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Forging a Paper Hero: The Mystery of Kerry’s Medals
Original FReeper research | 8/30/2004 | Fedora

Posted on 08/30/2004 5:39:36 PM PDT by Fedora

John Kerry’s Fellow Travellers

A 5-part series exposing John Kerry’s Communist connections.

Part 2: Forging a Paper Hero: The Mystery of Kerry’s Medals

By Fedora

*NOTE: The term “fellow traveller” as used in this article series refers to someone who is not a member of the Communist Party (CP) but regularly engages in actions which advance the Party’s program. Some apparent fellow travellers may actually be “concealed party members”: members of the CP who conceal their membership. Which of these classifications is applicable to the Kerrys is a question this series leaves unresolved. This series does not argue for any direct evidence of Richard or John Kerry or other members of the Kerry family belonging to the CP. What this series does argue for is a consistent pattern of the Kerry family working with Communists and Communist fellow travellers in a way that advances the Communist program.


Part 1 of this series, "John Kerry’s Red Roots", described how Kerry and his father’s foreign policy views were influenced by a faction of the State Department led by Dean Acheson, protégé of the Communist fellow traveller Felix Frankfurter. This article continues Kerry’s story, highlighting the contradictions in Kerry’s account of his military service and exposing how he managed to conceal his left-wing background by cloaking himself in the guise of a war hero.

A Reluctant Warrior

Hawk or Dove? Kerry’s Changing Story
1965 speech at Yale ”It is the specter of Western Imperialism that causes more fear among Africans and Asians than communism, and thus it is self-defeating.”
1970 interview with Harvard Crimson ”When he approached his draft board for permission to study for a year in Paris, the draft board refused and Kerry decided to enlist in the Navy.”
1996 interview with Boston Globe "I had a sense of duty and obligation. I could have gone to law school, like. . .many of my friends did. I chose not to. . .I think those of us who were lucky enough to go to a place like Harvard or Yale owed something to our country. A sharing of the risks, if you will."
2004 interview with ABC News ”Despite that, Kerry said he never considered not serving, as did many members of his generation. ‘First of all, it was 1965,’ Kerry said. ‘The Tonkin Gulf, supposedly, had just taken place. . .It wasn't until two years later, in 1967, when the first draft card was burned — it wasn't until then that the march on the Pentagon took place, and I was in uniform. . .So I think there was a transition that took place in our generation and in America, from the time that I raised my hand and was sworn in and made the decision until the time in 1968 … when I was a much less committed soldier. But I was nevertheless a soldier with a sense of duty and responsibility.’"

Contrary to the impression left by Kerry’s current posture as someone who “defended this country as a young man”, he actually tried to avoid going to Vietnam, and when this failed, he tried to enlist for what he thought would be non-combat duty.

Biographies following Kerry’s account trace Kerry’s decision to enlist to the influence of a discussion between Kerry and his roommate’s uncle, William Bundy, during the winter of Kerry’s junior year (1964-1965). Bundy, an old political ally of Felix Frankfurter and Dean Acheson then working in the State Department,1 was the uncle of Harvey Hollister Bundy III, John Kerry’s roommate at Yale from 1962-1966. Bundy visited his nephew in the winter of 1964-1965 to encourage him and his suitemates to serve in Vietnam, and reportedly this visit persuaded Kerry to enlist in the officer corps.2 Kerry says he decided to enlist “out of a sense of duty and obligation [that] those of us who were lucky enough to go to a place like Harvard or Yale owed something to our country [—a] sharing of the risks, if you will”, and he “never considered not serving”, he claims.3

But if Bundy’s appeal to Kerry’s patriotic duty had persuaded him to go to Vietnam by the winter of 1964-1965, his subsequent words and actions seem self-contradictory. Kerry publicly expressed opposition to the war in speeches at Yale in 1965 and 1966.4 He tried unsuccessfully to persuade the draft board to let him study abroad in France before he finally enlisted in February 1966, according to a version of the story he gave in 1970 after he had joined the antiwar movement.5 However thirty years later when Kerry was touting his record as a war hero, he boasted, “I could have gone to law school, like. . .many of my friends did. I chose not to.”6

After Kerry had failed to avoid military service, he followed Bundy’s advice and enlisted to be an officer. He initially considered joining the Air Force like his father, but rejected this option when his father warned him that combat flying might taint his enjoyment of recreational flying.7 Instead in February 1966 he enlisted in the US Naval Reserve (not the Navy, as incorrectly stated in several Kerry biographies).8 Soon after his appointment as a Reserve Officer that winter, he expressed a preference for assignment to a Patrol Craft Fast (PCF), or “Swift Boat”.9 At this time Swift Boats were used primarily for a coastal interdiction mission called Operation Market Time,10 which involved relatively less risk of combat action than other assignments, so Kerry assumed his requested assignment would not involve combat. As he put it in a 1986 book, “I didn’t really want to get involved in the war. . .When I signed up for the swift boats, they had very little to do with the war. They were engaged in coastal patrolling and that’s what I thought I was going to be doing.”11

But unknown to Kerry, by the time he arrived in Vietnam, Swift Boat duty had become more hazardous. In October 1968, under newly-appointed commander of Naval operations in Vietnam Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Jr. and his assistant Captain Roy “Latch” Hoffmann, Operation Market Time’s relatively less hazardous coastal patrol mission had been subordinated to a new, more comprehensive Mekong Delta interdiction mission called Operation SEALORDS, which involved using Swift Boats for more hazardous duties. By the time Kerry arrived on November 17, Swift Boats were being used in the first phase of the operation.12

Kerry’s Mysterious Medals

Purple Heart #1: December 2, 1968
Documentary Record Oral Record
No after-action report released by Kerry campaign; medical report shown to select reporters but not released. Kerry: “I never saw where the piece of shrapnel had come from.

Witness William Schacte: “Kerry nicked himself with a M-79.”

