This is the grandadddy of all posts regarding John Kerry's medals.
Started 25 JAN 2004. Updated as new revelations hit the press. Last update WED 18 MAY 2005.
Given how badly Sen. Kerry fared in the 2004 Presidential election (doing well only with the inner-city dwellers), it appears HIGHLY UNLIKELY he'll ever again be nominated for any office outside his state of residence, so the information accumulated here is of only historical significance; and it really doesn't matter if he never signs his Form 180.
So, the investigation is closed, to be reopened only as new information comes to light, or when and if JfK ever again runs for a national office.
How did John Kerry earn his medals in Vietnam, and what was the extent of his anti-war role when he returned stateside?
UPDATE 18MAY2005: In early February, 2005, Sen. John Kerry told Tim R. (and a natironal TV audience) he would sign Form 180, releasing his military records. 108 days later, he still had not, and there's no indication he ever will. What does he not want us to learn? Polipundit has the script for a clock you can place on your blog or website, if you have one.
Updates during final 90 days before the election:
(earlier updates at end of post)
For the latest developments in this ongoing battle, which is FINALLY being fought in the mainstream media, click on "main" above for the current daily ACE posts. If you're only interested in politics, click on POLITICS in the category list in the right sidebar (as ACE is not primarily focused on politics). Also see the primarily political blogs in the left sidebar, as they are on top of this issue.
THU23SEP04: CBS has appointed an independent two-man panel to get to the bottom of the "60 Minutes" use of hoax documents, and why Mary Maples called Joe Lockhart to alert him that he should call Bill Burkett (from whom CBS received the fake documents). The story of the hoax has removed any credibility from the counter-attacks on Bush's NG service in the minds of undecided voters, yet the DNC continues to focus on accusations supported only by the fake documents and some 33-yr-old hearsay memories, contradicted by others. Non-partisan political pundits are amazed the DNC is not calling off the counter-attack, which has no traction at this point, if it ever did. Unbiased Americans are judging Bush by his service to the country as President.
WED22SEP04: The latests Swift Boat Vets ad addresses Kerry's two trips to Paris to confer with enemy representatives while still a commisioned officer of the US. This was reported in this post way back in the Spring, but is not common knowledge to most Americans.
MON19SEP04: The Swift Boat Vets release a killer ad using Kerry's own words to show his flip-flopping on exactly what he did "give back."
MON 19SEP04: Dan Rather FINALLY admits 60 Minutes was duped and should not have used the forged documents, after stonewalling for about 9 days, but still stands behind the story based upon them. Bloggers are investigating possible connections to the Kerry Campaign, though Max Cleland, who acknowledges Bill Burkett call him saying he had information.
FRI10SEP04: The American Spectator has learned the possibly forged documents used by CBS were from the DNC. CBS is publicly stonewalling, standing by its story but refusing to name the forensic experts it says verified the documents were authentic. But Fox News says CBS has started an internal investigation to see if it was duped. If the DNC was the source, the next question is whether Kerry (who likes to accuse the RNC of low-ball tactics) knew of this dirty trick. (Susan Estrich telegraphed such behavior a few days ago.)
THU09SEP04: The reported records of the late LTC Killian, which are being widely quoted in the press, are being questioned as to their authenticity. Power Line is updating this post frequently as the story develops. This Free Republic thread is also exploring the possibility. Let's see if the mainstream press picks up on this story and digs for the truth.
WED08SEP04: The Empire strikes back. A group will begin running ads questioning GWB's Alabama NG service today, and a top donator to the Kerry Campaign, Ben Barnes, will testify on an evening show. Here's the true story.
TUE07SEP04: When this post was started back in January, the details re. the events during which John Kerry won his five medals were very sketchy. Since then, many details have emerged from many sources. After studying all the sources, Tom "River Rat" Mortenson and "The Bandit" have sumarized the known information on this page, and have concluded that all the medals (with the exception of the second purple heart) were tainted in some way by Kerry's misreporting ("fluffing") of the events.
SUN05SEP04: Kerry called ex-President Clinton prior to his surgery, to wish him well, and BC reportedly advised him to change the subject off Vietnam and the War on Terror and point out differences in economic policy. We'll see in Kerry takes his advice, or the advice of some component of his growing staff (jokingly called "Noah's Ark" because it contains two views on everything).
SAT04SEP04: A Times poll conducted during the RNC shows Bush has an 11-point bounce coming out of the convention. 56% trust Bush to provide strong leadership in difficult times, vs. 37% for Kerry. We'll have to wait to see if other polls show a similar result. If so, Kerry needs to either shake up his staff even more, or start listening to them.
FRI03SEP04: Kerry missed a golden opportunity to change the subject during his unprecedented midnight rebuttal of the RNC Thursday night. Rather than talk about the economy or the Iraq war, he harped on what he perceived as attacks on his Vietnam service by VP Dick Cheney, saying "I'll let the voters decide is five deferments is better than two tours." So, the Vietnam issues, which might have faded into the background, were recycled to keep on. Who is advising Kerry, and is he listening? His demeanor leads one to wonder if the #1 issue will be neither the economy, the current war, or the respective policies; but rather John Kerry's mental stability. If he can become this rattled by some aging vets, can we entrust him to deal with cold-hearted terrorists?
THU02SEP04: According to NewsMax, the Navy is now challenging Kerry's medals. A Navy spokesman is calling Kerry's Silver Star citation with Combat V "incorrect" as it appears on his campaign Web site, explaining in an interview with Chicago Sun-Times reporter Thomas Lipscomb that the Navy has never issued a Combat V at any time for the Silver Star. The Navy also is questioning the listing on Kerry’s Web site of four bronze campaign stars for his service in Vietnam. The official naval record credits Kerry with just two Vietnam campaigns.
