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Kerry’s original account written in his after-action report the very same day of the incident stated, “PCF 94 beached in center of ambush in front of small path when VC sprung up from bunker 10 feet from unit. Man ran with weapon towards hootch. Forward M-60 gunner wounded man in leg. OinC [Officer-in-Charge, Kerry] jumped ashore and gave pursuit while other units saturated area with fire and beached placing assault parties ashore. OinC of PCF 94 chased VC inland behind hootch and shot him while he fled capturing one B-40 rocket launcher with round in chamber.”
The after-action report account closely resembled the Unfit for Command version and not the nerve-tingling kill or be killed version presented in Tour of Duty.
SERVING AS PROXIES for Kerry, a handful of his longtime supporters sent a June 19, 2008 letter to Pickens claiming they refuted the Unfit for Command account of the events of February 28, 1969, and demanded Pickens’ million dollars. The Kerry supporters offered little more than unsubstantiated personal accounts and an ABC Nightline news report later judged to be seriously misleading.
Their 14-page letter is filled with holes, but let us examine just one. The evidence suggesting Kerry shot a man in the back that was fleeing from battle proved damaging to Kerry’s 2004 electoral efforts. Kerry’s supporters did him no favors in their rebuttal letter to Pickens. According to their account, one Kerry supporter remembered seeing the dead guerilla “laying on his back” with the bullet “exit wound on the side of the VC.” If the guerrilla was laying face up and the only visible wound was an exit wound on his side, then this suggests the entry wound was in the man’s back.
The Kerry supporters should have left well enough alone with their feeble defense of Kerry’s Silver Star heroics. Instead, they opened another can of worms by endorsing Kerry’s claim he was wounded by the enemy on December 3, 1968, resulting in his first Purple Heart medal. Acting on a policy in place at the time that was available to those who were thrice wounded, Kerry requested an immediate transfer out of Vietnam only four months into his one-year assignment.
Kerry claimed to have been wounded during a nighttime patrol in a Boston Whaler only days after he arrived in Vietnam. Tour of Duty provided an account of a wild firefight between Kerry and Vietnamese enemy during which a piece of enemy shrapnel “socked into my arm and just seemed to burn like hell.”
Again, an eyewitness account in Unfit for Command offered a markedly different sequence of events. William Schachte, who later rose to the rank of Rear Admiral, was in the Boston Whaler alongside Kerry. According to Schachte’s recollection, “Kerry picked up an M-79 grenade launcher and fired a grenade too close [to the Whaler], causing a tiny piece of shrapnel (one to two centimeters) to barely stick in his arm….There was no enemy fire.”
Then-Lieutenant Commander Louis Letson was the Navy medical officer who treated Kerry’s wound. “Dr. Letson used tweezers to remove the tiny fragment, which he identified as shrapnel like that from an M-79 (not from a rifle bullet, etc.), and put a small bandage of Kerry’s arm.”
THERE WERE TWO very critical documents that were generated during the Vietnam war when someone was wounded by enemy fire. The first is a combat casualty card, a 3x5 inch typewritten card. This card contained the main facts such as the wounded serviceman’s full name, military service number, rank, branch of service, the date and description of the wound and the prognosis for recovery. Navy officials described combat casualty cards as “valuable as gold” and they are “protected like Fort Knox” because they are a key record often used to determine disability benefits after military service.
The second required document was a personnel casualty report. It is a mandatory report transmitted to Washington, D.C., with the details of anyone wounded as a result of enemy action.
Combat casualty cards and personnel casualty reports exist for the wounds resulting in John Kerry’s second and third Purple Hearts. However, Navy officials have never located a combat casualty card or a personnel casualty report for Kerry’s injury for which he received his first Purple Heart. In fact, no Navy record has ever been unearthed documenting that there was any hostile action that occurred that specific night involving Kerry and the Boston Whaler. Officers in Kerry’s chain-of-command recall turning down Kerry’s request to be given a Purple Heart for his scratch.
The possibility certainly exists of Navy officials losing a combat casualty card or personnel casualty report. According to a Navy archivist, the possibility of losing both documents for the same individual and for the same event is “virtually impossible.”
As a back-up to his claim, Kerry could make public his Navy medical records detailing the extent of his injury from the night of December 3, 1968, and the subsequent medical treatment. Kerry did not respond when given the opportunity to provide a copy of his combat casualty card, personnel casualty report, or the release of his medical records in order to bolster his claim he was wounded by enemy fire in December 1968.
The lack of any definitive Navy documents, the absence of a combat casualty card and a personnel casualty report, and the failure by John Kerry to provide a full release of his medical records for public scrutiny speaks volumes. Embarrassingly for them, neither the New York Times nor the wager-chasing Kerry supporters are listening.
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