Physician Louis Letson: “The story he told was different from what his crewmen had to say about that night. According to Kerry, they had been engaged in a firefight. . .Some of his crew confided that they did not receive any fire from shore, but that Kerry had fired a mortar round at close range to some rocks on shore. The crewman thought that the injury was caused by a fragment ricocheting from that mortar round when it struck the rocks. That seemed to fit the injury which I treated. What I saw was a small piece of metal sticking very superficially in the skin of Kerry's arm. The metal fragment measured about 1 cm. in length and was about 2 or 3 mm in diameter. . .I simply removed the piece of metal by lifting it out of the skin with forceps. I doubt that it penetrated more than 3 or 4 mm. It did not require probing to find it, did not require any anesthesia to remove it, and did not require any sutures to close the wound. The wound was covered with a band-aid.

Kerry was initially stationed with Coastal Division 14 at Cam Ranh Bay, a port base considered the safest assignment in Vietnam. There on December 2, two weeks after arriving, during an incident where no after-action report of enemy fire has been released, Kerry suffered a minor shrapnel injury to his arm, for which he was awarded his first Purple Heart. Kerry told his biographer Douglas Brinkley that “I never saw where the piece of shrapnel had come from”. According to witness Lieutenant William Schachte (later a Rear Admiral), “Kerry nicked himself with a M-79” grenade launcher by improperly firing it. After being treated for his injury by Dr. Louis Letson—who recalls being surprised that Kerry bothered coming in for medical attention, since the thorn-sized piece of shrapnel was barely hanging in Kerry’s arm and was easily removed with a tweezers—Kerry applied for a Purple Heart. His request was initially denied by his superior Grant Hibbard, per Purple Heart eligibility requirements that “the wound for which the award is made must have required treatment by a medical officer” and Purple Hearts are not to be awarded for “accidents. . .not related to or caused by enemy action” or for “self-inflicted wounds. . .involving gross negligence”. Hibbard later acquiesced to the award after receiving some correspondence—from whom he does not recall. After controversy had arisen over the circumstances of the award, Kerry reportedly showed Boston Globe reporters a 1-page document describing the treatment of the injury in the following terms: “Shrapnel in left arm above elbow. Shrapnel removed and apply Bacitracin dressing. Ret to duty.” The Kerry campaign failed to answer the Boston Globe reporters’ questions about whether or not Kerry remembered receiving enemy fire or having the Purple Heart application questioned by a superior officer, but Kerry in a USA Today interview later remembered “someone raising a question”. Later, after Schachte, Letson, and Hibbard’s accounts of Kerry’s wound were publicized, readers of Brinkley’s biography discovered a passage quoting an entry from Kerry’s war diary written after December 11 where Kerry recorded that “we hadn’t been shot at yet”. After this was pointed out, Kerry’s campaign acknowledged that Kerry’s wound may have been self-inflicted.13

Four days after the December 2 incident, Kerry was transferred to a more dangerous unit, Costal Division 11 at An Thoi, an isolated base on an island near an enemy position. Brinkley’s biography records that Kerry was opposed to this reassignment. Witnesses Tedd Peck and William Franke report that Kerry began to complain he had not volunteered for this type of risky assignment and to demand that he be transferred back to safer coastal patrol duty. According to Peck and Franke, Kerry’s superiors decided that the easiest way to deal with Kerry was to get rid of him. After a week with Coastal Division 11, Kerry was transferred on December 13 to Coastal Division 13 in Cat Lo, which had wider, less dangerous rivers. There he joined a unit which provided support to Zumwalt’s Operation SEALORDS.14

Within a few weeks Kerry was reassigned back to An Thoi, where his crewman Steve Gardner states that he filed a false after-action report to cover up a January incident involving the accidental shooting of a child. Kerry’s fellow officer George Bates similarly states that Kerry habitually overreacted to threatening situations by using excessive force, including on one occasion burning down a random village where there was no sign of enemy presence.15 During the month of January, Kerry was chosen to be one of a group of officers to be personally introduced to Admiral Zumwalt and General Creighton Abrams on the 22nd.16 Zumwalt’s Pentagon colleague W. Scott Thompson later recalled the Admiral complaining that “young Kerry had created great problems for him and the other top brass, by killing so many non-combatant civilians and going after other non-military targets. ‘We had virtually to straitjacket him to keep him under control,’ the admiral said. ‘Bud’ Zumwalt got it right when he assessed Kerry as having large ambitions—but promised that his career in Vietnam would haunt him if he were ever on the national stage.”17 Then-Captain Hoffmann (later a Rear Admiral) similarly recalls that in March, to deal with Kerry’s habitual failure to obey orders, he made a special trip to Kerry’s unit to deliver a warning that anyone who failed to obey orders in the future would be shipped to Saigon without further notice.18

Purple Heart #2: February 20, 1969
Documentary Record Oral Record
After-action and casualty reports: “KERRY SUFFERED SHRAPNEL WOUNDS IN HIS LEFT THIGH, WHEN PCF 94 CAME UNDER INTENSE A/W AND ROCKET FIRE”. Kerry’s account to Douglas Brinkley: “PCF 94 had taken a rocket-propelled grenade off the port side. . .Kerry felt a piece of hot shrapnel bore into his left leg.”

Witness Robert Hildreth: No rocket or rifle fire.

Coastal Division 11 Swift Boat gunner Van Odell: Kerry’s crew mentioned self-inflicted M-79 wound.

A month after his meeting with Zumwalt, on February 20, Kerry suffered another minor shrapnel injury, for which he was awarded a second Purple Heart. The after-action and casualty reports for the incident stated that “KERRY SUFFERED SHRAPNEL WOUNDS IN HIS LEFT THIGH, WHEN PCF 94 CAME UNDER INTENSE A/W [automatic weapons] AND ROCKET FIRE”. However the officer of the boat accompanying Kerry’s, Robert “Rocky” Hildreth, states that Kerry filed a false after-action report describing enemy fire which did not occur. A sailor on another Swift Boat in Kerry’s division, Van Odell, recalls that when Kerry’s crew came back that day, he heard them say Kerry had faked a Purple Heart with a self-inflicted wound from an M-79 grenade launcher.19

Silver Star: February 28, 1969
Documentary Record Oral Record
Three versions of citation, first including and last two omitting mention of Kerry shooting man behind hootch, third version bearing signature of John Lehman who denies signing it. Kerry to New Yorker in 1996: “It was either going to be him or it was going to be us. . . He stood up out of a hole, and none of us saw him until he was standing in front of us, aiming a rocket right at us, and, for whatever reason, he didn't pull the trigger—he turned and ran.” Kerry to Boston Globe in 1996: "I was never out of sight of Tom Bellodeau [Belodeau] or Mike Medeiros. . .I went straight out from the boat to the path so I had a line of fire. I never went behind the hootch. . ."

