Let’s recap the ongoing fight between the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and the John Kerry campaign.
One of the main charges of the anti-Kerry veterans group is that John Kerry lied about a March 13, 1969, episode in Vietnam which resulted in his Bronze Star. Kerry, a captain of a Swift boat, says that on that day his boat came under fire while in enemy-controlled territory and that during this battle–as bullets whizzed by–he rescued Jim Rassmann, a Special Forces officer, who had been blown overboard. The Swift Boat gang (which has been financed by Republican donors) claims that Kerry did nothing so heroic because there had been no enemy fire at the time and, moreover, that Kerry actually fled the scene.
It is often hard to sort out competing accounts of events that transpired three decades ago. But the Kerry side today received a big boost…from the military records of one of his chief accusers. The Washington Post reports on the front page that it has obtained the military records of Larry Thurlow, one of the leaders of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Thurlow was the skipper of another Swift boat in the flotilla that day, and he, too, won a Bronze Star for actions taken during the same encounter. The citation for his award says he assisted a damaged Swift boat “despite enemy bullets flying about him.” The citation noted that “all units began receiving enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire from the river banks.” Yet in an affidavit he signed last month, Thurlow claimed there had been no enemy fire: “I never heard a shot.”
How then does Thurlow explain his own Bronze Star? He told the Post, “My personal feeling was always that I got the award for coming to the rescue of a boat that was mined. This casts doubt on anybody’s award.” He said he lost his Bronze Star citation twenty years ago–how convenient–and added that he now considered his award “fraudulent.” He apparently forgot what the citation said but he asks us to believe his memory of that day.
Imagine the hatred Thurlow must feel for Kerry to throw out his own Bronze Star with the bath water in order to do harm to Kerry. Thurlow, a registered Republican, concedes he despises Kerry for having become a leader of the Vietnam veterans against the war. And he is sticking to his guns. In a statement released today, Thurlow said, “To this day, I can say without doubt in my mind…there was no hostile enemy fire directed at my boat or at any of the five boats operating on the river that day.”
So here’s the scorecard on the enemy-fire-or-no-enemy-fire question:
Kerry says there was enemy fire. So does Rassmann, a Republican, whose life Kerry saved. So do the crew members of Kerry’s own Swift boat. So does Kerry’s citation. So does Thurlow’s citation. Both citations were signed by Lt. Commander George Elliott (a supporter of Swift Boat Veterans who has issued conflicting statements about Kerry’s wartime actions).