Del Sandusky (left) and John Kerry in
Vietnam, February, 1969.
Del Sandusky was born
in Streator, Illinois in December 1943. He
was raised in Illinois and Florida. He joined
the Navy 1960 and left in 1976. Mr. Sandusky
did two tours in Vietnam, one in 1966 and
one from May of 1968-1969 with John Kerry
in the Mekong Delta. Afterwards, he returned
to the U.S. and was a computer service technician.
He started campaigning for John Kerry in 1996.
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Military.com spoke briefly with Del Sandusky on 17-Mar-2004. Here
is what was said:
Military.com: Can you give us a quick run-through of how and when you first met John Kerry?
Del Sandusky: During the Vietnam
War. Our previous boat officer was Medevac-ed out. John Kerry's
crew from 1968 had rotated back to the U.S. He was an officer without
a crew, and we were a crew without an officer... We learned very early
on that John Kerry was someone very special. He was charismatic, and
proved to us that he was an excellent leader with great instincts.
We owe our lives to one other - he saved our lives, and we saved his.
Military.com: We know there was one incident in which your
boat faced a Viet Cong soldier with a grenade launcher, and Mr. Kerry
chased him down. Could you describe that incident?
D.S.: Yes - John received a Silver Star for that action. The
Viet Cong had a B-40 rocket. It's bigger than a rocket propelled grenade
(RPG) - a little longer - it's more like a bazooka shell and launcher
out of WWII.
He was in a spider hole - a pop-top hole dug in the ground for ambushes.
The VC was ready to fire, but he was too close. He immediately knew
he was in trouble when Lt. Kerry ordered for the boat to be beached
and got the bow right up in his face, about 10 feet away. He stumbled
out of the hole and tried to get behind a hooch (a little shed) up
on the beach. Lt. Kerry immediately assessed the situation and knew
that this guy was just going to get in a better launch position. If
that guy had managed to shoot the rocket at us, we would be like a
Roman candle - all of us would have died. My forward gunner could
not train his guns on the enemy because when we beached the boat,
the bow went up too high. As if that wasn't enough, the M-60
machine gun on the bow had jammed, so we really had no weapons
to go in against him.
John immediately assessed the situation, grabbed a rifle, and chased
the guy down. If he had not done so, we would have all been dead.
The situation called for an instant decision, and John Kerry made
that decision. Whenever we got into a firefight, his immediate response
was to "attack, attack, attack."
Military.com: How do you see John Kerry helping the country,
and especially military members and families, if he were to be elected
D.S.: I know John Kerry - I've known him for 35 years. In 35
years, he has never lied to me. Honesty means something to me, and
it does to a lot of people around the country. I know that he's a
Veteran and a warrior. Everyone whom I've spoken with around the country
on this campaign - hawks, doves, Democrats, Republicans - everyone
remembers back in 1971 when he protested against the war. Everyone
remembers that John Kerry had the courage to do what's right, the
courage to speak out against the war. His voice in that year meant
a lot to the country. It helped to de-escalate and get us out of the
war. Many Veterans whom I've spoken with particularly remember that
voice and his courage.
Additionally, all of us who have followed or helped out on this campaign know that he is a great statesman, he supports the VA, and has strong feelings towards Veterans. For those three main reasons, I as well a lot of other Veterans support John Kerry.
Military.com: There seems to be a strong movement afoot of
Veterans against Kerry. What are your reactions to this?
D.S.: I have no idea where they're coming from. They're totally
negative... all of the people and Veterans I've met are completely
positive. We love, honor and respect John Kerry, and we're here to
testify as to his credentials. Any criticisms are usually baseless
or foundless or trumped up. We're trying to avoid the mudslinging
on this campaign, but I just wish that those on the other side wouldn't
Military.com: Do you have any personal stories or anecdotes
involving you and Mr. Kerry that you would like to share?
D.S.: One story that comes to mind back in Vietnam was on board
the boat. We were up and down rivers and canals in enemy territory
- the Viet Cong's backyard. Every day we were involved in firefights
- sometimes two or three times a day. It was very intense, especially
when you're just a few American boys from the other side of the planet.
We rescued a little puppy from a village. She would have been somebody's
dinner, but you know American boys - "that's my dog" - we just had
to help her! We brought her aboard and named her "Victoria Charlotte"
- a play on the initials "V.C." She did not like the Viet Cong, not
to mention any other Vietnamese. She turned out to be a great watchdog.
We had her on board for a short period of time.
One day we got ready to go out on patrol, and knew that it was going
to be hot and hairy. Instead of tossing the dog out before heading
into battle, John picked up the dog, and put her in between his flak
jacket and his stomach. That was a sign of John Kerry's compassion
- all for a stupid little dog!
Ever after that, as we prepared to go out on patrol, John would point
to one of us or to the dog, and all of us knew to take care of the
dog. We wound up taking care of her for a long time, until once she
got blown overboard when a mine nearby exploded. Luckily the boat
behind us rescued her. But I just remember John and how he demonstrated
to us how to care for that little dog - that was an early indication
to me of the special person John Kerry is.
Military.com: We know you've got to get going on the campaign
trail. Thank you for your time and safe travels!
D.S.: Not a problem. Thanks to Military.com for your time as