Witness Tom Bellodeau to Boston Globe in 1996 prior to Kerry’s statement: "You know, I shot that guy. . .I expected the guy [on Kerry's boat] with the twin 50s to blast him but he couldn't depress the guns far enough. . .When I hit him he went down and got up again. When Kerry hit him, he stayed down."

Witness Mike Medeiros as reported by Alameda Times-Star in 2004: “Kerry's boat happened to hit the shore right in front of an enemy soldier holding a grenade launcher. The soldier started running, maybe to get enough distance to be able to fire his weapon at the boat, Medeiros said. Kerry's forward gunner managed to hit the guerrilla, who appeared to be a teenager, according to reports on the incident. Although he was hit in the leg, the guerrilla kept running with his weapon. . .Medeiros remembers Kerry jumping off the boat to give chase. ‘I saw him running down this trail after this guy, and I followed him," Medeiros said. ‘Just as I rounded a corner behind him, (Kerry) shot the guy.’

Accompanying Swift Boat officer William Rood: “Kerry, who had tactical command of that particular operation, had talked to Droz and me beforehand about not responding the way the boats usually did to an ambush. We agreed that if we were not crippled by the initial volley and had a clear fix on the location of the ambush, we would turn directly into it, focusing the boats' twin .50-caliber machine guns on the attackers and beaching the boats. We told our crews about the plan. . .As we headed for the riverbank, I remember seeing a loaded B-40 launcher pointed at the boats. It wasn't fired as two men jumped up from their spider holes. We called Droz's boat up to assist us, and Kerry, followed by one member of his crew, jumped ashore and chased a VC behind a hooch. . .Some who were there that day recall the man being wounded as he ran. Neither I nor Jerry Leeds, our boat's leading petty officer with whom I've checked my recollection of all these events, recalls that, which is no surprise. Recollections of those who go through experiences like that frequently differ.”

A week later, on February 28, Kerry was involved in an incident where he violated standard operating procedure by leaving his boat to chase an enemy on the shore, for which he was awarded a Silver Star. According to the after-action report, this incident involved PCF-94 under Kerry’s command, PCF-23 under Lieutenant William Rood, and PCF-43 under Lieutenant Donald Droz.

Rood and Kerry’s crewman Michael Medeiros have stated that Kerry and the officers of the boats with him had agreed beforehand that if they were fired upon they would beach their boats. Another Swift Boat veteran, Larry Lee, reported the same and also recalled a prior discussion of probable medals for those participating. One of the gunners on Kerry’s boat, Tom Belodeau, mentioned in an interview in 1996 that he had already shot the man before the man fled and Kerry pursued him: “You know, I shot that guy. . .When I hit him he went down and got up again. When Kerry hit him, he stayed down.” Later while appearing at a press conference with Kerry, Belodeau said he had been misquoted in the interview in that he did not imply the man was lying on the ground (apparently this is how Belodeau interpreted the quote that “When I hit him he went down and got up again”), but while “retracting” this part of the article “Mr. Belodeau did concede that he may have wounded the Viet Cong soldier with a burst from his own gun”. Belodeau’s account was consistent with accounts Medeiros gave in 2004 in terms of the man being wounded and fleeing when Kerry shot him.

According to Kerry’s account as reported by biographers Gerald Nicosia and Douglas Brinkley, paperwork was submitted requesting that Kerry be awarded a Navy Cross (a very rare award only given to 120 Naval personnel during the entire Vietnam War)20, but Admiral Zumwalt intercepted the paperwork and changed the request to a Silver Star in order that he could authorize the request himself and bypass the lengthy process of Congressional approval, for the sake of boosting the morale of Coastal Division 11, allegedly. But the paperwork for Kerry’s Silver Star contains puzzling discrepancies. According to the original Silver Star citation bearing Admiral Zumwalt’s signature, “Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY leaped ashore, pursued the man behind a hootch and killed him”. The original citation was later revised twice, and the two revisions omit any mention of Kerry shooting the man behind the hootch. The third version of the citation bears the signature of Reagan administration Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, who states, “It is a total mystery to me. I never saw it. I never signed it. I never approved it. And the additional language it contains was not written by me.”21

Purple Heart #3 and Bronze Star: March 13, 1969
Documentary Record Oral Record

Bronze Star citations substitute “bleeding” for “contusions”.

Kerry’s war journal: “I got a piece of small grenade in my ass from one of the rice bin explosions.”

Rassman to Boston Globe August 6, 2004: “Rassmann. . .said there were two separate events: One was earlier in the day, when he and Kerry blew up a rice cache, and the explosion caused some of the rice to hit Kerry, and perhaps some weapon fragments as well. The second involved a mine explosion as Kerry and Rassmann were on patrol. The explosion, Rassmann said, knocked him overboard and threw Kerry against the pilot house, injuring his arm. Rassmann said that he has always believed that Kerry got the third Purple Heart solely for the injury to his arm as a result of the explosion in the water. 'If he got fragments in the buttocks due to the mine, that is new information to me,' Rassmann said. 'I would say there is confusion. Maybe they did lump it together. It was my understanding he got it for the wound being thrown across the pilot house.'"”

PCF-51 skipper Larry Thurlow to New York Post: "'We decided to clear the area, and that's when John decided to throw a grenade into a sampan,' Larry Thurlow, a Swift boat commander and member of the veterans group, told The Post. . .'He's not very careful, and he ends up getting some rice in his backside.' But Thurlow, who said he heard the explosion, conceded to The Post that he didn't see what happened—he was busy carrying the dead Nung's body—and was only told about it later. 'I was taking this guy's body to the boat. I asked somebody nearby and they said, 'John blew up a sampan with some rice.' "

Kerry at 1997 eulogy for Tom Belodeau: “There was the time we were carrying Special Forces up a river and a mine exploded under our boat sending it 2 feet into the air. We were receiving incoming rocket and small arms fire and Tommy was returning fire with his M-60 machine gun when it literally broke apart in his hands. He was left holding the pieces unable to fire back while one of the Green Berets walked along the edge of the boat to get Tommy another M-60. As he was doing so, the boat made a high speed turn to starboard and the Green Beret kept going—straight into the river.”

