Saturday, June 28, 2003


REAL GUNNYs think Lieutenants should be seen and not heard, and never, ever, be allowed to read books on leadership.

REAL GUNNYs don't have any civilian clothes.

REAL GUNNYs don't remember any time they weren't GUNNYs.

REAL GUNNYs propose to their future spouses like this "There will be a wedding at 1000 hours on 29 October, be there in blues with your
gear packed because you will be a prime participant."

REAL GUNNYs favorite food is shipboard SOS for breakfast.

REAL GUNNYs don't know how to tell civilian time.

REAL GUNNYs call each other "GUNNY."

REAL GUNNYs greatest fear is signing for property book items.

REAL GUNNYs dream in Marine Corps Scarlet and Gold, cammy earthtones,
and occasionally green.

REAL GUNNYs have served in places that are now war memorials or
tourist attractions.

REAL GUNNYs can find their way to the SNCO Club blindfolded, on 15 different bases.

REAL GUNNYs have pictures of weapons in their wallets.

REAL GUNNYs don't own any pens that do not have "Property U.S. Govt" on them.

REAL GUNNYs don't voluntarily get the mandatory flu shots.

REAL GUNNYs don't order supplies, they swap for them.

REAL GUNNYs think excessive modesty is their only fault.

REAL GUNNY's last duty station was always better.

REAL GUNNYs know that the black tar in their coffee cup makes the coffee taste better.

REAL GUNNY's idea of heaven - Three good Sergeants and a Lieutenant who does what he is told.

REAL GUNNYs think John Wayne would have made a good GUNNY, if he had not gone soft and made a Seabee movie.

REAL GUNNYs use the term "Good Training" to describe any unpleasant task. Policing the parade ground is "Good Training." Having to sleep on your seabag in the parking lot because there was no room in the barracks is "Good Training."


Thursday, June 12, 2003


A very special web site

Date :
Tue, 10 Jun 2003 06:55:51 -0500

Dear Mr. Gaines & Mr. Fornof ~

I hope this message finds it way to both of you. Mr. Gaines, I tried to post this to your message forum board but, for some reason, each time I tried to submit the post I'd simply get a new "post message here" page. So I finally decided to try to reach you through what I fear is your old email address. I hope, Mr. Fornof, if Mr. Gaines 'hotmail' email account really is no longer vaild , you might be kind enough to forward a copy of this to him as I really would like for him to know about this.

I'm writing to tell you both about a very special web site I created in late March to honor our men and women in uniform, past & present. A web site that ultimately you each played a role in creating. At the time I'd become endlessly frustrated with all of the 'anti-war - anti-American' sentiments filling the media and I felt as though my voice could never be heard above the dim. As a way of giving myself a 'vehicle' to 'have my say' I created and put up a couple of web pages to the internet ~ one ("The Ragged Old Flag") about honoring our flag and one ("It is the Veterans") about honoring our vets ~ both about honoring the people who serve this nation.

I published these two pages onto the net on March 28th and, aside from posting the urls on a few private bulletin boards I frequent and emailing them to a few online friends, I really made no effort to promote them ~ yet, in less than a weeks time, I began receiving hundreds of emails about them from all over the world ~ beautiful emails from members of our armed forces & from folks with family members or friends serving in the forces; from veterans and families of vets, living and dead; from people who lost family or friends in the September 11th attack on America and I've even received messages from our soldiers fighting in Iraq & Afghanistan. These messages brought tears to my eyes and a warmth to my heart. It was clear that many, many, many people shared the sentiment expressed within my pages and were using the pages to spread word far and wide that patriotism and support of those who fight for freedom was alive and well in America.

My joy over this site came to a sudden and dramatic end, however, when in mid-May I received a bill from my internet host server for over $11,500.00 for the month of April ~ all but $50.00 of which represented charges for traffic to the page in excess of my account's 'allotted allowance'. (ie: excess bandwidth use charges)!!

Yes, you read that right ~ nearly twelve thousand dollars due for just one month!!! (gulp! ~ my exact words, upon receiving this bill, are not any I'd care to repeat, as you might well imagine!!)

I knew this site was being enjoyed and shared by many because of all of the emails messages I'd been receiving but, even so, I had no idea that the traffic to the site was anywhere near a volume that would result in this kind of 'over-use charge'. With tears I immediate remove my entire tribute from the internet!! It broke my heart to take these pages down but, heaven help me, no way was I able to pay that kind of money for the privilege of keeping them online.

From the moment the site came down I began receiving email messages asking how to access the site and I ached each time I wrote back that the site was down 'indefinitely'. Strangely enough, I think the idea that this wonderful site was gone from the internet actually troubled me more than trying to figure out how to pay that monstrous bill ~ although I guarantee you BOTH issues cost me a lot of lost sleep this past month! I can't even begin to tell you how bad it felt when they were not online and available to view on Memorial Day!! sigh

Thankfully, some prayers about this situation must have a caught the attention the "Man Upstairs" because, after a very rough month of wrestling with this problem, it all worked out okay just this past Friday! First, the folks at my host server graciously made the decision to 'forgive' 90% of the excess bandwidth use charges!!! More than I dared hope for! And secondly, I was able to locate a different host server who offered a professional web hosting plan which allows unlimited bandwidth access without additional charges!! I signed on with this server, quickly made arrangements to re-direct my domain to their system and spent the next 36 hours loading up my files to their ftp local.

So I am thrilled to say that, not only am I not going to end up in 'debtor's prison' ('cause, Lord knows, I couldn't afford to pay that bill) but, as of this last Sunday, ALL OF MY PATRIOTIC PAGES ARE FINALLY BACK UP ONLINE WHERE THEY BELONG!!! Not only are they back, they are bigger and better than before ~ thanks, in part, to the two of you.

The pages are actually one web site, but each page can stand alone ~ here are the urls:

Page 1.)"The Ragged Old Flag"

Page 2.)"It Is The Veteran"

Page 3.)"Who Raised The Flag On Iwo Jima"

FYI- The Ragged Old Flag is the lead in page to "It Is The Veteran". Toward the bottom of the "Veteran" page (page 2) there is a link to the 'must see' "September 11 Memorial" swf type presentation which will open in a seperate window. From that page, if you scroll down to the very bottom, you can access an additional separate page which contains Steve Golding's personal account of 9/11 ~ Steve Golding is the person who created this awesome swf file and in his account he explains what prompted him to put it together. His story is as incredible as his creation and it's one everyone should read!

The "Who Raised The Flag On Iwo Jima" page is my newest page and the one, I'm sure you've guessed, the two of you influenced so greatly! This page original came about as a result of a 'suggestion/request' I'd received from numerous viewers of the "It Is The Veteran" page - (all Marines, of course). They wrote to tell me that, while they enjoyed the poem about the veteran, the line that said 'five' men raised the flag on Iwo Jima needed to be changed to SIX men and went on to tell me about each of the men famous for this event.

Since I'd not written the poem I wasn't eager to change it - but the requests kept coming so I finally decided to look into matter. My "Who Raised The Flag On Iwo Jima" page is the result of this 'investigation' and it has, in fact, become my personal favorite. While working on it I feel as though I've come to know each of you and I really would like to share the result with you both. Since starting this little project, I have to admit, I've become 'hooked' on the history of Iwo Jima.

Although saddened that my tribute pages were not on line I actually did have an exceptionally wonderful Memorial Day ~ as it turned out I had the great honor of dining with a USMC veteran who'd been a Second Lieutenant on Iwo Jima in February 1945! I've known this gentlemen for several years now; knew he was a Retire Marine Office and that had served in World War II but I knew nothing about his tour of duty. The topic just never came up. Our Memorial Day dinner was a large outdoor Texas style Bar-BQ and we were enjoying the day dining at a large, lovely patio table over looking a small lake when, about midway through the meal, he asked me what I'd been up to lately ~ we hadn't seen each other for a couple of weeks and I usually see him several times a week. I told him how I'd been frantically trying to straighten out the internet mess I'd gotten myself into and then went on to mention that I'd also recently become very involved in researching the flag raising over Iwo Jima and was amazed at the things I'd been learning.

At the mention of Iwo Jima a strange sort of 'far off look' seemed to settle in this old warrior's normally twinkling eyes and slowly they became visible moist. The change that swept over him was so profound it was palpable! It was almost as though a reverent glow emanated from him and quickly, but silently, enveloped all who were seated around the table. A hush fell over the group and it was very quiet for several moments. Finally, his expression shifted as the hint of a smile soften his serious face, and with a slight nodding of his head, he said to me, "You know, they really should have charge all of us admission for the right to be there. It was like nothing you've every seen."

In the hot Texas afternoon I immediately got goose-bumps and I felt the hair on the back of neck begin to rise. I shot a glance toward my husband who was seated across the table from me and I could see his eyes reddening as tears began to well up. I saw him purse his lips and swallow hard in an effort to hold em back. Seeing my Marine husband so deeply moved made my eyes smart with tears as well and I quickly looked back to this wonderful gentle man sitting next me. A man whose rich full tenor voice had charmed me so often with so many wonderful old Irish songs - a man I thought I knew so well and I stammered, "You were there????? You were there on Iwo Jima????" "Yeap," he said, still nodding and with a big smile he added, "and let me tell you, you couldn't hardly see even the bigger flag from down below!!!"

