What’s behind the Vietnam medal controversy?
Back in February, this observer opined the Kerry campaign was making a big mistake by trying to tout John Kerry’s four-month service in Vietnam while denigrating George W. Bush’s over five years of flying the super-sonic F-102 interceptor for the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD).
But the larger issue is that the U.S. Navy needs to tighten up its rules for the award of medals and decorations. Two cases come to mind:
During World War II, President Roosevelt had Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson, commissioned as a Navy Lt. Commander. FDR sent “Commander” Johnson on a brief fact-finding tour of the Pacific Theater. Johnson never came close to enemy contact; however, he once rode on a transport whose crew “sighted” a Japanese aircraft “off in the distance.” Back home, Congressman Johnson badgered the Department of the Navy into awarding him the Silver Star, our nation’s third-highest medal for Valor.
On December 13, 1977, former U.S. Army Chief of Staff, General Harold K. Johnson, took this observer to lunch at the Army-Navy-Club. During that luncheon interview, General Johnson (a survivor of the Bataan Death March) said he was sickened every time he saw President Johnson wear that Silver Star Lapel Pin.
Today, John Kerry’s Navy medals are being called into question by 19 of the 23 officers with whom Kerry served and by every one of his former commanding officers. They have formed: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. In fact, over 200 of the Swift Boat veterans have signed a letter saying John Kerry is unfit to be commander-in-chief. See:www.swiftvets.com. See also: www.vietnamveteransagainstjohnkerry.org.
According to one of Kerry’s former commanders, Navy Lt. Commander Grant Hibbard, John Kerry showed him a metal fragment that Kerry claimed had wounded him. Kerry demanded the award of a Purple Heart. Commander Hibbard says he examined the wound and that “it resembled a scrape from a fingernail.” Hibbard says, “I’ve had thorns from a rose bush that were worse.” Hibbard says he took no action to stop Kerry who continued to pursue his claim with eventual success.
Look for Kerry’s two other awards of the Purple Heart and other suspicious medals to be called into question by the Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry and by B.G. Burkett the co-author of Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of its Heroes and its History.
Burkett and co-author, Glenna Whitley, carefully researched the lives of phony Vietnam veterans, many of whom were never in the military at all, or never set foot in Vietnam or, if they did go to Vietnam, never saw combat. Needless to say, their medals were phony as well.
Burkett feels those who politic for undeserved medals cheapen the reputation of those who truly deserved recognition. Burkett and Whitley exposed hundreds of Vietnam imposters who claim their drug and alcohol problems were caused by being ordered to commit atrocities against Vietnamese civilians.
Ironically, while the overwhelming majority of GIs set an exemplary record in Vietnam and Cambodia for humane treatment of friend and foe alike , both John Kerry and J. Robert Kerrey, the co-founders of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, confessed to war crimes. John Kerry, in 1971, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and later, on a national TV. J. Robert Kerrey was “outed” when one of his former SEAL Team members revealed how J. Robert Kerrey, on the night of February 25, 1969, ordered the slaughter of 21 women, children and elderly men at the village of Thanh Phong.
Psychologists speak of: Projection. That’s when a person “projects” his or her own values onto others and “projects” that others behave as they have done or would do. How else to explain why Kerry and Kerrey made their post-Vietnam claims of widespread atrocities by the rest of us?
Clearly, the Navy needs to run a tighter ship, making it hard to blame John Kerry for figuring out how to manipulate the system and go home after only four months of a 12-month tour. If such loopholes have not been corrected by now, they should be.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, served two years with the 1st Air Cavalry Division in Vietnam and Cambodia.
©2004. William Hamilton.