Swiftvet ever served on Kerry's boat, Steve Gardner. And even he wasn't on it during any battle that led to Kerry being awarded medals, according to Media Matters.
David Wade was on Kerry's boat and he aptly describes the Swiftvet stories as "a false, lying smear campaign against a decorated combat veteran," and added, "This is the ugly fact of the Bush attack machine questioning John Kerry's patriotism."
December 12, 1968 Kerry's First Purple Heart
Pat Runyon was with Kerry on the mission for which Kerry was awarded his first Purple Heart. On August 21, 2004, Runyon told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he has no doubt that Kerry was injured in a firefight and deserved the Purple Heart.
Runyon was not a regular member of Kerry's crew but was somehow chosen for the mission. He says their boat carried only 3 men, Kerry, Bill Zaladonis, and himself.
Runyon said Kerry was hit in the arm when shooting broke out from a vessel that tried to avoid an inspection. He said he remembers it well because it was the first time he had ever been in combat. "I hadn't seen any kind of action or anything," he said.
Runyon explained how the SwiftVets tried to trick him into making false statements about Kerry. He told the Kansas City Star that a guy called who he thought was from a pro-Kerry group and that he was happy to give a statement about the night Kerry earned his Purple Heart. The guy told Runyon that he would e-mail the statement for him to sign.
When the statement arrived, all of his references to combat were deleted. "It made it sound like I didn't believe we got any return fire," Runyon said. "He made it sound like it was a normal operation," when he says, "It was the scariest night of my life."
The Swiftvet's book claims a William Schachte was on Kerry's boat that night. That story is false. When asked to verify who was on the boat, Bill Zaladonis said, "myself, Pat Runyon, and John Kerry; we were the only ones in the skimmer." And Runyon agreed, "there definitely was not a fourth," he said.
All of the men who witnessed the ambush and came forward to defend Kerry have given descriptions of the event that match the official version in the Navy-certified record.
And, not one had a bad word to say about Kerry. Runyon described the John Kerry he served under in Vietnam, "I saw a nice, quiet guy who knew he was in command and didn't flaunt it. He could make a decision, and he made the right one because we got out of there alive," he told the Plain Dealer.
February 28, 1969 Kerry's Silver Star
Simply put, John Kerry was awarded the Silver Star for beaching his swift boat at the location where enemy fire appeared to be coming from, and jumping ashore to kill a Viet Cong guerrilla who was armed with a rocket propelled grenade.
On August 21, 2004, William Rood, editor at the Chicago Tribune, said he was breaking his 35 year silence to defend Kerry against Republican critics of the mission that resulted in Kerry being awarded a Silver Star. He commanded one of the 3 swift boats that came under fire from Viet Cong forces on February 28, 1969.
Rood said portrayals of Kerry's actions in "Unfit for Command" are wrong and smear the reputations of those who served alongside of him. "The critics have taken pains to say they're not trying to cast doubts on the merit of what others did, but their version of events has splashed doubt on all of us. It's gotten harder and harder for those of us who were there to listen to accounts we know to be untrue, especially when they come from people who were not there."
"There were three swift boats on the river that day in Vietnam -- three officers and 15 crew members. Only two of those officers remain to talk about what happened," Rood wrote. "One is John Kerry ... I am the other."
"Kerry's critics ... have charged that the accounts of what happened were overblown," Rood said. In one passage, the book says Kerry's Silver Star came for "facing a single, wounded young Viet Cong fleeing in a loincloth."
According to Rood, the guy was not a teenager in a loincloth and was not alone. "He was a grown man, dressed in the kind of garb the VC usually wore. There were others who fled. There was also firing from the tree line well behind the spider holes and, at one point, from the opposite riverbank, as well. It was not the work of just one attacker."
"What matters most to me is that this is hurting crewmen who are not public figures and who deserved to be honored for what they did," Rood said. His memory of the event is substantiated by military documents, including his own citation for a Bronze Star and an after-action report written by the captain who commanded his and Kerry's task force.
