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Sen. Kerry's Vietnam Medals Evaluation Report
Sen. Kerry's Vietnam Medals Evaluation Report
Sen. Kerry's Vietnam Medals Evaluation Report
Medal: Purple Heart No. 1, December 2, 1968
Action: December 2, 1968 while patrolling in a small foam-filled boat, known as a Boston Whaler or "skimmer" that floats silently on a river without its engines running, with three other men in the darkness of early morning. The mission, apparently, was a training patrol in an area that was known for contraband trafficking. Upon approaching the objective point, the crew noticed a sampan crossing the river. As it pulled to shore, Kerry and his fellow crew 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.
Analysis: Sen. Kerry has insisted that the above action qualifies as combat and that it was one of the most frightening episodes in his life. As with any Purple Heart the basic requirement is that any wound be the result of enemy action, whether direct or indirect. Kerry's website describes it this way: "December 2, 1968: Kerry experiences first intense combat; receives first combat related injury."
The following morning after Kerry's alleged first intense combat engagement, he requested a Purple Heart from his commanding officer, Grant Hibbard (Ret.). This is what Grant Hibbard recalls of the incident:
"While in Cam Rahn Bay, he [Senator Kerry] trained on several 24-hour indoctrination missions, and one special skimmer operation with my most senior and trusted Lieutenant [William L. Schachte]. The briefing from some members of that crew the morning after revealed that they had not received any enemy fire, and yet Lt.(jg) Kerry informed me of a wound - he showed me a scratch on his arm and a piece of shrapnel in his hand that appeared to be from one of our own M-79s. It was later reported to me that Lt.(jg) Kerry had fired an M-79, and it had exploded off the adjacent shoreline. I do not recall being advised of any medical treatment, and probably said something like 'Forget it.' He later received a Purple Heart for that scratch, and I have no information as to how or whom."
The question here is was Sen. Kerry's shrapnel wound the result of enemy combat action?
According to Kerry's own description in Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty, the December 2, 1968 incident described above was "a half-assed action that hardly qualified as combat."
Douglas Brinkley also reports in his book on page 189 that soon after Sen. Kerry turned 25 on Dec. 11, 1968, he headed out on his first mission: Kerry had wrote in his notebook, 'A cocky feeling of invincibility accompanied us up the Long Tau shipping channel because we hadn't been shot at yet, and Americans at war who haven't been shot at are allowed to be cocky'. "
Rear Adm. William L. Schachte Jr. has come out and said "I was absolutely in the skimmer" in the early morning on Dec. 2, 1968, when Lt. (j.g.) John Kerry was involved in an incident which led to his first Purple Heart.
Schachte, who also was then a lieutenant junior grade, said he was in command of the small Boston whaler or skimmer, with Kerry aboard in his first combat mission in the Vietnam War. "Kerry nicked himself with a M-79 (grenade launcher)," Schachte said in a telephone interview from his home in Charleston, S.C. He said, "Kerry requested a Purple Heart."
Adm. Schachte described the use of the skimmer operating very close to shore as a technique that he personally designed to flush enemy forces on the banks of Mekong River so that the larger Swift boats could move in. At about 3 a.m. on Dec. 2, Schachte said, the skimmer -- code-named "Batman" -- fired a hand-held flare. He said that after Kerry's M-16 rifle jammed, the new officer picked up the M-79 and "I heard a 'thunk.' There was no fire from the enemy," he said.
Patrick Runyon was operating the skimmers engineman during this incident has said "I can't say for sure that we got return fire or how [Kerry] got nicked," Runyon is quoted as saying in Unfit for Command. "I couldn't say one way or the other. I know he did get nicked, a scrape on the arm," he added.
It should be noted that another alleged witness to Kerry's actions on December 2, 1968 is William Zaladonis. He was interviewed by NBC's Lisa Myers after Adm. Schachte had come forward in attempts to cast doubt over whether Schachte could have been confused with being with Kerry in the skimmer that night. It does not appear Zaladonis himself could had been with Kerry that night because he is listed as being in An Thoi/Cat Lo from 10/68 to 4/69 in a Swift Vets Directory, making it unlikely he was with Kerry on December 2, 1968 on the Boston Whaler.
