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
“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
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
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
“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.”