Other vets who were actually with Kerry on his boat on February 28, 1969, also came forward to tell what happened in an appearance on Ted Coppel's Nightline.
According to David Alston ambush attacks were common. "We'd be on patrol for a day or two, sometimes on a special operation. Sometimes just on a regular patrol up and down the river. But mostly, it was special op." He says, "Going in a river, you know, the enemy hears you. He knows you're coming. You don't know where he is," Alston recalled.
Fred Short feels lucky to be alive. "I am here in front of you today because of what Senator John Kerry did that day in leading a landing party ashore and taking out the combatant with an RPG [rocket propelled grenade] who was going to take me out," he said. "If it was not for John Kerry, my name would be on a wall [Vietnam Memorial]."
The other 2 men agreed. "If this guy would have got up, and he had a clear shot at us, we would have been history," Gene Thorson said, "These people weren't there with John Kerry, we were. If it wasn't for some of his decisions, we would probably be some of the names in that wall," Thorson said, "I respect him very much."
What Was Said Back In 1969?
The Swiftvets have repeatedly alleged that Kerry wrote his own after-action combat reports and that he either falsely documented the events or exaggerated his injuries. However, to this very day, they have not produced a single official document to substantiate those claims.
According to Rood, immediately after the attack, then-Capt. Roy Hoffmann, sent a message of congratulations to the three swift boats, saying the mission was a 'shining example of completely overwhelming the enemy' and that it 'may be the most efficacious [method] of dealing with small numbers of ambushers'," he said.
In the official after-action message, obtained by the Chicago Tribune, Hoffmann wrote that the tactics developed and executed by Kerry, Rood and Droz were 'immensely effictive [sic]' and that 'this operation did unreparable [sic] damage to the enemy in this area'. 'Well done,' Hoffmann concluded in his message.
But here it is 35 years later, and Swiftvet Hoffmann now says that Kerry's attacks against the ambushers showed his tendency to be impulsive.
Hoffman obviously forgot that he had already admitted in an interview with a reporter from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, that he had no first-hand knowledge to discredit Kerry's claims to valor and that although Kerry was under his command, he really didn't know Kerry much personally.
Jim Wasser served 6 weeks with Kerry in Vietnam, and countered Hoffman's criticism in his interview with the Journal-Sentinel. "We got under fire and I trusted John Kerry with my life," he said. "He made good command decisions. He never put us in harm's way" recklessly. Wasser said the criticism from Hoffmann's group was politically motivated.
Rood also challenges this criticism, recalling that "the direction for the actions they took on the river that day came from the highest ranks of the Navy command in Vietnam." And that the way Kerry fought that day was well in line with the tone set by top commanders, proven by the fact that Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, the commander of the Naval forces in Vietnam, flew down to their base to personally pin the Silver Star on Kerry, and the assorted Bronze Stars on the rest of the men.
George Elliott is the officer who recommended Kerry for the Silver Star. He praised Kerry in officer efficiency reports and said: "In a combat environment often requiring independent, decisive action Lt. j.g. Kerry was unsurpassed. ..." And that Kerry was "calm, professional and highly courageous in the face of enemy fire."
In 1996, Elliott went to Boston to support Kerry's reelection effort, and told reporters at a news conference that the action that won Kerry a Silver Star was "an act of courage," and that Kerry "deserved the medals he won in Vietnam."
He even appeared in an October 1996 campaign video and said, "the fact that he chased an armed enemy down is not something to be looked down upon, but it was an act of courage."
However, in the TV ad, now that he's a Swiftvet, Elliott said Kerry "has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam." So what are we to believe? The story he told 35 years ago or 8 years ago or the one he told in the ad?
Del Sandusky - With Kerry Through It All In Vietnam
At a recent news conference in Harrisburg, PA, another Kerry crewmate, Del Sandusky told reporters that he personally witnessed the battles for which Kerry received the Silver Star, Bronze stars and 3 Purple Hearts, and said, "he deserved every one of his medals."
