Kerry's Silver Star citations

The importance of John Kerry's Silver Star to his political career cannot be overstated. Without the medal, it is fairly safe to say, we would have probably never heard of him.

Kerry used his Silver Star to run for Congress (unsuccessfully) as a returning war hero in his first political campaign. Then he used it to become a leader of the anti—war movement and to put himself at the head of the Vietnam Veterans Against The War, as well as in front of the television and print cameras, and even in front of a US Senate hearing:

Senator Symington: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Kerry, please move your microphone. You have a Silver Star; have you not?

Mr. Kerry: Yes, I do.

Senator Symington: And a Purple Heart?

Mr.Kerry: Yes, I do.

Senator Symington: How many clusters?

Mr. Kerry: Two clusters.

Senator Symington: So you have been wounded three times.

Mr. Kerry: Yes, sir.

Senator Symington: I have no further questions, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman: Senator Aiken. (Applause.)

The recent discovery of the after action report, which, while probably written by Kerry himself, gives us the closest thing we have to a contemporary documentation of the events of that day. It, and perhaps Kerry's other claims to his officers, formed the basis for this Silver Star recommendation and eventually the citation that went with it.

There has, of course, been much commentary upon the nusual existence of three citations for the same Silver Star in Kerry's records. PDF files of the three citations can still be found on the Kerry For President website:

The differences in the three citations have been extensively researched by Henry Mark Holzer and Erika Holzer in their excellent piece 'John Kerry's Puzzling Silver Star Citations' in FrontPage Magazine.

With those revisions in mind, we now compare those three citations with the newfound after action report, upon which they were based.

It appears that the first citation, from then—Vice Admiral Zumwalt, Jr. Commander of Naval Forces in Vietnam, is based almost word for word on the after action report (which again, was probably itself written by Kerry):

After Action Report

RFPF TROOPS WERE EMBARKED, 30 MEN IN EACH PCF, AND UNITS DEPARTED ENROUTE INSERTION POINT AT VQ 984832. AT VQ 982818 UNITS WERE TAKEN UNDER HEAVY SMALL ARMS FIRE. OTC CALLED FOR ALL UNITS TO TURN INTO FIRE AND BEACH. UNITS RESPONSE WAS IMMEDIATE AND PCF'S CHARGED AMBUSH COMPLETELY THROWING ENEMY OFF GUARD. SURPRISE RUSH ON AMBUSH SITE CAUSED VC TO STAND UP AND RUN. PCF 23 AND 43 ACCOUNTED FOR 3 KIA (VC) BEFORE TROOPS WERE LANDED. WITH SUBSEQUENT INSERTION OF TROOPS, ENEMY WAS OVERRUN.

Zumwalt Citation

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as Officer in Charge of United States Navy Patrol Craft Fast 94 and Officer in Tactical Command of an operation in the Republic of Vietnam. On 28 February 1969, Patrol Craft Fast 23, 43 and 94, in conjunction with Underwater Demolition Team 13 and Vietnamese Regional and Popular Forces personnel, conducted an operation on the Ca Mau Peninsula as part of Operation SEA LORDS.

While transiting the Bay Hap River en route to an insertion point along the Dong Cung River, these craft with thirty Regional/Popular Force personnel embarked in each unit came under heavy enemy small arms fire from the river banks. The Officer in Tactical Command, Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY directed his units to turn to the beach and charge the Viet Cong positions.

Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY expertly directed the fire of his craft at the fleeing enemy while simultaneously coordinating the insertion of the embarked troops. While the Regional and Popular Forces conducted an area sweep, Patrol Craft Fast 43 remained on station to provide fire support and Patrol Craft Fast 23 and 94 moved upstream to investigate an area from which gunshots were coming.

* * *

The two subsequent citations, by Admiral Hyland then US Navy Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet and (purportedly) by Secretary of the Navy John Lehmann (but probably signed by autopen or forged), downplay the other soldiers onboard and do not note that there were thirty of them on each of the three boats——for a total of 90 other men in addition to the 18 PCF crewmen:

Hyland Citation

Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY was serving as Officer in Charge of Patrol Craft Fast 94 and Officer in Tactical Command of a three—boat unit engaged in inserting Vietnamese regional force troops on a reconnaissance in force mission.

