Kerry Is Seared All Over

Nick Queen finds that Kerry’s Christmas in Cambodia isn’t the only thing that is “seared” (SEARED!!) into John Kerry’s memory.

Doug Miller notes yet another dubious searing in the comments section of the post: His false memory of being in Vietnam when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered.

I remember well April, 1968 – I was serving in Vietnam—a place of violence — when the news reports brought home to me and my crewmates the violence back home – and the tragic news that one of the bullets flying that terrible spring took the life of that unabashedly maladjusted citizen.

Oddly, this does not comport with the timeline on John Kerry’s campaign website:

Courtesy John Kerry for President – “John Kerry in Vietnam”

Is this that big a deal? In isolation, certainly not. But this was a speech on MLK day in 2003. It does seem to trend with an increasingly large number of occurences where Kerry has made mistatements about his service in Vietnam that would be pleasing to the audience of the moment. I’ve noted before that Kerry reminded me of Al Gore in this regard–uttering relatively meaningless mistruths for no apparent reason or advantage. We’re starting to get into Bill Clinton territory here. (“I have vivid and painful memories of black churches being burned in my own state when I was a child.” )

Obviously, this isn’t enough to change the minds of committed Democrats. Indeed, were this George W. Bush getting caught in these repeated lies I would be unhappy but almost certainly not enough to vote for Kerry. Ideology trumps character when it’s at this level of misdeed. One hopes that enough of this sort of thing might convince the swing voters to think hard about voting for him, though.

UPDATE (0830, 8/21): A commenter wonders if service on the Gridley doesn’t count as being in Vietnam. Sure enough, Kerry seems to claim this to be the case in the text of the site if not the timeline:

After completing Naval Officer Candidates School, he began his first tour of duty on the USS Gridley, a guided-missile frigate in the waters adjacent to Vietnam.

It hadn’t occured to me to check, since by Kerry’s own account (the timeline) he didn’t report to Vietnam until November 1968. I checked out the Gridley’s history. The relevant portion:

GRIDLEY operated along the California coast until sailing for the Orient 18 November [1965]. She left Subic Bay 2 January 1967 for plane guard duty in the China Sea and the Gulf of Tonkin. After varied duties in the fighting zone, she sailed for Australia en route to the West Coast and arrived Long Beach 8 June to prepare for future action.

So, indeed, the ship was probably near Vietnam on the day King was shot (April 8, 1968). This isn’t quite the same as being “in Vietnam” and the likelihood that one would see such a parallel on the day King was shot is unlikely. Of course, I’m not the kind of guy that carried a typewriter with me in lieu of clean underwear, so perhaps Kerry had a keener artistic vision.

It’s also rather odd that Kerry doesn’t dispute the description of his Vietnam service as having lasted only four months; if one added his time on the Gridley, it becomes a full year. I’m honestly not clear on what “counts” in this regard for naval personnel.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. adaplant says:

    Service aboard the Gridley isn’t “serving in Vietnam”?

    I’ll have to tell my brother’s widow her husband’s death on a navy boat off the coast wasn’t in connection to his service in Vietnam as she proudly relates to her grandkids.

    Nit meet pick.

  2. Aaron says:

    Maybe he was actually in Cambodia on one of those secret missions to drop off CIA agents or other special forces or running guns to anti-communist forces or what ever new tale Kerry has come up with today.

  3. Marc says:

    I have another question, why did Kerry call Martin Luther King an “unabashedly maladjusted citizen.” in a speech given at the 2003 Martin Luther King Day Celebration?

    maladjusted: poorly adjusted to demands and stresses of daily living; “a maladjusted child” emotionally unstable and having difficulty coping with personal relationships

    Is it a misquote? Not based on the linked website it isn’t.

    The mind reels what would possess him to say it. And I wonder what the reaction was.

    And they say Bush can’t speak and chew gum at the same time. – Feh

  4. Bithead says:

    Obviously, this isn’t enough to change the minds of committed Democrats

    I have no hope whatever of changing THEIR minds. For a mind to be changed the first thing that’s needful is that it must actually FUNCTION.

    It’s as I said a few days ago: Kerry’s rabidly leftist base disagreed with his even being in the service in the first place, so any question about his service there will only make him more, not less, popular… Any lie he tells in that regard will be viewed by such people as a badge of honor among them. His base isn’t moving even should be suddenly be revealed as an axe murderer.

    Bottom line…What motivates Kerry’s base isn’t getting Kerry elected, nearly as much as it is a hatred for George W. Bush and getting him unelected. As such, I expect the net effect to Kerry’s base however this falls out will be zero.

    Odd part is, even the Democrats in reality are not all thta Jonesed about Kerry, apparently seeing Kerry’s only advantage being he’s not Bush.

    Recent events, however I thinik are starting to show to them it isn’t enough to elect the man.

    Time will tell.