WED01SEP04: The SBVfT's fourth ad deals with Kerry's "giving back" his medals. There's no debating the fact he "gave back" some medals (his or somebody else's -- see details below). How one reacts to this depends upon one's own feelings regarding that war, or war in general. Today Kerry spoke to the American Legion in Nashville. His reception has been described as cool. Some had speculated he might apologize at long last for denouncing vets in general in '71, as Jane Fonda did some years ago, but he did no such thing. The Kerry Campaign has hired former Clinton White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart and Joel Johnson, a lobbyist who worked for President Clinton, to help respond to the Swift Boat Veteran's attacks. Some pundits say Kerry has lost focus and is on the defensive. The reinforcements may suggest he counter-attack.
TUE31AUG04: The SBVfT has purchased nearly $900K in air time for its 3rd ad, and reportedly has more to come. Today it prepared a letter to John Kerry, encouraging him to clear up specific questions when he speaks to the American Legion in Nashville. Meanwhile, another chapter of "Unfit for Command is available online. Chapter 8 deals with his anti-war activity. John McCain, who denounced the first ad, says discussion of what he did after he returned is "fair game."
MON 30AUG04: As the RNC kicks off, most polls are showing Bush has closed any gap Kerry had, though the numbers now and before are within the margin of error. Most pundits feel the SBVfT ads have hurt Kerry, but his numbers are showing a slide across all major areas.
... sorry for no updates for a week ...
MON23AUG04: NY Times. Asked on Monday about one of the anti-Kerry advertisements, financed largely by Texas supporters of Mr. Bush, the president said that he wanted to stop "all of them.'' He said he was opposed to all ads from "527" groups (using "soft money"). [$67 million has been spent on ads by pro-Kerry 527s, such as MoveOn.org, which has equated Bush with Hitler.] Asked if Mr. Kerry had lied about his war record, Mr. Bush said, "Mr. Kerry served admirably and he ought to be proud of his record.'' (what he's said all along). The Democrats were not satisfied, insisting he condemn the SBVfT ad specifically. John Edwards wants him to tell the SBVfT to stop the ad (which would be a violation of the 2nd Amendment as well as campaign laws). In any case, the digging into the veracity of Kerry's war record will continue no matter what Bush says now, as the genie is out of the bottle.
SUN22AUG04: An article in the Washington Post, which has FINALLY used the FIA to obtain 6 of over 100 pages re. the incident on the Bay Hap river in Mar 69 (the Navy has refused to release the rest, thus far); finds that BOTH sides are giving incomplete and inaccurate reports of what occurred. William B. Rood, a Swift boat commander who is now a Chicago Tribune editor, has provided yet another eye witness report which is supportive of John Kerry. That's one more witness. But the multiple eye witness reports are split and conflicting. If the Navy will release all the records, and if John Kerry will sign Standard form 180 to authorize the release of his records, the media (which is now interested) can get to the TRUTH.
21AUG04. If you'd like to get to the truth re. whether John Kerry embellished his service record or whether the detractors are just politically motivated, sign the petition requesting that he sign a Standard Form 180 which will release his military records. IF he has told the truth all along, why would Sen. Kerry not agree to this? It seems like an easy way to neutralize the attack.
20AUG04. The increasingly desperate Kerry Campaign has filed a complaint with the Federal Electrion Committee (FEC), claiming the Bush Campaign is illegally coordinating with the SBVfT 527 PAC. Unfortunately for Kerry, the complaint notes only circumstantial evidence (eg. the fact consultants for the SBVfT once consulted for the Bush Campaign). The FEC requires hard proof of coordination, eg. meetings, phone calls, or e-mails. So, this complaint will most likely be summarily dismissed, and appears to be mostly for publicity purposes.
20AUG04. The second SBVfT ad focuses upon what Kerry said about American troops after he got an early out from Vietnam and an early out from his aide job in DC, so he could protest the war. It's more effective than the first ad, which was mainly just his felllow Swift boat commanders expressing their opinions. There's no debating what he said. The only way it could be a "hoax" is if he was kidnapped and an imposter made that speech. It's nothing new to those of us who have been researching this since back in January, but it is new to many who don't get interested in politics until after the conventions.
19AUG04. John Kerry today accused Pres. Bush of letting others (meaning the SBVfT) do his "dirty work." He didn't mention his letting PACs such as MoveOn.org do his "dirty work." (In politics, one side's "dirty work" if the other side's "investigative reporting.") He said "all you need to know" about the accusations is that the ads are funded by Republican from Texas, they're a "front for the Bush campaign" and Bush will not ask that they be called off. He's still not offering any documented refutation of the specific accusations, such as exactly when, if ever, he was in Cambodia, and on what Swift boat? If he could, he could sink the Swifty campaign (which is apparently torpedoing his campaign, without the help of President Bush. A spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, Steve Schmidt, said Mr. Kerry's assertions that the campaign was behind the ads ``is absolutely and completely false,'' The Associated Press reported.
18AUG04. Judicial Watch has filed an official request to the Inspector General of the DOD, the Chief of Naval Operations of the Dept. of the Navy, and others; requesting an Investigation, Determination and Final Disposition of Awards Granted to Lieutenant (junior grade) John Forbes Kerry, USNR.
18AUG04: As the mainstream media starts to cover the Cambodia issue, the Kerry Campaign has apparently decided it can no longer just attack the accusers as playing politics, but must deny the accusations John Kerry was never in Cambodia. In a statements to the Boston Globe, spokesman Michael Meehan insists Kerry was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve of 1968 (thought they'd given up on that, as it can be proven he was elsewhere on that date) and on another unspecified date in support of CIA operations. But, not all those "Band of Brothers" who are touring with him are willing to back him up. Still, Kerry is not willing to release diary-type records which reportedly would clarify his whereabouts by date. Some good investigative reporting should determine who is being truthful here, and who is not. If Kerry could prove conclusively he was in Cambodia on a given date, he could deal a death blow to the SBVFT. But he did not. He didn't even effectively refute the SBVFT evidence he was 50 miles from Cambodia on Christmas Eve 1968. Draw your own conclusion.
