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11/22/2017 10:05:29 PM
Posted: 8/23/2004 6:54:24 AM EST
`This is what I saw that day'


By William B. Rood
Chicago Tribune

August 22, 2004

There were three swift boats on the river that day in Vietnam more than 35 years ago--three officers and 15 crew members. Only two of those officers remain to talk about what happened on February 28, 1969.

One is John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate who won a Silver Star for what happened on that date. I am the other.

For years, no one asked about those events. But now they are the focus of skirmishing in a presidential election with a group of swift boat veterans and others contending that Kerry didn't deserve the Silver Star for what he did on that day, or the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts he was awarded for other actions.

Many of us wanted to put it all behind us--the rivers, the ambushes, the killing. Ever since that time, I have refused all requests for interviews about Kerry's service--even those from reporters at the Chicago Tribune, where I work.

But Kerry's critics, armed with stories I know to be untrue, have charged that the accounts of what happened were overblown. 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.

Even though Kerry's own crew members have backed him, the attacks have continued, and in recent days Kerry has called me and others who were with him in those days, asking that we go public with our accounts.

I can't pretend those calls had no effect on me, but that is not why I am writing this. 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. My intent is to tell the story here and to never again talk publicly about it.

I was part of the operation that led to Kerry's Silver Star. I have no firsthand knowledge of the events that resulted in his winning the Purple Hearts or the Bronze Star.

But on Feb. 28, 1969, I was officer in charge of PCF-23, one of three swift boats--including Kerry's PCF-94 and Lt. j.g. Donald Droz's PCF-43--that carried Vietnamese regional and Popular Force troops and a Navy demolition team up the Dong Cung, a narrow tributary of the Bay Hap River, to conduct a sweep in the area.

The approach of the noisy 50-foot aluminum boats, each driven by two huge 12-cylinder diesels and loaded down with six crew members, troops and gear, was no secret.

Ambushes were a virtual certainty, and that day was no exception.

Instructions from Kerry

The difference was that Kerry, who had tactical command of that particular operation, had talked to Droz and me beforehand about not responding the way the boats usually did to an ambush.

We agreed that if we were not crippled by the initial volley and had a clear fix on the location of the ambush, we would turn directly into it, focusing the boats' twin .50-caliber machine guns on the attackers and beaching the boats. We told our crews about the plan.

The Viet Cong in the area had come to expect that the heavily loaded boats would lumber on past an ambush, firing at the entrenched attackers, beaching upstream and putting troops ashore to sweep back down on the ambush site. Often, they were long gone by the time the troops got there.

The first time we took fire--the usual rockets and automatic weapons--Kerry ordered a "turn 90" and the three boats roared in on the ambush. It worked. We routed the ambush, killing three of the attackers. The troops, led by an Army adviser, jumped off the boats and began a sweep, which killed another half dozen VC, wounded or captured others and found weapons, blast masks and other supplies used to stage ambushes.

Meanwhile, Kerry ordered our boat to head upstream with his, leaving Droz's boat at the first site.

It happened again, another ambush. And again, Kerry ordered the turn maneuver, and again it worked. As we headed for the riverbank, I remember seeing a loaded B-40 launcher pointed at the boats. It wasn't fired as two men jumped up from their spider holes.

We called Droz's boat up to assist us, and Kerry, followed by one member of his crew, jumped ashore and chased a VC behind a hooch--a thatched hut--maybe 15 yards inland from the ambush site. Some who were there that day recall the man being wounded as he ran. Neither I nor Jerry Leeds, our boat's leading petty officer with whom I've checked my recollection of all these events, recalls that, which is no surprise. Recollections of those who go through experiences like that frequently differ.

With our troops involved in the sweep of the first ambush site, Richard Lamberson, a member of my crew, and I also went ashore to search the area. I was checking out the inside of the hooch when I heard gunfire nearby.

Not long after that, Kerry returned, reporting that he had killed the man he chased behind the hooch. He also had picked up a loaded B-40 rocket launcher, which we took back to our base in An Thoi after the operation.

John O'Neill, author of a highly critical account of Kerry's Vietnam service, describes the man Kerry chased as a "teenager" in a "loincloth." I have no idea how old the gunner Kerry chased that day was, but both Leeds and I recall that he was a grown man, dressed in the kind of garb the VC usually wore.

