Skip to comments.The Unpleasant Truth Behind the Awarding of John Kerry's Silver Star
Posted on 05/02/2004 11:18:27 PM PDT by The Bandit
The Unpleasant Truth Behind the Awarding of John Kerry's Silver Star
by The Bandit
It is claimed that on February 28, 1969, Lt.(jg) John Kerry, as Officer in Charge of PCF 94 and Officer in Tactical Command of a three-boat mission came under ambush on the narrow Dong Cung River. It is further claimed they Kerry unhesitatingly ordered his boat beached directly in front of the enemy ambushes. The so-called "daring and courageous" tactic surprised the enemy and succeeded in routing a score of enemy soldiers.
Furthermore, it is claimed that PCF gunners left their assigned positions to capture "many enemy weapons in the battle that followed." Once the weapons were captured, Kerry ordered his Swift Boat 800 yards further along the river to suppress enemy sniper fire that was being reported. Again, Kerry's PCF 94 came under fire from rocket fire. With "utter disregard for his own safety and the enemy rockets (odd there is no mention of the disregard for the safety of his crew members, just Kerry himself.)," Kerry ordered his boat to again be beached, this time within ten feet from a enemy soldier pointing a loaded B-40 rocket launcher at Kerry's boat.
At this point crewmembers, including Kerry, claim the enemy soldier had been lightly hit by .50 caliber fire and had jumped up without firing the rocket to make a run for a nearby hooch. Kerry jumped off his boat to give chase of the fleeing soldier to finally catch up with him behind a hooch. The Silver Star citation alleges that Kerry had lead a landing party in pursuit of the enemy.
Problems with Kerry's Silver Star Claims
There has always been problems with the actions of John Kerry on February 28, 1969 - but no substantiated evidence really existed to make any conclusive judgement other then Kerry's actions were a complete reversal of Navy standard operating procedures, that at a minimum, should have lead to him being reprimanded or relieved of duty and court martialed. Yet the Navy looked the other way and awarded him a Silver Star. This makes the entire events of February 28th very, very suspicious and places his superior officers on the hot seat.
The reason I say it places his officers on the hot seat is because they were very aware of the criteria required for the recommendation and approval of the Silver Star. There has to be at least two witness reports; there has to be a after-action report. There is no after-action report for the February 28, 1969 engagement in the spot reports for the months of February and March 1969 released to the public by Senator Kerry.
During an April 2003 campaign swing through Little Rock Arkansas, Kerry was reunited with a former crewmember by the name of Fred Short. Short recalled the third of three ambushes on their group of boats on when his twin 50-caliber machine gun couldn't tilt low enough to shoot a Viet Cong soldier lying in a ditch, aiming a rocket launcher at their boat.
"We were in a small canal and normally we would have tried to exit, but Mr. Kerry ordered us to charge," Short said. "While I shot high, he and Tommy Bellodeau charged under me, right at the guy, and we routed them. That's why Mr. Kerry won the Silver Star."
The citation further reads:
"Upon sweeping the area an immediate search uncovered an enemy rest and supply area which was destroyed. The extraordinary daring and personal courage of Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry in attacking a numerically superior force in the face of intense fire were responsible for the highly successful mission. His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
In June of 2003, Short recalled the following to the Boston Globe:
"I laid in fire with the twin .50s, and he got behind a hooch," recalled Short. "I laid 50 rounds in there, and Mr. Kerry went in. Rounds were coming everywhere. We were getting fire from both sides of the river. It was a canal. We were receiving fire from the opposite bank, also, and there was no way I could bring my guns to bear on that."
Question: How was it possible for 5 Navy sailors to sweep the area, with their boat beached and defenseless while taking fire from both sides of the river with no ability to surpress it? Not all the crewmembers carried M-16s, perhaps only Kerry had access to an M-16 while the rest were reliant on the boats mounted armament for self defense. Fred Short said he did not have an M-16 that day.
The Story Just Gets Worst for Senator Kerry
On April 24, 2001, Senator Kerry told CNN's Jonathan Karl the following story:
"On that particular day [February 28th, 1969], I heard the ambush, I heard the firepower, and I made the judgment. Besides, we were very heavily weighted down. We had troops on board. We couldn't reach maximum speed. I knew that to whatever degree we were in the ambush, we were going to get hurt, so I turned the aspect of us toward it, minimizing our exposure, surprising them, and we did win. I mean, we ran right over the ambush, and it felt good to win."
