Skip to comments.”His boat took 188 enemy hits”: Another Kerry Swift Boat story surfaces
Posted on 09/30/2007 1:28:52 PM PDT by Fedora
His boat took 188 enemy hits: Another Kerry Swift Boat story surfaces
During the 2004 campaign, John Kerry faced a firestorm of controversy over the events surrounding the awarding of his third Purple Heart and his Bronze Star. One inconsistency investigators noticed was that although military documents described Kerrys Swift Boat team as facing about 5000 meters of enemy fire while travelling down a 75-yard-wide stretch of the Bay Hap River, there was no record of any bullet damage to craft or crew. Not publicized in 2004 was another discrepancy magnifying this issue: while Kerry was making his first Congressional run in fall 1972, newspapers around the country ran stories by reporter Tom Tiede claiming that Kerrys boat took 188 enemy hits.
On October 25, 1972, page 18D of the Burlington, North Carolina Times-News carried an article by Tiede titled John F. Kerry. . .The Candidate Whos Got It All Going which stated:
Kerry, you'll recall, is the thrice-wounded Vietnam naval veteran (his boat took 188 enemy hits) who brought GIs to the front lines of antiwar battle in 1969.
Versions of Tiedes article echoing this 188 enemy hits claim appeared in the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune on October 25, 1972, in the Danville, Virginia Register on October 26, 1972, and in the Uniontown, Pennsylvania Evening Standard on November 1, 1972.
Declassified military records of the incident in question make no reference to these 188 enemy hits, and what is recorded raises questions about how this story got started.
The incident involved five Swift Boats, which had moved near the Bay Hap Rivers banks to maneuver around a fishing weir. Moving along the left side of the river was PCF-3 under Lieutenant Dick Pees, followed by PCF-23 under Lieutenant Jack Chenoweth. On the right side were PCF-94 under Kerrys command and PCF-43 under Lieutenant Donald Droz. Trailing behind both pairs of boats near the center of the river was PCF-51 under Lieutenant Larry Thurlow, the patrols mission commander. Also travelling with the patrol were members of a Special Forces team.
As the boats were passing the weir, a mine went off. Discrepancies surround what damage was caused by the explosion, as well as whether or not the explosion was followed by enemy fire.
The Naval paperwork on the incident was probably filed by Kerry, judging by Kerrys 1971 Senate testimony and the recollection of other Swift Boat veterans. Additional paperwork for Special Forces was probably filed by Lieutenant James Rassmann, who often performed this duty for his unit.
The after-action report released during the 2004 campaign describes a mine going off UNDER PCF-3 and CLOSE ABOARD PCF-94. Elsewhere it states, MINE DETONATED UNDER PCF-3. . .TWO OTHER MINE EXPLOSIONS. 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 Kerrys right forearm injury as MINOR. The recommendation for Kerrys Bronze Star--submitted by Kerrys commanding officer Lieutenant Commander George Elliott and citing as an eyewitness Kerrys second-in-command Del Sandusky--elaborates that a mine detonated close aboard PCF-94, knocking 1st LT RASSMAN 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. Kerrys Bronze Star citation, originally written by Admiral Elmo Zumwalt and later revised under Secretary of the Navy John Lehmans signature, substitutes for the above-mentioned contusions the detail that Kerrys arm was bleeding.
However Kerrys contemporary war journal, cited in a 2004 biography by Douglas Brinkley, indicates that his shrapnel injury actually came from an earlier rice-bin explosion, not the mine explosion. Prior to the mine explosion, Kerrys Swift Boat team had assisted its Special Forces counterparts in clearing a village suspected of harboring Viet Cong. While the Green Berets were blowing up rice bins, I got a piece of small grenade in my ass from one of the rice bin explosions, Kerry recorded.
Eyewitness accounts help explain some of the other discrepancies surrounding Kerrys injuries. James Rassmann told the Boston Globe on August 6, 2004 that it was his understanding that Kerrys arm wound was caused by the mine explosion throwing Kerry into his boats pilot house. Two witnesses to Kerrys arm injury, Van Odell and Jack Chenoweth, contend that Kerrys arm was not bleeding. This is consistent with the after-action and casualty reports characterization of Kerrys arm injury as contusions. If Kerrys arm had been hit by a bullet, it seems likely he would have suffered bleeding rather than contusions. This may suggest that later paperwork revisions characterizing his arm as bleeding were an attempt to reconcile his wound with the claim that his injury was caused by gunfire.
