I know him from a small boat in Vietnam, where we fought and bled together, serving our country. There were six of us aboard PCF-94, a 50-foot, twin-engine craft known as a "Swift Boat." . . .Lieutenant Kerry had to make quick, life-or-death decisions for the entire boat. . . .Quite a testimonial--if true.
Lieutenant Kerry was known for taking the fight straight to the enemy. I can still see him now, standing in the doorway of the pilothouse, firing his M-16, shouting orders through the smoke and chaos.
Once, he even directed the helmsman to beach the boat, right into the teeth of an ambush, and pursued our attackers on foot, into the jungle. In the toughest of situations, Lieutenant Kerry showed judgment, loyalty and courage. Even wounded, or confronting sights no man should ever have to see, he never lost his cool.
And when the shooting stopped, he was always there too, with a caring hand on my shoulder asking, "Gunner, are you OK?" I was only 21, running on fear and adrenaline. Lieutenant Kerry always took the time to calm us down, to bring us back to reality, to give us hope, to show us what we truly had within ourselves. I came to love and respect him as a man I could trust with life itself.
Like so many "Kerry Tales," it's false--another Kerry Vietnam lie. As detailed by The Bandit and Captain's Quarters, if Alston and Kerry served on the same boat at the same time, it lasted only few weeks. Moreover, Navy records--since deleted from Kerry's campaign website--show that Alston was not present during the alleged Kerry heroics Alston describes.
Alston and Kerry repeatedly said they served together as crew-mates, Alston asserting he observed Kerry under fire:
- Orlando Sentinel, Jan. 31, 2004:
BIG BOAT, BIG CREW(article purchased and quoted accurately.)
Kerry must have commanded some pretty big swift boats in Vietnam, judging from the number of crewmates who keep turning up in his campaign.
On Friday, it was a preacher from Rock Hill, S.C., who turned out for Kerry at a rally for veterans at the University of South Carolina.
David Alston was the gunner atop Kerry's pilot house. Kerry, he told an audience here, was a compassionate commander.
"We were in a lot of firefights," Alston said. "You learn a lot about people. After a firefight, John would come up to me and he would put his hand on me and he'd say, `David, are you all right?' "
"I didn't know then that I had a man of God on my boat," Kerry said. "That's probably why I'm here today."
- Kerry Campaign Advisor Michael Meehan, writing in Science Blog, April 21, 2004:
The Kerry Campaign announced today that online at http://www.johnkerry.com are the official Naval records and the after-action combat reports that are part of the public record at the Naval Historical Center, Operational Archives Branch in Washington, DC. What follows is a summary list of the pages on the website and a summary of the after-action combat reports. . . .
29 JAN 1969 Cua Lon Rivers
Early in the morning seven swift boats embarked on a mission to destroy enemy installations along the Cua Lon River. While Kerry's boat and another (PCF72) 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. His injuries were not considered serious and he was sent to the 29th Evac Hospital at Binh Thuy.
- ABC News, June 24, 2004:
Feb. 28, 1969, was a day that started out badly and got much worse. Kerry and his crewmates were given a mission to take their Swift boat up a canal off the Bay Hap River, surrounded by thick mangrove brush and many, many Vietcong. There were two ambushes.
"I guess we had gotten 800 yards or 1,000 yards at the most," recalled crewmate Fred Short. "And this time, another B-40 rocket hit, and maybe a couple more. But this one was close aboard. It blew the windows out of the crew cabin. I see out of a spider hole a Vietcong stand up dressed in a loin cloth, holding a B-40 rocket."
"Charlie would have lit us up like a Roman candle because we're full of fuel, we're full of ammunition," said [enlisted crewmate Del] Sandusky.
Protocol at the time would be for Kerry's Swift boat to fire to shore and then take evasive action. But Kerry ordered Sandusky, his second-in-command, to drive the boat onto the beach -- directly into the ambush.
