[SwiftVets] The purpose of this letter is to present some of the factual support for the advertisement "Any Questions?" produced and used by Swift Boat Veterans For Truth ("Swiftvets"), an organization properly registered under Internal Revenue Code § 527, and which has filed all required reports. Swiftvets is an organization led by Rear Admiral Roy Hoffmann, USN (retired), Commander of all Swift boats in Vietnam during the period of John Kerry's four-month abbreviated tour in Swift boats between late November 1968 and mid-March 1969. A list of the 254 members may be found on www.swiftvets.com
. A large majority of those who served with John Kerry in Swift boats in Vietnam and whose location is known have joined the organization. Thus, for example, sixteen of the twenty-three surviving officers who served in Coastal Division 11 with Kerry (the place where Kerry spent most of his time) have joined the organization, together with most of Kerry's Vietnam commanders and 254 sailors from Coastal Squadron One, ranging from Vice-Admirals to Seamen.
The purpose of Swiftvets is to present the truth about John Kerry's post-Vietnam charges of war crimes and John Kerry's own Vietnam record. Swiftvets is uniquely positioned to do so since it includes most of the locatable sailors and officers who served with John Kerry in Vietnam.
John Kerry has made his Vietnam record the central focus of his presidential candidacy, depicting purported Vietnam events in nearly $100 million in advertising. Copies of ads such as "Lifetime" and "No Man Left Behind" may be found on Kerry's website. Kerry's authorized campaign biography, Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War, by Douglas Brinkley (New York: HarperCollins, 2004) ("Tour"), centers on his short Vietnam tour and contains Kerry's account of these events. Additional accounts by Kerry of his Vietnam experience may be found on his website.
A true and correct transcript of the advertisement entitled "Any Questions?" is attached as Exhibit 1. Affidavits are attached (as Exhibits 2 through 14) from each participant in the advertisement, except from John Edwards, the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, whose often-repeated invitation to learn about John Kerry by speaking to the men who served with him begins the advertisement. The filmed comment of Senator Edwards has been made so many times as to be general knowledge.
As described in the attached affidavits, Al French (Exhibit 2), Bob Elder (Exhibit 3), Jack Chenoweth (Exhibit 7), Larry Thurlow (Exhibit 10), and Bob Hildreth (Exhibit 14) were all officers in charge of Swift boats in Vietnam in Coastal Division 11 with John Kerry. Coastal Division 11 was a small naval unit with about one hundred sailors and fifteen or sixteen boats which operated in groups of two to six boats. Each of these boat officers operated directly with John Kerry on numerous occasions. Van Odell (Exhibit 6) is a retired Navy enlisted man who also served in Coastal Division 11 on the Chenoweth boat, a few yards from John Kerry during Kerry's March 13, 1969 Bronze Star action.
Captain George Elliott, USN (retired), (Exhibit 4) was John Kerry's direct commander in Coastal Division 11, while Captain Adrian Lonsdale, USCG (retired), (Exhibit 9) was Kerry's administrative commander. Rear Admiral Roy Hoffmann, USN (retired), (Exhibit 8) commanded all Swift boats (including Kerry's) in Vietnam. Each of these commanders interacted on numerous occasions with Kerry and, for example, are discussed for many pages in Kerry's own authorized book, Tour.
Dr. Louis Letson (Exhibit 5) was the doctor in Cam Rahn Bay who treated Kerry's first Purple Heart "wound," while Commander Grant Hibbard (Exhibit 11) was John Kerry's commander at Coastal Division 14 where Kerry claimed to have suffered the wound. Finally, Joe Ponder (Exhibit 13) and Shelton White (Exhibit 12) are veterans of Coastal Division 11 who were badly wounded near the Song Bo De River where Kerry served most of his short tour.
The Kerry campaign has utilized a revolving group of eight veterans from Coastal Division 11 (none of whom served with Kerry as much as two months). In stark contrast to this small stable of supporters, the veterans on "Any Questions?" have intimate knowledge of John Kerry or (in the case of Ponder and White) of the falsehood and injury of his false war crimes charges. Although many more of the over 250 signers of the Swiftvets' letter served directly with John Kerry, it would be hard to locate people with more detailed and first-hand knowledge of John Kerry's short Vietnam stay than those in the advertisement. They are well-suited to respond with first-hand knowledge to Edward's invitation. Their sworn affidavits are attached (in order of appearance in the advertisement) as Exhibits 2 through 14.
