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
Roses are red, violets are blue,
I'm not schizophrenic, and neither am I.
claim the enemy soldier had been lightly hit by .50 caliber fire
I have maintained that this is why they support him (plus no doubt the fame factor and a large sack of Heinz foundation cash).
I don't have any documentation on this, but I am certain he said this in an interview. Of course, since the man lies constantly, he could have just been blathering for political effect.
I, too, would like more information on this. I also would like to know how he had enough clout to do this, if he indeed did.
A very curious question arises over Kerry's multiple Silver (3) and Bronze (2) star citations. Two of the five were signed by John Lehman who was Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration 5 Feb 1981 - 10 Apr 1987. There are three Silver Star citations supplied by Kerry. One was signed by ADM Zumwalt, one by ADM Hyland, and one by Secretary Lehman. The Bronze Star citations were signed by Zumwalt and Lehman. Specifically,
Zumwalt: ADM Zumwalt served as Commander, US Naval Forces Vietnam from Sep 1968-May 1970. The Silver Star citation is more than likely the original citation taken from the award submission. Normally, as part of the nomination form, the nominator must provide a synopsis of the award (citation) that can fit on a single page suitable for framing with the certificate. Zumwalt's citation covered two pages. I suspect that Zumwalt forwarded the award to CINCPAC, ADM Hyland, for the final signature, including the citation. It is worth noting that the requirement to go to CINCPAC applied only to the Silver Star, hence only the Zumwalt and Lehman citations for the Bronze Star, i.e., Zumwalt as the final approving authority and Lehman for the replacement/reissue.
Hyland: CINCPAC probably edited the Zumwalt Silver Star citation to make it fit on to one page and to clean it up a bit to fit the existing format. ADM Hyland was CINCPAC 30 Nov 1967 - 05 Dec 1970
Lehman: Except for the last sentence, the Silver Star citation is the same as Hyland's. What makes this curious is that Secretary Lehman signed the citation at least over 12 and up to 18 years after the events occurred. Kerry served in Vietnam from November 1968 to April 1969. I doubt, in any event, that the final approval authority for Silver Stars had to go to SECNAV for approval. We also have photographic evidence that Kerry had the Silver Star medal pinned on in 1969. Kerry also acknowledges that he received them. My take is that Kerry requested replacement medals and due to the fact that Kerry was no longer an active duty service member, administrative requirements mandated that SECNAV's office had to approve the issue of the replacements once it was verified from official records that Kerry had actually earned them.
The bottom line is that Kerry probably did throw away his medals and then requested replacements in the 1980s. Someone needs to raise this issue with Kerry, i.e., why did Secretary Lehman sign duplicate Bronze and Silver Star citations at least 12 years after you left Vietnam? Kerry needs to release all of his military records including the nomination forms, which will give us the chronology and the approval chain of command.
Kerry's latest reaction on Good Morning America fits his MO. He wants it both ways. When he discovered that throwing away your medals was politically a negative, he came up with the story about his ribbons and someone else's medals. Kerry realized that he couldn't walk away from the story entirely, especially since he has the medals displayed prominently in his office. However, the fly in the ointment is that we now have the citations, released by him, signed by Lehman. If he indeed requested replacement medals, he has a real problem, i.e., he was telling the truth initially, lied in the 80s, and is lying now.
I recognize that confronting Kerry on his military service is fraught with problems politically, but I believe there are plenty of inconsistencies that need to be made public. His antiwar activities and associations (Fonda, Ramsey Clark, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, et. al) also need to be exposed fully. The fact that Kerry was a member of the inactive Naval Reserves (1970-2) subject to involuntary recall and could meet with the Communist Vietnamese in Paris (per his sworn Congressional testimony) while our forces were engaged in hostilities is disgraceful. Kerry is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief.
Kerry is frozen in a time warp when it comes to his service in Vietnam. His preoccupation with his medals borders on being an obsession. If you check Kerry's released military records, you will notice that Kerry amended his DD214 with a DD215. Among other things, Kerry burnishes his Vietnam Service medal by adding four bronze service stars to reflect various campaigns. This was done in March 2001!!! Why anyone would go through that effort to make some meaningless changes is beyond me. Hundreds of thousands of veterans, including myself, could do it, but beyond self-gratification and ego, what is the point?
I was in that AO my whole tour... and in that area at that time...we were working off PBRs with the Mobile Riverine Force...and I dont ever recall seeing any Swift Boats in "Small Canals"....heck PBRs barely fit up small canals...
Beachind a Swift boat.....in a small canal?
This distortion of the truth that his 2 assignments during his ONE abbreviated tour is deliberate or uninformed. It could be both, but given liberals' usual pattern, I lean toward the former.
However, most people who don't pay attention vaguely know that a "tour" is normally something between 12 and 18 months. By talking about his "two tours", he isn't technically lying but it is definitely misleading, IMHO.
And I am darn sure that both tours were originally intended to keep him out of combat. The first was on a ship off-shore and he had nothing to do but supervise a small group of seamen.
When he was assigned to the swift boats for his second "tour", they were not engaged in much combat, but patrolled the coastline. Only after he was assigned to the swift boat did the mission change to patrolling the rivers. Hence, the rapid accumulation of Purple Hearts in order to get shipped home.
When so many veterans (my brother included) suffered grievous wounds and served under fire for much longer periods than either Gore or Kerry, these 2 politicians have painted their 4-5 months in Vietnam as the ultimate qualification for the office of President.
Unlike Kerry's constant references to his veteran status, the veterans I know do not talk or brag about THEIR experiences.
This distortion of the truth that his 2 assignments during his ONE abbreviated tour is deliberate or uninformed. It could be both, but given liberals' usual pattern, I lean toward the former.
The other "tour" that they're referring to is his cruise on USS Gridley (DLG-21, now CG-21). None of us in the Navy called our WestPac cruises "tours". Tours were in-country, cruises were off the coast.
Very interesting point! And, yes, someone needs to ask Kerry to explain why Lehman's signature is on the Bronze and Silver??????
I'm wondering what was said at this meeting in Saigon
But Kerry went back in the rivers. Indeed, it was after this meeting that he began his most deadly round of combat. Within days of the Saigon meeting, he joined a five-man crew on swift boat No. 94 on a series of missions in which he won the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and two of his three Purple Hearts. Starting in late January 1969, this crew completed 18 missions over an intense and dangerous 48 days, almost all of them in the dense jungles of the Mekong Delta.
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