Skip to comments.Murtha's War Hero Status Called Into Question
Posted on 01/13/2006 11:53:53 AM PST by paltz
(CNSNews.com) - Having ascended to the national stage as one of the most vocal critics of President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman John Murtha has long downplayed the controversy and the bitterness surrounding the two Purple Hearts he was awarded for military service in Vietnam.
Murtha is a retired marine and was the first Vietnam combat veteran elected to Congress. Since 1967, there have been at least three different accounts of the injuries that purportedly earned Murtha his Purple Hearts. Those accounts also appear to conflict with the limited military records that are available, and Murtha has thus far refused to release his own military records.
A Cybercast News Service investigation also reveals that one of Murtha's former Democratic congressional colleagues and a fellow decorated Vietnam veteran, Don Bailey of Pennsylvania, alleges that Murtha admitted during an emotional conversation on the floor of the U.S. House in the early 1980s that he did not deserve his Purple Hearts.
"[Murtha] is putting himself forward as some combat veteran with serious wounds and he's using that and it's dishonest and it's wrong," Bailey told Cybercast News Service on Jan. 9. Murtha served in the Marines on active duty and in the reserves from 1952 until his retirement as a colonel in 1990. He volunteered for service in Vietnam and was a First Marine Regiment intelligence officer in 1966 and 1967.
Murtha and Bailey, once allies, were forced to run against each other in a Democratic congressional primary in 1982 following redistricting. Murtha won the election.
Murtha has, in the past, publicly dismissed any questions about whether he deserved his two Purple Hearts, noting during his 1994 congressional campaign that "I am proud of my service in Vietnam."
In his Friday, Jan. 13, response to the Cybercast News Service investigation, Murtha again defended his military record.
"Questions about my record are clearly an attempt to distract attention from the real issue, which is that our brave men and women in uniform are dying and being injured every day in the middle of a civil war that can be resolved only by the Iraqis themselves," Murtha wrote in an email response.
"I volunteered for a year's duty in Vietnam. I was out in the field almost every single day. We took heavy casualties in my regiment the year that I was there. In my fitness reports, I was rated No. 1. My record is clear," Murtha added.
However, another source, World War II Navy veteran Harry M. Fox, previously indicated that Murtha in 1968 personally asked Fox's boss, then-U.S. Rep. John Saylor (R-Pa.), for assistance in obtaining the Purple Hearts, but was turned down because Saylor's office determined that Murtha lacked sufficient evidence of wounds. Murtha later challenged Saylor for his House seat in 1968 and lost. Fox said he personally viewed Murtha's military records in 1968 as Saylor's aide.
When Saylor died in 1973, Fox attempted to succeed his boss in Congress, but was narrowly defeated by Murtha in a 1974 special election.
"Pretending to be a big war hero and boasting about having medals is a slap in the face to our veterans who were seriously wounded or killed in action," Fox was quoted as telling the Uniontown Herald-Standard in the newspaper's Nov. 1, 1996 edition. "He campaigned as a war hero and I've never seen any documentation that he earned any of these honors," Fox reportedly stated.
On Friday, Jan. 13, Murtha's congressional communications director provided Cybercast News Service with a copy of a letter from the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, citing Murtha's request of Sept. 26, 1967, seeking Purple Hearts. Cybercast News Service did not authenticate the letter.
"The records of this Headquarters show that you are entitled to the Purple Heart and a Gold Star in lieu of a second Purple Heart for wounds received in action against insurgent Communist Guerrilla forces on 22 March and 7 May 1967 in the Republic of Vietnam," according to the letter signed by an individual identified only as A. Gardoni. Gardoni's title is not listed on the letter.
Cybercast News Service attempted to contact Fox for this article, but learned that the health of the 81-year-old was too poor to allow him to communicate. But in a 1996 newspaper article, Fox questioned whether Murtha deserved his Purple Hearts, alleging that there was insufficient evidence of injuries and that Murtha was never confined to a hospital.
"Of course Congressman Saylor wanted to help if he could, but there was nothing in the service record to indicate the wounds were of any severity and the documents specifically indicated that next of kin was not notified in either instance," Fox told the Herald-Standard in 1996. "We were amazed that Mr. Murtha was asking for Purple Hearts for superficial lacerations," he added.
