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against John Kerry from Former Navy Swift Boat crewmen from the Vietnam
Summary of the eRumor There is a series of
forwarded emails about Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry
and the accusations of an organization of swift boat crews from the Vietnam era.
John Kerry's 2004 presidential
campaign included focus on his service in the U.S. Navy in
Vietnam where he served as an officer in command of a Navy swift
boat. Kerry emphasized his experience as a military veteran, his four
months of service in the Vietnam war, his 3 purple hearts, The
Bronze Star, and the Silver Star.
A group calling itself
Veterans For Truth set up a website critical of Kerry and
making several accusations against him. The "Swifties," as they became known, produced an
anti-Kerry television ad, promoted the anti-Kerry statements of
several veterans who also served on swift boat crews in Vietnam, and
became the springboard for a book about Kerry titled "Unfit For Command"
and co-authored by John E. O'Neill
and Jerome Corsi. O'Neill is a key member of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and Vietnam
veteran who debated Kerry on the Dick Cavett show back in 1971. O'Neill replaced Kerry as the commanding officer of the same swift
boat in Vietnam. He criticizes Kerry for his 1970's statements charging that U.S.
military troops committed widespread war crimes.
The Kerry campaign dismissed the accusations of the Swift Boat
Veterans for Truth saying they were a politically motivated
group financed by people who were close to George Bush and were
conducting an election-year smear campaign. They called upon President Bush to condemn the television ad and to
call for it to be removed. The Bush campaign denied any connection with the Swift Boat Veterans
Here are some of the specific issues being raised in forwarded
emails regarding the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and the Kerry and
Questions about Kerry's rescue of Army Green Beret Jim Rassmann
during a fight on a river in South Vietnam Kerry was awarded a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his
actions during this event. Rassmann held a news conference in Phoenix in July, 2004, to say he
owed his life to Kerry and that he was supporting his reelection. Rassmann says he was in a river boat 30 years ago in the Hap river
in Vietnam when it hit a mine. Kerry's swift boat was nearby and under attack, he says. Kerry was wounded in his arm, according to Rassmann, but ordered his
boat to turn back and rescue the soldier. He describes Kerry as having leaned over the bow during heavy fire
to pull him out of the water. Rassmann later recommended Kerry for the Bronze Star.
The Swift Boat Veterans, however, claim that Kerry lied in his
account of what happened on the river. One of the veterans who says he was there, Van Odell, says his is
one of seven eyewitness accounts and that Kerry was not under enemy
fire when he pulled Rassmann out of the river. He told "Fox New Sunday" on August 22, 2004 that
"There was no enemy fire from either bank."
In late August, 2004, Wayne Langhofer, who says he was manning a
machine gun on a boat behind Kerry's, told the Washington Post that
he saw enemy fire from both sides of the river as Kerry rescued
Rassmann, which was supportive of Kerry's account.
Larry Thurlow commanded a swift boat alongside of Kerry's and is
among the Swift Boat Veterans critical of Kerry. He is quoted as having said that Kerry's boat was not under fire as
Kerry claimed. The Washington Post reported on August 18, however, that Thurlow's
military records contradict his statement. Thurlow won the Bronze Star that day and his citation says he
provided assistance to a damaged swift boat "despite enemy
bullets flying about him" and that all other units in the
flotilla also came under fire. In response, Thurlow told The Post that he maintains his position
that they were not under fire and that if his citation says they
were, he wondered if Kerry was the source of some of the language.
Questions about another battle incident in which Kerry won the
Silver Star. The Silver Star citation describes Kerry as in command of three
boats on the Dong Cung River in Vietnam. According to the citation, Kerry encountered enemy fire and ordered
all his boats to return fire. He is then described as having landed his boat directly in front of
the enemy forces, pursued them, captured enemy weapons, then moving
up river for more confrontation with the enemy. The citation reads, "The extraordinary daring and personal
courage of Lt. Kerry in attacking a numerically superior force in
the face of intense fire were responsible for the highly successful
The Swift Boat veterans say the citation was presented very quickly,
a couple of days after the events in battle and with no review,
otherwise the Silver Star would have never been granted.