17AUG04: Bloggers (and a few op-ed writers) have been writing about revelations in the well-documented "Unfit for Command" book for a couple of weeks, as sections of it leaked out. With the exception of revising his memory of when he was in Cambodia, the Kerry Campaign has responded by denouncing the accusers rather than refuting the accusations. The media has, for the most part, tried to ignore the story, but it will not go away. In an article in today's LA Times, Stuart Rothenberg, publisher of a nonpartisan political newsletter, is quoted as saying: "If the attacks on [Kerry's] character continue and they start to take hold with swing voters and casual voters, it would be a big problem. The Kerry folks can't concede this…. A charge like this that's ignored is a charge that's believed."
08AUG04: A group of Swift boat vets (including a number of officers who served with John Kerry) released an ad to be shown in the swing states. It shows a number of fellow officers (many of whom earned medals themselves) saying Kerry is unfit to serve as Commander-in-Chief. There are very few hard facts. We'll need to get those from the book.
04AUG04: Amazon is now taking orders for "Unfit for Command," written by another Swiftboat commander, John O'Neill (who took issue with Kerry's criticism of American soldiers in general on a TV show back in 1971), to hit the bookstores in mid-August. According to early leaks the book will be damaging to the "I'm better qualified to be CinC" image Kerry focused upon during the DNC. The Democrats will point out O'Neill's brief involvement with the Reagan and Bush administrations to declare the revelations political and false. When the book comes out, we'll see if there are any documented facts which John Kerry needs to address.
30JUL04 Update: John Kerry's emphasis on his Vietnam service during his DNC acceptance speech last night (including having those "Band of Brothers" who support him -- most, but not all, do -- on stage) has renewed interest in this subject (after a slow down for several months), possibly leading to searches by those who don't really get interested in politics until the conventions. But, this post was started on 25JAN04 and has grown as new details are uncovered. All the links worked at one time, but some sources have seen broken them. ACE apologizes for not yet finding time to go through and delete those which are now broken.
First, thanks to John Kerry for serving his country.
He went. He served. He risked his life. Thanks to him and all who have done so at any time, for however long.
Salute to begin DNC acceptance speech
(not exactly good form, but after all, he's been a civilian for 1/3 century)
Now, on to the details, documented by links to sources.
This post (which has become quite lengthy, as the subject stays in the news) is the result of considerable internet research (beginning in late Jan 04) into these matters, with links to the sources. It is updated as significant and credible new information (not just more opinions) emerges. It is one of the most thoroughly researched, annotated (via links to sources of various credibility), and "googled" articles on the internet regarding the subject. Reading it can save you some search time. You're free to search more, to accept or discount linked sources, and to draw your own conclusions, of course. Just don't shoot the messenger. I'm just searching for the TRUTH, just like you.
Additive comments welcome
If you'd like to add other information, feel free to do so via a comment, but please include links to any sources. (DO NOT cut & paste full articles.) Pure opinions (either way) are welcome also. Only those which are verbally offensive or contain obvious factual distortions will be deleted. By sharing facts and thoughts, we learn. (See NOTES RE. COMMENTS at the end of the post.)
The Kerry Campaign is stressing his Vietnam experience, with books, movies, and references.
John Kerry and his PCF94 crew in '69
L>R: Gene Thorson, David Alston, Thomas Belodeau, and Del Sandusky
(from the photo album of the Boston Globe series linked below)
An hour-long campaign documentary entitled Brothers in Arms features this crew, during and since the war.
(You'll find a link to a clip from it at the Kerry Campaign site.)
The PCF, aka Swift Boat, was 50 ft long; carried a crew of 6, commanded by a Lt; had a top speed of 25 knots, and was armed with three 50 cal. MGs.
There's also the book Tour of Duty, one of those books which seem to magically spring up when someone is about to run for president. In it is a story of JK saving the life of one Jim Rassmann, who met JK for the first time in 35 years in Iowa.
29APR04 Update: An Alex Beam article in the Globe quotes Douglas Brinkley as saying he and the editor intend to publish an update of "Tour of Duty" to correct a number of inaccuracies which have been exposed as the media continues to dig into the facts. Beam wonders if Brinkley is a historian or Kerry surrogate: ""Call me old-fashioned, but I can remember a time when historians wrote books that didn't have to be revised after sitting on the shelf for just four months."
Here's a article about JK's military experience which appeared in Atlantic Monthly. His campaign site features it.
Does all this look as good under closer scrutiny?
Most are quite willing to honor John Kerry for his military service, just as they would any good soldier. There is no question he was in harm's way for four months, and showed courage under fire. (There are some questions about how he "earned" his medals, as discussed below, but that's secondary.) The issues arise regarding what he did when he returned.
Was he really eager to go into the service?
The Telegrah on 07 MAR 04 reported this:
The Harvard Crimson newspaper [specifically Samuel Goldhaber, the article's author who is now a cardiologist attached to the Harvard School of Medicine] followed a youthful Mr Kerry in Boston as he campaigned for Congress for the first time in 1970. In the course of a lengthy article, "John Kerry: A Navy Dove Runs for Congress", published on February 18, the paper reported: "When he approached his draft board for permission to study for a year in Paris, the draft board refused and Kerry decided to enlist in the Navy." Dr. Goldhaber, contacted recently, said he doesn't remember every detail, but does remember that John Kerry never contacted him to dispute anything he had written.
This is hardly incriminating, in itself, as many young men asked for such delays at the time; but it does go in the face of the image being promoted of a young Kerry EAGER to serve his country, and it was not even mentioned in a footnote in Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty book, adding credence to the thought (given the timing) that it is a typical campaign fluff book.
How did he earn those medals?
It's doubtful anyone would have ever dug into the details behind John Kerry's medals had he not made a point of mentioning his service in virtually every paragraph during the primaries. But, when something is flaunted, it calls for a more detailed look. Senator Kerry justifiably says nobody who did not serve in Vietnam has any right to question his service, but many are so qualified.