Pat Runyon is listed as being in Qui Nhon/Cam Ranh Bay from 10/68 to 3/69 which provides him the opportunity to have been in the right place to have been with Kerry on December 2. It is assumed NBC/Lisa Myers would have verified whether or not Zaladonis could have been where he says he was on December 2, 1968 before she had recently interviewed him.
Also to be noted that any skimmer training mission consisted of at least one senior officer and a junior grade with one enlisted man - an engineman. Both Runyon and Zaladonis were enginemen. There shouldn't have been no need for two enginemen. This of course does not completely rule out the possibility the two were indeed together with Kerry on the night in question.
Runyon aids in confirming both Adm. Schachte and Grant Hibbard's account about the absence of any enemy fire while also clearly confirming the absence of any possible explosions from enemy rockets/grenades/mortars that could account for any flying shrapnel that had struck Sen. Kerry. If there were no enemy rocket or grenades explosions than Kerry's shrapnel most likely was the result of firing a M-79 too close.
Conclusion: This is a rather easy and straight forward issue to sort out and judge from a purely military perspective. It doesn't matter who is telling the truth or who isn't about minor recollections. The fact is Sen. Kerry was denied a Purple Heart in the issuing hours of the incident and this speaks volumes on this issue. You have someone who was supposedly wounded who visits his commanding officer -- who has no ax to grind at the time -- who was briefed within hours of the incident and determines no Purple Heart was warranted. Furthermore, Sen. Kerry seeks medical assistance for such an obviously minor wound for the sole purpose to document his insignificant wound so he may further pursue his Purple Heart from his next transfer designation.
Two Examples of injuries or wounds which clearly do not qualify for award of the Purple Heart:
Accidents, to include explosive, aircraft, vehicular, and other accidental wounding not related to or caused by enemy action.
Self-inflicted wounds, except when in the heat of battle, and not involving gross negligence.
There is no documented evidence of any enemy enounter at the time of Sen. Kerry's minor wound and the fact Sen. Kerry himself has cast reasonable doubt for any hostile enemy action being encountered. What was presumed to be potential enemy turned out to be non-combatant civilians. The only chance Sen. Kerry has in making a Purple Heart case is if he had been wounded in the heat of battle. But since there was no heated battle with enemy combatants he would lose this line of argument.
Sen. Kerry has released no "after action" report, as one would have been required if there was combat engagement involved.
A Purple Heart normally is not requested but is awarded de facto for a wound inflicted by the enemy - a wound serious enough to require medical attention. The Naval Historical Center keeps all documents connected to such awards to U.S. Navy and Marine personnel. Typewritten "casualty cards" list the date, location and prognosis of the wound for which the Purple Heart is given, and they are produced by the medical facility that provides medical treatment. There are two such cards for Kerry - for his slight wounds on Feb. 20 and March 13, 1969, but none for his December 1968 claim.
Thus, it can be concluded that Sen. Kerry's Purple Heart for this incident was awarded in error due to material misrepresentation on the part of Sen. Kerry to the U.S. Navy by declaring his wound was the result of enemy action. Sen. Kerry's Purple Heart should be rescinded by the Department of Defense.
Medal: Purple Heart No. 2, February 20, 1969
Action: Kerry claims to have suffered a shrapnel wound to his left thigh after his boat came under intense A/W and rocket fire.
Analysis: Kerry claims the ambush occurred on the SONG DAM DOI river according to his casualty report. However, all evidence places him on the huge SONG CUA LON river. Kerry's casualty report said he was wounded at 1400 and had returned to the Coast Guard Cutter, USCGC WACHUSETT at 1420 hours. Robert Hildreth, who was following behind Kerry in another PCF reported no arms or rocket fire encountered. What is interesting is that Gene Thorson also was reported to have been injured along with Kerry in this so-called enemy ambush and was awarded the PH as well.
Gene Thorson acted as the PCF's rear gunner which places the two together in the rear of the boat and tends to support the conclusion the PCF was really in the SONG CUA LON and Kerry felt the risk of a shore ambush was non-existent with the mission effectively over (20 mins from the USCGC WACHUSETT.) It's hard to imagine how both could have such minor scratches if Kerry was in the pilothouse and Gene in the rear and no one else suffered injuries from the attack or any reported boat damage.