As the force approached the target area on the narrow Dong Cung River, all units came under intense automatic weapons and small arms fire from an entrenched enemy force less than fifty feet away. Unhesitatingly, Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY ordered his boat to attack as all units opened fire and beached directly in front of the enemy ambushers. This daring and courageous tactic surprised the enemy and succeeded in routing a score of enemy soldiers. The PCF gunners captured many enemy weapons in the battle that followed.

Lehmann Citation

Lieutenant (jg) Kerry was serving as Officer in Charge of Patrol Craft Fast 94 and Officer in Tactical Command of a three—boat unit engaged in inserting Vietnamese regional force troops on a reconnaissance in force mission.

As the force approached the target area on the narrow Dong Cung River, all units came under intense automatic weapons and small arms fire from an entrenched enemy force less than fifty feet away. Unhesitatingly, Lieutenant (jg) Kerry ordered his boat to attack as all units opened fire and beached directly in front of the enemy ambushers. This daring and courageous tactic surprised the enemy and succeeded in routing a score of enemy soldiers. The PCF gunners captured many enemy weapons in the battle that followed.

* * *

After Action Report

WHILE TROOPS CONDUCTED SWEEP, PCF 94 AND 23 [MOVED UP RIVER] TOWARDS AREA FROM WHICH ARMY ADVISOR REPORTED GUNSHOTS. PCF 43 REMAINED AT ORIGINAL AMBUSH SITE TO PROVIDE SUPPORT FOR TROOPS. PCF 94 AND 23 PROCEEDED TO VQ 984831 AND THEN TURNED TO RETURN TO PCF 43 LOCATION. AT VQ 984830 [B—4E] ROCKET EXPLODED IN WATER CLOSE ABOARD PCF 94 BLOWING OUT WINDOW FRAME. BOTH UNITS RECEIVED HEAVY SMALL ARMS FIRE AND OTC AGA[IN] CALLED UNITS TO TURN INTO FIRE AND CHARGE AMBUSH SITE. PCF 43 WAS C [UNREADABLE]

AND MOVED IMMEDIATELY TO ASSIST. PCF 94 BEACHED IN CENTER OF AMBUSH IN FRONT OF SMALL PATH WHEN VC SPRUNG UP FROM BUNKER 10 FEET FROM UNIT. MAN RAN WITH WEAPON TOWARDS HOOTCH, FORWARD M—60 GUNNER WOUNDED MAN IN LEG. OINC JUMPED ASHORE AND GAVE PURSUIT WHILE OTHER UNITS SATURATED AREA WITH FIRE AND BEACHED PLACING ASSAULT PARTIES ASHORE. OINC OF PCF 94 CHASED VC INLAND BEHIND HOOTCH AND SHOT HIM WHILE HE FLED CAPTURING ONE B—40 ROCKET LAUNCHER WITH ROUND IN CHAMBER. OINC'S OF PCF'S 43 AND 23 LED ASSAULT PARTIES THROUGH BRUSH AND JOINED WITH PCF 94 GROUP. PARTIES FR[O]M 3 ACF'S [PRO]CEEDED TO SWEEP AREA AND [ILLEGIBLE]

Zumwalt Citation

Patrol Craft Fast 23 and 94 moved upstream to investigate an area from which gunshots were coming. Arriving at the area, Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY's craft received a B—40 rocket close aboard. Once again Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY ordered his units to charge the enemy positions and summoned Patrol Craft Fast 43 to the area to provide additional firepower. Patrol Craft Fast 94 then beached in the center of the enemy positions and an enemy soldier sprang up from his position not ten feet from Patrol Craft Fast 94 and fled. Without hesitation Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY leaped ashore, pursued the man behind a hootch and killed him, capturing a B—40 rocket launcher with a round in the chamber. Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY then led an assault party and conducted a sweep of the area while the Patrol Craft Fast continued to provide fire support. After the enemy had been completely routed, all personnel returned to the Patrol Craft Fast to withdraw from the area.

Hyland Citation

On a request from U.S. Army advisors ashore, Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY ordered PCFs 94 and 23 further up river to suppress enemy sniper fire. After proceeding approximately eight hundred yards, the boats were again taken under fire from a heavily foliated area and a B—40 rocket exploded close aboard PCF 94. With utter disregard for his own safety and the enemy rockets, he again ordered a charge on the enemy, beached his boat only ten feet from the VC rocket position, and personally led a landing party ashore in pursuit of the enemy. Upon sweeping the area, an immediate search uncovered an enemy rest and supply area which was destroyed.

