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Wednesday, August 25, 2004

I Left My First Purple Heart in Cam Ranh Bay
posted by Tom

Okay, Tony Bennett will never make it a hit.

A recent story certain to be ignored or buried by the pro-Kerry media has the Veterans for Kerry wing of his campaign conceding the “possibility” that his first Purple Heart in Viet Nam was awarded for an unintentionally self-inflicted wound. As is true with most of what comes out of the Kerry camp, directly or through various lackeys, what's important about this non-admission admission is what is not said - namely, was that unintentionally self-inflicted wound received during a hostile action?

A self-inflicted wound does not technically disqualify one from receiving the award. According to military regulations the Purple Heart is awarded for wounds sustained:

1) In any action against an enemy of the United States.

2) In any action with an opposing armed force of a foreign country in which the Armed Forces of the United States are or have been engaged…
The regs define a wound as

2.) injury to any part of the body from an outside force or agent sustained under one or more of the conditions listed above. A physical lesion is not required, however, the wound for which the award is made must have required treatment by a medical officer and records of medical treatment for wounds or injuries received in action must have been made a matter of official record.

When contemplating award of the Purple Heart:

...the key issue that commanders must take into consideration is the degree to which the enemy caused the injury. The fact that the proposed recipient was participating in direct or indirect combat operations is a necessary prerequisite, but is not sole justification for award.

Examples of enemy-related injuries clearly justifying award of the Purple Heart include those caused by enemy bullet or shrapnel. Injuries or wounds "which clearly do not qualify for award of the Purple Heart are "Self-inflicted wounds, except when in the heat of battle, and not involving gross negligence." [Emphasis added.]

The regs do not intend

...that such a strict interpretation of the requirement for the wound or injury to be caused by direct result of hostile action be taken that it would preclude the award being made to deserving personnel. Commanders must also take into consideration the circumstances surrounding an injury, even if it appears to meet the criteria. Note the following examples:

(b) Individuals wounded or killed as a result of "friendly fire" in the "heat of battle" will be awarded the Purple Heart as long as the "friendly" projectile or agent was released with the full intent of inflicting damage or destroying enemy troops or equipment.

(c) Individuals injured as a result of their own negligence; for example, driving or walking through an unauthorized area known to have been mined or placed off limits or searching for or picking up unexploded munitions as war souvenirs, will not be awarded the Purple Heart as they clearly were not injured as a result of enemy action, but rather by their own negligence.

In light of all that, read the anti-Kerry swifties' detailed description of the “action” that resulted in Kerry’s first Purple Heart, which occurred:

"... on December 2, 1968, during the month that he was undergoing training with Coastal Division 14 at Cam Ranh Bay. While waiting to receive his own Swift boat command, Kerry volunteered for a nighttime patrol mission commanding a small, foam-filled "skimmer" craft with two enlisted men. The purpose of the patrol, which Kerry later described as "a half-assed action that hardly qualified as combat," was to find Vietcong guerillas moving contraband around a peninsula north of the bay on sampans.

At the target location Kerry saw a group of sampans unloading something on the shore, and lit a flare to illuminate the area. The men from the sampans ran, and Kerry and his crew opened fire. At that point, according to Kerry, "My M-16 jammed, and as I bent down in the boat to grab another gun, a stinging piece of heat socked into my arm and just seemed to burn like hell." (page 147, "Tour of Duty") Kerry and his men strafed the beach, shot up the sampans and returned to Cam Ranh Bay.

As an officer in command (OIC) in training, Kerry reported during this mission to William Schachte, who eventually retired as a Rear Admiral. Schachte flatly contradicts Kerry's claim to have been wounded by enemy fire, saying that after his M-16 jammed, Kerry picked up an M-79 grenade launcher and fired a grenade that exploded too close to the boat, causing a small piece of shrapnel to stick in the skin of his arm. Kerry himself did not report receiving hostile fire that night, which would have been required, and there is no record of hostile fire for the mission.

Kerry succeeded in keeping the small piece of shrapnel in his arm until the following day, when he was treated by Dr. Louis Letson, whose version of the event matches William Schachte's account rather than Kerry's:

'I have a very clear memory of an incident which occurred while I was the Medical Officer at Naval Support Facility, Cam Ranh Bay. John Kerry was a (jg), the OinC or skipper of a Swift boat, newly arrived in Vietnam. On the night of December 2, he was on patrol north of Cam Ranh, up near Nha Trang area. The next day he came to sick bay, the medical facility, for treatment of a wound that had occurred that night.

'The story he told was different from what his crewmen had to say about that night. According to Kerry, they had been engaged in a fire fight, receiving small arms fire from on shore. He said that his injury resulted from this enemy action.

'Some of his crew confided that they did not receive any fire from shore, but that Kerry had fired a mortar round at close range to some rocks on shore. The crewman thought that the injury was caused by a fragment ricocheting from that mortar round when it struck the rocks.

'That seemed to fit the injury which I treated.

'What I saw was a small piece of metal sticking very superficially in the skin of Kerry's arm. The metal fragment measured about 1 cm. in length and was about 2 or 3 mm in diameter. It certainly did not look like a round from a rifle.