Kerry campaign press release, January 17, 2004: “On March 13, 1969, Rassmann, a Green Beret, was traveling down the Bay Hap river in a boat behind Kerry’s when both were ambushed by exploding land mines and enemy fire coming from the shore. Kerry was hit in the arm, while a mine blew Rassmann’s boat out of the water. With enemy fire coming from both sides of the river and swift boats evacuating from the area, Kerry’s crew chose to turn their boat toward the ambush to save Rassmann. ‘We were still under fire, and he was wounded at the time…,’ recalled Rassmann. And with his boat’s gunners providing suppressing fire, Kerry extended his wounded arm into the water and the two lieutenants locked arms.”

Rassmann at July 2004 Democratic National Convention, as reported by The Oregonian: “Rassmann gave a detailed retelling to the Oregon delegates. The former Green Beret remembered sitting on the deck of the pilothouse of Kerry's boat, eating a chocolate chip cookie, when an explosion under a nearby boat blew him into the Bay Hap River and caused Kerry to smash his arm. Rassmann said he swam to the bottom of the river to avoid being run over by the escaping Swift boats. But every time he came up for air, the enemy shot at him.”

Kerry’s PCF-94 crewmates David Alston, Eugene Thorson, and Michael Medeiros recall hostile fire, while their fellow crewmate Del Sandusky remembered hostile fire but expressed uncertainty to Newsweek about whether fire was still occurring when Rassmann was rescued: “Del Sandusky. . .says his boat was jarred by an explosion, probably from a rocket, knocking the soldier, Jim Rassmann, off the boat. Kerry was thrown against the bulkhead, injuring his arm. Sandusky says he could see muzzle flashes from the jungle and bullets skimming across the water. Sandusky says he can't remember if anyone was still shooting when Kerry pulled Rassmann from the river. . .”

PCF-43 gunner Wayne Langhofer recalls “There was a lot of firing going on, and it came from both sides of the river.”

PCF-51 crewman Robert Lambert recalls a mine exploding under PCF-3 and gunfire afterwords: “When they blew the 3-boat, everyone opened up on the banks with everything they had. . .That was the normal procedure.”

PCF-3 skipper Dick Pees, PCF-51 skipper Larry Thurlow, PCF-23 skipper Jack Chernoweth, PCF-23 gunner Van Odell: Recall only one mine going off under PCF-3, recall no hostile fire.

Van Odell, PCF-23 gunner: “As the 3 boat passed the weir on the narrowest part of the river it was hit by a mine, which lifted it completely out of the water. I immediately began firing my twin 50’s towards river left to suppress any fire. I fired a couple of hundred rounds and realized we were not receiving any return fire from either bank. The other boats quit firing and we commenced rescue operations for the PCF-3 crew and boat. WE DID NOT RECEIVE ANY FIRE FROM EITHER BANK. Our boat picked up members of the disabled PCF-3.”

Odell and Chernoweth to New York Post: "Rice and shrapnel were taken out of Kerry's backside, and his right forearm arm was X-rayed, medical records say. The arm was bruised but not broken. A doctor wrapped it with an Ace bandage. Just how badly the arm was injured remains a point of contention. Kerry said the arm was bleeding at one point, but Odell said, 'There was no blood on his uniform. He had something wrapped around his arm.' Chenoweth talked with Kerry about the injuries on the way back. 'He said he had a shrapnel wound to the hip and a possible broken arm—his arm was wrapped in a white cloth.'"

Two weeks later, on March 13, 1969, Kerry received another pair of minor injuries during a set of incidents which resulted in him being awarded a third Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. According to the after-action report, five boats were involved in the events: PCF-94, under Kerry’s command; PCF-3, under Lietenant Dick Pees; PCF-51; under Lieutenant Larry Thurlow; PCF-23, under Lieutenant Jack Chernoweth; and PCF-43, under Lieutenant Donald Droz.

The documentary record on these incidents is internally inconsistent. The after-action report mentions a mine going off “UNDER PCF-3” and “CLOSE ABOARD PCF-94”. However, the boat damage report lists no damage to PCF-3 but severe damage to PCF-94, which is described as having its wiring, generator, steering, and bilge pump in inoperable condition. Yet despite describing PCF-94 as being in this condition, the report states that “94 TOWED PCF 3 AS BUCKET BRIGADE CONTROLLED FLOODING”. The after-action report describes mine explosion injuries to several crew members of PCF-3, but Kerry is the only one on PCF-94 listed with mine explosion injuries. There are no descriptions of bullet damage to any craft or crew. The after-action report and casualty report state that “KERRY SUFFERED SHRAPNEL WOUNDS IN HIS LEFT BUTTOCKS AND CONTUSIONS ON HIS RIGHT FOREARM WHEN A MINE DETONATED CLOSE ABOARD PCF-94”. The after-action report characterizes Kerry’s right forearm injury as “MINOR”. The recommendation for Kerry’s Bronze Star, submitted by Kerry’s commanding officer Lieutenant Commander George Elliott and citing as an eyewitness Kerry’s second-in-command Del Sandusky, elaborates that a mine “detonated close aboard PCF-94, knocking 1st LT RASSMAN [James Rassmann] into the water and wounding LTJG KERRY in the right arm. . .LTJG KERRY. . .managed to pull LT RASSMAN aboard despite the painful wound in his right arm.” Kerry’s Bronze Star citation, originally written by Admiral Zumwalt and later revised under Secretary Lehman’s signature, substitutes for the above-mentioned contusions the detail that Kerry’s arm was “bleeding”.

These self-contradictory documentary accounts are in further conflict with eyewitness accounts. Where the reports state that Kerry’s buttocks injury occurred when the mine exploded, Brinkley’s biography records the account of Kerry’s war journal that the shrapnel in Kerry’s buttocks came from throwing a grenade into a rice cache—as Kerry wrote, “I got a piece of small grenade in my ass from one of the rice bin explosions.” Rassmann recalls the rice explosion incident occurring prior to the incident where Kerry pulled him out of the water. Kerry’s fellow officer Larry Thurlow reports that Kerry’s buttocks injury was a self-inflicted wound caused by Kerry setting off a grenade too close to a stock of rice he was trying to destroy. The after-action report mentions “TWO TONS GRAIN AND RICE DESTROYED”.

