August 31, 2004
Dear Senator Kerry:
As you prepare for your address before the American Legion (search) in Nashville, Tennessee, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (search) encourages you to use this opportunity to clarify your actions in Vietnam and your statements about your fellow Veterans and shipmates when you returned home. Since you have made your four-month tour in Vietnam the centerpiece of your campaign, we respectfully insist that you be truthful. The public is owed a full and honest accounting of your actions. Veterans are owed an apology from you and an acknowledgement that there was no basis in fact for the accusations you made against them.
We urge you to:
1. Apologize for your conduct once you returned from Vietnam. Your exaggerated testimony before the U.S. Senate; the blanket indictment of your fellow veterans; throwing away medals and ribbons; all of these actions dishonored America and the armed forces. Your rhetoric and actions were not only wrong, they aided the enemy and brought great pain to POW's, veterans and their families.
2. Clarify the conflicting accounts involving the Bay Hap River incident of March 13, 1969 (Bronze Star and 3rd Purple Heart). You have now described three different versions of this incident. In the first version of this incident presented during the Democrat National Convention, you stated: "No man left behind," suggesting to the American people that you alone stayed on the river to rescue Mr. Rassmann. Later, when forced to acknowledge conflicting eyewitness testimony from fellow swift boat veterans, you said that your boat left the scene to return moments later to retrieve Jim Rassmann from the water. Yet, in another version of the same incident discovered in the Congressional Record, you reported that your boat struck a mine and Rassmann fell off the boat. Mr. Kerry, please explain to your fellow veterans and the American people which version is the truth.
3. Affirm that the injuries for which you received your purple hearts never required any medical treatment beyond perhaps a bandage and that, in all instances, these injuries were self-inflicted and came from your own weapon. Further, that if any of these purple hearts were falsely awarded, that you would not have been eligible to leave Vietnam after serving only four months.
4. Acknowledge what your own biographer is now saying, that the Christmas in Cambodia claim is "obviously wrong," that you were never in Cambodia over Christmas or any other time during your brief, four-month tour in Vietnam and that your statements before the United States Senate in 1986 were false.
If you undertake these steps we will be satisfied that the American public has been sufficiently apprised as to these aspects of your career, and we will discontinue the media advertisements you have sought so fervently to silence.
Please know that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are eager to close our own personal chapters on Vietnam and instead focus on the war we're currently fighting-the ongoing war on terrorism. In the absence of full public disclosure and a public apology, we will continue efforts to carry our message to an ever-expanding base of grassroots supporters.
Senator Kerry, we want to get Vietnam behind us. But, we can only do so if the truth is told.
We respectfully await your reply,
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth