« BeldarBlog's background colors | Main | Brandishing the "liar finger" in the SwiftVets vs. Kerry dispute »

Friday, August 27, 2004

Butch Vorphal joins eyewitnesses disputing enemy fire during Kerry's Rassmann rescue

Another eyewitness has spoken out on the subject of whether there was or wasn't enemy fire from the shores during the Bay Hap River action out of which Sen. Kerry received his Bronze Star for rescuing Jim Rassmann:

An Oconto Falls man says he was there when John Kerry earned his Purple Heart and his Bronze Star in Vietnam. And, Butch Vorphal has a very different account of what happened that day. Kerry says he earned bothmedals for pulling a fellow soldier out of a river while under heavy enemy fire. Vorphal was on board Swift Boat Number Three, which was hit by mines that day. While the blast knocked him out for a short time, Vorphal told [Green Bay, Wisconsin, radio station WTAQ's] Bill LuMaye the only gunfire he remembers was cover fire from the Swift Boats themselves. Vorphal says they lay down cover fire because they assume there's going to be enemy gunfire. He says when they stopped firing, there was no other gunfire. Vorphal says none of his shipmates remember seeing bullet holes from enemy fire in the Swift Boats. Vorphal says he doesn't remember anyone else being injured enough to get a purple heart.

Leslie L. "Butch" Vorphal is a verifiable Swiftee who served aboard PCF 3 from February through August 1969, and although he is not listed in Unfit for Command's Appendix A, he is listed on the SwiftVets' website as having joined in their letter to Sen. Kerry dated May 4, 2004, that called upon him to sign Standard Form 180 and to "provide a full, accurate accounting of [his] conduct in Vietnam."

Mainstream media references to "Vorphal" from Google News as of this moment:  zero.

That Mr. Vorphal's version of events comes to us via a radio station in Green Bay, Wisconsin — rather than, say, through a press conference called by the SwiftVets — brings me to an essay (or perhaps a bit of a rant) that I'll post separately just above this one.

Posted by Beldar at 07:28 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Butch Vorphal joins eyewitnesses disputing enemy fire during Kerry's Rassmann rescue and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» ANOTHER EYEWITNESS from PRESTOPUNDIT -- "Kerry in Cambodia" Wall-to-Wall Coverage

Tracked on Aug 28, 2004 2:28:26 AM


(1) Todd made the following comment | Aug 27, 2004 7:53:58 PM | Permalink

Bill, I'm not sure that a press conference is warranted for this particular disclosure, although I would have liked to have seen a press conference for the rolling out of Ad #3. I look forward to your "rant" on the press conference issue.

In any event, while the MSM are attempting to portray this particular event as one in which the evidence thus far overwhelmingly supports Kerry, it's pretty clearly just the obvious. Indeed, the evidence thus far, tempered with common sense, supports the notion that the Swift boats couldn't have been under fire. Vorphal's version of events makes the most sense of all the versions thus far.

(2) George Turner made the following comment | Aug 27, 2004 10:24:16 PM | Permalink

I checked the records on Kerry's website, and it says


And another small point. The VC were the ones who placed and detonated the mine, and thus obviously knew EXACTLY where the attack would be carried out, and where an enemy boat would end up motionless in the water. If they had ambushers set up they would be at that spot, ready to pound the stricken vessel immediately with RPGs and machine guns. I would think they'd have fired before PCF-3 had barely landed back in the water.

It makes me think the attack was carried off without coordination or support, possibly due to the sweeps the infantry had made shortly prior.

(3) OhMike made the following comment | Aug 27, 2004 11:23:51 PM | Permalink

Here's some more grist for the mill.

You want an anti-K witness? Well, you don't need to scrape too far down into the BOB to find one: There's Kerry himself.

o Kerry admitted that often he wrote the spot reports, and added that they were subsequently exaggerated.

o He claimed that sometimes the figures for actions HE had been in were doubled or tripled.

o Kerry wasn't involved in that many missions, so there is limited action to pick from.

o However, from Kerry's own words we know that SOME of the actions reported by him were only a half or a third true.

o You can speculate about which ones, but it had to be some--and it wouldn't be the ones in which little happened. Since, in Kerry's own testimony, they were exaggerated, they are likely to be the ones that were made out to be more heroic, and therefore likely to be the ones for which Kerry got medals.

o Kerry himself said: ...men report what they want to report and see what they want to see.

Sounds to me like he reported what he wanted report.

