Claim: Swift boat veterans offer opinions about John Kerry.
Status: Multiple — see below.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2004]
Kerry’s service in Vietnam as an officer in command of a Swift boat and his subsequent activities as an anti-war protester have engendered a good deal of controversy, especially among those who also served in Vietnam. Many Vietnam veterans were angered by Kerry’s anti-war stance after he returned to the U.S., viewing his anti-war activities
That said, the piece quoted above, in which a variety of veterans offer their views of John Kerry, isn’t really something that can evaluated as “true” or “false.” It’s true that the men named do exist, that they served in Vietnam, and that they made the statements attributed to them, but the substance of most of these quotes is an expression of opinion, not something objectively classifiable as right or wrong.
The important point to note here is that this piece presents only one side of the story:
- Although the men quoted above are often identified as “John Kerry’s shipmates,” only one of them, Steven Gardner, actually served under
Lt. Kerry’scommand on a Swift boat. The other men who served under Kerry’s command continue to speak positively of him:
“In 1969, I was Sen. Kerry’s gun mate atop of the Swift boat in Vietnam. And I just wanted to let everyone know that, contrary to all the rumors that you might hear from the other side,
Sen. Kerry’sblood is red, not blue. I know, I’ve seen it.
“If it weren’t for Sen. John Kerry, on the 28th of February 1969, the day he won the Silver
Star . . .you and I would not be having this conversation. My name would be on a long, black wall in Washington, D.C. I saw this man save my life.”3
— Fred Short
“I can still see him now, standing in the doorway of the pilothouse, firing his
M-16,shouting orders through the smoke and chaos . . .Even wounded, or confronting sights no man should ever have to see, he never lost his cool.
I had to sit on my hands [after a firefight], I was shaking so
hard . . .He went to every man on that boat and put his arm around them and asked them how they’re doing. I’ve never had an officer do that before or since. That’s the mettle of the man, John Kerry.”3
— David Alston
“What I saw back then [in Vietnam] was a guy with genuine caring and leadership ability who was aggressive when he had to be. What I see now is a guy who’s not afraid to tackle tough issues. And he knows what the consequences are of putting people’s kids in harm’s way.”2
— James Wasser
- Many of Kerry’s Vietnam commanders and fellow officers also continue to speak positively of him:
Navy records, fitness reports by Kerry’s commanders and scores of interviews with Swift boat officers and crewmen depict a model officer who fought aggressively in river ambushes and won the respect of many of his crewmates and commanders, even as his doubts about the war grew.
“I don’t like what he said after the war,” said Adrian Lonsdale, who commanded Kerry for three months in 1969. “But he was a good naval officer.”2
“I don’t know what conclusions you can draw about someone’s ability to lead from their combat experience, but John’s service was commendable,” said
James J.Galvin, a former Swift boat officer . . .“He played by the same rules we all did.”1
- How well all of these men knew John Kerry is questionable, and discrepancies between how some of them described Kerry thirty-five years ago and how they describe him today suggest that their opinions are largely based upon political differences rather than objective assessments of Kerry’s military record. For example, Rear Admiral Roy Hoffman is quoted above, yet the Los Angeles Times reported:
. . . Hoffman and Kerry had few direct dealings in Vietnam. A Los Angeles Times examination of Navy archives found that Hoffman praised Kerry’s performance in cabled messages after several river skirmishes.1
Last updated: 30 July 2004