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Four Eyewitnesses Dispute Kerry's Account of Bronze Star Incident
Human Events ^ | 8-23-04 | Joseph D'Agostino and David Freddoso

Posted on 08/20/2004 9:32:16 AM PDT by The Old Hoosier

Four Eyewitnesses Dispute Kerry's Account of Bronze Star Incident


Posted Aug 20, 2004

By Joseph A. D'Agostino
and David Freddoso

According to an after-action report for the afternoon of March 13, 1969, John Kerry's unit of five Swift boats encountered enemy automatic and small-arms fire from both banks along a 5,000-meter stretch of the Bay Hap River in Vietnam. Three enemy mines were detonated, the report states, one of which damaged Kerry's boat. According to that same report and a separate casualty report, Kerry received a minor contusion on his arm and shrapnel in his buttocks from the incident.

On the basis of these two reports, Kerry received a Bronze Star--and importantly, his third Purple Heart, which allowed him to leave Vietnam after serving only four months of the standard one-year tour.

'No Hostile Fire'

But there are two potential problems with this story: First, four eyewitnesses now contradict the after-action report. They say there was no hostile fire in the incident, and claim that Kerry, whose version of events agrees with the report, wrote the report himself--a claim Kerry's campaign denies.

Second, a story Kerry told biographer Douglas Brinkley for Tour of Duty appears to contradict the casualty report that resulted in Kerry's tour-ending third Purple Heart. Kerry told Brinkley he received a wound to his buttocks earlier on the same day as the Bay Hap combat incident. But, in this case, the wound came from a non-combat accident in a nearby village. Some friendly forces were destroying rice that was believed to be stockpiled for the Viet Cong. "I got a piece of small grenade in my ass from one of the rice bin explosions," Kerry told Brinkley. The military does not grant Purple Hearts for self-inflicted wounds or accidents.

The casualty report filed on Kerry the next morning mentions nothing about Kerry's rice-bin injury. It says: "LTJG Kerry suffered shapnel (sic) wounds in his left buttocks and contusions on his right forearm when a mine detonated close aboard PCF-94."

Larry Thurlow, Dick Pees, and Jack Chenoweth--all Swift boat captains who served with Kerry in Coastal Division 11 and participated with him in the Bay Hap incident--dispute the after-action report, insisting there was no hostile fire from either bank. Chenoweth's gunner, Van Odell, tells the same story. All four--who this spring with other Vietnam veterans formed the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to tell their version of John Kerry's military service--told HUMAN EVENTS that only one mine was detonated, nearly sinking Pees' boat, PCF-3, and throwing two of his crewmen overboard. They all deny seeing or hearing any mines explode near Kerry's boat, which was on the opposite side of the river. Chenoweth, Thurlow and Odell have all signed affidavits attesting to their version of events.

The difference between Kerry's version of events and that of his fellow Swiftees is sharp and irreconcilable, although Kerry's account is consistent with that given by Jim Rassmann, a special forces advisor who fell off Kerry's boat during the incident.

The apparent discrepancies in the casualty and after-action reports, taken together, raise the question of whether Kerry's fellow veterans are lying now, or Kerry lied in order to get the third Purple Heart.

Thurlow disputes the after-action report even though it later became part of the basis for a Bronze Star award he received that summer after he finished his yearlong tour in Vietnam and returned home to northwest Kansas. Thurlow's citation, written and signed by division commander George Elliot, says that Thurlow's act that day of saving PCF-3 boat from sinking after the mine explosion "took place under constant enemy small arms fire which LTJG THURLOW completely ignored in providing immediate assistance."

The Washington Post, in an August 19 article, reported Thurlow's citation as evidence of a conflict in his story, but Thurlow maintains that there was no fire, and that his award citation is factually incorrect.

"In terms of receiving hostile fire, it's false," Thurlow told HUMAN EVENTS of his own Bronze Star citation.

Elliott told HUMAN EVENTS that he wrote the part about hostile fire in Thurlow's citation based on the same after-action report. "I got the information from the after-action report," he said.

"None of us believed there was any incoming fire at any point in time," said Chenoweth. "Only the mine." Chenoweth, Thurlow, and Odell concurred that there was only one mine, and that no mine had exploded near Kerry's boat, PCF-94. At that point, Pees missed much of the action, as he had been wounded by the mine explosion.

Thurlow, Chenoweth and Pees all say they did not write the disputed after-action report. The only other officers present at the incident were Kerry and Don Droz, who died in a massive ambush one month after the Bay Hap incident.

