Home  |   Jihad Watch  |   Horowitz  |   Archive  |   Columnists  |     DHFC  |  Store  |   Contact  |   Links  |   Search Sunday, April 20, 2014
FrontPageMag Article
Write Comment View Comments Printable Article Email Article
Font:
John Kerry's Puzzling Silver Star Citations By: Henry Mark Holzer and Erika Holzer
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, August 24, 2004


Introduction

Having sowed the wind by carefully crafting his tour of duty in Vietnam as a campaign gimmick, John Kerry is now reaping the whirlwind.  He has seen virtually everything about his four months in country challenged with provable eyewitness accounts backed by sworn affidavits: the “wounds” which never required hospitalization or lost time, for which he finagled three Purple Hearts; his Bronze Star with a combat “V” for “heroically” rescuing a special forces soldier who was about to be pulled from the water by a nearby Swift boat, the man in danger, perhaps, of drowning but not under hostile fire;  his “gallantry” for back-shooting an enemy soldier, for which he was awarded the Nation’s third-highest decoration, the Silver Star.

Now, on the heels of yet another revelation—that Kerry’s DD 214 (“Report of Transfer or Separation”), displayed on his website, shows his Silver Star embellished with an unauthorized “V” for valor—which makes it facially false and at variance with official government records (see our article, John Kerry’s Mysterious Combat “V”)—it has come to light that his Silver Star award is fraught with other peculiarities.

 

In the United States military, the process of awarding a medal begins with preparation of a form prescribed by official regulations.  The current Navy form (OPNAV 1650/3, “Personal Award Recommendation”), substantively identical to the one in use during John Kerry’s time in Vietnam thirty years ago, provides that when an award is recommended, attached to that recommendation is a “proposed citation.”  A citation, in essence, is a narrative description of the “service” that the recipient performed to warrant the award.  In other words, the citation explains why the award was made and in what way it was earned.  (The regulations pertaining to Personal Award Recommendations also reccomend that combat awards be supported by at least two witnesses.)

 

Here’s where it gets puzzling.  Lieutenant John Kerry’s award for the Silver Star has—not one citation, but three—an unheard of number for a single award. 

 

Understandably, as we shall see, only Kerry’s most recent citation—nearly two decades older than the first and signed by a Secretary of the Navy who was years away from that office when Lieutenant Kerry, now Senator Kerry, originally obtained the award—appears on his website.  (Not one of the three citations, incidentally, refer to the combat “V” that appears on Kerry’s website’s DD 214.)

 

Citation 1

 

By now, a key incident for which Kerry obtained the Silver Star is well known: He shot a  fleeing enemy soldier in the back, presumably acting, in the words of the statute, with “gallantry.”  We have reproduced in its entirety that portion of the citation which is significantly different from Citations 2 and 3.

 

COMMANDER

UNITED STATES NAVAL FORCES

VIETNAM

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star Medal to

JOHN FORBES KERRY

LIEUTENANT JUNIOR GRADE

UNITED STATES NAVAL RESERVE

for service as set forth in the following:

CITATION

" * * * . . . Patrol Craft Fast 23 and 94 moved upstream to investigate an area from which gunshots were coming. Arriving at the area, Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY's craft received a B-40 rocket close aboard. Once again Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY ordered his units to charge the enemy positions and summoned Patrol Craft Fast 43 to the area to provide additional firepower. Patrol Craft Fast 94 then beached in the center of the enemy positions and an enemy soldier sprang up from his position not ten feet from Patrol Craft Fast 94 and fled. Without hesitation Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY leaped ashore, pursued the man behind a hootch and killed him, capturing a B-40 rocket launcher with a round in the chamber. Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY then led an assault party and conducted a sweep of the area while the Patrol Craft Fast continued to provide fire support. After the enemy had been completely routed, all personnel returned to the Patrol Craft Fast to withdraw from the area.” * * * (Emphasis added).

                                                                        For the President

                                                                        /s/ E R Zumwalt

                                                                        E.R. ZUMWALT, Jr.

                                                                    Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy

                                                        Commander U.S. Naval Forces, Vietnam

 

Citation 2 (Asterisks refer to eliminated repetitive material)

COMMANDER IN CHIEF

UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star Medal to

Lieutenant (junior grade) John Forbes KERRY 

United States Naval Reserve

for service as set forth in the following:

CITATION

* * * On a request from U.S. Army advisors on shore, Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY ordered PCF’s 94 and 23 further up river to suppress enemy sniper fire.  After proceeding approximately eight hundred yards, the boats were again taken under fire from a heavily foliated area and a B-40 rocket exploded close aboard PCF 94.  With utter disregard for his own safety and the enemy rockets, he again ordered a charge on the enemy, beached his own boat only ten feet from the VC rocket position, and personally led a landing party ashore in pursuit of the enemy.  Upon sweeping the area, an immediate search uncovered an enemy rest and supply area which was destroyed.” * * * (Emphasis added).