I've not (yet) read what Tour of Duty says, but here's what Wesley Pruden, Editor-in-Chief of the Times, said:
He won his first Purple Heart when he was wounded slightly on an arm. But if a wound draws blood — "even shaving," as irreverent GIs often say — it's worth a Purple Heart. Three months later a piece of shrapnel pierced his left thigh and he qualified for his second. Eight days later, he won the Silver Star when his swift boat took a rocket shot from the shore and he beached the boat in the midst of several enemy positions. An enemy soldier sprang from a hidey hole and sprinted into a "hootch," or hut. A gunner aboard the swift sprayed the hootch with .50-caliber machine-gun bullets, and Lt. Kerry leaped from the boat to administer the coup de grace to the wounded Viet Cong. He returned triumphantly, holding high the rocket and launcher used to damage his boat. The beau geste was worth the Silver Star. The very next month he won his third Purple Heart when a mine detonated near his boat and a piece of shrapnel hit his right arm. He later said his wounds cost him two days' service. Nevertheless, the three wounds were worth an assignment stateside, when he applied to take advantage of a Navy rule that entitled a thrice-wounded man to take his leave from a combat zone.
On 23 FEB 04, a more detailed description by Thomas D. Segel was published at GOPUSA, a conservative site. Mr. Segel meets Mr. Kerry's qualifications for one who can question such things, having served in Korea and two tours in Nam, earning two Purple Hearts among other medals for valor. On the other hand, he obviously has a conservative leaning.
Segel mentions that Kerry quickly took advantage of the Navy's policy of allowing soldiers to return home after accumulating three Purple Hearts. This can be compared to many (eg. Oliver North) who declined the third Purple Heart so they could stay with their "Band of Brothers."
12 APR 04 UPDATE: An Insight Magazine article casts doubts upon the circumstances leading to the first purple heart:
According to Kerry's own description in Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty, the Dec. 2, 1968, mission behind what he has claimed to be his first Purple Heart was "a half-assed action that hardly qualified as combat." Indeed. Kerry was stationed with Coastal Division 14 at Cam Ranh Bay. At that time he piloted a small foam-filled boat, known as a Boston Whaler, with two enlisted men in the darkness of early morning. The intent, apparently, was to patrol an area that was known for contraband trafficking, but it was an undocumented mission. Upon approaching the objective point, the crew noticed a sampan crossing the river. As it pulled to shore, Kerry and his little team opened fire, destroying the boat and whatever its cargo might have been.
In the confusion, Kerry claims to have received a "stinging piece of heat" in the arm, the result of a tiny piece of shrapnel. He was not incapacitated and continued with regular swiftboat-patrol duty. William Shachte, who oversaw this ad hoc mission, was quoted by the Boston Globe as saying Kerry's injury, from whatever source, "was not a serious wound at all."
But Kerry met with his immediate superior officer, Lt.Cmdr. Grant Hibbard, the next morning and requested a Purple Heart for his wound. Hibbard recalls that Kerry had a "minor scratch" on his arm and was holding in his hand what appeared to be a fragment of a U.S. M-79 grenade, the shrapnel that had caused the wound. "They didn't receive enemy fire," Hibbard tells Insight. Since this was an essential requirement for the award, the commander rejected Kerry's request. Hibbard does not remember that Kerry received medical attention of any kind and confirms that no one else on the mission suffered any injuries.
Shortly thereafter, Kerry was transferred to Coastal Division 11 at An Thoi. Apparently, Kerry petitioned to have his Purple Heart request reconsidered. Hibbard remembers getting correspondence from Kerry's new division, asking for his approval. In the hurried process of moving to a new command himself, Hibbard thinks he might have signed off on the award. If so, "it was to my chagrin," Hibbard remembers. Kerry's second commander, Lt.Cmdr. G.M. Elliott, says he has no recollection of such an event ever occurring.
14 APR 04 UPDATE: In a Boston Globe article, Kerry's commander says Kerry insisted on a purple heart from a minor injury while some of his crew members didn't recall being under enemy fire at the time.
20 APR 04 UPDATE: According to a followup Boston Globe article, when asked by Tim Russett on NBC's "Meet The Press," whether he would follow President Bush's example and release all of his military records, Kerry replied: "I have," Kerry said. "I've shown them -- they're available for you to come and look at." He added that "people can come and see them at headquarters." But when a reporter showed up yesterday morning to review the documents, the campaign staff declined, saying all requests must go through the press spokesman, Michael Meehan. Late yesterday, Meehan said the only records available would be those already released to the Globe.
A 17 APR 04 NY Post oped calls for Kerry to release all his military records relating to all three Purple Hearts, adding: "If Kerry's medals were deserved, he has nothing to fear. If not - well, it's time to find that out. "
21 APR 04 UPDATE: A NY Times article states the Kerry Campaign has released the documents it has concerning Kerry's three Purple Hearts. The documents included details of the wounds that led to his second and third Purple Hearts. Meehan, Kerry's advisor, said no after-action report had been found for the first Purple Heart, awarded, according to the certificate, "for wounds received in action on Dec. 2, 1968." In lieu of that report, Mr. Meehan offered a "Sick Call Treatment Record" from Kerry's personal medical files with these handwritten notes from someone who treated to him on Dec. 3, 1968, at the naval support center at Cam Ranh Bay: "Shrapnel in left arm above elbow. Shrapnel removed and appl bacitracin dressing. Ret to Duty."
A Washington Times article said the released records raised new questions.
While Snopes includes some quotes which raise questions, it declares the "rumor" that John Kerry earned his medals under "fishy" circumstances False. (But, unlike this post, it has not been updated based on new information which has surfaced.)
The author of Tour of Duty, Douglas Brinkley, finally reached a 10th man who served on Lt. Kerry's Swiftboat, who had a very different impression of John Kerry. Brinkley feels the man held a grudge because Kerry once threatened to court marshal him.
In an 11 MAR 04 interview with the Boston Globe, Gardner said he was upset with Brinkley's portrayal of him and said his memory of Kerry in Vietnam has nothing to do with his political views.
