Posted: 8/19/2004 8:07:42 AM EST
Swift Vet's Larry Thurlow Responds
I am convinced that the language used in my citation for a Bronze Star was
language taken directly from John Kerry's report which falsely described the
action on the Bay Hap River as action that saw small arms fire and automatic
weapons fire from both banks of the river.
To this day, I can say without a doubt in my mind, along with other accounts
from my shipmates-there was no hostile enemy fire directed at my boat or at
any of the five boats operating on the river that day.
I submitted no paperwork for a medal nor did I file an after action report
describing the incident. To my knowledge, John Kerry was the only officer
who filed a report describing his version of the incidents that occurred on
the river that day.
It was not until I had left the Navy-approximately three months after I left
the service-that I was notified that I was to receive a citation for my
actions on that day.
I believed then as I believe now that I received my Bronze Star for my
efforts to rescue the injured crewmen from swift boat number three and to
conduct damage control to prevent that boat from sinking.
My boat and several other swift boats went to the aid of our fellow swift
boat sailors whose craft was adrift and taking on water. We provided
immediate rescue and damage control to prevent boat three from sinking and
to offer immediate protection and comfort to the injured crew.
After the mine exploded, leaving swift boat three dead in the water, John
Kerry's boat, which was on the opposite side of the river, fled the scene.
US Army Special Forces officer Jim Rassmann, who was on Kerry's boat at the
time, fell off the boat and into the water. Kerry's boat returned several
minutes later-under no hail of enemy gunfire-to retrieve Rassmann from the
river only seconds before another boat was going to pick him up.
Kerry campaign spokespersons have conflicting accounts of this incident-the
latest one being that Kerry's boat did leave but only briefly and returned
under withering enemy fire to rescue Mr. Rassmann. However, none of the
other boats on the river that day reported enemy fire nor was anyone wounded
by small arms action. The only damage on that day was done to boat three-a
result of the underwater mine. None of the other swift boats received damage
from enemy gunfire.
And in a new development, Kerry campaign officials are now finally
acknowledging that while Kerry's boat left the scene, none of the other
boats on the river ever left the damaged swift boat. This is a direct
contradiction to previous accounts made by Jim Rassmann in the Oregonian
newspaper and a direct contradiction to the "No Man Left Behind" theme
during the Democratic National Convention.
These ever changing accounts of the Bay Hap River incident by Kerry campaign
officials leave me asking one question. If no one ever left the scene of the
Bay Hap River incident, how could anyone be left behind?