Kerry applied for Swift patrols when they were very safe


Spinsanity  covers the widely—believed lie that John Kerry voluntarily applied for combat duty, one that is repeated by his campaign spkesmen.

Here's how the Boston Globe recounted the story in its multi—part series on Kerry:

Kerry initially hoped to continue his service at a relatively safe distance from most fighting, securing an assignment as "swift boat" skipper. While the 50—foot swift boats cruised the Vietnamese coast a little closer to the action than the Gridley had come, they were still considered relatively safe.

"I didn't really want to get involved in the war," Kerry said in a little—noticed contribution to a book of Vietnam reminiscences published in 1986. "When I signed up for the swift boats, they had very little to do with the war. They were engaged in coastal patrolling and that's what I thought I was going to be doing."

But two weeks after he arrived in Vietnam, the swift boat mission changed —— and Kerry went from having one of the safest assignments in the escalating conflict to one of the most dangerous. Under the newly launched Operation SEALORD, swift boats were charged with patrolling the narrow waterways of the Mekong Delta to draw fire and smoke out the enemy. Cruising inlets and coves and canals, swift boats were especially vulnerable targets.

Kerry's biography on his campaign website (which Edwards echoed almost directly) promotes this confusion, citing the Globe's description of the revised mission of the swift boats and implying it was what the Massachusetts senator volunteered for:

In 1968, John Kerry began his second tour of duty, and volunteered to serve on a swift boat, one of the most dangerous assignments of the war. Swift boats patrolled the narrow inlets and canals around the Mekong Delta 'to draw fire and smoke out the enemy,' according to the Boston Globe."

In his convention speech, former President Bill Clinton also obscured what Kerry thought he was volunteering for, saying,

"When they sent those swiftboats up the river in Vietnam and they told them their job was to draw hostile fire, to wave the American flag and bait the enemy to come out and fight, John Kerry said: Send me."

And some journalists have also gotten the facts wrong. For instance, Bennett Roth of the Houston Chronicle, who wrote that "Kerry enlisted in the Navy after graduating from Yale in 1966 and requested to command a Swift boat, one of the more dangerous assignments during the war."

Despite Kerry's decorated service record, the circumstances surrounding his request for swift boat duty should not be mischaracterized.

Posted by Ed   9 3 04