August 6, 2004
First lookBy John B. Dwyer
Unfit for Command, the blockbuster book critiquing John F. Kerry's Viet Nam service, will not be released until next week. But a chapter is available for preview on the web. Military historian John. B. Dwyer previews it for American Thinker readers.
Summing up the first section of Ch. 3 "The Purple Heart Hunter" in his book Unfit For Command, John O'Neill and John Corsi write:
"To cheat by getting a Purple Heart from a self—inflicted wound would be regarded as befitting the lowest levels of military conduct. To use such a faked award to leave a combat sector early would be lower yet... to make or use faked awards as the basis for running for president... while faulting one's political opponents for not having similar military decorations, would represent unbelievable hypocrisy and the truly bottom rung of human conduct."
You just might get the idea that the majority of Swift Boat veterans, the officers and men who served with Kerry, or knew him during his brief Vietnam tour, are extremely angry at the Democrats' presidential candidate. This book documents the many reasons for that justifiable anger, which include his bogus Purple Hearts.
The Purple Heart carries with it a special, almost reverential meaning and import. Established as the Badge of Military Merit by Gen. George Washington during the Revolutionary War, it was revived in the 20th century as the Purple Heart, which carries a likeness of Washington. To earn it, a service member must sustain a "wound necessitating medical treatment received in action with the enemy..."
As O'Neill documents in Chapter 3, these criteria were not met in the case of Kerry's first, and subsequent, Purple Heart actions. Even his website seems to fudge regarding the incident:
"December 2, 1968 — Kerry experiences first intense combat, receives first combat related injury."
Intense combat? In the introduction to Doug Brinkley's Tour of Duty Kerry himself refers to it as "a half—assed action that hardly qualified as combat." But such grudging kernels of truth are not the clay which can be molded later for political purposes.
LT (j.g.) Kerry was an Officer—in—Command Under Training in early December when he asked to go on a mission commanded by LT (now Rear Admiral retired) William Schachte. Both of them were aboard a Boston Whaler, along with William Zaladonis and Pat Runyon, offshore along the coast north of Cam Ranh Bay. Presumed enemy activity was seen ashore. Zaladonis opened up with his .30 caliber M—60 machine gun. Runyon busied himself with the engine. Kerry tried to fire his M—16. It jammed. He picked up an M—79 grenade launcher and fired a round too close so that it it exploded near the boat, causing a tiny piece of shrapnel to nick his arm. As O'Neill states:
"Schachte berated Kerry for almost putting someone's eye out. There was not hostile fire of any kind, nor did Kerry mention to PCF OIC Mike Voss (whose Swiftboat towed the Whaler across the bay) that he was wounded."
Kerry managed to keep the teeny bit of shrapnel in his arm so Dr. Louis Letson had something to remove.
"When Kerry appeared at sickbay," writes O'Neill, "Dr. Letson asked 'Why are you here?' in surprise, observing Kerry's unimpressive scratch. Kerry answered 'I've been wounded by hostile fire.' Accompanying crewmen then told Dr. Letson that Kerry had wounded himself."
Dr. Letson removed the itty—bitty shrapnel piece, applied antiseptic and a band—aid.
"Amazingly, somehow Kerry 'gamed the system' nearly three months later to obtain the Purple Heart that (Cmdr. Grant) Hibbard (his commanding officer) had denied. How he obtained that award is unknown, since his refusal to execute Standard Form 180 means that whatever documents exist are known only to Kerry, the Dept. of Defense, and God.'
Most Swiftees who were there with Kerry at Cam Ranh Bay never knew until Kerry decided to run for president that he had somehow successfully maneuvered his way to this undeserved Purple Heart."
And so, the self—absorbed, self—aggrandizing naval miles gloriosus persona LT (j.g.) Kerry had manufactured for himself had been launched upon a sea of faux heroism that he now hopes will see him safely into presidential harbor.
John B. Dwyer is a military historian who frequently writes for The American Thinker