The man Kerry chased was not the "lone" attacker at that site, as O'Neill suggests. 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.

Our initial reports of the day's action caused an immediate response from our task force headquarters in Cam Ranh Bay.

Congratulatory message

Known over radio circuits by the call sign "Latch," then-Capt. and now retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffmann, the task force commander, fired off a message congratulating the three swift boats, saying at one point that the tactic of charging the ambushes 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."

Hoffmann has become a leading critic of Kerry's and now says that what the boats did on that day demonstrated Kerry's inclination to be impulsive to a fault.

Our decision to use that tactic under the right circumstances was not impulsive but was the result of discussions well beforehand and a mutual agreement of all three boat officers.

It was also well within the aggressive tradition that was embraced by the late Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, then commander of U.S. Naval Forces, Vietnam. Months before that day in February, a fellow boat officer, Michael Bernique, was summoned to Saigon to explain to top Navy commanders why he had made an unauthorized run up the Giang Thanh River, which runs along the Vietnam-Cambodia border. Bernique, who speaks French fluently, had been told by a source in Ha Tien at the mouth of the river that a VC tax collector was operating upstream.

Ignoring the prohibition against it, Bernique and his crew went upstream and routed the VC, pursuing and killing several.

Instead of facing disciplinary action as he had expected, Bernique was given the Silver Star, and Zumwalt ordered other swifts, which had largely patrolled coastal waters, into the rivers.

The decision sent a clear message, underscored repeatedly by Hoffmann's congratulatory messages, that aggressive patrolling was expected and that well-timed, if unconventional, tactics like Bernique's were encouraged.

What we did on Feb. 28, 1969, was well in line with the tone set by our top commanders.

Zumwalt made that clear when he flew down to our base at An Thoi off the southern tip of Vietnam to pin the Silver Star on Kerry and assorted Bronze Stars and commendation medals on the rest of us.

Error in citation

My Bronze Star citation, signed by Zumwalt, praised the charge tactic we used that day, saying the VC were "caught completely off guard."

There's at least one mistake in that citation. It incorrectly identifies the river where the main action occurred, a reminder that such documents were often done in haste and sometimes authored for their signers by staffers. It's a cautionary note for those trying to piece it all together. There's no final authority on something that happened so long ago--not the documents and not even the strained recollections of those of us who were there.

But I know that what some people are saying now is wrong. While they mean to hurt Kerry, what they're saying impugns others who are not in the public eye.

Men like Larry Lee, who was on our bow with an M-60 machine gun as we charged the riverbank, Kenneth Martin, who was in the .50-caliber gun tub atop our boat, and Benjamin Cueva, our engineman, who was at our aft gun mount suppressing the fire from the opposite bank.

Wayne Langhoffer and the other crewmen on Droz's boat went through even worse on April 12, 1969, when they saw Droz killed in a brutal ambush that left PCF-43 an abandoned pile of wreckage on the banks of the Duong Keo River. That was just a few months after the birth of his only child, Tracy.

The survivors of all these events are scattered across the country now.

Jerry Leeds lives in a tiny Kansas town where he built and sold a successful printing business. He owns a beautiful home with a lawn that sweeps to the edge of a small lake, which he also owns. Every year, flights of purple martins return to the stately birdhouses on the tall poles in his back yard.

Cueva, recently retired, has raised three daughters and is beloved by his neighbors for all the years he spent keeping their cars running. Lee is a senior computer programmer in Kentucky, and Lamberson finished a second military career in the Army.

With the debate over that long-ago day in February, they're all living that war another time.

Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune
Link Posted: 8/23/2004 7:12:18 AM EST
There's two sides to every story and the truth is usually somewhere in between.
Link Posted: 8/23/2004 7:31:17 AM EST
what is clear is the kerry's behavior after returning home, including his voting record as a senator, is profoundly anti-military. it should be expected that veterans may be more then a little hostile to the idea of kerry as commander in chief and will attempt to correct the misconception (that kerry is promoting) that he has the support of the military and veterans.
Link Posted: 8/23/2004 7:40:51 AM EST
I'm still waiting to hear the part where the Silver Star was earned. That's a very high award and usually involves something above and beyond. Engaging the enemy like they were supposed to do was their normal job. The standard tactic for ambushes was to attack the ambush. I will say this for Kerry, working with regional - popular forces (Ruff-Puffs) was taking your life in your own hands. An officer I knew called them 50 percenters. I asked him why. He said 50% were VC.
Link Posted: 8/23/2004 7:48:13 AM EST
Link Posted: 8/23/2004 7:57:40 AM EST
I guess they finally offered this guy enough money to side with Kerry.

