WASHINGTON -- Vietnam combat records posted on John F. Kerry's campaign website for the month of January 1969 as evidence of his service aboard swift boat No. 94 describe action that occurred before Kerry was skipper of that craft, according to the officer who said he commanded the boat at the time.
On the site, the Massachusetts senator is described as the skipper of Navy boat No. 94 during several actions in late January 1969.
However, Edward Peck, who was the skipper of the 94 before Kerry took over, said combat reports posted by the campaign for January 1969 involve action when he was the skipper, not Kerry. Peck, who was seriously wounded in fighting that took place on Jan. 29, 1969, said he believes Kerry campaign aides made a mistake in claiming Kerry as skipper of the 94 at that time.
On the Kerry website, the report of the combat on that day on the 94 boat is posted as occurring during Kerry's time as skipper of the boat. Peck said Kerry replaced him after the Jan. 29, 1969, event.
"Those are definitely mine," Peck said, referring to the combat reports that the Kerry campaign posted as representing Kerry's action. "There is no doubt about it."
A Kerry campaign spokesman, Michael Meehan, said in an e-mail that the campaign had obtained the combat reports for the 94 from the Navy. He did not directly address the question of why the campaign describes Kerry being skipper of the 94 at a time when Peck says he commanded the boat.
The reports at issue are in a 20-page batch representing Kerry's combat in January 1969. The reports include references to some dramatic action, including an ambush of Patrol Craft Fast, or PCF, 94. In addition to posting the information online, the campaign sent out an e-mail yesterday afternoon repeating the claim that Kerry was the skipper of the 94 boat throughout January and describing action the campaign said Kerry experienced while commanding the craft.
For example, in a summary of action that occurred Jan. 26, 1969, the campaign says Kerry served on boat No. 94 alongside another boat, No. 66. "PCFs 94 and 66 escorted troops up the Ong Doc River early in the morning when they were ambushed by gun and rocket fire from approximately 40 men on both sides of the river," the campaign summary says. "Two B-40 rounds hit close to Kerry's boat, while PCF 66 received 2 B-40 rocket hits. Three men on PCF66 were wounded. A junk containing South Vietnamese troops was also sunk, killing 11 South Vietnamese troops. Intelligence reports after the mission indicated that the Viet Cong troops may have planned the ambush in advance."
Peck said he was the skipper of the 94 at this time and that Kerry was not on the craft. While combat reports show several boats traveling with the 94, the campaign website says only that Kerry was the skipper of the 94 and does not try to place him on the other boats.
In another report, the campaign summarizes action that took place on Jan. 29, 1969, this way: "While Kerry's boat and another [PCF72] were probing a canal along the river, Kerry's boat came under heavy fire and was hit by a B-40 rocket in the cabin area. One member of Kerry's crew -- Forward Gunner David Alston -- suffered shrapnel wounds in his head. His injuries were not considered serious and he was sent to the 29th Evac Hospital at Binh Thuy."
Peck said he was the skipper on this day as well. Peck was also injured in the ambush and was hospitalized.
As a result, Kerry then took over the crew, Peck said. The Navy combat report posted by the Kerry campaign states that Peck and Alston were injured in the same event. There is no mention of Kerry in that report.
Kerry's commanding officer, George Elliott, said in a telephone interview that he vividly recalls Peck's injury and hospitalization and Kerry's replacement of Peck. "I think somebody made a mistake who doesn't know" the timing of Kerry's service, Elliott said. Kerry was skipper of boat No. 44 in December and January before taking over command of the 94, he said.
Michael Kranish can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.