Not So Swift

 Winter Soldier and Fox News report that John Kerry’s Swift Boat buddy and 2004 Democratic Convention shill Wade Sanders, currently serving a 37 month federal sentence for possession of child pornography, has had his Silver Star revoked by the Navy, citing “subsequently determined facts and evidence surrounding both the incident for which the award was made and the processing of the award itself.”

As for J.F. Kerry himself, I know his 1971 testimony before Congress was as fake as a 3-dollar bill, and I suspect some of his wartime derring-do was questionable as well.  Here’s the story of his heroics in II Corps from John Kerry’s Skimmer Scam:

What about the mission on December 2-3 1968 itself? Schachte reports that after creeping around the shoreline of empty Nha Trang Bay in the dark and finding nothing, he thought he saw movement on shore around 3AM, popped a parachute flare, and fired his M-60 where he saw the movement until it jammed while Kerry fired his M-16. When Kerry’s M-16 stopped, Schachte heard the distinctive “POW” of an M-79 grenade launcher. Now they had made such a spectacular son et lumiere announcement of their once secret mission, Schachte decided to get out of there, back to Voss’s supporting Swift boat, and home. The mission was a bust. No enemy action, not even the sighting of enemy, with rookie Kerry claiming he had been wounded in the arm and demanding his purple heart.

Kerry and his men describe a magical mystery tour — that same night and that same time in a parallel universe— in a traffic-jammed Nha Trang Bay that apparently had scheduled a starlight sampan regatta that evening. According to Kerry in Brinkley “Most of the night had been spent being scared shitless by fishermen whom we would suddenly creep up on out of the darkness…” In Brinkley’s summary “For the next four hours Kerry’s Boston Whaler, using paddles, brought boatloads of fisherman they found in sampans… back to the Swift. It was tiring work.”

I spent some months in the same area, rotating shortly before JFK’s alleged derring-do, & I never heard about much action out in the Bay, although Navy Seal Bob Kerrey won the Medal of Honor during an attack on a VC political cadre on Hon Tre Island in March of ’69. Still, if the fishermen John Kerry describes were doubling as VC, it seems to me they’d likelier be running supplies upriver to the main forces than windsurfing in the Bay.  [Picture below is mine, circa ’67-’68]

But back to the narrative:

“Tiring work?” If you ever tried to paddle an almost 15 foot long Boston Whaler with three in crew, loaded with arms and ammunition, and a bunch of jabbering Vietnamese fishermen crammed onboard, 2 ½ miles out to a Swift boat a number of times in monsoon seas, you would enthusiastically agree and want to shoot the idiot who refused to use the engine.

But wait a minute… . Didn’t Kerry point to the phony “photograph of the skimmer being towed behind his Swift boat, insisting that it could barely fit three people, himself and two others”?

How many Vietnamese fishermen can you put on an armed skimmer with a three man crew, and still paddle miles out to a Swift boat without swamping it in a heavy monsoon chop? According my interview with Bill Zaladonis, “three to four.” Why do this? According to Zaladonis’s interview with Lisa Myers” I assume they were interrogating them — turning them loose or whatever.” Whatever” indeed. Hibbard recalls no skimmer missions that ever required an interpreter on board a Swift boat, without which interrogation is impossible.

And there’s more. After four hours of playing galley slave for the U.S. Navy “Suddenly it was scary as hell,” according to Kerry in Brinkley. A group “of five or six sampans” (according to Zaladonis in Myers) glide into Kerry’s starlight scope, beach their craft, and once Kerry pops a flare Brinkley says “they sprang for cover like a herd of panicked gazelles Kerry had once seen on Wild Kingdom.”

And the wild rumpus commenced. “The air was full of explosions,” Kerry and crew ran like hell strafing the shore as they went, Kerry experiences his wounding, and heads back to the Swift boat and home. Neither of his claimed crew members confirmed any enemy fire; yet they both “assumed” Kerry had been wounded by it. Curioser and curioser.

Kerry’s summary of the mission? Here is Kerry on “Meet the Press” with Tim Russert:

“We were in combat. We were in a very, very–probably one of the most frightening — if you ask anybody who was with me, the two guys who were with me, was probably the most frightening night that they had that they were in Vietnam… .”