Murtha's accounts of his Vietnam War wounds may also conflict with the available U.S. Marine medical records obtained by the media.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on May 12, 2002, reported that "Marine Corps casualty records show that Murtha was injured in 'hostile' actions near Danang, Vietnam, on March 22, 1967, and May 7, 1967.
"In the first incident, his right cheek was lacerated, and in the second, he was lacerated above his left eye. Neither injury required evacuation," the Post-Gazette reported.
But an Oct. 26, 1994, article in the Herald-Standard quoted Murtha as describing two different injuries.
"I was wounded in the arm with shrapnel from a bullet that hit the motor mount of a helicopter. In the other, my knee was banged up and my arm was banged up when a helicopter was shot down from a very few feet," Murtha told the Herald-Standard.
A June 1, 1967 report in the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat quoted a letter that the newspaper indicated was sent by Murtha to his wife that same year. The letter apparently detailed yet another version of how Murtha qualified for one of his Purple Hearts. According to the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, Murtha's injuries involved his being "struck in the ankle" by a "shot that ricocheted off the helicopter."
Murtha, a 16-term congressman from southwestern Pennsylvania and the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, drew national attention on Nov. 17, 2005, when he called for an immediate withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.
The Vietnam veteran even took a swipe at President Bush and Vice President Cheney, neither of whom have actual combat experience.
"I like guys who've never been there, who criticize us who've been there," Murtha said. "I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and sent people to war and then don't like to hear suggestions that what may need to be done."
Murtha discussed his own combat experience as a marine intelligence officer in his 2004 autobiography, "From Vietnam to 9/11: On the Front Lines of National Security."
"I had been awake more than twenty-four hours by the time we landed. A few hours into the battle, an on-again-off-again event, I could no longer keep my eyes open. I curled up next to a bunker and fell into a deep sleep for about an hour. Even the noise of frequent gunfire didn't wake me up. (One of my fellow officers told me the next morning that when he hadn't seen me for an hour or so, he assumed I was dead,)" Murtha wrote of one of his Vietnam combat experiences on page 14 of the 2004 paperback edition of his book. Murtha's two Purple Hearts are referenced on the back of the book.
In addition to his Purple Hearts, Murtha received the Vietnamese Cross for Gallantry and the Bronze Star with combat "V" for service in the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam. Murtha also served in the Marines during the Korean War but did not serve in Korea, according to his book.
'He's a phony and a liar'
Bailey said during the time Murtha was being investigated for his role in the Abscam FBI sting in 1980, Murtha made a confession on the House floor.
... you admitted, back in our corner, that you didn't earn your purple hearts (sic) (you indicated you had small scratch on your cheek that wasn't even directly related to an APC [Armored Personnel Carrier] that ran over a small antipersonnel mine that was behind you). The other purple heart [sic] you even declined to explain," wrote Bailey in an open letter dated May 5, 2002.
Bailey is also a decorated Vietnam combat veteran. He served in the U.S. Army's 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions and was awarded a Silver Star and three Bronze Stars.
"At the time (of Murtha's alleged admission), you were feeling particularly vulnerable because it wasn't too long after you had called me crying and sobbing, thanking me for 'saving your life' before the ethics committee (on Abscam-related charges). There was no doubt in my mind that you were expressing to me that you did not believe you did anything sufficient to earn the purple heart [sic] and that you didn't want to be active in my efforts to laud Vietnam veterans that served with us," Bailey wrote in his May 2002 letter.
"You may deny that all you wish -- but you and I know that that conversation took place," he added.
In the Jan. 9 interview with Cybercast News Service Bailey affirmed the contents of his 2002 letter.
"The issue here is this idea or pretense that [Murtha] knows combat and he's got two Purple Hearts. He's a phony and a liar," Bailey said.
Bailey also questioned why Murtha has thus far declined to release his full military records in order to clear up the controversy.
"The Marine Corps ought to be able to produce all the orders, the medical stuff, the citations and the orders granting [the Purple Hearts] and everything else. Where is that stuff?" he asked.
According to a May 16, 2002, edition of the Washington, Pa., Observer-Reporter, Murtha "produced military paperwork indicating he was entitled to the awards," and a Murtha spokesperson was quoted as saying that "the media for years has investigated 'and found nothing.'"
But Murtha's paperwork did nothing to sway Bailey's opinion.
"You may fool a few reporters into believing that merely because you got some perfunctory paperwork made out by a friend, that that means you earned the purple hearts [sic]. But even if you were awarded the medals later, there should be affidavits from witnesses. These things should be easy to get," Bailey wrote in his letter while demanding an apology from Murtha for questioning his credibility.
Murtha could end the controversy at any time, Bailey added, simply by calling a press conference and producing the evidence of his wounds.
"Explain where you were and what you were doing when you got the purple hearts.[sic] Explain who was with you and treated your wounds, but most important, Jack, describe your wounds or the lack thereof, as you did for me, years ago," Bailey wrote.
"Unless the Marine Corps gives out medals for unsubstantiated noncombat-related telltale scratches, procured for use in political campaign -- then show me the money, Jack," Bailey added.
Murtha: 'I'm proud of my service in Vietnam'
During the 1994 congressional campaign against GOP opponent Dr. William Choby, Murtha's two Purple Hearts became a political issue.
"Explain your Purple Hearts. He (Murtha) used them to get elected," Choby charged in 1994.
In responding to the charges, Murtha claimed that he "didn't ask for the Purple Hearts.
"I'm proud of my service in Vietnam. I don't know if he (Choby) served in the service at all. I left my family and my business to serve in Vietnam. My family made great sacrifice for me to make that service in Vietnam, so I'm very proud of that," he told the Uniontown Herald-Standard in the newspaper's Oct. 26, 1994 edition.
"I am disappointed that a guy (Choby) would say something like that when I volunteered in the reserves and I felt it was important that I go. What's the point in all this? It's irritating," Murtha added.
Choby also challenged the validity of Murtha's Bronze Star with Combat 'V' during the 1996 congressional campaign.
"I find it very curious that Combat 'V' doesn't even exist in any of the materials he had distributed," Choby was quoted as saying in the Herald-Standard of Oct. 13, 1996. "His military record improves over the years," he added.
The Murtha controversy is reminiscent of the flap surrounding the war record of 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. But while critics like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attacked Kerry in 2004 because of his anti-war activism of the 1970s, Murtha's three chief accusers all made their allegations years and in some cases decades before Murtha emerged last November as a prominent anti-war activist.
Choby told Cybercast News Service on Jan. 5 that Murtha's entire political career is based on his war record. "Without that credibility of those combat medals, he would have never been elected to office," Choby said.
(Monisha Bansal also contributed to this article.)
Read Article About Murtha's Links to Abscam
I can see your points. And I completely agree with your last paragraph.
Another "war hero" who wants to enhance his service record for political purposes. Sign the SF 180 Murtha!
Unless Republicans wnt to be accused of attacking people's military records for political gain they should stay far away from this.
We took heavy casualties in my regiment the year that I was there.
But not the rest of the time????
Defeated in part because of Murtha's running on his puffed-up war record.
Why is it off limits to investigate a war record, but not off limits to investigate a lack of war record? Benedict Arnold served his country bravely, but that's not why we remember him. Like Kerry, Murtha is trying to use his war record to establish credibility. I agree that Republicans can be made to look bad for questioning "this brave man's" credentials. If a Republican claims military credentials, the media does the questioning.
From Murtha's website....He can't even keep the timeline of his own life straight.
Born June 17, 1932, John Patrick Murtha grew up in Westmoreland County where he delivered newspapers and worked in a gas station before graduating from Ramsay High School in Mount Pleasant. He volunteered to serve in Vietnam. After his discharge from the Marines, he ran a small business in Johnstown while starting a family and attending the University of Pittsburgh on the GI bill. He graduated from Pitt in 1962 with a degree in economics and did graduate work in economics and political science at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1969 to 1974 and in 1974, he became the first combat Vietnam veteran elected to Congress
Today, Murtha is a traitor or tool of traitors --- while under suspicion for ethics problems --- and we're being asked to cut him slack because he's a "hero".
It's NOT out of line when he and his defenders demand that his critics give him "credit" for his "heroic past" while he behaves as a unethical traitor in the present -- during time of war...