You can now run all this through your filters and draw your own conclusions. But few (certainly not the Bush Campaign) are making an issue over John Kerry's actual service and valor. Most are willing to give him credit for serving his country honorably and bravely, during the four months he was in Vietnam.
What did he do as a protestor after he retured?
A number of sources offer varying reports of John Kerry's role in the Vietnam Viets Against the War (VVAW) movement, what he did or did not do with his military medals and ribbons, and whether he allowed misinformation regarding this to go on for years. What actually did happen?
Here's a good overview in the 23APR04 LA Times (You may need to register for free to read it.)
In terms of the ribbons & medals, there is no dispute that JFK made a gesture of returning ribbons and medals to the government, as an act of protest. The predominant story is that JK "returned" HIS ribbons but the medals of OTHERS who could not attend the event and asked him to return (toss?) theirs. When a reporter visited his office over a dozen years later, he was surprised to see the medals displayed, since JK had achieved considerable fame (in certain circles) for tossing them in his role as a leader of the peace movement. JK explained that he elected to return only his ribbons and keep his medals, making the public gesture using the medals of others. Some felt he should have made that clear from the outset, and allowed the misconception that he'd returned his medals go on for over a decade. It was as if he wanted to have it both ways. Have his cake and toss it too, so to speak.
Even a fellow attendee of the APR 71 protest and continued dove, one Brian Wilson, chastised Kerry:
The first hint of a bit of disconnect in your style was when during your first Senate campaign you denied returning your war medals, with a thousand other veterans, in protest of the war during Dewey Canyon III. That was a bit of a shock, since for most veterans who returned their medals in that emotional ceremony on Friday, April 23, 1971, it was a very proud and healing moment. Your 1984 campaign response: You had returned the medals of a WWII acquaintance at his direction. All those 13 years everyone thought you had had the courage and leadership to return medals that to veterans who returned them represented medals of dishonor drenched in the blood of innocent Vietnamese who did not deserve to die for a lie, any more than our fellow US Americans. I guess you knew then that you were to be running for office.
Another protestor tossing medals at the same event
Found at Tasty Manatees
Several plausible accounts are linked here. Believe what you will.
As the march leader and last person in line, Kerry tossed a glittering bouquet of war decorations. But only the ribbons were his. Today, he keeps his medals framed in a drawer in his Senate office. The ones he threw belonged to two veterans who couldn't attend the protest and asked him to do so on their behalf, he says. Kerry's critics say the incident shows him to be a phony who left the mistaken impression that he tossed his medals. Kerry says he never falsely claimed he threw his medals or hid the fact that he was tossing others'.
At a 1971 anti-war protest, some Vietnam veterans put their medals on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in protest of the war. Kerry threw his two Purple Hearts on the steps of the Capitol and then said, ''This administration forced us to return our medals...These leaders denied us the integrity those symbols supposedly gave our lives.'' However, several years later, a reporter noticed Kerry’s Purple Hearts on his office wall. He admitted that the medals he threw on the steps were not his own, but instead were given to him by two other men.
In sum, Kerry seems innocent of duplicity but guilty of an extremely nuanced moral code, according to which it's OK to throw away your ribbons and somebody else's medals, but not your medals.
Better yet, how about what the man himself has to say about it?
26 APR 04 Update: The question of what EXACTLY John Kerry did (or did not) toss on the capital steps re-emerged in several newspaper articles over the past few days, including one on the front page of the NY Times. In a video clip from a '71 interview, he is seen saying he tossed his medals, not just his ribbons. CBS invited Kerry to appear on Monday's Good Morning America Show to clarify the matter. This had to be one of his worst nuancing performances to date, and if anything, it left the question even more murky than ever. Here is the preliminary transcript [to be replaced by the official one when it is published by CBS], as posted on Drudge (It's posted in its enitirety to show the nuancing and waffling:
KERRY RESPONDS ON 'GMA'
Mon Apr 26 2004 09:04:52 ET
ABC NEWS GOOD MORNING AMERICA'S CHARLIE GIBSON: Now joining us from West Virginia is himself senator John Kerry. He's in the town of Glen Easton, West Virginia, today. Good to have you with us.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: i'm glad to be with you. i really am.
GIBSON: 1984, senator, to the present. you have said a number of times, as brian pointed out as recently as friday with the ""los angeles times,"" have you said a number of times that you did not throw away the vietnam medals themselves. but now this interview from 1971 shows up the in which you say that was the medals themselves that were thrown away.
KERRY: no, i don't.
GIBSON: can you explain?
KERRY: absolutely. that's absolutely incorrect. charlie, i stood up in front of the nation. there were dozens of cameras there, television cameras, there were -- i don't know. 20, 30 still photographers. thousands of people and i stood up in front of the country, reached into my shirt, visibly for the nation to see, and took the ribbons off my chest, said a few words and threw them over the fence. the file footage, the reporter there from the ""boston globe,"" everybody got it correctly. and i never asserted otherwise. what i said was and back then, you know, ribbons, medals were absolutely interchangeable . senator simmington asking me questions in the committee hearing, look ad at the ribbons and said what are those medals? the u.s. navy pam let calls the medals, we referred to them it is a symbols, representing medals, ribbons, countless veterans through the ribbon -- threw the ribbons back. everybody did. veterans threw back dog tags. they threw back photographs, they th rew back their 14's. there are photographs of a pile of all of those things collected on the steps of the capitol. so the fact is that i have -- i have been accurate precisely about what took place. and i am the one who later made clear exactly what happened. i mean, this is a controversy that the republicans are pushing , the republicans have spent $60 million in the last few weeks trying to attack me. and this comes from a president and a republican party that can't even answer whether or not he showed up for duty in the national guard. i'm not going to stand for it.
GIBSON: senator, i was there 33 years ago and i saw you throw medals over the fence and we didn't find out until later - [Bet JfK wasn't expecting that.]
KERRY: no, you didn't see me throw th. charlie, charlie, you are wrong. that's not what happened. i threw my ribbons across. all you have to do -
GIBSON: someone else's medals, correct in?
