Fact: Many of the inconsistencies between accounts come from John Kerry himself. He has now given three conflicting accounts involving the Bay Hap River incident of March 13, 1969, when a mine exploded under one of five swift boats patrolling the river. It was this incident in which Kerry was awarded a Bronze Star and his third Purple Heart.
§ In eulogizing a crewmate (recorded in the Congressional Record), Kerry reported that it was his boat that struck an underwater mine and Jim Rassmann, the special operations soldier he fished out of the water, later fell off the boat when the boat turned.
§ Kerry no longer stands by this version and now agrees that it was the PC 3 boat, skippered by Dick Pees, that was badly damaged by an underwater mine.
§ In the version he presented during the Democrat National Convention, Kerry stated: "No man left behind," suggesting to the American people that he alone stayed on the river to rescue Mr. Rassmann while the other swift boats fled the scene.
§ Later, when forced to acknowledge the eyewitness testimony of fellow swift boat veterans, Kerry said that his boat actually did leave the scene, only to return later to retrieve Jim Rassmann from the water. Kerry acknowledged he was simply returning to where all the other boats stayed.
Claim: In a 1986 speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate debating major foreign policy issues, Kerry says he “vividly” remembers spending Christmas Eve of 1968 in Cambodia. Kerry claimed in that speech that this was “seared, seared in me.” The book John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best describes Kerry’s Cambodia experience as something Kerry claims was a life-changing experience.
Fact: This story has changed a number of times and now his authorized biographer, historian Douglas Brinkley, has admitted that Kerry was not in Cambodia, Christmas Eve 1968. Kerry has “stood behind” multiple versions of his story about spending Christmas in Cambodia – a claim that has not been fully explained by either the media or Kerry himself.
§ In fact, Kerry's spokesmen started backing off this story two weeks ago. First, one campaign aide explained that Kerry had patrolled the Mekong Delta somewhere "between" Cambodia and Vietnam. Then another spokesman told reporters that Kerry had been "near Cambodia." Finally, the Kerry campaign released a statement claiming that Kerry "on one occasion crossed into Cambodia," on an unspecified date.
§ Kerry’s own biographer has told reporters that Kerry did not spend Christmas in Cambodia. Historian Douglas Brinkley told the London Telegraph that while Kerry had been 50 miles from the border on Christmas, he "went into Cambodian waters three or four times in January and February 1969 on clandestine missions." One presumes this information came from the biographer’s subject.
§ But recently, Brinkley told The Washington Post: "I'm under the impression that they were near the Cambodian border," said Brinkley, in the interview. So Kerry's statement about being in Cambodia at Christmas "is obviously wrong," he said. "It's a mongrel phrase he should never have uttered."
§ The Kerry campaign has refused to release Kerry's personal Vietnam archive, including his journals and letters, saying that the senator is contractually bound to grant Brinkley exclusive access to the material. But Brinkley said this week the papers are the property of the senator and in his full control.
§ "I don't mind if John Kerry shows anybody anything," he said. "If he wants to let anybody in, that's his business. Go bug John Kerry, and leave me alone." The exclusivity agreement, he said, simply requires "that anybody quoting any of the material needs to cite my book."
§ Kerry’s account is also undermined by two former Kerry crew members who support his candidacy, but do not back his Cambodia story. Last week, the Boston Globe reported that: “James Wasser, who accompanied Kerry on that mission aboard patrol boat No. 44 and who supports Kerry's candidacy, said that while he believes they were ‘very, very close’ to Cambodia, he did not think they entered Cambodia on that mission.”
§ The paper also said that: “Michael Medeiros, who served aboard the No. 94 with Kerry and appeared with him at the Democratic National Convention, vividly recalled an occasion on which Kerry and the crew chased an enemy to the Cambodian border but did not go beyond the border. Yet Medeiros said he could not recall dropping off special forces in Cambodia or going inside Cambodia with Kerry.”