There seems to be no documentation to settle the issue of who wrote the after-action report. Thurlow told HUMAN EVENTS he believes Kerry wrote the report, noting that it mentions Kerry's actions most prominently even though he, Odell, Chenoweth and Pees remember Kerry playing a relatively minor role in the incident. For example, Thurlow said, although four people were fished out of the water after the mine explosion--including two seriously injured crewmen of the sinking PCF-3 and at one point Thurlow himself--the report only mentions the uninjured man whom Kerry pulled out of the water, an "MSF advisor" named Jim Rassmann.

"There was no statement made [in the report] about the two guys who were injured and blown off the number 3 boat," said Thurlow. According to Thurlow and the others, Kerry's boat, which was carrying infantrymen, including Rassmann, sped off downstream as soon as the mine exploded under Pees' boat. According to Thurlow and Chenoweth, the Swiftees then sprayed the banks with bullets for about 40 seconds. They ceased fire after noticing their fire was not being returned, and within minutes, Kerry's boat returned to pick up Rassmann.

The Kerry campaign put out a press release August 19 that quoted Rassmann as saying, "There was only one person in the water that day and that was me, anyone who is telling you otherwise is giving you a lie."

Thurlow said that if there had actually been three miles of hostile fire from both banks, boats other than PCF 3 would have been damaged and men other than Kerry would have been wounded.

"Nobody received even a fragment of bullets going through the metal" of the Swift Boats, Thurlow said. "Nobody was even ducking for cover," he said.

Thurlow added that he believes there was less than 5,000 meters of river between where the mine detonated under PCF-3 and the river mouth, despite the report's contention that the enemy was firing on the five boats from both banks for that long a stretch of river.

Kerry's campaign spokesman, Michael Meehan, declined to speak to HUMAN EVENTS, but in the Washington Post report of August 19 Kerry campaign researchers disputed the contention of Thurlow, Chenoweth and Pees that Kerry wrote the after-action report that Thurlow, Chenoweth and Pees insist is false.

Thurlow, who was the senior officer among the five present that day, told HUMAN EVENTS that Kerry volunteered more than once to write such after-action reports--the last thing most Swift Boat officers wanted to do after a tough day on the river. He said that he never thought twice about what was being reported. "A good officer probably says, 'Well, John, let's see what you wrote up.' I never did," Thurlow said. "I really didn't care, to be honest with you."

The incident on the Bay Hap--Kerry's last battle in Vietnam--began when the five boats in Kerry's group approached a fishing weir across the river. As Swift Boat operators Thurlow, Chenoweth, Pees, and gunner Odell describe it, Kerry's boat led the way around the weir on the right in PCF-94, while Pees led the way on the left in PCF-3. Suddenly, a mine was detonated directly beneath Pees' boat, blowing it several feet into the air before it crashed back down on the surface of the river and began to move about erratically because of engine damage from the blast.

After showering the shore with bullets, Odell, Chenoweth and Thurlow said, the Swiftees in the other boats ceased firing upon noticing that there was no hostile fire from either bank. They said that by the time Kerry returned to fish Rassmann out of the water, the only noise on the river was the idling engines of the Swift Boats, and that the Swiftees had already set about rescuing PCF-3 and its crewmen.





TOPICS: Front Page News; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: bronzestar; humanevents; kerry

1 posted on 08/20/2004 9:32:17 AM PDT by The Old Hoosier
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To: The Old Hoosier

They have a guy called Dick Pees? LOL!!


2 posted on 08/20/2004 9:33:27 AM PDT by nwrep
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To: The Old Hoosier

These two authors do a stand-up job in exposing Kerry.


3 posted on 08/20/2004 9:33:31 AM PDT by Pyro7480 (Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix.... sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper...)
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To: The Old Hoosier

Meanwhile the Kerry media tries to avoid looking at the story, instead concentrating on a Bush connection conspiracy theory.


4 posted on 08/20/2004 9:36:42 AM PDT by cripplecreek (Here, bite down on this.)
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To: The Old Hoosier
SOLDIERS BLEAD! KERRY FLED!

(Whoa ... I am genius! Thats my new tagline!)

5 posted on 08/20/2004 9:37:03 AM PDT by The G Man (Soldiers blead! Kerry fled!)
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To: The Old Hoosier

This is great! Now we need to really hammer the point home with some pro-Bush ads to make the contrast crystal clear. We could have commercial with GW talking straight into the camera with an american flag waving in a gentle breeze behind him while he talks in a humble way about the medals he earned and he wouldn't even have to mention Kerry. Bush can stay focussed on the positive and the Swift Boat Vets can keep up the negative. It would be a killer combo!!


6 posted on 08/20/2004 9:44:14 AM PDT by ConsistentLibertarian
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To: The Old Hoosier

"and claim that Kerry, whose version of events agrees with the report, wrote the report himself--a claim Kerry's campaign denies."

