What Happened in Kerry's Vietnam Battles?

Tuoi said she didn't see Ba Thanh get shot either, but she and her husband say they were the first to find his body. They say they found him a good distance from his bunker, though she could not confirm that Kerry -- or anyone else -- had pursued him into the bush.

Her husband, Nguyen Van Ty, in his 80s, had a slightly different account of how Ba Thanh died.

"I didn't see anything because I was hiding from the bullets and the bombs," he said. "It was very fierce and there was shooting everywhere and the leaves were being shredded to pieces. I was afraid to stay up there. I had to hide. And then, when it was over, I saw Ba Thanh was dead. He may have been shot in the chest when he stood up."

He also said the Swift boats were coming under attack from the Viet Cong fighters on shore. "We tried to shoot at the boat," he said, "but we didn't hit anything."

Kerry's citation says he "uncovered an enemy rest and supply area, which was destroyed," but according to the villagers, the Americans missed the military supplies. In fact, Vo Ti Vi said, just a few weeks after the attack, the Viet Cong raided a U.S. base stealing weapons and ammunition. The weapons remain in Nha Vi all these years later, she says, buried under her garden.

Back in Tran Thoi, villager Nguyen Van Khoai said that about six months ago he was visited by an American who described himself as a Swift boat veteran and told him another American from the Swift boats was running for president of the United States. Nguyen said the man was accompanied by a cameraman.

"They say he didn't do anything to deserve the medal," Nguyen said. "The other day, they came and asked me the questions and I said that the recognition for the medal is up to the U.S.A."

He said that, after they met, the Swift Boat veteran and the cameraman turned around and went back down the river. "Nightline" has not been able to identify the men.

Campaign Issue Arises

His awards should have been the most unassailable part of Kerry's record. But then came those campaign ads from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. "He is lying about his record," said Ensign Al French in one ad.

Most of the charges in the ads were general: "When the chips were down you could not count on John Kerry," said Lt. j.g. Larry Thurlow. "John Kerry is no war hero," said Lt. Bob Elder. Some of the charges referred to the anti-war testimony Kerry gave before Congress.

But John O'Neill, the officer who took over command of Kerry's Swift boat after Kerry left Vietnam, raised some specific questions about the incident for which Kerry received his most significant award, the Silver Star:

"In the Silver Star incident, John Kerry's citation reflects that he charged into a numerically superior force, and into intense fire," O'Neill told ABC News in an August 2004 interview. "But the actual facts are that there was a single kid there who had fired a rocket, who popped up, and John Kerry with his gunboat, with or without a number of troops, depending on who you talk to, plopped in front of the kid. The kid was wounded in the legs by machine gun fire, and as he ran off, John Kerry jumped off the boat and shot the kid in the back."

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