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Friday, September 03, 2004

Kerry brought the Belodeau Eulogy to Brinkley's specific attention

Yes, I admit that I'm obsessed with the Belodeau Eulogy, having previously posted about it on August 17, August 26, and most recently, on August 31, 2004.  But I keep stumbling upon indications that Kerry biographer Douglas Brinkley — and indeed, Kerry himself — also regard the Belodeau Eulogy as particularly significant.

From the Epilogue chapter of Brinkley's Tour of Duty:  John Kerry and the Vietnam War, at page 436 (boldface mine):

Late in the summer of 2003 the fifty-nine-year-old junior U.S. senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry, sat at a desk in the study of his house high atop Boston's Beacon Hill, riffling through his Vietnam War files.  He was searching for the long statement he had written for a memorial service held for an old Swift boat crewman who died in 1997.  Kerry and Chelmsford native Thomas Belodeau had become friends serving together in Vietnam aboard PCF-94....  Belodeau had been the first of the Swift's mates to pass away.  "I'm sorry he's not around for Charleston [referring to Kerry's official announcement of his 2004 presidential campaign, planned for September 2, 2003, with the historic U.S.S. Yorktown as a backdrop]," Kerry said softly.  "He'll be with us in spirit, though."

My guess is that this passage is taken from Brinkley's interview with Kerry on June 30, 2003, as referenced in the list on page 466 of ToD; the next listed interview isn't until September 8, after the Charleston event.  Perhaps Prof. Brinkley thinks of June 30 as being "late in the summer" in the same general sense that Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is described at page 453 as "Kerry's fellow Democratic Senator."  Perhaps it's in that same general sense that the water-jet-propelled Patrol Boats (River), or PBRs, that are pictured at the bottom of ToD's ninth picture page (between text pages 274 and 275) are described by Brinkley as a "Swift boat [i.e., PCF] convoy." 

Mid summer or late summer; PCFs or PBRs; Republican or Democrat; Rassmann falling overboard due to a sharp turn or due to a nearby mine blast — details, details, who cares about the details when you've got a candidate to help elect?

I'm left wondering exactly why Kerry was searching for a copy of his Belodeau Eulogy in the midst of one of Brinkley's brief twelve total hours of personal interviews (per the Author's Note on page xiii).  Apparently, out of all the materials in his archives, Kerry thought the Belodeau Eulogy was important enough to bring to Brinkley's direct attention — although perhaps it didn't occur to Kerry that if a copy wasn't readily at hand in his desk, he could also find it online from the Congressional Record for January 28, 1999 (first page and second page in .pdf format).

We know that eventually, Brinkley somehow found a copy of the Belodeau Eulogy, because Brinkley quoted directly and extensively from it at page 264 in Chapter Twelve of ToD, as I wrote in my August 31 post.  Shortly after writing that post, I found another direct quote from the Belodeau Eulogy later in Chapter Twelve of ToD (at page 267):

New Englander Tommy Belodeau felt an immediate kinship with his new lieutenant based on simple regional pride.  "The crew didn't have to prove themselves to me," Kerry explained in retrospect.  "I had to earn my spurs with them.  When the chief petty officer, Del Sandusky — known as Sky — finally gave me the seal of enlisted man's approval, Tommy was the first to enthusiastically say: 'I told you so, Sky — he's from Massachusetts!'"

Brinkley actually omitted the words "who came from Illinois to be with Tom today" after the phrase "known as Sky," and did so without indicating the omission through an ellipsis, but otherwise that's another direct quote. 

Although he clearly used the Belodeau Eulogy as a primary source for two direct quotes in Chapter Twelve, as I noted in my earlier post, Brinkley did not include it in his listed sources for that chapter in his unnumbered Notes section at the conclusion of the book (pp. 483-84).  And neither does the Belodeau Eulogy appear in the Notes for the Epilogue chapter (pp. 495-97).  Elsewhere in the Notes for various chapters in ToD, Brinkley at least mentions in general terms the unpublished source materials upon which he's drawn — for instance, for Chapter Eight he writes (at page 479), "Kerry's journals and correspondence for the crux of this chapter," and for Chapter Nine he writes (at page 480), "Again Kerry's war journals form the backbone of this chapter." 

But in contrast to, say, Kerry's letters to his parents or his journal writings, the Belodeau Eulogy was originally delivered in a public setting, and was subsequently, deliberately, published by Kerry in the Congressional Record, both in print form and in a searchable online database.  And yet the Belodeau Eulogy is nowhere listed in ToD's Selected Bibliography.  As Alice cried from Wonderland, "Curiouser and curiouser!"

Posted by Beldar at 07:01 PM in Books, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Kerry brought the Belodeau Eulogy to Brinkley's specific attention and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) MeTooThen made the following comment | Sep 3, 2004 7:58:19 PM | Permalink


I think your "obsession" with the eulogy is noteworthy.

I suggest you keep at it, as well as trying to determine if the release has, indeed, already been signed.

You never know.

(2) Dan S made the following comment | Sep 3, 2004 10:35:22 PM | Permalink


Brinkley is attempting the making of myth in this book. My close reading of the front matter and first couple chapters provide some interesting support for the assertion. My little exercise is litcrit-style close reading, but mythmaking nicely explains the relaxed attitude towards details you keep finding. That sort of slackness isn't normally found in historical works, but is a characteristic of myth. Facts are subordinated to the intended effect.

Torture of Duty: Myth versus Truth
Torture of Duty IV: More on Mythmaking

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