From the Oregon Mail Tribune (wouldn’t it be nice if the NYT or WaPo could break one of these stories?):
“He and another officer now say we weren’t under fire at that time,” [Robert] Lambert [a crew member on swift boat PCF-51 on the day in question, March 13, 1969] said Wednesday afternoon. “Well, I sure was under the impression we were.”
Lambert’s Bronze Star medal citation for the incident praises his courage under fire in the aftermath of a mine explosion that rocked another swift boat on that day 35 years ago.
“Anytime you are blown out of the water like that, they always follow that up with small arms fire,” he said.
… Lambert has a photo album of swift boats, including several shots of Kerry’s PCF-94, although he doesn’t recall ever having met Kerry. One of his photographs of Kerry’s boat was taken on the morning of March 13, 1969, he added.
He flipped to a photograph of a bullet hole in the side of his swift boat — PCF-51.
“That’s the bullet hole they keep talking about that they got the day before in the 51 boat — that was my purple heart,” he said, noting he was hit on the upper left arm.
“When those bullets hit that aluminum, it was like hitting glass,” he added. “There was shrapnel everywhere.”
His photographs include swift boats riddled from AK-47 rifle rounds and larger holes from rocket blasts.
No, a 3/13/69 photo doesn’t prove the causal shot was fired that same day, but that’s how Lambert remembers it.
For 35 years, Richard McCann largely kept his experiences as a swift boat commander in Vietnam to himself.
“There is a horror to war that you just can’t express, and would probably just as soon not deal with,” he recently explained.
But McCann, 60, recently broke his self-imposed silence in a very public way to respond to charges by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group accusing Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry of lying about and exaggerating his war record.
McCann said Wednesday that he was shocked by the accusations. He couldn’t believe the group was talking about the same man he served with in Vietnam in 1969; who joined him on missions in the Mekong Delta at a time when he said Navy swift-boat forces had an 85 percent chance of being killed or wounded.
… “When you have a scenario that is blatantly untrue and I’m in a unique position to say I was there, I feel it’s my responsibility to step forward,” McCann said.
In a letter published in Tuesday’s Plain Dealer, McCann wrote: “I said it in 1969 and I’ll say it again today: There is no one that I would rather have guarding my back in a war zone than John Kerry.”