Accusations against John Kerry from Former Navy Swift Boat crewmen from the Vietnam War-Truth!, Fiction! & Disputed!

Accusations against John Kerry from Former Navy Swift Boat crewmen from the Vietnam WarTruth!, Fiction! & Disputed!

Summary of 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.


The Truth:

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 Swift Boat 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 for Truth.

Here are some of the specific issues being raised in forwarded emails regarding the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and the Kerry and Bush campaigns.

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 mission.”

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 are accurate.

Was John Kerry in Cambodia during Christmas of 1968?
One of the things John Kerry has talked and written about for a long ti
me 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 January.

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 materials.

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.