Conclusion: The detail accounts and records of this incident just never added up from the get go. Only conclusion that can be drawn from this incident is Kerry somehow injured himself and Thorson (perhaps pre-detonation of M-79 round in the rain while horsing around in the wide open SONG CUA LON) in the last minutes of his patrol as he was exiting the SONG CUA LON river. What ever the true nature of the cause of his alleged shrapnel wound, we can be confident it was not from any enemy fire as Kerry claims and that Kerry provided false accounts to support his falsehood. This Purple Heart should be rescinded by the Department of Defense on the grounds that Kerry provided falsified testimony to the Navy for an award he would not have qualified for.
Medal: Silver Star Award, February 28, 1969
Action: On February 28 lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry was serving as Officer in Charge (OINC) of PCF-94 and Officer in Tactical Command of a three-boat mission. As the force approached the target area on the narrow Dong Cung Canal, all units came under intense automatic weapons and small arms fire from an entrenched enemy force less than fifty-feet away. It is alleged Kerry attacked a numerically superior force in the face of intense fire that lead to a highly successful mission. His actions were said to be in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. It is further alleged that LTJG Kerry saved his boats and crews life by killing a enemy Viet Cong guerilla who was preparing to fire a B-40 rocket at Kerry's beached PCF-94 swift boat.
Analysis: A Silver Star is awarded for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action," and therefore, any analysis of February 28, 1969 must first determine what actions meets this standard. In 10 U.S.C. 6244 defines the standards for awarding anyone the Silver Star:
(1) Awarded to a person who, while serving in any capacity with the Navy or Marine Corps, is cited for gallantry in action that does not warrant the Medal of Honor or Navy Cross
(a) while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
(b) while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
(c) while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
(2) The heroic act(s) performed must render the individual conspicuous and well above the standard expected. An accumulation of minor acts of heroism normally does not justify the award, but unusual or exceptional cases will be decided on their merits.
What Kerry Did
There appears to have been two ambush sites that day of February 28; separated by a distance of anywhere from 100 to 800 yards depending on who you ask who were there. The first ambush was an uneventful event according to Coastal Division 11 Command History summary. It has been almost a given fact for years that after first sweep of the first ambush site that both the PCF-23 and PCF-94 traveled together further up the narrow (width of a four lane highway) Dong Cung Canal leaving swift boat PCF-43 commanded by LTJG Droz behind at the first ambush site. At some point the two boats either detected or came under fire from an enemy initiated ambush and at this point Sen. Kerry ordered both boats to beach directly in front of the second ambush.
It cannot be determined if there was in fact any in-coming enemy fire directed at any of the boats during the second ambush (or the first ambush for that matter.) Bill Rood describes it this way: "It happened again, another ambush. And again, Kerry ordered the turn maneuver, and again it worked. As we headed for the riverbank, I remember seeing a loaded B-40 launcher pointed at the boats. It wasn't fired as two men jumped up from their spider holes."
If there was any significant gunfire received from the second ambush than Bill Rood would certainty had pointed this out in his recent recollections of the ambush. Being in such a narrow canal the boats would had suffered damage in any firefight -- especially if the boats were stationary while beached on the shoreline. There is no damage reports released to describe any boat damage from these two ambushes to support any enemy weapons fire against the boats. Because of the lack of any boat damage reports that certainty would have describe the number bullets holes the boats suffered during any of these two ambushes, and the fact no one was ever injured -- it is most likely no enemy fire was encountered during the ambush -- just the visual spotting of two Viet Cong guerillas along the canals banks.
One witness on Bill Rood's PCF-23 boat was a army advisor by the name of Doug Reese (a Kerry supporter), who indicates that the PCF-23 had beached before Sen. Kerry's boat had beached and had already begun sweeping the area with Regional and Popular Forces who were being transported by the PCF-23. It is when Sen. Kerry beached his boat some one hundred yards from the beached PCF-23 does he encounters the famous lone VC soldier with a loaded B-40 rocket launcher. The distance of 100 yards is a rough estimate based upon how far Mr. Reese says he was from Sen. Kerry when Kerry had encountered the VC guerilla with a B-40 rocket.
