Doctor Phillip Butler, a former POW, speaks out about the lies and partisan attacks on John Kerry from the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.” The 2004 election may be over but the partisan attacks continue...
A Former POW Speaks Out
Phillip Butler | July 26, 2006
As a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, I read with great sadness a recent article authored by retired Air Force Col. George E. "Bud" Day, and released from the “Vietnam Veterans Legacy Foundation,” a group that was formerly known as the infamous “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.” They may have changed their name, but they have not changed their tradition of lies and distorted facts.
In the press release, Col. Day resumes the vicious partisan attacks his group honed against Sen. John Kerry in 2004, an attack which our fellow POW, Senator John McCain aptly described as “dishonest and dishonorable.” Day claims that he speaks “for a vast majority of Vietnam veterans who believe he [Kerry] betrayed them 35 years ago” and that “…John Kerry's deliberate betrayal of his countrymen … alone compelled many POWs and most Vietnam veterans, Swift Boaters included, to stand firm against this poser, this strutting would-be hero and turncoat."
I was captured on April 20th of 1965 and released on February 12th of 1973, making me the 8the longest-held POW in Vietnam. During one period, November of 1969 till May of 1972, I was incarcerated in a camp we named “Camp Unity,” part of the “Hanoi Hilton,” with hundreds of my fellow POWs. During this time I shared a 40-man cell with Ken Cordier, and in the adjoining cell were Paul Galanti and Jim Warner who recently were active in the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth negative campaign. Contrary to statements by these men, none of us ever heard about John Kerry's testimony or statements against the Vietnam War while we were in captivity. I remember. I was there.
The great majority of us were mentally, emotionally, and physically tortured by our Vietnamese captors. We often suffered from malnutrition, diseases and isolation. Many of our comrades died in captivity under these conditions. Our experiences there, even in the best of times, was stressful and no one who was ever held captive as a POW in Vietnam will ever completely put the experience behind them.
But what sustained all of us during those terrible years was our supportive brotherhood, because every POW relied on his brothers for survival -- a bond that transcended any differences in race, rank or politics. Just before our repatriation in 1973 we formed a fraternal group, “The Fourth Allied POW Wing,” also known as “Nam POWs.” It was to be an apolitical and fraternal organization of those who “returned with honor.”
And it wasn't until 2004 that the fraternal bond was broken and many former POWs were stunned and sickened to see a small number of our former cellmates enter the political fray with the negative Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against John Kerry. Regretfully, many of us remained silent as a multi-million dollar political smear campaign diminished and denigrated Kerry's service in Vietnam.
Day, Cordier, Galanti and Warner have claimed to speak for most veterans and POWs. But they only spoke for a small group of ultra right-wing ideologues. In his renewed attacks on Senator Kerry this week, Day recycles the same personal vitriol and falsehoods about Kerry's “betrayal” of our fellow veterans that his organization trademarked in 2004.
The real truth is John Kerry is a Vietnam Veteran who fought heroically and was awarded a Silver Star and Purple Heart for his service. But he is also courageous for coming home and telling Americans the truth about the Vietnam War. John Kerry has continued to honorably and selflessly serve his country to this day. And I am proud, as a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, as a former Navy Light Attack carrier pilot, as a retired Navy Commander, as a Vietnam veteran and former POW, to call Senator John Kerry a Vietnam brother whom I honor and respect.