Kerry's obtaining of three Purple Hearts permitted him to leave Vietnam some 243 days short of the normal one-year tour. See Exhibit 20, Thrice Wounded Reassignment. Whether or not he fraudulently obtained these awards (the Purple Heart being among the most sacred of all awards) is critical to his true Vietnam story.
A. March 13, 1969: "No Man Left Behind" Incident
Attached as Exhibit 15 is Kerry's account of "no man left behind" where, in Tour of Duty, Kerry repeats his now-familiar story of returning, wounded by an underwater mine, to recover a Special Forces soldier, Jim Rassman, in a hail of fire pulling Rassman from the water with his bleeding arm. Tour, at 313-17. The story of Kerry's return to save Rassman, under fire and wounded from the mine, has been told in many millions of dollars of Kerry advertising. See Kerry website; see also, e.g., Kerry's full-page advertisement in The New York Times, which is attached as Exhibit 16.
Kerry's after-action report for that day is featured on his website. See Exhibit 17. KJW identifies the report as Kerry's. Likewise, Kerry reported his shrapnel wounds to the Navy in an injury report:
"LTJG Kerry suffered shrapnel wounds in his left buttocks and contusions on his right forearm when a mine detonated close aboard PCF-94."
Exhibit 18. Exhibit 17 likewise identifies Kerry's "injuries" as contusion right forearm (minor) (i.e., a small bruise) and a shrapnel wound left buttocks.
The regulations for the Purple Heart are attached as Exhibit 19 and, of course, exclude accidental injury and self-inflicted wounds (except non-negligent wounds in the heat of battle). Although Kerry's "minor" bruise could never entitle him to a Purple Heart, Kerry's reported shrapnel wound to his "buttocks" (although minor according to the treating physician) from an enemy mine would have entitled him to such an award (had he not been lying about its origin). Receiving the third Purple Heart, within three days Kerry had requested reassignment from Vietnam on the basis of three Purple Hearts -- some 243 days early. See Exhibit 20.
(i) The Purple Heart Lie
Kerry's third Purple Heart was his ticket home. It also was much of the basis of his Bronze Star, repeating "his bleeding arm" and shrapnel wound from the mine story. The problem is that his operating report was a total lie since Kerry's shrapnel wound "in the buttocks" came not from a mine at all as he falsely reported, but at his own hand. Larry Thurlow, an officer on shore with Kerry that day, recounts that Kerry's shrapnel wound came not from any mine, but from a self-inflicted wound when Kerry (with no enemy to be seen) threw a concussion grenade into a rice pile and stayed too close. See Exhibit 10, ¶ 3. This "brown rice" incident with rice/shrapnel lodged in Kerry from his own grenade is also recounted by James Rassman, a Kerry supporter and "the no man left behind" on page 105 of John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography By The Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best, by Michael Kranish, Brian C. Mooney, and Nina J. Easton (New York: Public Affairs, 2004) (the "Kranish book"). See Exhibit 21.
Most surprisingly, John Kerry himself (while falsely reporting to the Navy and public that he suffered a shrapnel wound from a mine explosion so as to get a third Purple Heart and go home) reflected in his own journal that his buttocks' wound came, not from any mine but, rather, from a grenade tossed into a rice cache by himself or friendly troops (in the absence of any enemy fire). "I got a piece of small grenade in my ass from one of the rice bin explosions." Exhibit 15, Tour, at 313; see also Exhibit 15, Tour, at 317. "Kerry . . . also had the bits of shrapnel and rice extracted from his backside." See also the sworn statement of participants that there was no hostile fire (Exhibits 6, 7, and 10). It also should be noted that the rice extracted from Kerry's backside could hardly be the result of an underwater mine, as Kerry claimed in his operating report.
The conclusion is inescapable: that Kerry lied by reporting to the Navy that he had been wounded by shrapnel in his backside from an enemy mine when in reality he negligently wounded himself and then lied about the wound in order to secure a third Purple Heart and a quick trip home.