KERRY: after -- excuse me. excuse me, charlie. after the ceremony was over, i had a bronze star and a purple heart given to me, one purple heart by a veteran in the v.a. in new york and the bronze star by an older veteran of world war ii in massachusetts. i threw them over because they asked me to. i never --
GIBSON: let me come back to the thing just said which is the military --
KERRY: this is a phony -- charlie, this is a phony controversy.
GIBSON: the military makes no distinction between ribbons and medals but you are the one who made the distinction. [Has Gibson ever been this tough?] in 1984 --
KERRY: no . we made no distinction back then, charlie. we made no distinction.
GIBSON: senator, i don't want -- i just want to ask the question. in 1984 when you were running for the senate, that was the first time that you called someone in from labor because they were upset that you had thrown ribbons away.
GIBSON: you called them and you made the distinction and said i didn't throw my medals away. i just threw the ribbons away. you made the distinction.
KERRY: i was asked specifically in greater detail about what took place. i answered the question truthfully. which is consistent with what happened in 1971. i mean, charlie, go back and get the file footage. there are were millions of people watching. i took my ribbons off my chest just as other veterans did. this is a phony controversy. this is being pushed yesterday by karen hughes of the white house on fox. it shows up at a several different stations at the same time. the republicans are running $10 million this week to attack my credentials on defense. this comes from a president who can't even show or prove that he showed up for duty in the national guard.
GIBSON: senator --
KERRY: i'm not going to stand for it. i'm in the going to stand for it.
GIBSON: i-understand you are feeling politics is behind this. but i ask you, is it not --
KERRY: i know politics is behind this.
GIBSON: when trying to appeal to the anti-war people in 1971, you said as in that interview, it was the medals and then when the people who supported the war were giving you political problems, you then said i didn't throw the medals away 13 years later.
KERRY: that's the most -- with all due respect, that's the most ridiculous thing i have ever heard. because i stood up in front of the country, in front of cameras, a reporter of the ""boston globe"" got it correct . he wrote about the medals but knew they were my ribbons. everybody understood what we were doing. i even said in that interview we threw away the symbols of what our country gave us for what we had gone through. and if i was -- you know, back then, trying to appeal to somebody, i stood up against richard nixon, stood up against the withar, took a position, and it wasn't popular, and it was polarizing. i didn't have to do it. if i was trying to hide something, i would have never stood there in floment of everybody and thrown them over the fence. i threw my ribbons over. i threw the medals of two veterans who asked me to throw them over, after the ceremony, completely separate, and i'm the one -- if hi something to hide, i'm the one who made it known exactly what happened. to me, it is one in the same. and i'm proud of it.
GIBSON: let me ask you, too, about two other things that you have said. subsequent to that. 1985, you said to ""the washington post,"" it is such a personal thing i did no want to throw my medals away. then 1996, you said to the ""boston globe,"" i didn't bring my own medals to throw because i didn't have time to go home and get them. which one was it?
KERRY: i expressed there was great sense of wrench being the whole thing. many of us -- we had a long argument the night before, charlie. it is a matter of record. as to how we were going to do it. and the vote was taken. i was not in favor of throwing them over the fence. i thought we ought to lay them on a table and put them in front of people in a way that, you know, wouldn't be as challenging to many americans. other veterans felt otherwise. they took a vote. the vote was made, they voted to throw. i threw my ribbons. i didn't have my medals. it is very simple . what the republicans are trying to do [The media has brought this up again, not the Republicans] is make this into an issue because they have no record to run on and they can't go out and talk about jobs or health care or environment. they are going to attack 35 years ago. last week in an unprecedented attack, they sent congressmen to the floor of the senate of the house to attack me on the anniversary of my speech. george bush has yet to explain to america whether or no t to tell the truth about whether he showed up for duty. [Some time ago, JfK said he wouldn't bring up GWB's service.] i'm not going to get attack order something i did that's a matter of record that the press saw, that i did in front of the entire nation and everyone then understood there was no distinction. we threw away the symbols of the war. i'm proud i stood up and fought stood up and fought against it. proud i took on richard nixon. and i think to this day, there's no distinction between the two.
GIBSON: all right. senator, i appreciate your being with us this morning. i'm glad to have you here. thank you. all the best. diane?
Whether Kerry threw his ribbons or his medals, or both, is of little consequence. The fact that he has changed his story on what exactly he threw so many times over the years, depending on whether his political ambitions were better served by being a war hero or a war protester, speaks to his credibility, which is a key trait we need in a President. Unfortunately, since he himself has given so many versions over the years, the best he can do now is nuance by saying he sees no distinction between ribbons and medals.
The editor of the Kerry Campaign's "Dbunker" page (the purported purpose of which is to set the facts straight), realizing the difference between "nuancing" and telling a falsehood which can be disproven by documentation, edited the the page regarding the medal tossing to remove the phrase "he has been consistent aobut the facts and the symbolism of the medal-returning ceremony." An astute reader of Power Line captured before and after screen shots of the page to document the editing.
Neal Boortz (Atlanta-based syndicated talk show host) says we should cut Kerry some slack here:
Come on, give the man a break here! He's caught ... red handed! There just is no way out of this one. Either he lied when he said he threw away his medals, or he lied when he said he didn't throw away his medals. Which is it, John? Either he lied when he told the Washington Post in 1985 that he didn't really throw his medals away because he wanted to keep them, or he lied when he told the Boston Globe in 1996 that he didn't throw them away because he didn't have time to go home and get them before the demonstration. He's already tried that "I threw away my ribbons, and they're the same thing" nonsense .. and it didn't work.
As seen on ABC News Tuesday AM, 27 APR, Kerry said all this "gobblygook" is just the Republicans style of "attack, attack, attack" and said the Republicans can talk about it all they want while he talks about current issues such as jobs. The next words out of his mouth were: "But you know what: the President owes the people an explanation of whether he showed up for duty in Alabama." [even though GWB has released records which prove he was there, to the satisfaction of all but those who just want to believe otherwise.]
