Wednesday, August 18, 2004

SBVT dispute key portions of the Rassmann rescue

The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth don't believe John Kerry's rescue of Jim Rassmann was deserving of a Bronze Star.

The following is an excerpt from Unfit for Command by John O'Neill and Jerome Corsi.

Page 89
On March 13, 1969, Jack Chenoweth commanded the boat in front of Kerry, and his gunner, Van Odell, had a clear view of the entire incident. Dick Pease commanded PCF-3, which was blown up by the mine that day. None of these Swiftees recognized the incident as described by Kerry in his report, by Douglas Brinkley, in Tour of Duty, or on Kerry's website. They were furious when they realized Kerry's fraudulent account.

In reality, Kerry's boat was on the right side of the river when a mine went off on the opposite side, under PCF-3. The boat's crewmen were thrown in the water. The officers of PCF-3 were injured by the explosion and suffered concussions. A Viet Cong sympathizer in an adjoining bunker had touched off the mine. Besides the mine exploding under PCF-3, there was no other hostile fire and there were no other mines, according to Chenoweth, Odell, Pease, and Thurlow. The boats had begun firing after the mine exploded, but they ceased after a short time because of the lack of hostile fire.

Despite the absence of hostile fire, Kerry fled the scene. The remaining PCFs, in accord with standard doctrine, stood to defend the disabled PCF-3 and its crewmen in the water. Kerry disappeared several hundred yards away, returning only when it was clear that there was no return fire.

Chenoweth (who received no medal) picked up the PCF 3 crewmen thrown into the water. As a result of the explosion, PCF-3's engines were knocked out on one side and frozen on 500 RPM on the other side. The boat weaved dangerously, hitting sandbars, with a dazed or unconscious crew aboard. Thurlow sought a secure hold on his boat so he could jump across and board PCF-3. However, he was thrown into the water as his first attempt to board PCF-3 failed and the boat hit the sandbars. Later, Thurlow brought PCF-3 to a stop, and the boat slowly began to sink.

During the incident, Jim Rassmann had fallen or had been knocked off either Kerry's boat or PCF-35. When he was spotted in the water, Chenoweth's boat, with the PCF-3 crew aboard, went to pick him up. Kerry's boat, returning to the scene after its flight, reached him about twenty yards before Chenoweth.

Kerry did the decent thing by going a short distance to pick up Rassmann, justifiably earning Rassmann's gratitude. The claim that Kerry "returned" to a hostile fire zone is a lie according to Chenoweth, Thurlow, and many others. Meanwhile, the serious work of saving PCF-3 continued.

Kerry's false after-action report, prepared to justify his medals, reports "5,000 meters" --- about two and a half miles --- of heavy fire, about the same distance as a large Civil War battlefield. Not a shot of this fire was heard by Chenoweth, Thurlow, Odell, or Pease. Kerry's false after-action report ignores Chenoweth's heroic action in rescuing the PCF-3 survivors and Thurlow's action in saving PCF-3, while highlighting his own routine pickup of Rassmann and PCF-94's minor role in saving PCF-3.