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How Swift Boat Veterans, POWs and the New Media Defeated John Kerry


By Scott Swett and Tim Ziegler



Probably, it began in the spring of 1971 when a young former Marine sergeant named Bruce Kesler publicly denounced Kerry’s Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), and created a small ad hoc group called Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace.


That June, Kessler, O’Neill (a swift boat veteran), and eight other veterans held a press conference, stating that the group’s purpose was to support creation of “a viable South Vietnam with the capability for self-defense” and, domestically, “to advocate for better benefits for Vietnam veterans.” 


In his statement, O’Neill challenged Kerry’s assumed leadership of Vietnam veterans, and at the end of that month made his anti-Kerry, anti-VVAW case on the now famous Dick Cavett television show.  Much of the O’Neill-Kerry exchange is presented in To Set the Record Straight, making it clear that O’Neill had the facts belying Kerry’s atrocity tales and that Kerry lied and obfuscated about them.


Following that legendary TV show, a variety of individuals and ad hoc groups tried to get out the truth about the war and expose the slanders and lies of Kerry and other anti-war activists and propagandists, especially about their atrocity stories. 


The veterans didn’t meet with great success, and for years the issue remained quiescent, arising only whenever something popped up to remind Americans of antics like VVAW’s earlier demonstrations or when Hanoi Jane Fonda was in the news.


Unfortunately, alleged American atrocities in Viet Nam and John Kerry’s military and political “heroism” were indelibly imprinted on the American public’s collective consciousness.


At least, that is, until 2003, when narcissist Kerry released his campaign biography.  Entitled Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War, it was written by the then-respected historian Douglas Brinkley.


It is a measure of how invested Kerry was in his self-created hero legend, and how blind he was to the potential pitfalls of the truth, that he apparently failed to realize that Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War would presage his political downfall.


The book (“action”) put Kerry’s antiwar conduct and alleged heroism in play, courting the inevitable (“reaction”).


It was not long in coming.


In late January 2004, retired Rear Admiral Roy Hoffmann—commander of the Navy’s Swift Boat operation in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969—read Tour of Duty.  Among other serious misgivings about the book, Hoffmann was greatly offended by being compared with “the crazed and murderous Colonel Kurtz in Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now”—yet another iteration of Kerry’s earlier fantasy stories about American atrocities.


In response, Hoffmann contacted some former Swifties, and the ball began rolling.  Soon, veterans from all over the country were disputing Kerry’s stories about atrocities and his alleged valor, and a consensus developed that Kerry was unfit for the presidency and the Commander-in-Chief position it conferred.


At a meeting on April 4, 2004, “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” was conceived.  On April 23, 2004, about six months before election day, the organization was born when, as a “527” not-for-profit, it filed with the IRS.


Ironically, because of the Kerry co-sponsored McCain-Feingold legislation muzzling certain political speech (another “action”), the Swifties had to choose the 527 not-for-profit organizational form (another “reaction”)—which, as it turned out, would make possible large financial contributions that enabled the Swifties to disseminate the truth about Kerry’s atrocity lies and military self- aggrandizement.


To Set the Record Straight tells that dramatic story, providing many, and some shocking, details not well known until now:



  • Who the Swifties and other veterans who came forward were, why they stepped up, and at what personal cost.
  •  The organization’s disappointing—indeed, sabotaged—first press conference.


  • How the mainstream media carried Kerry’s water, dumping on the Swifties at every opportunity.


  • Swifty circumvention of that biased media by use of the Internet.


  • Internal organization of the pro-truth, anti-Kerry effort, and its chain of command.


  • Conceiving, researching, writing, publishing, and promoting the O’Neill-Corsi blockbuster book about Kerry, whose title said it all: Unfit for Command.


  • Development and utilization of the Swifties’ television campaign.


  • Kerry’s counterattack, and why it failed.


  • How former POWs joined the Swifties’ effort, and their impact.


  • Exposing Kerry’s phony medals and awards, and his quick exit from Vietnam.


For all of this, and more, To Set the Record Straight provides thorough sourcing, demonstrating that “the story about the story” is as credible as the original Unfit for Command story itself.


Yet, there is one paragraph in the book that tantalizes, leaving the reader wanting more information. 


The authors write concerning the press conference for the anti-Kerry film, Stolen Honor: “One Stolen Honor POW arrived late for the press conference, Col. George ‘Bud’ Day.  Day was a legendary military figure, a veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam who had been awarded the Medal of Honor for his incredible 12-day effort to escape from his captors after his F-100F Misty FAC was shot down over North Vietnam in August 1967.  Senator John McCain, his former cellmate in Vietnam, had called Day ‘one of the greatest men I have had the honor to know.”  Now, Bud Day was at McCain’s Washington office, asking his old friend to tone down his criticism of the Swift Vets.  Day pointed out, as had Admiral Roy Hoffmann, that the Swifties were witnesses to what Kerry had done in Vietnam, but McCain was not.  (My emphasis.)  (The source for this statement, another POW, is unimpeachable.)


Yes, the man who today would be Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the United States, John S. McCain, III, stood up for Fake Warrior (and Senate colleague) John Kerry against the overwhelming evidence that his atrocity stories were damaging lies, eclipsed only by his fraudulent self-created tales of heroism in Vietnam. 


Were the full story of McCain’s attempt to undermine the Swifties and bolster the faker Kerry known in detail today, perhaps he would not be doing so well in some of the Republican primaries.


But despite McCain’s, the media’s, the Kerry campaign’s, and the Democrat Party’s attempts to vilify and destroy the Swifties, in the end they had created what the authors of To Set the Record Straight describe as “the multi-pronged information campaign that would produce the nation’s most popular book, the Internet’s hottest political website, and the most effective TV ad campaign in American political history.”


Too modestly, they neglect to say that the Swifties, contributed mightily to saving the American Republic from the world-class opportunistic, slandering, self-serving, Fake Warrior, John F. Kerry.


In To Set the Record Straight, they have indeed set the record straight.