Three And Out

Reader Daniel Aronstein asks a provocative question:

Of the 3 million military personnel who served in Vietnam from 1964-1975, how many opted to leave early after getting 3 purple hearts?

Now that is an interesting question. What do you think the chances are that John Kerry is the only one?

Another wrinkle to the question is (assuming there are some number who did leave after receiving 3 Purple Hearts) how many soldiers who left after receiving 3 Purple Hearts were seriously wounded or hospitalized?

Medals such as the Silver and Bronze Stars require the recommendation of the recipients superior officers, and each has different criteria for consideration. The Purple Heart is unique – it is the only decoration that goes automatically to any soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who is wounded or killed in war.

The crack research staff has been Googling away all evening to narrow the focus. Approximately 270,000 Purple Hearts were awarded in Vietnam. The items we’ve yet to discover:

  • How many soldiers got three Purple Hearts.

  • How many soldiers got three Purple Hearts and left Vietnam via 1300.39 (or similar rule)?

  • Of soldiers who got three Purple Hearts and left Vietnam, how many were seriously injured or required hospitalization?

  • How many soldiers got more three (or more) Purple Hearts and stayed in Vietnam?

I’ve seen anecdotal evidence that other branches of the services has similar “rules” (not official regulations) that placed the onus on the soldier to know the rule and request assignment out of combat units. The question is how common was this? Was Kerry smart (and/or lucky) to know the rules of the game and work the system to his benefit?

This article from Insight Magazines Purple Hearts: Three and Out, covers Kerry’s unit.

There are no written records of Kerry’s magical first Purple Heart on file at the Naval Historical Center in Washington, the nation’s primary repository for such documentation. A Purple Heart normally is not requested but is awarded de facto for a wound inflicted by the enemy – a wound serious enough to require medical attention. The Naval Historical Center keeps all documents connected to such awards to U.S. Navy and Marine personnel. These typewritten “casualty cards” list the date, location and prognosis of the wound for which the Purple Heart is given, and they are produced by the medical facility that provides treatment for the combat wound at the hands of the enemy. There are two such cards for Kerry – for his slight wounds on Feb. 20 and March 13, 1969, but none for his December 1968 claim.

After receiving a Purple Heart for the March 13 scratch and bruise, Kerry sought an early pass out of combat duty, invoking the informal Navy “instruction” known as 1300.39. According to the Boston Globe, 1300.39 meant an officer could request a reassignment from his superior officer after receiving three Purple Hearts. The instruction states that, rather than being automatic, the reassignment would “be determined after consideration of his physical classification for duty and on an individual basis.”

Of the 138 servicemen and officers in Kerry’s unit who received Purple Hearts during the time he was there, records indicate only two received more than two. These were Lt.(jg) Jim Galvin and a boatswain’s mate named Stevens. When Insight reached Galvin he said all three of his Purple Hearts were the result of shrapnel or glass shards. Such minor injuries were common on PCF boats with their glass windows and thin metal hulls, and, like Kerry’s, Galvin’s injuries were not serious enough to take him out of combat for more than a few days.

Unlike Kerry, Galvin elected to stay with his men. Indeed, though a professional Navy officer, he never had heard of instruction 1300.39. It was not until early April of 1969, when Galvin noticed that Kerry was preparing to leave the officers’ barracks at An Thoi that he learned about “three Purple Hearts and you’re out.” According to Galvin, it was Kerry who told him, “There’s a rule that gets you out of here and I’m getting out. You ought to do the same.” Galvin remembers, “He seemed to take care of everything pretty quickly,” because that was the last time Galvin saw Kerry in Vietnam.

The three-times wounded Galvin stayed with his men, transferred to Cam Ranh Bay to get them a respite from the dicey Mekong Delta, and eventually left the swiftboats for destroyer school.

Insight: contacted many men who served in Coastal Division at the same time Kerry did to ask if any of them had heard of anyone leaving the combat zone by invoking three minor wounds. Of the 12 who replied, none had heard of anyone doing so but John Kerry.Wizbang will endeavor to gather the hard data and report back.

]]>< ![CDATA[

Update: Maybe the idea to use the three and out rule wasn’t Kerry’s after all. From WorldNetDaily.

Thomas Wright says the misbehavior of the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate got to the point where he no longer wanted him in his boat group. So, at Wright’s request, his divisional commander assigned Kerry to another group.

Then Wright and like-minded boat officers took matters into their own hands, according to John B. Dwyer, a Vietnam veteran and military historian writing in the online magazine American Thinker.

“When he got his third Purple Heart, three of us told him to leave,” Wright said, according to Dwyer. “We knew how the system worked and we didn’t want him in Coastal Division 11.

“Kerry didn’t manipulate the system,” he continued, “we did.”


Rock The News Babes Vote
Doing squat about border security


  1. -S- August 6, 2004
  2. Bill from INDC August 6, 2004