                                                                        For the President,

                                                                        /s/ John J Hyland 

                                                                        JOHN J. HYLAND

Admiral, U.S. Navy

                                                        Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet

 

Citation 3

THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY

Washington

            The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the SILVER STAR MEDAL to

LIEUTENANT (JUNIOR GRADE) JOHN F. KERRY

UNITED STATES NAVAL RESERVE

For service as set forth in the following

CITATION:

            * * * After proceeding approximately eight hundred yards, the boats were again taken under fire from a heavily foliated area and a B-40 rocket exploded close aboard PCF 94: with utter disregard for his own safety and the enemy rockets, he again ordered a charge on the enemy, beached his boat only ten feet from the VC rocket position, and personally led a landing party ashore in pursuit of the enemy. Upon sweeping the area an immediate search uncovered an enemy rest and supply area which was destroyed. * * *  (Emphasis added).

                                                                        For the President,

                                                                        /s/ John Lehman

                                                                        Secretary of the Navy

 

All three citations are undated.

Citation alterations

According to Citation 1—apparently prepared soon after the February 28, 1969 episode it describes and laced with the accolades “expertly,” “without hesitation,” “devotion to duty,” “courage under fire” and “outstanding leadership”—three PCFs came under fire, returned it, and embarked indigenous troops onto the shore.  Kerry’s boat and another then moved upstream, where “Kerry’s craft received a B-40 rocket close aboard” (i.e., it missed).  He beached the boat and “an enemy soldier sprang up from his position . . . and fled” (i.e., turned and ran). Kerry “pursued the man behind a hootch and killed him” (i.e., Kerry chased a man running away, lugging a rocket launcher), and apparently shot him in the back—although we can’t know because there was no witness, let alone the recommended two.  (Incidentally, no one else in that episode was awarded a Silver Star).

Although Citation 2 also is undated, we can still ascertain when it was issued.  Kerry’s first citation was for action on February 28, 1969, so Citation 2 had to be issued some time after that, but probably not immediately.  Citation 2 was signed by Admiral John J. Hyland, as Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, who no longer served in that capacity after December 5, 1970.  Thus, Kerry’s second citation had to have been issued some time between February 29, 1969 (following Citation 1) and December 5, 1970 (when Hyland was no longer CINCPAC).  Significantly, Kerry left Vietnam in “early 1969” (his website’s timeline) and was separated from service on March 1, 1970.  This means that it is likely Citation 2 was issued some time in the almost two years after his departure from Vietnam but before late 1970—when he was back in the United States.

Describing the February 28, 1969 incident, Citation 2—considerably shorter than Citation 1, but including the accolades “utter disregard for his own safety,” “daring and courageous” and “extraordinary daring and personal courage”—presents a very different picture because of a significant omission.  This time, it seems, Kerry “led a landing party ashore in pursuit of the enemy.  Upon sweeping the area, an immediate search uncovered an enemy rest and supply area which was destroyed.”  Vanished is the enemy soldier of Citation 1, springing up from ten feet away, carrying a rocket launcher, turning, running behind a hut, and being back-shot by Kerry.  Indeed, in Citation 2’s version, there were no enemy soldiers jumping out of spider holes.  Most important, gone is any implication that the current presidential candidate shot an unarmed enemy soldier in the back.

Citation 2 raises two important and intriguing questions.  First, why would Kerry bother to have a second citation issued?  The obvious answer is that he wanted to expunge from the record that he had shot a fleeing enemy soldier in the back. Another possible explanation, speculative though plausible, is found in the relative ranks held by Admirals Zumwalt and Hyland at that time.  Zumwalt had “only” three stars, Hyland four.  The politically ambitious Kerry, in a ploy (see below) that he may have repeated later in his career, could well have sought to upgrade his citation from three stars to four (especially since, at that time, it was questionable whether a three-star admiral had the authority to issue a Silver Star). 

The other important and intriguing question is how a lieutenant (junior grade), far down on the totem pole and then separated from service, could have induced an active duty four-star admiral, not only to reissue a citation for the Nation’s third-highest award, but to rewrite it by sanitizing Kerry’s killing of a fleeing enemy soldier.  Unfortunately, Admiral Hyland is dead, so we can’t ask him.  But there is someone else we can ask: the senior senator from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy.  Why Kennedy?  Because at the time the sanitized Citation 2 was issued, Kerry and Kennedy were pals.  For example, there is a photograph of the two taking a stroll together on April 21, 1971, not long after Citation 2 was issued.  The photo’s caption reads: “Senator Ted Kennedy and John Kerry discuss the Supreme Court injunction against Vietnam veterans sleeping on the Mall and whether the vets ought to risk violating it.  Washington, D.C., April 21, 1971.”  (The photo is at www.vietnamwar.com/JohnKerrySilverStar.htm).

