Swift Boat Veterans vs. John Kerry
By David Emery
Netlore Archive: Circulating via email, criticism of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry attributed to former military personnel involved in swift boat operations during the Vietnam War.
Description: Forwarded email
Circulating since: June 2004
Status: Politics as usual (see details below)
Email contributed by Frank C., June 3, 2004:
Subject: SWIFT BOAT QUOTES
THIS NEEDS TO GET TO EVERYBODY WHO VOTES--MILITARY ESPECIALLY........
"We resent very deeply the false war crimes charges he made coming back from Vietnam in 1971 and repeated in the book "Tour of Duty." We think those cast an aspersion on all those living and dead, from our unit and other units in Vietnam. We think that he knew he was lying when he made the charges, and we think that they're unsupportable. We intend to bring the truth about that to the American people.
We believe, based on our experience with him, that he is totally unfit to be the Commander-in-Chief."
-- John O'Neill, spokesman, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth
He arrived in-country with a strong anti-Vietnam War bias and a self-serving determination to build a foundation for his political future. He was aggressive, but vain and prone to impulsive judgment, often with disregard for specific tactical assignments. He was a 'loose cannon.'
In an abbreviated tour of four months and 12 days, and with his specious medals secure, Lt.(jg) Kerry bugged out and began his infamous betrayal of all United States forces in the Vietnam War. That included our soldiers, our marines, our sailors, our coast guardsmen, our airmen, and our POWs. His leadership within the so-called Vietnam Veterans Against the War and testimony before Congress in 1971 charging us with unspeakable atrocities remain an undocumented but nevertheless meticulous stain on the men and women who honorably stayed the course. Senator Kerry is not fit for command."
-- Rear Admiral Roy Hoffman, USN (retired), chairman, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth
Kerry would be described as devious, self-absorbing, manipulative, disdain for authority, disruptive, but the most common phrase that you'd hear is 'requires constant supervision.'"
-- Captain Charles Plum, USN (retired)
Our young men and women who are serving deserve no less."
-- Andrew Horne
-- Jeffrey Wainscott
It is a fact that in the entire Vietnam War we did not lose one major battle. We lost the war at home... and at home, John Kerry was the Field General."
-- Robert Elder
Let me give you an example. In Brinkley's book, on pages 170 to 171, about something called the 'Bo De massacre' on November 24th of 1968... In Kerry's description of the engagement, first he claimed there were 17 servicemen that were wounded. Three of us were wounded. I was the first..."
-- Joseph Ponder
Lt.(jg) Kerry was allowed to return to the good old USA after 4 months and a few days in-country, and then he proceeded to betray his former shipmates, calling them criminals who were committing atrocities. Today we are here to tell you that just the opposite is true. Our rules of engagement were quite strict, and the officers and men of Swift often did not even return fire when they were under fire if there was a possibility that innocent people -- fishermen, in a lot of cases -- might be hurt or injured. The rules and the good intentions of the men increased the possibility that we might take friendly casualties."
-- Commander Grant Hibbard, USN (retired)
Very specific orders, on file at the Vietnam archives at Texas Tech University, were issued by my father [Admiral Elmo Zumwalt] and others in his chain of command instructing subordinates to act responsibly in preserving the life and property of Vietnamese civilians."
-- Lt. Col. James Zumwalt, USMC (retired)
I deeply resent John Kerry's using his Swift boat experience, and his betrayal of those who fought there as a stepping-stone to his political ambitions."
-- Barnard Wolff
When John Kerry returned to the country, he was sworn in front of Congress. And then he told my family -- my parents, my sister, my brother, my neighbors -- he told everyone I knew and everyone I'd ever know that I and my comrades had committed unspeakable atrocities."
-- David Wallace
In 1971, '72, for almost 18 months, he stood before the television audiences and claimed that the 500,000 men and women in Vietnam, and in combat, were all villains -- there were no heroes. In 2004, one hero from the Vietnam War has appeared, running for President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief. It just galls one to think about it."
