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August 21, 2004
Rood Counters Swiftvets But Qualifies 250 Other Witnesses

As Mickey Kaus noted yesterday, Chicago Tribune editor William Rood broke 35 years of silence in order to counter one of the attacks in Unfit for Command, the Swiftvet book that has sold out seven printings around the country. Rood claims that the Swiftvet version of Kerry's Silver Star engagement is wrong, and Kerry's is correct:

In February 1969, Rood was a lieutenant junior grade commanding PCF-23, one of the three 50-foot aluminum swift boats that carried troops up the Dong Cung, a tributary of the Bay Hap River. Kerry commanded another boat, PCF-94 and Lt. j.g. Donald Droz, who was killed in action six weeks later, commanded PCF-43. Ambushes from Viet Cong fighters were common because the noise from boats, powered by twin diesel engines, practically invited gunfire. Ambushes, Rood said, "were a virtual certainty." ...

In the book, O'Neill and Corsi said Kerry chased down a "young Viet Cong in a loincloth clutching a grenade launcher which may or may not have been loaded."

Rood recalled the fleeing Viet Cong was "a grown man, dressed in the kind of garb the VC usually wore." There were other attackers as well, he said, and his boat and Kerry's boat took significant fire.

After the attack, the task force commanding officer, then-Capt. Roy Hoffmann, sent a message of congratulations to the three swift boats, saying their charge of the ambushers was a "shining example of completely overwhelming the enemy" and that it "may be the most efficacious [method] of dealing with small numbers of ambushers," Rood said.

I don't have a problem with Rood's testimony, mostly because I believe this was the one battle the Swiftvets should have skipped, at least in terms of Kerry's engagement of the VC. If he shot at the boat, I wouldn't care if he were running away or in circles when Kerry shot him, or whether he wore a loincloth or an Armani tuxedo. Beaching a PCF appears to me to be a tremendously foolish tactical decision, as speed was its only defense and the angle leaves the gunner exposed without giving him full range to return fire -- but in this case it worked. And as Rood explains, it was not a hasty decision but one that the three other PCF officers planned in advance amongst themselves.

However, using Rood to counter -- factually, finally -- one of the Swiftvet's contentions points out that these boats worked together as a unit and that witnesses to engagements do not lose their stature merely because they happened to be on a different PCF during the engagement. If Rood's testimony is valid, and I have no doubt he means well, then that makes all of the other Swiftvets' testimony just as valid.

Besides, as Beldar notes, Rood's description of the events only challenges two assertions made by the Swiftvets: that the VC killed was dressed in a loincloth., and that the beaching of the PCF was an impulsive and foolish tactical move that amounted to grandstanding. Points noted. They still question the awarding of a Silver Star to an engagement that killed one fleeing enemy, which deserved recognition for bravery but probably in normal conditions wouldn't be considered Silver Star material. I'd chalk that up to Pentagon brass looking for good motivational stories than Kerry's legendary talent for self-aggrandisement, even if he did go out the next day to re-create the engagement for his home movie camera.

Rood and the Chicago Tribune has done nothing to put Kerry in Cambodia, or explain why he says Kerry experienced "intense combat" on 2 December while writing on 11 December that he had not yet been shot at, or any of a number of elisions, exaggerations, or outright prevarications that we have documented at Captain's Quarters and elsehwere.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 21, 2004 9:42 PM

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» More Problems for the Swift Boat Vets from QandO
Two more recent statements that are going to cast more doubt on the Swift Boat Veteran stories..... * William Rood... The commander of a Navy swift boat who served alongside Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry during the Vietnam War stepped... [Read More]

Tracked on August 22, 2004 7:28 AM

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