Kerry's Silver Star undeserved


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Nov 30, 2001
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Book claims he shot fleeing teen, burned down village

Posted: August 5, 2004
1:20 p.m. Eastern

© 2004

John Kerry was awarded his Silver Star in Vietnam "by killing a lone, fleeing, teenage Viet Cong in a loincloth," according to a blockbuster book by the presidential candidate's former Navy colleagues, scheduled for release next week.

John Kerry receving medal for Vietnam service.

"Unfit for Command," which has reached No. 1 on the best-seller list, says "if Kerry's superiors had known the truth at the time, they would never have recommended him for the medal," according to the Drudge Report.

The book, by an officer who took over Kerry's swift-boat command, John O'Neill, also claims Kerry burned down a village after ordering the slaughter of its small animals.

The Kerry campaign, which calls the book "the dirtiest of all dirty tricks ever played on a candidate for the presidency," is preparing a vigorous counter-offensive, accusing the veterans of being fueled by a top Bush donor from Texas.

As WorldNetDaily reported, a blistering new TV commercial produced by O'Neill's group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, quotes Kerry's Vietnam comrades calling him a liar, questioning his honor, accusing him of misrepresenting his actions for medals and attacking his character.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, has condemned the ad as "dishonest and dishonorable" and urged the White House to condemn it as well, according to the Associated Press.

In the book, O'Neill writes "Kerry's Star would never have been awarded had his actions been reviewed through normal channels. In his case, he was awarded the medal two days after the incident with no review. The medal was arranged to boost the morale of Coastal Division 11, but it was based on false and incomplete information provided by Kerry himself."

The Silver Star citation says Kerry was in command of a three-boat mission on the Dong Cung River. As the boats approached the target area, they came under intense enemy fire. Kerry ordered his boat to attack and all boats opened fire. He then beached directly in front of the enemy ambushers. In the battle that followed, the crews captured enemy weapons. His boat then moved further up the river to suppress more enemy fire. A rocket exploded near Kerry's boat, and he ordered to charge the enemy. Kerry beached his boat 10 feet from the rocket position and led a landing party ashore to pursue the enemy.

Kerry' citation reads: "The extraordinary daring and personal courage of Lt. Kerry in attacking a numerically superior force in the face of intense fire were responsible for the highly successful mission."

But O'Neill writes: "According to Kerry's crewman Michael Madeiros, Kerry had an agreement with him to turn the boat in and onto the beach if fired upon. Each of the three boats involved in the operation was involved in the agreement."

One crewman even recalls a discussion of probable medals, according to O'Neill.

The event was recounted to O'Neill by a pro-Kerry Army veteran, Doug Reese.

"Far from being alone, the boats were loaded with many soldiers commanded by Reese and two other advisors. When fired at, Reese's boat -- not Kerry's -- was the first to beach in the ambush zone. Then Reese and other troops and advisors (not Kerry) disembarked, killing a number of Viet Cong and capturing a number of weapons. None of the participants from Reese's boat received Silver Stars."

O'Neill continues: "Kerry's boat moved slightly downstream and was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. ... A young Viet Cong in a loincloth popped out of a hole, clutching a grenade launcher, which may or may not have been loaded. ... Tom Belodeau, a forward gunner, shot the Viet Cong with an M-60 machine gun in the leg as he fled. ... Kerry and Medeiros (who had many troops in their boat) took off, perhaps with others, and followed the young Viet Cong and shot him in the back, behind a lean to."

O'Neill concludes "Whether Kerry's dispatching of a fleeing, wounded, armed or unarmed teenage enemy was in accordance with the customs of war, it is very clear that many Vietnam veterans and most Swiftees do not consider this action to be the stuff of which medals of any kind are awarded; nor would it even be a good story if told in the cold details of reality. There is no indication that Kerry ever reported that the Viet Cong was wounded and fleeing when dispatched. Likewise, the citation simply ignores the presence of the soldiers and advisors who actually 'captured the enemy weapons' and routed the Viet Cong ... [and] that Kerry attacked a 'numerically superior force in the face of intense fire' is simply false. There was little or no fire after Kerry followed the plan. ... The lone, wounded, fleeing young Viet Cong in a loincloth was hardly a force superior to the heavily armed Swift Boat and its crew and the soldiers carried aboard."

The book says if Kerry's superior officers knew the truth, they would never have recommended the award

O'Neill writes: "Admiral Roy Hoffmann, who sent a Bravo Zulu (meaning "good work"), to Kerry upon learning of the incident, was very surprised to discover in 2004 what had actually occurred. Hoffmann had been told that Kerry had spontaneously beached next to the bunker and almost single-handedly routed a bunkered force in Viet Cong. He was shocked to find out that Kerry had beached his boat second in a preplanned operation, and that he had killed a single, wounded teenage foe as he fled.

"Commander Geoge Elliott, who wrote up the initial draft of Kerry's Silver Star citation, confirms that neither he, nor anyone else in the Silver Star process that he knows, realized before 1996 that Kerry was facing a single, wounded young Viet Cong fleeing in a loincloth. While Commander Elliott and many other Swiftees believe that Kerry committed no crime in killing the fleeing, wounded enemy (with a loaded or empty launcher), others feel differently. Commander Elliott indicates that a Silver Star recommendation would not have been made by him had he been aware of the actual facts."

Still 'haunted'

The village burning incident was recounted in the book by George Bates, an officer in Coastal Division 11 who participated in numerous operations with Kerry.

Bates says he still is "haunted" by a particular patrol with Kerry on the Song Bo De River.

"With Kerry in the lead, the boats approached a small hamlet with three or four grass huts. Pigs and chickens were milling around peacefully. As the boats drew closer, the villagers fled. There were no political symbols or flags in evidence in the tiny village. It was obvious to Bates that existing policies, decency, and good sense required the boats to simply move on.

"Instead, Kerry beached his boat directly in the small settlement. Upon his command, the numerous small animals were slaughtered by heavy-caliber machine guns. Acting more like a pirate than a naval officer, Kerry disembarked and ran around with a Zippo lighter, burning up the entire hamlet."

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