By many accounts, the most effective speaker at the Democratic National Convention was David Alston, a minister from South Carolina who claimed to have been a Swift Boat crewmate of John Kerry’s in Vietnam:
I know him from a small boat in Vietnam, where we fought and bled together, serving our country. There were six of us aboard PCF-94, a 50-foot, twin-engine craft known as a “Swift Boat.” We all came from different walks of life, but all of us-including our skipper, John Kerry-volunteered for combat duty. And combat is what we got.
…Lieutenant Kerry was known for taking the fight straight to the enemy. I can still see him now, standing in the doorway of the pilothouse, firing his M-16, shouting orders through the smoke and chaos.
Once, he even directed the helmsman to beach the boat, right into the teeth of an ambush, and pursued our attackers on foot, into the jungle. In the toughest of situations, Lieutenant Kerry showed judgment, loyalty and courage. Even wounded, or confronting sights no man should ever have to see, he never lost his cool.
And when the shooting stopped, he was always there too, with a caring hand on my shoulder asking, “Gunner, are you OK?” I was only 21, running on fear and adrenaline. Lieutenant Kerry always took the time to calm us down, to bring us back to reality, to give us hope, to show us what we truly had within ourselves. I came to love and respect him as a man I could trust with life itself.
Very effective stuff. It appears, though, that not a word of it was true. Captain Ed has been all over this story, so we won’t repeat the details. See his site for a time line. Ed’s chief source, I believe, is located here.
David Alston did indeed serve on Swift Boat PCF-94, but apparently under a Lt. Ted Peck, not under Kerry. Alston and Peck were both wounded on January 29, 1969, and were medevaced out. The medical report on Alston’s injury is here. John Kerry replaced Lt. Peck in command of PCF-94 the next day. He continued to command PCF-94 until March 13, when he received a scratch and took advantage of his third “Purple Heart” to get out of Vietnam after only four months.
There is no evidence that David Alston ever returned to PCF-94, although he did meet Kerry during the time the two men were in Vietnam. Alston suffered a severe head wound on January 29, 1969, and, while the evidence is not yet clear, it appears that he never returned to combat. He certainly was not present for the incident on February 28, when Kerry beached his boat and shot a Viet Cong, which Alston described in his speech to the Convention. He also was not present during Kerry’s last combat mission, on March 13.
Given the severity of Alston’s wound, the effects of which are still clearly visible, and given that he wasn’t aboard PFC-94 on either February 29 or March 13, it seems an almost inescapable conclusion that Alston never served under Kerry. This is consistent with the statement, reported in this article about Alston’s mother, that after being shot in the head and shoulder he “lived and came home.”
Hard as it is to believe, it appears that David Alston’s speech at the Democratic Convention was a lie from beginning to end.
The issue could be conclusively resolved, of course, if Alston allowed his military records to be released. My guess is they would show he never returned to combat, and certainly never served on PFC-94 after January 29, 1969. But, just as the press has let John Kerry get away with refusing to authorize the release of all of his military records, no pressure will be brought to bear on Alston to show that the story he told at the convention, and in a Kerry television commercial, was anything other than a fantasy. Like so much of what Kerry says about his service in Vietnam.