Painful memories of three North Vietnamese ambushes became a matter of joyous pride for Fred Short as he was reunited with the Navy patrol boat commander who he said saved the whole crew by charging into the teeth of the enemy attack.
It had been 34 years to the day since Short of North Little Rock last saw that lieutenant: current Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry (search).
Their warm embrace Monday in front of a gathering of more than 150 Democrats was the climax of Kerry's campaign swing through the home state of former President Clinton.
Short recalled the third of three ambushes on their group of boats on March 4, 1969, when his twin 50-caliber machine guns couldn't tilt low enough to shoot a Viet Cong soldier lying in a ditch, aiming a rocket launcher at their boat.
"We were in a small canal and normally we would have tried to exit, but Mr. Kerry ordered us to charge," Short said. "While I shot high, he and Tommy Bellodeau charged under me, right at the guy, and we routed them. That's why Mr. Kerry won the Silver Star."
Short said the crew avoided any casualties, even though 800 of 900 American troops caught in that zone died that day. He said it was a few weeks later, April 28, 1969, that he finished his tour and last saluted Kerry.
First, I have no idea what Short is talking about by saying "800 of 900 American troops...died that day". That is, of course, utter nonsense.
Second, just a quibble. He got the day of the Silver Star engagement wrong, though that is quite understandable this many years later.
Third, and not understandable at all, Short thinks that he saluted Kerry when he finished his tour on April 28th 1969. However, as reported on Kerry's own election site, Kerry was long gone by that time, already transfered back to the states in "early April". He reported for duty in New York on April 11th.