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August 17, 2004
The Alston Timeline (Updated)

Several of you have written to ask that the Alston/Kerry issue be put into some sort of timeline, and I think one would be helpful. Below is the timeline I can re-create using the information and links supplied to me by Tom "River Rat" Mortensen, The Bandit, Lori, and several others. I'll update this timeline as more information becomes available.

The Bandit, whose work with River Rat formed the basis of this thread, has updated his original article, so be sure to check back there for more information.

UPDATE: More background information from River Rat and a bump to the top of the blog.

06 December 1968

PCF-44 under the command Lt (jg) John Kerry (with Gardner, Hatch, Wasser, Whitlow, and Zaldonis) and PCF-57 under the command of Lt. Ted Peck (with Alston, Belodeau, Medeiros, Sandusky, and Thorsen) depart Cam Rahn Bay for an extended 4 day coastal passage (including a brief stop in Cat Lo for repairs to PCF-44) to COSDIV 11s AOR based in An Thoi. (T of D) 154, 167).

07 December 1968

This date is questionable as Brinkley says the arrival in An Thoi was on 7 Dec 1968. (T of D pg. 172) Brinkley thus contradicts himself when he says it was 4 day trip. I estimate the trip with a brief repair stop in Cat Lo should have put Kerry and Peck at An Thoi late in the day on 07 Dec 1968.

13 December 1968.

After 5 days of coastal (not river) patrols and no action Kerry and PCF-44 is ordered (or requested transfer) to COSDIV 13 based in Cat Lo. (T of D pg. 186). Alston remains with Peck on PCF-57 and operates out of An Thoi until 21 Jan 69.

Ted Peck and the crew, including Alston, take over PCF-94 after Pecks return from the Saigon Meeting. PCF-57 had gone in for repairs and Lt. Peck assumed command of PCF-94, with his entire crew including Alston, on 23 Jan 69. (T of D pg. 261)

This leads to further speculation regarding the provenance of the crew photo which includes Alston. Is it a cropped photo taken by Medeiros of the crews of PCF-44 and PCF-57 prior to their departure from Cam Rahn Bay? Was it taken or taken and cropped at some point in the period 6 Dec 68 and ending 13 Dec 68 while when PCF-44 and PCF-57 were in transit or operating out of An Thoi? Was it taken or taken and taken and cropped in the period commencing sometime between 8 January after which Kerry and PCF-44 returned to the An Thoi area of operation and 29 Jan 69 while Alston was serving under Lt. Ted Peck?

13 January 1969

PCF-44, under John Kerry's command, participates in its first action in Coastal Division 11 (Page 2), indicating that his transfer from Cosdiv 13 came between 08 January and this date. Lt. Ted Peck still had command of PCF-94 at the time:
PCFs 50, 88, and 44 conducted operations in the Song Ong Doc. Units were sent up river and air strikes were called in to hit known VC ambush sites.

22 January 1969

John Kerry and all other Swiftboat officers go to Saigon to meet with Admiral Zumwalt, leaving his command of PCF-44.
Kerry and other Swift boat commanders travel to Saigon for meeting with Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, Commander Naval Forces Vietnam (COMNAVFORV), and Gen. Creighton Abrams, Commander United States Military Assistance Command Vietnam (COMUSMACV)

25 January 1969

Lt. Ted Peck commands PCF-94 in combat (Page 3, 2nd paragraph):
PCFs 66 and 94 proceeded up Song Ong Doc in support of ground forces.

This demonstrates that Zumwalt's Saigon meeting had wrapped up and the commanders were back in their assigned zone by 23 January. Peck had returned to PCF-94.

28 January 1969

River Rat sends this update: "Ted Peck was OinC of 94 until 29 Jan 69. Alston was the forward gunner. Both were wounded on 29 Jan 69 and medevaced. Kerry took over PCF-94 no earlier than 30 Jan 69. It doesn't appear at this writing Alston served under Kerry's command at any time other than an undated photo. Kerry and PCF-44 were transferred to Cosdiv 11 sometime between 08 Jan 69 and 13 Jan 69. The first action recorded for Kerry in the An Thoi AOR took place on 15 Jan 69, and it was aboard PCF-44.