Over the next few weeks I plan to spend some time REALLY getting to know my friend better and I hope to be able to add an additional page to this project ~ a page from the 'personal perspective' of a person who remembers it all.

Well, gosh, I didn't mean to write a book here but I really did want to invite you to see these pages and to let you know why I'm so thrilled my special site is back online. I hope enjoy them and, since I don't have to worry about how many visitors I get in a month anymore, I hope you will feel free to share the link with anyone you think may enjoy it! (*very big grin*)

I'd better warn you though, the pages are REALLY graphic intense and (depending upon your internet connection) may take a while to load ~ but most people find it well worth the wait. Also, I recently discovered that some virus protection software prevents embedded wav/mp3 files from automatically loading and playing when a web page is opened so some visitors to these pages have not been hearing the sound hat accompanies the stories. A large part of the enjoyment of these pages is listening to the sound files that go with them, so I have placed a special link for each sound file right next to the where the player console would be if the file had loaded (when the file doesn't load I think you end up seeing a small box with an x in it where the console would normally be). If the sound files don't play when you open the page, you can click on this special link and the appropriate sound file will load and play in a separate window. (This probably isn't the greatest way to 'fix' this problem but, for now at least, it will allow everyone to hear the files - one way or the other.)

Okay ~ enough is enough and this is probably WAY TOO much... sheepish grin ......sorry! I do run on sometimes but it is just that I so thrilled that these pages are back online that I want everyone (especially those who played a role in their creation) to have a chance to see them now.

I have placed a special acknowledgment of appreciate to you two at the bottom of the Iwo Jima page. If, for whatever reason, you would rather I not link my page back to yours, Mr. Gaines, please tell me and I will remove it immediate with no hard feelings. I really want to give credit where credit is due, so I link the acknowledgment directly to your forum page.

Well, I guess I'd better close, so I'll leave you with a thought that has taken hold in heart of late ~ this is such a wonderful country with a rich and compelling history . A nation blessed with caring people, strong of heart and noble of spirit! It is truly a joy to be able share this special experience with so many others in such a unique and inspiring way.

My best,
Zac's Mom
Dallas, Texas

PS ~ Mr. Jacobs and I have corresponded once before regarding this page but he has not seen this version of it as yet so I will be sending the link to him today.

"There's a war out there and it's not about who's got the most bullets. It's about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think ~ it's all about information." (From The Federation Of American Scientists)

The Ragged Old Flag ~ View A Very Special Web Site For & About Our Men & Women In Uniform

Tuesday, June 10, 2003


Will they earn the right to call themselves Marines?


By DAVID TARRANT / The Dallas Morning News

While America was at war this spring, a new generation of warriors was being created at boot camp in San Diego. Reporter David Tarrant and photographer Huy Nguyen have monitored three Dallas-area recruits as they attempted to make the transformation from civilians to Marines.

Black camouflage paint covers his weary face. He shifts to adjust the weight of the 60-pound rucksack, the straps biting into his shoulders. It is 5 a.m., and Aaron Brumley stands quietly, his rifle slung over his back. Squinting into the darkness, he waits on the unknown.

With him are 252 other Marine recruits from six platoons. Wearing their desert cammies and helmets, they stand in formation along a rocky, sloping path. Their bloodshot eyes show the strain of long days and nights in the field. Exhausted, dirty, hungry and nursing aching muscles, sprained ankles, blistered feet and a wide assortment of cuts, scrapes and bruises, they await their marching orders.

In the formation are Victor Rios and Michael Spencer. Along with Recruit Brumley, they arrived from Dallas at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, on a cold night in February, under a brilliant full moon, with talk of war reaching a crescendo.

They did not rush into recruiting offices in a burst of patriotic zeal. All three wanted to measure themselves against the benchmark of the longest and toughest boot camp in the military.

They wanted to know if they could live up to the traditional ideals of a 200-year-old institution, with its old-world pledge of "semper fidelis" � always faithful � to God, country and Corps. They wanted to know if boot camp could do what it promised: transform tentative, immature individuals into Marines, with confidence, self-reliance and commitment.

In essence, each wanted to know: Do I belong here?

The next few hours will give them their answer.

"Let's step!" snaps Capt. Max Hopkins, the commander of 3rd Battalion, Kilo Company.

With those two words, the recruits start the final, most memorable and grueling part of their journey to becoming Marines.

With two weeks of basic training to go, they are nearing the end of a 54-hour marathon called the "Crucible." The training exercise gives the recruits a taste of the chaos of combat. The Crucible's 32 stations include combat assault courses, problem-solving areas, a pugil-stick ring and team-building "warrior stations" that tell stories of Marine heroes.

The course is spread over a 4,500-acre portion of Camp Pendleton, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Crisscrossed by footpaths and scarred with deep ruts, its hills and meadows are tricky enough to hike in daylight. But at night, the furrowed paths can prove treacherous, and more than a few recruits have painfully rolled ankles on them. Rattlesnakes lurk in the tall grass and occasionally slither quickly past.

In 2 � days, recruits march 40 miles over these grounds � the last segment being this final nine-mile hike known as the "Grim Reaper."

Hounded by drill instructors when they falter, the recruits must fight off the creeping doubts and continue putting one foot in front of the other, one hill after another.

But the worst is saved for the end: a hill that angles up steeply for its final 20 yards.

They have to run up that part.

An uphill fight

That's nothing new to Recruit Brumley. He has spent the better part of his life running uphill.

Wild as a boy, he became involved in the juvenile justice system at 12. He was steered into a private, residential school for "at risk" boys, at a ranch in Amarillo. There he found plenty of structure and discipline, and he adapted well enough to go into a delayed-entry program for the Marines his senior year of high school.
The Recruit's Road
3/30: The journey begins | Photos
4/27: Training builds fighting spirit | Photos
6/08: Who earns the right to be called Marine? | Photos

One day, he bumped into a woman he hadn't seen since they were both kids growing up near Amarillo. They used to walk home from school holding hands. Then it was puppy love; now it was real. He dropped out of school and moved to Dallas with her. They married a year later in 1999. He started working, became a father and the dream of becoming a Marine faded.

Then he lost his job with a cable company. He waited six months, and when the job market didn't improve, he revived his old dream. On Feb. 18, his 24th birthday, he arrived in San Diego � and quickly regretted it.

Homesickness tormented him. Halfway through boot camp his older brother's death from liver disease brought further anguish.

Pain, the drill instructors tell recruits, is "weakness leaving the body." But the pain of separation from his loved ones never seemed to go.

So he learned to pull through it, sustained by a lifeline of letters, a sense of humor that rarely buckled and a growing sense of belonging. With rifle practice and training in combat skills, he was beginning to feel more like a Marine.

On the Grim Reaper march, his every step aches from a pain in his heel that he first noticed a few days earlier. But he pushes it out of his mind as he marches, under a brightening sky, his eyes on the next hill.

Fighting passivity

About 100 yards back in the formation, Recruit Spencer maintains his pace. He likes to march. It gives him a chance to think. The drill instructors who are always on his case about something mostly leave him alone during hikes. He can keep up.

He started the Crucible flat on his back. The drill instructor announced a casualty drill and pointed at him. Two other recruits dragged him by the arms across 50 yards of dusty, rocky ground.

It was the kind of role � passively helped along by others � that Recruit Spencer wanted to change about himself. His high-achieving father survived the Holocaust, graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and worked first as an engineer and later as a physician.

In contrast, Recruit Spencer was having a hard time finishing college.

Thoughtful, articulate and unfailingly polite, he was slow to adjust to the "gung-ho" atmosphere of the Marines. He didn't sound off full tilt or throw himself into every task as if his life depended on it. It was enough for him to keep up but not to reach higher.

"From the very first day, I thought he was only doing the minimum," says Recruit Rios, a member of the same platoon.

Frustrated drill instructors viewed his lackluster manner with alarm. To them, it was a clear sign of indifference, deficiency of discipline and weak commitment. When he failed to climb ropes or cross the monkey bars on the obstacle course, they blamed his self-doubts. It wasn't a matter of physical strength � he lacked confidence, the drill instructors repeatedly told him.

"That was one of my lowest mental points," Recruit Spencer says.

At other times, he stood apart by choice. At evening prayer, the Catholics got together in one corner of the barracks, the Protestants in another corner, and he would pray by himself, the sole Jewish recruit in his platoon.

He nevertheless outshined many other recruits in areas requiring thinking and study, such as marksmanship, where he earned the highest of three rankings. He scored a perfect mark on his practical exam, which tested knowledge of Marine Corps history and customs. He also scored perfectly on the Marine Corps Martial Arts Training exam.

But where the Marines put a premium on teamwork, he thought it was more important to learn to do things for himself.

"I came to boot camp too reliant on other people. What I was wanting to do was become more self-reliant."

How could he be a member of the team if he couldn't do his part? He had no choice but to break the habit of letting others help him, he says. No one could do his physical fitness test for him. If he couldn't do the minimum required four pull-ups, he would fail � and drop back a couple of weeks or possibly wash out. So he started lifting weights on his own and passed the test.

