What's this blog really about?

You may notice a variety of topics here - from business, to charity promotion, even to local news, but the primary reason this blog was created was to alert readers to the hostile atmosphere and sexual harassment at The Danville Register & Bee. The readers and creator of this blog want a FULL FRONT PAGE apology in the Danville Register & Bee, plus the disciplining of those individuals involved. Until then, we'll continue to post regular updates. To tolerate THIS kind of behavior by a major media network is intolerable. And this isn't just ONE instance. Media General has been sued nationwide for racism and sexism, yet they CONTINUE to keep the offenders employed. Why? And why am I doing this? TRUTH compels me.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Why speaking up matters

It was April 1989, when an explosion ripped through the U.S.S. Iowa's number two 16-inch (406 mm) gun turret, killing 47 crewmen. At first, Navy investigators theorized that Clayton Hartwig, one of the dead sailors, had detonated an explosive device in a murder/suicide attempt after the end of an alleged homosexual affair with another sailor. Initially that was the Navy's position and they pretty much stuck to it and it was "case closed."

But there just happened to be a young sailor on the U.S.S. Iowa that was from Knoxville, TN. A family member called the newspaper and they sent me out there to interview him. It turned out that he was one of the crew members on the recovery crew and he and others on that crew were convinced that there was more to the explosion than what the Navy was admitting.

Either God or guilt or honor moved this young man to speak out - because he told me an incredible story. Duty on this ship was his first - he was fresh out of boot camp. He and other crew members were on a smaller vessel that motored out to where the U.S.S. Iowa was anchored.

As they reached the ship they gathered their gear and prepared to disembark. They had to climb a ladder to board the ship and once at the top of the ladder each man was waved off to one side or another - assigned by random order to one turret or another based on how they came off the ladder. Well, this young man started up the ladder, but realized he'd forgotten his jacket. He stepped down to get the jacket and another sailor, a friend of his, got in front of him on the ladder. If, he told me, he hadn't have forgotten his jacket he would have been in the number two turret when it exploded. Fate - God - something intervened and that small act changed his life and the course of the investigation.

Whatever it was that moved him, he talked. He described the charred and burned bodies positioned throughout the turret - some holding each other, clinging to each other in obvious fear, others kneeling with their hands clenched in prayer - one whose hand was still clenched on a wheel that could have opened a door. The turret had been flooded after the explosion - saving the lives of many more crew members and saving the ship, but there were those who knew their time was short. That much was obvious from their positions he said.

Four-inch thick walls were ripped and shredded like paper. This was more than some explosive device a sailor could have. He didn't know what it was - but he dared to say it wasn't right. It was the first time he had seen a dead body and for the next few days he and his shipmates saw a lot of them.

I interviewed the Secretary of the Navy at the time and relayed what this sailor had said and asked for confirmation on it. When his story came out the Associated Press picked it up and the story grew legs. The investigation was reopened and the Navy's theory was disproven and abandoned. According to Wikipedeia:

"Testing at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia of powder in the same lot was able to reproduce spontaneous combustion of the powder, which had been originally milled in the 1930s and stored during a 1988 dry-docking of the Iowa in a barge at the Naval Weapons Station in Yorktown, Virginia. Gunpowder gives off ether gas as it degrades; the ether is highly flammable, and can be ignited by a spark. Iowa's CO, Capt. Fred Moosally, was severely criticized for his handling of the matter, and the Navy changed the powder-handling procedures. Iowa deployed to Europe and the Mediterranean Sea in mid-year, with Turret Two unrepaired."

All I remember from that summer was what a difference one story - by a young sailor who was willing to talk, made. It made a difference that may have saved numerous lives over the next two decades. The ship was decommissioned in 2006 and is in the process of being turned into a museum. But when I'm challenged - I always go back to that - my first big story.

I've met a number of people over my life who have dared to speak up and speak out and have made a difference. For the most part however lawyers and the corrupt or wealthy corporations and people who run them manage to sue or intimidate whistle-blowers into bankruptcy or poverty. For a local blogger (http://politicalsoup.tv/ronprice.htm) who experienced this when he exposed NC school board member Ron Price who he said was stealing opponent's campaign signs. click here:. Various other bloggers have picked up on the story however....and once again - POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

1 comment:

Kang (not the one from The Simpsons) said...

By evil MG: