As I listen to, and read about the current revelations(?) and controversy regarding Bob Kerry's wartime experiences, I ask myself: is it true? There is a good chance it is, given Gerhard Klann's version of the events, confirmed by an almost identical independent Vietnamese account, and the almost immediate rebuttal by the other five members of the squad. I feel that Gerhard has struggled with and is trying to deal with his personal ghosts, accepting responsibility for what he had participated in. The others clearly haven't yet, be that for political or personal reasons.
The supreme issue here is not the question of whether or not he did it on purpose. Do not forget that the true victims here are the villagers at Thanh Phong. Attempts at atonement and reparations should be made to them. The other issue here is the healing of the psyche of a nation. Vietnam vets have been struggling with their personal ghosts since the first grunt in 'Nam first questioned the war. Pundits of late have been decrying the accuracy of thirty-year-old memories, and for this reason I suggest they go back and review the "Winter Soldier Investigation" sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc., assembled in Detroit, Michigan to give testimony on January 31 and February 1 and 2, 1971. One hundred twenty-five Vietnam veterans testified, and another hundred and fifty Vietnam veterans participated in this solemn act. [See end of article for website URL. -Ed]
These memories were not "thirty-year-old memories" . They were quite fresh in these veterans' minds and souls. This testimony was also published in the Congressional Record, "Extensions and Remarks" (April 7, 1971: 2825-2900, 2903-2936).