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
"We can't pretend that our lost brothers are not still watching and waiting for vindication.. Waiting to have the doubt cast on their honor by that lying sonuvabitch Kerry -- removed and their honor restored without question or doubt, by even the most radical opposition to that war. And, challenging ANYONE that resorts to "Stolen Valor" to diminish the valor of those that truly earned it."
Good words, rat. May I?
We can't pretend that our lost brothers and sisters, sons and daughters are not watching and waiting. Waiting to have the doubt cast on THEIR honor and waiting to hope THEIR honor his upheld and challenging ANYONE that resorts to "Stolen Valor" to diminish the valor of those that truly earned it. That the Sons and Daughters are ALREADY responding to this FROM THE FIELD, defending this mission while engaged in defending our freedoms, is a sad commentary on this state of affairs.
I echo your sentiments! Thanks John
For the third time, see post 537, and read it this time. Either own up to it and apologize or at least stop asking me this question when I've explained it already.
By the way, if you really don't think the people who disagree on your tactics are backstabbing the troops, why don't you say so here right now? Why don't you say, "If you disagree with me on tactics, it doesn't mean you are dishonoring the troops. You are honorable and loyal Americans and I don't mean to imply otherwise." You'll still have to explain the sabotage and backstabbing referances, but it will be a start. Now answer why you choose not to answer the other posters, on this thread, who have posted replies to you.
There are posts where I asked you five or six questions and your response was a one-liner that didn't answer any of them, followed with a thousand word skyscraper full of stuff I already knew. You have no standing to treat me like I haven't answered questions. First, I'm not aware of anyone who has challenged me, other than freema, and I blasted her. Second, I think your question translates to "Why are you picking on me? Waaaa!" Suck it up.
And are you onboard on this new way to keep hanoi kerry out of office in '06 or not.
Sure, if you're doing it by sending a package to the District Attorney in Boston. It has almost no chance of going anywhere, but it has a lot more chance of success than your other plan. But you haven't been talking about getting a criminal conviction, you've been talking about shifting the axis of political action toward getting this guy out of Congress by invoking the 14th Amendment. And when people say thsat won't work or the cure would be worse than the disease, you treat them as backstabbers and saboteurs, guilty by an association that doesn't even exist.
John O'Neill made a similar vow. that didn't mean he spent every second of the last 30 years trying to get Kerry. It doesn't mean he called people backstabbers when they thought his tactics wouldn't work. He waited, and when the time was right he struck and he won.
Like O'Neill, I'm in this to win. I say you can't win with the tactics you want to use, and I get treated like Jim Wasser. Not cool.
In fact, one wonders why, if I care so little about Vietnam Vets and their honor, I opposed Jim wasser on the street and in print and got threatened on the phone in the dead of night for it, and counted it as a badge of honor.
That would be fine with me. I think you can understand where I'm coming from, though, rat. I think I understand where you're coming from, too. And in my heart, you Vietnam guys have never been dishonored, the dishonor is on those who have harmed you, and it has been my privilege to expose them where I could.
As for your dream of seeing Kerry hang...well, I believe there will be a day you will see him condemned, either here on Earth or before God's throne. And if it's the latter, he'll wish he had never been born. I don't think you'll have to wait that long, though.
The end of the article is illuminating:
Let me try that again : )
Which article? The main one of the thread? Or was there something added that you are pinging?
See the post above yours, I fixed the link.
Try that one more time.
That link leads to:
File not found
The page youre looking for wasnt found on our server.
Well, that's weird.
You're welcome, of course. I was glad to do it.
If you want to move on and focus on what Murtha is doing today, please do so. Please ping me with an after action report.
I am sorry that I don't have the time to hun these up for you, but why don't you go read these columns I wrote in 2004 and 2005. They're posted on FR:
Wishful Thinking and Valor on the Cheap
Boats were just the beginning for Kerry
Democrats add insults to...insults
Arguments from the Left lack punch
Read those and then tell me if you think I'm going to give Murtha a free pass.
If you want to move on and focus on what Murtha is doing today, please do so. Please ping me with an after action report.
If you want to move on and focus on what Murtha is doing today, please do so. Please ping me with an after action report.
Oops. It's not like I'm promoting myself or my words- my computer got stuck.
For the love of God NO REPUBLICANS SHOULD BE INVOLVED IN THIS! It doesn't matter if they are telling the truth. They will be slimed by the self-righteous lefties as troop bashers. Let his fellow Democrat congressman prove it and argue for it.
Fair enough. But for you to imply that Murtha will get a pass from me after my history regarding Kerry, Sheehan and their fellow travelers...like I said, read the columns and judge for yourself.
There is a new path to get hanoi kerry thrown in jail.
This would not involve a conviction from the state level but rather a federal conviction.
Credit to Calpernia for finding this.
The Swift Boat Vets have already proven, without a doubt,
that hanoi kerry lied about his 1st Purple Heart.
Anyone of a logical and sound mind can see the fraud
in his 1st Purple Heart, without any doubt.
ONCE this bill is passed in the House and Senate
(keep in mind Republicans AND Democrats are behind this bill,
and the GOP controls both)
that unless hanoi kerry admits to fraud BEFORE the bill is
signed into law by the President then hanoi kerry is guilty of fraud.
Again since this is a federal law, not a state law,
hanoi kerry can't get a DA from MA to protect him.
So is everyone in agreement that this new tactic is worth the effort of all conservatives, i.e. Republican, Indepdendent and Democrat to get this law passed and signed into law before the '06 elections?
You see hanoi kerry will not be able to run in the
US Senate again, ever.