This account is supported by LTJG Bill Rood who recently had this to say:
"With our troops involved in the sweep of the first ambush site, Richard Lamberson, a member of my crew, and I also went ashore to search the area. I was checking out the inside of the hooch when I heard gunfire nearby....Not long after that, Kerry returned, reporting that he had killed the man he chased behind the hooch. He also had picked up a loaded B-40 rocket launcher, which we took back to our base in An Thoi after the operation."
This is still rather confusing in regards to whether the two boats (PCF-94 and PCF-23) were together when approaching the second ambush site from the first. But from what can be gathered from witness accounts is that indeed both boats traveled together from the first ambush site and at some point PCF-23 beached and begun sweeping the area before Sen. Kerry's PCF-94 had beached. Rood makes it clear where he was when Kerry had allegedly killed the VC soldier as well as Doug Reese who repeatedly has said over the last two years that he was some 60-80 yards or more from where Kerry had killed the enemy guerilla with a B-40. Reese also goes on to say he walked over to where Sen. Kerry was standing over the dead Viet Cong within ten minutes of the shooting. Reese confirms a leg wound, but no other wounds was visible to him.
Reese also makes it clear that his observation does not rule out the possibility of another wound on the back side of the body, suggesting the dead VC was found laying on his back. In any case, Sen. Kerry and his crew clearly had engaged and killed one Viet Cong guerilla within the immediate area of their swift boat. The question now is whether Sen. Kerry had actually turned his boat into an ambush or simply spotted a guerilla with a rocket launcher along the banks and Kerry's forward M-60 gunner shot him.
Was there any witnesses to Sen. Kerry's tactic of beaching in front of a second ambush? Apparently the only witnesses was Sen. Kerry and his crew since the PCF-23 and those onboard was a distance away and members of the boat already involved in a ground sweep. Did anyone see Sen. Kerry kill the VC guerilla with a rocket launcher? Apparently not, even though the guerilla by all accounts was anywhere from 15 to 30 yards from Kerry's boat.
We do know that Sen. Kerry dealt with an already wounded Viet Cong because his forward gunner, the late Tom Bellodeau said, "You know, I shot that guy. He jumped up, he looked right at me, I looked at him. You could tell he was trying to decide whether to shoot or not. I expected the guy on Kerry's boat with the twin 50s to blast him but he couldn't depress the guns far enough. We were up on the bank." Bellodeau said he fired at the man, wounding him.
Sen. Kerry himself confirms the VC guerilla had already been wounded when he told the Boston Globe in June of 2003 that "Tommy clipped him, and he started going [down.] I thought it was over."
But apparently the wounded VC did not stay down and as Kerry's first Silver Star citation and Bill Rood suggests, Kerry either followed or shot the the wounded VC when he made it behind a hooch. Did anyone see Kerry kill the wounded guerilla? According to Sen. Kerry during a October 1996 press conference:
"I was never out of sight of Tom Belodeau or Mike Medeiros," Kerry said. "I went straight out from the boat to the path so I had a line of fire. I never went behind the hootch, and this is the first time in 30 years that anybody has suggested otherwise." Problem here is this is exactly what his first Silver Star citation has been suggesting for the last 30 years as it reads:
". . . Without hesitation Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry leaped ashore, pursued the man behind a hootch, and killed him, capturing a B-40 rocket launcher with a round in the chamber."
One of Kerry's crewmembers, Michael Medeiros, who by his own account was running behind Sen. Kerry and the fleeing soldier said at the same press conference that he did not see Sen. Kerry kill him but had no doubt that the senator did so. "The only one that was there was Senator Kerry."
This did not stop Tom Belodeau, who was standing beside Kerry at the same press conference to state: "The soldier that Sen. John Kerry shot was standing on both feet with a loaded rocket launcher, about to fire it on the boat from which (Sen. Kerry) had just left, which still had four men aboard," Belodeau said.
Years later Medeiros would add: "With my adrenaline racing, I started following him off the boat," Michael Medeiros recalls in Douglas Brinkley's book, Tour of Duty. "So I was right behind him. . . . As the VC guerrilla got 20 or 30 meters down the path, just about in front of a lean-to, the (future) senator shot the guy. He had been standing on both feet with a loaded rocket launcher about to fire. He fell over dead."
