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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 21, 2011

INTERROGATE LIBYANS

New Jersey's two U.S. senators are calling on the Obama administration to question high-level Libyan defectors for any information they have on the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

"The current upheaval in the Libyan government provides a new opportunity to demand responsibility for this act of terrorism," Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, both Democrats, said in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

Top defectors include former Foreign Minister Musa Kusa and former Justice Minister Abdul Jalil, who has accused Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi of ordering the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 189 Americans, including 38 from New Jersey.

The destruction of the Boeing 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, took 270 lives, including 11 residents of the Scottish town who died when debris from the plane hit their homes.

The only man convicted of the terrorist attack was Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence agent sentenced to life in prison in 2001.

However, in a highly controversial move, the Scottish government released Megrahi in 2009 after doctors said he had terminal prostate cancer and likely would die within three months. Megrahi is still alive.

"The families of the victims of Pan Am 103 waited over a decade to see justice with the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, only to have that justice taken away," the two senators said in their June 15 letter.

"The U.S. case to prosecute this heinous crime remains open, and our government must do everything possible to gather evidence and any information that could help bring all of those responsible, including Gadhafi, to justice."

AMBASSADOR'S HERO FATHER

John Beyrle, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, gradually discovered the secrets his father held from the family about his adventures in World War II.

On Tuesday, Mr. Beyrle shared the story of his late father with guests at an exhibition at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans about legendary "Jumpin' Joe" Beyrle, the only American paratrooper to fight with both the U.S. and Soviet armies.

"The Joe Beyrle you are about to meet lived a life shaped by the love of family and faith in God during a childhood of deprivation; a life scarred and forever altered amid the horror and suffering of battle and imprisonment; a post-war life of restored peace and family stability, given new focus by his wartime experiences," the ambassador said in remarks prepared for the exhibition.

"Joe did not consider himself a hero, or an extraordinary man, although he found himself at the epicenter of a heroic, extraordinary chapter of history of the world: the deadliest and most destructive war ever fought. He considered himself a patriot and a soldier, an ordinary man who had a duty to volunteer to join his country's army."

Sgt. Joseph Beyrle, then 20 years old, jumped into Normandy before sunrise on D-Day, June 6, 1944, but he was soon captured by German troops and spent the next seven months as a prisoner of war.

He was caught twice trying to escape and tortured by the Gestapo before finally breaking out of prison on his third attempt. Sgt. Beyrle ran toward the East and encountered Soviet soldiers who allowed him to join their unit. He was seriously injured in fierce fighting and later recuperated in a Red Army field hospital.

By March 1945, he arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, where diplomats informed him that he had been reported killed in action. At home, his family already had held a service for him.

Sgt. Beyrle, who died in 2004, inspired his son to join the Foreign Service and concentrate his career on Russia and Eastern Europe.

In his remarks, Mr. Beyrle said: "It is my hope that this exhibition will acquaint you with the Joe Beyrle that I knew: the loving father and generous man who just happened to live one of the most extraordinary and unique stories to come out of the Second World War."

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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