(ii) The Bronze Star Lie
As recounted in the attached affidavits of three on-scene participants (and verified by many others present) Kerry's operating report, Bronze Star story, and subsequent "no man left behind" story are a total hoax on the Navy and the nation. As recounted in the affidavits of Van Odell (Exhibit 6), Jack Chenoweth (Exhibit 7), and Larry Thurlow (Exhibit 10) (and verified by every other officer present and many others), a mine went off under PCF 3 -- some yards from Kerry's boat. The force of the explosion disabled PCF 3 and knocked several sailors, dazed, into the water. All boats, except one, closed to rescue the sailors and defend the disabled boat. That boat -- Kerry's boat -- fled the scene. After a short period, it was evident to all on the scene that there was no additional hostile fire. Thurlow began the daring rescue of disabled PCF 3, while Chenoweth began to pluck dazed survivors of PCF 3 from the water. Midway through the process, after it was apparent that there was no hostile fire, Kerry finally returned, picking up Rassman who was only a few yards from Chenoweth's boat which was also going to pick Rassman up. Each of the affiants (and many other Swiftees on the scene that day) are certain that Kerry has wholly lied about the incident. Consider this: How could the disabled PCF abandon the scene of the mine? Why did Kerry have to "return" to the scene?
Kerry's account of this action, which was used to secure the Bronze Star and a third Purple Heart, is an extraordinary example of fraud. Kerry describes "boats rcd heavy A/W and S/A from both banks. Fire continued for about 5000 meters." Exhibit 17. In other words, the boats went through a double gauntlet at about 50 yards distance that was 3.2 miles long (comparable to Seminary Ridge at Gettysburg on two sides), and yet none of the other boats within feet of Kerry's boat heard a shot or suffered an injury after the PCF 3 mine explosion, except for John Kerry's buttocks rice wound of earlier origin.
Clearly, Van Odell is right when he says, "John Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star . . . I know. I was there. I saw what happened." As Jack Chenoweth swore, "his account of what happened and what actually happened are the difference between night and day." Most poignantly, Larry Thurlow, whose brave actions saved the PCF 3 boat that day after Kerry fled, has the right to say, "When the chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry."
B. December 2, 1968 Purple Heart
On February 28, 1969, John Kerry received his first Purple Heart for an incident three months earlier, on or about December 2, 1968. Kerry's account of the incident is contained in Tour of Duty, pages 147 and 148 (Exhibit 23). Kerry claims to have been with two crewmen, Zaldonis and Runyon. See Exhibit 23. Neither Kerry, Zaldonis, nor Runyon claim to have seen any hostile fire. See Exhibit 24 (Kranish book, pp. 72-73). A Purple Heart cannot be given for a self-inflicted wound under the attached regulations.
Unmentioned in Kerry's Tour Of Duty version are the actual surrounding facts. Kerry, Lieutenant William Schachte, USN, and an enlisted man were on the whaler. Seeing movement from an unknown source, the sailors opened fire on the movement. There was no hostile fire. When Kerry's rifle jammed, he picked up an M-79 grenade launcher and fired a grenade at a nearby object. This sprayed the boat with shrapnel from Kerry's own grenade, a tiny piece of which embedded in Kerry's arm.
Kerry managed to keep the tiny fragment embedded until he saw Dr. Louis Letson. Dr. Letson's affidavit is attached as Exhibit 5. When Letson inquired why Kerry was there, Kerry said that he had been wounded by hostile fire. The accompanying crewmen indicated that Kerry was the new "JFK" and that he had actually wounded himself with an M-79. Letson removed the tiny fragment with tweezers and placed a band aid over the tiny scratch. The tiny fragment removed by Letson appeared to be an M-79 fragment, as described by the personnel accompanying Kerry.
The next morning Kerry showed up at Division Commander Grant Hibbard's office. Hibbard had already spoken to Schachte and conducted an investigation. Hibbard's affidavit is attached as Exhibit 11. Hibbard's investigation revealed that Kerry's "rose thorn" scratch had been self-inflicted in the absence of hostile fire. Hibbard, therefore, booted Kerry out of his office and denied the Purple Heart.
Some three months later, cf. Exhibit 22, after all personnel actually familiar with the events of December 2, 1969 had left Vietnam, Kerry somehow managed to obtain a Purple Heart for the December 2, 1968 event from an officer with no connection to Coastal Division 14 or knowledge of the December 2, 1968 event or of Commander Hibbard's prior turn down of the Purple Heart request. All normal documentation supporting a Purple Heart is missing. There is absolutely no casualty report (i.e., spot report) or hostile fire report or after-action report in the Navy's files to support this "Purple Heart" because there was no casualty, hostile fire, or action on which to report. The sole document relied upon by Kerry is a record showing the band aid and tweezers treatment by Dr. Letson recorded by deceased corpsman, Jess Carreon.