Lehmann Citation

On a request from U.S. Army advisors ashore, he ordered PCFs 94 and 23 further up river to suppress enemy sniper fire. After proceeding approximately eight hundred yards, the boats were again taken underfire from a heavily foliated area and a B—40 rocket exploded close aboard PCF 94. With utter disregard for his own safety and the enemy rockets, he again ordered a charge on the enemy, beached his boat only ten feet from the VC rocket position, and personally led a landing party ashore in pursuit of the enemy. Upon sweeping the area, an immediate search uncovered an enemy rest and supply area which was destroyed.

* * *

Note that in the revisions all mention of Kerry's chasing down and dispatching a wounded and fleeing Vietcong are omitted. And note too that the Zumwalt citation neglects to mention that the VC was already wounded in the leg by heavy machine gun fire.

We will skip now to the wrap up, which is the actually commendation section in the citations:

Zumwalt Citation

Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY's devotion to duty, courage under fire, outstanding leadership, and exemplary professionalism directly contributed to the success of this operation and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Hyland Citation

The extraordinary daring and personal courage of Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY in attacking a numerically superior force in the face of intense fire were responsible for the highly successful mission. His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

Lehmann Citation

The extraordinary daring and personal courage of Lieutenant (jg) Kerry in attacking a numerically superior force in the face of intense fire were responsible for the highly successful mission. By his brave action, bold initiative, and unwavering devotion to duty, Lieutenant (jg) Kerry reflected great credit on himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

* * *

Notice the insertion of 'attacking a numerically superior force' in both of the subsequent revisions of the Silver Star citation.

With at least 107 men at his side, it is hard to believe that Lt. (junior grade) Kerry was attacking a superior force.

In sum it looks like this after action report was suppressed and the Silver Star citations have been revised to burnish Kerry's military record and to expunge any questionable activities—such as shooting a fleeing and wounded enemy.

Which is almost exactly what the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth have been saying all along.

The importance of John Kerry's Silver Star to his political career cannot be overstated. Without the medal, it is fairly safe to say, we would have probably never heard of him.

Kerry used his Silver Star to run for Congress (unsuccessfully) as a returning war hero in his first political campaign. Then he used it to become a leader of the anti—war movement and to put himself at the head of the Vietnam Veterans Against The War, as well as in front of the television and print cameras, and even in front of a US Senate hearing:

Senator Symington: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Kerry, please move your microphone. You have a Silver Star; have you not?

Mr. Kerry: Yes, I do.

Senator Symington: And a Purple Heart?

Mr.Kerry: Yes, I do.

Senator Symington: How many clusters?

Mr. Kerry: Two clusters.

Senator Symington: So you have been wounded three times.

Mr. Kerry: Yes, sir.

Senator Symington: I have no further questions, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman: Senator Aiken. (Applause.)

The recent discovery of the after action report, which, while probably written by Kerry himself, gives us the closest thing we have to a contemporary documentation of the events of that day. It, and perhaps Kerry's other claims to his officers, formed the basis for this Silver Star recommendation and eventually the citation that went with it.

There has, of course, been much commentary upon the nusual existence of three citations for the same Silver Star in Kerry's records. PDF files of the three citations can still be found on the Kerry For President website:

The differences in the three citations have been extensively researched by Henry Mark Holzer and Erika Holzer in their excellent piece 'John Kerry's Puzzling Silver Star Citations' in FrontPage Magazine.

With those revisions in mind, we now compare those three citations with the newfound after action report, upon which they were based.

It appears that the first citation, from then—Vice Admiral Zumwalt, Jr. Commander of Naval Forces in Vietnam, is based almost word for word on the after action report (which again, was probably itself written by Kerry):

After Action Report

RFPF TROOPS WERE EMBARKED, 30 MEN IN EACH PCF, AND UNITS DEPARTED ENROUTE INSERTION POINT AT VQ 984832. AT VQ 982818 UNITS WERE TAKEN UNDER HEAVY SMALL ARMS FIRE. OTC CALLED FOR ALL UNITS TO TURN INTO FIRE AND BEACH. UNITS RESPONSE WAS IMMEDIATE AND PCF'S CHARGED AMBUSH COMPLETELY THROWING ENEMY OFF GUARD. SURPRISE RUSH ON AMBUSH SITE CAUSED VC TO STAND UP AND RUN. PCF 23 AND 43 ACCOUNTED FOR 3 KIA (VC) BEFORE TROOPS WERE LANDED. WITH SUBSEQUENT INSERTION OF TROOPS, ENEMY WAS OVERRUN.

