WASHINGTON – In a letter to television station managers they hope to convince to air their blistering 60-second commercial opposing John Kerry for president, the Swift Boat Vets for Truth reveal new details of their politically sizzling charges against the candidate who made his war experience the cornerstone of his convention acceptance speech.
Attempting to bolster their accusations that Kerry misrepresented slight injuries to win Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, the vets cite a March 13, 1969, incident for which the young lieutenant was decorated.
Two injuries – a small bruise on his right arm and a minor injury to his buttocks – won Kerry his Third Purple Heart and a trip home. However, the vets say, the wound to his buttocks was self-inflicted and should never have received Purple Heart consideration.
While Kerry claims the injury came from shrapnel from an underwater mine, Larry Thurlow, an officer on shore with Kerry that day, insists the wound was the result of Kerry’s decision to throw a concussion grenade into a rice pile. The “shrapnel,” he says, was actually rice pellets.
As further evidence, the vets say, Kerry himself reflected in his own journal that his buttocks’ wound came, not from a mine but, rather, from a grenade tossed into a rice cache.
Sworn statements of those present say there was no hostile fire involved in this incident for which Kerry received his third Purple Heart and the coveted Bronze Star.
“The conclusion is inescapable: that Kerry lied by reporting to the Navy that he had been wounded by shrapnel in his backside from an enemy mine when in reality he negligently wounded himself and then lied about the wound in order to secure a third Purple Heart and a quick trip home,” reads the letter.
The letter continues: “Kerry’s operating report, Bronze Star story, and subsequent ‘no man left behind’ story are a total hoax on the Navy and the nation,” they say.
As to the daring rescue discussed in the documentary video shown to the nation at the Democratic convention, the vets say the rescue was well under way under the leadership of others when Kerry returned to the scene where Special Forces soldier Jim Rassman was plucked out of the water. Eyewitnesses have signed affidavits explaining when Kerry returned, there was no more hostile fire. He just merely leaned over the boat and assisted Rassman out of the water.
“Kerry’s account of this action, which was used to secure the Bronze Star and a third Purple Heart, is an extraordinary example of fraud,” they say.
The letter also recounts the incident that occurred Dec. 2, 1968, that led to Kerry receiving his first Purple Heart.
Once again, the vets insist there was no hostile fire involved, and, again, they say, Kerry’s very minor wound was self-inflicted.
According to the vets’ account, Kerry, Navy Lt. William Schachte, and an enlisted man were on a whaler.
“Seeing movement from an unknown source, the sailors opened fire on the movement,” the letter says. “There was no hostile fire. When Kerry’s rifle jammed, he picked up an M-79 grenade launcher and fired a grenade at a nearby object. This sprayed the boat with shrapnel from Kerry’s own grenade, a tiny piece of which embedded in Kerry’s arm.”
Upon examining Kerry’s injury, Dr. Lewis Letson says he asked Kerry why he was there.
Kerry reportedly told him he had been wounded by hostile fire. Letson removed the tiny fragment with tweezers and placed a Band-Aid over the scratch.
The next morning, Kerry went to see Division Commander Grant Hibbard to ask for the Purple Heart. Hibbard had already spoken to Schachte and conducted an investigation. Hibbard’s investigation revealed that Kerry’s “rose thorn” scratch had been self-inflicted in the absence of hostile fire. Hibbard denied the award.
Some three months later, Kerry managed to obtain his first Purple Heart from an officer with no connection to Coastal Division 14 or knowledge of the Dec. 2, 1968, event, they say.
“All normal documentation supporting a Purple Heart is missing,” the letter says. “There is absolutely no casualty report (i.e., spot report) or hostile fire report or after-action report in the Navy’s files to support this ‘Purple Heart’ because there was no casualty, hostile fire, or action on which to report. The sole document relied upon by Kerry is a record showing the band aid and tweezers treatment by Dr. Letson recorded by deceased corpsman, Jess Carreon.
“There are no witnesses who claim to have seen hostile fire – necessary for a Purple Heart (even a rose thorn Purple Heart) – that day. At least three witnesses, Dr. Letson (who spoke to the participants and removed the M-79 fragment), Lt. Bill Schachte (on the boat), and Cmdr. Grant Hibbard (whose investigation revealed Kerry’s application for a Purple Heart to be fraudulent), are able to testify directly or based upon contemporaneous investigation that Kerry’s first Purple Heart was a fraud,” says the letter.
Swift Boat Vets for Truth claims a membership of 254 sailors from Coastal Squadron One, ranging from vice admirals to seamen. They claim 16 of the 23 surviving officers who served with Kerry in swift boats in Vietnam and who could be found have joined.