Citation 3, like Citations 1 and 2, is undated.  But, again, we can narrow the time frame, since it was signed by John Lehman as Secretary of the Navy.  Lehman served from February1981 to April 1987—long after Kerry left Vietnam, long after he was separated from service, and during Kerry’s tenure as a United States Senator.

While it is not difficult to understand why Kerry apparently sought and obtained a sanitized second version of his Silver Star citation, at first glance it is not so easy to surmise why Kerry went after yet a third citation, this time from Lehman (especially because the third citation is word-for-word, in every important respect, the same as the second).  One theory dovetails with what may well have motivated him, at least in part, to prefer Hyland’s imprimatur over Zumwald’s.  Kerry, now a senator, may have been trying to upgrade his award, issued by a couple of “mere” admirals, to one issued by the Secretary of the Navy.

Correction of military records

Whatever the reason—and only Kerry and the Navy Department, and perhaps Kennedy, know the truth—Hyland’s Citation 2 and Lehman’s Citation 3 would have had to satisfy the requirement of Title 10, Section 1552, of the United States Code, subsection (a) (1), which provides that “The Secretary of a military department may correct any military record of the Secretary’s department when the Secretary considers it necessary to correct an error or remove an injustice.”  Subsection (b) provides that “No correction may be made . . . unless the claimant . . .  files a request for the correction within three years after he discovers the error or injustice.  However, a board . . . may excuse a failure to file within three years after discovery if it finds it to be in the interest of justice.”(Emphasis added).

This means that in order to obtain Citation 2, Kerry would have had to prove that there was an “error” in Citation 1 and/or that the existence of that citation somehow constituted an “injustice.”  Was the error in Citation 1 that he had shot the enemy soldier in the back, or that it was somehow an injustice to Kerry for the citation to say so?

As to obtaining Citation 3, there are two problems for Kerry.  First, since it is virtually identical with Citation 2, there could be no error or injustice.  Second, even if arguably there were, since the three-year statute of limitations had passed by the time Lehman was in office, in order for Kerry to obtain the correction, he would have had to prove that correcting Citation 2 was “in the interest of justice.”

An Army officer formerly in the Pentagon’s “awards and decorations” hierarchy for many years, explains the amendment process for military citations this way:

In the Army, and up until the 1980's, decorations for valor and heroism as well as service and achievement were published on general orders by the commander vested with the approval authority to act in finality on a recommendation.  * * *  The general orders contained a citation (reason) for the award. The recipient of the decoration also received a certificate which contained the citation or a certificate and a separate citation. The wording of the citation whether it was on the certificate or a separate document was lifted or copied from the general order.

The approved method of changing or correcting a general order once it had been issued was in the form of an amendment and there was a prescribed format for issuing an amendment on a later general order. The method voiding a previously issued general order was through a revocation and it too had a prescribed format. Most amendments were issued to correct personal data or dates on the original general order, but seldom were amendments issued to correct the citation or reason for the award. If the citation or reason for the decoration as it appeared in the original general order required a change or correction, it was accomplished through the issuance of an amendment. In this unlikely event (amendment of the citation/reason), a new certificate containing the corrected citation or a separate document containing the corrected citation/reason would be issued to the recipient. Amendatory general orders were almost always issued by the headquarters who issued the original general orders, however, amendments could also be issued by a higher headquarters; most often by Headquarters Department of the Army. This was especially true of revocations.

It is difficult to comprehend the basis for administratively amending a citation other than for correcting misspellings or transpositions of service numbers or erroneous grades, but it could be done. But the citation/reason and its factual content formed the basis for approval of that level of decoration. Changing or correcting the factual content infers that the level of recognition might have been in error, necessitates a review and calls into question the original decision, so that is why changing or correcting a citation/reason is almost never done.  (Emphasis added).

Questions for John Kerry

John Kerry is a lawyer, so he should be familiar with an important and useful discovery tool: written interrogatories.  Here are some for him:

Citation 1

Who was asked to prepare the “Personal Award Recommendation,” who prepared it, when was it prepared, to whom and when was it submitted, and will candidate Kerry either make the document available or authorize its release?

Who was asked to prepare the citation, who prepared it, when was it prepared, and to whom and when was it submitted?  Is the version reproduced above the only version?  If not, provide all details of prior versions.  Will candidate Kerry either make all versions of Citation 1, and its accompanying orders, available, or authorize their release?

