Skip to comments.Purple Hearts: Three and Out
Posted on 04/12/2004 7:56:02 AM PDT by kennedy
Democratic presidential nominee in waiting Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) frequently speaks of courage, brotherhood and responsibility when he mentions his brief service in Vietnam. He took Super-8 home movies there in which he staged heroics in full-battle dress, so that later he might use them for campaign ads. Kerry has made so much of his Vietnam medals which he once pretended to throw away that critics have begun to wonder why he has been so cagey about the dubious circumstances surrounding the Purple Hearts that got him out of Vietnam after only four months of combat service. Under the rules, a serviceman had to be awarded three Purple Hearts to apply to go home. Not one or two, but three. And, say critics, there's the rub.
Kerry, who piloted Patrol Crafts Fast (PCFs) as a young Lt.(jg) in the Vietnam War, has always made much of those Purple Hearts. An award often pinned on the pillow of a combat warrior so badly wounded that he cannot sit up to receive it, the Purple Heart recognizes the sacrifices of combat when a soldier or officer has sustained a wound "from an outside force or agent" and received treatment from a medical officer. The records for such treatment "must have been made a matter of official record," according to the military definition of the award.
According to Kerry's own description in Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty, the Dec. 2, 1968, mission behind what he has claimed to be his first Purple Heart was "a half-assed action that hardly qualified as combat." Indeed. Kerry was stationed with Coastal Division 14 at Cam Ranh Bay. At that time he piloted a small foam-filled boat, known as a Boston Whaler, with two enlisted men in the darkness of early morning. The intent, apparently, was to patrol an area that was known for contraband trafficking, but it was an undocumented mission. Upon approaching the objective point, the crew noticed a sampan crossing the river. As it pulled to shore, Kerry and his little team opened fire, destroying the boat and whatever its cargo might have been.
In the confusion, Kerry claims to have received a "stinging piece of heat" in the arm, the result of a tiny piece of shrapnel. He was not incapacitated and continued with regular swiftboat-patrol duty. William Shachte, who oversaw this ad hoc mission, was quoted by the Boston Globe as saying Kerry's injury, from whatever source, "was not a serious wound at all."
But Kerry met with his immediate superior officer, Lt.Cmdr. Grant Hibbard, the next morning and requested a Purple Heart for his wound. Hibbard recalls that Kerry had a "minor scratch" on his arm and was holding in his hand what appeared to be a fragment of a U.S. M-79 grenade, the shrapnel that had caused the wound. "They didn't receive enemy fire," Hibbard tells Insight. Since this was an essential requirement for the award, the commander rejected Kerry's request. Hibbard does not remember that Kerry received medical attention of any kind and confirms that no one else on the mission suffered any injuries.
Shortly thereafter, Kerry was transferred to Coastal Division 11 at An Thoi. Apparently, Kerry petitioned to have his Purple Heart request reconsidered. Hibbard remembers getting correspondence from Kerry's new division, asking for his approval. In the hurried process of moving to a new command himself, Hibbard thinks he might have signed off on the award. If so, "it was to my chagrin," Hibbard remembers. Kerry's second commander, Lt.Cmdr. G.M. Elliott, says he has no recollection of such an event ever occurring.
There are no written records of Kerry's magical first Purple Heart on file at the Naval Historical Center in Washington, the nation's primary repository for such documentation. A Purple Heart normally is not requested but is awarded de facto for a wound inflicted by the enemy - a wound serious enough to require medical attention. The Naval Historical Center keeps all documents connected to such awards to U.S. Navy and Marine personnel. These typewritten "casualty cards" list the date, location and prognosis of the wound for which the Purple Heart is given, and they are produced by the medical facility that provides treatment for the combat wound at the hands of the enemy. There are two such cards for Kerry - for his slight wounds on Feb. 20 and March 13, 1969, but none for his December 1968 claim.
After receiving a Purple Heart for the March 13 scratch and bruise, Kerry sought an early pass out of combat duty, invoking the informal Navy "instruction" known as 1300.39. According to the Boston Globe, 1300.39 meant an officer could request a reassignment from his superior officer after receiving three Purple Hearts. The instruction states that, rather than being automatic, the reassignment would "be determined after consideration of his physical classification for duty and on an individual basis." Of the 138 servicemen and officers in Kerry's unit who received Purple Hearts during the time he was there, records indicate only two received more than two. These were Lt.(jg) Jim Galvin and a boatswain's mate named Stevens. When Insight reached Galvin he said all three of his Purple Hearts were the result of shrapnel or glass shards. Such minor injuries were common on PCF boats with their glass windows and thin steel hulls, and, like Kerry's, Galvin's injuries were not serious enough to take him out of combat for more than a few days.
Unlike Kerry, Galvin elected to stay with his men. Indeed, though a professional Navy officer, he never had heard of instruction 1300.39. It was not until early April of 1969, when Galvin noticed that Kerry was preparing to leave the officers' barracks at An Thoi that he learned about "three Purple Hearts and you're out." According to Galvin, it was Kerry who told him, "There's a rule that gets you out of here and I'm getting out. You ought to do the same." Galvin remembers, "He seemed to take care of everything pretty quickly," because that was the last time Galvin saw Kerry in Vietnam.
The three-times wounded Galvin stayed with his men, transferred to Cam Ranh Bay to get them a respite from the dicey Mekong Delta, and eventually left the swiftboats for destroyer school.
Insight: contacted many men who served in Coastal Division at the same time Kerry did to ask if any of them had heard of anyone leaving the combat zone by invoking three minor wounds. Of the 12 who replied, none had heard of anyone doing so but John Kerry."
Less than a month after having claimed three wounds for which he lost no more than a total of two days of duty, Kerry reported as an aide to a navy yard admiral in Brooklyn, New York, leaving his crew in Vietnam. Two years later, preparing for a congressional race in a left-wing Massachusetts district - where the seat eventually was won by the even more radical Rev. Robert Drinan - Kerry was working with Maoists and other radicals in Vietnam Veterans Against the War, saying of those he left behind who were being killed and wounded for real that they were committing crimes "on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels."
Indeed, Kerry said, he knew men who in Vietnam "had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside." Addressing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 22, 1971, about these and other alleged war crimes, he called on the United States to pay "extensive reparations."
Of course the resemblance is merely physical. Gomer was honest, loyal and a lot smarter.
I added my name to an on-line petition to demand that the Kerry campaign release his military records. This was a few weeks ago and have heard nothing more about it, and probably never will. The man reeks of deceit!
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