Recruit Rios, for one, noticed a difference. "He started working at raising the maximum level of what he could do."

By strengthening himself, "I can keep up," he says.

"And when there's something that I can't do by myself, I can get that help, but I'm also putting in my 100 percent. It's not like, 'Help me, I'll do 10 percent and you do the rest.' "

'Mommy! Mommy!'

Marching with a noticeable limp, Recruit Rios stares blankly ahead, moving almost by force of habit.

His left ankle throbs. He had rolled it a dozen times during the Crucible, and now there is an ugly, large lump there. He tries not to cry.

He has come far since that gray morning when he was just another recruit on the bus leaving downtown Dallas. Then, too, he had fought back his tears. But when he caught sight of his mother standing at a corner waiting for the light to turn, his heart broke. She was crying.

Jumping up, he pounded his fists on the window, yelling, "Mommy, Mommy!" It took several recruits to calm him down.

Since then, he has written more than a dozen letters to his mother, Lizet Lopez, who lives in Balch Springs. In one, he thanked her for everything she had done for him over the years, for putting him first, even after his father had left when he was a baby.

"I always put everything else ahead of you, and now I realize I should have put you first," he wrote.

He missed her and his home, but he wasn't a kid anymore, he wrote in another letter. "I have worked too hard, and nothing is going to hold me back."

And nothing has.

He was appointed a squad leader, supervising up to 10 recruits, getting them to do tasks, such as cleaning the barracks, as ordered by the drill instructors.

Squad leaders are held accountable for their recruits' mistakes, meaning they would be punished as well.

During one exercise in the Crucible, he and three other recruits had to carry a casualty on a wooden board a half-mile. The board was hard to grasp, and the recruit playing the casualty weighed about 200 pounds. They staggered under the load and dropped it several times. Each time, Recruit Rios would urge the group on. "Pick it up," he shouted. "Let's go! ... Don't drop him ...Come on, let's go!"

Learning the skills to oversee, motivate and take care of his squad was a big change for someone who grew up preferring to do things by himself.

"I used to be like a little kid. I used to play Nintendo all the time."

His soft voice reflected his shyness.

"When I came in, people used to say I had a girly voice because I was so quiet. And now I feel like it's changed. I hear it myself. Now I actually feel like a man. I actually feel like I'm maturing."

Mission accomplished

They plod along the path, some shuffling, others sagging under the their packs.

"I see the thousand-mile stare � and a little bit of fear," says Capt. J.T. Doan, a series commander.

Drill instructors yell sharply up and down the line. "Keep it tight ... Keep your head up ..."

"What happens if you fall out in combat?" screeches a sergeant to a recruit staggering to keep up. "You get killed, right?"

"Yes sir!"

Recruit Spencer lumbers along. As he does, he wonders whether boot camp is the transforming experience that the Marines say it is.

"If you're just looking for the typical success story of Marine Corps boot camp, that's it right there," he says, referring to Recruit Rios. "He goes in very shy ... and now he's a new man, very aggressive, doesn't mind giving orders; he's not shy at all anymore."

In contrast, Recruit Spencer doesn't feel he has changed much. "I'm still the same person."

He ponders which boot-camp habits will stick with him. His girlfriend probably hopes that cleanliness is one of them, he says, "keeping your room clean, and all that."

In fact, he has noticed another change. On another hike before the Crucible, he came to this realization:

"It dawned on me that this was the first time I had done something on my own" � without help from family, friends or others, he said. "It was a good feeling of accomplishment."

About 8 a.m., the recruits pause at the base of the last hill, staring up at the steep crest.

There is a spectacular view all around them. But nobody notices. They rest, drink water and mutter about aches and pains. They are waiting for several stragglers to catch up, some of whom are being "towed" with a rope attached to a drill instructor walking in front of them.

Each recruit has found some way to keep going on through pain and fatigue. For Recruit Brumley, it is the knowledge that each step brings him closer to seeing his wife, Nikki, and his daughter, Hanna.

Recruit Spencer finds strength in a prayer, that he has repeated throughout the hike. "Lord, thank you for getting me through the past two days, now please help me up the Grim Reaper."

Recruit Rios thinks of his mother.

"I kept saying to myself if this is what it's going to take to see my mom, this is what I'm going to do. I would look at every hill and think, 'I'm going to see my mom.' That's what got me over every hill."

Standing in the front row, Recruit Brumley carries the Kilo Company flag. With the roar of 40 voices screaming "Ah-tack!" he and his peers run, stagger and lurch up the hill. The other platoons follow.

Recruits show none of the exhilaration of, say, a football player who just scored a winning touchdown. It is more like a dazed awareness of having survived a nightmare.

At first, Recruit Brumley feels enormous relief that he hadn't fallen while carrying the company flag. Then it occurs to him that he had made it through the toughest part of training � and "No blisters!"

But it turned out he did have a hairline fracture in his heel � the cause of the pain that dogged him throughout the Crucible, he would be told later at the infirmary.

For Recruit Spencer, the fact that the hardest part of boot camp is behind him, and that soon he will be officially a Marine, doesn't hit him right away. "We did the Reaper, and we're up there, and I thought, 'Well ... ?' "

After a few minutes' rest to put down their packs and drink water, the recruits gather around one last signpost to talk about one more moment of glory, a World War II battle during which Marines engaged in hand-to-hand combat to repulse a much larger enemy force.

"That's why the Marine Corps is still here," Staff Sgt. Efrain Montejano tells them. A Marine never gives up.

"It's 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. It's here and here," he says, pointing to his head and heart.

Standing there, Recruit Rios' stoicism finally cracks, and he cries for the first time since he left Dallas.

"I was up on the hill, and we were reading the Medal of Honor citation and I started crying," he says.

"I was a step closer to my goal."

What has changed?

Two weeks after the Crucible, it is Family Day at the Recruit Depot. It is the first time that family and friends are invited to see the recruits, who left home three months earlier.

On a bright, windy and cool morning, the recruits are doing a 4-mile run, passing by the crowd gathered on the parade deck.

"They're coming this way now!" shouts a Marine sergeant over a loudspeaker. "Show them that you're here!"

The crowd erupts with shouts and waves.

Chanting in unison and running in formation, the recruits trot past in their green running shorts and T-shirts. The exhaustion that showed on their faces at the end of the Grim Reaper has been transformed. They look proud, serious and confident, with bone-deep tans and strong voices.

"There's Daddy!" shouts Nikki Brumley, holding her 18-month-old daughter. Mrs. Brumley is wearing a loose-fitting, gray sweatshirt with MARINES in big, block letters.

"He's definitely changed. He looks good," says Pvt. Brumley's uncle, Bennie Brumley.

Maria Spencer, Pfc. Spencer's mother, is crying. Next to her, a teary-eyed Regina Barnett, Michael Spencer's girlfriend, tries to take pictures.

Nearby, Lizet Lopez and Monica Martinez, Pfc. Rios' mother and girlfriend, are dabbing at their eyes with tissue.

"He's gotten a little bit bigger," Ms. Lopez says.

By midmorning the recruits have returned to the parade deck, standing bayonet-straight in their service uniforms. The drill instructors quietly pass out the eagle, globe and anchor emblems and address each recruit for the first time as "Marine."

Minutes later, the men are dismissed to their families. Pvt. Brumley wraps his long arms around his wife and daughter, father and uncle in one large, tight embrace. Everyone is crying.

The next day's graduation ceremony is quick and anticli mactic, with the Marines champing at the bit to start their 10-day liberty. Each recruit will return to Camp Pendleton for two weeks of additional combat training before heading off for schooling in their specialties.

Though they are now called Marines, what is different? Have the 12 weeks between the yellow footsteps and graduation transformed each from civilian to warrior?

Pvt. Brumley, who early on wanted to quit because of homesickness, has learned to push through emotional and physical pain. Pfc. Rios, who arrived shy and self-conscious, found his voice. He learned to lead recruits who could be stubborn, mulish at times.

To Pfc. Spencer, the answer doesn't come as quickly.

Back home in the "real world," he felt weird at first. He bought some DVDs but didn't watch them, because he didn't want to waste a day. He visited his recruiting officer, who expressed pride in him, reassured him that what he did was tough and added that there was always room for improvement. But still he did not know what to say one night over dinner with old friends when asked if he felt that he'd changed.

He lost 15 pounds, and the jeans he wore to boot camp are too big now. But he knows that's not what people were asking.

"They're expecting to hear something, and I don't know what to tell them. I'm starting to feel like I should make up something," he says.

He did achieve his goal of completing something on his own; his late father would have been proud of him. But the young man who entered boot camp with questions about himself has not resolved those self-doubts.

Uncertainty, however, is one of the first challenges Marine recruits face in boot camp. Perhaps this is Pfc. Spencer's lesson: That one can live with a certain amount of stress and doubt � and not just live, but accomplish the mission.

In that way, boot camp doesn't end the journey of self-discovery. It has just brought him a little farther down the road.

His drill instructors always said that the lessons of boot camp remain with a person for a lifetime. So he knows the answers will come in time.

