(CNSNews.com) - A member of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has alleged that John Kerry's own report 35 years ago was the basis for the military records that the Washington Post used in an article Thursday seeking to discredit the veteran, Larry Thurlow.
At issue is whether Thurlow, Kerry and others were subjected to hostile gunfire on Vietnam's Bay Hap River on March 13, 1969, as military records obtained by the Washington Post indicate.
Thurlow currently asserts that there was no gunfire, a contradiction of the military records cited in the Washington Post article. The Post was not able to show the source of the information for the military records.
Thurlow believes Kerry wrote the after-action reports that served as the basis for the military records, including the ones applying to Thurlow. He told CNSNews.com that Kerry routinely asked to write the reports, which, Thurlow said, exaggerate and falsify Kerry's actions. He said an examination of those reports reveals that Kerry was often portrayed as a hero, when that wasn't necessarily the case.
"In all honesty, knowing John wasn't reliable and wasn't trustworthy, I didn't expect him to do this," Thurlow said. "If he wanted to embellish his own account a little bit, I could even live with that because a lot of people are that way."
Both Thurlow and Kerry were awarded the Bronze Star medal for their actions on the Bay Hap River.
Kerry's own account is that during the Bay Hap River incident, he rescued another veteran, Jim Rassmann, while coming under fire from the Viet Cong. Rassmann backs up Kerry's version of events. But Thurlow said the awards, including his own, may have been inappropriately handed out as a result of a false report filed by Kerry.
"We were never under hostile fire," Thurlow told CNSNews.com as he recalled the events of March 13, 1969. "And if that's something that has to happen for me to get that Bronze Star, then I have had it all these years under false pretenses. I'll be happy to return the thing. I don't want the thing under fraudulent circumstances."
As reported by the Washington Post, the Navy award recommendation of March 23, 1969, indicated that Thurlow and Kerry had been subjected to "small arms and automatic weapons fire" along the Bay Hap River. Thursday's article in the Post used that statement, included in Thurlow's military records, to contradict Thurlow's current claim that there was no gunfire.
"The hostile fire is based entirely on [Kerry's] report," Thurlow said. "My contention, both then and now, is that there was no hostile fire."
Thurlow continued: "I had no clue, though, that he was building the centerpiece of his run for the presidency on it. There's no way I could have. Despite the fact he was known to have told several people that he was going to be president of the United States when he grew up, anybody could say that. John, it turns out, was very serious."
A spokeswoman for the Kerry campaign didn't immediately return CNSNews.com's request for comment. But Kerry denounced the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, of which Thurlow is a member, during a speech Thursday.
"They're a front for the Bush campaign," Kerry said. "And the fact that the president won't denounce what they're up to tells you everything that you need to know - he wants them to do his dirty work."
When asked about the personal attacks he's endured since coming forward, Thurlow expressed disappointment. He said he merely wants to the truth about Kerry to be documented.
"What they're trying to do is discredit us," Thurlow said of the Kerry campaign. "If they can make anyone think we're not factual and not telling the truth, they've won that round."
If he could go back to Vietnam and do anything over again, he said he wouldn't have allowed Kerry to write the after-action reports.
"Back then, John would actually volunteer to write them up," Thurlow said. "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," he 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.'
Proving that Kerry falsified reports is difficult, Thurlow acknowledged. He said higher-ranking commanders often gave a rubber-stamp signature to the reports because they trusted their officers to be honest.
"We accepted, whoever did it, to do it accurately," Thurlow said. "I myself expected him to do the right thing. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have even let him do it. But at that time, I was more than happy to let him do it. I know something now that I did not know then."
See Related Story:
Kerry Says Bush Letting Others Do His Dirty Work (Aug. 19, 2004)
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