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Friday, August 20, 2004

Four Eyewitnesses Dispute Kerry's Account of Bronze Star Incident

August 20, 2004
According to an after-action report for the afternoon of March 13, 1969, John Kerry's unit of five Swift boats encountered enemy automatic and small-arms fire from both banks along a 5,000-meter stretch of the Bay Hap River in Vietnam. Three enemy mines were detonated, the report states, one of which damaged Kerry's boat. According to that same report and a separate casualty report, Kerry received a minor contusion on his arm and shrapnel in his buttocks from the incident.

On the basis of these two reports, Kerry received a Bronze Star--and importantly, his third Purple Heart, which allowed him to leave Vietnam after serving only four months of the standard one-year tour.

But there are two potential problems with this story: First, four eyewitnesses now contradict the after-action report. They say there was no hostile fire in the incident, and claim that Kerry, whose version of events agrees with the report, wrote the report himself--a claim Kerry's campaign denies.

Second, a story Kerry told biographer Douglas Brinkley for Tour of Duty appears to contradict the casualty report that resulted in Kerry's tour-ending third Purple Heart. Kerry told Brinkley he received a wound to his buttocks earlier on the same day as the Bay Hap combat incident. But, in this case, the wound came from a non-combat accident in a nearby village. Some friendly forces were destroying rice that was believed to be stockpiled for the Viet Cong. "I got a piece of small grenade in my ass from one of the rice bin explosions," Kerry told Brinkley. The military does not grant Purple Hearts for self-inflicted wounds or accidents.

The casualty report filed on Kerry the next morning mentions nothing about Kerry's rice-bin injury. It says: "LTJG Kerry suffered shapnel (sic) wounds in his left buttocks and contusions on his right forearm when a mine detonated close aboard PCF-94." ... FR Reprint.

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