Frozen in time

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jul 19, 2005 12:00 AM

The last time we heard from George G. Fabik was when the retired naval officer drew attention to the remains of five U.S. Navy airmen sitting above ground in Greenland, where they perished in 1962 while hunting for Russian submarines.

"They are not under ice, but visible every summer when the snow melts," he told The Beltway Beat. "This has to be considered a national disgrace. They did die in the service of their country."

So Fabik and others, including Bob Pettway, a former Navy radio operator and retired Secret Service agent, set out to bring the remains home. And some 42 years later - in September 2004 - a U.S. military and civilian team successfully completed the mission.

At the time, Mike Maus of the Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, told us by telephone from Norfolk that a recovery of bodies is as important for the Navy as it is for families.

"We in the Navy feel very strongly about not leaving anybody behind - ever. We always want to bring our people home," he said.

Do they?

This week, Fabik told us that a similar recovery mission at a separate naval crash site was set to begin this December. "Then the roof caved in," he says.

"A Navy seaplane involved in the mapping of the Antarctic continent in 1946 with Admiral Richard Byrd crashed after hitting a mountain," he educates. "Of the 10 crew on board, seven survived and three died.

"After the recovery of the Greenland aircrew, plans for the recovery of the remains in the Antarctic were set in motion. People from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Geological Survey and others were brought together. A Chilean Air Force aircraft with ground penetrating radar was sent to the site and pinpointed the location of the wreckage."

Even a geologist working in the area forwarded his notes to the Navy "and everything was set for a recovery in December 2005-January 2006 (that's summer in the Antarctic)," Fabik notes.

It is the retired aviator's understanding that the recovery mission was scrubbed by Rear Adm. H. Denby Starling II, who became the 26th commander of Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, in July 2004.

He paraphrased the admiral as saying such a mission would be "too dangerous for my sailors."

"I flew the same flights as these men, so I know what they were doing for our country," says Fabik, who served 30 years in naval aviation before his retirement. "Now, what do the families do?"

There still may be hope.

Requesting anonymity, an officer for the Atlantic Fleet in Norfolk told this columnist that "there has been no hard decision" either way on the proposed mission, adding that a final decision "still resides with the chief of naval operations."

"We did look at it. It was studied," the officer said. "But our recommendation was that it was far, far, far too risky."

COLIN'S PLACE, MON

Thanks to the U.S. Senate, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell now has a federal building named in his honor - on Jamaica, of all tropical islands.

The Senate has passed a bill redesignating the Crowne Plaza in Kingston as the "Colin L. Powell Residential Plaza." The building is a staff housing facility for the U.S. mission on the island.

Why Jamaica?

Yes, Mr. Powell was born in New York City in 1937 and raised in the South Bronx, but only after his parents, Luther and Maud Powell, migrated to the United States from Jamaica.

EAT UP

U.S. troops will tell you there are three rules in a military mess hall: "Shut up. Eat up. Get up."

And how good - or bad - is the military chow line in Iraq?

A whistleblower previously employed by the Halliburton Co. in a supervisory capacity in Iraq testified before the most recent Capitol Hill hearing examining federal contracts in the war-torn nation that American troops were being served food that had expired or outdated stamps by as much as one year.

As a result, Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, has sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld inquiring about the outdated food and other questionable military contracts.

In the meantime, the senator has proposed that "a Truman-type committee" be impaneled to investigate what the military is paying for - and what it's getting in return - through its private contractors.

"This is serious; it ought to be taken seriously," Dorgan says. "It undermines, in my judgment, those who fight the wars, the men and women who wear America's uniform and go, when asked by the government, to fight.

"The least we can do is make certain they are not being fed outdated food."

HILLARY AND CREW

"Maybe the Dems are trying to recruit Vito to run against himself next year."

That's all Craig Donner, press secretary to Rep. Vito J. Fossella can figure, after the Democratic National Committee mistakenly referred to the New York Republican as one of its "Democratic Leaders."

"Or," Donner quips, "it just might be part of that vast left-wing conspiracy."

Democrats - and Republicans - have reason to be impressed with the congressman, who was first elected to Congress in a special election in 1997. A former New York City council member who represents Staten Island and Brooklyn, he's been at the forefront in securing federal aid to enhance homeland security at home and across the country.

It was the congressman who also introduced successful legislation withholding U.S. funding to any United Nations commission headed by a nation on the State Department's list of terror nations.

You may also recall he negotiated the agreement between the State Department and the United Nations requiring foreign diplomats to pay millions of dollars in unpaid parking fines.

WHO BETTER TO QUOTE?

Speaking of employing Republicans, the Democratic National Committee says it doesn't need members of its own party to expand on accusations that White House senior aide Karl Rove revealed classified information in the Valerie Plame/CIA case.

Instead, they have issued a press release quoting Republicans, including President Bush's father, former President Bush, who calls those who leak classified information the "most insidious of traitors."

The Democrats conclude by quoting former Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie, who called the leak "worse than Watergate."

ARMED WITH NOTEBOOKS

Tom Kilgannon, president of the Freedom Alliance, tells The Beltway Beat he was in New York last week to attend what we'll call the U.N.'s small-arms conference.

"Since the U.N. can't do anything easy, the official title of the conference is the 'Second Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects,'" Kilgannon notes.

The lead sponsor the event was the IANSA, the International Action Network on Small Arms, which describes itself as a "global movement against gun violence - more than 500 civil society organizations working in 100 countries to stop the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons."

While at the biennial meeting, Kilgannon got his hands on "Internal Talking Points" that the IANSA issued to its staff and partners. The document is stamped "FOR IANSA INTERNAL USE ONLY."

Under "Tips for Working with Journalists," it cites as Rule No. 5: "Treat reporters with respect even if they seem rude, unprepared or ill-informed."

But our favorite is Rule No. 6: "Don't try to please reporters or make them happy - they are not your friends." (So much for the anti-gun lobby peddling stories to the New York Times).

Finally, at the bottom of the page there is a special message outlined so it can't be missed: "Warning: Journalists from the gun lobby may be at the meeting."

OUT OF AMMO

Speaking of guns, the National Rifle Association has been pushing for congressional passage of "The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act," aimed at prohibiting lawsuits that blame gun makers for the criminal misuse of their products.

Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, says one major U.S. firearms maker has already informed the Pentagon that it may no longer be able to supply weapons required by the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies as a result of, as he phrases them, "frivolous lawsuits against the American firearms industry (that) have bled more than $250 million in legal-defense costs out of these legal businesses."

"Several firearms manufacturers have already declared bankruptcy under this mountain of legal bills - and many more are teetering on the brink of financial ruin," Cox notes.

COURT JESTERS

The conservative's fervent desire
Is for Ginsburg and Stevens and Breyer,
O'Connor and Souter,
And Kennedy, too, to
Announce that they plan to retire.
- F.R. Duplantier, obviously arguing why stop with just one Supreme Court retirement?