Saturday, October 02, 2004
Lipscomb: Did Kerry write own report of disputed clash?
Finally, this reporter, at least, is realizing the dilemma between the SwiftVets and Kerry is actually a conflict between Kerry and himself; Chicago Sun Times provides further confirmation that Hanoi John French Kerry did, indeed, file his own reports:
As the commander of the mission, normally Thurlow would have filed the disputed after-action report. But he denies writing it. And the after-action report supports his denial. It was written by someone designated "TE 126.96.36.199/1."
"TE" refers to a "task element," which is defined by the numbers to the right, which show the command structure over the task element in action. "194" is Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, commander of U.S. naval forces in Vietnam; "5" is Hoffman's swift boat command; "4" is Lonsdale's command, and the last "4" is Capt. George Elliot's swift boat base at An Thoi, where the boats on this mission were based. The last "1" indicates someone other than the commander of the mission. If the report had been submitted by the mission commander, in this case Thurlow, according to the operations order, it would have begun with a "C" for commander of the Task Element, and the sender would have been "CTE 188.8.131.52."
According to a Navy communications expert, Chief Petty Officer Troy Jenkins, who has examined the message traffic, the report in question was sent from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Spencer, Lonsdale's command ship, at 11:20 that night.
Only three of the officers on the mission that day were on the Spencer, John Kerry, Dick Pease and Donald Droz. Droz took the wounded from the mine explosion to be examined and treated at the Spencer, including the third officer, the severely wounded Dick Pease. Since the Spencer had no helipad for the evacuation of the wounded, Droz then had to return to the USS Washtenaw County, stationed about 25 nautical miles away, leaving only Kerry aboard the Spencer at the time the message was sent at 11:20 p.m.
And there is another factor. Thurlow ordered Droz to take care of the wounded after the action on the Bay Hap. Droz had ferried them 40 miles out to the Spencer and now had to take them 25 miles back to the USS Washtenaw County. Moving wounded on and off a 327-foot cutter from a 50-foot swift boat on the open sea was not something Droz was likely to leave unsupervised long enough to dash off a report. Kerry had no duties other than reporting to the sick bay, where according to his doctor he was seen at 7 that night. And he spent the night on the Spencer.
The head of the Operational Archives Branch of the Naval Historical Center in Washington, Kathy Lloyd, has verified Hoffman's operations order. Neither Kerry's campaign nor his swift boat veteran critics contest the validity of the after-action report by "TE 184.108.40.206/1." Kerry spokesmen have repeatedly insisted that Kerry denies writing the report and that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were arguing with the official Navy record.
But if "the official Navy record" now turns out to have been written by Kerry himself, the principal beneficiary of its glowing references to his performance, the swift boat critics' charges look far more consequential.