If all of Kerry's records were released, could this be definitively proven or disproven?


7 posted on 08/20/2004 9:45:13 AM PDT by Bahbah
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To: The G Man

Bled genius.


8 posted on 08/20/2004 9:46:58 AM PDT by billhilly (If you're lurking here from DU, I trust this post will make you sick)
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To: The G Man

Bled, genius.


9 posted on 08/20/2004 9:48:06 AM PDT by billhilly (If you're lurking here from DU, I trust this post will make you sick)
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To: The Old Hoosier
JOHN KERRY=
Despicable
 

Main Entry: de·spi·ca·ble

Etymology: Late Latin despicabilis; to despise
: deserving to be despised : so worthless or obnoxious as to rouse moral indignation <despicable behavior>
synonym see CONTEMPTIBLE
 

10 posted on 08/20/2004 9:48:19 AM PDT by carlo3b (http://www.CookingWithCarlo.com)
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To: billhilly

Type once, post once.


11 posted on 08/20/2004 9:49:01 AM PDT by billhilly (If you're lurking here from DU, I trust this post will make you sick)
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To: billhilly

LOL! Thanks ... I had that comin' I guess!


12 posted on 08/20/2004 9:53:53 AM PDT by The G Man (Soldiers bled! Kerry fled!)
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To: cripplecreek

O'Neill said last night on H&C I think that the Washington Post (Kerry Campaign) reporter refused to meet earlier this week with Bronze Star incident eyewitnesses when he was writing the smear on Thurlow. Rush just played the audio clip.


13 posted on 08/20/2004 9:54:48 AM PDT by spycatcher
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To: The Old Hoosier
The Kerry campaign put out a press release August 19 that quoted Rassmann as saying, "There was only one person in the water that day and that was me, anyone who is telling you otherwise is giving you a lie."

If Rassmann was in the water, how in the world is it possible to conclusively know that no other people were in the water. Maybe Rassmann has some sort of x-ray vision that allows him to see through boats or something.

14 posted on 08/20/2004 9:55:30 AM PDT by Always Right
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To: spycatcher

Chris Mattews admitted that he hadn't read Unfit for command" before condemning it.


15 posted on 08/20/2004 9:56:26 AM PDT by cripplecreek (Here, bite down on this.)
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To: The G Man

Thanks for taking that as intended.


16 posted on 08/20/2004 10:00:50 AM PDT by billhilly (If you're lurking here from DU, I trust this post will make you sick)
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To: EdReform

read later


17 posted on 08/20/2004 10:00:58 AM PDT by EdReform (Support Free Republic - All donations are greatly appreciated. Thank you for your support!)
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To: cripplecreek
Kerry has so many self-inflicted wounds that he is losing lots of blood. Ad #1, the Cambodia Christmas fiasco, the Bronze Star mess, Ad #2 and the Silver Star dustup. He has to deal with all of a story that has taken on a life of its own. Meanwhile, he must go off message BIG TIME as we head into the days prior to the GOP convention.

Kerry is in big trouble.

18 posted on 08/20/2004 10:04:25 AM PDT by Don'tMessWithTexas
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To: nwrep

His dad must have had a sick sense of humor.


19 posted on 08/20/2004 10:08:24 AM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (Even if the government took all your earnings, you wouldn't be, in its eyes, a slave.)
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To: The G Man

It's bled, Einstein. ;^)


20 posted on 08/20/2004 10:12:24 AM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (Even if the government took all your earnings, you wouldn't be, in its eyes, a slave.)
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To: The Old Hoosier

While I wasn't there, I've come to the conclusion that Kerry freaked out that day and it became the straw that broke the humps back.
That is why he wrote up a AAR that would get him out of town. He couldn't handle it. Kerry is not a real world person. It's like Walter Mitty meets the Viet Cong.
Having fled not only the scene of the mining of PCF-3, he also fled VN. He was so envious of those that could cut it he took to undermining them and maligning them in front of congress. He's a very bitter 6'4" little man.


21 posted on 08/20/2004 10:12:29 AM PDT by ProudVet77 (So many questions for Kerry - so few answers from Kerry)
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To: billhilly
"Thanks for taking that as intended."

At first I was like "Hey! Whats with the genius comment??" ... and then I remembered ... oh yeah. That was me.

22 posted on 08/20/2004 10:13:12 AM PDT by The G Man (Soldiers bled! Kerry fled!)
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To: nwrep

I've met a fella named Dick Sauer. Talk about unintended consequences!