Eyewitnesses are also in conflict with the documentary record and with each other over Kerry’s account of Rassmann’s rescue. For instance, in a eulogy for Tom Belodeau in 1997, Kerry recalled that it was a mine exploding under his own boat which knocked a Green Beret overboard; but more recently Brinkley’s biography recorded Kerry’s recollection that when Rassmann fell overboard he was sitting on another boat across the river, PCF-3; while a Kerry campaign press release from January 17, 2004 introduced Rassmann as “traveling down the Bay Hap river in a boat behind Kerry’s when both were ambushed by exploding land mines and enemy fire coming from the shore.” However when Rassman spoke to the Democratic National Convention in July 2004 he described his memory of eating a cookie on Kerry’s boat when a mine knocked him in the water. Four witnesses from other boats, including the skipper of PCF-3, Lieutenant Dick Pees, only recall a mine going off under PCF-3, not under Kerry’s boat. The after-action report states, “MINE DETONATED UNDER PCF-3. . .TWO OTHER MINE EXPLOSIONS”.

The same four witnesses who only recall a mine going off under PCF-3 also recall no hostile gunfire or rocket fire. In contrast, Kerry’s crewmates and two members of other boats recall what they interpreted as hostile fire. The after-action report says that hostile fire continued for “ABOUT 5000 METERS”, but describes no bullet damage to any boat or bullet wounds to any crew members.

Finally, two witnesses to Kerry’s arm injury, Van Odell and Jack Chernoweth, contend that Kerry’s arm was not bleeding, contrary to what Kerry’s Bronze Star citation states. The after-action report concurs with this, describing Kerry’s injury as “CONTUSION RT. FOREARM (MINOR)”.22

In an attempt to explain the above discrepancies, some members of Kerry’s patrol have recalled that Kerry often volunteered to fill out the after-action reports. Larry Thurlow relates, “Back then, John would actually volunteer to write them up. . .Nobody wanted to write these things. . .You're already drained from hours out on whatever the situation was. You wanted to clean up, get something to eat and get some sleep. J ohn would say, 'I'll write this up.' [We'd say], 'Go for it, John.'” Kerry’s defenders have dismissed this as an unsubstantiated accusation, but in fact Kerry stands accused by his own words. During his 1971 Senate testimony when Kerry was asked the question, "do you think it is possible for the President or Congress to get accurate and undistorted information through official military channels?", he replied, "I had direct experience with that. . .I can recall often sending in the spot reports which we made after each mission, and including the GDA, gunfire damage assessments, in which we would say, maybe 15 sampans sunk or whatever it was. And I often read about my own missions in the Stars and Stripes and the very mission we had been on had been doubled in figures and tripled in figures."23

According to Swift Boat commander Thomas Wright, following the above incidents, several of Kerry’s Swift Boat comrades conferred about the fact that Kerry had been wounded three times and was now eligible to be transferred from combat duty. Wright then approached Kerry and suggested it would be in everyone’s best interests if he took the opportunity to leave. Kerry was subsequently transferred to duty at a desk assignment in New York. Wright later recalled, “When John Kerry got his Third Purple Heart, we told him to leave. We knew how the system worked and we didn’t want him in CosDiv11. Kerry didn’t decide to manipulate the system to go home after four months; we asked him to go home.”24

Kerry’s Medals Come Home to Haunt Him

Admiral Zumwalt had predicted that if Kerry ever became a national figure, his career in Vietnam would come home to haunt him. Zumwalt’s prediction would come to prove ironically accurate as the very medals Kerry had built his career upon became a source of scandal in his 2004 Presidential campaign.

After Kerry left Vietnam and joined the antiwar movement, he participated in an antiwar rally where he threw what he then claimed were his medals away (he has since changed his story). During this rally he also accused Admiral Zumwalt and his fellow servicemen of war crimes. Subsequently Zumwalt and his sons developed a strong dislike for Kerry.25

Despite this, surprisingly, Zumwalt temporarily became one of Kerry’s political supporters. After Zumwalt’s son Elmo III developed cancer symptoms which Zumwalt believed had been caused by exposure to Agent Orange, Zumwalt began to support lobbying efforts to compensate alleged victims of Agent Orange, a cause Kerry also supported as Senator. Subsequently in 1996, Kerry asked Zumwalt to attend a press conference to defend him against a Boston Globe column by David Warsh suggesting that Kerry had committed a war crime during the incident leading to his Silver Star award, which Zumwalt had signed. Zumwalt agreed to bury the hatchet and, joined by others formerly under his command, spoke in support of Kerry’s award and Senatorial campaign. Those who defended Kerry at that time have stated that their motivation was to defend Kerry against what they perceived as unfair charges of him being a war criminal, which reminded them how they had felt when Kerry had levelled unfair charges against them in 1971. They have also stated that they were unaware of the discrepancies in Kerry’s account of how he got his awards, since Kerry’s military records had not been released at that time and his biography had not been published.26

But after Zumwalt had passed on in 2000, his surviving son James grew angry when Kerry’s old war crime accusations against the military were repeated in Brinkley’s biography during Kerry’s 2004 campaign. James joined Roy Hoffmann and many of Kerry’s other commanders and crew in supporting Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which opposes Kerry’s Presidential candidacy on the grounds that he is unfit for command.27


The contradictions in Kerry’s account of his decision to enlist, his recollections of how he got his medals, and his flip-flopping from war protestor to war hero and back again reveal a consistent pattern of self-promoting deception, calculated to hide his left-wing political views behind the mask of a paper hero. But Kerry’s paper mask falls apart when his military record is scrutinized, and when his patriotic words are contrasted with his actions after he came home from the war.

Next: “Part 3: Hanoi John: Kerry and the Antiwar Movement’s Communist Connections”


1On the Bundy family’s background and relationship to Frankfurter and Acheson, see Kai Bird, The Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy and William Bundy: Brothers in Arms: A Biography, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998, 23-41, 65-66, 99-101, 106-107, 110-116, 161-170, 185-375; Bruce Allen Murphy, The Brandeis/Frankfurter Connection: The Secret Political Activities of Two Supreme Court Justices, Oxford University Press, 1982; Garden City: Anchor Books, 1983, 201-202; H.R. McMaster, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam, New York: HarperCollins, 1997, 117-118, 140-142, 160, 167, 180-189; Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas, The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986, 650-657, 698-699, 711-712; Douglas Brinkley, Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years, 1953-1971, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992, 241, 257.

