Responding to a Washington Post article questioning his veracity, an eyewitness critic of John Kerry’s war record insists military records cited in the story are based on a fraudulent after-action report by Kerry himself.
The Post reported today that newly obtained military records of Larry Thurlow, who commanded a Navy swift boat alongside Kerry in Vietnam, contradict Thurlow’s claim that Kerry was not under enemy fire when he pulled U.S. Army Special Forces officer James Rassman out of the Bay Hap River after a mine explosion March 13, 1969.
Kerry won a Bronze Star for that event, as did Thurlow, with citations that referred to heavy “enemy fire” from small arms and automatic weapons.
But Thurlow still maintains there was no enemy fire.
“The military records have always shown [there was enemy fire], because they are John Kerry’s report,” he told WorldNetDaily from his home in Kansas.
Two other swift-boat skippers involved in the event, Jack Chenoweth and Richard Pees, and several crew members also have said there was no enemy fire.
Thurlow is a member of Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth, a group of more than 250 vets opposing Kerry’s 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 contended in interviews and writings that he had left the scene of the March 13 explosion but returned under 5,000 meters of fire from both banks of the river and, while injured, pulled Rassman from the the water as bullets whistled by.
Rassmann has said he remembers being fired at from both banks as Kerry rescued him.
Some analysts believe their emotional reunion at an event just before the Iowa Democratic caucuses helped put Kerry over the top in that state, which established his front-runner status on the way to the party nomination.
Thurlow said Commander George Elliott wrote up the citation for his Bronze Star and Kerry’s on March 23, largely based on Kerry’s after-action report.
Thurlow’s citation included a witness from another boat, but only Kerry’s report refers to enemy fire, he said.
It was the custom to file only one after-action report for an incident, Thurlow noted.
“So the one and only report, which George accepted at face value, was this cock-and-bull story about coming 5,000 meters under intense fire to get Rassman,” he said.
Jerome Corsi, co-author of the swift-boat vets’ newly released book, “Unfit for Command,” Amazon.com’s No. 1 best-seller, told WND Kerry filed a lot of the after-action reports “because he was the only guy who had a typewriter, and he would often volunteer.”
Thurlow said he was unaware of his own medal until two to three months after returning home to Kansas April 22, 1969.
He said the first time he saw Kerry’s after-action report was this year in Washington, D.C.
“When I looked at that, it actually made me chuckle,” Thurlow said. “What a story.”
Thurlow said the Washington Post reporter, Michael Dobbs, had accessed a copy of his military citation from archives in St. Louis and read it to him over the phone.
Dobbs, he said, was operating on the assumption that if his medal and Kerry’s were for the same incident, the citation would provide a clue to the conditions under which Kerry was operating.
Thurlow acknowledged the conditions would have been the same.
“If he was getting shot at, everyone else was, because we were so close together,” he said.
But Thurlow said he saw Kerry pull Rassman from the river and is sure there was no enemy fire.
Thurlow says Kerry’s boat, which was on the opposite side of the river, was the only boat to flee the scene after the mine explosion. Rassmann, who had been on Kerry’s boat, fell into the water as Kerry sped away. But Kerry returned several minutes later to retrieve the officer from the river just seconds before another boat was preparing to pick him up, Thurlow contends.
“All the boats got together when Rassman was pulled in,” Thurlow said. “Then Kerry comes over and says, ‘Well, what’s going on?’
Thurlow said the question on his mind, which he didn’t verbalize, was, ‘Well, where were you?'”
Kerry campaign officials now have acknowledged that while Kerry’s boat left the scene, none of the other boats on the river ever left the damaged swift boat, Thurlow notes.
This contradicts Rassman’s previous accounts in published interviews, he says. It also is at odds with the theme used during the Democratic National Convention of “No Man Left Behind,” which highlighted Kerry’s accounts of heroism.
“If no one ever left the scene of the Bay Hap River incident, how could anyone be left behind?” Thurlow asked.
Thurlow said he still has his medal but has not seen the citation for about 30 years, having lost track of it when he was divorced.
He has understood that the medal was for “saving the boat.”
“If being under fire is required to get a Bronze Star, then I got mine fraudulently, ” he said. “I’m more than willing to give it back.”
As WorldNetDaily reported Tuesday, a previously unnoticed passage in John Kerry’s approved war biography “Tour of Duty,” 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.
“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 WND 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.