As we have seen previously with Bill’s DD 214 and listed awards, there is a discrepancy between what he claims (and has worn) and what official military documents say he has earned. Now we will examine Bill’s claims of participating in the July 1976 mission to evacuate American citizens and other foreign nationals from Beirut, Lebanon — Operation FLUID DRIVE. This operation marked the second time elements of 6th Fleet would evacuate civilians from Beirut, the first time having been conducted in June by a task force now relieved by Bill’s unit.
Bill has claimed for a number of years that he was a member of the headquarters unit (HQ) of the 32nd Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina embarked aboard the USS Coronado in July 1976.
The 32nd MAU was embarked aboard a number of warships conducting operations in the 6th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR), which happens to be the Mediterranean Sea. This unit would provide the military support to evacuate civilians from Beirut, Lebanon and transport them to Athens, Greece. Bill has also claimed for a number of years that he went ashore at Beirut, unarmed, to help evacuate these civilians as a corpsman.
So let’s quickly recap Bill’s public claims.
- He was in HQ32nd MAU
- He was aboard the USS Coronado
- He participated in Operation FLUID DRIVE by personally going ashore, unarmed, at Beirut in July 1976
First off, Bill was NOT a member of the 32nd MAU HQ – he was a member of Logistics Support Unit 32 (LSU 32). The 32nd MAU HQ was a separate organization. The role of LSU 32 was to provide logistical support to the 32nd MAU as a whole in the form of technicians, mechanics, logistics specialists and medical support (remember that at this time in his Navy career Bill was a corpsman).
We have proof that Bill was assigned to LSU 32 and not 32nd MAU is in this copy of Bill’s personnel records, showing he was assigned to LSU 32 in 1976.
At face value we can say that Bill was not a member of the 32nd MAU HQ but WAS a member of LSU 32 as indicated by his official records. As with last week, keep this information in the back of your head as we move further along!
Next, we have the claim that Bill was embarked aboard the USS Coronado during Operation FLUID DRIVE. We also have Bill’s claims that he went ashore personally, unarmed into the teeth of the tiger (RAWR!), and helped evacuate civilians. That makes for quite a heroic story except for a little problem with something called “Published Official Military History.”
That is the cover page from the declassified 6th Fleet Command History of 1976. This contains the chronological listing and official document of events and operations that took place in the 6th Fleet AOR and includes operations, exercises, participating units, etc. Shall we dive into it a bit?Inside we find a memorandum signed by the chief of staff of the 6th Fleet and indicating that this official history has been forwarded to the appropriate record keeping agencies, including the US Naval Academy and the Office of Naval History, for archiving. This document is an official government agency product and a permanent part of the history of the United States Navy and Marine Corps which was submitted as being true and accurate by the Commander of the 6th Fleet to the appropriate archives in the 1970s.
The listings are by month and day, with significant events indicated. Continuing on, we find information about Operation FLUID DRIVE – including which ships participated and in what capacity.
A listing on page “I-7” on 27 July 1976 indicates that a single landing craft from the USS PORTLAND (LSD 37) conducted the evacuation run to shore at Beirut and embarked the evacuees aboard the USS CORONADO (LPD 11) which then transferred the evacuees to Athens, Greece.
Well that’s odd…Bill said he was aboard the Coronado and personally went ashore—unarmed—to evacuate civilians, but the official history of the US Navy says the landing craft came from a different ship. How did Bill manage to get ashore if the landing craft left the USS Portland, ran straight to shore, picked up the evacuees and embarked them on the USS Coronado before the Coronado left for Athens?
Did he swim across to the Portland?
Bill was so…adamant…in claiming HE went ashore, unarmed, and helped evacuate the civilians.
And yet the OFFICIAL MILITARY HISTORY signed by the Chief of Staff of 6th Fleet and deposited in the US Navy archives indicates that is not the case. Could it be possible that Bill is…lying?
Is there a precedent for such an outlandish conclusion?
Oh, and while we are on the subject of 6th Fleet history…remember how I said you should keep Bill’s assignment to LSU 32 and not HQ 32nd MAU in the back of your head? Well, here is page “III-16” which lists the Marine units present in July 1976.