"I knew right away that, you know, uh-oh, we're in the doo-doo now," Sandusky said. "But, yeah, I knew -- you know, John was intent. You know: 'We got to go and get this guy.' There was no way we were going to back down off the beach." Alston recalled: "I know when John Kerry told Del to beach that damn boat, this was a brand-new ball game. We wasn't running. We took it to Charlie."
- Kerry campaign press release, July 10, 2004:"David Alston, Kerry Crewmate & Gunner from PCF-94. . ."
- Kerry campaign ad, July 10, 2004:Featuring Senator Edwards and a picture of Kerry and Alston in Vietnam.
- Charlotte Observer, July 27, 2004:
David Alston spent four months alongside John Kerry, 35 years ago. But their stint together in Vietnam was time enough to convince the Columbia, S.C., minister and nuclear fuel plant worker that Kerry should be president of the United States.
- Fox News, July 27, 2004:
"If John Kerry came up to us and said we had one more swift boat mission and we were going to hell, he would have a full crew," said David Alston, a crewmate of Kerry, who commanded a Navy river swift boat in the Vietnam War
- The Herald (Rock Hill, SC), July 28, 2004:
Kerry found his shipmate, and Alston went to a reunion of that swift boat crew years ago, Ida Alston [David Alson's mother] said. Alston has helped Kerry on the campaign trail since Kerry started his presidential run, including stops in South Carolina before the primary in February and television spots. . .
"Kerry was his lieutenant," Ida Alston said, "His commander. He had nothing bad to say about him (Kerry). He said he was a good man. Very, very good."
- Providence Journal, August 1, 2004: "I saw John Kerry's blood on the deck of that boat [PCF-94]." (behind intrusive registration; quoted by The Bandit)
- Many have disappeared from Kerry's official website: Recently, the records Mr. Meehan placed online have shrunk. Meehan originally included "after-action ("spot") reports from two of the combat actions in which John Kerry was wounded [beginning with] Spot Reports for January, 1969 (pdf: 2.4MB)." The "summary of combat actions of [Swiftboat] PCF94" now covers only "February 12 to March 17, 1969." Similarly, the "spot reports" begin in February 1969.--the 2.4 MB .pdf file for January is gone.
- Remaining reports confirm that PCF 94 was under fire on January 29, 1969: "PCF 94 and 72 came under fire while probing a side canal resulting in 3 USN WIA [wounded in action] and light damage to PCF 94." This account of January 29th squares with Meehan's summary, quoted above.
- Captain's Quarters saved one official record, now removed covering events of January 29, 1969:
AWFA: GMG2 DAVID MARION Alston, USN, 99T 57 46The Bandit preserved a .jpg of the same report. There is no record that Alston returned to PCF94; the Kerry campaign says Alston was back when Kerry earned his third (and final) Purple Heart.
BRAVO: ACTIVE DUTY, ATTACHED TO COASTAL DIVISION ELEVEN AT AN THOI, RVN
CHARLIE: INJURY, HOSTILE FIRE
DELTA: 29, JAN 69, 1030H, SONG CUA LON - SONG BO DE, WHILE SERVING AS FORWARD GUNNER ABOARD PCF 94, ENGAGED IN CORDON AND SEARCH OPERATIONS IN THE ABOVE RIVER, GMG2 Alston RECEIVED SHRAPNEL WOUNDS TO HIS HEAD WHEN PCF CAME UNDER INTENSE HOSTILE ROCKET AND A/W FIRE.
ECHO: CONDITION GOOD, PROGNOSIS GOOD. PRESENCE OF NOK IS NOT MEDICALLY WARRANTED AS REPORTED BY CORPSMAN.
FOXTROT: MRS. IDA MCQUILLAR ALSTON, MOTHER
GOLF: NOK NOT OFFICIALLY NOTIFIED. REQ NOK NOT REPEAT NOT BE NOTIFIED.
HOTEL: SERVICEMAN TREATED BY CORPSMAN AND MEDEVACED TO 29TH EVAC HOSP. BINH THUY.
