Democrats capped Sen. John Kerry’s presidential nomination last night by showing a Hollywood-produced movie of his life, featuring amateur film clips and testaments about his service in Vietnam as commander of a Navy river patrol boat.
But a group of former sailors who served with Mr. Kerry are telling a different story. Rather than depicting Mr. Kerry as a war hero, they are quoted in a new book accusing him of exaggerating and falsifying his experiences.
The group says that of 23 crew members photographed with Mr. Kerry more than 30 years ago in Vietnam, only one supports his presidential campaign. They will announce a nationwide campaign by “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” to tell the American public about what they say is Mr. Kerry’s true war record.
The biographical movie shown last night, “A Remarkable Promise,” shows “family and friends talking about the courage he has shown as a soldier and a veteran, the fights he has waged for middle-class values and the faith in family he has exhibited as a father and husband,” the Kerry campaign said before its prime-time convention appearance.
The film was produced by James Moll, a partner of director Steven Spielberg.
The book, “Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry,” from Regnery Publishing, is written by John E. O’Neill. Mr. O’Neill served in Vietnam at the same time as Mr. Kerry and followed him as commander on the swift boat.
Mr. O’Neill, riled by what he considered Mr. Kerry’s false charge in 1971 of widespread war crimes committed by U.S. troops, has waged a public debate with the politician dating back to the “Dick Cavett Show” that year.
The book quotes Mr. Kerry’s fellow combatants as saying two of his Purple Hearts came from friendly fire, not the enemy. The veterans also will dispute other stories Mr. Kerry has told.
“Unfit for Command” will not be released until Sept. 25, but the online Drudge Report yesterday broke news of what it called a “bombshell book.” The book hit No. 2 on Amazon.com’s best-seller list. Radio and TV hosts were clamoring for Mr. O’Neill to appear.
Regnery, which boasts a long list of best-selling conservative books, has put a tight hold on information until the official release.
Some of the book’s charges have been aired by Veterans for Truth.
Retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffmann, who commanded Mr. Kerry’s task force in Vietnam, is one of the book’s sources.
Adm. Hoffmann said yesterday he has supplied several instances of Mr. Kerry’s purported lies. One example, he said, is Mr. Kerry’s contention that he warned admirals of the folly of a certain river operation. Adm. Hoffmann said he and others were at the meeting, and that Mr. Kerry never made such a statement.
“The real truth is he didn’t say a … word,” Adm. Hoffmann said.
Mr. Hoffmann is chairman of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which plans what it calls a grass-roots campaign.
“We’re going to tell the truth — the fact that he was a perpetual, habitual liar,” Adm. Hoffmann said. “I don’t care whether it was perjury or lying before the Senate of the United States, or that two of his Purple Hearts are at least very specious, if not absolutely false, because he filed false after-action reports.”