John Kerry's 80 Day Cook's Tour

The proper duration of individual front line troop deployments in wartime has been debated since the Revolutionary War without any clear conclusion.  Our nation's first Commander—In—Chief frequently despaired over perilously anemic troop strengths as enlistment contracts expired.  Sometimes, battle plans were hastily drawn up and launched just in time before waves of militiamen and continentals were to shoulder their rucksacks and head home.

WWII deployments, for all practical purposes, were for the duration.  US Army troops, Marines and sailors posted virtually anywhere, but especially on the line, could look forward to coming home in only one of three ways: dead, disabled or dishonored.  Rotations were available only for combat aircrews who could go home after 35 missions; but fewer than 50% of US airmen ever made it past their 25th. Victory coinciding with an Axis unconditional surrender was the only way to get home in one piece.

My father, a WWII combat medic, reminds me that only with the benefit of hindsight and history can we make any sense of the daily blur, fatigue and anxiety. Virtually no one on the ground had any concept of strategies, theatre operations, campaigns or battle plans. What would tomorrow bring? What would be the outcome? You simply followed the order of the day. No one then knew if the end would be in a day, a week, a month, a year or five years.
 
In Vietnam, troop rotations were of two types— US Army tours were 12 months and the US Marines 13 months.  James R. Ebert in his book about American Infantrymen in Vietnam A Life in a Year talks about the rise and fall of combat efficiency, troop morale and especially 'short timers' fever': 'The first three months were new and strange and efficiency was therefore low; the middle six months were filled with bustle and activity and efficiency was therefore high ; the final three months were preoccupied with home and family and staying alive.'

Further, Ebert recounts an observation from a British journalist concerning commanders in the Korean War who disliked individual rotations  because 'men became increasingly cautious and reluctant to accept risks as they grew 'short' and approached their release date'.   WWII veterans had the same feeling when the end was finally in sight.  From a Marine who recounted his thoughts while assaulting a ridge on Okinawa in June of 1945, 'We all knew it was the last big fight before the Japanese were wiped out...having made it that far in the war, I knew my luck would run out...'  Ebert continues, 'Soldiers in Vietnam, already reluctant to expose themselves to danger as their individual tours came to an end, became increasingly aware after 1968 that the war would end sooner than later'.

We now know from being reminded with every daily news cycle, ad nauseam, that John Kerry's central theme for his candidacy, the unique qualification for him to be elected as Commander—In—Chief, is his tour of duty in Vietnam. But Kerry's tour of duty was less than four months —— barely a third of the time endured by millions of other Vietnam veterans.  Most likely it was no more than 80 days when you tally the actual time he was available for combat river patrols and not consumed by billeting, orientation, redeployment and out—bound processing. Kerry has stated repeatedly that his time at the front in Vietnam not only gives him an exalted status, but most important, the experience and perspective to make him the best judge about where, when and how to deploy American servicemen into combat in the future.   How would he know the full extent of a combat serviceman's perspective?  He barely got started.

Perhaps if John Kerry had experienced the last third of a regular tour instead of only the first third, he might not now be so quick to abandon our soldiers and Marines in Iraq and publicly pledge a plan to 'bring the troops home' while the war is unfinished. It's unfortunate that John Kerry didn't have 'short timer's fever' seared into his brain instead of that vivid imaginary tale about spending Christmas in Cambodia. He might not be so careless in announcing his convenient cut—and—run strategies —— but that's what you get from believing in your own inflated resume.

We also have learned that John Kerry's customized whirlwind rotation plan —— the 80 Day Cook's Tour —— was made possible by his  three Purple Hearts, most or all having been bestowed under apparently dubious circumstances.  Even by his own belatedly forced admissions, John Kerry's wounds were little more than superficial lacerations, barely drawing attention, if not derision,  from  corpsmen at aid stations, while he did not lose even one day of available duty. Can you imagine the scene if John Kerry had encountered General George S. Patton while he was lobbying for a Purple Heart, after having a 1 X 3 centimeter metal sliver plucked then topped off with Bacitracin and a Band Aid?

The mainstream press, so far, doesn't want to understand or concede why Kerry's critics are pre—occupied with his Vietnam War record. Well, simply put, because John Kerry is preoccupied with it.  Why is his 80 Day Tour like some sacred ritual, an off—limits holy of holies where only John Kerry is pure enough to possess and interpret the ancient scrolls?  Shouldn't John Kerry's obsession with his Vietnam experience invite obvious scrutiny not unlike one—time Presidential hopeful Senator Gary Hart's challenge to reporters and photographers to 'prove' the liaisons with his mistress Donna Rice on the motor yacht Monkey Business?

Over 2.5 million men (and women) served honorably, and many heroically, in Vietnam;  all but the dead and disabled for at least 12 months, and some far longer.  Only one, with an abbreviated version at that, has used his service in a brazen attempt to ascend the top of the political hill. Would someone tell us again how John Kerry's 80 DayCook's Tour makes him uniquely qualified to be the 44th President of the United States?

