John Kerry's Service Record

John Kerry volunteered for service in the Navy during the Vietnam War, where he served as skipper of a Swift Boat.

Lt. Kerry was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star with V, three awards of the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal.

He is a cofounder of the Vietnam Veterans of America and a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Kerry is also a member of the NamVets Association, the SWIFT Boat Sailors Association, and is the honorary co-chair of the United States Navy Memorial Foundation, a Corporate Council Member of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and sits on the Advisory Council for the Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project.

In the years since Kerry returned from Vietnam, he has stood up for veterans and the issues of importance to veterans, like mandatory funding for VA healthcare, and concurrent receipt. John Kerry has made it his life's work to remind politicians that the first definition of patriotism is how a grateful nation treats its veterans.

John Kerry's Vietnam Service Record:

February 18, 1966 – Kerry formally enlists in the U.S. Navy.

August 22, 1966 – Kerry reports for Naval Officer Candidate School at the U.S. Naval Training Center in Newport, Rhode Island.

December 16, 1966 – Kerry receives commission as an Ensign.

January 3, 1967 – Kerry reports for duty at the Naval Schools Command at Treasure Island (CA)-Takes 10 week Officer Damage Control Course.

March 22, 1967 – Reports to U.S. Fleet Anti-Air Warfare Training Center (CA). Receives training as a Combat Information Center Watch Officer.

June 8, 1967 – Kerry reports to USS Gridley-serves in several capacities.

February 9, 1968 – USS Gridley departs for a Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment, to engage in operations in support of the Vietnam War. Ship spends time in the Gulf of Tonkin off North Vietnam, at Subic Bay in the Philippines and in Wellington, New Zealand.

February 10, 1968 – Kerry requests duty in Vietnam He lists his first preference for a position as an officer in charge of a Swift Boat (designated PCF for Patrol Craft Fast), his second as an officer in a patrol boat (designated PBR, for Patrol Boat River) squadron.

May 27, 1968 – USS Gridley sets sail for the US.

June 6, 1968 – Kerry arrives in Long Beach the day after Senator Robert F. Kennedy is killed in Los Angeles.

June 16, 1968 – Kerry promoted to Lieutenant, Junior Grade.

July 20, 1968 – Kerry leaves Gridley for specialized training at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, CA in preparation for service as commander of a Swift Boat. These unarmored, but heavily armed, fifty foot aluminum hulled patrol boats depended on speed and agility when engaging the enemy.

November 17, 1968 – Upon completion of his training, Kerry reports for duty to Coastal Squadron 1, Coastal Division 14, Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam.

December 1968 through January 1969 – Kerry commands PCF-44.

December 2, 1968 – Kerry experiences first intense combat; receives first combat related injury.

December 6, 1968 – Kerry moved to Coastal Division 11 at An Thoi on Phu Quoc Island.

December 13, 1968 – Kerry moved to Coastal Division 13, Cam Ranh Bay.

December 24, 1968 – Kerry involved in combat during the Christmas Eve truce of 1968. The truce was three minutes old when mortar fire exploded around Lieutenant Kerry and his five-man crew. Reacting swiftly, John Kerry and his crew silenced the machine gun nest.

January 22, 1969 – Kerry and other Swift boat commanders travel to Saigon for meeting with Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, Commander Naval Forces Vietnam (COMNAVFORV), and Gen. Creighton Abrams, Commander United States Military Assistance Command Vietnam (COMUSMACV).

Late January, 1969 – Kerry joined his 5 man crew on PCF-94.

Late January through Early March, 1969 – Starting in late January 1969, this crew completed 18 missions over an intense and dangerous 48 days, almost all of them in the dense jungles of the Mekong Delta. Kerry's crew included engineman Eugene Thorson, later an Iowa cement mason; David Alston, then the crew's only African-American and today a minister in South Carolina; petty officer Del Sandusky of Illinois; rear gunner and quartermaster Michael Medeiros of California; and the late Tom Belodeau, who joined the crew fresh out of Chelmsford High School in Massachusetts. Others rotated in and out of the crew. The most intense action came during an extraordinary eight days of more than 10 firefights, remembered by Kerry's crew as the "days of hell."

February 20, 1969 – Kerry and crew involved in combat; Kerry receives second combat injury – Kerry earned his second Purple Heart after sustaining a shrapnel wound in his left thigh.

February 28, 1969 – For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with Coastal Division ELEVEN engaged in armed conflict with Viet Cong insurgents in An Xuyen Province, Republic of Vietnam, on 28 February 1969. Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry was serving as Officer in Charge of Patrol Craft Fast 94 and Officer in Tactical Command of a three-boat mission. As the force approached the target area on the narrow Dong Cung River, all units came under intense automatic weapons and small arms fire from an entrenched enemy force less than fifty-feet away. Unhesitatingly, Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry ordered his boat to attack as all units opened fire and beached directly in front of the enemy ambushers. The daring and courageous tactic surprised the enemy and succeeded in routing a score of enemy soldiers. The PCF gunners captured many enemy weapons in the battle that followed. On a request from U.S. Army advisors ashore, Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry ordered PCFs 94 and 23 further up river to suppress enemy sniper fire. After proceeding approximately eight hundred yards, the boats again were taken under fire from a heavily foliated area and B-40 rocket exploded close aboard PCF-94; with utter disregard for his own safety and the enemy rockets, he again ordered a charge on the enemy, beached his boat only ten feet from the VC rocket position, and personally led a landing party ashore in pursuit of the enemy. Upon sweeping the area an immediate search uncovered an enemy rest and supply area which was destroyed. The extraordinary daring and personal courage of Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry in attacking a numerically superior force in the face of intense fire were responsible for the highly successful mission. His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

March 13, 1969 – For heroic achievement while serving with Coastal Division ELEVEN engaged in armed conflict with Viet Cong communist aggressors in An Xuyen Province, Republic of Vietnam, on 13 March 1969. Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry was serving as Officer in Charge of Patrol Craft Fast 94, one of five boats conducting a SEA Lords operation in the Bay Hap River. While exiting the river, a mine detonated under another Inshore Patrol Craft and almost simultaneously, another mine detonated wounding Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry in the right arm. In addition, all units began receiving small arms and automatic weapons fire from the river banks. When Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry discovered he had a man overboard, he returned upriver to assist. The man in the water was receiving sniper fire from both banks. Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry directed his gunners to provide suppressing fire, while from an exposed position on the bow, his arm bleeding and in pain and with disregard for his safety, he pulled the man aboard. Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry then directed his boat to return and assist the other damaged boat to safety. Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry’s calmness, professionalism and great personal courage under fire were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. Lieutenant (junior grade) Kerry is authorized to wear the Combat “V”.

March 17, 1969 – The policy of Coastal Squadron One, the swift boat command, was to send home any individual who is wounded three times in action. After sustaining his third wound from enemy action n Vietnam, Kerry was granted relief under this policy.

Early April, 1969 – Kerry departs Vietnam.

April 11, 1969 – Kerry reports for duty at the Military Sea Transportation Service, U.S. Atlantic Fleet in Brooklyn, NY.

January 1, 1970 – Kerry promoted to (full) Lieutenant.

January 3, 1970 – Kerry requests discharge.

March 1, 1970 – Kerry’s date of separation from Active Duty.

April 29, 1970 – Kerry listed as Registrant who has completed service.

[Source: Boston Globe, “John Kerry, the Making of a Candidate”, 6/15/03-6/21/03; “Tour of Duty” by Douglas Brinkley, Published by William Morrow 2003; Selective Service System, National Headquarter]