Monday, August 23, 2004

Brothers in Arms

John Kerry's former crew mates vouch for his Vietnam war heroics in a documentary being released in the midst of a campaign debate about his actions as a swift boat skipper.

"Brothers in Arms," a first film by journalist Paul Alexander, features Kerry and four men who served with him on Patrol Craft 94, the last of three boats he commanded during the war and the one from which he won the Silver Star for chasing down and killing a combatant who threatened his crew with a rocket.

With testimony from crew mates who have campaigned by Kerry's side as a Senate candidate and now Democratic presidential nominee, the film is not the definitive word on what happened in the Mekong Delta. Kerry's critics are not interviewed in it.

A campaign ad sponsored by a group of swift boat veterans who did not serve directly under Kerry asserted his wartime injuries and combat actions had been exaggerated and that he did not deserve his Purple Hearts or Bronze and Silver stars.

President Bush, speaking after the ad that caused a great stir stopped running, said Monday that Kerry "served admirably and he ought to be proud of his record."

In "Brothers in Arms," opening at a New York theater on Friday just days before the Republican National Convention starts in the city, Kerry's mates relate the familiar story of their commander fearlessly ordering their boat to be beached in the thick of an enemy outpost, and hunting down a man who intended to fire a rocket at them. They also recount an ambush during which Kerry and his crew rescued survivors of another patrol boat that hit a mine.

Alexander's previous work includes a behind-the-scenes account of Kerry's run for the White House and biographies of Sen. John McCain and cultural icons James Dean and Sylvia Plath. He said he interviewed the crew over the last 18 months, beginning the project well before Kerry was a sure bet to become the presidential nominee.

In the film, Kerry and crew mates David Alston, Mike Medeiros, Del Sandusky and Gene Thorson talk about the bond they formed under fire and their lives since the war. "If anyone knows the truth of what happened to John Kerry in Vietnam, they do," he said. "Brothers in Arms" is their story."


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