To add yet another twist to the to the fleeing wounded VC story is from another witness and former Kerry crewmate, Del Sandusky. He told the LA Times on August 8, 2004 that no one had a clear view of the shooting. But "next thing we know, there's Kerry with the B-40 in his hand."
Was Mr. Merdeiros simply being rhetoric? It would appear so because both of his accounts are as different as night and day. What does Sen. Kerry have to say about the killing himself? Here is what he told the Boston Globe in June of 2003:
"He [wounded VC guerilla] was running away with a live B-40, and, I thought, poised to turn around and fire it." Globe writer, Michael Kranish, asked whether that meant Kerry shot the guerrilla in the back, Kerry said, "No, absolutely not. He was hurt, other guys were shooting from back, side, back. There is no, there is not a scintilla of question in any person's mind who was there [that] this guy was dangerous, he was a combatant, he had an armed weapon."
Here we have Sen. Kerry being very clear that the guy was running away and not being so clear how he shot him, like whether front or back. From the reading it appears Sen. Kerry wanted to prevent the guy from turning around to get off a last ditch shot off, and thus, really shot him as he was fleeing from behind. This of course this fits with what Doug Reese said when he said he could not observe any obvious wounds from the front side of the dead man other then the leg wound.
One other aspect of this Silver Star controversy needs to be addressed: the tactics employed that day. It has been written that Kerry may had really been awarded for his aggressive tactics of taking the fight right to the enemy. There is nothing inherently wrong with this line of reasoning provided there is some accurate intelligence of enemy strength and positions prior to employing this tactic. Sen. Kerry simply assumed beforehand if the ambushed appeared to not be a serious one they would beach their boat directly in front of the attackers.
In an interview with the The New Yorker, Kerry reasoned that if he turned his boats toward the shore he would transform a long, horizontal target into a narrower, vertical one. "It would concentrate both of our machine guns directly on the point of fire and surprise the hell out of them," and it would keep the twenty soldiers each boat was carrying astern out of the line of fire, Kerry recalled.
There is several problems with this line of reasoning for the canals of the Mekong Delta. One is that the canals are too narrow, thus not allowing Kerry to reduce the exposure of his boat by turning into an ambush. Secondly, most all ambushes occurred from both banks of a canal or river. You would never want your boat stationary on one bank of a canal so it would be fully exposed to rockets and machine guns from the opposite bank unless you were absolutely sure there was no enemy ambushers hiding behind the opposite bank.
Kerry was lucky that day in that this was a typical 1-4 man enemy ambush where they strike for less than a minute and then flee the scene before the swift boat guns could mow down all the vegetation within sight. This isn't the kind of tactic that would ever be employed because the enemy could easily organize a response to such tactics and end up easily destroying the boats while also killing/wounding everyone onboard.
Some might argue that Kerry's commander's were pleased and had sent congratulatory messages. This by itself means absolutely nothing. If it was felt moral was down than commander's would reap praise upon one for tying their own shoe laces. Real praise, like in Fitness Reports, comes in the form of promotion or the recommendation for promotion. Absence of promotion is a sure sign that commander's are not personally excited about you.
Summary of what can be established:
Sen. Kerry's PCF-94 had beached alone and an estimated one hundred yards plus/minus from Bill Rood's PCF-23 boat.
There was at least one VC guerilla with a loaded B-40 rocket launcher from where Kerry beached his boat.
The allege guerilla Sen. Kerry killed was already wounded by Kerry's forward gunner and fleeing.
The distance of the VC guerilla from Kerry's boat did not provide an opportunity for any chasing on Kerry's part. That is, everything happened in less than a minute because the wounded VC never got much further than 15 yards (Rood says 15 yards and Reese has estimated the distance at anywhere 60 to 100 feet.).
Unlikely that the boats experienced any serious enemy weapons fire during the second ambush.
Kerry's tactical plan for responding to the ambush was reckless and foolish.
There was absolutely nothing unusual or exceptional in LTJG Kerry's actions that warranted consideration for a Silver Star.
Conclusion: We can debate the fine details till the end of time but such a debate would add little to what can already be clearly determined: LTJG Kerry did not exhibit any actions that rises to the level of "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action" on February 28, 1969. LTJG Kerry did not exhibit any tactical actions that would warrant the awarding of a Silver Star.