"One of the things I've said is, 'I think it remains to be seen.' "


Online at:

Monday, June 09, 2003



The Story of Col. David Crockett, a US Representative from Tennessee
Originally published in "The Life of Colonel David Crockett," by Edward Sylvester Ellis, 1884.

One day in the House of Representatives a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support. The speaker was just about to put the question when Crockett arose:

"Mr. Speaker--I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the suffering of the living, if there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member on this floor knows it.

We have the right as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I ever heard that the government was in arrears to him.

"Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks."

He took his seat. Nobody replied. The bill was put upon its passage, and, instead of passing unanimously, as was generally supposed, and as, no doubt, it would, but for that speech, it received but few votes, and, of course, was lost.

Later, when asked by a friend why he had opposed the appropriation, Crockett gave this explanation:

"Several years ago I was one evening standing on the steps of the Capitol with some members of Congress, when our attention was attracted by a great light over in Georgetown. It was evidently a large fire. We jumped into a hack and drove over as fast as we could. In spite of all that could be done, many houses were burned and many families made houseless, and besides, some of them had lost all but the clothes they had on. The weather was very cold, and when I saw so many children suffering, I felt that something ought to be done for them. The next morning a bill was introduced appropriating $20,000 for their relief. We put aside all other business and rushed it through as soon as it could be done.

"The next summer, when it began to be time to think about election, I concluded I would take a scout around among the boys of my district. I had no opposition there but, as the election was some time off, I did not know what might turn up. When riding one day in a part of my district in which I was more of a stranger than any other, I saw a man in a field plowing and coming toward the road. I gauged my gait so that we should meet as he came up, I spoke to the man. He replied politely, but as I thought, rather coldly.

"I began: 'Well friend, I am one of those unfortunate beings called candidates and---

"Yes I know you; you are Colonel Crockett. I have seen you once before, and voted for you the last time you were elected. I suppose you are out electioneering now, but you had better not waste your time or mine, I shall not vote for you again."

"This was a sockdolger...I begged him tell me what was the matter.

"Well Colonel, it is hardly worthwhile to waste time or words upon it. I do not see how it can be mended, but you gave a vote last winter which shows that either you have not capacity to understand the Constitution, or that you are wanting in the honesty and firmness to be guided by it. In either case you are not the man to represent me. But I beg your pardon for expressing it that way. I did not intend to avail myself of the privilege of the constituent to speak plainly to a candidate for the purpose of insulting you or wounding you.'

"I intend by it only to say that your understanding of the constitution is very different from mine; and I will say to you what but for my rudeness, I should not have said, that I believe you to be honest.

But an understanding of the constitution different from mine I cannot overlook, because the Constitution, to be worth anything, must be held sacred, and rigidly observed in all its provisions. The man who wields power and misinterprets it is the more dangerous the honest he is.'

" 'I admit the truth of all you say, but there must be some mistake. Though I live in the backwoods and seldom go from home, I take the papers from Washington and read very carefully all the proceedings of Congress. My papers say you voted for a bill to appropriate $20,000 to some sufferers by fire in Georgetown. Is that true?

"Well my friend; I may as well own up. You have got me there. But certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve its suffering women and children, particularly with a full and overflowing treasury, and I am sure, if you had been there, you would have done just the same as I did.'

"It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing with the question. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by a tariff, which reaches every man in the country, no matter how poor he may be, and the poorer he is the more he pays in proportion to his means.

What is worse, it presses upon him without his knowledge where the weight centers, for there is not a man in the United States who can ever guess how much he pays to the government. So you see, that while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he.

If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give at all; and as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other. 'No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity.'

"'Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose. If twice as many houses had been burned in this country as in Georgetown, neither you nor any other member of Congress would have Thought of appropriating a dollar for our relief. There are about two hundred and forty members of Congress. If they had shown their sympathy for the sufferers by contributing each one week's pay, it would have made over $13,000. There are plenty of wealthy men around Washington who could have given $20,000 without depriving themselves of even a luxury of life.'

"The congressmen chose to keep their own money, which, if reports be true, some of them spend not very creditably; and the people about Washington, no doubt, applauded you for relieving them from necessity of giving what was not yours to give. The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution.'

"'So you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people. I have no doubt you acted honestly, but that does not make it any better, except as far as you are personally concerned, and you see that I cannot vote for you.'

"I tell you I felt streaked. I saw if I should have opposition, and this man should go to talking and in that district I was a gone fawn-skin. I could not answer him, and the fact is, I was so fully convinced that he was right, I did not want to. But I must satisfy him, and I said to him:

"Well, my friend, you hit the nail upon the head when you said I had not sense enough to understand the Constitution. I intended to be guided by it, and thought I had studied it fully. I have heard many speeches in Congress about the powers of Congress, but what you have said here at your plow has got more hard, sound sense in it than all the fine speeches I ever heard. If I had ever taken the view of it that you have, I would have put my head into the fire before I would have given that vote; and if you will forgive me and vote for me again, if I ever vote for another unconstitutional law I wish I may be shot.'

"He laughingly replied; 'Yes, Colonel, you have sworn to that once before, but I will trust you again upon one condition. You are convinced that your vote was wrong. Your acknowledgment of it will do more good than beating you for it. If, as you go around the district, you will tell people about this vote, and that you are satisfied it was wrong, I will not only vote for you, but will do what I can to keep down opposition, and perhaps, I may exert some little influence in that way.'

"If I don't, said I, 'I wish I may be shot; and to convince you that I am in earnest in what I say I will come back this way in a week or ten days, and if you will get up a gathering of people, I will make a speech to them. Get up a barbecue, and I will pay for it.'

"No, Colonel, we are not rich people in this section but we have plenty of provisions to contribute for a barbecue, and some to spare for those who have none. The push of crops will be over in a few days, and we can then afford a day for a barbecue. 'This Thursday; I will see to getting it up on Saturday week. Come to my house on Friday, and we will go together, and I promise you a very respectable crowd to see and hear you.

"'Well I will be here. But one thing more before I say good-bye. I must know your name."

"'My name is Bunce.'

"'Not Horatio Bunce?'


"'Well, Mr. Bunce, I never saw you before, though you say you have seen me, but I know you very well. I am glad I have met you, and very proud that I may hope to have you for my friend.'

"It was one of the luckiest hits of my life that I met him. He mingled but little with the public, but was widely known for his remarkable intelligence, and for a heart brim-full and running over with kindness and benevolence, which showed themselves not only in words but in acts. He was the oracle of the whole country around him, and his fame had extended far beyond the circle of his immediate acquaintance. Though I had never met him, before, I had heard much of him, and but for this meeting it is very likely I should have had opposition, and had been beaten. One thing is very certain, no man could now stand up in that district under such a vote.

"At the appointed time I was at his house, having told our conversation to every crowd I had met, and to every man I stayed all night with, and I found that it gave the people an interest and confidence in me stronger than I had ever seen manifested before.

"Though I was considerably fatigued when I reached his house, and, under ordinary circumstances, should have gone early to bed, I kept him up until midnight talking about the principles and affairs of government, and got more real, true knowledge of them than I had got all my life before."

"I have known and seen much of him since, for I respect him - no, that is not the word - I reverence and love him more than any living man, and I go to see him two or three times every year; and I will tell you, sir, if every one who professes to be a Christian lived and acted and enjoyed it as he does, the religion of Christ would take the world by storm.

"But to return to my story. The next morning we went to the barbecue and, to my surprise, found about a thousand men there. I met a good many whom I had not known before, and they and my friend introduced me around until I had got pretty well acquainted - at least, they all knew me.

"In due time notice was given that I would speak to them. They gathered up around a stand that had been erected. I opened my speech by saying:

"Fellow-citizens - I present myself before you today feeling like a new man. My eyes have lately been opened to truths which ignorance or prejudice or both, had heretofore hidden from my view. I feel that I can today offer you the ability to render you more valuable service than I have ever been able to render before. I am here today more for the purpose of acknowledging my error than to seek your votes. That I should make this acknowledgment is due to myself as well as to you. Whether you will vote for me is a matter for your consideration only."

"I went on to tell them about the fire and my vote for the appropriation and then told them why I was satisfied it was wrong. I closed by saying:

"And now, fellow-citizens, it remains only for me to tell you that the most of the speech you have listened to with so much interest was simply a repetition of the arguments by which your neighbor, Mr. Bunce, convinced me of my error.

"It is the best speech I ever made in my life, but he is entitled to the credit for it. And now I hope he is satisfied with his convert and that he will get up here and tell you so.'

"He came up to the stand and said:

"Fellow-citizens - it affords me great pleasure to comply with the request of Colonel Crockett. I have always considered him a thoroughly honest man, and I am satisfied that he will faithfully perform all that he has promised you today.'

"He went down, and there went up from that crowd such a shout for Davy Crockett as his name never called forth before.'

"I am not much given to tears, but I was taken with a choking then and felt some big drops rolling down my cheeks. And I tell you now that the remembrance of those few words spoken by such a man, and the honest, hearty shout they produced, is worth more to me than all the honors I have received and all the reputation I have ever made, or ever shall make, as a member of Congress.'

