Over the past several months we have received messages from Vietnam veterans regarding John Kerry. It has been our practice simply to post them without comment, hoping to serve as a forum for the contributions of those who served to the current debate. Today Power Line reader Loren Barclay sent us the following message:
First of all I wish to let you know I’m a US Navy Vietnam veteran. I served as an enlisted man onboard the USS Krishna (ARL 38) from June 1968 to June 1969. The Krishna again deployed for AnThoi, Vietnam in September of 1968 after going through a yard repair period at Yokuska, Japan. It was a repair ship anchored off AnThoi that repaired Swift boats. Along side the Krishna was tied the floating barracks that housed the Swift boat crews and on the other side of the Krishna was tied a barrage used to set the Swift boats on when lifted out to the water for repair. I was in the supply division. The Krishna repaired the boat that came backed from patrol either shot up from encounters with the enemy or had mechanical problems. I was not part of a swift boat crew. They were under a different command.
Needless to say many years have gone by and all this talk about Kerry’s Vietnam service has brought back memories I thought I had put away along time ago. As near as I can tell Kerry was in command of one of the Swift boats that were assigned to that region of Vietnam during my tour of duty onboard the Krishna. I recall Swift boats coming back damaged from encounters with the enemy and of course I recall that also involved men being wounded and lives lost. Forgive me for all the background maybe it is just a way to air these memories.
Except for his “band of brothers,” there is a far larger group of vets who are not positive about John Kerry’s service. We do know that John Kerry’s personality is distant and very reserved. His own wife says that sometimes it is like not all of him is in the same room. He has been described as someone who has a less than a warm personality. My suspicion is John Kerry as a person did not have the personality or people skills necessary to lead a six man Swift boat crew. It is well known that to lead men into a combat situation the men have to have confidence in those who are leading them. In other words a bonding has to occur. If that does not occur then potentially dangerous situations can occur such as the refusal to follow orders and contempt for ones superiors. At its worse mutiny can occur.
During my time onboard the Krishna I recall a visit by top Navy brass from Saigon that included the Admiral. There had been talk of problems with the Swift boats. What the problems were I do not know. If the moral is high, generally there would not be a need for a visit by top Navy brass.
With all the debate about the way Kerry earned his medals and the short time he was in country it leaves, a lot of questions remain unanswered. If there was a true bonding with his boat crew and other Swift boat crews he served with, Kerry would have insisted on finishing his tour of duty. It could be the Navy was looking for a way to resolve a problem that could not continue, so they allowed him to have these medals and allowed him to leave the country because of the three purple hearts. I find it hard to believe that after earning these medals it was automatic that your tour of duty would end. The military is wise enough to understand if they offered this kind of deal there would be men that would self-inflict wounds as a way to get out of country. There were cases in Vietnam where self-mutilation occurred in an attempt to get out of country. Most were court-martialed for destruction to government property. When you enlist you are considered government property.
Since Kerry has made his Vietnam service the cornerstone of his campaign he would be wise to release all of his service records. There are simply too many questions that will not be answered with clarity, should they refuse.
For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure that Kerry’s Navy medical records will never see the light of day; neither will his civilian medical records nor Teresa Heinz Kerry’s tax returns. At this point I’d settle for a reputable journalist asking Kerry about his purported 1968 “Christmas in Cambodia.”