§ Finally, Kerry's own journal, kept while on duty, says (as reproduced in Brinkley's book): "The banks of the [Rach Giang Thanh River] whistled by as we churned out mile after mile at full speed. On my left were occasional open fields that allowed us a clear view into Cambodia. At some points, the border was only fifty yards away and it then would meander out to several hundred or even as much as a thousand yards away, always making one wonder what lay on the other side." This entry was from Kerry’s final mission.
§ Apparently, neither John Kerry nor his crew could read a chart. In Kerry’s biography, (Tour of Duty pg. 208) they arrive at the confluence of the Co Chien and My Tho Rivers only “one hour” from Cambodian border. A casual look at the charts would have shown that Kerry was actually 70 miles from Cambodia—perhaps one hour by Helicopter.
Claim: Navy files support John Kerry’s version of events.
Fact: This is a half-truth at best. One has to understand what constitutes “Navy files.” The Navy files the Kerry campaign is referencing are largely John Kerry’s personal accounts – his after action reports. Therefore, these “files” are largely based on Kerry’s personal accounts, which we have called into question. Saying Navy files back up Kerry’s story, is like saying Kerry’s story is backed up by Kerry’s files. This is why the SwiftVets, supported by many in the mainstream press, have called up on John Kerry to release his entire service records, rather than just the pieces he chooses to make public.
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth includes 17 of Kerry’s contemporary officers in Vietnam, more than 60 frontline unit members who were yards away from him in combat and more than 150 other Swift Vets who support their accounts, including more than 60 winners of Purple Hearts. Kerry’s claims – which can be hard to pin down as they frequently change – are supported by only a dozen or so Swift Vets, few of who have appeared on national television to debate Swift Boat Veterans for Truth over these Facts.
In addition to the contemporary accounts, many of the documents directly contradict Kerry’s version. For example, page 313 and page 317 of Kerry’s book, “Tour of Duty,” recounting his journal, make clear he wounded himself in the buttocks although he reported to the Navy, this came from a water mine.
Claim: John Kerry was awarded his first Purple Heart as a result of injuries received during enemy action:
Fact: Even Kerry campaign officials now acknowledge that Kerry’s wounds could have been the result of a self-inflicted wound after he fired his own weapon into the shoreline at close range.
Fox News, Aug. 23, 2004
Major Garrett: And questions keep coming. For example, Kerry received a Purple Heart for wounds suffered on December 2, 1968. But in Kerry's own journal written nine days later, he writes he and his crew, quote, "hadn't been shot at yet," unquote. Kerry's campaign has said it is possible this first Purple Heart was awarded for an unintentional self-inflicted wound -- Brit.
Fox News, Aug. 12, 2004
Major Garrett: The book alleges Kerry received his first Purple Heart for an unintentionally self-inflicted wound.
Hurley: Anything is possible. (John Hurley, National Director, Vets For Kerry)
From NBC News:
William Schachte, Vietnam veteran: I was in command of those missions and I was in the boat that night.
Meyers: In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Schachte says he and Kerry and an enlisted man were in the boat that night when he thought he saw movement on the shore and opened fire.
Schachte: My gun jammed after the first burst. And, as I was trying to clear my weapon, John's gun apparently jammed, too. I heard the old familiar thunk, pow. And I looked and John had fired M-79 grenade launcher. And there was silence. And that's when I realized that he had nicked himself.
Claim: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has connections to the Bush campaign.
Fact: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has absolutely nothing to do with the White House or President Bush’s campaign. The group’s efforts will continue regardless of what any politician tries to tell us or do against us. Had the Democrats nominated any other person, our group would never have formed. Had Mr. Kerry been the Republican candidate, each of us would come forward to set the record straight concerning John Kerry’s service in Vietnam.
Swift Boat Veterans have earned our right to be heard. We will not be silenced or censored by any politician be they Republican or Democrat.
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has widespread support from tens of thousands of Americans. Since August 5th (the date we began airing the first commercial), more than 49,000 Americans contributed over $3.3 million dollars to www.swiftvets.com so that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth could get the truth out.