Kerry: PT-109-type hero or conduct unbecoming?
The Bush-Cheney campaign has steadfastly avoided making any comments about John Kerry’s war hero claims. Then, just when it looked like Kerry’s war record would not be questioned, he angered many of those who served with him in Vietnam.
Kerry ran a campaign Ad featuring a photograph of him and 19 other Swift Boat skippers along a caption claiming all of his fellow officers are supporting him for President. Actually, 11 officers in that photograph ardently oppose Kerry’s quest for the Presidency, as do four other Swift boat skippers who missed the photo session that day. Thus, 21 out of 23 fellow Swift Boat commanders from Coastal Division 11 contend Kerry is unfit to be President.
Kerry did get 13 of his former Swift boat colleagues to support him at the recent Democratic National Convention. But over 250 former Swift Boat officers have now signed an open letter to Kerry telling him why they do not think he is fit for command. See: www.Swiftvets.com. One of Kerry’s former mates has written a book called: Unfit for Command. See: www.amazon.com.
So, why do over 250 of his fellow Swift Boat officers oppose Kerry’s quest to be Commander-in-Chief? Part of it has to do with how he conducted himself during his four months and 12 days in Vietnam. The other is a sense of betrayal because Kerry returned home to tell the U.S. Senate that he and his former colleagues and others had committed heinous crimes against innocent civilians.
While only his former comrades and commanding officers would have actual knowledge of Kerry’s brief stint in Vietnam, millions of Vietnam veterans know Kerry’s claim of wide-spread war crimes is patently false.
So what are over 250 of Kerry’s fellow officers saying about his Vietnam service? They say he put himself in for wounds that weren’t actual wounds. They say two wounds were self-inflicted. (Apparently, Kerry was the only person known to have taken advantage of Navy Instruction 1300.39 that allowed anyone with three Purple Hearts to go home early.)
His former mates question how he received a Bronze Star for Meritorious Service when the criterion for that award was the completion of a full 12-month tour in Vietnam? They question how he received the Silver Star for going ashore to retrieve a souvenir weapon – long after the shooting was over? But most disgusting is Kerry’s own admission that he killed a wounded enemy soldier. Executing the wounded is murder and a violation of the Geneva Convention, the Wars of Land Warfare and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The facts of what Kerry did are not in dispute. But what was his motivation for going to Vietnam in the first place? Was it to live out a copy cat scenario founded on the life of his hero, John F. Kennedy?
Recall, World War II Navy Lieutenant (j.g.) John F. Kennedy (JFK) left Cape Cod to serve as the skipper of a small patrol boat that was sunk by a Japanese destroyer. JFK’s subsequent heroism saved the lives of his crew members.
Enter John Forbes Kerry (also a JFK) and the Vietnam War. Kerry is accepted into a Swift Boat squadron, the successor to the PT boat squadrons. A soldier on board his Swift Boat falls overboard. Kerry orders his helmsman to circle back and has the soldier brought back on board. (That was the only part of the Kennedy scenario to be achieved, albeit without the several-week ordeal endured by John F. Kennedy.)
When Kennedy came home, he returned to a grateful nation. But when Kerry came home, the Cape Cod liberals had turned against the war. Then, with his former comrades still serving out their 12-month tours, Kerry goes before a U.S. Senate committee and on national TV to accuse them of war crimes they did not commit.
Will Kerry’s war hero claims and anti-war activities come back to haunt him? The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth certainly hope so.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, served two years in Vietnam and Cambodia with the 1st Air Cavalry Division.
©2004. William Hamilton.