"Now, sir," concluded Crockett, "you know why I made that speech yesterday. "There is one thing which I will call your attention, "you remember that I proposed to give a week's pay. There are in that House many very wealthy men - men who think nothing of spending a week's pay, or a dozen of them, for a dinner or a wine party when they have something to accomplish by it. Some of those same men made beautiful speeches upon the great debt of gratitude which the country owed the deceased--a debt which could not be paid by money--and the insignificance and worthlessness of money, particularly so insignificant a sum as $20,000 when weighed against the honor of the nation. Yet not one of them responded to my proposition. Money with them is nothing but trash when it is to come out of the people. But it is the one great thing for which most of them are striving, and many of them sacrifice honor, integrity, and justice to obtain it."

Sunday, June 08, 2003


Marine first sergeant learned some lessons in the Iraq war


After a military campaign, good armies list the "lessons learned." In our e-mail age, such lists get distributed widely.

One was drawn up recently by the first sergeant of a Marine heavy weapons company in Iraq. A retired lieutenant colonel in St. Louis shared his e-mail copy with me.

Many of the lessons are technical. But others illustrate the difference between managers (who do things right) and leaders (who do the right thing). Among the first sergeant's lessons, as edited to translate acronyms, abbreviations and jargon:

"Ask questions. Marines will not tell you they are sick until they go down hard. They are a proud bunch."

"Let friendly units know when fire is outgoing. This especially applies to mortars. Marines get really jumpy when mortars start going off."

"No matter what you hear on the radio, sergeants run the fight. Sit back and listen to them. You might just learn something."

"Get your Marines' mail to them, even if it means shooting your way to them. If they get mail, they will do anything for you."

"Use the satellite phone. Forget the cost. Grab a few young Marines when you can and let them call home. After a Marine talks to his wife after a firefight, he could lead the entire battalion."

"Pistols suck. Shotguns are great at close ranges."

"Never baby your Marines. When you think you need a staff sergeant to do the job, grab a sergeant or a corporal, and he will do it better and faster."

"Get the chaplain to your position, even if you have to fight your way to him."

"Talk to any units in the area. Ask questions. You will learn much from them. Talk to the Army. They do good things also."

"Have the e-mail addresses of all of your Marines' wives. Get to any headquarters and send a blanket e-mail to all of them."

"A can of dip, a pack of smokes and a handshake go a long way. A cup of coffee helps."

"Buy a shortwave radio and get the news. If you get the baseball scores out to the Marines, you are a hero."

"It's OK to let the Marines take their shirts off if it's hot. If it's really hot, they can go around without blousing their boots. (Don't worry, Sergeant Major - they won't do it in the rear.)"

"If nothing is going on, make the junior Marines sleep while you watch the radios for a few hours."

"Watch your Marines' eyes. They tell you everything."

"No one has too much rank to dig."

"I can't begin to say what an honor it was to serve beside these young Marines. They did everything asked of them and asked for more. True professionals. No stupid mistakes. Someone was looking out for us on this one."

"Lucky to have the honor"

Army paratroopers are as proud as Marines, and Afghanistan is as rough as Iraq. That's evident in an e-mail that William and Betsy Zieseniss of Wildwood got last month from their son Andrew.

He graduated from West Point in 1995 and now is a captain in command of an airborne infantry company in Afghanistan.

An excerpt from his message:

"I have the distinct honor of leading 138 fine young men. They amaze me, and I am humbled to serve in their presence and call myself their commander.

"I have witnessed amazing acts of bravery. I have seen 19-year-old privates crawl through a cave hundreds of meters with only a flashlight and pistol. I've seen my men scale hundreds of feet up sheer cliffs without any safety gear.

"I've walked with my company 16 miles with virtually no water through the most treacherous country to get to a Taliban stronghold. I watched as some of my men vomited from dehydration but refused to stop or get med-evaced.

"I've watched as they have gone into compound after compound, not knowing what lurks around the next corner.

"I've seen young soldiers drop to a knee and give candy to an Afghan child.

"They have exceeded my every expectation. My company is exactly what every company commander would ever hope to have. I am very lucky to have the honor to serve with such a fine group of young Americans."
Reporter Harry Levins:
Phone: 314-340-8144

Thursday, June 05, 2003



Thursday, June 5, 2003
South Jersey News

First combat casualties sadden ex-Marines in S.J.

JEROME DELAY/Associated Press
Flames and smoke rise after a missile hits a government building in Baghdad Friday. The night's barrage involved 320 Tomahawk missiles fired from ships in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Courier-Post Staff


Don Burkhard was saddened to hear the first coalition combat casualties of the war in Iraq were U.S. Marines, but not surprised.

"The Marines go in first, that's been our history," said Burkhard, 64, who served two tours in Vietnam with the Marines. "That's what we train for."

U.S. military commanders reported Friday that two Marines were the first combat casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Earlier, a dozen American and British Marines were killed in a helicopter crash that appeared to be accidental.

Of the combat casualties, one died trying to secure an oil pumping station. He was part of a company advancing on a burning oil pump station when he was shot in the stomach, a comrade said. He was from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said Lt. Col. Neal Peckham, a British military spokesman in Kuwait. He died in the sweep on the Rumeila oil field in southern Iraq, where acrid smoke blackened the sky.

The other was also from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. He died Friday at about 4 p.m. while fighting enemy Iraqi forces near Umm Qasr, a strategic port which came under allied control Friday.

Earlier, eight British and four U.S. Marines died when their CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed and burned about nine miles south of the Iraqi border town of Umm Qasr. Military officials said no hostile fire was reported i "It's the closest of all the services," said Burkhard, who spent 21 years in the Marines. He joined when he was 16 years old.

"You seethe globe and anchor, and you know he's a brother," said Burkhard, who serves as an honor guard in Gloucester County. "You're a Marine until the day you die."

The Marine Corps' symbol is an eagle perched atop a globe with an anchor behind it.

Historically, the Marines were ferried to battle on beach-landing craft, Burkhard said. Today - and especially in Iraq - they're more likely to ride to the fight on helicopters.

Jim Bastien, 57, of National Park, was in training at Parris Island, S.C., just two weeks after he graduated from high school in 1963. He went to aviation mechanics school and served 14 months in Vietnam.

He also was not surprised to hear Marines suffered the first combat casualties, especially since they were among the first major military units that pushed into Iraq.

"They're known for (being first)," he said. "It's the reputation of the Marine Corps."

He noted that the Marine Corps motto is "First to Fight," and that is embedded in every Marine.

"The odds are that you stand a better chance of being a casualty," he said. "Although you hope it doesn't happen."

Norm Sooy, 55, of Gloucester Township, spent four years in the Marines and served in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968. He was also in the Coast Guard and is now Camden County's director of veterans affairs.

He said the Marines are a tight group. "Boot camp makes you that way," Sooy said. "It's not an army of one, it's a team."

It's especially sad that Marines were the first casualties, he said. He's sure the troops were accomplishing an objective and is positive the team did not leave the men behind.

"I'm sure they were doing their job and got caught in harm's way," he said. "You cover each other's back. You never leave a Marine."

Not everyone can be a Marine, Bastien said.

"You earn the right to wear the globe and anchor," he said. "It's not just given to you."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Michael T. Burkhart at (856) 486-2474 or

Copyright 2003 Courier-Post.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

The Liberty article by David Walsh in Naval Institute Proceedings was released today in print and on the USNI web site at

To get the full flavor of the article with all the photos, linking footnotes, and a link to the electronic discussion forum you must register with your email address and a password of your choosing. But registration is simple, quick and easy with no strings. I suggest you do that. For those who cannot, the text follows, though without photos or linking footnotes.

If you see nothing else, be sure to read the side bar at the end of the article.

Drop a line to the author, David Walsh, at

By David C. Walsh

Proceedings, June 2003

Discuss this article in the eForum


Did Israel know the ship it was firing on 36 years agohere, after the attack, listing from a deadly torpedo hitwas the USS Liberty? Today, top former U.S. intelligence officials are saying "Yes."

On 8 June 1967 the electronic intelligence ship USS Liberty (AGTR-5) was on station in international waters 13 miles off the Sinai Peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean. The Arab-Israeli War had wound down, the air was clear, and the seas were light. What happened early that Thursday afternoon is well known. Without warning, a furious attack on the ship commenced from Israeli Mirage and Mystere jets, followed by Ayah-class motor torpedo boats (MTBs). Employed were rockets, napalm, quick-firing 30-mm and 40-mm cannon, .50-caliber machine guns, and torpedoes. Four unshielded .50-caliber machine guns were the Liberty's only defense. The one Israeli torpedo hit of five launched left a yawning 40-foot hole in the hull, devastating the cryptological spaces below decks and killing 25 U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) technicians instantly.

