The Grand Deception:
'Kerry, War Hero,' Is a Myth
ROY F. HOFFMANN
GUEST COLUMNIST Sep 19, 2004
The widely repeated myth of "John Kerry, the Vietnam Navy Hero" is one of the most dishonorable and dangerous deceptions ever perpetrated upon the American public.
John Kerry is not a hero. He built this facade with unabashed personal promotion, aided and abetted by a supportive liberal media ready and willing to repeat in print his gross exaggerations, distortions of fact, and outright lies about his abbreviated four-month, 12-day tour of duty in Vietnam.
Until the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth spoke up in press conferences, television ads, and with the now best-selling book, Unfit for Command, no one - not even the conservative media - seriously or effectively challenged the veracity of John Kerry's self-aggrandizement. Only now is his war-hero facade beginning to peel away.
Kerry arrived in Vietnam on November 17, 1968, with a strong anti-war bias and a self-serving determination to build a foundation for a future political career. Even a most casual review of his biography, Tour of Duty by Douglas Brinkley, will reveal that Kerry entered the Naval Reserve as a "vain intellectual" with contempt for military authority.
Stooped to Achieve Goal
In hindsight, his obvious objective was to emulate his idol, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, serve as short a time as possible, and escape Vietnam unscathed but with sufficient credentials and decorations to portray himself in heroic terms. To achieve his goal, Kerry stooped to scamming an after-combat reporting system that was based on trust, promoting himself for a handful of medals regardless of their dubious merits, so he could "bug out" of the war zone early.
His propensity for gross exaggeration and lying was legend to those who knew him, even early on at Cam Rahn Bay, his first duty station in Vietnam. In Tour of Duty, Kerry recounts the story of the seas being so rough during the monsoon season that sailors came in "pissing red and that several people have broken bones" - a ridiculous story that was totally unsubstantiated.
Or consider the story of how Kerry, according to Brinkley, stated, "A sampan navigating in the shroud of darkness was assumed to be Viet Cong and would be fired on" - a breach of the U.S. Navy's rules of engagement. That is an outright defamatory lie. The South Vietnamese National Government had established and promulgated well-defined coastal-control zones to facilitate surveillance, illegal activity, and infiltration of enemy arms from seaward. Although our Swift Boats and Coast Guard cutters did diligently enforce the restricted areas, a boat or ship violating a restricted zone would not be fired upon unless attempting to escape inspection, and only after proper warning in accordance with U.S. Navy strict rules of engagement.
Kerry repeatedly embellishes this lie by referring to "U.S. designated free-fire zones," implying that such zones authorized indiscriminate killing, in order to portray the U.S. military as unwanted, brutish conquerors in Vietnam. In truth, free-fire zones fell within the normal rules of engagement and authorized not an order to fire but discretion to fire first if threatened by, or when confronting, enemy forces.
Kerry's First Purple Heart
Another troubling sequence involves Kerry's first Purple Heart. Exactly two weeks after arrival in Vietnam, Kerry was involved in a scenario in which he was "wounded" by a small fragment, about the size of a rose thorn - a self-inflicted wound resulting from the careless use of his own M-79 grenade launcher. According to the testimony of the attending physician, Dr. Louis Letson, the fragment barely penetrated the skin of his right arm and was easily removed with tweezers and dressed with a Band-Aid. Despite the minor nature of the injury, Kerry still requested a Purple Heart from Division Commander Grant Hibbard. Commander Hibbard denied, noting that there was no hostile fire involved in the incident, no casualty report, and no after-action report - all requisites for a Purple Heart medal.
Still, somehow Kerry circumvented the system and somehow was awarded the Purple Heart some three months after Lt. Commander Hibbard denied the award. Who initiated the award remains a mystery and will remain so until Kerry authorizes the full release of his military and medical records, complete and unaltered. Although Kerry continues to imply that he was the officer in charge of this "Boston Whaler" operation, he fails to mention that he was under the training supervision of Lt. William Schachte, the actual officer in charge and aboard the small craft with Kerry.
Another example of Kerry's lies about his Vietnam "war hero" status involves the now infamous secret mission into Cambodia on Christmas Day, 1968, a fabrication now disclaimed by Kerry campaign spokesman Michael Meehan and Kerry's campaign biographer Douglas Brinkley.
On March 27, 1986, the then-Senator Kerry on the floor of the U.S. Senate claimed he was on Navy duty in Cambodia in Christmas, 1968, at a time when President Nixon was lying to the public, saying there were no U.S. forces in Cambodia at that time. The Congressional Record reports Kerry as saying, "I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by the Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the President of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia. I have the memory which is seared - seared - in me."