I heard them reporting this on the radio and you could almost imagine the reporter jizzing in his pants as he started out the story with "Well, the truth is FINALLY starting to slip out! bla bla bla".
Link Posted: 8/23/2004 8:41:16 AM EST

Originally Posted By SNorman:
I guess they finally offered this guy enough money to side with Kerry.

I heard them reporting this on the radio and you could almost imagine the reporter jizzing in his pants as he started out the story with "Well, the truth is FINALLY starting to slip out! bla bla bla".



You actually think he took a bribe? Any evidence?
Link Posted: 8/23/2004 8:46:32 AM EST

Originally Posted By SNorman:
I guess they finally offered this guy enough money to side with Kerry.

I heard them reporting this on the radio and you could almost imagine the reporter jizzing in his pants as he started out the story with "Well, the truth is FINALLY starting to slip out! bla bla bla".



Mucho Dinero will cause all types of recollections!

BigDozer66
Link Posted: 8/23/2004 8:47:43 AM EST

Originally Posted By Tortfeasor:

Originally Posted By SNorman:
I guess they finally offered this guy enough money to side with Kerry.

I heard them reporting this on the radio and you could almost imagine the reporter jizzing in his pants as he started out the story with "Well, the truth is FINALLY starting to slip out! bla bla bla".



You actually think he took a bribe? Any evidence?




Any evidence he didn't take one?

BigDozer66
Link Posted: 8/23/2004 8:57:09 AM EST
Sounds like he is talking about a different incident. The "pulled the guy out of the water" is where the doubt about VC fire is. In the "shot the kid with the RPG" incident there was VC incoming.
Link Posted: 8/23/2004 9:04:59 AM EST

Originally Posted By BigDozer66:

Originally Posted By Tortfeasor:

Originally Posted By SNorman:
I guess they finally offered this guy enough money to side with Kerry.

I heard them reporting this on the radio and you could almost imagine the reporter jizzing in his pants as he started out the story with "Well, the truth is FINALLY starting to slip out! bla bla bla".



You actually think he took a bribe? Any evidence?




Any evidence he didn't take one?

BigDozer66



I hate to say this, because I personally choose to believe the Swiftvets over Kerry and I am very pro-Bush (as people who have read my posts will attest), but this is the same tactic that we've been using against Kerry all along with the Swiftboat ads. If Kerry can't say Bush is backing the Swiftvets, and that the Swiftvets are lying, without real substantial proof, I don't think it's fair to say that this guy is being paid off without real substantial proof either.

That being said, I don't think this story really changes or contradicts anything that I've heard the Swiftvets claim about Kerry. I'll admit I haven't yet read the book (Unfit for Command), but from what I've heard the Swiftvets say on their TV commercials I don't see where this Rood guy is contradicting what the commercials have claimed. From what I can tell, the incident that Rood is talking about is NOT the same incident in which Kerry pulled Rassman from the water after a Swiftboat hit a mine.

I also agree with what was posted, that doing your duty doesn't qualify you for a Silver Star, going above and beyond does however qualify you. Nothing in Rood's account leads me (in my armchair quarterback assesment) to believe that Kerry did anything to deserve a Silver Star.

And finally, Rood's account does nothing to change the fact that Kerry DID IN FACT stab his fellow vets in the back when he got back stateside.

In otherwords, what is Rood's account supposed to 'prove'?
Link Posted: 8/23/2004 11:39:47 AM EST
My problem with Rood is that he is a far-left activist. That is a big part of being a print journalist these days especially at the Chicago Tribune. Recall they are the same paper that cracked open sealed child custody testimony for a Republican but refuse to go after Kerry's sealed dovirce records (what is Kerry hiding there--my guess is allegations of wife beating).

