Thursday, August 19, 2004

Swift Vets claim John Kerry filed false report on the Rassmann incident

Statement By Swift Boat Veterans for Truth Member Van Odell
A courageous, soft spoken man of the Midwest, Larry Thurlow has a heart bigger than the great plains and a commitment to truth and honesty that is boundless. He is under attack, because John Kerry is feeling the heat of truth at the hands of this honest man and others like him.

The Kerry Campaign is attacking the truthfulness of this man and the Bronze Star he so richly deserves for his actions on March 13, 1969. I was there. I saw what happened.

The mine’s detonation lifted PCF-3 completely out of the water just yards ahead of me. All boats commenced suppression fire in case enemy small arms fire ensued. None did.

All boats came to the aid of PCF-3, except one: John Kerry’s boat. Kerry fled.

Larry Thurlow piloted his boat straight toward the mine-damaged PCF-3 from which thick, black smoke billowed. He jumped aboard and personally led damage control operations that saved the boat and rescue operations that saved the lives of badly wounded men. Larry’s leadership was in the highest traditions of the naval service. His leadership allowed the other men and boats of the mission to exit the river safely. This "single act of meritorious service" -– the chief requirement of the Bronze Star -– should be honored, not ridiculed, by the Kerry campaign and its allies in the mainstream media.

To reiterate, only one enemy weapon was deployed that day -– the command-detonated submerged mine that disabled PCF-3. Larry Thurlow's citation contained references to "enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire," because that was the language chosen by John Kerry who penned the "spot report" on the action that day. There was no "enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire" received that day. John Kerry’s report was fiction -– a hoax on the entire chain of command. Larry Thurlow's heroism and meritorious service, however, is real.

To me Larry is one of the heroes of our country. He is a man who served his country when called and who returned home to be a productive citizen. Larry and men like him are the strong backbone of our society. I am proud to have served with him.
Statement By Swift Boat Veterans for Truth Member Jack Chenoweth
I am outraged by Michael Dobbs' attack on Larry Thurlow and his Bronze Star award.

The reason the citation mentions "enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire" is because it is based on the "spot report" that John Kerry submitted. Any and all awards presented for actions on 13 March 1969 would be similar, if not verbatim, regarding enemy gunfire, because the only information submitted to the chain of command was falsified by Kerry.

Mr. Dobbs also grossly mischaracterizes my statements, and probably those of Richard Pees as well, when he states that we "do not remember coming under 'enemy fire.'" He needs to go back and review his notes. I emphatically told him -– as I’ve told countless other reporters -- that there was no enemy gunfire from either bank at any time, that the only event of the day was the mine under PCF 3, followed by suppression fire from all of our boats.

Mr. Dobbs is entitled to take whatever position he wants on the issue of who is telling the truth, but it is not right for him to mischaracterize my remarks so that it looks like I didn't "remember" whether there was enemy fire. I remember vividly. There was no enemy fire.
Statement By Swift Boat Veterans for Truth Member Larry Thurlow
I am convinced that the language used in my citation for a Bronze Star was language taken directly from John Kerry's report which falsely described the action on the Bay Hap River as action that saw small arms fire and automatic weapons fire from both banks of the river.

To this day, I can say without a doubt in my mind, along with other accounts from my shipmates -- there was no hostile enemy fire directed at my boat or at any of the five boats operating on the river that day.

I submitted no paperwork for a medal nor did I file an after action report describing the incident. To my knowledge, John Kerry was the only officer who filed a report describing his version of the incidents that occurred on the river that day.

It was not until I had left the Navy -- approximately three months after I left the service -- that I was notified that I was to receive a citation for my actions on that day.

I believed then as I believe now that I received my Bronze Star for my efforts to rescue the injured crewmen from swift boat number three and to conduct damage control to prevent that boat from sinking. My boat and several other swift boats went to the aid of our fellow swift boat sailors whose craft was adrift and taking on water. We provided immediate rescue and damage control to prevent boat three from sinking and to offer immediate protection and comfort to the injured crew.

After the mine exploded, leaving swift boat three dead in the water, John Kerry's boat, which was on the opposite side of the river, fled the scene. US Army Special Forces officer Jim Rassmann, who was on Kerry's boat at the time, fell off the boat and into the water. Kerry's boat returned several minutes later -- under no hail of enemy gunfire -- to retrieve Rassmann from the river only seconds before another boat was going to pick him up.

Kerry campaign spokespersons have conflicting accounts of this incident -- the latest one being that Kerry's boat did leave but only briefly and returned under withering enemy fire to rescue Mr. Rassmann. However, none of the other boats on the river that day reported enemy fire nor was anyone wounded by small arms action. The only damage on that day was done to boat three -- a result of the underwater mine. None of the other swift boats received damage from enemy gunfire.

And in a new development, Kerry campaign officials are now finally acknowledging that while Kerry's boat left the scene, none of the other boats on the river ever left the damaged swift boat. This is a direct contradiction to previous accounts made by Jim Rassmann in the Oregonian newspaper and a direct contradiction to the "No Man Left Behind" theme during the Democratic National Convention.

These ever changing accounts of the Bay Hap River incident by Kerry campaign officials leave me asking one question. If no one ever left the scene of the Bay Hap River incident, how could anyone be left behind?