Was he wearing his own decorations?

Are these really Kerry’s medals?

I looked at the picture of John Kerry, posted above, testifying before Senate Foreign Relations Committee. What struck me was that a naval officer would appear in working fatigues and looking so dowdy. It also upset me that he wore his service ribbons with fatigues. I’m not surprised that he was marked down on his fitness reports for military bearing.

After looking at his ribbons, it struck me that they didn’t match his time in Vietnam. He also had an inordinate number of personal ribbons based on just four months of service in a war zone. I decided to check them out. I found the two links below that give the names and pictures of service ribbons awarded by the US military:

Military service medals link
Order of precedence link

The military does not give away awards easily, so there aren’t that many to have to review. From those two lists and comparing it to the photo above, I was able to build the following replica of what John Kerry was wearing at the time. Due to the quality of the photo, I could not determine two of the ribbons shown.

From photo of Senator Kerry while testifying before Congress, 1971


Starting at the top and proceeding left to right, these ribbons are:


  • The Silver Star
  • The Bonze Star with combat ‘V’


  • Unidentified
  • Combat Action Ribbon
  • Presidential Unit Citation


  • Unidentified
  • National Defense Ribbon
  • Republic of Vietnam Campaign Service Medal

Fourth Row

  • Rifle Expert Ribbon
  • Pistol Expert Ribbon
  • Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon

According to information available online, Senator Kerry’s service timeline is as follow:

Military service, 1966-1970

  • Feb 1966; Enlisted in US Navy.
  • June 1966 (approx);Graduated from Yale.
  • Dec 1967; assigned to the guided-missile frigate USS Gridley.
  • May 1968 (approx); Assigned to swift boat training, San Diego, Ca.
  • Jun 1968; Promoted to Ltjg (0-2).
  • 17 November 1968; Kerry arrived in Vietnam and assumed command of Patrol Boat Fast ‘Swift Boat’ #44.
  • 2 December 1968; wounded (first Purple Heart).
  • 20 February 1969; Wounded (Second Purple Heart)
  • 28 February 1969; Kerry earned his Silver Star.
  • 13 March 1969; wounded (3rd Purple Heart) also earned Bronze Star.
  • 17 March 1969; requested relief under a rule, which allowed recipients of three Purple Hearts to be reassigned to a non-combat duty.
  • April 1969; reassigned as a personal aide and flag lieutenant to Rear Admiral Walter F. Schlech, Jr, Brookly, NY.
  • 3 January 1970; Honorably dischargedPartial list of references:
    The Atlantic Monthly | December 2003
    Snopes Urban Legends
    John Kerry’s Service Record

If I have correctly identified the ribbons he wore while in front of the Senate, and if the information regarding his military service is also correct, I can safely say he is wearing at least two decorations he did not earn. But the most glaring inconsistency is the absence of his purple heart with two stars. The two stars would indicate his second and third award of that ribbon. The ribbon is shown below (without stars):

You can clearly see it in the photo above on the right. It is dark with two stars. Here is a cut out image of that image:

The next inconsistency is the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC). The PUC is given to a unit and not an individual. To wear it, the individual must have been part of the unit when the citation was earned. Task force 117 was awarded the PUC for action against the enemy from 25 Jan 1969 to 5 Jul 1969. See:

PUC for Task Force 117

This action occurred while Senator Kerry was stationed in Vietnam, but there is no evidence he was assigned to that unit or those operations. Anyone who has access to the military records of that time can see which units were involved and designated in the citation. It will be easy to cross check those units with Senator Kerry’s service record.

The third inconsistency is the Republic of Vietnam Service Medal. In the photo, Senator Kerry is showing this ribbon with two stars. Having served in Vietnam, he is entitled to the ribbon, but it is impossible for him to have earned two stars in such a short time (Dec 68 – Mar 69). A star is earned for each of the 17 designated campaigns specified by the military. One has to be in Vietnam and involved in those campaigns. Please see: RVN service medal, or Army Pers Command, awards. He would have had to serve in Vietnam for more than a year to earn multiple awards for this medal.

Wearing of ribbons; order of precedence. Ribbons have a designated seniority, with the Medal of Honor being the most senior and the expert pistol the least. The most senior medal an individual earns is placed closest to center line of the uniform. The next senior medal is placed next to it moving away from the center line. So, looking at Senator Kerry’s placement, the seniority flows from the top left to bottom right. By the way, the entire bottom row is reversed. The RVN Campaign Medal should be on the left side (nearest the center line) with the rifle expert and pistol expert ribbons following.

What can be determined about the unidentified ribbons: The first unidentified medal, according to the position in Senator Kerry’s display, falls between the bronze star and combat action ribbon. If you look at the Order of Precedence, US Navy, the following ribbons, according to their seniority, fall into that category:

  • Purple Heart
  • Defense Meritorious Service Medal
  • Meritorious Service Medal
  • Air Medal
  • Joint Service Commendation Medal
  • Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal
  • Joint Service Achievement Medal
  • Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal

The Purple Heart would be the logical choice since he earned it. But the ribbon displayed is multi-colored where the PH is a solid purple with only two white band on each end.

Using that same logic for the second unidentified ribbon, none of the potential ribbons fits. It is a solid colored ribbon and looks very much like the Purple Heart. But that would be out of order. The next most similar ribbon is the “Good Conduct Ribbon”. But that award is for enlisted members only.

Based on the above discussion, I feel confident that at least two awards (multiple awards for the RVN Service Medal and the first unidentified ribbon) are not his. It is highly probable that the PUC and the second unidentified ribbon are not his either. Further, it is incredible that a junior officer with no prior combat experience could accumulate that many awards in approximately 120 days. It places him in the company of such earlier warriors as Alvin York and Audy Murphy. Regardless, even if those ribbons turn out to be his own, his sloppy appearance and the flaunting of his awards in such a slipshod manner is conduct unbecoming a Naval Officer. He proved himself a discredit to his service and is an embarrassment to those of us who served. We refused to surrender to political pressure or sell our service for political gain. No matter how “honorably” he might have served in the Navy, he neutralized that honor, or more, with his smear of veterans before the Senate.

The Public View

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