John Kerry stepped straight from his coronation stage in Boston into a political firefight yesterday over his relentless use of fellow Vietnam veterans to bolster his campaign.
As the Democratic presidential candidate began the long march with his 'band of brothers' towards the November elections, he was ambushed by a second group of navy veterans who, like him, fought on Swift Boats on the Mekong Delta - but who dissent from Sen Kerry's own account of his war record.
Rear-Adml Roy Hoffmann, who ran the Swift Boat campaign, said: 'I do not believe that John Kerry is fit to be commander in chief of the armed forces of the United States. This is not a political issue. It is a matter of judgment, truthfulness, reliability, loyalty and trust - all absolute tenets of command.'
Adml Hoffman, who is now retired, leads a group of fellow officers calling themselves the 'Swift Boat Veterans for Truth', who will campaign in swing-vote states on behalf of President George W Bush.
A book written by John O'Neill, who took command of Mr Kerry's boat and crew when he left Vietnam after four months' service, will challenge the 'official' version of Mr Kerry's service in Vietnam - a centrepiece of last week's Democratic convention.
Veterans for Truth promised to field 200 'anti-Kerry' veterans in public meetings in the crucial battleground states, starting this week.
William Shumadine, a former Swift Boat officer, said the campaign was launched in anger after the Kerry campaign used a photograph of 20 Division 11 Swift Boat officers, taken at an airbase in 1969.
They felt it suggested that all those in the photograph supported him, when in fact many were bitter that he campaigned against the war once safely home.
Their enduring anger was mostly sparked by the young Mr Kerry's allegations after the war that US troops were involved in war crimes.
Earlier this year Mr O'Neill said: 'We don't understand why Kerry would make the centrepiece of his campaign an exaggerated account of his four months service in Vietnam 33 year ago, but since he is, we believe that the public is entitled to the truth about his service and his charges about war crimes and atrocities.'