Wednesday, April 14, 2004 10:31 a.m. EDT
Kerry's War Wound Called 'Fingernail Scrape'
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry insisted on being awarded his first Purple Heart in Vietnam even though his injury amounted to no more than a "fingernail scrape," his commanding officer at the time now says.
Retired Lt. Cmdr. Grant Hibbard tells the Boston Globe that he can still recall Kerry's wound, and that "it resembled a scrape from a fingernail," the paper said.
"I've had thorns from a rose that were worse," Hibbard insists.
Still, the former Navy man remembered that Kerry insisted on receiving a Purple Heart for the wound he said was incurred during a Dec. 3, 1968 skirmish with Viet Cong near Cam Ranh Bay.
"He had a little scratch on his forearm, and he was holding a piece of shrapnel," Hibbard told the Globe. "People in the office were saying, 'I don't think we got any fire,' and there is a guy holding a little piece of shrapnel in his palm."
Much to Hibbard's chagrin, Kerry persisted in his quest for a war decoration for the scratch.
"I finally said, 'OK, if that's what happened ... do whatever you want,'" Hibbard said. "After that, I don't know what happened. Obviously, he got it, I don't know how."
Kerry's campaign refused to say whether he remains certain that his skimmer boat had come under fire or whether he recalls his superior officer raising doubts about whether he was entitled to the Purple Heart.
While a Kerry aide provided a copy of a medical report showing treatment for the wound in question, The Naval Historical Center "could not locate a copy of the original card for the incident," the Globe said.
Kerry was awarded two additional Purple Hearts for subsequent wounds that have also been described as minor. He then invoked a little-used regulation that entitled a triple Purple Heart winner to return to the United States.
Former Sen. Max Cleland, a Kerry supporter who lost three limbs in Vietnam, was never awarded a Purple Heart.