(4) d made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 6:56:23 AM | Permalink

If there were enemy gunfire during this incident, then all five swiftboat commanders would have been required to submit After Action Reports. 4 out of 5 commanders did not do so, strongly indicating no enemy gunfire occurred.

(5) jim made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 11:13:06 AM | Permalink

It strikes me that Vorphal can INSTANTLY clarify for us what boat Rassmann was on.

Perfect opportunity to conclude the process of elimination.

(6) George Turner made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 11:33:49 AM | Permalink

Rassman couldn't have been on PCF-3, which underwent a "sudden vertical acceleration of an explosive nature", rendering everyone on board casualties, with everyone suffering back injuries plus miscellaneous other injuries to head, legs, chest, etc, based on what they also hit.

Rassman was not listed among those requiring medevac for even minor wounds, which eliminates him from being on PCF-3. Further, had he been on PCF-3 they'd have already fished him out along with a couple other people from that boat that had gone into the water.

Obviously he wouldn't have been on a boat behind PCF-3, with Thurlow and Chenoweth, or they'd have picked him up before aiding PCF-3.

That leave's Droz and Kerry's boats. But Droz didn't go anywhere, so he'd have fished Rassmann right out, too. That narrows it down to Kerry's boat, with matches up with the statements of Rassmann and period recollections of Kerry. The only thing it doesn't match is some of Kerry's later statements where he claimed Rassman was blown off another boat, probably to deflect attention from the obvious fact that if Kerry hadn't left him behind in the first place then he wouldn't have had to turn around and rescue him.

(7) jim made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 1:08:52 PM | Permalink

George, I beg to differ. There has been some conflicting info presented.

1. Kerry claimed PCF #3 was Rassmann's boat and that he was blown from PCF #3 specifically on the History Net extract from Brinkley's 'Tour of Duty' which Beldar and I discussed a few days ago.

See: http://www.thehistorynet.com/ah/blkerryinvietnam/index2.html

The five boats had gone about half a mile when the blast came. Right where they had been hit on an earlier mission, a mine exploded directly beneath Lieutenant James Rassman's PCF-3 near Kerry's port side. Rassman's Swift lifted about two feet up out of the water, engulfed in mud and spray, then settled, rocking so hard from side to side that the boat started zigzagging from the banks to the middle of the river. Everybody on board PCF-3 was wounded. "At the same moment, we came under a hail of small-arms fire from both banks," Kerry recorded in his journal. "I turned the boat into the fire on the left with the intention of trying to get the troops ashore on the outskirts of the ambush, but Sandusky, who was driving the boat and who had his eyes glued on the crippled 3 boat, pointed out to me how badly hit they had been. We veered back toward her then and tried to provide cover from the engaged side. Suddenly another explosion went off right beside us, and the concussion threw me violently against the bulkhead on the door, and I smashed my arm. At the same instant, Jim Rassman was blown overboard, although nobody knew it.

Be sure to read the whole article.


Rassmann was awarded a PH for the above action which was reported up the 5th SFGA chain, culminating in his award along with other members of 5th SFGA in theater on General Order #350 approx. 2 weeks following the incident, and previously dissected in another topic on this site, on Kerry Spot, and on CQ, and on Vietnam SF Vets Against Kerry, among numerous others.

Discussions on SF boards and on CQ indicate Rassmann was the extra duty 'awards' officer of his detachment (XO, OpDet A-404 (Cao Lanh), B-40, 4th MSF, 4 CTZ, 5th SFGA, 1st SF), which would have been helpful to Kerry. Kerry claimed that ran many missions together (interesting, since he topped-out at 18), and were of equal rank (O-2), if not age.

Rassmann was half-way through his tour at the time, which originated ~10 Sep 68 (as A-404 PsyOps officer, then A-404 Det. XO, finally Det. CO, A-405 briefly) and culminated ~9 Sep 69 with his rotation out.

In my mind, Rassmann being on PCF #3 would make logical sense, since an enemy mine explosion would qualify him for PH regardless of whether or not there was enemy fire. I can pull the reg. if you want the cite.

Kerry's awards, however, were absolutely predicated upon there being fire. Rassmann was more than amply covered without it.

BTW, ample previous discussion and multiple sources indicate Rassmann personally submitted Kerry for a Silver Star, which was downgraded to a Bronze Star. I think it's safe to believe that Kerry submitted his own PH up his Navy channels after conflating the above action with his earlier attack by grenade-tossing hostile rice crispies.

