John Kerry And The Unasked/Unanswered Questions
August 6 , 2004
by Thomas D. Segel
Though never even being close to entering the John Kerry camp, as a
writer I have followed this presidential race with great interest. What
I have found most perplexing is the Senator has built his entire race
around his four month tour of duty in Vietnam. This is the same service
he later decried as an anti-war protester, an activity he now fails to
mention in his public addresses.
Many questions have arisen about his valor in combat, but though they
fester below the surface, I have yet to hear or read any of these
questions being brought up to the candidate by members of the combined
electronic and print media.
Having an Internet reader list of several hundred retired military,
veterans and reservists, I sent out a note, requesting their input. I
asked them if, in their military experience they knew of anyone who had
been awarded three Purple Hearts for minor wounds in less than three
months, then sent home. I asked if anyone had ever heard of a Silver
Star being awarded to someone who shot a wounded enemy soldier running
away from the action. Finally, I asked if anyone knew of, or had seen
anyone taking home-movies of their combat action or attempting to
recreate that action on film, after the fact? The answers I received
were not all on topic, but all were most interesting.
One of the first to respond was Major Norm Hatch, a combat photographer
in WWII and a Life Member of the United States Marine Corps Combat
Correspondents Association. Speaking on the side of caution, he
reminded me that, "Someone in the Navy's medical command had to certify
the wounds to enable him to receive Purple Hearts, not the least of this
being a navy medical report on the treatment received."
The best answer to that particular statement comes from Lieutenant
Commander Lewis Letson who was a medical officer serving with the Swift
Boats. Says the Commander; "I know John Kerry is lying about his first
Purple Heart, because I treated him for that injury."
Major Hatch also posed this question, "Don't you think that the crew
members who supported John Kerry during the convention could have
knocked down any of the allegations that keep flying around? I question
that they would put their integrity on the line just to walk out on the
stage that night."
First, it should be noted these former service personnel came on stage,
but did not speak. So, perhaps other Swift Boat veterans who knew and
served with the candidate can best clarify Swift Boat veterans support
for the candidate.
Former Swift Boat officer Lieutenant (jg) Jack Chenoweth says, "His
account of what happened and what actually happened are the difference
between night and day."
Gunners Mate Van O'Dell was with Kerry during one action. "John Kerry
lied to get his Bronze Star. I know. I was there and I saw what
Another Swift Boat officer is Lieutenant Commander George Elliott who
claims, "John Kerry has not been truthful about what happened in
Vietnam". He is echoed by former Ensign Al French who bluntly says,
"John Kerry is lying about his record."
Rear Admiral Roy Hoffman, who was there among the Swift Boaters, further
reinforces these comments. The admiral holds both the Distinguished
Service Medal and the Silver Star. He says, "John Kerry has not been
honest about Vietnam."
Commander Adrian Lansdale, who received both the Legion of Merit and the
Bronze Star, says of John Kerry, "He lacks the capacity to lead".
The final Swift Boat officer to comment was Lieutenant (jg) Larry
Trudow, who said, "When the chips were down you could not count on John
Gunners Mate Overly Hackled completed 202 missions with River Division
594 on the Vam Co Tay and Van Co Dong rivers. His boat worked with SEAL
teams and performed special operations, along with running regular
patrols and setting up ambushes on the rivers. He says, "I never saw
anyone get 3 Purple Hearts in four months, not that it couldn't happen.
And if you got three you'd be one lucky SOB not to get hurt worse than
Kerry did. I never saw anyone get a Silver Star for what he reportedly
did and I never saw anyone with a home movie camera. Sure as hell nobody
was taking pictures of anything during a real firefight. The boat
Captain would be driving the boat and all hands would be putting down
suppressive fire and would have had no time or business filming
anything. Your job was to survive, kill the other guys before they
The Gunners Mate concluded saying "I honestly think the whole Kerry
drill was a plan he had from day one to get 3 Purple hearts, come hone a
hero and become the next JFK. When he got home he found no one was
interested in a Vietnam War hero, so he became an anti-war hero."
Retired Marine Colonel Tom Hobbs had stronger words to describe the
Kerry Swift Boat saga. "If it looks like a rat, smells like a rat, it's
most likely a rat. With three Purple Hearts in such a short time, I'm
glad we weren't in the same company in Vietnam. He must attract the
enemy. If memory serves, one criterion for a Purple Heart was evacuation
from the unit for 24 hours. If a corpsman patched you up and sent you
back to duty, no Purple Hearts, just a combat experience. If Kerry's
integrity was breached at such an early age, I wonder if that is why he
is so flip-flop today?"
Jay Adams served in both the Air Force and the Marine Corps, retiring as
a Master Sergeant. He wonders if the Senator's awards don't add up to
"Quite a number of decorations for a short four month tour." He also
feels that the truth has been covered up. He thinks the political elite
in partnership with those who report the news orchestrated the cover-up.
"Even if such a cover-up came to light", he says, "The mainstream media
would never publicize it."
As of this writing, 123 retired and former service personnel responded
to my questions. Of that number four were neutral in their remarks.
Three, including a retired Woman Marine, were admitted Kerry supporters
and felt he should be given the benefit of the doubt. All the remaining
veterans had strong reservations about the Kerry candidacy. Since
military comments are still being received, this topic may warrant a
One person who is very clear in his thinking about the upcoming
presidential election is retired Air Force Colonel George "Bud" Day. He
says, "The Kerry Vietnam anti-war movement directly encouraged the
vicious torture I received as a POW in the Hanoi Hilton, was
demoralizing for other POW's and their families, and provided aid and
comfort for North Vietnam to continue the war.
"I can think of no action more despicable than false public condemnation
of warriors on the field of battle, as John Kerry made under oath.
"Senator Kerry is unfit to become President and our Commander in Chief."
Colonel Day, an Air Force pilot, former POW and war hero, is the
recipient of the Medal of Honor.
Thomas D. Segel
Thomas D. Segel is a twice wounded, former combat correspondent who saw
enemy action during the Korean War and two tours of duty in Vietnam. He
retired from the Marine Corps as a Master Gunnery Sergeant after 26
years of service. His next assignment was as Director of Information
and adjunct faculty member of the Marine Military Academy. He then
completed a new career and recently retired from service with the State
of Texas, where he was Director, Division of Information, Texas
Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, Rio Grande State
Center. He holds the Thomas Jefferson Award for Journalistic Excellence,
The Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association Distinguished
Performance Award and six Armed Forces Writers Association Distinguished
Achievement Awards. Segel has authored four books, including "Men in
Space" which received the honor of being placed on both the National
High School and National Junior High School Library Lists. He currently
writes for several on line publications, national magazines and
newspapers. His writings are distributed nationally to more than 1,300
publications by the Paragon Foundation News Service. He holds an
undergraduate degree from the University of Texas Pan American and
earned his masters degree at Vanderbilt University. He is a past
national president of the United States Marine Corps Combat
Correspondents Association. Segel resides with his wife, Pattie, in