GunLvr
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 5:30:35 PM EST

Originally Posted By BigDozer66:

Originally Posted By Tortfeasor:

Originally Posted By SNorman:
I guess they finally offered this guy enough money to side with Kerry.

I heard them reporting this on the radio and you could almost imagine the reporter jizzing in his pants as he started out the story with "Well, the truth is FINALLY starting to slip out! bla bla bla".



You actually think he took a bribe? Any evidence?




Any evidence he didn't take one?

BigDozer66



Oh, I see - you are advocating the communist judicial system where you are guilty until proven innocent. Sorry, my bad Komrad.
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 5:44:41 PM EST
He is lying. He is a leftist, liberal, journalist, Kerry supporter. He has no reason to tell the truth and every reason to lie.

Besides, Dems and libs have absolutely no compunction when it comes to lying. Really, have you ever met a lib or Dem who actually stood up for truth? I haven't met one that would in the past 25 years.
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 5:48:23 PM EST
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 5:52:57 PM EST

Originally Posted By Tortfeasor:
Oh, I see - you are advocating the communist judicial system where you are guilty until proven innocent. Sorry, my bad Komrad.



This isn't a judicial proceeding, this is politics.

GunLvr
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 5:53:41 PM EST

Originally Posted By SHIVAN:

Originally Posted By Tortfeasor:
There were three swift boats on the river that day in Vietnam more than 35 years ago--three officers and 15 crew members. Only two of those officers remain to talk about what happened on February 28, 1969.

One is John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate who won a Silver Star for what happened on that date. I am the other.



Looks like he is attempting to claim that RANK somehow makes a difference to this discussion.....

Fucking asshole.....they apparently make a good pair.



I don't see it that way..I think he was just stating the facts of who was there. Of course this is'nt the incident the swifties are talking about. And the whole point of their contention is kerry's anti-war activities after the war..t but now that he's running for POTUS he wants to be considered a hero. Kerry wants it both ways..as usual.
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 5:54:59 PM EST
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 5:58:22 PM EST
[Last Edit: 8/26/2004 6:00:21 PM EST by Oslow]
The guy is queer for Kerry to begin with. It took him all this time to make up a good story. And let me check; yes, this seems to be just one guy spouting his "version" of the story. One liberal asshole covering for another liberal asshole.

Take your commie propaganda cart on down the road.
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 5:58:22 PM EST
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 6:03:24 PM EST
Here's a good read of rebuttal and explanation to Mr. Rood.

beldar.blogs.com/beldarblog/2004/08/chitribs_willia.html
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 6:09:01 PM EST

Originally Posted By Tortfeasor:

Originally Posted By BigDozer66:

Originally Posted By Tortfeasor:

Originally Posted By SNorman:
I guess they finally offered this guy enough money to side with Kerry.

I heard them reporting this on the radio and you could almost imagine the reporter jizzing in his pants as he started out the story with "Well, the truth is FINALLY starting to slip out! bla bla bla".



You actually think he took a bribe? Any evidence?




Any evidence he didn't take one?

BigDozer66



Oh, I see - you are advocating the communist judicial system where you are guilty until proven innocent. Sorry, my bad Komrad.



Komrade Tortfeasor,
You honestly think that you are innocent until proven guilty?

Of course he took a bribe as in cash or a place on a hopeful sKerry cabinet or an advisor position.

Do svidanya Komrade, do svidanya.

BigDozer66
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 6:11:53 PM EST
[Last Edit: 8/26/2004 6:12:07 PM EST by Paul]
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 6:13:28 PM EST
I'm not buying it. Not a bit.
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 6:14:32 PM EST
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 10:07:18 PM EST
Well, on Rush Limbaugh today(8-26-04), his guest host spoke with a crew member of Kerry's boat (I can't remember the name right now) who said that the Swift Boat Vets were correct in their version and also he called Kerry the worst of the three commanders that he served under. (This guy manned one of the .50 cal positions.) It was a very interesting interview.
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 10:18:39 PM EST

Originally Posted By UPD415:
Well, on Rush Limbaugh today(8-26-04), his guest host spoke with a crew member of Kerry's boat (I can't remember the name right now) who said that the Swift Boat Vets were correct in their version and also he called Kerry the worst of the three commanders that he served under. (This guy manned one of the .50 cal positions.) It was a very interesting interview.



