Kerry Didn't Go to Vietnam Seeking Medals, Says Supportive Vet

By Robert B. Bluey | July 7, 2008 | 8:30pm EDT

( - A former executive officer of the U.S. Navy's Coastal Division 13 during the Vietnam War dismissed accusations Tuesday that John Kerry manipulated after-action reports in order to obtain military honors, including a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Anti-Kerry veterans belonging to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have repeatedly asserted that Kerry wrote after-action reports about his various missions in Vietnam. Those reports, the veterans claim, either falsely documented the circumstances or exaggerated Kerry's injuries.

Kerry's presidential campaign countered the accusations Tuesday by introducing Foster E. Wright, who commanded PCF 103, later served as executive officer of Coastal Division 13 and retired as a captain in the Naval Reserve.

"You don't get to request a Purple Heart, you don't get to write up your own Bronze Star citation, you don't get to write up your citation for your Silver Star," Wright said. "That's done by other people. For this to be questioned is ludicrous."

Although Wright said he wasn't present during any of the disputed Kerry episodes in Vietnam, he dismissed questions about Kerry's rationale for serving his country.

"This is a terrible dredging up of things that are in the past," Wright told reporters in a conference call organized by the Kerry campaign. "John earned his medals. You can't go there and plan to be wounded in the context of running for the presidency 35 years later. It's ridiculous."

In a follow-up interview with later Tuesday, the retired high school principal from Wayland, Mass., said he saw firsthand how the administrative process worked in Vietnam because of his executive officer post in Coastal Division 13.

"I saw how these things went up the line," Wright said of the award citations. "You can't sit down and write your own citations. It's just not done."

Wright also cast doubt on the influence of the after-action reports that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth claim are the basis for Kerry's medal citations.

"In it is a very brief description of what happened," he said. "That would have been done either collectively or by the [officer in tactical command] of the operation. But there's no way that it would be extensive enough. You weren't going to be long-winded."

According to veteran Larry Thurlow, a leading Kerry critic, the award recommendation that serves as the basis for Kerry's Bronze Star was most likely written by Kerry himself.

"Back then, John would actually volunteer to write them up," said Thurlow, who was with Kerry on March 13, 1969, the day of disputed events. "He wouldn't be the officer in tactical command very often because he was fairly junior in the sense of who had been in country the longest.

"Nobody wanted to write these things," Thurlow added. "You're already drained from hours out on whatever the situation was. You wanted to clean up, get something to eat and get some sleep. John would say, 'I'll write this up.' [We'd say], 'Go for it, John.'

But even Thurlow acknowledged that proving Kerry falsified reports would be difficult. He said higher-ranking commanders often gave a rubber-stamp signature to the reports because they trusted their officers to be honest.

Wright dismissed the suggestion that Kerry could have manipulated the process. He said the Navy's administration process would have prevented such actions.

"Let's say you have a four or five-boat raid. One guy has to be in charge. It's usually the senior guy or the most experienced guy. He would be responsible for collecting the information," Wright said. "But each of the other officers would have to put out a spot report as well. They couldn't be different by day and night. People would get upset with you and [ask] which one of these is true."

During the call with reporters, Wright acknowledged that he has long been a friend of Kerry's, but said he volunteered to help the campaign and wasn't approached prior to the latest round of attacks from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

"I don't believe this is misperception," he said. "I think this is a coordinated attack. I think [the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth] are mad at him for other things, frankly. The great majority of guys are mad at him for what he said when he came back. It was hard coming home from that war."

See Earlier Story:
Kerry's False Report Led to Media Assault, Swift Boat Vet Claims
(Aug. 19, 2004)

E-mail a news tip to Robert B. Bluey.

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