Kerry in Tour of Duty: “It was a half-assed action that hardly qualified as combat, but it was my first… . … [A] minor skirmish, but since I couldn’t put my finger on what we really accomplished or on what had happened, it was difficult to feel satisfied. “

Kerry in Tour of Duty a la recherche… from his “journal” nine days after “whatever” happened in Na Trang Bay: “A cocky feeling of invincibility accompanied us up the Long Tau shipping channel because we hadn’t been shot at yet, and Americans at war who haven’t been shot at are allowed to be cocky.”

Well, okay.  I don’t know that much about what the Navy was up to, but I do know that Special Forces Detachment A502 had much of the primary responsibility for the defense of the area:

A-502’s mission was as follows:
 General:
 (1) Advise, assist, train and support the VNSF in their CIDG program.
(2) Conduct position defense, in order to defend the SFOB from enemy attack and be prepared to conduct counter attacks on order.
 Specific: (These specific missions required A-502 to produce an OPLAN, an Operational Plan describing exactly how they would carry out each mission.)
(1) Prepare defense of A-502 and Outposts.
(2) Prepare to assist in the defense of the Nha Trang area and occupy key terrain and blocking positions on order.
(3) Provide early warning through Binh Tan and Thuy Tu outposts.
(4) Provide supporting fires in sector.
(5) Construct defensive positions to include overhead cover, when possible for all personnel in task force sector.
(6) Develop defense plans and counterattack plans for assigned sector.
 Implied:
(1) Maintain coordination among VN-ROK-US at this level in this area. This includes 3 districts: Cam Lam, Dien Khanh, Vinh Xuong.
(2) Conduct and Coordinatae CA/PO Operations in TAOR aand TAOI.
(3) Binh Tan is to conduct ambushes, patrols, and maneuver elements in the Dong Bo area.
(4) Conduct extended operations in TAOR and TAOI.
(5) Provide road security for QL1 (Main road from Nha Trang to Cam Ranh Bay) in TAOR.
(6) Provide security for railroad in TAOR.
(7) Cooperate with District Cheif on village and hamlet security as well as police operations.
(8) Support Recondo School Operations.
(9) Provide liason to Dien Khanh District Chief’s artillery.
(10) Provide security for ARVN Induction Center in Trung Dung.

I sincerely hope Senator Kerry came by his decorations honestly, for while I disagree vehemently with his politics and still resent his 1971 disparagement of his former colleagues in the Nam, I salute him for his service.  He really did report for duty.  I’m just not sure about what he did after he got there.

Related stories: We have long memories ya bloody bastards…. (LeatherneckM31)

Blog: Kerry spokesman stripped of Silver Star (Gds44’s Blog)

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About Bob Mack

Retired since 2003. Military Service: U.S. Army, 36th Artillery Group, Babenhausen, Germany 1966-67; 1st Signal Brigade, Republic of Vietnam, 1967-68 Attended University of Miami, 1969-73
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7 Responses to Not So Swift

  1. heh heh … it’s a wonder this doesn’t happen more often to us… (Kerry)

    great detail on action in that area.

    I’ve known a lot of guys with multiple Hearts (Col. Bob Howard with 8 has the record, but he was wounded 14 times… didn’t bother with the other 6); and none of them did or ever would grab three slight injuries then leave his shipmates behind as Kerry did trying to get outta Nam as soon as possible. Most guys I was in Navy hospitals had real Purple Hearts and thus, 2 or 3 times longer than Kerry than Kerry’s 90 days.

    • Bob Mack says:

      I don’t know, GA. Sampans full of sappers did land on the beach during Tet & hit IFFV and ROK HQs, so I guess it’s conceivable that some VC coulda been floating around the Bay a year later waiting for JFK to come along & round ’em up, but his story just doesn’t sound right to me.

  2. Pingback: Not So Swift (via Be Sure You’re RIGHT, Then Go Ahead) « Gds44's Blog

  3. Ike Jakson says:

    Good word play in the headline, Bob. I love it.

  4. Pingback: John Kerry Beats The Press | Be Sure You're RIGHT, Then Go Ahead

  5. Pingback: 30 Pieces Of Silver | a12iggymom's Blog

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