During an October 1996 press conference a former crewmember by the name of Tom Belodeau, stood beside Kerry and stated "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 (Mr. Kerry) had just left, which still had four men aboard," Mr. Belodeau said.
There is no mention of troops aboard - he clearly says there were only four crewmembers aboard after Kerry had gotten off. All the other recollections I could find make no mention of troops aboard PCF 94 that day.
Interesting enough, Kerry claims in the same interview with CNN's Karl that be had a SEAL disarm the B-40 and that he had brought it home and still has it. That is interesting because the military had strict customs inspections that searched soldiers belongings for contraband items before they left Vietnam for home. A B-40 would never had cleared customs. Perhaps Senator Kerry will make the B-40 available for media inspection?
Reporter Charles Sennott reported that not long after the February 28th ambush and beaching of PCF 94, Kerry bought a Super-8 movie camera, returned to the scene and reenacted the skirmish on film. During their interview, Kerry played the tape for Sennott.
"I'll show you where they shot from. See? That's the hole covered up with reeds," Kerry said as he ran the tape in slow motion.
Kerry told Sennott that his decision to reenact the fight on film was no big deal _ "just something I did, no great meaning to it." But it's clear that the old movie is a huge deal. "Through hours of watching the films in the den of his newly renovated Beacon Hill mansion, it becomes apparent that these are memories and footage he returns to often," Sennott wrote.
"Kerry jumps repeatedly from the couch to adjust the Sony large screen TV in his home entertainment center, making sure the picture is clear, the color correct. He fast forwards, rewinds and freeze frames the footage. His running commentary _ vivid, sometimes touching, sometimes self-serving _ never misses a beat."
What is odd about what Sennott reports is not so much Kerry's reaction from watching the film from his home, but the fact he returned to an area that was supposedly a hot spot for enemy activity to once again beach his boat and walk around to do some filming. This tells me that Senator Kerry knew the area was relatively clear of enemy activity, just as may well have been days earlier on February 28th.
What Is The Truth?
I believe because of the core inconsistencies of the stories being told and absence of any after-action report among the after-actions reports Kerry released for the months of February and March that would detail the engagement with the lone VC, supports the conclusion this was an uneventful encounter in reality. Lt.(jg) Kerry was not stupid enough to put his boat in an indefensible position with incoming fire coming from an unknown number of enemy soldiers from both sides of a canal. It makes for a great Rambo story, but in reality with the absence of any other incoming fire he knew he was dealing only with a lone hurt VC on the bank of the canal and beaching his boat would not be a risky undertaking.
Then there is the unusual act on Kerry's part to return to the scene and record an re-enactment of the encounter with the lone VC. This further suggests Kerry knew the area was secure enough to beach his boat and walk about without risk of getting shot at.
The differing accounts provided by Kerry and his crewmembers does not merit the awarding of the Silver Star. Even if we accept Kerry's version, it still does not meet the requirements for any award. The Navy was not in the habit of awarding Silver Stars to officers who disregarded more then a few standing orders, placing ones crew in danger while chasing a lone fleeing wounded enemy soldier behind a hooch.
The real story then is why was there a rush to award Lt.(jg) Kerry a Silver Star?
This story really begins when Kerry returns to base and tells a tall story to his commanding officer, who I suspect might have been on the look out for a Rambo story on behalf of Admiral Zumwalt. Most likely Admiral Zumwalt made it known he was looking for a "poster boy" that could symbolize a certain fighting spirit he was looking for to raise moral. Other wise, there is no justification for his commanding offer to just say "OK, I am recommending you for a Silver Star" without at least some investigation, recording at least two witness statements that is required for the award and recording an after-action report for the allege incident.
It is possible Captain George Eillot, Kerry's commanding officer at the time, found Zumwalt's ideal "poster boy" in Lt.(jg) Kerry. I think a certain press conference in 1996 supports this conclusion.
In 1996 Kerry was outraged by a column questioning the circumstances of his killing of the lone enemy soldier who had pointed a rocket launcher at his boat. Writer David Warsh for a Boston newspaper, noted that such a "coup de grace" would have been considered a war crime if the soldier had already been wounded. What followed was truly revealing.
