Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Swift Boats

(This was passed on to me by a colleague, it's from a friend of his, sent to a small group of Navy friends. I tend to not be too concerned with Kerry's military service: I'm more interested in what he'll do for the next four years, not what he did 30 years ago. Same goes for Bush. The wrangling over it spreads a lot of heat without casting much light. This, however, seemed worth putting on the record.)

After a tour in Viet Nam and upon discharge from the USN, I stayed in the Naval Reserve for a number of years. I didn't resign until after I started working for --- and realized that it would be impossible for me to take two weeks off every year.

In 1971 and 1972, the Viet Nam war was winding down. Elmo Zumwalt was Chief of Naval Operations. He'd previously been in charge of all the PBRs, (a.k.a. Swiftboats) in Viet Nam and he didn't want to see PBR technology and knowledge dumped. So he established a Naval Reserve PBR squadron at Mare Island in Vallejo. After spending two weeks there on an annual active duty gig in 1972, I transferred to the unit as a reservist. I had the good fortune to become a swiftboat captain. We ran the PBRs all over the northern half of San Francisco and San Pablo Bays. They're powerful boats, capable of moving from a dead stop to 30 knots in only 50 or 60 feet. Similarly, they could shift from 30 knots to a dead stop in the same distance.

Why do I bring this up? Since all but one of Kerry's peers from a picture taken in 1969 with him and 19 peer officers has come out and advised the world just how dishonorable that sonofabitch was, several left-wing pundits have announced with indignation that none of those other officers served on Kerry's boat. It's as if that means something. A squadron of PBRs moves together as a unit. At mealtime, PBRs pull to a riverbank and the crews eat together. During maneuvers, crews are talking with each other on the radio. When the crews get time to sleep, the PBRs go to a riverbank and the crews get together. On maneuvers, the boats are usually 100 meters to a mile apart. PBRs move around bays and rivers as a group most of the time. Boats are rarely out of sight of the other boats in the squadron. The point here is that any sailor or officer on one boat will get to know every sailor and officer on the other boats every bit as well as the crew on his own boat. The pundits suggest that, since none of the 18 officers who are pronouncing John Kerry as unfit to be C-in-C served on Kerry's boat, they didn't know him very well. That's bullshit. In a squadron with only dozens of men, everybody knows everybody well. Very well. And, remember, there's not one pundit that has ever owned a Navy Serial Number!

Kerry pissed off most veterans when he lied while testifying before Congress in 1971. He angered many earlier this year when he dismissed that lie as, "words of an angry young man." Veterans as a group, however, usually remained silent all the time that Kerry has been in the Senate.

Unfortunately, Kerry made a big deal of his Viet Nam experience and heroics at the Boston convention last month. Doing so has enraged most veterans. We've only begun to see their anger. There are a lot of folks with first-hand stories about the lying opportunist now campaigning to be president. We'll be hearing many more stories in the weeks ahead.