Steve Gardner,
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 10:19:36 PM EST

Originally Posted By Tortfeasor:

Originally Posted By SNorman:
I guess they finally offered this guy enough money to side with Kerry.

I heard them reporting this on the radio and you could almost imagine the reporter jizzing in his pants as he started out the story with "Well, the truth is FINALLY starting to slip out! bla bla bla".



You actually think he took a bribe? Any evidence?



Any evidence that the bullshit story you posted has any truth to it?
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 10:22:10 PM EST

Originally Posted By Tortfeasor:

Originally Posted By BigDozer66:

Originally Posted By Tortfeasor:

Originally Posted By SNorman:
I guess they finally offered this guy enough money to side with Kerry.

I heard them reporting this on the radio and you could almost imagine the reporter jizzing in his pants as he started out the story with "Well, the truth is FINALLY starting to slip out! bla bla bla".



You actually think he took a bribe? Any evidence?




Any evidence he didn't take one?

BigDozer66



Oh, I see - you are advocating the communist judicial system where you are guilty until proven innocent. Sorry, my bad Komrad.



Well, gee, you are saying that the Swift vets that are against Kerry are guilty until proven innocent. You hypocrisy don't wash, bubba. And you are saying this when the numbers are about 2 who support him to 30+ who say he is a lying piece of shit.

Hope you enjoy voting for Kerry, then seeing him going down in flames.
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 10:32:52 PM EST

Originally Posted By rn45:
I'm still waiting to hear the part where the Silver Star was earned. That's a very high award and usually involves something above and beyond. Engaging the enemy like they were supposed to do was their normal job. The standard tactic for ambushes was to attack the ambush. I will say this for Kerry, working with regional - popular forces (Ruff-Puffs) was taking your life in your own hands. An officer I knew called them 50 percenters. I asked him why. He said 50% were VC.



Kerry's evaluations from his commanders:
Lieutenant Commander George Elliott:

In a combat environment often requiring independent, decisive action LTJG Kerry was unsurpassed. He constantly reviewed tactics and lessons learned in river operations and applied his experience at every opportunity. On one occasion while in tactical command of a three boat operation his units were taken under fire from ambush. LTJG Kerry rapidly assessed the situation and ordered his units to turn directly into the ambush. This decision resulted in routing the attackers with several enemy KIA.

LTJG Kerry emerges as the acknowledged leader in his peer group. His bearing and appearance are above reproach. He has of his own volition learned the Vietnamese language and is instrumental in the successful Vietnamese training program.


During the period of this report LTJG Kerry has been awarded the Silver Star medal, the Bronze Star medal, the Purple Heart medal (2nd and 3rd awards).
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 10:34:11 PM EST
[Last Edit: 8/26/2004 10:37:24 PM EST by cnatra]
The Silver Star

Several of those who appear in the ad have signed brief affidavits, and we have posted some of them in the "supporting documents" section to the right for our visitors to evaluate for themselves.

One of those affidavits, signed by George Elliott, quickly became controversial. Elliott is the retired Navy captain who had recommended Kerry for his highest decoration for valor, the Silver Star, which was awarded for events of Feb. 28, 1969, when Kerry beached his boat in the face of an enemy ambush and then pursued and killed an enemy soldier on the shore.

Elliott, who had been Kerry's commanding officer, was quoted by the Boston Globe Aug 6 as saying he had made a "terrible mistake" in signing the affidavit against Kerry, in which Elliott suggested Kerry hadn't told him the truth about how he killed the enemy soldier. Later Elliott signed a second affidavit saying he still stands by the words in the TV ad. But Elliott also made what he called an "immaterial clarification" - saying he has no first-hand information that Kerry was less than forthright about what he did to win the Silver Star.

What Elliott said in the ad is that Kerry "has not been honest about what happened in Viet Nam." In his original affidavit Elliott said Kerry had not been "forthright" in Vietnam. The only example he offered of Kerry not being "honest" or "forthright" was this: "For example, in connection with his Silver Star, I was never informed that he had simply shot a wounded, fleeing Viet Cong in the back.