It would be advisable for the Secretary of the Navy to order an examination of all records related to this event to determine how top brass officials could approve the third highest award in two days and have presented it to LTJG Kerry in only six days. Obviously there was no investigation on part of the Navy (as required) at the time or they would have come to the same obvious conclusion presented here.
Top commanders can award anyone for almost any reason they desire -- Gen. MacArthur awarded Lyndon B. Johnson a Silver Star for simply being an observer on his first and only uneventful bombing flight -- but if such awards are ever seriously challenged than such awards deserve a investigation to insure that the award meets the basic required standards of qualification. If the award is found to be meritless or obtained through deception then the medal deserves to be revoked in order to maintain the integrity of the thousands of other awarded medals that had been held to the same standards for which the medal is authorized to be awarded.
There are cases in which it took thirty years for the Silver Star to be awarded simply because at the time there was only one recorded witness and not the required two. To simply throw a Silver Star at anyone without at least meeting the very basic of basics is a black eye to the entire awarding process and to the thousands of recipients of the Silver Star. The Department of Defense should rescind the awarding of Sen. Kerry's Silver Star on the grounds it was erroneously handed out based upon misrepresentation and the fact LTJG Kerry's actions do not meet the qualifications for the award.
Medal: Bronze Star & Purple Heart No. 3, March 13, 1969
Action: Sen. Kerry's Purple Heart was awarded because he had "suffered shrapnel wounds in his left buttocks and contusions on his right forearm when a mine detonated close aboard PCF-94."
Sen. Kerry was awarded the Bronze Star because "while from an exposed position on the bow, his arm bleeding and in pain, with disregard for his personal safety," he pulled a man by the name of James Rassmann from a river.
Analysis: The Kerry for President Campaign has released a few official spot reports that were prepared and sent out by LTJG Kerry himself after he had returned from the March 13, 1969 incident. We know it was Sen. Kerry who prepared the spot reports because he was the officer in charge of the four boat TE (Task Element.) Looking at the spot report we find the line who is responsible for the contents: "MARKET TIME SPOT REPORT 13/1/TE 18.104.22.168/1."
The 22.214.171.124/1 identifies the officer in charge of the four boat TE, which would had been LTJG Kerry, who also would have been responsible for all the after-action reporting. It has been mistakenly reported that the initials "JKW" at the bottom of some of the spot reports was evidence that Sen. Kerry was the author. This is false, it is just the initials of who ever had received the report at An Thoi, which in this particular case it was "JKW" who was on duty at the time LTJG Kerry was sending in his spot reports.
CTE command structure works out like this:
CTE 194 = Zumwalt
CTE 194.5 = Hoffman
CTE 194.5.4 = Lonsdale
CTE 126.96.36.199 = Elliott
CTE 188.8.131.52/1 = Kerry because he had Tactical Command of the boats.
There are other available references from Sen. Kerry that confirms he was the author of these spot reports describing the action that had occurred on March 13th. According to the authors of "John F. Kerry", "All events described were checked against official navy records, most in `spot reports' filed by commanders just after action, many of them written by Kerry." Kerry also has told a Senate Committee on April 22, 1971, "...I can recall often sending in the spot reports which we made after each mission.."
Sen. Kerry's spot report for his March 13, 1969 mission can be summarized as follows:
PCF's 3 and 43 proceeded up Bay Hap River to Cai Nuoc district town and embarked 50 RF/PF troops and advisors. PCF's 94 and 51 proceeded up Bay Hap River and joined PCF's 3 and 43. All four units then proceeded up Rach Dong Cung and inserted troops at two locations. One MSF (Mike Strike Force) soldier was killed during this operation from a booby trap. One of the inserted MSF's was involved in a fire fight that lasted over an hour and was broken when troops were extracted. During ground operations troops destroyed 30 sampans, 5 structures and rice bins. It was during the five hour (per Kerry Bronze Star Recommendation) ground support operations that the PCF's would experience small enemy weapons fire several times.
After ground operations all four PCF's returned to Cai Nuoc district town. At 1445 Hours all four PCF's plus PCF-23 that had joined up with them at Cai Nuoc departed and proceeded down the Bay Hap River to their LST in the Gulf of Thailand.
