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February 24, 2004


Patrick R. Sullivan

Wellll...maybe "puzzling" isn't the right word. Perhaps, predictable.

Anyway, this might matter thanks to that other JFK from Massachusetts who turned out to be somewhat reckless--he almost got us into a nuclear war over Cuba, and he did get us into Vietnam. Maybe it would have been helpful to the electorate to know this:


...Reader's Digest magazine containing John Hersey's story of John F. Kennedy and PT-109. To put it simply, this is the article that launched Kennedy's political career. Hersey, a Kennedy family friend, first published this flattering account in the 'New Yorker.' But Joe Kennedy, unhappy with the New Yorker's relatively small circulation, pressed editor Paul Palmer for this appearance in the much more widely read 'Reader's Digest.'

It was a shrewd move, and this condensed version of the PT-109 incident proved crucial to Kennedy's early political success. Indeed, this version was reprinted for each of JFK's subsequent campaigns, including his 1960 presidential run. As to the story itself, few would argue that young Lt. Kennedy acted heroically in his efforts to rescue his men after his PT boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer. But veteran PT commanders were incredulous that such a quick and maneuverable craft could not escape being struck by a much larger and slower enemy in the first place. In fact no other PT boat was ever rammed by an enemy ship before or since Kennedy's, and he narrowly escaped court-martial for the incident.

Has a bit of deja vu-iness, doesn't it.

Patrick R. Sullivan

"Thomas D. Segel is a twice wounded, former combat correspondent who saw enemy action during the Korean War and two tours of duty in Vietnam. He retired from the Marine Corps as a Master Gunnery Sergeant after 26 years of service.", and he has some questions about John F. Kerry:


Retired Marine Major Frank Stolz of Round Rock, Texas has some deep concerns about Kerry’s “Swift Boat” exploits and his swifter tour of duty in Vietnam. “He returned to the USA after all of four months with the swift boats”, says Stolz. “He reminded his Commanding Officer that he had three Purple hearts and should be allowed to leave the combat zone. His behavior during this period was reckless and his medals are in question. There was killing of unarmed civilians and later a wounded soldier, which earned him a Silver Star. He had to do a lot of the writing for this award himself, or he talked his crew members into writing him up, as he was the only officer.”

Stolz points out an important fact that is never mentioned when Kerry campaign personnel speak of their candidate’s heroism. “Wounded enemy soldiers are brought to the rear for questioning, as required by the Geneva Conventions, UN policy and U.S. military doctrine. Only when the enemy soldier is fighting or when returning him would jeopardize your unit is it permissible to kill him. Obviously that wounded soldier could have been carried to the swift boat, taken to the medics and then to the interrogators.”

Retired Army Colonel George R. Givens of Paige, Texas also has reservations as to the propriety of Kerry’s action under fire. “As I understand it, the enemy attacked his boat and he responded by grounding the boat, leaping off, and personally pursuing a wounded enemy, which he killed.

“At the time he was Commander of his Swift Boat. Think about it. In the middle of an attack, the Captain of the Ship runs his boat aground, leaves the boat and crew of five enlisted men behind, and conducts needless, single handed pursuit of a fleeing enemy, while his boat and crew are especially vulnerable to further attack by possible hidden forces.

“Swift Boats were not heavily armored or armed. One of the few defensive weapons they had was maneuverability, including leaving the area to call in air strikes or artillery. By intentionally grounding his boat so he could get off and conduct a one man chase, he took away one of the primary defenses of his boat.”


Richard Aubrey

The Marines had the same three hits and you're out rule.
It made for some difficulty in maintaining their Civic Action Program teams. The teams were volunteer, but took only experienced guys from the line units, which meant one or two hits probably already. CAP was dangerous and another hit could be expected shortly, thus taking a Marine out of action, presuming he lived.

London Derriere

Every Tuesday night, without fail, Sen. Kerry shouts out something about how, "some of us really know something about aircraft carriers!" I assume by "some of us," he means himself, as opposed to Bush.

So here's what I want to know about Kerry's military service:

When, precisely, was he ever on a freakin' aircraft carrier?

During his first tour in Vietnam, he was a deck officer on a frigate, USS Gridley. (Source: Andrew Ferguson's recent Weekly Standard review of Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty.) On his second tour -- when he earned all the medals -- he commanded a Swift boat.

So, um, John . . . helluva job on the Swift boat, really, but. . . um, what do you know about aircraft carriers, exactly? And how did you learn it?

(No, John, Gridley wasn't an aircraft carrier.)


In a rare turn as Kerry apologist, I will take a wack at the carrier question, having wondered my self. My guess is that he attended staff meetings with top brass on their flagships, which would have been carriers in VietNam. My expertise here is derived from "The Caine Mutiny", where in one scene some of the officers of the Caine board some battleship to chat with an admiral.

Patrick R. Sullivan

Looks like Kerry only accidentally became a hero:

After Officer Candidate School and other training, Mr. Kerry served aboard the guided-missile frigate Gridley, which had a relatively uneventful deployment off Vietnam, from February to early June 1968. But while on shore leave in that period, he saw the small swift boats, reminiscent of the PT-109, commanded by his idol John F. Kennedy, and volunteered for duty on the boats.

A Very Different Mission

The mission of the swift boats changed drastically just as Mr. Kerry arrived back in Vietnam in November 1968. Originally, they patrolled off the coast, relatively safe duty. But Admiral Zumwalt ordered the boats to enter the shallow waters in the Mekong Delta, territory that was a main Vietcong infiltration route. "It was an absolutely different ballgame," said Elliott Barker, a fellow swift boat skipper who is now a lawyer in Selma, Ala.

Dan Harris

Last Friday, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette had a very flattering editorial regarding John Kerry's Vietnam service. This was unusual as the Dem-Gaz editorally generally sides with the Repubs/conservatives. But one thing just jumped off the page was the statement that 3 out for 4 brown water sailors were killed. Huh? I am a Vietnam War navy vet, the blue-water variety but I knew there was no way 3/4 of those guys were killed. I had searched for the source of that mis-information and thanks to you I found it here. I wrote the Dem-Gaz about this error and today they issued the following correction:

Thanks to Alert Reader for pointing out that we made Vietnam War even bloodier than it was. That should have been a 75-percent casualty rate among sailors on Swift Boats running the rivers of Southeast Asia-not a 75-percent fatality rate. No excuse sir.

Thanks for allowing me to "fact-check their ass".

To quote, er someone. "Heh".


You know, you guys all make some pretty good points! But tell me this, does the fact that Kerry served at all in Nam, under his own free will mean anything to you? A 75% casualty is nothing to laugh at or take likely, 75% casualty rate in the current Iraq theater would mean that 85,000 troops would come home in Body Bags or wounded. I don't care what wound you recieve in combat, you served your country and that is more than 75% of americans can say. IF Kerry failed to serve honorably in Vietnam, how can Bush serving questionably in the US be any better? It can't, both candidates are weak in this argument, so drop it!
However, who has never fought a single day in the jungle and has probably never lost a freind to war! And who is it that sent our sons and daughters into a war that nobody truly understands what or why we are there. Is it for WMD's or is it for liberation? Would have been nice if the answer had been clear but it sure wasn't. We are there, so that Bush can avenge his fathers unfinished work, depose a tyrant that showed no ability to defend his own country. We basically took a failing nation with no defense ability and destroyed it and its people. So if anybody can truly write one post that shows one thing that Bush has done that is good for all Americans, that does not involve bombing other countries I would like to know what that is. Fact check that!

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