In his book about Kerry titled "Unfit For Command," co-author John
O'Neill wrote of an account by an Army Veteran named Doug Reese that
said that when the enemy fire started, it was the boat he was on,
not Kerry's, that first reached the beach. He says that it was the troops on his boat that went on the land,
killed enemy forces, and captured weapons, but none of them received
Silver Stars. He goes on to say that Kerry's boat was later hit by a
rocket-propelled grenade and pursued a "young Viet Cong in a
loincloth" who was eventually shot in the back on land. O'Neill says Admiral Roy Hoffmann, who had commended Kerry's actions
at the time, thought Kerry had bravely beached his boat and
"single-handedly" killed a Viet Cong soldier. He is described as having been shocked to learn that Kerry had
killed a single, wounded teenager.
After the Swift Boat Veterans released their criticisms of Kerry,
two of Kerry's former Navy colleagues went public in support of him. William Rood is an editor with the Chicago Tribune and a former
commander of one of the swift boats with Kerry on that day on the
Dong Cung river. He said he was breaking a 35-year silence so he could defend all the
veterans on that mission whose reputations were being smeared. He said Kerry "devised an aggressive attack strategy" that
was praised by superiors and that Kerry's accounts of what happened
Was John Kerry in Cambodia during Christmas of 1968? One of the things John Kerry has talked and written about for a
long time was what he described as his "illegally" being
ordered to enter Cambodia. In a letter to the editor of the Boston Herald in October, 1979,
Kerry wrote, "I remember spending Christmas Eve of 1968 five
miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South
Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas. The
absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country in
which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very
real." He also made reference to the Cambodia-Christmas story during
remarks on the floor of the Senate in 1986. He said the memory was "seared" in him. Kerry said his "deep mistrust" of U.S. government
statements began when he was in Cambodia at Christmas listened to
President Richard Nixon claim that no American troops were there.
The Swifties begin by saying that Richard Nixon was not president
during Christmas of 1968 so there could not have been the broadcast
that Kerry says he heard.
Swift Boat veteran John O'Neill charges that Kerry lied about
Cambodia and that he was never closer than 50-miles to the Cambodian
border. O'Neill says that all the living commanders in Kerry's chain of
command deny that Kerry could have gone there and that if he had, he
would have been seriously disciplined or court-martialed. O'Neill adds that three of the five crewmen on Kerry's swift boat
also deny that they ever went into Cambodia.
The Cambodia story is not in the biography about Kerry titled
"Tour of Duty." There are reports that an article is being prepared by the author of
the book that says Kerry was in Cambodia during Christmas, not
Kerry used an old picture of himself and other swift boat crewmen
in Vietnam in one of his campaign ads, but only one or two of the 19
officers in the picture really support him This is mostly true. There are conflicting reports but either one or two of those
pictured supports Kerry; eleven have signed letters saying they do
not support him, four say they are neutral, and 2 have died. Eleven of them, George Bates, Thomas Heritage, Terrance Costello,
Robert "Rocky" Hildreath, Robert Elder, William Houle,
George Elliott, William Schumadine, Al French, Larry Thurlow, and
Jim Galvin, asked Kerry to stop using their pictures in his campaign
Questions about Dr. Louis Letson, who says he treated Kerry for
one of his wounds and that Kerry lied in order to get a Purple
Heart. One of the Swifties is a physician named Dr. Louis Letson. He says he treated Kerry for one of the injuries for which Kerry won
a Purple Heart and that Kerry is lying about it. Kerry's supporters responded that Letson's name does not appear in
any of the records as having treated Kerry. The "person administering treatment" on Kerry's medical
form was a medic who has since died. Letson countered that it was not unusual for a minor wound to be
handled by a medic who would then also sign the forms even though a
doctor or someone else may have initially provided treatment.
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