NEW YORK – In what has been described by Navy officials as a routine process, the Pentagon's inspector general's office on Thursday referred to the secretary of the Navy a request to investigate medals won by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) during the Vietnam War.
Government watchdog group Judicial Watch (search) submitted the request for an investigation. Navy sources said the service will probe the medals, but added that most questions have arisen because of what appear to be errors in processing records.
Kerry received five medals during his four months in combat in Vietnam. Judicial Watch asked the Pentagon to investigate Kerry's receipt of the Silver Star with a "Combat V" designation (search), which stands for valor under fire.
Kerry's campaign Web site includes military records listing the Combat V citation. Navy procedures show that the Silver Star cannot carry a Combat V designation because part of the reason the medal is awarded is for valor under fire — the added designation would be redundant. The findings of the probe, therefore, will not change the record of Kerry's Vietnam service.
In a letter to Judicial Watch, the inspector general's office said: "Concerning our allegations of violations of Uniform Code of Military Justice (search), we have the responsibility to ... 'report suspected or alleged violations.' We have informed the secretary of the Navy of the allegations."
Kerry campaign adviser Michael Meehan released a statement to FOX News that criticized the attention being paid to the request.
"The facts are clear, the Navy awarded John Kerry the Silver Star, a Bronze Star with a Combat V and three Purple Hearts. It is waste of taxpayer's dollars and the Pentagon's time, especially during wartime, to investigate a 35-year-old Navy clerical error," the statement reads.
The Navy has said that it's the responsibility of all personnel to correct errors in official records.
In 1996, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jeremy Boorda committed suicide when he learned that a reporter was about to disclose he had wrongly worn two Combat V pins on a Bronze Star, a medal that does not denote valor under fire.
At the time, Kerry told the Boston Herald that wrongly wearing the medals is a severe error in judgment.
"Is it wrong? Yes, it is very wrong. Sufficient to question his leadership position? The answer is yes," he is quoted as saying.
Kerry also spoke to the Boston Globe about the matter.
"If you wind up being less than what you're pretending to be, there is a major confrontation with value, self-esteem and your sense of how others view you."
Judicial Watch representatives said the group also wants an investigation into Kerry's third citation for the same Silver Star. In 1986, Kerry received the third citation after requesting a copy of his original citations. This one carried the signature and some additional words of praise under the signature of then-Navy Secretary John Lehman (search).
In a statement to FOX News, Lehman, who served on the Sept. 11 commission that investigated pre-2001 terror attack intelligence failings, said he had no idea why Kerry received a third citation under his signature, and that Navy records should be "thoroughly researched and the facts established."
Meanwhile, in an exclusive interview with FOX News, former President George H.W. Bush said questions raised about Kerry's protests against the Vietnam War were legitimate, and he saw nothing wrong with airing a TV ad assailing Kerry's anti-war testimony by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (search), a loosely regulated, independent political action group known as a 527.
"My view is the advertisement showing Senator Kerry as a young veteran coming back and using his own words to describe atrocities committed by his own soldiers, sailors, marines or whatever it is, is devastating," Bush said.
Bush 41 also said Kerry owes the nation and Vietnam veterans an apology.
"I think it is not enough to say, well, I made a youthful indiscretion, and I think Senator Kerry ought to apologize."
FOX News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.