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August 16, 2004
NRO Picks Up The Alston Story, Clarifies Time Line

Byron York at National Review Online has become the first major media correspondent to pick up on the David Alston story. Unfortunately, he failed to mention CQ, Tom Mortensen, or the Bandit for our work, but we'll forgive him, as he manages to both extend the story, correct some points in our posts, and emphasize that both Alston and Kerry lied about their joint service:

In the last few days, there's been a new accusation floating around the Internet about John Kerry's Vietnam record. It involves speculation that David Alston, one of the "band of brothers" who served on board Kerry's Swift Boat, did not actually serve with Kerry at all. If such a story were true, it would be sensational news, given that Alston has made extensive public statements, including a speech at the Democratic National Convention, about his time with Kerry. The only problem is, it's not true. Alston did indeed serve under Kerry.

But the attention the rumor brought to Alston and his service aboard Kerry's boat, PCF-94, has cast new light on the time the men were together. And it appears that while Alston was in fact on board PCF-94 when Kerry was in command, his total time of service under Kerry was quite brief perhaps as little as seven days. According to records of Kerry's service posted on his campaign's website, it appears the two men were in actual combat together on two of those days ...

York interviewed Fred Short, Alston's replacement as gunner on PCF-94, and Short tells York that Alston eventually came back to PCF-94 and replaced him as the regular gunner's mate, sometime after 4 March. Since Kerry's last engagement occurred on 13 March, it appears that Alston served under Kerry's command ... for a week, including two engagements.

But York also notes that Alston and Kerry have both misrepresented their time together, as we noted earlier this morning:

In addition, Alston has on at least one occasion seemed to give the impression that he was present for Kerry's Silver Star-winning actions on February 28. "I know when John Kerry told [crew member Del Sandusky] to beach that damn boat, this was a brand-new ball game," Alston told ABC's Nightline on June 22. "We wasn't running. We took it to Charlie."

For his part, Kerry has sometimes left the impression that he was present when Alston was wounded. Paying tribute to Alston's service during a speech before a South Carolina veterans' group in May 2002, Kerry said, according to an account in The New Republic, "He [Alston] sat up in a turret above my head in the pilot house firing twin fifty-calibers to suppress enemy fire from ambushes. We were extremely exposed always shot at first.... On one occasion in an ambush his turret was riddled with almost one hundred bullets penetrating the aluminum skin. This gunman kept firing even though he was wounded one bullet going through his helmet, grazing his head and another hitting his arm...."

That description sounds precisely like the incident on January 29, 1969 in which Alston was wounded. But Lt. Peck, and not Kerry, was in command of PCF-94 that day.

According to a report in the Boston Globe, the Kerry campaign website has in the past listed Kerry as being the skipper of PCF-94 at the time of Alston's wounding. When Kerry's military records were first posted on the site, according to the Globe, "the campaign summarize[d] action that took place on Jan. 29, 1969, this way: 'While Kerry's boat and another (PCF-72) 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....'" The campaign website also listed two other incidents that took place prior to January 29 as having occurred under Kerry's leadership.

That was taken from the Meehan timeline, which I linked in my Alston timeline. It looks deliberately vague in order to cover Kerry's earlier statements about the time Alston and Kerry served together, using the phrase "Kerry's boat", which while technically not false, leaves the impression that it was Kerry's boat at the time of the incident -- which is categorically untrue.

As it stands, we were incorrect about Alston never serving under Kerry's command, but we are still correct about both Alston and Kerry lying about their joint involvement in the engagements on 29 January and 28 February. John Kerry and David Alston need to explain why they have spent the last two years taking credit for combat engagements met by others in order to burnish credentials for both men, the former as a leader in battle and the latter as a spokesman for the former.

UPDATE: The Bandit doesn't think York did a good job of vetting the information he got from Short and Alston, and fires off a blistering rebuttal of his own:

Actually it now appears Fred Short replaced a fellow by the name of Mike Givens who was shot in the right arm on Feb. 27, 1969 (View Givens Casualty Report.) We also have Fred Short's own statement confirming his first mission with Kerry that took place on Feb. 28, 1969, the day that had lead to Sen. Kerry receiving a Silver Star. The Times Record of Arkansas of July 29 records the following:

"Speaking to Arkansas delegates earlier this week, Short told of how Kerry saved his life in 1969 when their Swift boat was ambushed during his first day on patrol under Kerry's command."

The above fits that facts nicely because Givens was wounded the day before, and with a five man crew plus a skipper there would have been too many crew to account for if Fred Short was onboard as he claims -- (Del Sandusky, Gene Thorson, Tom Belodeau, Michael Givens, Michael Medeiros and Kerry) equal 6 man crew. So Fred Short was telling the truth on July 29, and lying to Byron York for his article. ...

Furthermore, has anyone ever heard of anyone being returned to combat within two weeks after receiving a bullet through their arm? It is obvious that Fred Short and David Alston caught Byron York with his pants down and took him for a wild spin through fantasy land. The evidence still shows David Alston never served under Sen. Kerry and that David Alston and the rest of Kerry's "Band of Brothers" still refuse to tell the truth.

Read the entire post.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 16, 2004 7:30 AM

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» David Alston Update from Ubique Patriam Reminisci
A new development in the David Alston story. NRO caught up with Alston and asked him about this whole mess. Alston was brief, since Kerry must approve all interviews, but he did provide some insight. According to Short, who supports the Kerry candid... [Read More]

Tracked on August 16, 2004 10:28 AM

» More re John O'Neill's and the SwiftVets' "Tar Baby" strategy from BeldarBlog
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Tracked on August 16, 2004 3:06 PM

» More news on the David Alston story from Media Lies
Byron York of National Review Online has picked up the David Alston story, and he has discovered that Alston returned to duty sometime after March 4 and actually served with Kerry for about seven days, participating in two enemy engagements. (The one... [Read More]

Tracked on August 16, 2004 3:25 PM

» The Alston Story Hits the Media from Kerry Haters
We know exactly how Captain Ed feels; it does seem that if you break the story you should be given credit by those who cover it afterwards. [Read More]

Tracked on August 16, 2004 5:45 PM



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