Swiftees Vs Kerry: Where Was Rassmann?
In trying to figure out who is telling the truth, between the Swift Boat Vets and the Kerry camp, one thing to look at is whether either side has lied about issues that can be checked. We know that the Swiftees were right that Kerry had lied about Christmas in Cambodia; nobody defends that story any more. But here's another example of Kerry's lying about one of the most important events in his war record: the Bay Hap Incident, for which Kerry received his Bronze Star and his third Purple Heart. I like to refer to this lie as "Where Was Rassmann?"
In early 2004, Kerry's campaign was foundering when Jim Rassmann, a fellow Vietnam veteran, showed up in Iowa and electrified crowds with his description of Kerry's heroism. The story has been told often enough that it is familiar. But what I find curious is the changing nature of the story over time, specificially with regard to which boat Rassmann was on, and how he fell in the water.
Rassman was described here
as having been on another boat:
On March 13, 1969, Rassman was a 21-year-old lieutenant in Army Special Forces when he was blown overboard from a boat next to Kerry’s on the Bay Hap River.
and here as well
Another charge blew Army Lt. James Rassman into the river from another boat.
And of course, most crucially, in Brinkley (page 314):
At that instant, Army Lieutenant Jim Rassman (sic), who was on PCF-35, was blown overboard, although nobody knew it at the time.
Yet when O'Neill's book comes out saying that Rassmann had fallen off Kerry's boat because Kerry sped away from the mine explosion, Rassmann suddenly remembers
that yes, he was on Kerry's boat after all. But it was still some sort of explosion:
The second blast blew me off John's swift boat, PCF-94, throwing me into the river.
However, Kerry had previously described the actual incident in a 2002 eulogy (which he had read into the Congressional Record
) for his long earlier crew member Tom Belodeau this way:
There was the time we were carrying special forces up a river and a mine exploded under our boat sending it 2 feet into the air. We were receiving incoming rocket and small arms fire and Tommy was returning fire with his M–60 machine gun when it literally broke apart in his hands.
He was left holding the pieces unable to fire back while one of the Green Berets [Rassmann] walked along the edge of the boat to get Tommy another M–60. As he was doing so, the boat made a high speed turn to starboard and the Green Beret kept going -- straight into the river.
So O'Neill was clearly right on two very specific points about which Kerry's campaign was obviously trying to prevaricate. Now, if the Kerry people were willing to lie about which boat Rassmann was on and how he fell off, what else were they lying about, and what were they hiding with the initial lies?