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Kerry's war journal
contradicts medal claim?
Posted By Art Moore On 08/17/2004 @ 8:00 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled
A previously unnoticed passage in John Kerry’s approved war biography, citing his own journals, appears to contradict the senator’s claim he won his first Purple Heart as a result of an injury sustained under enemy fire.
John Kerry receving medal for Vietnam service.
Kerry, who served as commander of a Navy swift boat, has insisted he was wounded by enemy fire Dec. 2, 1968, when he and two other men took a smaller vessel, a Boston Whaler, on a patrol north of his base at Cam Ranh Bay.
But Douglas Brinkley’s “Tour of Duty,” for which Kerry supplied his journals and letters, indicates that as Kerry set out on a subsequent mission, he had not yet been under enemy fire.
While the date of the four-day excursion on PCF-44 [Patrol Craft Fast] is not specified, Brinkley notes it commenced when Kerry “had just turned 25, on Dec. 11, 1968,” which was nine days after the incident in which he claimed he had been wounded by enemy fire.
Brinkley recounts the outset of that mid-December journey, which included a crew of radarman James Wasser, engineman William Zaladonis, gunner’s mate Stephen Gardner and boatswain’s mates Drew Whitlow and Stephen Hatch:
“They pulled away from the pier at Cat Lo with spirits high, feeling satisfied with the way things were going for them. They had no lust for battle, but they also were were not afraid. Kerry wrote in his notebook, ‘A cocky feeling of invincibility accompanied us up the Long Tau shipping channel because we hadn’t been shot at yet, and Americans at war who haven’t been shot at are allowed to be cocky.’”
The diary entry apparently confirms assertions made by Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth, a group of more than 250 vets opposing his presidential candidacy who served in the Naval operation that patrolled the rivers and canals of the Mekong Delta area controlled by North Vietnam.
Kerry has made his four months of service in Vietnam a central theme in his campaign, arguing his purported war heroics help qualify him to be commander in chief.
In the swift-boat group’s newly published book, “Unfit for Command,” authors John O’Neill, who took over command of Kerry’s boat, and Jerome Corsi assert the wound for which Kerry received his medal actually was caused by him firing an M-79 grenade launcher too close, “causing a tiny piece of shrapnel (one to two centimeters) to barely stick in his arm.”
Could the “we” to which Kerry referred in his notebook entry have meant only that his crew, rather than Kerry in particular, had not encountered enemy fire?
At least one other PCF-44 crew member was with Kerry during the Boston Whaler incident, Zaldonis, according to the Boston Globe’s account of the story.
Whatever the case, Corsi told WorldNetDaily he believes the apparent contradiction in Kerry’s journal, as presented by Brinkley, deserves a response.
“We’re not interested in charges that cannot be documented,” he added.
The Kerry campaign’s press staff has not answered WND’s request for a response.
Corsi contends Kerry has a “pattern” of equivocation, “distinguishing and extending” his answers to charges, including responses to alleged participation in a 1971 Kansas City meeting of Vietnam Veterans Against the War where a plot to assassinate seven U.S. senators was considered.
“Finally, he said he was there, but he doesn’t remember it,” Corsi said.
“Tour of Duty” author Brinkley is reported to be writing a piece for the New Yorker saying it actually was January 1969 when Kerry was sent into Cambodia, not December 1968.
As WorldNetDaily reported, the authors of “Unfit for Command” claim that despite the senator’s many public references to spending Christmas Eve in Cambodia – including a1986 speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate – the candidate was never in Vietnam’s neighboring country. Rather, they say he was more than 50 miles from the Cambodian border at Sa Dec.
‘Dear diary moment’
Conservative commentator and attorney Chris Horner, a defender of the swift-boats group who alerted WND to the diary entry, called it a “stunning” revelation.
On recent television and radio appearances, he said, claims made by eyewitnesses to events surrounding the first Purple Heart have been countered by “surrogates of Kerry” who do not address the substance of the charges.
“So finally, you have an eyewitness in a dear diary moment, saying, ‘Dear diary, I still haven’t been shot at,’ confirming what the Swiftees have been saying,” observed Horner, who has defended the group’s claims in recent appearances on television news shows.
“Admittedly the source is questionable – John Kerry – but it at last provides a witness from his camp to address the charges that his first Purple Heart resulted from a scratch borne of his own fire,” Horner said.
Swift boat veteran John O’Neill, co-author of “Unfit for Command.” (Fox News Channel)
Kerry’s journal entry indicating he had not yet been fired upon is noted in a soon-to-be released book by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, editors of the left-leaning, alternative newsletter Counterpunch. In an excerpt of their book, they write regarding Kerry’s first Purple Heart, “there’s no evidence that anyone had fired back, or that Kerry had been in combat, as becomes obvious when we read an entry from his diary about a subsequent excursion, written on December 11, 1968, nine days after the incident that got Kerry his medal.”
According to “Unfit for Command,” Kerry’s initial requests to receive a Purple Heart for the wound were flatly rejected.
In “Tour of Duty,” Brinkley quotes Kerry as saying he and his comrades were “scared s—less” that night, thinking fishermen in sampans might be Viet Cong.
When some of the sampan occupants began unloading something on the beach, Kerry lit a flare, causing the startled men on shore to run for cover. That’s when Kerry says he and the other Americans began firing.
Said Kerry in “Tour of Duty”:
My M-16 jammed, and as I bent down in the boat to grab another gun, a stinging piece of heat socked into my arm and just seemed to burn like hell. By this time one of the sailors had started the engine and we ran by the beach, strafing it. Then it was quiet.
O’Neill and Corsi, however, claim there is no evidence whatsoever Kerry took any enemy fire that night.
Patrick Runyon was operating the engine on the Boston whaler during the incident.
“I can’t say for sure that we got return fire or how [Kerry] got nicked,” Runyon is quoted as saying in “Unfit for Command.” “I couldn’t say one way or the other. I know he did get nicked, a scrape on the arm.”
Wrote O’Neill: “In a separate conversation, Runyon related that he never knew Kerry was wounded. So even in the [Boston] Globe biography accounting, it was not clear that there was any enemy fire, just a question about how Kerry might have been hit with shrapnel.”
The book also asserts another one of Kerry’s three Purple Hearts was self-inflicted.
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