Citation 2

Was there contact between Kennedy (or members of his staff, or others) with Admiral Hyland (or members of his staff, or others) concerning the citation prior to the latter’s issuance of it?  If there was, provide details of all such contacts.

Who was asked to prepare the citation, who prepared it, when was it prepared, and to whom and when was it submitted?  Is the version reproduced above the only version?  If not, provide all details of prior versions.  Will candidate Kerry either make all versions of Citation 2, and its accompanying orders, available, or authorize their release? 

When Kerry applied for the corrected citation, what error or errors did he claim existed in Citation 1, and what injustice did he cite?

Citation 3

Was there contact between Kerry (or members of his staff, or others) with then-Secretary of the Navy John Lehman (or members of his staff, or others) concerning the citation prior to the latter’s issuance of it?  If there was, provide details of all such contacts.

Was there contact between Kennedy (or members of his staff, or others) with then-Secretary of the Navy John Lehman (or members of his staff, or others) concerning the citation prior to the latter’s issuance of it?  If there was, provide details of all such contacts.

Who was asked to prepare the citation, who prepared it, when was it prepared, and to whom and when was it submitted?  Is the version reproduced above the only version?  If not, provide all details of prior versions.  Will candidate Kerry either make all versions of Citation 3, and its accompanying orders, available, or authorize their release?

When Kerry applied for the corrected citation, what error or errors did he claim existed in Citation 3 and what injustice did he cite?

When Kerry applied for the corrected citation, in order to surmount the three-year statute of limitations, what evidence did he produce to prove correction was in the interest of justice?

Did Lehman sign Citation 3 himself, or does the document contain a machine signature?

Miscellaneous

Did any other crewmen on Kerry’s boat at the time of the Silver Star incident receive any award(s) for that engagement?  If any did, set forth the recipient’s name(s), the award(s), the conduct justifying the award(s), who was asked to prepare the “Personal Award Recommendation(s),” who prepared it, when was it prepared, to whom and when was it submitted, and will such recipient(s) either make the document(s) available or authorize its release?

If any other crewmen on Kerry’s boat at the time of the Silver Star incident received any award(s) for that engagement, who was asked to prepare the citation(s), who prepared it, when was it prepared, and to whom and when was it submitted?  Will such recipient(s) either make the document(s) available or authorize its release? 

Will Kerry request Tommy Belodeau, Mike Medeiros, Del Sandusky, Fred Short and Gene Thorson to reveal, regarding their own awards for the Silver Star incident, the conduct justifying the award(s), who was asked to prepare the “Personal Award Recommendation(s),” who prepared it, when was it prepared, to whom and when was it submitted, and ask such recipient(s) either to make the document(s) available or authorize its release?

Will Kerry request Tommy Belodeau, Mike Medeiros, Del Sandusky, Fred Short and Gene Thorson to reveal, regarding their own awards for the Silver Star incident, who was asked to prepare the citation(s), who prepared it, when was it prepared, and to whom and when was it submitted, and ask such recipient(s) either to make the document(s) available or authorize its release?   Will Kerry authorize former Navy Secretary John Lehman to disclose fully the facts and circumstances surrounding his participation in the granting of Citation 3?

In obtaining Citations 2 and 3, did Kerry in any manner utilize Department of the Navy procedures for the correction of records?  If so, provide all details and copies of all documents submitted.  As to the documents, set forth who prepared them, when they were prepared, and when and to whom they were submitted.

*          *          *

Not one of these questions is beyond the ability of John Kerry to answer.  But their existence places him on the horns of a dilemma.  If he stalls, or obfuscates, or refuses to answer, continuing a pattern he has employed about some of his more important records, the only reasonable conclusion is that he has something to hide.  If he does answer, it is difficult to believe, given what is already known, that he will answer fully and truthfully. 

Either way, John Kerry may soon learn that three citations for a single Silver Star is two too many.

 

Henry Mark Holzer, Professor Emeritus at Brooklyn Law School, specializes in federal appeals.  Erika Holzer, a lawyer and novelist, is co-author, with Professor Holzer, of Fake Warriors: Identifying, Exposing and Punishing Those Who Falsify Their Military Service.  A second edition is forthcoming with a new preface entitled “John Kerry: The Ultimate Fake Warrior.”




We have implemented a new commenting system. To use it you must login/register with disqus. Registering is simple and can be done while posting this comment itself. Please contact gzenone [at] horowitzfreedomcenter.org if you have any difficulties.
blog comments powered by Disqus




Home | Blog | Horowitz | Archives | Columnists | Search | Store | Links | CSPC | Contact | Advertise with Us | Privacy Policy

Copyright©2007 FrontPageMagazine.com