Thursday, August 12, 2004


The point of the below posts is to demonstrate how the right wing talking point of "four months in Vietnam" has infected the public discourse. What's the truth about John Kerry's service in Vietnam? Well, he signed up for two tours of duty during the Vietnam war. He began training on 8/22/66, which of course takes some time. He received his commission as an ensign 4 months later. For the next 6 months, he receives additional training. He then worked on the USS Gridley, which over a 4 month period the follow years was working in direct support of the Vietnam War, including some time spent in the Gulf of Tomkin.

During that period, he requests to command a Swift Boat, which were operating in coastal waters.

A few months later, he begins the four months of training for that position, after which he reported for duty in Vietnam on 11/17, where he was until the following April. He then served about another 9 months stateside before requesting, and obtaining, a discharge.

Is it technically accurate to say, as the Washington Post did, that John Kerry served "four-plus months in Vietnam?" Only in a Bush administration kind of way, and only barely at that. The spin point devalues not just Kerry's lengthy volunteered service, but everyone else who served. Now, was "only" serving "four plus months" in direct combat duty as he did an "unusually short tour?" Well, compared to what?

The spin point, taken as a whole, implies that only doing 4 months of combat duty in Vietnam was somehow unusual. The vast majority of those serving in Vietnam did not serve in combat units, so Kerry's service commanding a Swift Boat was indeed unusual, but not for the reason given. Kerry's multiple medals are indeed unusual, as not everyone was that highly decorated, but unless you're accusing the Navy of being corrupt institution that handed out medals to John Kerry because he bribed them, or something, then the unusual part was that Kerry did so many things to deserve medals.

What was not unusual at that time was the sons of prominent wealthy people jumping ahead of more qualified people to get cushy assignments which would keep them out of Vietnam. What was slightly more unusual was those people being AWOL from even that duty. What is even more unusual is for those people to lie about their service, as George Bush did in his autobiography, claiming that he "continued to fly with my unit for the next several years," when in reality he continued to fly with his unit for only 22 months, which doesn't even allow for the generously broad definition of "several" which includes the number "two."