|Born||Joseph Robert Kerrey|
Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
|Alma mater||University of Nebraska–Lincoln|
|Member of||9-11/Commission, Council on Foreign Relations/Members 2|
Joseph Robert Kerrey is an American politician who served as the 35th Governor of Nebraska from 1983 to 1987 and as a United States Senator from Nebraska from 1989 to 2001. Before entering politics, he served in the Vietnam War as a United States Navy SEAL officer and was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in combat.
From 2001 to 2010, he served as president of The New School, a university in New York City. Kerrey is a co-chair for the Advisory Board of Issue One, an organization that describes its mission as "fighting for real solutions to the problem of money in politics".
After his retirement from the Senate, Kerrey served on the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, commonly known as the 9/11 Commission.
Thanh Phong raid
In 2001, The New York Times Magazine and 60 Minutes II carried reports on an incident that occurred during Kerrey's Vietnam War service. On February 25, 1969, he led a Swift Boat raid on the isolated peasant village of Thanh Phong, Vietnam, targeting a Viet Cong leader who intelligence suggested would be present. The village was considered part of a free-fire zone by the U.S. military.
Kerrey's SEAL team first encountered a villager's house. Later, according to Kerrey, the team was shot at from the village and returned fire, only to find after the battle that some of the killed appeared to be under 18, clustered together in the center of the village. "The thing that I will remember until the day I die is walking in and finding, I don't know, 14 or so, I don't even know what the number was, women and children who were dead", Kerrey said in 1998. "I was expecting to find Viet Cong soldiers with weapons, dead. Instead I found women and children."
In contrast, Gerhard Klann, a member of Kerrey's SEAL team, gave a different version independently supported by a separate interview with Vietnamese woman Pham Tri Lanh. According to Klann, the team rounded up the women and children from hooches (shelters) and decided to "kill them and get out of there", for fear that they would alert enemy soldiers. Kerrey responded to Klann's account by stating "it's not my memory of it", and accused Klann of being jealous that Kerrey had not assisted him in obtaining a Medal of Honor for a later mission. Other members of Kerrey's SEAL team also "wholeheartedly" denied Klann's account.
Kerrey expressed anguish and guilt over the incident, saying: "You can never, can never get away from it. It darkens your day. I thought dying for your country was the worst thing that could happen to you, and I don't think it is. I think killing for your country can be a lot worse. Because that's the memory that haunts."
Kerrey was awarded a Bronze Star for the raid on Thanh Phong. The citation for the medal reads, "The net result of his patrol was 21 Viet Cong killed, two hooches destroyed and two enemy weapons captured."
A display at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City is based on the incident. It includes several photos and a drain pipe, which it describes as the place where three children hid before they were found and killed.