It was during this return trip that that a mine detonated under the PCF-3 lifting it 2-3 feet out of the water. The spot report also states two other mine explosions were observed and that the boats received both small and heavy automatic weapons fire from both banks. The spot report for the incident suggests that they took incoming enemy weapons fire for 5000 meters (little over 3 miles.) PCF-94 attempted to assist the stricken PCF-3 and picked up a MSF advisor (Rassmann) who fell overboard. Spot report does not say how or from what boat Rassmann fell off. PCF-43 took all the wounded to the USCG cutter Spencer for medical attention. PCF's 94, 51 and 43 stayed with the stricken PCF-3 while a Bucket Brigade was brought in to help with the boats flooding. Once the flooding could be eased the PCF-94 then towed the heavily damaged PCF-3 away.
Both Sen. Kerry's Casualty Report and Bronze Star citation make it clear that he suffered shrapnel wounds in his left buttocks from a mine that had detonated close aboard PCF-94. It is this same mine that allegedly knocked Jim Rassmann off the boat. However, Kerry's Bronze Star recommendation makes no mention of Kerry receiving a shrapnel wound to his buttocks, only a bruise to his arm.
In Coastal Division 11 Command History only one mine is mentioned and not three. Hand written notation on Sen. Kerry's spot report says "HF encountered plus MINE." It would seem a few had reason to believe there was only one mine involved and not the three Sen. Kerry describes.
We can be certain now that Sen. Kerry did not receive any shrapnel to his buttocks from a mine explosion. Jim Rassmann in the Washington Post describes how Sen. Kerry really picked up a tiny piece of metal that day. As they were heading back to the boat, Kerry and Rassmann decided to blow up a five-ton rice bin to deny food to the Vietcong. In an interview, Rassmann recalled that they climbed on top of the huge pile and dug a hole in the rice. On the count of three, they tossed their grenades into the hole and ran.
Evidently, Kerry did not run fast enough. "He got some frags and pieces of rice in his rear end," Rassmann said with a laugh. "It was more embarrassing than painful." At the time, the incident did not seem significant, and Kerry did not mention it to anyone when he got back on the boat. An unsigned "personnel casualty report," however, erroneously implies that Kerry suffered "shrapnel wounds in his left buttocks" later in the day, following the mine explosion incident, when he also received "contusions to his right forearm."
What is troubling about the above is why Jim Rassmann never come forward and correct the record of how Sen. Kerry became wounded when he had first hand knowledge that refutes the mine injury claim?
What makes the entire March 13th Bronze Star incident so bizarre is not so much how it is being described today in the press by the people who were there -- but how Sen. Kerry first described the entire incident back in 1998.
Kerry had the following eulogy entered into the Congressional Record on January 28, 1998 (Senate) Page S186-S187:
"There was the time we were carrying Special Forces up a river and a mine exploded under our boat sending it 2 feet into the air. We were receiving incoming rocket and small arms fire and Tommy was returning fire with his M-60 machine gun when it literally broke apart in his hands. He was left holding the pieces unable to fire back while one of the Green Berets walked along the edge of the boat to get Tommy another M-60. As he was doing so, the boat made a high speed turn to starboard and the Green Beret kept going--straight into the river. The entire time while the boat went back to get the Green Beret, Tommy was without a machine gun or a weapon of any kind, but all the time he was hurling the greatest single string of Lowell-Chelmsford curses ever heard at the Viet Cong. He literally had swear words with tracers on them! "
Sen. Kerry makes it clear in his eulogy that it was his boat that directly hit a mine and lifted 2 feet out of the water and that Jim Rassmann fell overboard not because of a mine, but because of a high speed turn. Note also that Sen. Kerry never mentions multiple mines and that he suggests that the "entire time while the boat went back" is a indication that Sen. Kerry's boat continued past the ambush for some distance, a scenario supported by another Kerry crewmember below who was on Kerry's boat that day: Michael Medeiros.
