Kerry-Linked Anti-War Group Can't Bury Deceit
By Marc Morano
CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer
March 03, 2004
(CNSNews.com) - While many former Vietnam veterans support the candidacy of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, there is no sign of the man who appeared with Kerry on a nationally televised news program in 1971 to allege widespread atrocities by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam.
That man, Al Hubbard, remains out of the spotlight, perhaps because the war record he touted in directing a prominent anti-war group that included Kerry, was fabricated.
Hubbard's deceit, which he later admitted, continues to cast doubt about the truthfulness of the anti-war group's allegations more than three decades after they were leveled. Kerry has yet to either defend or criticize Hubbard during the current campaign. But he continues to stand behind the allegations lodged by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, many of which were included in a book Kerry authored in 1971.
Hubbard was executive director of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) when he appeared with Kerry on NBC's Meet the Press on April 18, 1971. Meet the Press host Lawrence Spivak introduced Hubbard as a former decorated Air Force captain who had spent two years in Vietnam and was wounded in the process.
But just days after the Meet the Press program was televised, NBC News, acting on an anonymous tip, began investigating Hubbard and found his military background to be fraudulent.
NBC News Washington Bureau chief Frank Jordan confronted Hubbard and obtained a confession from him that he had lied about his rank. Hubbard then went on the network's Today show, admitting that he had lied about his rank because "he was convinced no one would listen to a black man who was also an enlisted man." According to military documents, Hubbard never achieved a military rank higher than staff sergeant.
In addition to appearing on Meet the Press together, Kerry and Hubbard joined with Hollywood actress turned anti-war activist Jane Fonda and others in 1971 in conducting the VVAW's so-called Winter Soldier investigation in Detroit.
The investigation culminated in a stage production in which former veterans charged that U.S. troops had committed massive and widespread atrocities in Vietnam on a daily basis. Kerry also testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971 as the spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
In Kerry's anti-war book, The New Soldier , an anti-war poem written by Hubbard appears on page 92. Hubbard is also featured in a photo with Kerry and former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark on page 76 of the book.
Shortly after Hubbard's admission that he had lied, CBS News reporter William Overend, a writer for the network's anchorman Walter Cronkite, took up the story. Soon, Overend was confronting Kerry about Hubbard's fabrications.
"Al owned up to the rank question," Kerry told Overend in an article entitled, "Who is Al Hubbard" that appeared in the June 1, 1971 issue of National Review magazine. "He thought it was time to tell the truth, and he did it because he thought it would be best for the organization," Kerry added.
Overend noted in his article that Kerry's comments neglected "the fact that NBC had confronted Hubbard with its 'tip' [that Hubbard had lied] prior to the interview."
In an interview with CNSNews.com last week, Overend recalled that Kerry acted "real cagey" regarding Hubbard's lies.
"I talked to Kerry at that time about Hubbard and Kerry was already real cagey and diplomatic in his handling of whatever questions I was asking him," said Overend, who is now a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times .
Hubbard's falsehoods were not confined to his military rank, Overend told CNSNews.com . Hubbard "had no record of any service in Vietnam ..." Overend said.
Overend stated in his 1971 National Review article that, "Not only was there [Hubbard's] word for it that he'd lied about his rank, now the Defense Department was announcing it didn't have any record of his having served in Vietnam at all." Overend wrote that the Defense Department did allow for the possibility that Hubbard had been in Vietnam for short periods loading and unloading cargo planes.
Overend's investigation also later revealed that Hubbard had never been awarded either a Purple Heart or a Vietnamese Service Ribbon as he had claimed, even though, according to Overend's investigation of Pentagon procedure, the service ribbon could have been "rightfully claimed by any member of an air crew serving in Vietnam, even briefly."
There is also no record of any war injuries Hubbard supposedly suffered, according to Overend, despite Hubbard's claim to have been involved in a plane crash in Danang, Vietnam.
Military officials contacted "had no record of [Hubbard] having been involved in a plane crash ever in Vietnam," Overend said. The only injuries Overend could uncover involving Hubbard were "a 1956 rib injury suffered during a basketball game, and a 1961 entry about a back injury suffered during a soccer game."
Overend said that when he confronted other members of the VVAW in 1971 about Hubbard's invented record, reaction was mixed.
"I really don't care whether Al was in Vietnam or not. He's a good man. That's all that counts," said VVAW member Scott Moore, according to Overend. The president of VVAW, Jan Crumb, said the issue of Hubbard's lies "matters to all of us very much. But it's an internal problem for us to solve."
When Overend personally confronted Hubbard with the results of his investigation, Hubbard told him he was considering a lawsuit against the Defense Department for giving out erroneous information, indicated he had requested copies of his own files and would not comment to the media until he had received the records.
Overend's account of his meeting with Hubbard is as follows: "I asked him about the Danang [Vietnam] air crash and he replied: 'I told you, I will not cooperate with the media in any way."
"Al Hubbard had the opportunity to defend himself. Instead he chose to make no comment, and I was left to draw my own conclusions," Overend stated in summing up his investigation in the 1971 National Review article.
Hubbard currently lives in New Mexico. Repeated efforts to contact him were unsuccessful, but VVAW national coordinator John Zutz did speak with CNSNews.com about the man who directed the anti-war group.
"What can I say? He lied," Zutz said, referring to Hubbard. When asked whether Hubbard's falsehoods may have damaged VVAW's credibility, Zutz would only respond, "Well, he lied."
VVAW member David Cline said Hubbard has been "missing in action. He dropped out of the scene a long time ago and hasn't resurfaced."
"The last time I seen him was in the 70s," Cline added.
Cline recalled that the VVAW did not disassociate itself from Hubbard as a result of his admitted lies.
"At the time that it came out, there was some people (in VVAW) who called for his expulsion, but in the end the people felt that the embarrassment of the thing was enough -- that was his punishment," Cline said.
Cline conceded the incident did harm VVAW's reputation.
"To a certain degree it made us look less credible. It was a strange experience," Cline said.
B. G. Burkett, author of Stolen Valor and a military researcher, told CNSNews.com that Hubbard's type of deceit was widespread among people associated with VVAW.
Burkett's book documents false testimonies and reveals that many of the men who worked with VVAW and other anti-war groups who had alleged war atrocities during the Vietnam War had either lied about their background or had claims that were unverifiable.
According to Burkett, the Pentagon investigated the VVAW's Winter Soldier allegations and discovered that some of the U.S. Marines listed by VVAW as having testified in Detroit, "could prove that they had never been in Detroit and did not testify at that event."
Burkett is critical of Kerry for never having addressed the issue of whether VVAW and the anti-war movement relied on impostors or phony servicemen. "He presented this ragtag bunch of bums as your standard honorably discharged Vietnam vet and I think nothing could be further from the truth. They weren't," Burkett said.
Zutz disagrees and stands by Kerry's anti-war activism. "As far as what [Kerry] said about Vietnam, he was telling truth," Zutz said.