Zumwalt Citation

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as Officer in Charge of United States Navy Patrol Craft Fast 94 and Officer in Tactical Command of an operation in the Republic of Vietnam. On 28 February 1969, Patrol Craft Fast 23, 43 and 94, in conjunction with Underwater Demolition Team 13 and Vietnamese Regional and Popular Forces personnel, conducted an operation on the Ca Mau Peninsula as part of Operation SEA LORDS.

While transiting the Bay Hap River en route to an insertion point along the Dong Cung River, these craft with thirty Regional/Popular Force personnel embarked in each unit came under heavy enemy small arms fire from the river banks. The Officer in Tactical Command, Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY directed his units to turn to the beach and charge the Viet Cong positions.

Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY expertly directed the fire of his craft at the fleeing enemy while simultaneously coordinating the insertion of the embarked troops. While the Regional and Popular Forces conducted an area sweep, Patrol Craft Fast 43 remained on station to provide fire support and Patrol Craft Fast 23 and 94 moved upstream to investigate an area from which gunshots were coming.

* * *

The two subsequent citations, by Admiral Hyland then US Navy Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet and (purportedly) by Secretary of the Navy John Lehmann (but probably signed by autopen or forged), downplay the other soldiers onboard and do not note that there were thirty of them on each of the three boats——for a total of 90 other men in addition to the 18 PCF crewmen:

Hyland Citation

Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY was serving as Officer in Charge of Patrol Craft Fast 94 and Officer in Tactical Command of a three—boat unit engaged in inserting Vietnamese regional force troops on a reconnaissance in force mission.

As the force approached the target area on the narrow Dong Cung River, all units came under intense automatic weapons and small arms fire from an entrenched enemy force less than fifty feet away. Unhesitatingly, Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY ordered his boat to attack as all units opened fire and beached directly in front of the enemy ambushers. This daring and courageous tactic surprised the enemy and succeeded in routing a score of enemy soldiers. The PCF gunners captured many enemy weapons in the battle that followed.

Lehmann Citation

Lieutenant (jg) Kerry was serving as Officer in Charge of Patrol Craft Fast 94 and Officer in Tactical Command of a three—boat unit engaged in inserting Vietnamese regional force troops on a reconnaissance in force mission.

As the force approached the target area on the narrow Dong Cung River, all units came under intense automatic weapons and small arms fire from an entrenched enemy force less than fifty feet away. Unhesitatingly, Lieutenant (jg) Kerry ordered his boat to attack as all units opened fire and beached directly in front of the enemy ambushers. This daring and courageous tactic surprised the enemy and succeeded in routing a score of enemy soldiers. The PCF gunners captured many enemy weapons in the battle that followed.

* * *

After Action Report

WHILE TROOPS CONDUCTED SWEEP, PCF 94 AND 23 [MOVED UP RIVER] TOWARDS AREA FROM WHICH ARMY ADVISOR REPORTED GUNSHOTS. PCF 43 REMAINED AT ORIGINAL AMBUSH SITE TO PROVIDE SUPPORT FOR TROOPS. PCF 94 AND 23 PROCEEDED TO VQ 984831 AND THEN TURNED TO RETURN TO PCF 43 LOCATION. AT VQ 984830 [B—4E] ROCKET EXPLODED IN WATER CLOSE ABOARD PCF 94 BLOWING OUT WINDOW FRAME. BOTH UNITS RECEIVED HEAVY SMALL ARMS FIRE AND OTC AGA[IN] CALLED UNITS TO TURN INTO FIRE AND CHARGE AMBUSH SITE. PCF 43 WAS C [UNREADABLE]