Senator Kerry arranged a news conference at the Courageous Sailing Center in the Charlestown Navy Yard. Those who attended on Kerry's behalf is very interesting. They were none other then retired Admiral Zumwalt himself, who commanded U.S. naval forces in Vietnam; Capt. George Elliott, Kerry's CO at the time; retired Cmdr. Adrian Longsdale, who commanded shoreline operations at the time; Tom Belodeau, one of Kerry's gunners who had fired at the enemy soldier and knocked him down with a .50 caliber round. Participating by phone from San Francisco was Michael Medeiros, who was the rear gunner on Kerry's boat.
Amazing how willing and quickly they came together to defend Kerry that day - but I don't believe in reality they were not there to defend Kerry per se, but to protect a 30 year old secret and themselves. Kerry's superior officer's did not follow Navy protocol in awarding him the Silver Star, and they clearly not have been making accurate statements of the allege events that lead to the awarding of the medal ever since.
It all may well have remained a secret, known only to them, if it was not for some comments by Admiral Zumwalt recorded by Associated Press writer Glen Johnson:
Mr. Zumwalt also said he wanted to recommend Sen. Kerry for an even higher medal, the Navy Cross, but approval would have taken too long. Instead, he personally approved a Silver Star and sped along the award to improve morale at a time his sailors were taking heavy casualties.
Zumwalt's comments about wanting to award the Navy Cross to Kerry makes absolutely no sense because Kerry's allege actions no-where meets the the standards for such an award. Why did he suggest this? Because I think he wanted to remove doubts that Kerry may not have deserved the Silver Star, which would had drawn attention to why the medal was even awarded in the first place - clearly something Zumwalt would not want to draw attention to since, in affect, he awarded the Silver Star to Kerry for chasing down a lone fleeing, hurt VC - killing him behind a hooch - all the while disregarding every standing order he was operating under and placing his four man crew in a position that did not allow them to defend themselves.
The most telling of all is Zumwalt's suggestion that he was motivated to award Kerry as a means to "improve morale." This I think is an honest appraisal of the entire Kerry Silver Star episode - Kerry was not awarded for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action" on February 28, 1969, but given the Silver Star by Admiral Zumwalt in attempts of improving moral (Kerry became his Rambo poster-boy.)
This, in my mind, is a terrible disgrace and dishonor to the thousands who unselfishly demonstrated conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity to earn the Silver Star. I recall a story of a Corpsman who critically injured, had refused to be medevac so that others could go in his place and receive prompt medical treatment. He died of his wounds before he could be treated by medical personal and was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his unselfish sacrifice so others may been given the chance to live.
Perhaps someday, before Captain George Elliot departs this world, he will find the courage and honor to finally come forward and remove this disgraceful cloud that hovers over the thousands whose real and honest sacrifices were awarded this nations third highest award, the Silver Star.
Archy, is it possible to be lightly hit with a 50 cal?
Belodeau, one of Kerry's gunners who had fired at the enemy soldier and knocked him down with a .50 caliber round.
"Knocked down"? With a .50 caliber round?
His rabid insistance on getting that first "scratch" Purple Heart tells me he was already planning on getting his "three and go home" Purple Hearts. Otherwise, why bother hassling commanding officers for that bogus first one?
And the Silver Star episode just stinks to high heaven, it sounds as fake as LBJ's bogus WW2 medal.
I think "the fix was in" all the way from the US Capitol (Uncle Teddy, JFK#1's baby brother) to Zumwalt to his CO's. What rewards were THEY given, for playing a role in this charade?
I have read elsewhere that after Kerry sea-lawyered his way out of VN after his 3 "scratch" Purple Hearts, his remaining crew were reassigned to safe shore duty positions, instead of being reassigned to more combat. Is this true? Was it part of a quid pro quo?
Inquiring minds want to know.
Damn..........this is crazy. Stay Safe !
He has certainly capitalized on his existence!
I know, I should had used the term Kerry uses: nicked.
Unlicensed possession of a B-40 is a federal felony. Unless the B-40 has been registered AND de-militarized in precise accordance with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives directives, Sen. Kerry is probably in felonious violation of The Gun Control Act of 1968 and The National Firearms Act of 1934. Specifically;
If the destructive device is nonfunctional and registered as a DEWAT (deactivated war trophy), federal paperwork still must be filed and approved before possessing the device. Again, not having the explosive rocket grenade, or simply removing parts or hammering a B-40 would not exclude it from a "destructive device" definition. The government actions at Waco and Ruby Ridge were in direct response to violations of the previously mentioned federal laws.
Yeah, it must of clipped his ponytail --- or notched his earlobe. Semper Fi