What did John Kerry say about Bill Clinton back when people were accusing him of draft dodging?
"We do not need to divide America over who served and how. I have personally always believed that many served in many different ways."
Why does Kerry continue to allude to Bush's NG record? Aside from the obvious reason of snapping back when his anti-war activities are mentioned [not by the Republicans, as he claims, but by the mainstream media], he's deflecting what the Republicans are actively doing, which is to point out his poor voting record on National Defense [which is not quite as bad as the Bush ads imply -- check factcheck.org to for analysis of ads on both sides.]
A Wall Street Journal editorial way back on 9 FEB 04 (just enter your e-mail to read it all for free) nailed his motivation. His record on national defense is his Achilles Heel, while that is considered GWB's strength. The more our national security is deemed at risk, the more people lean toward Bush in the polls. Kerry's best bet is promising a better economy and more jobs, but as the economy continues to improve, even his version of the "misery index" improves. It was at its worst ever the day he invented it. [which earned him a "Well, Duh!" in Jay Leno's monologue that evening.] So, he's left with defending himself from the waffling, flip-flopping, dead-pan image he's creating himself while now openly attacking Bush's military record (something he said earlier he would not do - but if there's one thing Kerry's demonstrated, it's flexibility).
Kerry is mentioned in several places in Burkett & Whitley's book Stolen Valor, including this:
"Kerry's emotional, from-the-heart speech had been carefully crafted by a speechwriter for Robert Kennedy named Adam Walinsky, who also tutored him on how to present it."
A younger John Kerry using a radio to coordinate the '71 march
Negotiating with the Viet Cong in Paris
In 1971, John Kerry attended a meeting with the Northern Liberation Front of Vietnam (commonly called the Viet Cong) and negotiated a "Peoples Peace Treaty" (the exact wording of which is at the link). Since this was clearly not an official negotiaiton, and had no influence upon what the US military nor the Viet Cong actually did, he was not charged with a violation of the Logan Act (which prohibits US citizens from negotiating with foreign powers). But, our soldiers & POWs heard about it. The anti-war efforts contributed to the decline in morale of our forces, and contributed to over 380 reported "fraggings" (in which troops killed superior officers whom they felt were putting them at too much risk).
Nixon noticed him
By the way, here's an interesting interchange regarding Kerry between President Nixon and Charles Colsen on 28 APR 71, caught by way of the infamous taping system, from a multi-part Boston Globe series entitled John Kerry: Candidate in the Making (with lots of photos).
"This fellow Kerry that they had on last week," Colson tells the president, referring to a television appearance by John F. Kerry, a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
"Yeah," Nixon responds.
"He turns out to be really quite a phony," Colson says.
"Well, he is sort of a phony, isn't he?" Nixon says.
Yes, Colson says ... , telling the president that Kerry stayed at the home of a Georgetown socialite while other protesters slept on the mall.
"He was in Vietnam a total of four months," Colson scoffs ..., "He's politically ambitious and just looking for an issue."
"He came back a hawk and became a dove when he saw the political opportunities," Colson says.
"Sure," Nixon responds. "Well, anyway, keep the faith."
Nixon (who was implementing his planned gradual phase-down of troop strengths) saw Kerry as a formidable enemy, since he was better dressed and more articulate than many of the other vets against the war, and a North Vietnamese general later gave him credit, along with Jane Fonda and others, in helping his side win the war. The POWs in the "Hanoi Hilton" later said they were shown press reports of the anti-war rallies back home.
Timeline of Service
Here's a graphic timeline of JK's military service, at Vietnam Vets Against John Kerry, developed by Ted Sampley, a decorated Green Beret who obviously has an ax to grind.
Rare photo of Kerry under arrest in Lexington, Mass., 31 MAY 71
from the Globe article linked above
Members of his crew pictured at the top of this post are showing up at JK's rallies in their states, and Del Sandusky appears in a JK campaign ad. but Gene Thorsen told the Des Moines Register he didn't hear from JK after the war until he was needed for political purposes:
"He took care of all of us. He really did," Thorson said.
But he didn't hear from Kerry until 1996, the same year Kerry was in a competitive re-election fight in Massachusetts.
"He had us all out there to Massachusetts to campaign with him," said Thorson, who reunited with Kerry, Alston, Belodeau, Madieros and Sandusky that summer.
Kerry remembers it differently. He said he had tried to find his crew earlier and had reunited before 1996 with Belodeau in Boston.
Did his speech go over the top?
This Newhouse News Service article notes Kerry's courage, but calls into question his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after the war:
Addressing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the young veteran delivered a speech that riveted the nation. "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam?" he challenged the senators. "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
Kerry also told the senators that American forces were guilty of war crimes in Vietnam -- a charge that drew angry criticism from some fellow veterans.
"They [vets] told stories that at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country."
Bernique, the Swift boat skipper who so admired Kerry's courage in battle, said his congressional testimony was "pure unadulterated bull----. It's my personal feeling that had the political climate been different John could have returned as a right-wing Republican. But I think John is an opportunist and he saw an opportunity."
The Patriette Blog documents some of JK's political flexiblity with his own quotes, and provides this telling photo.
Will playing the Vietnam Card work?
Since the networks will probably never provide the details re. the medals, and since many now consider Vietnam a mistake and will probably forgive JK's VVAW activity, Kerry may give the Dems their best chance.
The one association almost no vet can tolerate (no matter how he felt about the war) is that of John Kerry working with Jane "Hanoi" Fonda, given her two trips to Hanoi and the infamous photograph of her in firing position behind an anti-aircraft gun; which is why the Kerry Campaign and the DNC doesn't like to see JFK and JF associated in print or photographs. Some are beginning to look for detailed records which document exactly the extent to which the two collaborated, and when.
Did John Kerry's activities aid our enemies?
Consider this (from an LA Times article written by John M. Glionna):
Paul Galanti learned of Kerry's speech while held captive inside North Vietnam's infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison. The Navy pilot had been shot down in June 1966 and spent nearly seven years as a prisoner of war.