"I knew a lot of boat officers in my two an a half years in Vietnam," and "John Kerry was the last one and he was the best one," Sandusky said.
He remembers Vietnam like it was yesterday. "We were in ambushes and firefights, you know, one, two, three, four times a day," he recalled. Like the others, he described how a Viet Cong came out of a spider hole with the rocket. "Kerry jumped out of the boat, ran into the jungle and shot him. That is how he earned the Silver Star. He made decisions every night that kept us alive -- got us out of there in one piece."
Sandusky told the audience that this kind of Bush attacks is nothing new. "They did it to John McCain in South Carolina in 2000, they did it to Max Cleland in Georgia," he said.
"They've spent $500,000 on a smear campaign -- an effort to distort the truth. They are calling us all liars," Sandusky said. "They dishonor us, and they dishonor all those who died over there."
"I've spent time with veterans in 27 states and they are fed up with Bush," Sandusky said. "The veterans don't respect a draft dodger."
William Sweidel, a Korean War Vet, also spoke at the rally. He said that although he voted for both Bushes for president, he will now support Kerry. "I called the campaign to express outrage. I was disappointed. I was diminished," Sweidel said. "Nobody was talking about how it was hurting all veterans to have them criticize Kerry's medals. The whole system is now suspect based on what these people are saying. It's pernicious."
March 13, 1969 - Kerry's Bronze Star
Kerry's recommendation for the Bronze Star is once again signed by Elliot, and the accompanying citation is signed by the Secretary of the Navy and the Commander of the US Naval Forces in Vietnam. If the Swiftvets are to be believed, somebody needs to help me understand how on earth Kerry could persuade these high-ranking officials to issue fraudulent citations for medals that were undeserved, because I just don't get it.
On August 10, 2004, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial by James Rassmann that said, "I came to know Lt. John Kerry during the spring of 1969 ... I worked with him on many operations and saw firsthand his leadership, courage and decision-making ability under fire."
He said that on March 13, 1969, John Kerry's courage and leadership saved my life. Rassmann has vivid memories of being fired at as Kerry came to his rescue. "John, already wounded by the explosion that threw me off his boat, came out onto the bow, exposing himself to the fire directed at us from the jungle, and pulled me aboard," he says.
"All these Viet Cong were shooting at me," Rassmann said. "I expected I'd be shot. When he pulled me out of the river, he risked his life to save mine," he said. According to all members of Kerry's crew, the firing did continue as Kerry rescued Rassmann.
Rassmann and Kerry's version of the attack is backed up by Sandusky, who told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "I saw the gunflashes shooting at us from the shore. I saw the rounds hitting the water."
At a 1996 Kerry campaign news conference, Adrian Longsdale spoke of the bravado and courage of Swift boat officers and said: "Senator Kerry was no exception. He was among the finest of those Swift boat drivers."
However, since that time, Longsdale became a Swiftvet, appeared in their ad, and said Kerry "lacks the capacity to lead." So what's true? The story he told for 35 years or 8 years ago or the tall tale he's spewing now?
My All-Time Favorite Swift Boat Liar
My all-time favorite Swiftvet liar is Larry Thurlow. He was a skipper on one of the boats on the night that Kerry saved Rassmann life for which he was awarded the Bronze Star. Thurlow also was awarded a Bronze Star for his actions in that battle.
Thurlow disputes the claim that they came under fire during the mission. In fact, in a recent affidavit, he swears that Kerry was "not under fire" when he pulled Rassmann out of the river. He says Kerry's Bronze Star citation is "totally fabricated," and states, "I never heard a shot." (Which led me to think that the poor guy was deaf).
For 3 solid weeks, Thurlow has been all over the airwaves making the claim that there was no enemy fire. Yet when asked to release his own records from that night he refused. So the Washington Post filed an FOIA request and got them from the National Personnel Records Center. And low and behold, Thurlow's records specifically detail "enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire" directed at "all units."