Later, 821 shell holes were counted in the ship's superstructure and hull. A total of 34 men died, with another 172 wounded, many disfigured for life, among the highest peacetime tolls for any noncombatant U.S. Navy vessel and by far the worst single loss to the U.S. intelligence community. It seems a miracle the ship did not go down.1

Revisiting the Incident

In December 2002, the Naval Historical Center hosted a presentation on the still deeply controversial attack by Federal Judge and retired U.S. Naval Reserve Captain A. Jay Cristol, on a promotional tour for his recent book, The Liberty Incident: The 1967 Attack on the U.S. Navy Spy Ship. Based on Judge Cristol's doctoral thesis, the book relies heavily on newly declassified (or newly interpreted) documents and more than 500 interviews with U.S. and Israeli political and military leaders involved in the incident, including former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, Admiral Isaac Kidd, and Yitzhak Rabin, who was the Israeli Defense Force Chief of Staff at the time. Only seven of the interviewees, however, were on board the Liberty during the attack.2

At the Washington Navy Yard's Education Center, Judge Cristol addressed a full house that included active-duty U.S. Navy personnel and surviving Liberty crew members. He argued that the evidence "in totality" validated Israel's long-standing position: namely, the catastrophe was the bitter fruit of mistaken identity and communications gaffes by both sides.3 The U.S. government quickly accepted Israel's apology 36 years ago, if not its explanation.4 Israel also settled death and injury claims, albeit reluctantly. And in 1980, the United States received $6 million in compensation for the $40-million intelligence ship.

The Liberty Incident contains considerable, largely Israeli-sourced detail. It also includes a chapter called "Television's Perspective," in which the author surmises that most survivorssome of whom openly criticize Israel's domestic policies and its formidable Washington lobbyhave a political ax to grind.

Judge Cristol, with 38 years' naval service, mourns the mens' deaths and injuries, and his book honors their courage. But like the Israeli government, the judge is dubious of the nay sayers. They rely on "conjecture, hearsay and plain wishful thinking," flawed or traumatized memories, and "various conspiracy theories," he says.5

No Bigots

Such characterizations, along with the linking of Liberty veterans with Arab extremists and racist groups, sit poorly with the ship's crew. Indeed, the Internet Web site of the Liberty Veterans' Association (LVA) makes clear that all bigots' support is unwelcome.6 The suggestion of prejudice especially upsets Jewish survivors, such as the senior engineering officer, George Golden, who received the Silver Star for directing heroic efforts to keep the ship afloat. And James Ennes Jr., the LVA historian and spokesman accused in Judge Cristol's book of taking "an irrationally harsh line against Israel," refers to such assertions as "just silly."7

Ennes, a retired Navy lieutenant commander, was officer of the deck before being badly wounded early in the attack. He devoted 13 years' research toward his own book, Assault on the Liberty. Some half-dozen majorand many minordisagreements mark the dispute's two main schools: Judge Cristol's "mistaken identity" and Ennes's, the crew's, and several U.S. intelligence professionals' "deliberate attack."

More Inquiries

Since 1967, survivors have pleaded for a more far-reaching government inquiry into the incident. But Judge Cristol argues that another would be a waste of time. Some 13 already have been conducted (five by Congress, one by the U.S. Navy, and several by Israel). And according to Cristol, while typically citing recklessness or inefficiency, all exonerate the Israeli attackers of deliberate intent.

"False!" retorts Ennes. Of the 13 investigations cited by Judge Cristol, Ennes observes, "Most were not investigations. . . . They were merely reports to the boss from advisors . . . (and) mostly summaries and excerpts of the Naval Court of Inquiry report."8

Clark Clifford, Chairman of President Lyndon B. Johnson's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, drafted one such inquiry. Judge Cristol characterizes Clifford as angry, but finding Israel innocent of murder. Ennes infers darker meanings from the same document.

"Something had gone terribly wrong," Clifford wrote the President, "and then it had been covered up. I never felt the Israelis had made adequate restitution or explanation for their . . . unprovoked actions." Clifford also termed "unbelievable" the explanation that the attack was accidental. The Liberty's spotters, for example, had picked out the MTBs' small hull marks, yet the Israeli attackers claimed never to have seen the U.S. ship's much larger ones. Clifford, an intimate of Johnson's and champion of Israel, urged the attackers be "punished," as did U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, noting there was "every reason to believe that the USS Liberty was identified, or at least her nationality determined . . . one hour before the attack."9

But instead of punishing the attackers, Israel honors them in a museum. Told of the display, retired Air Force Major General John Morrison, NSA deputy director for operations at the time, commented, "I am offended by that." And retired Army Lieutenant General William Odom, NSA director from 1985 to 1988, and also unaware of the display, remarked, "I am astonished that Israel should put glory on the people who killed my SigInt-ers [signals intelligence personnel]."10 The Liberty's blood-stained flag is exhibited at the National Cryptologic Museum in Fort Meade, Maryland.

Disputed Timelines and Communications

Although Liberty crew members insist the attack lasted about an hour and a quarter, Judge Cristol's book asserts that the Israeli jets and MTBs finished their grisly business in only 22 to 25 minutes.11

Ennes recalls being unsettled by the numerous flights over the Liberty by Israeli reconnaissance planes, starting the previous night and continuing for a six-hour period preceding the assault. Trained U.S. Navy observers counted a dozen overflights. Some were made by a lumbering, Star-of-David-marked Nord Noratlas "flying boxcar," which pulled several times to within mast-clipping rangelow enough for any Israeli pilot to see a vessel incapable of harming his country.

Melvin Smith, senior enlisted intercept chief, reassured Ennes when he overheard the pilots several times identify the flag as U.S. and the ship for what she was.12 At that time, of course, Israel was a friend. Later, despite jamming of the ship's distress frequencies, and before all her transmitters were shot away, the Liberty's radio operators managed again to hear the attackers make a positive identification in the clear.13 Judge Cristol, conceding his newly released Israeli transcripts reveal one correct identification, states that they are confusing and mutually contradictorytypical of the "fog of war."14 Further, citing Ennes, he states that no Hebrew linguists were on board the spy ship, and that Israeli pilots would not have made unencrypted transmissions.15

Ennes acknowledges that no "official" Hebrew linguists were on board, but he points out that at least one of the doomed NSA men, Russian/Arabic linguist Allen Blue, understood Hebrew.16 As for the jamming, Ennes, quoting Chief Radioman Wayne Smith and an article in Proceedings, also notes that the ship could not have been misidentified, because the frequencies jammed were peculiar to the U.S. Navy. Liberty Radioman Richard "Rocky" Sturman also recalls that he and other technicians heard the radio jamming.17 Judge Cristol rejects such accounts as "myth."18

The Flag Issue

Again echoing Israel and citing its reports, Judge Cristol declares that no U.S. flag was visible. He points to film footage of the intact Liberty, taken at an unknown time from a slow-flying helicopter, which reveals no flag. He refers also to gun-camera stills from one of the attacking Israeli jets. These grainy images show billowing smoke "going straight up," indicating the flag was limp.19 To Judge Cristol, it is therefore unrealistic to think young, inexperienced pilots could have seen any flag, especially at 600 miles per hour.20

An Israeli motor torpedo boat passes close alongside the Liberty during the attack.


Ennes, who maintained logs about such details, disagrees. He says that even at the Liberty's slowest steaming speed of 5 knots, the wind put 12 knots across Old Glory and kept it waving.21 Since the ship was near a combat zone, the crew also was ordered to keep "head's-up" by then-Commander William McGonagle, the ship's captain. Ensuring unfurled colors was a given. And after the normal flag was shot down early on, McGonagle ordered signalmen to hoist the bright new holiday ensign, measuring 7-by-13 feet.

In a January 2003 radio interview, Signalman Joe Meadors described the flag as fluttering each of several times he observed it during the attack.22 No survivor who glanced toward either flag at this time remembers it otherwise. Regardless, Judge Cristolwhose book offers "pilots' eye view" drawingsinsists that even this gaudy parade standard would have appeared "tiny" to high-speed jet pilots.

Retired Navy Commander Tom Schaaf is a combat-tested jet aviator. He attended the Navy Yard lecture, and afterward queried Judge Cristol. Schaaf disbelieves the claimed 600 mile-per-hour speed for the attacking aircraft, adding in a written critique that pilots would have viewed a lot more detail than disclosed in film clips. Post-lecture answers suggest Judge Cristol flew the Navy's slowest propeller aircraft and has not seen combat. "He has no competence to analyze or discuss jet attack tactics," Schaaf concluded.23

The El Quseir

Since 1967, Israeli spoksmen have insisted the Israeli pilots had confused the Liberty with the El Quseir, a 1920s-vintage Egyptian horse cavalry transport said to have been in the area.24 Judge Cristol accepts this. Those same inexperienced airmen unable to notice the ship's flag and unique hull markings, he maintains, easily could have mistaken the Liberty for the Egyptian transport. Indeed, before the attack, Israeli headquarters had wrongly reported that some "enemy vessel" was shelling the coast from near the Liberty's position.25 To illustrate a resemblance, Cristol pairs the ships in silhouette drawings. He shows them, however, as the same size. (In fact, the El Quesir's length was 275 feet to the Liberty's 455.)26 Judge Cristol's text notes the actual difference, but opines that in the heat of battle such mistakes are plausible.

