Kerry's USS Gridley Shipmates Speak
The first thing I noticed about the two long pieces is that they are reasonably complimentary towards his skills as an officer. As Captain J.F. Kelly notes,
John Kerry and I were shipmates in the guided missile cruiser USS Gridley (CG-21) in 1967 and 1968. He served as First Lieutenant, the officer in charge of the deck division, and I was Executive Officer, or second in command. I remember him as a serious and intelligent young ensign, seemingly mature beyond his years. The skipper and I were mightily impressed with him in spite of his inexperience. . . . Drafting his fitness reports was an exercise in the use of superlatives. In fact, of the thirty or so officers, I counted him in the top half dozen, no mean feat for an ensign.
Phil Carter, one of the radarmen on USS Gridley (and later a Kerry campaign donor) makes a similar statement.
Ensign Kerry was a fine young officer. He came aboard as a boot Ensign on June 8, 1967 and quickly impressed the senior officers in his chain of command. His fitness reports were outstanding. His privileged upbringing with experience in yachting and flying a private plane gave him a leg up on the other Ensigns.
It is plain to see that these were men impressed with an intelligent, competent young officer -- something I have always assumed would be the case.
But each of these men has something more to say about Kerry, things that go to the heart of who that fine young officer became. Carter gives a long list of inaccurate assertions and stories that appear in his official biography, Brinkley's Tour of Duty.
When I read “Tour of Duty”, I became concerned because the material on Kerry’s time on GRIDLEY appeared in many instances to be exaggerations and in some cases figments of an overactive imagination. . . .
[T]hey (Kerry's false stories) seem to show a deliberate effort in his writings of the time to build a mystique for a future political career showing him as a great leader, father confessor to the ship and astute analyst of political and military happenings.
That is not to say that Kerry was not a good officer. He was and to my recollection was well liked. Did he stalk the passageways showing his future presidential timber? Absolutely not. A reporter from the Chicago Tribune actually asked me that. When I told him that he was just another goofy Ensign, he was horrified and did not use that quote.
Kelly assesses the impact of Kerry's anti-war statements very harshly, building to a damning conclusion.
While he was protesting against the war, many of us were still fighting in it. Many of us felt betrayed that one of our own, a decorated hero, would give comfort to the enemy by such actions. Think what you want about the wisdom in getting involved in that war, two presidents, both Democrats, committed the armed forces they commanded to fight it. Make no mistake; actions by the likes of Fonda and Kerry were damaging to our morale, gave aid and comfort to the forces we were fighting and altered the eventual outcome in a manner less favorable to the United States (italics mine) than if they had kept their mouths shut. The time for anti-war protests is before the war starts.
There is no question that John Kerry earned his decorations and that he put his life at risk in the service of his country. There is no doubt in my mind, moreover, that he has the intelligence to serve as president. But there is also no doubt in my mind that his anti-war activities while our troops were still fighting, dying and being tortured in filthy Vietnam prisons were despicable.
For that reason, even aside from his anti-defense voting record in the Senate, he is one ex-shipmate that I could never support as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
These are not the Swift Boat Heroes -- these are men who served with Kerry and praise his service. Their words are not contained in a book or an attack ad, but are rather found on the site maintained by the ship's association so that old crewmates can reminisce and keep in contact. Their statements do, however, raise serious issues as to the truthfulness of Senator Kerry's public accounts of his service and his fitness for office. This should be food for thought.