2. PATIENT ABL TO COMMUNICATE WITH NOK.
3. NO FURTHER INFO WILL FOLLOW.
- The events leading to Kerry's Silver Star took place on February 28, 1969: Kerry's website preserves the relevant Command History and combat report, the latter of which reads:
28 FEB 1969 Bay Hap RiverAlston's description of Kerry's "beach[ing]" and taking "it to Charlie" leave no doubt Alston was remembering, and referring to, the February 28th incident.
Three PCFs were traveling up the Bay Hap River with 70 South Vietnamese Militia investigating an area where the boats were ambushed the previous night. During the patrol, the boats came under heavy fore from the shore. Kerry, serving as the Officer in Tactical Command of the mission, ordered the units to turn toward the fire and beach. As the boats approached shore, more than 20 Viet Cong troops stood up and ran. They were quickly overrun when the Marines troops reached the shore. While the Militia searched the area, PCFs 23 and 94 left to investigate another site where an Army advisor reported gunshots. Returning from the site, a B-40 rocket exploded close to PCF94, blowing out one of the windows. Kerry again ordered the units to turn into the fire and charge the ambush site. PCF 94 landed in the center of ambush and a man jumped up holding a B-40 rocket launcher and started to run. The forward M-60 gunner on PCF94 wounded him in the leg as Kerry jumped off the boat and chased him inland behind a hooch and shot him. Marines swept the area, and received fire from snipers and small arms that was suppressed with the assistance of mortars and gunfire from the swiftboats. The landing parties found vast stores of rice, ammunition and clothing. The boats were fired on one additional time as they were heading back down the river. The site of the second ambush was believed to be a major Viet Cong supply point. Kerry received the Silver Star for this operation.
EVIDENCE KERRY AND ALSTON SIMULANEOUSLY SERVED ABOARD PCF-94.
- There is no doubt Kerry and Alston knew each other: The Boston Globe reprints a posed photo of Kerry and Alston on a boat. The Globe says the photo was taken in March 1969.
- The photo seems genuine; its supposed date isn't: David Alston was wounded in the head on January 28, 1969, severely enough to send Alston to a hospital; severely enough to have him replaced on the PCF94 crew. The Bandit includes a photograph of Alston's convention address. His wound is plainly visible.
Yet Alston's wound is invisible in the picture of Kerry and Alston together.
This is made clear by a close-up view of Alston.
Given the prominence of the wound today, the joint photograph must have been taken prior to January 28, 1969.
- Kerry began service on PCF-94 on January 30, 1969, one day after Alston was evacuated to a hospital: Though the Navy records Kerry once posted are gone, Del Sandusky, crewmate and still a Kerry defender, spoke with the St. Petersburg Times on August 8, 2004:
In January 1969, Sandusky's boat, PCF-94, came under attack during one such ambush. Lt. Ted Peck, the officer in charge, and another crewman were seriously wounded. Sandusky had to take command.Obviously, had John Kerry been aboard that day, he would have senior to enlisted man Sandusky, and thus would have taken command. In fact, Sandusky affirmatively states that Kerry joined the crew only on January 30th, after Alston (and Lt. Peck) left:
The boat was sinking and on fire, but Sandusky steered it back to safety. They counted 155 bullet holes in the boat and found a live enemy rocket in the main cabin. It had come to rest in a sack of potatoes.
For his actions, Sandusky would receive the Bronze Star.
With their officer headed home, the crew of PCF-94 needed a leader. And Lt. j.g. John Kerry, whose crew on PCF-44 had rotated back home, needed men to lead.
"I was sure glad he came along," Sandusky said, "because to be honest, I didn't want to take command."
From Jan. 30 to March 13, 1969, Kerry and the crew of the PCF-94 would conduct 18 missions in the Mekong Delta river system.
