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Wednesday, October 20, 2004 2:40:38 AM

Re: ergo sum post# 75056

Post# of 495952
The Purple Heart Hunter



Unfit for Command charged that John Kerry’s first Purple Heart involved an accidentally self-inflicted superficial wound suffered on a training mission—the “Boston Whaler Incident.” The book asserts that Kerry launched an M-79 grenade too close to some rocks along the shore, causing a tiny piece of shrapnel to lodge loosely in his arm.

The Kerry camp’s first salvo was to charge that the physician quoted in Unfit for Command, Dr. Louis Letson, was not the physician who treated John Kerry. In the letter written by Marc Elias, general counsel of the Kerry campaign, to various television stations planning to air the first Swift Boat Veterans for Truth commercials, Mr. Elias placed Dr. Letson’s name in quotation marks, subtly raising doubt about Louis Letson’s qualifications.

Mr. Elias also charged that Dr. Letson did not attend Kerry’s wound because Dr. Letson’s name did not appear on Kerry’s sick call sheet. Instead, Mr. Elias noted, the person who signed the medical report was J.C. Carreon, since deceased. The Kerry camp contended that Dr. Letson was lying in his affidavit when he claimed that Kerry’s wound was superficial and that the shrapnel was removed with tweezers, the injury requiring no more medical treatment than the application of topical antiseptic and a band-aid.6

Dr. Letson quickly replied that J.C. Carreon was a lower-ranking corpsman who regularly assisted him at the sickbay and affirmed his initial report. Many vets who served at Cam Ranh Bay came forward to confirm that Dr. Letson was indeed the division’s physician. Furthermore, Dr. Letson had approached his local Democratic Party chairman about Kerry’s self-inflicted wound even before the controversy began. As for the hostile fire, no one on the mission with Kerry, including Retired Rear Admiral William L. Schachte, the officer who commanded the Boston Whaler that evening, said there was enemy fire.

Kerry’s surrogates next claimed that Schachte was lying, and that he was not on the boat. But Schachte in an in-depth interview with reporter Robert Novak, proved his credibility:7

“Kerry nicked himself with a M-79 [grenade launcher].” Schachte said in a telephone interview from his home in Charleston, S.C. He said, “Kerry requested a Purple Heart.”

Schachte, also a lieutenant junior grade, said he was in command of the small boat called a Boston whaler or skimmer, with Kerry aboard in his first combat mission in the Vietnam War. The third crew member was an enlisted man, whose name Schachte did not remember.

Two enlisted men who appeared at the podium with Kerry at the Democratic National Convention in Boston have asserted that they were alone in the small boat with Kerry, with no other officer present. Schachte said it “was not possible” for Kerry to have gone out alone so soon after joining the swift boat command in late November 1968.

Kerry supporters said no critics of the Democratic presidential nominee ever were aboard a boat with him in combat. Washington lawyer Lanny Davis has contended that Schachte was not aboard the Boston whaler and says the statement that Schachte was aboard in Unfit for Command undermines that critical book’s credibility.8 (emphasis added)

Novak also interviewed Swift Boat veterans Patrick Runyon and William Zaladonis, two Kerry supporters who claimed to be aboard the skimmer that night. But neither Zaladonis nor Runyon has ever asserted that they saw enemy fire (my edit - no enemy fire - no eligibility for a Purple Heart - case closed). Novak also interviewed Tedd Peck and Mike Voss who confirmed to him that Schachte was the originator of the technique to use the skimmer in missions designed to flush the Viet Cong out on the banks of the waterways along the Mekong River so larger boats could move in and destroy them; both men also confirmed to Novak that Schachte was always aboard the skimmer when it was used in such missions.

Unable to discredit the rear admiral’s account, the Kerry camp then engaged in an ad hominem assault. The strongly pro-Kerry Media- Matters.org, for instance, noted that Admiral Schachte had contributed $8,500 to federal candidates or national political organizations since 1997, of which $6,750 went to Republican candidates or the Republican Party, including donations of $1,000 to George Bush in each of his 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns.9 To leftist critics, Admiral Schachte’s political contributions disqualified him from giving a truthful affidavit.

As the controversy over the first Purple Heart progressed, a previously overlooked passage from Douglas Brinkley’s campaign biography came to light. The date of the skimmer incident was December 2, 1968. According to Brinkley, Kerry had written in his private journals that on December 11, 1968, just after he turned twenty-five, his crew had not yet come under enemy fire, even though the date was nine days after the skimmer incident, when Kerry had claimed he was wounded by enemy fire. Regarding the events of December 11, 1968, Kerry wrote the following journal entry:

<<<<They pulled away from the pier at Cat Lo with spirits high, feeling satisfied with the way things were going for them. They had no lust for battle, but they also were not afraid. Kerry wrote in his notebook, “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. 10

Taking at face value Kerry’s description of December 11, 1968, he and his crew had not yet experienced enemy fire, a statement that sounds like an implicit admission that the injury for the first Purple Heart was not suffered under enemy fire.

The Final Admission

John Hurley, veterans coordinator for the Kerry campaign has now admitted that it is possible that Kerry’s first Purple Heart was awarded for an unintentional self-inflicted wound.


1. What really happened in that incident on December 2, 1968?

2. How did you end up getting this Purple Heart? From whom?

3. Why was a Purple Heart issued only after Hibbard and Schachte left?’


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