"Previously Kerry and PCF-44 were assigned to COSDIV 13 commencing 13 Dec 68 at Cat Lo which is at the mouth of the Mekong River about 200 NM from An Thoi. The last note on Kerry in COSDIV 13 in Cat Lo was on the Streuli FitRip; a cable of recognition to Kerry dated 08 Jan 69. The Streuli FitRep was signed and dated 28 Jan 69."

This will demonstrate the falsity of the Meehan timeline as noted below.

29 January 1969

PCF-94, under command of Lt. Ted Peck, is ambushed; Lt. Peck and David Alston wounded and evacuated, Alston to Binh Thuy [emph. mine -- CE]. Record posted at johnkerry.com, later removed:
AWFA: GMG2 DAVID MARION Alston, USN, 99T 57 46
BRAVO: ACTIVE DUTY, ATTACHED TO COASTAL DIVISION ELEVEN AT AN THOI, RVN
CHARLIE: INJURY, HOSTILE FIRE
DELTA: 29, JAN 69, 1030H, SONG CUA LON - SONG BO DE, WHILE SERVING AS FORWARD GUNNER ABOARD PCF 94, ENGAGED IN CORDON AND SEARCH OPERATIONS IN THE ABOVE RIVER, GMG2 Alston RECEIVED SHRAPNEL WOUNDS TO HIS HEAD WHEN PCF CAME UNDER INTENSE HOSTILE ROCKET AND A/W FIRE.
ECHO: CONDITION GOOD, PROGNOSIS GOOD. PRESENCE OF NOK IS NOT MEDICALLY WARRANTED AS REPORTED BY CORPSMAN.
FOXTROT: MRS. IDA MCQUILLAR ALSTON, MOTHER
GOLF: NOK NOT OFFICIALLY NOTIFIED. REQ NOK NOT REPEAT NOT BE NOTIFIED.
HOTEL: SERVICEMAN TREATED BY CORPSMAN AND MEDEVACED TO 29TH EVAC HOSP. BINH THUY.
2. PATIENT ABL TO COMMUNICATE WITH NOK.
3. NO FURTHER INFO WILL FOLLOW.

Lt. Peck was the only officer on board PCF-94, as enlisted man Del Sandusky takes command of the boat following Lt. Peck's wounding. The article confirms the disabling nature of at least Peck's wound and the timing of the attack which wounded Alston:

In January 1969, Sandusky's boat, PCF-94, came under attack during one such ambush. Lt. Ted Peck, the officer in charge, and another crewman were seriously wounded. Sandusky had to take command.

The boat was sinking and on fire, but Sandusky steered it back to safety. They counted 155 bullet holes in the boat and found a live enemy rocket in the main cabin.

30 January 1969

John Kerry takes command of PCF-94 as his crew on PCF-44 had rotated stateside while Kerry was in Saigon. Sandusky provides both the exact date and the sequence which clarifies this, as the Kerry website obscures the date with "late January":
With their officer headed home, the crew of PCF-94 needed a leader. And Lt. j.g. John Kerry, whose crew on PCF-44 had rotated back home, needed men to lead. ... From Jan. 30 to March 13, 1969, Kerry and the crew of the PCF-94 would conduct 18 missions in the Mekong Delta river system. In that time, Kerry would earn a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and add two Purple Hearts to the one he received earlier.

The date obscuration is important, because Kerry had tried at one time to appropriate the action of 29 January to his own command rather than Peck's. Note Kerry advisor Michael Meehan's use of the phrase, "Kerry's boat":

29 JAN 1969 Cua Lon Rivers

Early in the morning seven swift boats embarked on a mission to destroy enemy installations along the Cua Lon River. While Kerry's boat and another (PCF72) were probing a canal along the river, Kerry's boat came under heavy fire and was hit by a B-40 rocket in the cabin area. One member of Kerry's crew -- Forward Gunner David Alston - suffered shrapnel wounds in his head. His injuries were not considered serious and he was sent to the 29th Evac Hospital at Binh Thuy.

Note also on that link that Meehan appropriates all of the missions for PCF-94 between January 1 and January 30 in an attempt to acquire its combat record, even if it puts Kerry on two Swift boats concurrently (PCF-44 and PCF-94). Peck himself complained of this misappropriation in April of this year:

On the Kerry website, the report of the combat on that day on the 94 boat is posted as occurring during Kerry's time as skipper of the boat. Peck said Kerry replaced him after the Jan. 29, 1969, event.

"Those are definitely mine," Peck said, referring to the combat reports that the Kerry campaign posted as representing Kerry's action. "There is no doubt about it."

