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Sunday, August 22, 2004

Kerry Defender Rood Contradicted by Crewmate

Just some more contradictions here. I let you read them and see what you think.
Saturday, Aug. 21, 2004 9:49 p.m. EDT

Kerry Defender Rood Contradicted by Crewmate

In a development that the establishment press is treating like bombshell news, former Swift Boat commander William B. Rood has stepped forward to defend John Kerry against the charge that he exaggerated his valor during the Vietnam War in descriptions of a foiled February 1969 ambush on his boat. But unmentioned in coverage of Rood's story so far is one salient fact: His account is sharply contradicted by one of Kerry's own crewmates, who complained eight years ago that Kerry took credit for bravery he didn't deserve – in an action that earned him the Silver Star.

In Sunday editions of the Chicago Tribune, Rood backs Kerry's claim that he singlehandedly took out a Viet Cong attacker who planned to ambush his Swift Boat with a grenade launcher along the Bay Hap River.

Recalling what he saw from a different Swift Boat, Rood writes:

"Kerry, followed by one member of his crew, jumped ashore and chased a VC behind a hooch – a thatched hut – maybe 15 yards inland from the ambush site.

"Some who were there that day recall the man being wounded as he ran. Neither I nor Jerry Leeds, our boat's leading petty officer with whom I've checked my recollection of all these events, recalls that, which is no surprise. Recollections of those who go through experiences like that frequently differ."

They sure do.

Unmentioned by Rood in his Chicago Tribune report is the account of Tom Bellodeau, who, unlike Rood, was actually aboard Kerry's boat when the VC in question leveled his grenade launcher at them.

"You know, I shot that guy," Bellodeau told the Boston Globe during a 1996 interview, correcting an earlier Globe report that echoed Kerry's claim that he alone had neutralized the enemy ambusher.

"He jumped up, he looked right at me, I looked at him," Bellodeau continued. "You could tell he was trying to decide whether to shoot or not. I expected the guy on Kerry's boat with the twin 50s to blast him, but he couldn't depress the guns far enough. We were up on the bank."

Only after the enemy soldier was wounded, said Bellodeau, did Kerry leap from the boat onto the beach and pursue him around the back of a nearby hut, where the would-be president finished him off.

Echoing ex-Commander Rood's version, Kerry's Silver Star citation credits him alone for taking down the Viet Cong soldier, making no mention whatsoever of Bellodeau, who has died in the intervening years.

"An enemy soldier sprang up from his position not 10 feet from Swift Boat 94 and fled," the combat award reads. "Without hesitation Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry leaped ashore, pursued the man behind a hootch and killed him, capturing a B-40 rocket launcher with a round in the chamber."

And even though Kerry spoke at Bellodeau's funeral, he has done nothing to incorporate his crewmate's role in subsequent accounts of the encounter with the enemy fighter.

In a 1996 interview, Kerry made no mention of the first shot whatsoever.

"It was either going to be him or it was going to be us. It was that simple. I don't know why it wasn't us – I mean, to this day. He had a rocket pointed right at our boat. He stood up out of a hole, and none of us saw him until he was standing in front of us, aiming a rocket right at us, and, for whatever reason, he didn't pull the trigger – he turned and ran."

When pressed for more details, the top Democrat said: "I just won't talk about all of it. I don't and can't. The things that really turned me I've never told anybody. Nobody would understand."

Within hours of the Chicago Tribune's Saturday afternoon announcement that William Rood had decided to go public with his Kerry defense, more than 1,500 news outlets were touting the story on their Web sites, with the Associated Press offering no fewer than 10 updates.

None of them mentioned Kerry's crewmate Tom Bellodeau.

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