23 posted on 08/20/2004 10:21:22 AM PDT by Frank_Discussion (May the wings of Liberty never lose a feather!)
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To: cripplecreek; PhilDragoo; SAMWolf; snippy_about_it; radu
Have watched many Swiftboat interview segments on the Liberal owned media....

Clearly...and even with pre-arranged agenda..they are getting thier asses kicked trying to defend Cambodia Kerry.

As usual...anything criticising Ferry is an Attack add.
Am a big Lou Dobbs fan.....er was.....as he has even caved to the *Money/tantraum from above.....and did the stupid comment - stupid question thing to John Oneil.

John Oneil has aquitted himself well...calmly pointing out the word twisting.....then re-forcing his talking points.

John McCain....the *Sacred White Bat from the Ace Ventura Movie,
Heavy sigh.....whats this guy afraid of?...dumb question.....probably alot.....when we delve into his participation in the.... **Time to restore relations with Vietnam lobbying.....and behold.....John Kerry front and center in the mix during overseas ....makee you happy/mugu money.....you savvy?, trips.

Some great comments here;
John Kerry and Mahatma.Org : )

24 posted on 08/20/2004 10:23:18 AM PDT by Light Speed
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To: The Old Hoosier

Keep moving people nothing to see here!! </sarcasm>


25 posted on 08/20/2004 10:23:28 AM PDT by getbillnow
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To: The G Man

BLED, pardner.


26 posted on 08/20/2004 10:27:51 AM PDT by Safetgiver (Is Clinton's book a "bone tome"?)
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To: The Old Hoosier

Bump!


27 posted on 08/20/2004 10:28:26 AM PDT by talleyman (John Kerry: The Manurian Candidate - he's seared - no, stir-fried - no, poached - no, flambeed!)
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To: The Old Hoosier

bump


28 posted on 08/20/2004 10:29:51 AM PDT by moehoward
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To: ProudVet77
While I wasn't there, I've come to the conclusion that Kerry freaked out that day and it became the straw that broke the humps back. That is why he wrote up a AAR that would get him out of town. He couldn't handle it. Kerry is not a real world person. It's like Walter Mitty meets the Viet Cong. Having fled not only the scene of the mining of PCF-3, he also fled VN. He was so envious of those that could cut it he took to undermining them and maligning them in front of congress. He's a very bitter 6'4" little man.

I expressed the same thoughts some time back. I think he is a coward

29 posted on 08/20/2004 10:43:16 AM PDT by cpdiii ( Oil field trash ( and proud of it) turned pharmacist.)
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To: Light Speed

It's Kerry's own fault this is getting so much coverage. He stepped in it and now he will have to live with it. Hopefully it will be his downfall.


30 posted on 08/20/2004 10:59:54 AM PDT by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: The Old Hoosier

If the Swift Boat Vets were lying John Kerry could immediately cut them off at the knees by releasing his Service Records.But by doing so his records would probably validate everything the Swiftees are saying and more. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place?

John Kerry is the ultimate Phony bar none!


31 posted on 08/20/2004 12:46:14 PM PDT by zbogwan2 (Clinton's and Field's noses look pretty similar?)
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To: Light Speed; cripplecreek; PhilDragoo; SAMWolf; snippy_about_it
Have watched many Swiftboat interview segments on the Liberal owned media....

I've caught a few but not as many as I'd have liked. Of those I've seen, the SBV's haven't wavered. That's probably why the latest polls show that veterans support for Kerry is dropping drastically....one doesn't waver when telling the truth.

I missed Lou Dobbs' interview with John O'Neill. Dang. But I did catch Wolf Blitzer today going after Tad Devine, Kerry's campaign strategist. Gotta say, ol' Wolfie blew my mind. He came down HARD on Tad about the NY Times article and about MoveOn.org. I actually applauded him. LOL! I've not been a big fan of Wolf's but gotta say, he shone for a moment today.

32 posted on 08/20/2004 10:34:55 PM PDT by radu (May God watch over our troops and keep them safe)
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To: radu

Bump


33 posted on 08/20/2004 11:12:10 PM PDT by SAMWolf (Married men live longer than single men, but married men are a lot more willing to go..)
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To: radu

Thanks for the ping radu. It's good to see this get so much coverage.


34 posted on 08/20/2004 11:56:28 PM PDT by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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bttt


35 posted on 08/21/2004 12:04:34 AM PDT by GretchenM (A country is a terrible thing to waste. Vote Republican.)
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To: snippy_about_it

BUMP


36 posted on 08/21/2004 12:06:39 AM PDT by sissyjane (Does Rice show up on X-Rays??)
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To: snippy_about_it

Ooooooh, it might just be getting ready to really smoke.


37 posted on 08/21/2004 12:16:38 AM PDT by radu (May God watch over our troops and keep them safe)
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