No one else among SwiftVets officers present that day acknowledges filing that day's AAR.

Kerry and Rassmann have each claimed Rassmann was on PCF #3, other times on PCF #94, and in ToD, Beldar found a mention that Rassmann may even have been on PCF #35 (non-existent in this time/AO), but which may have been a transposition typo indicating Thurlow's PCF #53 (I think I finally got all the numbers right).

I would, however, appreciate your further thoughts, knowing that your analyses are always excellent, unique and worth waiting for.

(8) jim made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 1:16:53 PM | Permalink


General Order #350 of 5th SFGA is posted on the JohnKerry.com website, and I examined it via an NRO Kerry Spot link to the .pdf, finding it genuine.

Kerry Spot pulled their reference link down until a copy could be gen'd up without the SSN's showing, to reduce the possibility of identity theft for some 20 or so innocent honorably wounded SF veterans.

Would that the Kerry campaign be that thoughful of other wounded veterans.

At least they're consistent.

(9) ed made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 2:12:46 PM | Permalink


Ok. This discussion has crossed over the boundry into the realm of the Completely Whacked Out.

Lehman denies signing Kerry citation

Kerry citation a 'total mystery' to ex-Navy chief

August 28, 2004


Former Navy Secretary John Lehman has no idea where a Silver Star citation displayed on Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's campaign Web site came from, he said Friday. The citation appears over Lehman's signature.

"It is a total mystery to me. I never saw it. I never signed it. I never approved it. And the additional language it contains was not written by me," he said.

The additional language varied from the two previous citations, signed first by Adm. Elmo Zumwalt and then Adm. John Hyland, which themselves differ. The new material added in the Lehman citation reads in part: "By his brave actions, bold initiative, and unwavering devotion to duty, Lieutenant (jg) Kerry reflected great credit upon himself...."

Asked how the citation could have been executed over his signature without his knowledge, Lehman said: "I have no idea. I can only imagine they were signed by an autopen." The autopen is a device often used in the routine execution of executive documents in government.

Kerry senior adviser Michael Meehan could not be reached for comment on Kerry's records.

Thomas Lipscomb is chairman of the Center for the Digital Future in New York.

(10) ed made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 2:16:02 PM | Permalink



Isn't this a kick in the pants? Lehman didn't even see it? He didn't sign it? Lehman had no idea that his signature was on it?

Holy crap! What happened then? Some aide or flunky of Kerry's arranged for this?

Someone tell me this isn't a violation of federal law.

(11) John Schuh made the following comment | Aug 29, 2004 1:34:58 AM | Permalink

My head hurts from all this stuff. Even factoring in the length of time that has passed and the sharing of memories by the Swiftees. it seem obvious that Kerry engineered his PHs. or at least one of them.

(12) jim made the following comment | Aug 29, 2004 10:47:49 PM | Permalink

John, based on his own conflicting statements and documentation, there's a pretty easy case to be made for the first and third PH's being clearly and negligently self-inflicted, and the the second one is also likely to be a self-inflicted short M-79 round. That's the only one a bit tough to discredit at the moment.

Probability is extremely high that the Silver and Bronze Stars will both prove false fairly quickly, unless he manages to force the debate closed temporarily.

I say temporarily because the fact-checkers will get him, no matter how long it takes.

And it now looks like the US Navy is ready to take him on for his so-far unexplainably altered DD-214(s). Among other things.

JMHO, Kerry. Fork. Some assembly required.

(13) Harlow made the following comment | Sep 2, 2004 8:25:41 PM | Permalink

How sad. I spent 23 months in-country, 18 in combat, I have seen heroic deeds and have seen grunts pay the supreme price to save their buddies lives. This episode with "kookie Kerry" will overshadow all who were decorated. Generations will ask, "did he really?". As time and paper erode the record, proof will not be so readily available to substaniate the claim of the award reciepient. All any body had to do was get their ass in the grass with the rest of us and pull their share of the load. I served with the 199th light infantry brigade in the Delta for my first six months. I was assigned to C Co. 5th, Batallion, 12 Inf. The Navy was great. Fire support, transport, hot chow when they could, resupply and some kick ass raids on the Cong. I still think and will to my death that those men were men and heroes. Just a fellow warriors opinion. All others who are not warriors don't count as much. I suppose Kerry thought no one cared. Surprise! Many thanks Swift Vets. There are still some who care to remember.

The comments to this entry are closed.