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August 22, 2004
Rood Story Doesn't Quite Add Up

As William Rood's testimony gets parsed more closely and the initial novelty of a factual refutation of a Swiftvet allegation wears off, certain elements of the story will begin to beg nagging questions. The Bandit, with whom I've worked on elements of Kerry's presentation of his Viet Nam service, may be the first to spot some inconsistencies in Rood's recollection:

In his eyewitness account, Rood describes coming under rocket and automatic weapons fire from Viet Cong on the riverbank during two separate ambushes of his boat and Kerry's boat.

Bill Rood goes on to say "What we did on Feb. 28, 1969, was well in line with the tone set by our top commanders." Perhaps Bill Rood would be kind enough to provide evidence that he and Kerry's standing order's were changed from DO NOT EVER BEACH OR LEAVE YOUR BOAT DURING AN AMBUSH, to 'it's fine to beach in front of an enemy ambush if you think it might be a great idea.'

As Bill Rood is well aware of, ambushes most always occurred from both sides of a river or canal simultaneously. To beach your boat on one side of a canal leaves you open to counter attack from the opposite side, and to make matters worse, your forward guns are rendered useless for defense. The canal Rood and Kerry were on that Feb. 28th day, the Dong Cung, was no more wider than a four lane highway. If there had been intense fire as Rood suggests, then both boats would have been heavily damaged with many wounded or killed from taking fire from both sides of the shore as he suggests happened while both his and Kerry's boats were defenseless aground.

Bill Rood's description of how both swift boats came under intense enemy fire that day is very suspect. There are no tell-tale signs that either Rood or Kerry came under heavy, intense enemy fire that day. Both boats were loaded with at least 15 VN troops and yet no injuries [were reported] from such close range of contact in such a narrow canal. Furthermore, both boats (Rood's PCF-23 and Kerry's PCF-94) were back on patrol the very next day, which strongly suggests there was never any intense enemy fire, or both boats would have suffered multiple holes in the hull that would have required repairs and delay of patrol.

According to the chronology of COSDIV 11, both boats did indeed return to patrol on 1 March, "towing fuel bladders up the Bay Hap River to Cai Nuoc." They took light fire that day and no patrol missions for either boat were recorded after that until at least 8 March.

Bandit also takes Rood to task for testifying to events at which he was not present:

As pointed out above, Sen. Kerry received a Silver Star for running after a fleeing wounded young enemy soldier with a B-40 rocket, who by revised accounts over the years from Sen. Kerry's crew who were there -- was standing and prepared to fire the rocket just before Kerry killed him. Bill Rood did not witness this, nor anyone from Rood's boat had witnessed this event because the PCF-23 had beached and unloaded its troops some distance from Kerry's boat.

Interesting enough, one of Kerry's crewmembers who was there with Kerry on that Feb. 28th day, Del Sandusky, told the Los Angeles Times on August 8, that no one clearly saw Sen. Kerry kill the wounded soldier. This supports early accounts by another witness who had followed Kerry off the boat, Michael Medeiros, who had said no one saw Kerry kill the fleeing VC. A Army advisor who was on Rood's swift boat that day, Doug Reese, was the first man from Rood's boat on the scene, some 10 minutes after the VC soldier was allegedly killed by Kerry. Doug Reese has said he could observed no other wounds on the VC soldier other than the leg wound inflicted by Kerry's forward M-60 gunner.

My feeling about this is that Rood means well; his account does not appear to be that of a partisan shill, no more than the other Swiftvets' accounts do. It was 35 years ago, he's tried to forget that day ever occurred most of that time, and he and Kerry just recently went over his reminiscences, during which memories can easily get tangled. In cases like these, it's best to go over the preponderance of evidence and testimony -- something that the Swiftvets have been saying all along.

Did Kerry chase after the VC? By all accounts, yes.

Did Kerry shoot an unarmed teenager in the back? Unknown.

Did anyone but Kerry witness the shooting? No.

Did they plan on beaching the boats during an ambush? Apparently, the y did, even if it was a foolish thing to do.

Were they under intense fire by a numerically superior foe, as Kerry's commendation claims? Looking at all of the evidence available, one would have to conclude not. Even I could hit the side of a 50-foot boat sitting dead on a riverbank across 100 feet of water with an automatic weapon, and I'm not terribly experienced with firearms. And yet we're to believe that large numbers of battle-hardened insurgents lined on both sides of that narrow canal completely missed two or three huge targets for several minutes while they were beached, and the men aboard them?

It doesn't add up.

UPDATE: McQ and Jon from QandO have more observations, on either side of the question.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 22, 2004 10:04 AM

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» Summing Things Up from Kalblog
Captain Ed sums things up nicely over Kerry's silver star: Did Kerry chase after the VC? By all accounts, yes. Did Kerry shoot an unarmed teenager in the back? Unknown. Did anyone but Kerry witness the shooting? No. Did they... [Read More]

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Tracked on August 22, 2004 8:56 PM

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