Wednesday, August 25, 2004
To Err is the New York Times: McQ over at QandO has tracked down a statement in last week's New York Times hit piece on the Swift Boat Veterans and discovered something worthy of a correction.
But in that article there was this paragraph:
A damage report to Mr. Thurlow's boat shows that it received three bullet holes, suggesting enemy fire, and later intelligence reports indicate that one Vietcong was killed in action and five others wounded, reaffirming the presence of an enemy. Mr. Thurlow said the boat was hit the day before. He also received a Bronze Star for the day, a fact left out of "Unfit for Command."
Before that time, I had never heard it suggested that there was a report in which a claim of 1 VC being KIA and 5 being WIA. It wasn't until today, when Jon sent me a link, that I found the source of the NYT claims.
They're contained in The Coastal Division Eleven Command History "Chronology of Highlights". I'm not sure how I managed to miss it up to now, but I have.
Anyway to the point at hand which will demonstrate two things:
A) The NYT deliberately left out some of the report.
B) The NYT writers who used the report had no idea about the meaning of what they were reading.
First the report (you'll find it on page 8 of the pdf):
March 13, 1969: PCF's 3, 51, 43, 93 and 94 with MSF RF/PF troops conducted SEA LORDS operations in Bay Hop river and Dong Cong canal. A mine detonated under PCF 3 and units were taken under small arms fire several times during the operation. Friendly casualties were 8 USN WIA and 1 MSF KIA. Units destroyed 30 sampans and 5 structures and captured 16 booby trap grenades. Later intelligence reports indicated 1 VC KIA and 5 VC WIA.
Once I read this, I understood why the NYT had screwed up this part of the story so badly.
Let me translate it for you. Those 5 boats hauled some Mike Strike Force (MSF) Regional Forces/Popular Forces (RF/PF) on a Sea Lords operation. The Ruff Puffs apparently assaulted a village, killed 1 VC and wounded 5 VC, but that final total wasn't clear at the time. During their assault they (and possibly the PCFs) were under enemy small arms fire (stands to reason, wouldn't you say and might also explain the 3 holes in Thurlow's boat). They, the Mike Force and PCFs, destroyed 30 sampans, 5 structures and captured 16 grenades while losing 1 MSF KIA (a booby trap). The Mike Strike Force stayed there at the village site (and thus became the source for the "later intelligence").
On the way back, sans the Ruff Puffs (who are still at the village), PCF 3 hit a mine.
END OF STORY.
There was no reported small arms fire around the mine. There was no reported VC KIA or WIA at that time. Those all took place in the previous Mike Force operation, not the mine detonation.
Which explains why the PCFs were able to spend 90 minutes on site, saving the 3 boat and its crew before towing it in and not suffering one single solitary casualty from small arms or any other type of fire.
This is an error worthy of a correction. But I won't be holding my breath.