  5. jen says:

    Two things:

    1. Like adaplant, I take a bit of exception to the “in Vietnam” nitpick, too. Most Navy folks aren’t going to actually set foot on the ground since they serve on ships in the oceans and seas. That doesn’t mean they aren’t fully engaged in the combat. For instance, my father flew over Vietnam on countless bombing runs while he was over there – doesn’t that count as being “in Vietnam”?

    2. I noticed “maladjusted” and I have to wonder why no one has called him on what he meant by that. Clearly it’s a slap at MLK, unless Kerry thought he was saying something else. Although what I can’t imagine.

  6. adaplant says:

    I believe Kerry was using the word “maladjusted” in an ironic sense.

    Irony isn’t dead; it’s just sleeping.

  7. R Gardner says:

    From a legal perspective, Vietnam extended out to sea 3 or 12 nautical miles (I don’t know what the Vietnam claimed in 1968, this was pre-UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which standardized territorial seas).

    Additionally, there was the Vietnam War Zone, which went quite a ways out to sea. Navy personnel on carriers and other ships were considered deployed to Vietnam, though they obviously were not on “the ground.” Accordingly, their reenlistment bonuses were tax free. Most ships on 6-month deployments to the Western Pacific (WestPac)tried to get routed through the area so they could take advantage of the tax break (I have heard similar stories of other Services’ personnel in Okinawa, Japan, and Korea making similar short visits to Vietnam).

  8. Old Patriot says:

    It’s relatively easy to check to see if the USS Gridley’s service was considered “in direct support” of the Vietnam War or not. There are a series of manuals that determine if service with a given unit or ship, or at a specific installation, is sufficient for award of various awards, such as the Vietnam Service Medal, the Desert Shield/Desert Storm Service Medal, the Korean Service medal, etc. The time periods and deployments are listed individually. Anyone having access to the proper documents (they, or excerpts of them, may even be available onlyne)can check it out.

    Usually, ships assigned to provide direct support were considered to be “in theater”, while those assigned to provide indirect support were not. Again, someone with access to the proper documentation should be able to resolve this rather quickly. The fact that Kerry himself doesn’t claim the credit may simply be ignorance, although his detailed knowledge of every other minor aspect of wartime service would make one skeptical of that.

  9. McGehee says:

    I’m reasonably satisfied based on what I’ve read since this particular aspect came up, that the Gridley would have been “in” rather than “near.”

    I hope y’all will pardon me though if I wonder whether this definition of “in” might explain Kerry’s claim to have been “in” Cambodia. (Especially since there’s no way I’m the first to snark on it…)

  10. Mike says:


    Perhaps the most unique item I have noted in the sites discussing the note taking done by Mr. Kerry during his tour in Vietnam was the time available to him to focus and document his actions.
    Okay, Okay, never been shot at, but served over 21 years in the Army. The closest I ever got to combat were a couple of rotations at the National Training Center in California. During one of the rotations, I was a Tank Company Cdr. I had the brilliant idea to catalog my thought processes and actions. A good idea as this was in the same time frame that two books, The Defense of Hill 781 and Team Yankee had made their authors a ton of money (who says I can’t think big!) In fact, I recommended my XO and PLs keep their thoughts and actions in a log as well. Unfortunately, I quickly found, there was way to much to do just keeping people organized, fed and fueled to have any time left for record keeping. How on earth any commander would be able to spend time documenting his actions during a real shooting war is beyond me.


  11. Bill says:

    According to the most recent OPNAVNOTE 1650 (Unit Awards and Citations Master List), USS Gridley (DLG 21) is credited with a Vietnam Service Medal for the period 16-Mar-1968 to 29-Mar-1968 and 03-Apr-1968 to 07-May-1968.

  12. Jeffrey says:

    I think that Kerry needs to get together with his web people then, since based upon his timeline he didn’t really think he was in Viet Nam until November 1968, when he reported for duty. This is just another question that Kerry should address since there seems to be more questions than answers.

  13. Charles says:

    Here’s what Senator Kerry meant by referring to MLK as “maladjusted.”:

    Seven letters – Citizen — a word Dr. King loved because invested in it were our rights and responsibilities — a calling to be involved. I will never forget – in particular – what Martin Luther King spoke of when he confessed to being what he called a “maladjusted” citizen.

    He said that he simply could not adjust to a world sharply divided between the hardworking many and the privileged few. He could not accept an America where discrimination and bigotry still held citizens down. He had not been able to get comfortable with a society that had become complacent in the face of human hardship and suffering.

  14. remay1 says:

    The state of Kerry’s mind is very important in the MLK quote. He referred to his fellow sailors as “my crew mates”. That brings to mind the immage of a small craft like a swift boat. Sailors on a larger ship such as the USS Gridley would most certainly have referred to each other as “shipmates”. Kerry’s use of “crew mates” was clearly intended to convey the idea that he was on a swift boat at the time MLK was killed. In other words, he lied about it.