I suspect the facts will show that Murtha has been a lying, posing asshole for the vast majority of his worthless, lying, cheating, stealing life...
Murtha, like Kerry, Kennedy, etc, etc, prove the saying that politicians are our only inherently criminal class.
Do it on your own time. If you find anything substantive and factual, post a thread at FR, and ping me to it.
Otherwise you'll accomplish two things:
Too close to the Kerry stories to bring up, even if they are true, which certainly looks like the case.
Besides this guy is a joke anyway. I don't know of anyone who's been swayed by him. He's a non issue. Just rip him for what he's doing now.
Supposedly, a newspaper has seen Murtha's medical records.
"A May 12, 2002, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article reported that "Marine Corps casualty records show that Murtha was injured in 'hostile' actions near Danang, Vietnam, on March 22, 1967 and May 7, 1967. In the first incident, his right cheek was lacerated, and in the second he was lacerated above his left eye. Neither injury required evacuation."
Exactly. He's damaging whatever credibility he had to begin with with his recent and current statements. Since the day he brought up this phony bill of his on the House floor for an Iraq pullout, most people I've talked with "on the street" can't believe what they're seeing and hearing from this guy.
I'm not going to help him. He's doing fine on his own.
Quite frankly, his current statements and position on the Iraq war overshadow something that may or may not have happend decades ago anyway.
How do you know the article is way out of line if you don't read it?
BTW, Murtha is the one who brought up his service as a qualification for his POV.
Thanks, El Gato, I served in the US Army (ASA), and didn't realize that the other branches might have their own variations of medals. BTW, I could never get those US Navy ranks quite, either--as a US 2LT when I entered active duty, I was so low-ranking that I saluted all US Navy officers. Weren't too many where I served. But I honor every recipient (regardless of branch of service) of the Bronze Star. What guys like Murtha do afterwards is a different story.
Murtha appears to be a poseur "hero", a corrupt politician and an ally of traitors to the Republic...
Now - I understand why he was crying on television....
He realized that the lie he had been living, and the respect he once commanded -- was OVER.
Well said! There are too many of these scumbags desecrating the honor of the silent ones. Throughout history there have been those bootlickers who actively seek rewards through connections for political purposes, most were officers, most were liars. Let their peers, those who were with them, expose them for what they are are. We owe it to the dead and the walking dead and in this case, to the Corps.
Marine NOT afraid to not be "PC" Ping!
Young Marine Blasts Rep. Murtha at Town Hall Meeting
"Yes sir my name is Mark Seavey and I just want to thank you for coming up here. Until about a month ago I was Sergeant Mark Seavey infantry squad leader, I returned from Afghanistan. My question to you, (applause)
"Like yourself I dropped out of college two years ago to volunteer to go to Afghanistan, and I went and I came back. If I didn't have a herniated disk now I would volunteer to go to Iraq in a second with my troops, three of which have already volunteered to go to Iraq. I keep hearing you say how you talk to the troops and the troops are demoralized, and I really resent that characterization. (applause) The morale of the troops that I talk to is phenomenal, which is why my troops are volunteering to go back, despite the hardships they had to endure in Afghanistan."
Murtha's War Hero Status Called Into Question
Too bad the "Move on FReepers" don't have a clue!
In this case the evidence is smack dab on Murtha's face for all to see. I don't see anything resembling war wounds.
It appears this guy worked the same formula as Kerry....One ticket punching tour, then running for political office.
The "Move On" folks -- aren't still carrying the memories and obligations to fallen brothers that many of us are still dealing with......
The "Move On" folks -- don't have brother's names on that cold stone Wall on the Mall....
The "Move On" folks -- don't have any vested interest in exposing and destroying the lying traitorous bastards of OUR era....
Yes, I'll "Move On" just as soon at the battle is over, and the bastards are dead or dishonored and we're pissing on their graves...
The country STILL owes the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth - an unpayable debt....
THEY were singularly responsible for preventing Kerry from becoming President....
Thank GOD, they were not ready to "Move On"..
Folks - there are STILL a lot of enemies out there that DESERVE our attention -- and we OWE it to the dead that can not speak for themselves or salvage their reputations which these traitorous cowards besmirched..