The Liberty's crewmen deem insulting the notion that arguably the world's most electronically advanced ship could be confused with one of its most pedestrian vessels. In this, they join Dean Rusk, Clark Clifford, and other senior U.S. officials, as well as author and historian James Bamford, whose NSA history, Body of Secrets, devotes a chapter to the Liberty.27

The skipperof the ship, Commander William McGonagle, who received the Medal of Honor, surveys the damage.



Principally, the El Quseir lacked the U.S. ship's unique add-ons, which included, both topside, an 18-foot-wide satellite dish nearly as tall as the smokestack and a wading pool-sized microwave dish. The ship bristled, as well, with video capture antennae and other exotica found on no other vessel in the world, much less decrepit Arab transport ships.28 Ancillary reasons the "deliberate school" rejects Judge Cristol's El Quseir defense are as follows: The Egyptian craft
* Flew colors markedly dissimilar to the U.S. flag
* Was one-quarter of the Liberty's tonnage and just nearly half her length
* Had been out of service for many months
* Was waiting to be scrapped in Alexandria
* Was illustratedalong with the Libertyin Jane's Fighting Ships, to which Israel had access29

In addition, the Egyptian Naval Attache's office in Washington says El Quseir was painted silver, not the Liberty's battleship grey.30 It is highly unlikely, NSA officials on board and off explain, that Israel's hypervigilant spy agencies would be unacquainted with these facts.31 This suggests a question: why assault so concertedly an unthreatening old Egyptian transport (not to say an unarmed U.S. Navy ship) when she could be escorted to Haifa as a war prize (and the U.S. ship signaled to quit the area)?

Attack on the Life Rafts

After the attack, Commander McGonagle, his leg shredded and bleeding, yet still at the conn, gave the "prepare to abandon ship" order. (For his actions that day, he received the Medal of Honor. The award certificate does not mention Israel.) Concurrently, the MTBs circled to within 40 or 50 feet. Then, over a 40-minute span, according to U.S. Navy eyewitnesses, the boats' gunners loosed heavy automatic weapons at stretcher bearers, fire-control teams, and other men still upright on the decks.

The Liberty's motor whale boat had been destroyed, and few life rafts survived. But Lieutenant Lloyd Painter (Ennes's relief as officer of the deck) organized three undamaged ones and kicked them over the gunwales. Two were shot to pieces immediately in the water, the third hauled aboard one of the torpedo boats.32 At this distance, Ennes emphasizes, the large bow and stern marks on the freshly painted ship were unmistakable. The designator number "5" was 6 1/2 feet high and "GTR," four feet. Her name was in 18-inch lettering, in English.33

Judge Cristol quotes Lieutenant Painter's testimony to the naval hearing only on the rafts' casting away.34 He ignores what came next. This act alone, the U.S. sailors charge, proves deliberate intent to destroy a U.S. ship and leave no witnesses.35 (In 1986, Navy legal expert Lieutenant Commander Walter Jacobsen agreed, arguing in The Naval Law Review that it was also a war crime.36) Notwithstanding the gravity of these accusations, Judge Cristol leaves aside both the life raft matter and the attack's international legal ramifications. Israel insists that all shooting ceased immediately after the torpedo attack.37

The Liberty limps into Malta with a torpedo hole at her waterline and other holes in her hull and superstructure from aircraft fire.


Explaining how either ship could have lobbed naval artillery shells 13-plus miles onto the war-wracked Sinai coast, Judge Cristol and the Israeli government again cite "fog of war." They declare that Israeli commanders had confused an exploding ammunition dump near Sharm el Sheikh with a coastal bombardment.38

Judge Cristol points out other areas of confusion. For example, the Liberty was identified correctly early in the morning, but then the error cycle kicked in anew when the marker was moved from a plotting table in Tel Aviv. Liberty spokesmen bristle at such "excuses." Moved markers or no, Israeli intelligence would have charted every ship then in the eastern Mediterranean: Arab, Russian, and U.S. The Liberty was the region's only blue-water U.S. Navy vessel.

Weeks after the attack, this "mistaken identity" featurealong with a half-dozen other disparities between the crewmens' and Israel's positionswas outlined for the Legal Advisor's Office by State Department lawyer Carl Salans.39 As Judge Cristol points out, the Top Secret report (released in 1983) drew no conclusions per se.40 But Liberty survivors see its stark comparisons as a refutation of Israel's position. Ennes terms the report "devastating."41

Perhaps the widest chasm separating the "mistakens" from the "deliberates" is the Naval Court of Inquiry. Ordered convened a week after the event by Commander-in-Chief Naval Forces Europe, Admiral John McCain, and headed by Rear Admiral Kidd, the hearing is dubbed "remarkably competent (and) thorough" by Judge Cristol, "a doctored sham" by the veterans.42 The judge stresses that 14 seamen spoke at the hearing. But ship's officers Ennes, Painter, Golden, and others charge that in dozens of cases, sworn testimony damaging to Israel's case was not allowed or, if allowed, not entered into evidence or made part of the transcript. Thus, Ennes and the LVA charge, the court's Findings of Fact often were unsupported by the evidence, contravening Navy rules of procedure.43

Charles Rowley, electronic intelligence specialist and ship's photographer, states that a photo he had made during the attack was seized by the naval court without explanation and marked "Top Secret." It showed the U.S. flag extended.44 Ennes avers not only that his testimony went unentered but also that deck and weather log entries in his hand were altered. Written observations had correctly mirrored others' to the time he was shot, he recounts, namely: multiple, close preattack overflights by Israeli reconnaissance planes, the attack by unmarked jets, and the U.S. flag standing out continually.45 Rather than adduce and document facts, former cryptologic technician Joe Lentini stated recently, the naval hearing helped Israel "get away with murder."46

Joe Meadors, Liberty signalman, observed at the Navy Yard gathering: "The Navy cannot investigate itself." Meanwhile, survivors contest Judge Cristol's statement that "some" had changed their minds after the inquiry, noting that he fails to identify them or crew members he claims agree the attack was an accident. Others also have changed their minds, including Captain Ward Boston, the senior Navy lawyer under pressure to give a peremptory evaluation of the Navy Board of Inquiry. In 2002, Boston dropped a bombshell on Judge Cristol's thesis. He informed Navy Times that Israel had knowingly assaulted the Liberty and has worked ever since to "try to get out of it." As surprising, he said, was that the court's president, Rear Admiral Kidd, shared this view, but owing to political pressure from Washington announced the opposite conclusion to the media. "Officers," Boston remarked, "obey orders." Boston explained in the interview that he was speaking now in part because "everyone else is shooting his mouth off."47

Judge Cristol could not explain what might have inspired such candor, although he writes that the late Admiral Kidd had told him that the attack was in error. That is the opposite of what Ennes maintains concerning his "many talks" with Admiral Kidd. Ennes also says that Admiral Kidd urged him and his group to keep pressing for an open congressional probe. Meanwhile, Judge Cristol has Boston recanting his Navy Times statements. In reality, Boston stands firmly behind them.48

Presidential Recall

When the Liberty's technicians finally found an unjammed frequency, they sent a last desperate message to the Sixth Fleet: "Flash Flash Flash. I pass in the blind." Jet fighters launched from the carriers USS America (CVA-66) and Saratoga (CVA-60). It was too late. Here, a dispute hinges on several related, much-argued elements: how many launches, from which aircraft carrier, and when? But most important, why did the President issue an order recalling the aircraft? Whether some planes had nuclear bombs is hotly debated, too.

Survivors speak of the turn-around orders being radio-telephoned direct from the White House and Defense Secretary McNamara to the carrier group in the Mediterranean Sea. Judge Cristol answers that such "secure" communications were impossible in 1967. This is misleading, the head of the Liberty's 94-man NSA contingent says. Clear not securevoice transmissions were used in the recall order, patched through the Naval Security Group relay station in Morocco.49

Otherwise, speculation is rife in this area. Some say President Johnson recalled the planes out of fear the attackers were Russian and a military response could trigger World War III. Others say the President, who at one stage believed Egypt had attacked the Liberty, was prepared to "nuke" Cairo. Still others believe LBJ, on learning the culprits were Israeli, would not retaliate for political reasons.

A final aspect of the Judge Cristol treatise, although not part of the point/counterpoint, has engendered the survivors' special disdain. The judge all but ignores them. Of 500-plus interviews conducted over more than a decade, only seven were with crewmen.50 "If he spoke to us," says Ennes, "it would blow his thesis out of the wateras the Israelis tried to do with our ship." He adds, "Not a single one of us agrees with Cristol."51 Judge Cristol replies that survivor/witnesses are not objective. And, unlike Ennes, he "writes history, not memoirs."

None of this may matter, because official support for the crew remains nonexistent. But growing numbers of former senior government and military officials have begun speaking out. Among those in support of the ship's 200-plus survivors, in addition to those mentioned previously and in the accompanying sidebar, are: former Chief of Naval Operations and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Thomas Moorer, then CIA Director Richard Helms, then-NSA Director Marshall Carter, Carter's Deputy Louis Tordella (who wrote on the Israeli Navy's report, "A nice whitewash!"), NSA "Liberty incident" analyst Walter Deeley, and Hayden Peake, professor of intelligence history at the Joint Military Intelligence College and retired CIA officer.52

Why, Judge Cristol was asked at the Navy Yard, did his conclusions run so afoul of such seniors? He answered that although they were respectable men, their contradictions baffled him. In general, he suggests that because theirs are not firsthand knowledge, contrarian officials' statements may, like the survivors', be dismissed.53

Judge Cristol is not without his admirers. He counts (besides numerous Israeli officials, Israeli Defense Force officers, and other partisans) former CIA Director Admiral Stansfied Turner and the carrier America's captain, late Vice Admiral Donald Engen.54 But the supernova in this galaxy is Secretary McNamara. Quoted by Judge Cristol as seeing only "tragic error," McNamara's stock answer when queried by other Liberty researchers is, "I remember nothing about the incident."