2Bird, 65-66, 396-397; Douglas Brinkley, Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War, New York: William Morrow, 2004, 40-46, 57-58; Jacob Leibenluft, “Kerry '66: 'He was going to be president': In JFK's shadow, a headstrong Kerry makes his run for the White House”,,, February 14, 2003 (June 18, 2004); Finlay Lewis, “Kerry’s political ambitions date back to his youth”, The San Diego Union-Tribune, July 19, 2004 (August 5, 2004).

3Charles Sennott, “The Making of the Candidates: John Forbes Kerry”, The Boston Globe, .October 6, 1996; “’Different Forever’: John Kerry Says Killing in War Permanently Changes Soldiers”, ABCNEWS.com, July 29, 2004 (August 27, 2004).

4Brinkley, Tour of Duty, 61-62; Leibenluft; Gerald Nicosia, Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans’ Movement, New York: Crown Publishers, 2001, 70.

5Samuel Z. Goldhaber, “John Kerry: A Navy Dove Runs for Congress”, The Harvard Crimson, February 18, 1970, reprinted at The Harvard Crimson Online, (June 18, 2004); Charles Laurence, “Revealed: how ‘war hero’ Kerry tried to put off Vietnam military duty”,,, June 18, 2004 (June 18, 2004).


7 Michael Kranish, “Heroism, and growing concern about war”, June 16, 2003, Part 2 of “John F. Kerry: Candidate in the Making”, The Boston Globe,, June 15-21, 2003 (August 5, 2004).

8John Forbes Kerry, ”Contract for Officer Candidate”, February 18, 1966,, (August 18, 2004); John E. O’Neill and Jerome R. Corsi, Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2004, 23. Cf. Brinkley, Tour of Duty, 65.

9John Forbes Kerry, ”Duty Recommendation Form”, December 16, 1966,, (August 18, 2004).

10See Edward J. Marolda, By Sea, Air, and Land: An Illustrated History of the U.S. Navy and the War in Southeast Asia, Washington, DC: Navy Historical Center,, Department of the Navy, 1994, Chapter 3, online at Department of the Navy: Naval Historical Center, (August 15, 2004).

11Kranish, “Heroism, and growing concern about war”, citing Stephen Weiss, Clark Dougan, David Fulghum, and Denis Kennedy, The Vietnam Experience: A War Remembered, Boston: Boston Publishing Company, 1986. Cf. Nicosia, 70.

12L.E. Pentz, ”Second Endorsement on BUPERS HSG 212217 Jun 68 (BUPERS Order Nr 1300398)”, November 17, 1968,,, 3, (August 28, 2004); Nicosia, 70; Brinkley, Tour of Duty, 104-106, 109; Marolda, Chapter 4; Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., On Watch: A Memoir, New York: Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1976, 36-38; Elmo Zumwalt, Jr. and Elmo Zumwalt III, My Father, My Son, with John Pekkanen, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1986, 45-47; “Roy ‘Latch’ Hoffmann”, Disinfopedia, (August 4, 2004).

13Grant W. Hibbard, ”Report on the Fitness of Officers”, December 17, 1968,,, 18-19, (August 28, 2004); Donald A. Still, Commander U.S. Naval Support Activity, Saigon to LTJG John F. Kerry, USN, ”Purple Heart Award; presentation of”, February 28, 1969,, (August 28, 2004); Kranish, “Heroism, and growing concern about war”; Brinkley, Tour of Duty, 147-148, 461; ”John Kerry’s Vietnam Service Timeline” John Kerry for President – Official Web Site, (August 5, 2004); Andrea Stone, “Vietnam lessons shape Kerry as a leader”,,, April 12, 2004 (August 29, 2004); Nedra Pickler, “Kerry has shrapnel in left thigh from Vietnam War injury”, SF Gate,, April 23, 2004 (August 5, 2004); Byron York, “Kerry Purple Heart Doc Speaks Out: The medical description of his first wound.”, National Review Online, , May 4, 2004 (August 29, 2004); Michael Kranish, Brian C. Mooney, and Nina J. Easton, John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best, New York: Public Affairs, 2004, 71; O’Neill and Corsi, 27, 31-41; Art Moore, “Kerry’s war journal contradicts medical claim? At least 9 days after Purple Heart, wrote he had not ‘been shot at yet’”, WorldNetDaily,, August 17, 2004 (August 28, 2004); FOX News, August 23, 2004, recorded by FReeper kristinn, “Major Garrett Reports: Kerry Campaign Inches Away from First Purple Heart Wound”,,, August 23, 2004 (August 27, 2004); Robert Novak, “Swift boat interview”,, , August 27, 2004 (August 27, 2004). Cf. “AR 600-8-22 Governing Award of the Purple Heart Medal—Combat Wounded Veterans”, Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), (August 28, 2004).

14George M. Elliott, ”Report on the Fitness of Officers”, December 16, 1968,,, 20-21, (August 28, 2004); Brinkley, Tour of Duty, 104, 152-153, 185, 461; ”John Kerry’s Vietnam Service Timeline”; O’Neill and Corsi, 26-27, 41-45.

15George M. Elliott, ”Report on the Fitness of Officers”, December 16, 1968,,, 23-24, (August 28, 2004); O’Neill and Corsi, 53-63. Cf. Kranish, “Heroism, and growing concern about war”.

16Brinkley, Tour of Duty, 254-261; ”John Kerry’s Vietnam Service Timeline”; O’Neill and Corsi, 63-64.

17Thomas Lipscomb, “Setting Straight Kerry’s War Record”, The New York Sun, Section Editorial & Opinion, Page 8, February 27, 2004, reprinted online at New York Sun, (August 16, 2004). Cf. O’Neill and Corsi, 204n10.

18O’Neill and Corsi, 75.

