Thursday, August 26, 2004

Crewman on Thurlow's boat remembers being under fire

Via Josh Marshall, we learn that the Jackson Co. (Ore.) Mail Tribune features an interview with local veteran Robert E. Lambert -- who disputes Larry Thurlow's assertion that the Swift boats were not under fire when Joihn Kerry earned his Bronze Star.

And Lambert was on Thurlow's boat.

[T]he Eagle Point man challenges claims by a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that there was no enemy fire aimed at the five swift boats, including the one commanded by Kerry, on March 13, 1969 on the Bay Hap River in the southern tip of what was then South Vietnam.

Lambert, now 64, was a crew member on swift boat PCF-51 that day. The boat was commanded by Navy Lt. Larry Thurlow, a now-retired officer who questions why Kerry was awarded a Bronze star for bravery and a third Purple Heart for the March 13 incident.

"He and another officer now say we weren’t under fire at that time," Lambert 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 contacted the Mail Tribune after reading a lengthy article from the Washington Post examining the controversy. That article, carried in the Tribune, indicated that Lambert was a witness to the event but declined to comment.

Although noting he was never contacted by the Post, Lambert stressed that he believes the swift boat controversy has no place in the presidential election.

"This is being blown out of proportion," he said. "It’s absolutely unnecessary and irrelevant, as far as I’m concerned. All of this is nothing but a distraction. It doesn’t have anything to do with what is going on today."

A registered independent, Lambert said the presidential debate ought to be on the future, not the past.

"They should be focused on our exit strategy from Iraq," he said....

Lambert also disputes Thurlow's contention that medals were awarded on the basis of a report written by Kerry.

"They took what everybody said after they got in, piled it altogether and shipped it off and somebody wrote that, either at the division level, squadron level or commander of naval forces, Vietnam level," Lambert said. "They decided what kind of medal was going to be put on it."

Wonder how many eyewitness accounts it will take to make the media stop giving credence to tales told by people who WEREN'T there?


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