- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2003

Veterans in need

Veterans Day is tomorrow — no better time to call attention to the remains of up to five U.S. Navy airmen still sitting above ground in Greenland, where they perished in 1962.

“They are not under ice, but visible every summer when the snow melts,” reveals retired naval officer George G. Fabik of Allentown, Pa., who says that, despite letters to Congress from surviving family members over the years, “nothing has ever been done to bring them home.”

“They were last seen in 2001,” Mr. Fabik says of the bodies. “This has to be considered a national disgrace. They did die in the service of their country.”

Yesterday, Inside the Beltway spoke with Bob Pettway, a retired Secret Service agent, who from his Tennessee home has taken up the cause to bring the remains home for a proper burial.

Here’s what Mr. Pettway knows:

On Jan. 12, 1962, a dozen naval crewmen departed Keflavik, Iceland, aboard a P-2V-5 Neptune aircraft designated LA-9 of Patrol Squadron 5. The crewmen were flying a routine 8-hour ice patrol when the plane suddenly vanished. A search and rescue was launched in a blizzard, but after seven days, the plane was presumed lost at sea and the men were declared dead by the Navy.

On Aug. 8, 1966, four British geologists from Oxford University were traversing the Kronborg Glacier on Greenland’s east coast and happened upon the crash site — the plane’s fuselage still intact. They took identification from several of the bodies and promptly reported the crash site to U.S. officials.

A Navy recovery team arrived at the site Sept. 20, just after a snowfall measuring between 3 and 4 feet. They spent 24 hours digging through the deep snow to recover what remains they could, then detonated explosives to destroy the aircraft and any classified materials and equipment.

The team recovered seven identifiable bodies and partial remains of possibly three more crewmen, which could not be identified. Remains of two crewmen were not recovered. The seven were buried either at Arlington National Cemetery or in family plots, while a separate Arlington ceremony was held in October 1966 for the unidentified remains — buried in a common grave bearing the names of the remaining five.

In August 1995, exploring geologists again came upon the LA-9 crash site, where they photographed the remains of at least two crewmen. But the Navy took the position that because the plane crashed during peacetime, it did not fall within the scope of “full recovery” rules approved by Congress during wartime.

“Hence, there is no funding for recovery of remains lost during peacetime in a mishap,” Mr. Pettway says.

Finally, this past February, the Naval Casualty Division of the Bureau of Navy Personnel recommended to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) that funding be allocated for a “complete recovery” of the LA-9 crew. The families still await the CNO’s decision.

Fiscal behavior

Here’s an interesting tidbit for Republican lawmakers to cite on the campaign trail: House Democrats in the last Congress called for an average of $417.6 billion in new spending — nearly 13 times more than the House Republican total of $32.3 billion.

In fact, some lawmakers today who are putting a frightful face on federal deficits are “masking” high-spending legislative agendas that would actually worsen the problem.

So concludes the latest BillTally study released by the nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation, finding that only 26 lawmakers in the previous Congress had legislative agendas that would reduce overall federal spending, while 32 lawmakers would raise the annual budget by more than $1 trillion — the most lopsided levels ever recorded in the project’s history.

“Taxpayers hoping to see federal spending restraint will be disappointed to learn that the 107th Congress took a long holiday from this task,” said NTUF senior policy analyst Demian Brady.

The foundation’s cost-accounting system computes a net annual agenda for each member of Congress. Within the 107th Congress, a record-high number of bills were identified as having a fiscal impact of at least $1 million (1,186 in the House and 851 in the Senate).

A record-low of 26 representatives sponsored bills that, if enacted all at once, would reduce federal spending. And get this: not a single senator had a net cutting agenda.

Why eat out?

The multimillion-dollar renovation of the State Department’s headquarters continues, with the cafeteria reopening last week and touting several new fancy menu items: oysters Rockefeller, clams casino, shrimp, mussels, calamari, stuffed crab, crab cakes, souvlaki, Greek salads and stromboli baked in a “state-of-the-art” brick oven.

“Complete your meal or take an afternoon break with a cup of coffee from Starbucks,” adds a State Department memo to employees.

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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