During torture sessions, he said, his captors cited the antiwar speeches as "an example of why we should cross over to [their] side."
"The Viet Cong didn't think they had to win the war on the battlefield," Galanti said, "because thanks to these protesters they were going to win it on the streets of San Francisco and Washington."
What happened to the VVAW?
Meanwhile, the VVAW remains active, and even more extreme groups such as the VVAW Anti-Imperialist have sprung up. Reading some of this material, one has to wonder which side they are helping, regardless of their intentions.
Links to other articles on this subject:
John Kerry: The Chameleon Senator
Joe Crecca (VN POW) letter re. Kerry, at A Collection of Thoughts
NuPac editorial by Kevin Fobbs & Lisa Sarrach
Letter to Front Page Magazine from a Vet
"Setting Straight Kerry's War Record," 01 MAR 04, New York Sun, Thomas Lipscomb
Why does John Kerry allow this issue to sidetrack his message?
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe asked this question in a 28APR04 article. As he notes, what exactly JK did with his medals and/or ribbons is less significant than his changing story about them over the years.
7 FEB 04: JFK seems to be mentioning his miilitary experience every chance he gets of late, leading to this spoof Q&A session.
14 FEB 04: On Friday, Kerry told radio host Don Imus that he thought Jane Fonda's decision to turn against her country by traveling to Hanoi 18 months after Valley Forge was "terrible." But NewsMax notes that Fonda's military-bashing credentials were already well-established when he was photographed sitting a few rows behind her in 1970 [in the authenticated and widely circulated image owned by Corbis.com]. In several calls last week to the Kerry campaign, NewsMax.com requested financial records from the Winter Soldier Investigation [the event where both he and Fonda spoke], including Kerry's tax returns from 1970 and expense records for the event, to determine to what extent – if any – he may have personally benefited from Fonda's largesse. As of 14 FEB, the calls had not been returned.
13 MAR 04: Found this www.wintersoldier.com site, launched on 23 JAN 04 (two days before this post was first posted), which organizes much of the body of "knowledge" (some verifiable, some not) regarding John Kerry's military service and anti-war activities. It has grown as more has been discovered, just as this post has. It does organize the information well, but has a clear anti-Kerry slant.
22 MAR 04: A number of blogs, eg. the Captain's Quarters, are keeping up with developing news regarding John Kerry's participation in a NOV 71 Kansas City VVAW meeting in which The Phoenix Project (a plan by Scott Camil to assassinate several pro-war elected officials, including Senators John Stennis, John Tower, and Strom Thurmond) was debated. It seems the FBI was tracking Kerry at the time, and a number of informant reports say Kerry was there, contrary to Kerry's denials that he was there when the story first broke (before the FBI reports were found). Junk Yard Blog has a good link and calls the reports "Kerry's blue dress." Musing s of The Geek with a .45 suspects the media is softpedaling this. To John Kerry's credit, all indications are he argued strongly against the plan. Then again, he didn't report it to the authorities either. Then, he denied being there until faced with irrefutable proof. A 19 MAR 04 New York Sun article quotes a Kerry Campaign spokesman as saying that Kerry had not recollection of being there, but it appears it was.
14 APR 04: In a Boston Globe article, Kerry's commander says Kerry insisted on a purple heart from a minor injury while some of his crew members didn't recall being under enemy fire at the time.
26 APR 04: Somewhat surprisingly, even generally considered liberal media sources are delving into these matters of late. Kerry fans the flames by being defensive, accusing the Republicans of being behind it, and taking pot shots back at GWB's NG record (yawn -- Didn't we spend enough time on that already? -- didn't GWB release all the records? Is he going to "confess" to any wrong doing? Is anybody going to change their mind on that now?) This post is behind in updates to reflect all the media articles on the subject, and will probably just skip some. The transcript of Sen. Kerry's interview with Charlie Gibson on Good Morning America is included below, as what better source is there than the horse's mouth? [Or so we would hope.]
Sorry about this post being so long and rambling (way too long for a blog post). It turned into a research project to satisfy my curiosity back in January and early February. It continues to grow as the media continues to bring the subject back up, and JK continues to weave and waffle, as though he has something to hide, and tries to deflect the heat back on GWB by questioning his NG record. That reaction presents a challenge to the press to keep digging. I hope you got this far and found reading it more efficient than doing your own google searches from scratch. Don't blame ACE for keeping it going. Didn't you find this post using a search engine?
Hopefully, all talk of the candidates' service records during Vietnam and of JK's anti-war protest activity (by the media, the candidates themselves, their surrogates, and blogs) will eventually die out and we can judge the candidates on their records for the past three decades and their ability to lead the country during the next four years.
To read more ACE posts regarding John Kerry and politics in general (though that's not the main focus of this blog), click on POLITICS under CATEGORIES in the right sidebar.
I'm an independent. I see both the major parties as moving toward ever bigger government, and more socialistic programs. Between the two, I tend to vote Republican more often than not, as it's generally closer to my end of the spectrum, but I'm no Republican, by any means. Or, to put it in McCarthy terms: I'm not now, and never have been, affiliated with the Republican Party. I am not one of those Bush campaign surrogates (aka "that lying, cheating bunch") whom Kerry claims are seeding the ongoing discussion. I'm just an American trying to decide who would make the best next PotUS, just like you. In any case, I'm just the messenger, presenting you with links. You're free to aceept or discount them and draw your own conclusions.
NOTE REGARDING COMMENTS:
Any comments, slanted any way, will be allowed as long as they are not crude or without any redeeming or additive value to the discussion, either way.
If you post all or most of an article, it will have to be deleted, due to copyright laws. (I've got a few deletions pending now.) PLEASE post only links and/or short excerpts.
Please don't post information which is already been incorporated into the main post, directly or via a link. It is redundant and non-additive, and it shows your lack of reading comprehension skills.
Readers of this growing post (which is one of the most read posts on the subject per Google) will appreciate it.