AND MOVED IMMEDIATELY TO ASSIST. PCF 94 BEACHED IN CENTER OF AMBUSH IN FRONT OF SMALL PATH WHEN VC SPRUNG UP FROM BUNKER 10 FEET FROM UNIT. MAN RAN WITH WEAPON TOWARDS HOOTCH, FORWARD M—60 GUNNER WOUNDED MAN IN LEG. OINC JUMPED ASHORE AND GAVE PURSUIT WHILE OTHER UNITS SATURATED AREA WITH FIRE AND BEACHED PLACING ASSAULT PARTIES ASHORE. OINC OF PCF 94 CHASED VC INLAND BEHIND HOOTCH AND SHOT HIM WHILE HE FLED CAPTURING ONE B—40 ROCKET LAUNCHER WITH ROUND IN CHAMBER. OINC'S OF PCF'S 43 AND 23 LED ASSAULT PARTIES THROUGH BRUSH AND JOINED WITH PCF 94 GROUP. PARTIES FR[O]M 3 ACF'S [PRO]CEEDED TO SWEEP AREA AND [ILLEGIBLE]

Zumwalt Citation

Patrol Craft Fast 23 and 94 moved upstream to investigate an area from which gunshots were coming. Arriving at the area, Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY's craft received a B—40 rocket close aboard. Once again Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY ordered his units to charge the enemy positions and summoned Patrol Craft Fast 43 to the area to provide additional firepower. Patrol Craft Fast 94 then beached in the center of the enemy positions and an enemy soldier sprang up from his position not ten feet from Patrol Craft Fast 94 and fled. Without hesitation Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY leaped ashore, pursued the man behind a hootch and killed him, capturing a B—40 rocket launcher with a round in the chamber. Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY then led an assault party and conducted a sweep of the area while the Patrol Craft Fast continued to provide fire support. After the enemy had been completely routed, all personnel returned to the Patrol Craft Fast to withdraw from the area.

Hyland Citation

On a request from U.S. Army advisors ashore, Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY ordered PCFs 94 and 23 further up river to suppress enemy sniper fire. After proceeding approximately eight hundred yards, the boats were again taken under fire from a heavily foliated area and a B—40 rocket exploded close aboard PCF 94. With utter disregard for his own safety and the enemy rockets, he again ordered a charge on the enemy, beached his boat only ten feet from the VC rocket position, and personally led a landing party ashore in pursuit of the enemy. Upon sweeping the area, an immediate search uncovered an enemy rest and supply area which was destroyed.

Lehmann Citation

On a request from U.S. Army advisors ashore, he ordered PCFs 94 and 23 further up river to suppress enemy sniper fire. After proceeding approximately eight hundred yards, the boats were again taken underfire from a heavily foliated area and a B—40 rocket exploded close aboard PCF 94. With utter disregard for his own safety and the enemy rockets, he again ordered a charge on the enemy, beached his boat only ten feet from the VC rocket position, and personally led a landing party ashore in pursuit of the enemy. Upon sweeping the area, an immediate search uncovered an enemy rest and supply area which was destroyed.

* * *

Note that in the revisions all mention of Kerry's chasing down and dispatching a wounded and fleeing Vietcong are omitted. And note too that the Zumwalt citation neglects to mention that the VC was already wounded in the leg by heavy machine gun fire.

We will skip now to the wrap up, which is the actually commendation section in the citations:

Zumwalt Citation

Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY's devotion to duty, courage under fire, outstanding leadership, and exemplary professionalism directly contributed to the success of this operation and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Hyland Citation

The extraordinary daring and personal courage of Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY in attacking a numerically superior force in the face of intense fire were responsible for the highly successful mission. His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

Lehmann Citation

The extraordinary daring and personal courage of Lieutenant (jg) Kerry in attacking a numerically superior force in the face of intense fire were responsible for the highly successful mission. By his brave action, bold initiative, and unwavering devotion to duty, Lieutenant (jg) Kerry reflected great credit on himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

* * *

Notice the insertion of 'attacking a numerically superior force' in both of the subsequent revisions of the Silver Star citation.

With at least 107 men at his side, it is hard to believe that Lt. (junior grade) Kerry was attacking a superior force.

In sum it looks like this after action report was suppressed and the Silver Star citations have been revised to burnish Kerry's military record and to expunge any questionable activities—such as shooting a fleeing and wounded enemy.

Which is almost exactly what the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth have been saying all along.