In some ways, Carlton Sherwood and John Kerry share the same story. Both served in Vietnam and earned three Purple Hearts.
Both were present on April 23, 1971–the day Kerry threw what he claimed then were his war medals over a fence at the U.S. Capitol. Kerry was there as an anti-war leader who had testified the day before that Americans were committing war crimes, “not isolated incidents, but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.”
Sherwood was a cub reporter for the now-defunct Philadelphia Bulletin. He did not view the shaggy protesters in the same light Kerry did, and has never forgotten Kerry’s testimony.
Thirty-three years later, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist has produced a 45-minute documentary film that could seriously damage Kerry’s presidential hopes. The film focuses on Kerry and other anti-war leaders, and how their activities in the early 1970s affected American POWs in North Vietnam.
The movie Stolen Honor features interviews with 13 POWs who say they suffered ill-effects from the anti-war movement both during and after their captivity. One, Jim Warner, discusses how his North Vietnamese captors specifically made him read Kerry’s 1971 testimony and tried to use it to browbeat a confession of war crimes out of him.
Sherwood admits in his film that as a Vietnam veteran he could not approach this topic dispassionately. “It’s about a war I fought in and what I saw happening when I got back from it,” he says. “It’s about what I felt when I first saw and heard this,” he says, cutting to Kerry’s famous testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In that testimony, Kerry said the United States was the world’s worst violator of the Geneva Conventions; that many American units tortured and murdered Vietnamese POWs; that U.S. forces murdered 200,000 Vietnamese every year.
Sherwood’s documentary also shows about one minute of rare video footage from the Winter Soldier Investigation, an anti-war convention funded by Jane Fonda and organized partly by Kerry, who also participated as a moderator. The event, which took place in Detroit in late January 1971, included testimony from purported Vietnam Veterans about particularly brutal war crimes they allegedly committed–such as murdering Vietnamese POWs and, in one case, tricking a young child into drinking a can of helicopter hydraulic fluid.
Testimony from the men present at this event–many of whom were later exposed as frauds–formed the basis for Kerry’s Senate testimony that April about war crimes committed by Americans in Vietnam.
The documentary includes one scene from the Winter Soldier footage in which three participants appear to be conspiring to fabricate testimony about the massacre of a village.