The Corner

Kerry in Vietnam

VERY interesting, from a military reader. I post the following because of

its authentic-sounding quality, with no wish to slight or disparage

anyone — certainly not anyone who did combat duty in Vietnam. Would be

very interested to hear comments or rebuttals from knowledgable servicemen

or ex-servicemen, and will post them, though I reserve the right to edit (as

I have, slightly, here).

“Three caveats to remember before examining JFK’s war record:

“(1) Medal inflation. The Viet Nam War (VNW) was unpopular; in unpopular

wars medals are generously awarded to try (usually unsuccessfully) to boost

the morale of personnel and/or alter public opinion [the Wehrmacht on the

Russian Front comes to mind]. The Navy was especially troublesome in this

area because the majority of Naval personnel (aviators being the most

prominent exception) in the VN theater were almost never exposed to enemy

fire — there were virtually no naval battles in the VNW (probably not even

Ton-kin Gulf as it turns out). River patrol craft personnel were thus the

Navy’s entree into the medal arena — they got lots of them.

“(2) Three and out. It was a naval tradition — NOT AN OFFICIAL POLICY OR

REGULATION — that allowed personnel with three Purple Hearts to transfer to

non-combat duty. JFK was well aware of this tradition.

“(3) JFK’s Rank. Although JFK was not a high ranking officer he was always

the highest ranking officer ON THE SCENE — these were small craft and small

operations. Enlisted men would be unlikely to risk contradicting JFK’s

account of what happened — and ‘boot lickers’ would be encouraged to

corroborate him. As ranking officer he was the one writing the eye-witness

reports. In a sense his medals — though approved by higher-ups — were

’self awarded.’

“With these three caveats firmly in mind let’s look at JFK’s record:

“JFK experienced his first intense combat action on 2 December 1968. He was

slightly wounded on his arm, he was awarded his first Purple Heart.

“JFK was awarded his second Purple Heart after sustaining a minor shrapnel

wound in his left thigh on 20 February 1969.

“JFK was given a Silver Star for an action on 28 February 1969: JFK’s

Patrol Craft received a B-40 rocket shot from shore, he beached his craft in

the

center of the enemy positions and an enemy soldier sprang up from a nearby

(10-15 ft.) hole and fled. The boat’s forward machine gunner hit and wounded

the

fleeing VC as he darted behind a hooch. The twin .50s gunner also fired at

the VC. The gunner said he ‘laid 50 rounds’ into the hooch before JFK leaped

from the boat and dashed in to administer a ‘coup de grace’ to the soldier.

JFK returned with a B-40 rocket and launcher. [In contrast, Army and Marine

personnel were — and are still — routinely trained to engage and close

with the enemy. Had JFK been commanding a platoon or rifle company this

action — going towards and not running away from enemy fire — would have

been routine.]

“On March 13, 1969, a mine [this is dubious; marine mines were hardly used

by NV forces; it was probably a propelled grenade of some type] detonated

near JFK’s boat, slighting wounding Kerry in the right arm. He was awarded

his third Purple Heart. On the basis of these awards JFK then petitioned to

be removed from combat operations. Interestingly JFK also made sure to have

the men who served in his craft transferred to safer positions (easy to due

in the VNW Navy) — perhaps to ensure their endorsement of his actions.”

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