Now here's where the group's wide-spread web of deceit really starts to unravel.
According to an August 27, 2004 article by the Associated Press, another vet who was in Vietnam that night has come forward. His name is Robert Lambert and he just happened to serve on Thurlow's boat on the night in question. In fact, as it turns out, Lambert saved Thurlow's life by pulling him out of the river after he fell overboard.
Thurlow's recommendation for the Bronze Star was signed by fellow Swiftvet George Elliott, just like Kerry's was. But here's the kicker, Thurlow's lists Robert Lambert as the only witness to the event.
And guess what? Lambert was also awarded a Bronze Star and his citation includes the same description as the others and the Navy report that says all 5 Swift Boats "came under small arms and automatic weapon fire from the river banks" when the mine detonated.
But it even gets better. In the AP article, Lambert described the firefight that Thurlow swore under oath never took place. "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." He said, "There was always a firefight after a mine detonation."
Thurlow needs to explain why his under oath statement is in total contradiction with the assertions of both of the witnesses who were listed in the citations by his Swiftvet buddy Elliott, who are both on record saying they were under enemy fire that night.
Rassmann is angry. He says, "no one can tell me that we were not under fire. I saw it, I heard the splashes, and I was scared to death. For them to come back 35 years after the fact to tarnish not only Kerry's record, but my veracity, is unconscionable," he says.
More Vietnam Vets Have Come Forward
Many other vets who were present during the March 13, 1969 ambush have come forward to verify the events that have been challenged. In a conference call with the Washington Post, Swift Boat officers Rich McCann, Jim Russell and Rich Baker all vouched for Kerry and said that he had acted honorably and bravely and was well qualified to be President.
The Post reported that when McCann saw that the Swift Vets had identified him on its Web site as being "neutral" on Kerry, he was furious. Kerry's commendation record "has stood for 35 years and suddenly you've got people coming forward saying, 'Well, I've had second thoughts about this,' " McCann said. "That is dishonoring not only John Kerry, it is dishonoring all veterans."
"He (Kerry) was the most aggressive officer in charge of Swift Boats," Baker said, "with no disrespect to anyone out there, the whole Swift boat operation took courage and guts every time you stepped on those boats. But John Kerry was one step above the rest of us."
"John Kerry is lucky to be alive today, the fourth Purple Heart could have been an AK-47 through his heart," according to Baker.
Wayne Langhofer, another participant in the battle that night, told the Post, "There was a lot of firing going on, and it came from both sides of the river." He was on the boat right behind Kerry's and distinctly remembered the "clack, clack, clack" of enemy AK-47s, as well as muzzle flashes from the riverbanks.
Langhofer told the Post that he too was approached several months ago by leaders of the Swiftvets group, wanting him to speak out against Kerry and he refused.
Jim Russell was a skipper on another boat on March 13, 1969, and described how Kerry rescued Rassmann in the Telluride Daily Planet, "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," he said.
So Who's Lying?
After the Washington Post dug up Thurlow's Bronze Star Citation, he invented a convenient little story to try to cover his butt. He told the Kansas City Star that he had not seen his citation since 1969, and although he admits that he noticed the errors when he got it, he thought, "If nobody else is going to know, and if my family thinks it's really neat, and I don't think I'm going to run for president in 30 years, what's the point?"
According to the Star, Thurlow's story is also at odds with battle damage reports. The report for his boat listed three .30-caliber bullet holes, and the report for Kerry's boat listed three blown-out windows, inoperable radios and radar, an inoperable auxiliary generator, chipped and curled propulsion screws, and an aft helm steerage control that was not working. It was judged incapable of executing patrols without repairs.
When questioned about what he said happened verses what the damage reports showed, Thurlow's answer was once again that Kerry probably wrote those reports.
