Did John Kerry enter Cambodia on Christmas 1968, or at any other time during the four months he was serving on U.S. Navy Swift Boats in Vietnam, as he would later claim on several occasions? His credibility may ride on this question.
In Unfit for Command (published by Regnery, a sister company of HUMAN EVENTS), author John O’Neill writes, “All the living commanders in Kerry’s chain of command . . . deny that Kerry was ever ordered into Cambodia.”
Yet, on two occasions seven years apart, Kerry claimed he entered Cambodia. On Oct. 14, 1979, Kerry published a critique of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, in the Boston Herald American. Here, he said he entered Cambodia “[o]n more than one occasion,” including on “Christmas Eve of 1968” when he said he was “five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas.” “The absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real,” Kerry wrote. Nixon, however, was not President in 1968.
In a March 27, 1986, Senate speech, Kerry said: “I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia.” This memory, he said, was “seared–seared–in me.”
But, in response to Unfit for Command, Kerry’s campaign has modified this “seared” memory, while still insisting Kerry entered Cambodia.
“During John Kerry’s service in Vietnam, many times he was on or near the Cambodian border and one occasion crossed into Cambodia at the request of members of a special operations group operating out of Ha Tien,” Kerry spokesman Michael Meehan told the Boston Globe last week. “On Dec. 24, 1968, Lt. John Kerry and his crew were on patrol in the watery borders between Vietnam and Cambodia deep in enemy territory. In the early afternoon, Kerry’s boat, PCF-44, was at Sa Dec and then headed north to the Cambodian border. There, Kerry and his crew along with two other boats were ambushed, taking fire from both sides of the river, and after the firefight were fired upon again. Later that evening during their night patrol they came under friendly fire.”
Steve Gardner, a crewmate of Kerry on Christmas 1968, told the Globe of Kerry’s claim to be in or near Cambodia: “Never happened.”
Kerry biographer Douglas Brinkley told the London Daily Telegraph last week: “There’s no indictment of Kerry to be made, but he was mistaken about Christmas in Cambodia.” However, Brinkley also told the Telegraph: “Kerry went into Cambodian waters three or four times in January and February 1969 on clandestine missions. He had a run dropping off U.S. Navy Seals, Green Berets and CIA guys.” Brinkley, who used journals Kerry kept in Vietnam as sources for his book Tour of Duty, said Kerry wrote “in a part of his journals. . . about discussions with CIA guys he was dropping off.”
Andrew Antippas, a 35-year veteran of the Foreign Service who chaired a committee in Vietnam during the war that supervised “cross-border operations” into Cambodia, wrote in the Washington Times this week that he did not think Kerry was sent into Cambodia. “I would have been aware of Navy operations inserting agents into the southern parts of Cambodia,” he said.