Geoffrey P. Hunt is an executive of a multinational electrical and electronics manufacturing company

The proper duration of individual front line troop deployments in wartime has been debated since the Revolutionary War without any clear conclusion.  Our nation's first Commander—In—Chief frequently despaired over perilously anemic troop strengths as enlistment contracts expired.  Sometimes, battle plans were hastily drawn up and launched just in time before waves of militiamen and continentals were to shoulder their rucksacks and head home.

WWII deployments, for all practical purposes, were for the duration.  US Army troops, Marines and sailors posted virtually anywhere, but especially on the line, could look forward to coming home in only one of three ways: dead, disabled or dishonored.  Rotations were available only for combat aircrews who could go home after 35 missions; but fewer than 50% of US airmen ever made it past their 25th. Victory coinciding with an Axis unconditional surrender was the only way to get home in one piece.

My father, a WWII combat medic, reminds me that only with the benefit of hindsight and history can we make any sense of the daily blur, fatigue and anxiety. Virtually no one on the ground had any concept of strategies, theatre operations, campaigns or battle plans. What would tomorrow bring? What would be the outcome? You simply followed the order of the day. No one then knew if the end would be in a day, a week, a month, a year or five years.
 
In Vietnam, troop rotations were of two types— US Army tours were 12 months and the US Marines 13 months.  James R. Ebert in his book about American Infantrymen in Vietnam A Life in a Year talks about the rise and fall of combat efficiency, troop morale and especially 'short timers' fever': 'The first three months were new and strange and efficiency was therefore low; the middle six months were filled with bustle and activity and efficiency was therefore high ; the final three months were preoccupied with home and family and staying alive.'

Further, Ebert recounts an observation from a British journalist concerning commanders in the Korean War who disliked individual rotations  because 'men became increasingly cautious and reluctant to accept risks as they grew 'short' and approached their release date'.   WWII veterans had the same feeling when the end was finally in sight.  From a Marine who recounted his thoughts while assaulting a ridge on Okinawa in June of 1945, 'We all knew it was the last big fight before the Japanese were wiped out...having made it that far in the war, I knew my luck would run out...'  Ebert continues, 'Soldiers in Vietnam, already reluctant to expose themselves to danger as their individual tours came to an end, became increasingly aware after 1968 that the war would end sooner than later'.

We now know from being reminded with every daily news cycle, ad nauseam, that John Kerry's central theme for his candidacy, the unique qualification for him to be elected as Commander—In—Chief, is his tour of duty in Vietnam. But Kerry's tour of duty was less than four months —— barely a third of the time endured by millions of other Vietnam veterans.  Most likely it was no more than 80 days when you tally the actual time he was available for combat river patrols and not consumed by billeting, orientation, redeployment and out—bound processing. Kerry has stated repeatedly that his time at the front in Vietnam not only gives him an exalted status, but most important, the experience and perspective to make him the best judge about where, when and how to deploy American servicemen into combat in the future.   How would he know the full extent of a combat serviceman's perspective?  He barely got started.

Perhaps if John Kerry had experienced the last third of a regular tour instead of only the first third, he might not now be so quick to abandon our soldiers and Marines in Iraq and publicly pledge a plan to 'bring the troops home' while the war is unfinished. It's unfortunate that John Kerry didn't have 'short timer's fever' seared into his brain instead of that vivid imaginary tale about spending Christmas in Cambodia. He might not be so careless in announcing his convenient cut—and—run strategies —— but that's what you get from believing in your own inflated resume.

We also have learned that John Kerry's customized whirlwind rotation plan —— the 80 Day Cook's Tour —— was made possible by his  three Purple Hearts, most or all having been bestowed under apparently dubious circumstances.  Even by his own belatedly forced admissions, John Kerry's wounds were little more than superficial lacerations, barely drawing attention, if not derision,  from  corpsmen at aid stations, while he did not lose even one day of available duty. Can you imagine the scene if John Kerry had encountered General George S. Patton while he was lobbying for a Purple Heart, after having a 1 X 3 centimeter metal sliver plucked then topped off with Bacitracin and a Band Aid?

The mainstream press, so far, doesn't want to understand or concede why Kerry's critics are pre—occupied with his Vietnam War record. Well, simply put, because John Kerry is preoccupied with it.  Why is his 80 Day Tour like some sacred ritual, an off—limits holy of holies where only John Kerry is pure enough to possess and interpret the ancient scrolls?  Shouldn't John Kerry's obsession with his Vietnam experience invite obvious scrutiny not unlike one—time Presidential hopeful Senator Gary Hart's challenge to reporters and photographers to 'prove' the liaisons with his mistress Donna Rice on the motor yacht Monkey Business?

Over 2.5 million men (and women) served honorably, and many heroically, in Vietnam;  all but the dead and disabled for at least 12 months, and some far longer.  Only one, with an abbreviated version at that, has used his service in a brazen attempt to ascend the top of the political hill. Would someone tell us again how John Kerry's 80 DayCook's Tour makes him uniquely qualified to be the 44th President of the United States?

Geoffrey P. Hunt is an executive of a multinational electrical and electronics manufacturing company