- By February 28th, Fred Short had replaced David Alston on PCF94. According to the Boston Globe:
The crewman with the best view of the [February 28th] action was Frederic Short, the man in the tub operating the twin guns. Short had not talked to Kerry for 34 years, until after he was recently contacted by a Globe reporter. Kerry said he had "totally forgotten" Short was on board that day. Short had joined Kerry's crew just two weeks earlier, as a last-minute replacement.The Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal confirms:
Short, 56, wasn't supposed to be on Kerry's boat. A gunner's mate 3rd class, he was assigned to PCF 94 to replace a gunner who had been wounded. That wounded gunner, the Rev. David Alston of South Carolina, was one of the speakers at the convention Monday.Yet David Short does not appear in the photograph of Kerry and Alston, further confirming the picture predates the February 28th battle.
- Alston wasn't decorated for action on February 28th: When John Kerry was awarded a Silver Star, his entire crew received official commendation, according to Captain's Quarters:
In addition to Kerry's Silver Star PCF-94's performance on February 28 also earned Bronze Stars for Tommy Belodeau and Mike Medeiros and Navy Commendation Medals with Combat V Devices for Del Sandusky, Fred Short, and Gene Thorson.Similarly, the Boston Globe published an undated photograph of the PCF94 crew wearing the medals earned on February 28, 1969. Fred Short is in the front row. Alston--who is black--is absent.
- Meehan knew: Return to Meehan's summary for January 29th, quoted above. In light of the evidence, his careful language seems suspicious:
While Kerry's boat and another (PCF72) 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 press knows too: The Boston Globe had actual knowledge as far back as April 2004:
Vietnam combat records posted on John F. Kerry's campaign website for the month of January 1969 as evidence of his service aboard swift boat No. 94 describe action that occurred before Kerry was skipper of that craft, according to the officer who said he commanded the boat at the time.And, in retrospect, the January 31st Orlando Sentinel story (quoted above) hinted Kerry was embellishing:
On the site, the Massachusetts senator is described as the skipper of Navy boat No. 94 during several actions in late January 1969.
However, Edward Peck, who was the skipper of the 94 before Kerry took over, said combat reports posted by the campaign for January 1969 involve action when he was the skipper, not Kerry.
Peck, who was seriously wounded in fighting that took place on Jan. 29, 1969, said he believes Kerry campaign aides made a mistake in claiming Kerry as skipper of the 94 at that time.
On the Kerry website, the report of the combat on that day on the 94 boat is posted as occurring during Kerry's time as skipper of the boat. Peck said Kerry replaced him after the Jan. 29, 1969, event. . .
A Kerry campaign spokesman, Michael Meehan, said in an e-mail that the campaign had obtained the combat reports for the 94 from the Navy. He did not directly address the question of why the campaign describes Kerry being skipper of the 94 at a time when Peck says he commanded the boat.
Kerry must have commanded some pretty big swift boats in Vietnam, judging from the number of crewmates who keep turning up in his campaign.
- Alston was seriously wounded while aboard PCF94 on January 28, 1969--but Kerry wasn't there.
- Kerry earned a Silver Star aboard PCF94 on February 28, 1969--but Alston wasn't there.
- Fred Short, not David Alston, was with Kerry on February 28th.
- Kerry's campaign knows the truth--and is engaged in a cover-up via weasel words and document deletion. This conduct seems familiar--and dangerous.
- Neither Kerry nor his staff can be trusted.
- Ditto for the "bury-the-bones-on-Democrats" liberal media.
Byron York, National Review's White House correspondent, agrees:
Asked about Alston's length of service, John Hurley, the campaign's national director of veterans' issues, said, "My understanding is that he [Alston] was gone for a month.... Fred [Short] was on the boat for about a month." Hurley said he has not checked the specific dates of Alston's time on PCF-94, but, like Alston, Hurley cautioned, "It's 35 years later, and memories are different."Powerline picks up the story to ask, reasonably enough, why Kerry hasn't released all his Navy records.
The Strib publishes a follow-up by the folks behind the curtain at Powerline. And James Robbins at NRO summarizes the issue so far.