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Larry Thurlow

AKA Larry Raymond Thurlow

Born: ?

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Activist
Party Affiliation: Republican

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Vocal John Kerry detractor

Military service: US Navy (1969)

According to US Navy records, on March 13, 1969 John Kerry rescued Green Beret Jim Rassmann from the Bay Hap River in Vietnam at great risk to his own personal safety. At least, that's what it says in the citation for Kerry's bronze star medal. But according to another veteran who was there that day, Kerry was never in any danger at all.

After remaining silent for 35 years, fellow swift boat commander Larry Thurlow now maintains that "There was no hostile fire and all Kerry did was pull a guy out of the water." On this point he is absolutely certain. "To this day, I can say without a doubt in my mind, along with other accounts from my shipmates: There was no hostile enemy fire directed at my boat or at any of the five boats operating on the river that day." He even signed a legal affidavit to that effect in July 2004, swearing under penalty of perjury that they were "not under fire" with Thurlow insisting he "never heard a shot."

Accordingly, Thurlow became a prominent critic of John Kerry's during the summer 2004 presidential campaign, appearing in television ads for the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Thurlow also made himself available to the press, telling anyone within earshot "I know for a fact that John Kerry is a liar." Again and again Thurlow asserted: "The story he tells is so far from the truth it is hard to recognize I was even there with them."

But during an August 2004 appearance on CNN's Inside Edition, Thurlow's account was directly challenged by Jim Rassmann himself:

RASSMANN: There were definitely rounds hitting the water around me. If Mr. Thurlow feels that what his story is purported to be was the case, he had ample opportunity 35 years ago to deal with it. He never did, nor did anyone else. John Kerry did not tell this story. I told this story when I put him in for a Silver Star for coming back to rescue me. The Navy saw fit to reduce it to a Bronze Star for valor. That's OK with me. But If Mr. Thurlow had a problem with that, he should have dealt with it long, long ago. To bring it up now, I think, is very disingenuous. I think that this is partisan motivation on his part and for the part of his whole organization.
WOODRUFF: Mr. Thurlow, why didn't you bring this up earlier?
THURLOW: For one thing, I did not know that John had been put in for a Bronze Star, a Silver Star or, for that matter, a Purple Heart on that day. I did not see the after-action report, which, in fact, was written by John. And as the years went by, John was not running for the highest office in the free world.
WOODRUFF: What about Mr. Rassmann's point that he thinks you're doing this for partisan purposes?
THURLOW: Well, this is not true because, the fact of the matter is, I have not been active in any political party since I got out of the service. In fact, I basically turned my back on politics because of my experience in the service.
WOODRUFF: But this -- you feel strongly enough about this to be out?
THURLOW: I certainly do. My point is, is that John Kerry, because of the actions he's taken, and then the fantastic stories he made up about this, when many people beside myself know this not to be true, negates him being the leader he claims to be. And I would hate to have him be the Commander-in-Chief over my grandchildren.

So according to Thurlow, John Kerry's bronze star was a complete sham, because there simply was no enemy fire. Problem is, Thurlow himself received a bronze star for that (purportedly fabricated) incident. And according to the text of his own citation, there was seemingly plenty of enemy gunfire to go around. This is the entire text:

For heroic achievement while serving with Coastal Division ELEVEN engaged in armed conflict against Viet Cong communist aggressors in An Xuyen Province, Republic of Vietnam on 13 March 1969. Lieutenant (junior grade) THURLOW was serving as Officer in Charge of Inshore Patrol Craft 51, one of five boats conducting a SEA LORDS operation in the Bay Hap river. While exiting the river, a mine detonated under another Inshore Patrol Craft. At the same time, all units began receiving enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire from the river banks. Lieutenant (junior grade) THURLOW immediately directed the coxswain of his boat to assist the damaged Inshore Patrol Craft. Despite enemy bullets flying about him, he leaped aboard the damaged boat and began rendering first aid and assessing damage to the boat. While attending to the forward gunner, he was knocked overboard. He managed to remain afloat and pulled from the water. He quickly radioed for medical evacuation of the wounded and, while still under fire, with complete disregard for his personal safety, returned aboard the damaged Inshore Patrol Craft. Lieutenant (junior grade) THURLOW remained aboard the stricken boat until it had safely cleared the area. His actions and courage in the face of enemy fire were instrumental in the medical evacuation of the wounded and salvaging the damaged Inshore Patrol Craft and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

For whatever reason, Larry Thurlow kept the details of his bronze star citation a secret. It was only by means of a FOIA request filed by the Washington Post that the US Navy released the paperwork on August 18, 2004. When he was finally confronted with the report, Thurlow claimed that he had lost his copy of the citation 20 years prior, implying that he simply couldn't remember the details behind his own -- presumably undeserved -- bronze star.

"It's like a Hollywood presentation here, which wasn't the case," Thurlow said last night after being read the full text of his Bronze Star citation. "My personal feeling was always that I got the award for coming to the rescue of the boat that was mined. This casts doubt on anybody's awards. It is sickening and disgusting."

Thurlow said he would consider his award "fraudulent" if coming under enemy fire was the basis for it. "I am here to state that we weren't under fire," he said. He speculated that Kerry could have been the source of at least some of the language used in the citation.

But did Thurlow decline his bronze star in 1969? According to his story, he should have told the Pentagon: "Sorry, but you've got it all wrong. There was no enemy fire that day." But he didn't. In fact, he never disputed the details of the citation until he was confronted by Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs.

The other man to win a bronze star that day, Robert E. Lambert, was the soldier who pulled Thurlow out of the river. He still believes that they were being shot at by the enemy. "I thought we were under fire, I believed we were under fire. [...] Thurlow was far too distracted with rescue efforts to even realize he was under fire. He was concentrating on trying to save lives." Lambert doesn't support John Kerry and said he was planning not to vote for him. "I don't like the man himself, but I think what happened happened, and he was there."

So maybe Thurlow was lying, maybe not. But if so, what would motivate Thurlow to lie? Apparently, he feels justified in hating John Kerry: "I consider the man a traitor based on his activities with Vietnam Veterans Against the War, his statements he made before the Senate and the effect that had on people still on the field in Vietnam."

Well, okay then.

Wife: Patty

    Swift Boat Veterans for Truth Co-Founder
    Bronze Star


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