Discrepancies surrounding the mine explosion and resulting boat damage remain to be explained. Kerry and Rassmann gave inconsistent accounts about which boat was over the mine when it went off, contradicting other eyewitnesses and compounding the confusion in the documentary record.
In a eulogy for Swift Boat gunner Tom Belodeau in 1997, Kerry recalled that it was a mine exploding under his own boat which knocked a Green Beret overboard. But Brinkleys 2004 biography recorded Kerrys recollection that when Rassmann fell overboard he was sitting on another boat across the river, PCF-3. A Kerry campaign press release from January 17, 2004 introduced Rassmann as traveling down the Bay Hap river in a boat behind Kerrys when both were ambushed by exploding land mines and enemy fire coming from the shore. However when Rassmann spoke to the Democratic National Convention in July 2004, he described his memory of eating a cookie on Kerrys boat when a mine knocked him into the water.
At least four witnesses from other boats only recalled a mine going off under PCF-3, not under Kerrys boat. In interviews PCF-3 skipper Dick Pees recalled sitting in his disabled boat, and PCF-23 skipper Jack Chenoweth recalled having to slam his engines into reverse to avoid running into PCF-3. PCF-23 gunner Van Odell and mission commander Larry Thurlow supported this account of the incident.
Witnesses were divided over whether there was hostile gunfire or rocket fire. Most of Kerrys crewmates, two witnesses from other boats, and Rassmann recalled what they interpreted as hostile fire. At least ten witnesses from other boats disputed this.
Kerrys PCF-94 crewmates David Alston, Eugene Thorson, Michael Medeiros, and Del Sandusky recalled hostile fire, as did Rassmann. Alston was later discredited when it was demonstrated that he was not present at events he claimed to have witnessed.
PCF-43 gunner Wayne Langhofer recalled, There was a lot of firing going on, and it came from both sides of the river. PCF-51 crewman Robert Lambert also interpreted bullets he saw striking the water as coming from hostile fire.
However, Pees, Thurlow, Chenoweth, Odell, PCF-43 gunner Robert Hornberger, and others present recalled no hostile fire. Odell elaborated,
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 50s 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.
Others present similarly recalled firing at the banks but observing no return fire.
Some witnesses reported that after the mine went off, Kerrys boat accelerated ahead out of the kill zone for a few minutes before returning. This would have meant the other boats were shooting at the banks from behind Kerrys boat as it sped away, which may help account for the difference in perception between Kerrys crew members and other witnesses. Likewise, it is easy to see how Rassmann and Lambert could have interpreted the Swift Boat teams precautionary fire as enemy fire.
But whether there was enemy fire or not, it is difficult to conceive how Kerry could have pulled Rassmann out of the water while his boat was sustaining 188 enemy hits, or how his boat could have sustained 188 hits without suffering any recorded bullet damage, or how his boat could have helped tow PCF-3 after sustaining 188 hits. And it may be difficult for Kerry to explain why no reference to these 188 hits appeared in military records predating publicity for his 1972 Congressional campaign.
All hail John F’in, recipient of Three Purple Scratches!
JOHN KERRY =
Pictures of a vietnamese Re-Education (SLAVE LABOR) Camp
I’m no fan of Hanoi John’s, but it looks like a case of one news writer added some spice and others ran with it. From my experience on the same rivers I doubt a thin skinned Swift boat could take 188 hits from anything bigger than a .22 short.
This should be forwarded to Lawrence O’Donnell for comment. (creepy liar) LOL
I knew that he was a rice-wounded Veteran (who served on BOTH sides of the war).
< / sarc
I suppose that unarmed Vietnamese kid that Gigolo John shot in the back threw a handful of gravel at the swift boat. Gigolo John probably found 188 pebble on the deck after he ran the fleeing kid down and murdered him.
I’ve considered that as a possibility, but to me it seems more likely Tiede was repeating publicity material he got from Kerry’s campaign—it’d seem strange for a reporter to just pull the number “188” out of thin air, for one thing. Tiede’s still around, hopefully he will comment on the circumstances of the article, or other articles will surface indicating whether or not other journalists covering Kerry reported similar claims.
If I can find the address for the asylum O’Donnell’s in, I’ll pass it on :-)
I almost said that in the article :-)
Must have been 188 grains of rice that flew out of the bag.
Good descriptive in “22 shorts”.
He was rice-wounded before he was thrice-wounded.
188 hits..yea on a ti stick
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