On or about 13 February 1969

Sailor Fred Short arrives on board PCF-94 as a replacement for the injured David Alston, indicating that Alston had not recovered enough from his wounds on 29 January to return to duty:
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.

This is confirmed in another article in the Akron Beacon-Journal, which mentions Alston as the sailor Short replaced:

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.

28 February 1969

John Kerry commands PCF-94 into an action which wins him a Silver Star and a commendation of some kind for every member of his crew. Several days after the February 28, 1969 action, Kerry was flown to An Thoi, South Vietnam, where Vice Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., pinned the Silver Star on Kerry's chest. From the book Tour of Duty (courtesy reader JFK-No):
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.

What about David Alston? Despite the awards going to every other crewmember on PC-94, Alston's name is curiously left off the awards list. Consider Alston's recollection of the same engagement:

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 Boston Globe carries a picture of the award recipients which include Kerry and five crew members taken at the time the Silver Star and other awards were presented, which should be a full complement for the Swiftboat. None of them are Alston. Short, Alston's replacement as gunner, received a commendation for his action, and again his account has him manning the guns in the action of 28 February:

The crewman with the best view of the action was Frederic Short, the man in the tub operating the twin guns. ... 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.

While this is not conclusive in the criminal sense, this sequence of events suggests strongly that Alston never served directly under Kerry in combat or at any other time. It certainly demonstrates a high probability that Alston lied about being part of the 28 February action that gained Kerry his Silver Star.

These discrepancies could also explain Meehan's strange appropriation of Ted Peck's command time in combat with PCF-94. With Alston on board to support Kerry, the campaign needed a way to get Alston and Kerry on the same boat at the same time. Unfortunately for Kerry, Peck himself recognized that the dates Kerry used stole his own combat record for Kerry's use. At the time, no one understood what Kerry had to gain by mixing up the dates and just assumed it was a mistake.

One thing is clear: if Alston never served on the Swift boat with Kerry, or even if he didn't serve during the 28 February action, then Alston lied at the convention and especially during his interview with Jake Tapper at ABC. What's more, the men who served on PCF-94 during February -- especially Short, who replaced Alston two weeks after Alston's injury -- knew that he lied about it. And while Kerry may not have known about Meehan's juggling of the timeline, Kerry had to know that Alston had not been under his command in February 1969. If he didn't realize it at first (assuming Alston returned to duty in the two weeks that Kerry had left on PCF-94), he should have realized it when Short reminded him of his replacement service:

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.

One more point: The picture of John Kerry's crew from his Silver Star award had to have come from Kerry's own collection. The Boston Globe ran an entire pictographic series of Kerry's life using Kerry's pictures as a primary source. How likely is it that Kerry had the picture of his crew and yet forgot that Short was part of the action? Or could it have been that Kerry realized that Short's appearance would complicate Alston's story?

In order to clear this up, both Kerry and Alston need to release all of their military records for review. Because the way it looks right now, Kerry and his campaign have perpetrated a fraud in order to bolster the credentials from the only executive role he has ever had, and the central qualification he's put forward for his candidacy.

Addendum: I've received a ton of comments regarding the picture of Alston with Kerry that I included in the first Alston post. The picture was taken by Madeiros, and some sites have dated it from March 1969. However, it doesn't appear to have been taken on a Swift boat, which could mean it was taken in January, in the week between Saigon and 29 January, when Alston was injured. Alston had to be out of action at least a month, or else he would have returned to PCF-94. That means his wounds had to be fairly serious, and you can easily see that Alston's head looks just fine in the photograph. Plus, you'll notice that Short doesn't appear in the photograph -- and Short joined the crew in mid-February. If it's the crew of PCF-94 after mid-February, where's Short? Madeiros took the picture, so he's not behind the camera.

It could have been taken if and when Alston returned to PCF-94, but that had to be after 28 February, since we can see that Alston was not part of that engagement.

I believe that the photograph is genuine -- I'm no expert, but I can't believe that the Kerry campaign would take that kind of risk, and besides, it appears normal to me. A photo of the crews of PCF-57 (Ted Peck) and PCF-44 (John Kerry) could have been taken as early as 6 Dec 1968 when the two boats departed on a extended 4 day coastal passage for John Kerrys 1st abbreviated assignment on PCF-44 to COSDIV 11 in An Thoi.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 17, 2004 9:00 PM

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