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August 14, 2004
Alston Inconsistency On Record For Silver Star Action

On June 24th of this year, ABC ran a story on the action that gained John Kerry a Silver Star. ABC's Jake Tapper spoke at length with Kerry's crew members, including David Alston, who is quoted at length in the narrative. Alston makes it clear that he participated in this action, which took place on February 28th, 1969:

Since Kerry will not talk about the day he killed a man, four of Kerry's crewmates from the Navy Swift boat he commanded sat down with Nightline to try to explain what happened, though not one was eager to revisit the events of that day. ...

Alston recalled: "I know when John Kerry told Del to beach that damn boat, this was a brand-new ball game. We wasn't running. We took it to Charlie." ...

The article also quotes Fred Short as one of the crew on the boat that day, even though Short had been a replacement for Alston. Had Alston returned to PCF-94 by 28 February, he could have simply replaced someone else, of course. However, the Boston Globe has documentary evidence of Kerry's crew for the Silver Star action as part of a pictographic look at the life and times of John Kerry. Here is a picture of Kerry's crew for the action which won him the Silver Star:

Silver Star action, 28 Feb 1969

The Globe caption for this picture:

Sailors stand together in An Thoi, Vietnam, on February 28, 1969, after a medal presentation for Silver Star action. From left: Del Sandusky, John Kerry, Gene Thorson, Thomas Belodeau. Kneeling from left, Mike Medeiros, Fred Short.

One officer, five crew. It looks like a full complement for a Swift boat to me, and David Alston is nowhere to be seen. If Alston served during the action, why isn't he in the picture?

UPDATE: RiverRat tells us that the picture itself was taken on or about 6 March, not 28 February. It begs the question even more -- where was Alston? Had he recovered enough to return to duty under Kerry, that would have given him even more time to be there.

Lori from Texas notes something interesting in another Globe story on Kerry's Silver Star action:

The crewman with the best view of the action was Frederic Short, the man in the tub operating the twin guns. Short had not talked to Kerry for 34 years, until after he was recently contacted by a Globe reporter. Kerry said he had "totally forgotten" Short was on board that day.

Short had joined Kerry's crew just two weeks earlier, as a last-minute replacement, and he was as green as the Arkansas grass of his home.

Two weeks earlier would have been two weeks after Alston received his serious wounds and evacuation to the hospital, so it's clear that Short replaced Alston. In this story, the only mention Alston gets as part of this action is in a caption to a photo I posted earlier. None of the actual battle narrative mentions Alston at all.

UPDATE II: Reader JFK-No catches this from Douglas Brinkley's book, Tour of Duty:

"In addition to Kerry's Silver Star PCF-94's performance on February 28 also earned Bronze Stars for Tommy Belodeau and Mike Medeiros and Navy Commendation Medals with Combat V Devices for Del Sandusky, Fred Short, and Gene Thorson." - Douglas Brinkley

All of the crew, it seems, were decorated for their actions that day, noticeably absent was David Alston.

UPDATE III: More verification that Short replaced Alston, using Short as the source:

Short, 56, wasn't supposed to be on Kerry's boat. A gunner's mate 3rd class, he was assigned to PCF 94 to replace a gunner who had been wounded. That wounded gunner, the Rev. David Alston of South Carolina, was one of the speakers at the convention Monday.

And here's a cached version of Kerry's website that emphasizes Alston's supposed service under Kerry's command.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 14, 2004 10:02 AM

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