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August 21, 2004
Kerry Exaggerations Not Limited To His Swift Boat Experience

John Kerry undoubtedly has exaggerated or fabricated a number of his supposed experiences in his brief Swift-boat command, many of which I've covered on this blog. However, CQ reader Charles Moy points to a website for former crewmates of Kerry on board his first assignment, the USS Gridley, for their remembrances of his service -- and it turns out that Kerry's habitual self-aggrandisement extends there as well.

Former E-5 radarman Phil Carter posts a long letter explaining his service and impressions of John Kerry. Carter actually contributed to one of Kerry's Senate campaigns and paid him a visit in 1996. His personal recollections of Kerry seem innocuous and even endearing. However, Carter took the time to read Douglas Brinkley's hagiography, Tour of Duty, and objects to a number of misstatements and outright lies regarding Kerry's service:

When I read Tour of Duty, I became concerned because the material on Kerrys time on GRIDLEY appeared in many instances to be exaggerations and in some cases figments of an overactive imagination. ...

4. Later on page 87 Kerry talks about Olongapo in the Philippines. He talks about bloated corpses floating in the river and starving women with babies dying of malnutrition. Now Olongapo was a wild and wooly town that existed solely for the entertainment of the US Navy, but in over three years of calling there, I never saw a single instance of either thing happening. Kerry uncovered this in his first visit. If this was from his letters home then he was certainly writing for dramatic effect. Balderdash. ...

5. The trip to Danang GRIDLEY went into Danang for briefings before going to Northern SAR. This section is so full of hyperbole that the urge to giggle is almost uncontrollable. The panic and pressure onboard GRIDLEY, strapping on a .45, wondering if I would have to use it, B-52s howling overhead. A B-52 over Danang would have been so high that only contrails would have been visible, cloud cover permitting. David Simons confirmed my recollection that during our brief stay in Danang Harbor, the sky was overcast to the point of being ominous.

More seriously, no one can remember John Kerry going ashore. I was part of the shore party that went to Monkey Mountain. We were taken in a screened in truck (to protect against grenades being tossed in) and made to unload our .45s. The driver said that he did not want us newbies to shoot anyone by accident.

Neither Commander Kelly nor LCDR Rueckert (Kerrys immediate boss) can recall approving a trip ashore for Ensign Kerry. The author uses remarks of David Simons IC2 as a lead in to the Danang section. I spoke to David and he has no personal knowledge of Kerry going ashore at all. He did talk to a researcher and made some generic remarks about Danang but had never discussed Danang with Kerry. He recalls arguing with the researcher because he tried to put the words cowboy in his mouth, which ended up in the book.

Not only does the candidate himself like to stretch the truth to the breaking point -- always to make himself look more manly, if you'll notice -- even his researchers press themselves to keep up. If Kerry never left the ship in Danang, then that calls Brinkley's work into question again. Did Brinkley or his researchers bother to fact-check anything from Kerry's journals?

There is no mystery about the gruesome site of a pile of dead VC. We saw no sign of anything like this. However, our escort to Monkey Mountain did tell us how the VC bodies were stacked up on the LZs after the TET Offensive, which had been several months before. Ensign Kerry would have been told this story by members of the shore party.

It's just another example of John Kerry adapting someone else's experience into his own narrative. Carter finishes with a clarification about whether the US Navy leaves Ensigns in charge of its warships:

6. In command Again with the hyperbole. Kerry makes much about being in charge of the ship after the Captain and XO. The OOD is in charge of the operation of the ship during his four hour watch but hardly in charge of the ship. Kerry qualified almost immediately as OOD(P), in port OOD but that is a given. For much of his time onboard he would have been Junior Officer of the Deck when underway. Although his fitness report as of 22 March says "he is qualified as OOD(I) now" (Independent steaming with no ships or land anywhere near) , only OOD(P) is listed under duties. His Fitness Report from July 1968 lists two months as OOD(I) which would mean he qualified after leaving the war zone.

Carter insists that Kerry was a good officer and well liked during his tenure on the Gridley, but obviously Carter never saw what Kerry wrote into his journals. His eyes have been opened by the massive inconsistencies coming from Kerry and Brinkley about his service, a reaction that many of the people in Kerry's units have experienced once they've read his stories.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 21, 2004 9:51 AM

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