19”Spot Reports for February, 1969”, February, 1969,,, 10-12, 20-21 (August 28, 2004); ”Personnel Casualty Reports”, February 28, 1969,,, 1-3 (August 28, 2004); Donald A. Still, Commander U.S. Naval Support Activity, Saigon to LTJG John F. Kerry, USN, ”Purple Heart Award; presentation of”, March 5, 1969,, (August 28, 2004); Kranish, “Heroism, and growing concern about war”; Brinkley, Tour of Duty, 287, 461; ”John Kerry’s Vietnam Service Timeline”; Pickler; O’Neill and Corsi, 77-79.

20”Navy Cross”, Department of the Navy: Naval Historical Center, 5, 2004).

21E.R. Zumwalt, Jr., “Citation”,,, 7-8 (August 28, 2004); John Hyland, “Citation”, undated and John Lehman, “Citation”, undated,, (August 28, 2004); Glen Johnson, “Kerry assails columnist who questioned war service”, New Standard, October 28, 1996, reprinted online at, (August 5, 2004); James Carroll, "Annals of Vietnam: A Friendship that Ended the War", New Yorker, October 21, 1996, 130-156; David Warsh, “Behind the Hootch: Did Kerry Commit a War Crime?”, The Boston Globe, October 27, 1996; Nicosia, 70; Kranish, “Heroism, and growing concern about war”; Brinkley, Tour of Duty, 293-294; ”John Kerry’s Vietnam Service Timeline”; O’Neill and Corsi, 80-86; Alex Katz, “Man refutes candidate’s critics”, Alameda Times-Star, August 12, 2004, posted at Naval Air Station Alameda, (August 29, 2004); Alex Katz, “Local vet recalls time on Kerry’s swiftboat”, Tri-Valley Herald, cached at,1413,86%25257E10671%25257E2334602,00.html+Local+Vet+Recalls+Time+on+Kerry%27s+Swiftboat+&hl=en, August 14, 2004 (August 29, 2004); William B. Rood, “Feb. 28, 1969: On the Dong Cung River: ’This is what I saw that day”, Chicago Tribune, August 22, 2004, reprinted at Shepherd Express,, August 26, 2004 (August 29, 2004); Thomas Lipscomb, “Kerry citation a ‘total mystery’ to ex-Navy chief”, Chicago Sun-Times,, August 28, 2004.

22”Spot Reports for March, 1969”, March, 1969,,, 3, 8, 9 (August 28, 2004); ”Personnel Casualty Reports”, February 28, 1969,,, 4-5 (August 28, 2004); G.M. Elliott, ”Award Recommendation”, March 23, 1969,, (August 28, 2004); E.R. Zumwalt, Jr. “Citation”, undated and John Lehman, “Citation”, undated,, (August 28, 2004); Donald A. Still, Commander U.S. Naval Support Activity, Saigon to LTJG John F. Kerry, USN, ”Purple Heart Award; presentation of”, April 17, 1969,, (August 28, 2004); Senator Kerry, “Thomas M. Belodeau”, Congressional Record—Senate, 105th Congress—2nd Session (1998), S186-S187, January 28, 1998, located through (August 29, 2004); Kranish, “Heroism, and growing concern about war”; Brinkley, Tour of Duty, 313, 317, 461; “Kerry Reunites with Fellow Veteran in Iowa: Veteran says Kerry saved his life in combat; has not seen him since 1969”,,, January 17, 2004 (August 29, 2004); ”John Kerry’s Vietnam Service Timeline”; Stone; Pickler; Kranish, Mooney, and Easton, 105; Jim Barnett: “Oregon veteran will introduce Kerry: Jim Rassmann, who lives”, The Oregonian, cached at, July 29, 2004 (August 29, 2004); Michael Kranish, “Veteran retracts criticism of Kerry”, The Boston Globe,, August 6, 2004 (August 29, 2004); O’Neill and Corsi, 86-95; Judson Cox, “An Interview with Van Odell, A Swift Boat Veteran for Truth”,,, August 16, 2004 (August 29, 2004); Joseph A. D'Agostino and David Freddoso, "Four Eyewitnesses Dispute Kerry's Account of Bronze Star Incident", Human Events Online,, August 20, 2004 (August 29, 2004); David Corn, “Evidence Undermines Attack”, The Nation, , August 20, 2004 (August 29, 2004); Gene Thorp, Lou Spirito, and Chris Kirkman, “The River, The Mission, The Ambush”, The Washington Post,, August 22, 2004 (August 29, 2004); Brad Hamilton, “Kerry’s Medal Muddle”, New York Post Online Edition,, August 22, 2004 (August 29, 2004); Michael Dobbs, “Swift Boat Accounts Incomplete and Flawed, Clashes Roil Kerry Campaign”, The Washington Post, articles/A21239-2004Aug21.html, August 22, 2004 (August 29, 2004); Mary Dalrymple, “Kerry Urges Bush To Demand Attacks Stop”, The Washington Post, articles/A22860-2004Aug22.html, August 22, 2004 (August 29, 2004); “Swift Boat Crewman: Kerry Boat Took Fire”,,,2933,130326,00.html, August 27, 2004 (August 29, 2004); Evan Thomas and T. Trent Gegax, "New Hostile Fire: Incoming: Their shots may not be lethal, but a crew of angry vets have hit Kerry's hull", with Tamara Lipper, Susannah Meadows And John Barry, Newsweek,, August 30, 2004 (August 29, 2004).

23O’Neill and Corsi, 55, 57-58, 76, 80-81, 83, 89, 91; Robert B. Bluey, "Kerry's False Report Led to Media Assault, Swift Boat Vet Claims",,, August 19, 2004; John Kerry testimony in United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Legislative Proposals Relating to the War in Southeast Asia, Thursday, April 22, 1971: Hearings before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Ninety-Second Congress, First Session (April-May 1971), Washington: Government Printing Office, 1971, 179-210 online in html format at (August 29, 2004) and in pdf format at (August 29, 2004)..

24“Thrice Wounded”, March 1969,,, 4 (August 28, 2004); Lt. J.C. Rodgers, Jr., untitled, April 30, 1971,,, 4 (August 28, 2004); O’Neill and Corsi, 72, 92-93.

25Byron York, “Vietnam Veterans Against Kerry: A band of brothers, but not the kind the candidate likes”, National Review,, May 31, 2004 (August 5, 2004); O’Neill and Corsi, 42, 52, 63-64, 99, 204n10.

