December 18, 2008

Swiftboat, Part II

Dear Mr. Pickens:

We are the crew and individual servicemen who served on or with Patrol Craft Fast 94 (PCF-94) in Vietnam in early 1969. All of us are intensely proud of our service. We put our lives on the line for our country without reservation. We fought hard under difficult circumstances. Each of us was a volunteer for the United States military. We are patriotic, concerned veterans and this past Memorial Day – a holiday to honor all those who gave their lives in service to country – we were reminded of a challenge you made publicly in Washington, D.C., regarding the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT) and their lies about our service in Vietnam.

Regrettably the lies of the SBVT, which you helped bankroll and apparently still defend, tarnished the sacrifices we made, called into question the medals we were awarded and challenged the very authenticity of our service. In countless radio talk shows, television appearances and ads, newspaper and magazine interviews, not to mention political speeches and group appearances, SBVT lied about our skipper’s and our service In Vietnam and in so doing, damaged our reputations and attacked the quality of our service to country. We have children and families who were deeply affected by these lies and we believe you and the SBVT whom you supported owe us and the American people an apology for the tactics you bankrolled.

We are aware of media reports that at a dinner in Washington, D.C. on November 6th, 2007, you made a public challenge that you would give a million dollars to anyone who could show that anything the SBVT said was false. We also know that Senator John Kerry, who was the skipper of PCF-94, contacted you to take you up on that challenge. We are writing to you now as a group to accept your challenge and document how you funded lies and character assassination. Those of us who served with John Kerry on PCF-94 were personally there, on the boat and with him in the actions for which he was awarded a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and two of his purple hearts. Many of us were decorated for some of these same actions and we are outraged that thirty five years later, for political purposes, people lied so outrageously about what we did, attacking our character and the Navy’s integrity—lies told by people who were not there and never bothered to talk with us. How can your group call itself the Swift Boat Veterans “for Truth” when you never interviewed the PCF-94 boat eyewitnesses?

Mr. Pickens: the lies put forward by SBVT are so plentiful and outrageous, from the significant to the trivial, that we would lose your attention going through all of them. Page after page of the SBVT book, Unfit for Command, is filled with unbelievable falsehoods piled on top of falsehoods. You’ve only challenged us to show one thing was false but this is important enough to all of us that we will do that and more so that you fully comprehend the nature of the people you’ve been dealing with and the consequences of your support for them.

The Silver Star

Perhaps the biggest lie is the one asserted without even any contrived evidence or phony testimony – an assertion out of whole cloth – that tried to smear the events surrounding the award of a Silver Star to John Kerry and in doing so, tarnished the Bronze Stars and Navy and Army Commendation Medals earned by many of the rest of us. In addition, this lie was featured in the very first attack on Senator Kerry in your group’s first and most infamous television advertisement. According to SBVT’s own cover letter and associated materials provided to TV stations in support of the spot, Captain George Elliott’s assertion in that advertisement that “John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam,” referred to the alleged fact that “in connection with his Silver Star, I (Elliott) was never informed that he had simply shot a wounded, fleeing Viet Cong in the back”. Captain Elliott knows that LTJG Kerry was awarded the Silver Star not just for chasing down and killing an armed enemy soldier (who was shot in the side not the back) but for his leadership role as Officer in Command of one of the most successful Swift boat raids ever.

So let us examine the events of February 28th, 1969 and what we did and faced, and what John Kerry did and faced, by testing the SBVT claims against our own experience and memories as eyewitnesses there on the scene, against authoritative Navy records, against photographic evidence and against the public testimony of other men present that day.

Navy records: the after action reports submitted based on the verbal debriefing of officers and enlisted men present; a contemporaneous document secured from Navy archives which we possess and can show you; the United States Army advisor’s personal recollections, as well as the individual award citations; photographs taken at the scene when the ambush was over; an independent investigation conducted by ABC TV’s Nightline; and an article written by William B. Rood, Officer in Charge of PCF-23 that day which appeared in the Chicago Tribune August 22nd, 2004—all confirm that every single event on that day occurred exactly as reported at the time. There is not one piece of evidence to the contrary – not one. This underscores the degree to which SBVT lied about this significant action.

The records and testimony of everyone involved that day show that John Kerry was serving as Officer in Tactical Command of a three boat unit engaged in inserting Vietnamese regional force troops on a reconnaissance in force mission.

As our boats approached the target area we all came under intense fire from the right hand river bank. LTJG Kerry ordered all the boats to turn and attack the banks of the river. Each boat followed his orders instantaneously and the three boats beached in the middle of the ambush, over-running it and routing the enemy.

LTJG Kerry subsequently ordered his boat and PCF 23 to investigate gun fire from further up stream. While doing so, we were again taken under fire and a B-40 rocket landed right next to the 94 boat, blowing out the windows on the port side. LTJG Kerry again ordered the boats in to the river bank. When an enemy soldier armed with a loaded B-40 rocket leapt out of a spider hole in front of the boat, initially aimed his weapon and then turned to run, he was taken under fire, wounded by the forward gunner but continued to run for cover towards a hooch to our left. LTJG Kerry, followed closely by one of us (Medeiros,QM2), pursued him ashore and killed him. Despite all the evidence, your group chose to manufacture complete fabrications to smear Kerry and purposefully sought to create doubt where in fact none ever existed from the moment the ambush took place thirty nine years ago and none deserves to exist today.
To be continued: