John Kerry: Vietnam Cowboy

"John Kerry's physical daring -- as a skier, a windsurfer, a motorcycle rider, a stunt pilot -- remains a source of wonder among his friends. He was, apparently, something of a cowboy in Vietnam as well. His old crewmates remember that he played rock music over the boat's loudspeaker system -- the Doors, the Stones, Jimi Hendrix -- before they went on patrol. 'He starred in that Marlon Brando movie, Apocalypse Now, long before they ever made it,' Gene Thorson, a former crewmate, says.

"To release the tension after a trip up the river, Kerry would often instigate chicken races between the swift boats, cutting over each other's wakes. He also organized water-balloon battles. Once, his three-boat squadron attacked an American supply ship at night with flares. 'The brass was not too happy about that,' Kerry recalled. 'But what were they going to do to us, send us to Vietnam?'"

["I've reached the point where I'm just going to do what I'm going to do, and to hell with whatever the conventional wisdom is," Kerry told Newsweek's Joe Klein in 2002. "I mean, if I screw up (the 2004 presidential race), what are they going to do to me -- send me to Vietnam?"]

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