26Warsh; Nicosia, 445-446, 570, 575, 597-605, 608-609; Brinkley, 295-296, 440; Jamie Reno, Michael Isikoff, and Evan Thomas, “Kerry and Agent Orange”, with T. Trent Gegax, MSNBC News,, March 8, 2004 (August 16, 2004); York, “Vietnam Veterans Against Kerry”; O’Neill and Corsi, 83; "Transcript: Debating Kerry's Vietnam Record",,,2933,129590,00.html, August 23, 2004.

27York, “Vietnam Veterans Against Kerry”; O’Neill and Corsi, 99, 195, 204n10.

TOPICS: Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: americanlegion; antiamerican; antiwar; antiwarmovement; arvn; benedictarnold; fellowtravellers; hanoi; hanoihilton; johnfkerr; johnfkerry; johnkerry; kerry; kerryrecord; kerryskomrades; kerrysmedals; kgb; medals; nlf; nva; pow; powmia; pows; protest; protests; sbv; swiftboatveterans; unamerican; unfit; unfitforcommand; vc; veterans; vets; vfw; vietcong; vietnam
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1 posted on 08/30/2004 5:39:37 PM PDT by Fedora
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To: 7thson; 68 grunt; 185JHP; Abcdefg; abner; Alamo-Girl; AmericanVictory; anglian; Ann Archy; ...


2 posted on 08/30/2004 5:41:47 PM PDT by Fedora
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To: Fedora

Good job Hat. That's a lot of material.

3 posted on 08/30/2004 5:43:54 PM PDT by OSHA (Cheap Shots, Low Blows and Late Hits. Free Delivery. Fast Friendly Service with a Smile!)
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To: Fedora

WOW, I'll copy this and analyze it later.

4 posted on 08/30/2004 5:44:37 PM PDT by Viet-Boat-Rider (((KERRY IS A NARCISSISTIC LIAR, GOLDBRICKER, AND TRAITOR!)))
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To: Fedora; The Sailor; kjfine; Old Sarge; USAF_TSgt; darkwing104; txradioguy; Long Cut; Jet Jaguar; ...

If you would like to be removed or added to my ping list please click below.

Please Remove Me
CLICK HERE to FReep mail to remove from ping list.

Please Add Me
CLICK HERE to FReep mail to add to ping list.

5 posted on 08/30/2004 5:46:05 PM PDT by 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub (Hippie Dippie Hanoi Kerry and Hippie Dippie Hanoi Jane sitting in a tree! F-R-E-N-C-H-I-N-G)
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"That's a lot of material."

You ain't kiddin'--I was up 'til 7 am working on it (zzz. . . :-) Thanks, OSHA!

6 posted on 08/30/2004 5:50:17 PM PDT by Fedora
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To: Fedora
"Kerry and his father’s foreign policy views were influenced by a faction of the State Department led by Dean Acheson"

Wasn't Dean Acheson Stalin's lawyer and the man most responsible for the diplomatic recognition of the USSR?

7 posted on 08/30/2004 5:55:00 PM PDT by Abcdefg
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To: Fedora

I'm impressed. It's gonna take me a week to digest it all.

8 posted on 08/30/2004 5:55:44 PM PDT by OSHA (Cheap Shots, Low Blows and Late Hits. Free Delivery. Fast Friendly Service with a Smile!)
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To: Fedora; MeekOneGOP; potlatch; ntnychik; devolve; Happy2BMe; Boazo; OXENinFLA; Grampa Dave; ...

Want to join in the fun? Click the logo to donate to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth!

9 posted on 08/30/2004 5:56:24 PM PDT by Smartass (BUSH & CHENEY 2004 Si vis pacem, para bellum - Por el dedo de Dios se escribió)
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To: Fedora
A wonderful job, had to take a break midway through simply because JFKerry makes my head hurt.
10 posted on 08/30/2004 5:58:58 PM PDT by Just mythoughts
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To: Fedora

Nice job, wish I had half as much talent as you.

11 posted on 08/30/2004 5:59:37 PM PDT by boxerblues
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To: Fedora; Travis McGee; clintonh8r; prognostigaator; MEG33; NormsRevenge; tet68; ...

You spent a LOT of time on this...
I will go blind reading everything!!!!

Thanks for the effort..

Semper Fi

12 posted on 08/30/2004 6:00:35 PM PDT by river rat (You may turn the other cheek...But I prefer to look into my enemy's vacant dead eyes.)
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To: Abcdefg

Not Stalin's lawyer, but close! I discussed his background a bit in Part 1. He was part of a pro-Soviet faction in the State Department in the early 1940s.

13 posted on 08/30/2004 6:01:12 PM PDT by Fedora
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To: Viet-Boat-Rider

Thanks! Will add you to the ping list.

14 posted on 08/30/2004 6:03:31 PM PDT by Fedora
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To: Fedora
Is there anyplace that verifiably says that Kerry was actually "shot" at?

The only occasion I can find that looks like he was under hostile attack was the mine, and that went off under another boat.

Was any American wounded or killed during action where Kerry was present?

15 posted on 08/30/2004 6:04:03 PM PDT by narby (Doesn't Kerry look like a cadaver?)
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I'll try to make the next one shorter, LOL!

16 posted on 08/30/2004 6:04:22 PM PDT by Fedora
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To: Smartass

The imperialist rain dampened but couldn't destroy the educational tool of the masses - The People's Cube.

This Ultimate Egalitarian Puzzle teaches the people the correct attitude towards choice, competition, and collectivism, as well as improves self-esteem and provides hours of entertainment to the proletarians.

The advantages of The People's Cube are obvious:


17 posted on 08/30/2004 6:04:25 PM PDT by MeekOneGOP (There is only one GOOD 'RAT: one that has been voted OUT of POWER !! Straight ticket GOP!)
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To: Just mythoughts

Thanks! He makes my head hurt, too!

18 posted on 08/30/2004 6:05:55 PM PDT by Fedora
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To: river rat

I hope reading it doesn't make you go blind, LOL! Thanks for the kind words.

19 posted on 08/30/2004 6:08:42 PM PDT by Fedora
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To: Fedora

Another masterpiece! Excellent work!

20 posted on 08/30/2004 6:09:35 PM PDT by calcowgirl
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