Oh! Would you look at that — separate listings for “Headquarters 32 MAU” and “Logistic Support Unit 32″…well, I do declare!
Ok, now you might be saying, “The guy is just confused about which ship did what, right?” Why would Bill be “confused” about who did what—thinking the USS Coronado did both the pickup and the evacuation—unless he was not physically present for the operation?
There are strong indications in his personnel file that Bill was not assigned to LSU 32 until after the unit had returned from its deployment. In fact, this conclusion can be reasonably drawn by a comparison of two of the images offered above. We don’t want to make it too easy, though; it’s an exercise for the reader. It is entirely plausible to assume, based on Bill’s own statements, that while he knew that the 32nd MAU had participated in the evacuation and that the evacuees were dropped off in Athens, Greece by the USS Coronado, what he did not know were the particular details – that a landing craft launched from USS Portland had done the pickup on the beach and transferred the evacuees to the USS Coronado.
Further, the awarding of the Humanitarian Service Medal (or any medal) is usually not an automatic thing – it is very, very rare for an action to be performed and a medal awarded within a couple of days or even weeks of the event. What most probably happened is that soon after Bill was assigned to LSU 32 (after their return to Camp Lejeune) the unit was notified they would be awarded the HSM for Operation FLUID DRIVE. Bill was in the unit when they received notification of the award, but because he was not present for the actual operation, he was not entitled to be personally awarded the HSM, and thus it was never included on his DD 214 (likewise for his claimed Sea Service Deployment Ribbon).
More likely, Bill knew or learned the dates and basics of the operation (dates, place, ship, and mission) and knew his last unit had received an HSM for Operation FLUID DRIVE. When he entered the Navy again in 1981, he simply told his story and wore the ribbons. Who at that time would have looked into his records (or cared to look into them) since they knew he was already a veteran of one enlistment and his story would have been entirely reasonable and plausible to anyone – that he had been a corpsman on his first enlistment, had done a Med Cruise with 32nd MAU, participated in Operation FLUID DRIVE in July 1976 and earned an HSM before being discharged in 1977?
We have also seen previously many instances of active duty personnel claiming or wearing unearned badges, ribbons and medals on their uniforms — sometimes for years — before being found out.
When it came time for Bill to be discharged from his second enlistment, the personnel clerk typing up his DD 214 and reviewing his records (schools, badges, awards, etc) only included his actual, provable awards – a National Defense Service Medal and Good Conduct Medal from his first enlistment and a Good Conduct Medal from his second enlistment.
Ask yourself again — why would personnel clerks include ONLY those two awards from his first enlistment on the DD 214 for his second enlistment but not include a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon or a Humanitarian Service Medal if he was entitled to them?
And since Bill had to verify his DD 214 was true and accurate why wouldn’t he insist the clerks correct the form to reflect what he actually earned? All he would have had to do is produce evidence from his records (for example his first DD 214) to prove he was entitled to the awards, and the clerks would have included them. But they didn’t. Even though they included the other awards from his first enlistment…that makes for quite the mystery.
Recall also that Bill freely posted a copy of his second DD 214 on the open web (www.xmfan.com) to prove his military service YEARS before this controversy erupted. In addition, Bill signed the DD 214 in 1985 after reviewing it with the personnel clerks, indicating that it was true and complete – that all of the awards he was entitled to were listed in the document. The veracity and authenticity of that particular document is not in doubt. However, his subsequent claims of valor (and the wearing of decorations he has not demonstrated he earned) cast serious doubts over his war stories.
Of course, we are certain that Bill will say his records are in error (even though they have been in the care of the Federal Government for 40 years) or that history is wrong. (Ha! Ha! And motherfucking HA!) There is even the possibility that Bill—with his history of altering documents—will suddenly find a heretofore forgotten copy of his first DD 214 despite swearing that he relinquished his ONLY COPY to the Office of Personnel Management at his second enlistment. (Isn’t modern technology wonderful?) Sort of like how he produced a letter of commendation buried in a file cabinet in the days following A.B.’s questioning.
That would be impressive.
Ultimately, we must hearken back to these sage words of advice…