Rassmann was 100% right when he said, "These gentlemen appear to be making this up as they go along and they are not keeping their stories straight."
I'm beginning to wonder if Thurlow is drunk all the time or what. Even after being confronted with his citation that praised him for providing aid "despite enemy bullets flying about him," Thurlow turned around and told the Washington Post, "I am here to state that we weren't under fire." I can't decide whether the guy is nuts or drunk.
Well Thurlow can state whatever he wants to the Post, but he's got some other explaining to do as well. Because as it stands right now, according to Thurlow's own version of events, Kerry somehow conned the US Navy into awarding undeserved combat medals to himself, Thurlow, and Lambert, for heroic actions in a battle that never happened.
And then we've got Thurlow's Swiftvet buddy, George Elliot, who apparently was signing fraudulent documents left and right back in 1969, to help Kerry convince the top brass that the bogus combat missions did take place to get them to award all those medal.
This is serious stuff here. Let's get the investigation started right now.
For starters, I want Thurlow to give us the names of everyone involved in this big lie. If there is any truth to these tales, heads should roll. I would assume that it is highly illegal to falsify military combat records.
I say lets get to the bottom of this once and for all. Let's investigate every allegation made against Kerry. But if the allegations are true, it means these Swiftvets conspired with Kerry to get awarded medals that they now admit were undeserved. So I guess we shall have to prosecute the Swiftvets right along with Kerry for their own involvement in the grand scheme that they claim took place 35 years ago in Vietnam.
Latest Official Record Verifies Ambush Took Place
According to the August 25, 2004 Boston Globe, the Navy task force overseeing Kerry's swift boat squadron reported that his group of boats came under enemy fire during a March 13, 1969 incident. The report from Task Force 115, found by The Associated Press during a search of Navy archives, is the latest document to surface that supports Kerry's description of the event.
It twice mentions the ambush and both times calls it "an enemy initiated firefight" that included automatic weapons fire and underwater mines used against a group of five boats, which means Kerry earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart he was awarded for bravery.
Expert Says Claim That Kerry Wrote Reports Not Possible
On August 25, 2004 CNSNews.com, reported that Foster Wright, the former executive officer of the Navy's Coastal Division 13 during the Vietnam War dismissed accusations that Kerry wrote his own after-action reports and citations in order to obtain medals.
In responding to the Swiftvet's allegations, Wright said, "You don't get to request a Purple Heart, you don't get to write up your own Bronze Star citation, you don't get to write up your citation for your Silver Star," he said. "That's done by other people. For this to be questioned is ludicrous."
In a follow-up interview with CNSNews, Wright said, "I saw how these things went up the line," he said. "You can't sit down and write your own citations. It's just not done."
Wright says soldiers can not manipulate the process. "Let's say you have a four or five-boat raid. One guy has to be in charge. It's usually the senior guy or the most experienced guy. He would be responsible for collecting the information," Wright said. "But each of the other officers would have to put out a spot report as well. They couldn't be different by day and night. People would get upset with you and [ask] which one of these is true."
Wright also dismissed the assertion that Kerry had some kind of pre-ordained plan to go to Vietnam and get awarded medals to make himself a war hero. "You can't go there (Vietnam) and plan to be wounded in the context of running for the presidency 35 years later. It's ridiculous," he said.
Wright believes the Swiftvets have knowingly distorted the facts. "I don't believe this is misperception," Wright said. "I think this is a coordinated attack."
There Ought To Be A Law Against This
If there is not one already, there ought be a law against veteran's intentionally lying and distorting the facts about historical military events. Not only to make sure that nothing like this happens to another political candidate; but to make sure that the honorable service records of innocent soldiers, who may have served with a politician, are not destroyed along with that of the targeted candidate.
None of the men who served with Kerry over in that hell-hole deserved to have their honor and integrity thrown into question by malicious lies published in a book written by a political hit-squad on behalf of a draft-dodging military coward like Bush.
Founder of Citizens for Honest Fighter Pilots