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Action Taken by Navy in Souvenir Gun Cases

March 16, 1985

I am disappointed by your lack of perspective in your editorial (Feb. 11), "Souvenir of Injustice." You chose to sensationalize for effect and then draw unsubstantiative conclusions based upon fragmented facts.

Your fundamental assumption that inappropriate measures were taken, in "cautioning" Vice Adm. Joseph Metcalf III and meting out prison terms for an officer of lesser rank and several enlisted men, is without merit. The matter concerning the disposition of the Army personnel is a matter to be taken up with the Department of the Army. However, I choose to address the disposition of the cases concerning the Navy personnel, because of an impression created by your editorial that different cases within the Department of the Navy were handled differently.

Each case concerning Navy personnel was handled on its own merits. As the secretary of the Navy stated, in addition to Adm. Metcalf, there were more than 300 of lower ranking personnel who voluntarily returned souvenir weapons taken from Grenada and were given amnesty. These weapons were brought into compliance with regulations, registered and returned to the Marines involved. In addition to these cases, there have been four courts-martial of enlisted Marines involving much graver charges.

Metcalf and his party had aboard their returning aircraft 24 AK-47 automatic rifles. There was no attempt to conceal the presence of these weapons or to deceive the customs officials who boarded the airplane.

Marines who were court-martialed were found guilty of far more serious charges. In addition to selling captured rifles, the cases involved the stealing and selling of U.S. anti-tank rockets and hand grenades from U.S. weapon stocks. They ignored repeated orders during their return to turn in war trophies for registration, compliance and offers of amnesty.

C.L. HANEY

Los Angeles

Lt. Cmdr. Haney is director of the Navy Office of Information, West.

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