Not even a good lie. President Nixon did not take office until January 20, 1969. Moreover, how does one differentiate the ethnic and political distinctions of the unseen foes shooting at you? As one lie begets another, Kerry's own biographer, Douglas Brinkley, writes in Tour of Duty that Kerry's private Vietnam journal places him on the Bassac River near the city of Sa Dec, Vietnam, 50 miles from the Cambodian border.
Further, the U.S. Army had placed on 24-hour surveillance a manned landing craft blocking passage into Cambodian waters, along with a huge sign designed to prevent entrance, accidental or otherwise, into Cambodian waters. The U.S. Navy also had two river patrol boats patrolling the area for the same reason, making it almost impossible for a U.S. craft to enter Cambodian waters.
Lt. (jg.) Kerry's third Purple Heart is as questionable as the first. On March 13, 1969, Kerry's boat, PCF-94, with provincial troops embarked was engaged in an infantry sweep of a known Viet Cong sanctuary on the Dong Cong canal, in An Xuyen province. During this operation, the troops blew up some huge bins of rice. According to Kerry's biography, "I got a piece of small grenade in my [rear] from one of the rice bin explosions." Kerry would later the same day claim this accidental and minor injury was a result of a mine explosion near his boat that threw him into a bulkhead, smashing his arm.
The truth is that there was only one explosion, and that this single explosion severely damaged PCF-3 near the opposite bank of the Bay Hop River. There was no damage to any other of the five Swift Boats in that formation.
Claims of Making Rescue
Based on the after-action report filed by Lt. (jg.) Kerry, he was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds resulting from a mine explosion and a Bronze Star with a "V" for rescuing Lt. Rassmann, U.S. Army, who fell overboard when Kerry's PCF-94 abruptly fled the scene of action.
Contrary to the false after-action report citing automatic weapons and rifle fire from both banks for 3.1 miles, there were six on-scene witnesses who have stated that there was no enemy fire from either bank. Kerry did return to the scene and pick up Rassmann after it was evident that there was no hostile fire. There was nothing heroic about rescuing Rassmann, who was about to be picked up by another PCF. Had the truth been known, Kerry would have been disqualified from being awarded the Bronze Star.
Medical records also report Kerry's injuries from the March 13, 1968, incident involved only a minor bruise on his right arm and minor shrapnel wounds on his buttocks. Since there was no hostile fire, and only one mine explosion, with no structural effect on PCF-94, there was no justification for the Purple Heart award.
John Kerry was the only man in the entire Task Force of 3,600 men - officers and enlisted - to request transfer out of country based on three Purple Hearts. Particularly galling to his shipmates was the fact that not one of his minor nicks was debilitating nor resulted in one lost day of duty.
Nevertheless, with his three specious Purple Hearts, John Kerry shamelessly invoked an obscure Navy directive allowing him to "jump ship" and return home, there to begin his infamous betrayal of all those U.S. soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen, and POWs who served honorably in the Vietnam War - more than 2 million Americans who deserved Kerry's respect.
Kerry's leadership within the fraudulent and contemptible Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) and his testimony before Senator William Fulbright's Committee in 1971 charging us with unspeakable atrocities remain even today an unspecified and undocumented dishonor to the men and women who dutifully and courageously stayed the course.
Meeting With Madame Binh
Kerry's meeting with Madame Binh representing the Viet Cong and with other members of the Vietnamese Communist delegations to the Paris Peace Conference in 1970, while he was yet a Naval Reserve officer, constitute meeting with the enemy during time of war. His subsequent press conference in July, 1971, urging President Nixon to accept Madame Binh's proposal for the return of our POWs , was a major propaganda victory for the Communist regime. His illegal and traitorous activities with the VVAW and the ilk of Jane Fonda unquestionably had a seriously demoralizing impact on our POWs and probably extended their imprisonment by at least two years.
Kerry is not a hero. He betrayed his comrades-in-arms in time of war. He is a chronic liar and a fraud. This is not about politics; it's about truthfulness, reliability, loyalty, and trust - all absolute tenets of command. John Forbes Kerry is not fit to be Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
Roy Hoffmann, a retired Navy Rear Admiral and the founder of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, is a resident of Chesterfield. As the commander of the Coastal Surveillance Force Vietnam in 1968-1969, Admiral Hoffman was the overall commander of U.S. Swift Boats during the period of Kerry's Vietnam coastal service.