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September 02, 2004

If Dr. Letson is a Liar, Kerry's First Purple Heart is a Fraud

Matthew Continetti has a rather strange article in the Weekly Standard on Kerry's medals. He says,

... WHICH IS TOO BAD FOR KERRY, actually. The available evidence in the Purple Heart case seems to support his story. More or less. ...


But then the evidence Continetti gives seems to me to pretty clearly wreck Kerry's story. Take a look:

In the anti-Kerry Swifties' first commercial, a doctor named Louis Letson says that "I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart," because "I treated him for that injury." In fact, it is an open question whether this was the case. Letson says he used tweezers to remove the shrapnel from

Kerry's arm a day after the firefight, and then bandaged the wound. And Letson's description matches what we know from the only available piece of documentary evidence--a concise medical report written one day after the firefight. The report, released by the Kerry campaign and obtained by the Boston Globe, reads: "3 DEC 1968 U.S. NAVAL SUPPORT FACILITY CAM RANH BAY RVN FPO Shrapnel in left arm above elbow. Shrapnel removed and appl. Bacitracin dressing. Ret to duty." That's it.

Here is Letson's problem. The report is signed "J.C. Carreon." Carreon, it turns out, was an orderly who has since passed away. Letson says he was Carreon's boss, and would let his orderly sign routine medical reports. Still, there is no evidence available which says Letson treated Kerry's wound or even saw Kerry that day in December.

As I said in an earlier post, one requirement for a Purple Heart is that the injured person be treated by "a medical officer". The story makes most sense if Kerry went out of his way to get treated by the medical officer who standardly treated Swiftboat sailors, who, it seems (I'd like verification) was Dr. Letson, since Kerry would know he couldn't get a Purple Heart if no doctor ever looked at the injury. And it's not surprising that Letson would assign the paperwork to his orderly (though it's a bit surprising that Letson would remember just a minor wound now... that might be explained, though, by Kerry's rise to fame with his atrocity charges in 1971-- no doubt everybody with whom he served was struck by his false charges against them).

But let's go with the skeptics who doubt Dr. Letson ever treated Kerry, and say Carreon, the orderly, was the one who treated him. What happens to Kerry's Purple Heart? It become fraudulent, because he wasn't treated by "a medical officer". The document alone seems to say that Kerry's scratch doesn't justify a Purple Heart, because it wasn't big enough to require a doctor. If Dr. Letson is a liar, and didn't treat Kerry, then thatPurple Heart, Kerry's exit ticket from Vietnam, was wrongly given!

For more on Dr. Letson and a clarification that a Corpsman is not a "medical officer", see the Washington Times.

Posted by erasmuse at September 2, 2004 11:04 PM

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