Pentagon Memo Alleges Body of John Glenn Was Mistreated

Dover Air Force Base branch chief allegedly offered peeks of body
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2017 8:29 AM CDT
Memo: Mortuary Chief Offered Peeks at John Glenn's Body
The casket of John Glenn while he lies in repose on Dec. 16, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio.   (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)

Between John Glenn's Dec. 8 death and his April 6 burial at Arlington National Cemetery, his body was housed at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to "ensure an increased level of privacy and security for a renowned public servant," says a Pentagon rep. That's not what the astronaut allegedly got. According to a memo written by Defense Department director of casualty and mortuary affairs Deborah Skillman, the mortuary's branch chief offered inspectors a glimpse at the space hero's body when they visited the site on Feb. 28, reports Military Times. The inspectors declined William Zwicharowski's offer, and Skillman—who found it "clearly inappropriate and personally shocking"—notified the mortuary's deputy commander, the memo states.

But though Zwicharowski received a warning, the offer was repeated when inspectors returned on March 2, alleges Skillman, who notes with some awe that inspectors were there to "determine whether [the facility] was in compliance with applicable procedures and policy and being well-run by its leadership." As one defense official tells the Times, "If he did that with our inspection team, who else did he make that offer to?" A Pentagon rep says an investigation is underway. It's somewhat of the flip side of the coin for Zwicharowski, who was one of the whistle-blowers who revealed "gross mismanagement"—like missing and improperly disposed of body parts—in the base's handling of America's war dead. "We applaud the whistle-blowers for their courage in coming forward," the Office of Special Counsel said in 2012. (Read more John Glenn stories.)

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