In the Globe story, Elliott is quoted as saying it was a "terrible mistake" to sign that statement:

George Elliott (Globe account): It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign the affidavit with those words. I'm the one in trouble here. . . . I knew it was wrong . . . In a hurry I signed it and faxed it back. That was a mistake.

In his second affidavit, however, Elliott downgraded that "terrible mistake" to an "immaterial clarification." He said in the second affidavit:

Elliott (second affidavit): I do not claim to have personal knowledge as to how Kerry shot the wounded, fleeing Viet Cong.

Elliott also said he now believes Kerry shot the man in the back, based on other accounts including a book in which Kerry is quoted as saying of the soldier, "He was running away with a live B-40 (rocket launcher) and, I thought, poised to turn around and fire it." (The book quoted by Elliott is John F. Kerry, The Complete Biography, By The Reporters Who Know Him Best.)

Elliott also says in that second affidavit, "Had I known the facts, I would not have recommended Kerry for the Silver Star for simply pursuing and dispatching a single, wounded, fleeing Viet Cong." That statement is misleading, however. It mischaracterizes the actual basis on which Kerry received his decoration.

The official citations show Kerry was not awarded the Silver Star "for simply pursuing and dispatching" the Viet Cong. In fact, the killing is not even mentioned in two of the three versions of the official citation (see "supporting documents" at right.) The citations - based on what Elliott wrote up at the time - dwell mostly on Kerry's decision to attack rather than flee from two ambushes, including one in which he led a landing party.

The longest of the citations, signed by Vice Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, commander of U.S. naval forces in Vietnam, describes Kerry as killing a fleeing Viet Cong with a loaded rocket launcher. It says that as Kerry beached his boat to attack his second set of ambushers, "an enemy soldier sprang up from his position not ten feet from Patrol Craft Fast 94 and fled. Without hesitation, Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY leaped ashore, pursued the man behind a hooch, and killed him, capturing a B-40 rocket launcher with a round in the chamber."

Two other citations omit any mention of the killing. One was signed by Admiral John J. Hyland, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, and the other was signed by the Secretary of the Navy. Both those citations say Kerry attacked his first set of ambushers and that "this daring and courageous tactic surprised the enemy and succeeded in routing a score of enemy soldiers." Later, 800 yards away, Kerry's boat encountered a second ambush and a B-40 rocket exploded "close aboard" Kerry's boat. "With utter disregard for his own safety, and the enemy rockets, he again ordered a charge on the enemy, beached his boat only ten feet away from the VC rocket position, and personally led a landing party ashore in pursuit of the enemy." In these citations there is no mention of enemy casualties at all. Kerry was cited for "extraordinary daring and personal courage . . . in attacking a numerically superior force in the face of intense fire."

Elliott had previously defended Kerry on that score when his record was questioned during his 1996 Senate campaign. At that time Elliott came to Boston and said Kerry acted properly and deserved the Silver Star. And as recently as June, 2003, Elliott called Kerry's Silver Star "well deserved" and his action "courageous" for beaching his boat in the face of an ambush:

Elliott (Boston Globe, June 2003): I ended up writing it up for a Silver Star, which is well deserved, and I have no regrets or second thoughts at all about that. . . . (It) was pretty courageous to turn into an ambush even though you usually find no more than two or three people there.


Elliott now feels differently, and says he has come to believe Kerry didn't deserve his second award for valor, either, based only on what the other anti-Kerry veterans have told him. He told the Globe Aug. 6:

Elliott: I have chosen to believe the other men. I absolutely do not know first hand.

On Aug. 22 an officer who was present supported Kerry's version, breaking a 35-year silence. William B. Rood commanded another Swift Boat during the same operation and was awarded the Bronze Star himself for his role in attacking the Viet Cong ambushers. He said Kerry and he went ashore at the same time after being attacked by several Viet Cong onshore.
Rood said he was the only other officer present. Rood is now an editor on the metropolitan desk of the Chicago Tribune, which published his first-person account of the incident in its Sunday edition. Rood said he had refused all interviews about Kerry's war record, even from reporters for his own paper, until motivated to speak up because Kerry's critics are telling "stories I know to be untrue" and "their version of events has splashed doubt on all of us."