Murtha sees the Iraq war as an impediment to his ability to take pork projects to his district. As long as a the US military is activly engaged he can't compete with BS justifications for military pork for his district.
If he was a real military "hero" he would have down played his service as "hero" grade. His leaning on his military service has Kerry-esque credibility problems.
"If you want to move on and focus on what Murtha is doing today, please do so. Please ping me with an after action report."
Count me in to preserve and protect the honor and integrity of this medal.
"Bet on it?"
No, I'm not a betting person.
It will give all of us a chance to see
which Republicans and Democrats oppose
Then we will know who the real enemies are.
There are two questions here: what is right, versus what is politically sound.
I think it is a political mistake to attack Murtha because the MSM is so dedicated to the "Murtha the war hero" meme.
It has been Murtha's signal claim that has put him into office, and it has protected his flanks from his career-long lust for cutting and running.
1. Betrayed our VN dead by cutting and running
2. Betrayed our Lebanon dead likewise
3. Betrayed our Somali dead likewise
4. Now wants to betray our GWOT dead...
That last group includes many of my friends, and none of his. He never saw a threat he wouldn't appease or submit to. The man is a moral coward.
Frankly, once I learnt Murtha was an intelligence officer I knew instinctively the purple hearts were bogus. I don't know why but MI weenies have always been disproportionately represented among those who claim false honors.
So -- while it probably is politically unproductive for us to expose this phony, for those of us who ARE combat vets it is a moral necessity, however tactically unsound it might be.
Criminal Number 18F
I don't like rum unless I'm on an island ! )
And I'm real tired of prostituting our troops.
You have a good point, however.
But for them to exempt themselves...
I'll want to see all the votes and all records of discussion prior to the vote.
Your words are like water in the desert.
Good to see you going for a reasonable secondary position here.
Wow. You must be like, 80 years old or something, because I've never met anybody as mature as you.
I am trying to be polite, I have no desire to argue with you or exchange barbs. I think it's safe to say no one does.
You made it quite clear you didn't want to focus on the topic of this thread and you're making it obvious you don't want to move on and focus on what Murtha is doing today, despite the fact that you said that's what you wanted to do. If you want to stay here to focus on insults and being hateful and rude, which is also obvious, bring it on.
However, just for the record, again, I think it's safe to say no one wants to go there. Please, move on.
Not sure what your point was posting this, as it is a pro-Kerry story (well, that would be the only kind the Columbus Dispatch would run).
Criminal Number 18F
Oh Thank You!
Thanks. It was like that when I double checked it, so I assumed that space was supposed to be there, AND my computer is being a stinker these days. I didn't try removing it, duh.
Gosh, I don't know if I can explain the point.
I thought it was worth keeping all eyes open (always) and this article referenced the DEM strategy with Kerry was to keep all eyes ON SWPVT and off his senate record. Of course, it backfired. IMHO. I'd never actually seen that in print before and thought it was worth noting.
There had been some discussion about Murtha's medal question being a trap, which implies some sort of strategy. If that strategy is to blame Republicans for questioning it, what's new? Republicans get blamed for the sun coming up. For various reasons I, personally, don't have any inclination the medals are a trap to re-start another/same argument over another set of medals.
That said, (remember I like to keep all eyes open) IF it is a trap, I would think the more likely explanation is that he's in even deeper with the ethics issues than has been reported.
Does that make sense?
Yes that's good and I don't know that I'd ever seen that either. I went on board with SVPFT right after the election. I'd come in the game late because of lurking and listening and learning there in the months leading up to the election. It was all coming so fast and it was all I could do to keep up-I was so busy reading I had no time to open my mouth. That's not necessarily a bad thing ; )
"From Ray Funderburk, MOPH
The greatest threat to the sanctity and significance of the Purple Heart comes from the medal's easy availability. Anyone can buy one at flea markets, pawnshops or on the Internet, where Web sites offer the decoration, no questions asked, for as little as $35. An accompanying certificate on onion skin parchment and personalized with your name and any rank you choose costs about $25.
Such commerce in the symbols of American courage and sacrifice would be outlawed by a measure spearheaded last July by Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo.
His "Stolen Valor Act" would make it a federal crime to falsely wear the Purple Heart and other top military decorations, or to even list them on a resume if they were not officially earned.
But the proposed bill now sits in the House Judiciary Committee, and its fate remains unclear.
"We're waiting for the committee to act," said Salazar
I just realized I don't think I understood this the first time around, nor the second.
Could I have it a third BUMP : ) LOL!
60 Representatives have co-sponsored this bill?
I feel like an utter dolt, but What does the parenthesis behind their names signify?
When I heard from my friends at Code Pink what you had done, why I almost spit out my strawberry similac. This is what I am talking about about our boys um .Its just like Vietnam. We didnt have body armor there either, cause it was hot. It was so hot that..I told Bush.. President Bush that weve got to get the boys home now and let the Iraq people do what they should um Well, anyways. Ah, oh yes, Code Pink. Code Pink. Um. Well, hells bells, Ive been to Iraq. Was there for half a day, so that makes me an expert, and when you take four corners, its just like what we did in Nam, I mean Iraq. Theres no room. If theres no room then all the room is not there, its its, um, its where you took it. And. That. Is. Not. Right.
So let me just finish up here and say that there needs to be an investigation, whos behind this? When did Rove know, and when did he know it?
Congressperson, Jack Did you know I was in Vietnam Murtha.
222 posted on 01/20/2006 7:08:35 PM PST by Leisler ("For English, please press two.")
Absolutely yes. He's an elected representative who can dispel any doubt about his Purple Hearts by releasing his military records in their entirety.
Any doubt cast on Murtha's record emanates from his own shadow.