National Security

Veteran Who Accused Fellow Troops of War Crimes to ‘Reflect on Time in Navy’ in Speech

John Kerry once said he is 'ashamed' of military service

John Kerry
Secretary of State John Kerry / AP

Secretary of State John Kerry, who has said he is "ashamed of and hated" his time in the U.S. Navy, will speak at the U.S. Naval Academy on Tuesday on how his Navy career impacted his current approach to foreign affairs.

Kerry's surprise speech at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, was announced late Monday. The only information provided is that the speech "will reflect on his time in the Navy, and its impact on his career in public service and approach to foreign policy."

This will not be the first time that Kerry has reflected on his time as a member of the Navy during the Vietnam War. As a leading member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Kerry went public with accusations of widespread war crimes committed by his fellow soldiers during the war.

In a 1971 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry accused his fellow military members of "war crimes committed … on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command." Included in the accusation were stories of rape, torture, and murder by American soldiers of both Vietnamese prisoners and civilians. Kerry also said that racism was "rampant in the military."

"We cannot consider ourselves America’s best men when we are ashamed of and hated what we were called on to do in Southeast Asia," Kerry said.

Kerry said America had created "a monster" and that he saw military members' crimes as a greater threat to the United States than communism.

"The country doesn’t know it yet, but it has created a monster, a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence, and who are given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history," Kerry said.

"We could not tell what went on in Vietnam, but we feel because of what threatens this country, the fact that the crimes threaten it, not reds, and not redcoats but the crimes which we are committing that threaten it, that we have to speak out," he said.

An official investigation following the testimony found that many of the accusations voiced by Kerry were false. Some veterans said Kerry had coached them into telling their stories of atrocities.

Kerry has also been accused by historians of falling for propaganda put out by the Soviet Union, which operated a massive misinformation campaign to boost the anti-war movement in the United States.

Kerry said in 1971 that he returned the military medals that he was awarded for serving in Vietnam. Witnesses say that Kerry was seen throwing his medals over a fence during a Vietnam Veterans Against the War protest at the U.S. Capitol.

Later during his political career Kerry said that it was not his medals that he threw, but other veterans' medals.