Will the Liberty remain a sort of "Flying Dutchman," sailing forever around her poor men's souls? Until survivors get what they call "justice"that elusive open forumit seems her restless ghost will do just that.
* Background on the attack is largely from James Ennes Jr., Assault on the Liberty: The True Story of the Israeli Attack on an American Intelligence Ship (New York: Random House, 1979, updated version, Gathersburg, MD: Reintree Press Ed., Signature Books, 2002). back to article
* A. Jay Cristol, The Liberty Incident: The 1967 Israeli Attack on the U.S. Navy Spy Ship (Dulles, VA: Brassey's, 2002). back to article
* Cristol lecture, Education Center, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC, 17 February 2002. back to article
* Ennes, Assault, Appendix S. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, pp. 199, 201. back to article
* Web site: Since the Liberty Veterans' Association's founding in 1982, survivors have petitioned Congress and successive administrations to probe the attack, invite them to testify openly on what they witnessed, then publicly release the full text. The government refuses. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, p. 97, and radio interview, Cristol, Ennes, Joe Meadors, Pacifica Radio KPFK, Los Angeles, 29 January 2003. back to article
* Ennes e-mail to author, 14 February 2003. back to article
* Clifford Report to the White House, July 1967, and Dean Rusk demarche to Israeli Ambassador Avraham Harmon, 10 June 1967, in Ennes, Assault, Appendix S. Clifford Report, cited in Cristol, Incident, notes, p. 263. back to article
* Cristol, "The Liberty Incident," Ph.D. diss., University of Miami, 1997, p. 331, photo and caption. The wheel and bell of MTB-203, which launched the fatal torpedo, are displayed in Haifa's Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum. Interview, MGen. John Morrison, USAF (Ret.), 3 March 2003. Interview, former NSA Director LGen. William Odom, USA (Ret.), 26 March 2003. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, pp. 55, 58. back to article
* Ennes, e-mail 9 March 2003. CPO Melvin Smith was killed shortly thereafter. back to article
* Ennes, e-mail, 3 March 2003. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, p. 88. Judge Cristol also writes (p. 181) that the Israelis had "little knowledge" of warships they were not encountering in battle. He says if anything, the U.S. ship more likely would have been (and at one stage was) confused with a Russian electronic intelligence "trawler" (see pp. 49-50). The implications of an Israeli attack on a Soviet vessel in peacetime require no elucidation. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, pp. 25, 109, 118. Ennes, e-mail, 13 March 2003: "Israeli and American pilots routinely broadcast in the clear. I don't believe there was (any) airborne encryption capability in 1967." back to article
* Ennes, e-mail, 3 March and 9 March 2003. Cristol, Incident, p. 137, citing a letter to him from an unnamed NSA Hebrew linguist on board an EC-121, which James Bamford's NSA historyBody of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 2001)first revealed was circling overhead. back to article
* Richard Sturman, e-mail, 8 March 2003. See also Ennes, Assault, Addendum, p. 10, and Richard Smith, "The Violation of the Liberty," U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, June 1978, note 10. Ennes e-mail, 13 March 2003 also notes that the Naval Court of Inquiry documented the radio frequencies' jamming. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, p. 43. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, pp. 73-84. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, p. 180. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, p. 75. back to article
* Interview, Joe Meadors, Pacifica Radio KPFK, Los Angeles, 29 January 2003. back to article
* Schaaf critique, quoted in Ennes e-mail, 3 February 2003. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, pp. 54-55, 81. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, pp. 34-35, 38. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, p. 154. Two detailed diagrams (pp. 49, 56) show the sun, azimuth references, MTB positions and other indicia, but the Liberty's bow marks are backward, and her stern's are absent altogether. back to article
* Bamford, Secrets, pp. 185-239. back to article
* Bamford, Secrets, pp. 176, 207. back to article
* Ennes, e-mail, 4 March 2003. back to article
* Unnamed Egyptian officer, 18 February 2003. back to article
* NSA Deputy Director Oliver Kirby, interview, 18 February 2003. On Israeli intelligence: "They're really good." back to article
* Ennes, Assault, Addendum (2002), p. 18. Five witnesses "are willing to testify under oath" to this. back to article
* Ennes, e-mail 3 February 2003. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, pp. 57, 180. The book notes only that a "damaged" raft was "recovered" by an MTB. back to article
* Lentini, Painter, et, al., interviews, "Dead in the Water," BBC-4 television documentary, 2001. back to article
* LCdr. Walter Jacobsen, USN, "A Juridical Examination of the Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty," Naval Law Review, Winter 1986, p. 51. Cristol lecture, 17 Dec. 2002. Answering a question about life raft witness Lt. Lloyd Painter: "It's a new story from 10 years after the attack." He added, "I believe what Painter said in the (naval court) record." back to article
* Ennes, Assault, p. 158, note 10, quoting Israeli Commission of Inquiry of 16 June 1967, the so-called Ram Ron Report. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, p. 33. back to article
* Ennes, Assault, Addendum, p. 14. The report was released in 1983 after a long, expensive court case filed by a Liberty supporter. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, p. 94. back to article
* Ennes, Assault, Addendum, p. 14. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, p. 151, Ennes, e-mail, 3 February 2003. back to article
* Ennes, Assault, Addendum, p. 8. back to article
* Ennes, Assault, Addendum, p. 19. back to article
* Ennes, e-mail, 12 March 2003. back to article
* Television documentary, "Dead in the Water." No shipmate is known to contest Lentini's view. back to article
* Navy Times, 26 June 2002. The same article quotes then-CIA Director Richard Helms on 29 May telling the reporter the attack "was no mistake." This directly contradicts Judge Cristol and an agency report from 13 June 1967, backing Israel's mistaken-identity claim. back to article
* Ennes, e-mail, 21 March 2003. No evidence exists that Boston went public until he talked to Navy Times and no sign of a reversal. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, p. 98. Interview with LCdr. David Lewis, USN (Ret.), head of the Liberty's 195-man NSA contingent, 28 February 2003. Despite Lewis's senior rank and position, "No one asked me to testify" at the naval hearing. Lewis was among the wounded. back to article
* Ennes, e-mail, 3 February 2003. Most of these were perfunctory exchanges at a 1992 veterans' happy hour and not interviews, Ennes points out. back to article
* Ennes, e-mail, 3 February 2003. back to article
* Bamford, Secrets, and Ennes, Assault. The skipper had always held his tongue. But besides the "deliberate" remark in 1998 in an oral history (see Bamford, p. 233) a few months before dying in 2001 he asked President George W. Bush to look into the attack. Retired Captain William McGonagle was ignored. Peake quoted in The Intelligencer, Summer 2001, that "common sense" ruled out an accident. back to article
* Ennes, e-mail, 21 March 2003. back to article
* Cristol, Incident, book jacket endorsements. back to article

Mr. Walsh is a freelance writer and photographer headquartered in the Washington, D.C., area. He has worked as a consultant on segments concerning the USS Liberty for CBS News's "60 Minutes" and Britain's Thames Television.

Former NSA Officials Agree

David C. Walsh

The jamming of unique U.S. frequencies during the Liberty incident seems to establish deliberate intent. And in exclusive interviews with this author, several former high-level National Security Agency (NSA) officials agree.

On 14 February 2003, the "godfather" of the NSA's Auxiliary General Technical Research program, Oliver Kirby, noted that the Liberty was "my baby." Within weeks of the calamity, Kirby, deputy director for operations/production, read U.S. signals intelligence (SigInt)-generated transcripts and "staff reports" at NSA's Fort Meade, Maryland, headquarters. They were of Israeli pilots' conversations, recorded during the attack. The intercepts made it "absolutely certain" they knew it was a U.S. ship, he said. Kirby's is the first public disclosure by a top-level NSA senior of deliberate intent based on personal analyses of SigInt material.

In an interview on 24 February 2003, retired Air Force Major General John Morrison, the agency's then-second-in-command (and Kirby's successor), said he had been informed at the time of Kirby's findings and endorsed them. Former NSA Director retired Army Lieutenant General William Odom said on 3 March 2003 said that, on the strength of such data, the attack's deliberateness "just wasn't a disputed issue" within the agency. On 5 March 2003, retired Navy Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, NSA director from 1977-1981, said he "flatly rejected" the Cristol/Israeli thesis. "It is just exceedingly difficult to believe that [the Liberty] was not correctly identified." He said this was based on his talks with NSA seniors at the time having direct knowledge. All four were unaware of any agency official at that time or later who dissented from the "deliberate" conclusion.