A group of more than 220 veterans who served in Sen. John Kerry’s swift-boat unit in Vietnam are calling on the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate to stop unauthorized use of their images in national campaign advertising.
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which has declared the Massachusetts senator “unfit to be commander in chief,” says 11 of the 20 officers in one photo Kerry uses have signed a letter condemning him.
Most of the veterans in this 1969 photo don’t want John Kerry to use it in his presidential campaign.
The photo, which includes Kerry, was taken on the island of An Thoi Jan. 22, 1969.
“Of the remaining eight officers in the photo, two are deceased and four don’t want any involvement,” the veterans said in a statement. Only two of the 20 are believed to support Kerry.
One veteran in the photo, William Shumadine, said, “His use of a photograph with his 19 comrades with knowledge that 11 of them condemn him and six who cannot or do not want to be involved is a complete misrepresentation to the public and a total fraud.”
The swift-boat group says it has no political affiliation and insists its sole purpose is to “bring the truth about John Kerry’s service to the American public.”
Among its members is virtually the entire chain of command to which Kerry reported and a large majority of peers who served during his four-month stay in Vietnam.
The group says it has received more than 2 million hits on its website.
“John Kerry will find that the truth is hard to contain,” said the group’s chairman, Admiral Roy Hoffman. “It’s been evident in the overwhelming support we have received over the last two weeks. We’re grateful to the veterans and Americans who are rallying behind us.”
At the group’s May 4 press conference, Hoffman, who headed Kerry’s Coastal Division 11, said Kerry was seen by colleagues as a self-serving, “loose cannon” who came only to launch a political career.
Hoffman said Kerry “arrived in country with a strong anti-Vietnam War bias and a self-serving determination to build a foundation for his political future.”
“He was aggressive, but vain and prone to impulsive judgment, often with disregard to specific tactical assignments,” Hoffman said. “He was a loose cannon.”
A swift boat officer who served with Kerry, Thomas Wright, says he was one of three colleagues who told the future senator to leave Vietnam because of misbehavior and a poor attitude.
Wright says the bad behavior got to the point where he no longer wanted Kerry in his boat group. So, at Wright’s request, his divisional commander assigned Kerry to another group.
Then Wright and like-minded boat officers took matters into their own hands, according to John B. Dwyer, a Vietnam veteran and military historian writing in the online magazine American Thinker.
“When he got his third Purple Heart, three of us told him to leave,” Wright said, according to Dwyer. “We knew how the system worked and we didn’t want him in Coastal Division 11.
“Kerry didn’t manipulate the system,” he continued, “we did.”