There are no witnesses who claim to have seen hostile fire -- necessary for a Purple Heart (even a rose thorn Purple Heart) -- that day. At least three witnesses, Dr. Letson (who spoke to the participants and removed the M-79 fragment), Lt. Bill Schachte (on the boat), and Cmdr. Grant Hibbard (whose investigation revealed Kerry's application for a Purple Heart to be fraudulent), are able to testify directly or based upon contemporaneous investigation that Kerry's first Purple Heart was a fraud. Thus, Lewis Letson's statement that "I know John Kerry is lying about a first Purple Heart" is conclusively established by the evidence. Like the third Purple Heart, Kerry's first Purple Heart was essential to his quick trip home.
C. Christmas In Cambodia
If there is a consistent repeated story by John Kerry about his Vietnam experience, it is his story about how he and his boat spent Christmas Eve and Christmas of 1968 illegally present in Cambodia and, listening to President Nixon's contrary assurances, developed "a deep mistrust of U.S. government pronouncements." See Exhibit 24, Kranish book, p. 84. The point of his story was that his government and his commanders were lying about Kerry's presence in Cambodia on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. During a critical debate on the floor of the United States Senate on March 27, 1986, Senator John Kerry said:
Mr. President, I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the President of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia.
I have that memory which is seared -- seared -- in me . . . .
Exhibit 25, Congressional Record - Senate of March 27, 1986, page 3594.
By way of further example, Kerry wrote an article for the Boston Herald on October 14, 1979:
"I remember spending Christmas Eve of 1968 five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas. The absurdity of almost killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real."
See Exhibit 26.
The Christmas in Cambodia story of John Kerry was repeated as recently as July 7, 2004 by Michael Kranish, a principal biographer of Kerry from The Boston Globe. On the Hannity & Colmes television show, Kranish indicated that Kerry's Christmas in Cambodia was a critical turning point in Kerry's life.
The story is a total preposterous fabrication by Kerry. Exhibit 8 is an affidavit by the Commander of the Swift boats in Vietnam, Admiral Roy Hoffmann, stating that Kerry's claim to be in Cambodia for Christmas Eve and Christmas of 1968 is a total lie. If necessary, similar affidavits are available from the entire chain of command. In reality, Kerry was at Sa Dec -- easily locatable on any map more than fifty miles from Cambodia. Kerry himself inadvertently admits that he was in Sa Dec for Christmas Eve and Christmas and not in Cambodia, as he had stated for so many years on the Senate Floor, in the newspapers, and elsewhere. Exhibit 27, Tour, pp. 213-219. Sa Dec is hardly "close" to the Cambodian border. In reality, far from being ordered secretly to Cambodia, Kerry spent a pleasant night at Sa Dec with "visions of sugar plums" dancing in his head. Exhibit 27, p. 219. At Sa Dec where the Swift boat patrol area ended, there were many miles of other boats (PBR's) leading to the Cambodian border. There were also gunboats on the border to prevent any crossing. If Kerry tried to get through, he would have been arrested. Obviously, Kerry has hardly been honest about his service in Vietnam.
D. War Crimes
Returning to the United States, Kerry made speeches charging that U.S. forces in Vietnam were "like the army of Genghis Khan," that "crimes were committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of all levels of command," and that our officers in Coastal Division were like Lieutenant Calley. Kerry met on least two occasions with the North Vietnamese in Paris and is, in fact, honored as a hero in the war museum in Ho Chi Minh City. See pictures on WinterSoldier.com and SwiftVets.com. Joe Ponder is a widely quoted disabled vet from Coastal Division 11 who saw no war crimes but knows that Kerry dishonored our unit. Exhibit 13. Shelton White, a badly wounded Coastal Division 11 veteran, likewise saw no war crimes and remembers Kerry's betrayal. Exhibit 12.
As set forth at length, there is not only a reasonable factual basis for the statements in the ad; they are virtually conclusively established by the documentation.
Thank you for your kind consideration. Please do not hesitate to call me if you have any questions.
Very truly yours,
Original signed by John E. O'Neill