-- Captain George Elliott, USN (retired)
Now when I went there right after Tet, I was restricted in my movements. I couldn't go much of anyplace because the Vietcong controlled most of the area. When I left, I could go anywhere I wanted, just about. Commerce was booming, the buses were running, trucks were going, the waterways were filled with sampans with goods going to market, but yet in Kerry's biography he says that our operations were a complete failure. He also mentions a formal conference with me, to try to get more air cover and so on. That conference never happened..."
-- Captain Adrian Lonsdale, USCG (retired)
This is not true. We're not standing for it. We want to set the record straight."
-- William Shumadine
-- Richard O'Meara
-- Steven Gardner
All I can say is when I leave here today, I'm going down to the Wall to tell my two crew members it's not true, and that they and the other 49 Swiftees who are on the Wall were then and are still now the best."
-- Robert Brant
I signed this letter because I feel that he used Swift boat sailors to proclaim his antiwar statements after the war, and now he uses the same Swift boat sailors to support his claims of being a war hero. He cannot have it both ways, and we are here to ask for full disclosure of the proof of his claims."
-- James Steffes
Analysis: All of the above quotes are authentic so far as I can tell, but don't be misled by this partisan political screed. Albeit frequently forwarded under the title "John Kerry's Shipmates Speak Out," only one of the men quoted in the message, Steven Gardner, actually served under John Kerry when he was a swift boat captain during the Vietnam War.
According to historian Douglas Brinkley, author of a book on the candidate's military career, Gardner's appraisal of Kerry is distinctly at odds with that of every other surviving member of Kerry's swift boat crews, not to mention Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Chief of U.S. Naval Operations during Kerry's tour of duty, who has stated: "Lt. Kerry's calmness, professionalism and great personal courage under fire were in keeping with the highest traditions of the US Naval Service."
The rest of the signatories served in various capacities connected with swift boat operations Rear Admiral Roy Hoffman as commander of Operation Sealords, for example, overseeing missions conducted by more than 100 swift boats in Vietnam; Grant Hibbard as Kerry's squadron commander; John O'Neill as the skipper of John Kerry's boat after he left Vietnam; and others as captains or sailors on swift boats other than Kerry's.
All of them belong to a Republican-backed organization called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whose main beef with John Kerry, it appears apart from the fact that he is the Democratic candidate for the presidency is that after his discharge he spoke out against the Vietnam War and testified before Congress that U.S. military personnel had committed atrocities. In fairness, Kerry was not the only Vietnam veteran to do so, and these issues continue to impassion and divide veterans of good conscience to this day.
As to the intimation that Kerry was an unfit commander, that he didn't deserve Bronze and Silver Stars for valor or that he wasn't seriously enough injured to earn three Purple Hearts, his official Navy records on JohnKerry.com and the testimony of his shipmates supply proof to the contrary.
When similar charges along with the claim that Kerry has outright lied about his service record were repeated in an August 2004 television advertisement produced by the same group (Swift Boat Veterans for Truth), Republican Senator and Vietnam veteran John McCain denounced the allegations as "dishonest and dishonorable."
Sources and further reading:
Veterans Attack Kerry on Vietnam
CBS News, 10 May 2004
Group's Ad Says Kerry Lied
USA Today, 4 August 2004
Anti-Kerry Vet Retracts Claim
CBS News, 6 August 2004
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth
Official Website of anti-Kerry swift boat veterans
Veterans United for Kerry
Similar group at the opposite end of the political spectrum
Disinfopedia: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth
Background on the and its political affiliations
Smear Boat Veterans for Bush
Salon.com commentary by Joe Conason, 4 May 2004 (Subscription req'd)
John Kerry's Military Records
Hosted on JohnKerry.com
Vietnam Crewmates Steady at Kerry's Side
USA Today, 28 July 2004
Crewmates Attest to Kerry's Mettle as Wartime Commander
Los Angeles Times, 29 July 2004
Veteran Supporters Rebut Criticism of Kerry
Sripps Howard News Service, 30 July 2004
Fellow GIs Tout Kerry's Heroism Under Fire
Associated Press, 28 July 2004
Kerry Returns to Boston with 'Band of Brothers'
Washington Post, 29 July 2004
The Tenth Brother
Time, 9 March 2004
Last updated: 08/09/04