Rood described two Viet Cong ambushes, both of them routed using a tactic devised by Kerry who was in tactical command of a three-boat operation. At the second ambush only the Rood and Kerry boats were attacked.

Rood: Kerry, followed by one member of his crew, jumped ashore and chased a VC behind a hooch--a thatched hut--maybe 15 yards inland from the ambush site. Some who were there that day recall the man being wounded as he ran. Neither I nor Jerry Leeds, our boat's leading petty officer with whom I've checked my recollection of all these events, recalls that, which is no surprise. Recollections of those who go through experiences like that frequently differ.

With our troops involved in the sweep of the first ambush site, Richard Lamberson, a member of my crew, and I also went ashore to search the area. I was checking out the inside of the hooch when I heard gunfire nearby.

Not long after that, Kerry returned, reporting that he had killed the man he chased behind the hooch. He also had picked up a loaded B-40 rocket launcher, which we took back to our base in An Thoi after the operation.

Rood disputed an account of the incident given by John O'Neill in his book "Unfit for Command," which describes the man Kerry chased as a "teenager" in a "loincloth." Rood said, "I have no idea how old the gunner Kerry chased that day was, but both Leeds and I recall that he was a grown man, dressed in the kind of garb the VC usually wore."
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 10:35:27 PM EST
In the ad, one of the veterans, a Lieutenent Commander named George Elliot proclaims,

"John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam."

If Elliot feels that way, then why does his signature appear on the REPORT ON THE FITNESS OF OFFICERS document dated March 26, 1969:

"LTJG KERRY was assigned to this division for only a short time but during that time exhibited all of the traits desired of an officer in a combat environment. He frequently exhibited a high sense of imagination and judgement in planning operations against the enemy in the Mekong Delta. Involved in several enemy initiated fire fights, including an ambush during the Christmas truce, he effectively suppressed enemy fire and is unofficially credited with 20 enemy killed in action. Though relatively new to the PCF he is thoroughly knowledgeable of all aspects of his boat and PCF operations. He was instrumental in planning of highly successful Sea Lords Operations. He was cited for his performance during action against the enemy by Commander Task Force in his message 080807Z JAN 69."

According to the header of that document, the report was based on "close observation". You'll find Kerry's complete service records on his site.

When the Boston Globe called him on his flip-flop in April, Elliot said, "I just don't remember it."

The Globe article goes on to report:

"'In a combat environment often requiring independent, decisive action LTJG Kerry was unsurpassed,' wrote one of Kerry's commanding officers, Lieutenant Commander George Elliott. 'He constantly reviewed tactics and lessons learned in river operations and applied his experience at every opportunity.... LTJG Kerry emerges as the acknowledged leader in his peer group. His bearing and appearance are above reproach.'"

Another one of the veterans appearing in the swift boat commercial, Commander Adrian Lonsdale claims, "He lacks the capacity to lead."

If that's the case, why did he also flip-flop and tell South Coast Today on November 4, 1996:

"Adrian Lonsdale remembers a young John F. Kerry as a naval officer who was a good debater, even back in his days in Vietnam. 'He and I and others used to have long discussions at the officers club,' said Mr. Lonsdale of Mattapoisett, a former Coast Guard officer who commanded a division in which the Massachusetts senator was attached back in 1969. 'They were very spirited discussions about the war and the politics back home. He was opposed to the war but it didn't make any difference in his performance,' said the former owner and still instructor at Northeast Maritime Institute in New Bedford. 'He was a very good officer.'"

Yet another veteran in the swift boat commercial, Lieutenent Commander Grant Hibberd says of Kerry, "He betrayed all his shipmates. He lied before the Senate."

The Globe discredits Hibbard as well:

Hibbard's evaluation was brief and incomplete because Hibbard oversaw Kerry's service for only about two weeks. Kerry's duty under Hibbard included 'counter infiltration operations against Viet Cong forces. Engaged in combat operations.' Hibbard marked a few performance categories, noting that Kerry's initiative, cooperation, and bearing ranked among the top few. But unlike other evaluators who wrote about specific actions by Kerry, Hibbard did not do so, providing this explanation: 'The short period LTJG Kerry was attached to Coast Division 14 prevents further evaluation.'"
Link Posted: 8/26/2004 10:38:38 PM EST
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