Kerry Describes a Non-Typical Ambush
It is rare for river ambushes to last more then one minute. Generally you have 1-4 Viet Cong involved in a ambush who may have wired a under water explosive device to activate when a boat travels either over it or near it. Once the mine is detonated ambusher's may jump up and fire off some AK-47 rounds and rockets and then flee quickly before the boats guns can turn on them. It would be especially rare and unusual for ambusher's to hang around and take pop shot's of someone in murky water being pushed along by the river's flow with the fire power of three swift boats there on the scene.
Sen. Kerry suggests there was a 3 mile gauntlet of enemy weapons fire along the river. If this was true, the Viet Cong would had to have a few full size battalions available to them to place along the river. If this was the case there would have been much boat damage and injuries reported from enemy fire.
PCF-94 Damage Report
On March 14, a CASREP was prepared and sent outlining the damage and condition of Kerry's PCF-94 and PCF-3. Only page two describing the PCF-94 damage was released by the Kerry Campaign. The PCF-94 was declared unable to continue Market Patrol due to a host of damage that included steering problems; loss of RPM's in both engines and curled and chipped propellers. If the PCF-94 never hit a mine then how was it damaged?
Michael Medeiros, a former Kerry crew member who was there that day provides us with a clue when he recently suggested in a interview with the Washington Post: "When the mine went off, we were still going full speed," he recalled. Medeiros said Kerry's boat raced off down the river, away from the ambush zone.
Del Sandusky, another Kerry crewmate who was on Sen. Kerry's boat that day believes there was never a second mine explosion but more likely a rocket or rocket-propelled grenade, as a mine would have inflicted more damage. Mr. Sandusky is correct about not being a mine explosion, but it wasn't a rocket -- but a obstacle in the river that the boat had run over at high speed as they were fleeing the ambush site. A rocket would not had curled and chipped the boats screws. This explanation explains the boats damage and what some might had mistaken for a mine explosion.
It should be noted that other damage the CASREP describes are non-critical to a swift boat's operation and easily could have been caused weeks earlier during other missions. We know that some forward windows were damaged a day earlier from another ambush according to Coastal Division 11 Command History which describes the damage suffered the day before on March 12 as "minor."
Sen. Kerry's Bronze Star recommendation makes no mention of Sen. Kerry being under enemy small arms fire. Here is how his Bronze Star recommendation describes the rescue: "LTJG KERRY from his exposed position on the bow of the boat, managed to pull RASSMAN aboard despite the painful wound in his right arm."
Jim Rassmann claims he was the one who recommended Sen. Kerry for a award, originally recommended Kerry for the Silver Star that later was reduced to a Bronze Star. However, Sen. Kerry's Bronze Star recommendation only lists one eyewitness for the rescue of Jim Rassmann: Kerry for President supporter, Del Sandusky.
This is the same Del Sandusky who told CNN NewsNight on May 31, 2004 that "John, shot and bleeding, laid down and pulled up Rassmann by his belt."
Conclusion: It has been demonstrated that Sen. Kerry was never wounded in his buttocks by a enemy mine. It has also been demonstrated that Sen. Kerry knowingly filed a false casualty report for himself. Sen. Kerry's Purple Heart for the March 13, 1969 incident was not caused by enemy action, but from a careless act of destroying rice for which one eyewitness thought was more funny than serious.
Sen. Kerry has been shown in one account of the mine incident to have described his boat as directly hitting a mine and being lifted out of the water several feet knowing very well this wasn't possible. The PCF-94 damage report supports the conclusion that Sen. Kerry had run over an under water obstacle as he kept going at full speed after the PCF-3 had struck a mine, and it was this impact that caused the screws to be curled, chipped and what appeared to the crew to have been the result of a mine explosion.
It would appear that Sen. Kerry wanted to use the illusion of a enemy mine explosion to account for shrapnel to his buttocks instead of being self-inflicted.
More damning for Kerry is the fact Brinkley’s biography reproduces Kerry’s war journal showing this entry from Kerry himself, “I got a piece of small grenade in my ass from one of the rice bin explosions.” This makes it evident that we are not dealing with a person whose word can be taken at face value.
The entire events as described by Sen. Kerry in his spot reports and by his supporters who was on his boat for the March 13, 1969 incident is exaggerated and riddled with inconsistencies and factually incorrect events. The Department of Defense should rescind the awarding of both Kerry's Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for the March 13th incident due to the above and knowingly making material false statements to the U.S. Navy.