'I simply removed the piece of metal by lifting it out of the skin with forceps. I doubt that it penetrated more than 3 or 4 mm. It did not require probing to find it, did not require any anesthesia to remove it, and did not require any sutures to close the wound.

'The wound was covered with a bandaid.

'Not [sic] other injuries were reported and I do not recall that there was any reported damage to the boat. '

… Military regulations state that to qualify for a Purple Heart, an injury must come "from an outside force or agent," and treatment for the wound must "have been made a matter of official record." While John Kerry managed to satisfy the second criterion by insisting that an amused Dr. Letson provide an official Band-Aid, nicking himself with a fragment from his own poorly-aimed grenade fails to meet the first qualification.

I confess that I am an avid right-wing supporter of the swifties, but as I am much more fair (and modest) than your average foaming-at-the-mouth Kerry supporter, I will point out that they are a tad too selective in describing the conditions for award of the Purple Heart. Kerry would more than likely have earned the award even with a self-inflicted wound provided the wound was not the result of his own gross negligence and it occurred during a hostile action against the enemy. Gross negligence would find Kerry picking up and clumsily aiming and firing a grenade launcher when there was no hostile action and he had no reason to think there was. If Kerry were drunk, had no idea how the hell to load, aim and fire a grenade launcher, but picked it up and fired it anyway in a non-hostile situation, then he crossed the line from negligence into recklessness and should have been brought up on charges, let alone not received a Purple Heart. But that’s another story.

This all comes down to the key issue described in (3) above: The degree to which the enemy caused the injury. As I read the regs, Kerry’s first Purple Heart was justified if and only if he was involved in a hostile fire situation and the injury:

1.) Was a direct or indirect result of enemy fire;
2.) If a result of friendly fire (not Kerry's own), that fire had to have been directed at an enemy; or
3.) If self-inflicted, as a result of his firing the grenade at a perceived enemy firing at him (the proverbial"heat of battle"), and the proximity of the enemy made injuring himself unavoidable.

Kerry’s supporters have elected to sort of concede the first part of choice 3.), but have conspicuously not addressed the second part of the condition. What prevented them from adding the simple, “… but he was firing at an enemy firing at him”?

His opponents in SBVFT are going outside the regs in emphasizing the superficiality of the wound. There's no severity requirement. But as we all know, rules and regulations can be a lot more permissive than the judgmental humans who write them. The unseemliness of John Kerry literally making a federal case for a Purple Heart because of a scratch 35 years ago doesn’t comport well with his present Audie Murphy persona. Voters who up until now have been skeptical of SBVFT's allegations will likely give the group a second look were it confirmed Kerry pursued a medal for a self-inflicted wound sustained under questionable circumstances and requiring only a band-aid. Don't forget, when the swiftboat veterans first made this claim, Kerry mouthpieces called them liars.

But when all is said and done, this is Kerry's deeper problem:

His tour of duty in Viet Nam was a third of that required by most of his fellow veterans, and this is directly attributable to the fact he was wounded three times. His wounds not only justify his early out, but narratively make his four months the equivalent of a full tour. His campaign has spent a lot of time building the image of JFK II, bayonet between his teeth, sailing headlong through a hail of enemy bullets. The only way to get this guy out of Nam was to wound him multiple times - albeit superficially, one of them self-inflicted. Okay, if the self-inflicted superficial first wound was received in battle, he earned the Purple Heart.

Doesn't make for an impressive campaign slogan, though.

John Kerry: Technically, he's a hero.

posted by Tom | 8/25/2004 08:57:00 AM
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Post a Comment

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You left out the most incriminating fact that has now surfaced from Kerry's journals in Douglas Brinkley's possesion: Kerry wrote that he didn't see hostile fire as late as December 9, 1968.

8:10 PM, August 25, 2004  
Blogger YankeeNexile said...

What I find so amazing about your blog is the depth that you go to prove John Kerry a liar. Have you scaled the mountains of lies told by the current President? It's all very easy to dismiss anyone who isn't a bushie as "a weak liberal," but come on, do you really think anyone is buying that the press is Pro Kerry? How many stories on Bush's drug and or DUI arrests have surfaced? How many AP news investigations have chopped through the maze of inconsistencies about President Bush's military service (or lack thereof)?

Do I think Kerry is the greatest, no, but I think the entire free world will breathe a heavy sigh of relief to see him elected and the tyrannical rule of Bush/Cheney put out to pasture.

5:46 AM, August 27, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Boy, your argument is so convincing you should patent it. Did you learn this method somewhere or is it natural?


10:18 AM, August 27, 2004  
Blogger Tom said...


I've a feeling your compliment is directed at my blog mate, Adeimantus. We're not the same person (something for which he is eternally grateful, I can assure you).

But thanks, anyway.

1:46 PM, August 27, 2004  
Blogger FS said...

The article below suggests that the knowledge of three Purple Hearts as a way to get out of Viet Nam and devious efforts to get them was widespread. That would have played into the apparent contempt Kerry received at the time from his fellow officers over this.

2:53 PM, August 27, 2004  

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