Marines stand by version of Medal of Honor battle
December 15th, 2011
03:21 PM ET

Marines stand by version of Medal of Honor battle

By CNN's Charley Keyes

The Marine Corps is fighting back against a newspaper report that it exaggerated the bravery of a hero of the Afghanistan war who received the nation's highest military honor.

President Barack Obama awarded Cpl. Dakota Meyer the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony in September and spoke about Meyer's heroism in trying to rescue fallen comrades, returning again and again to the middle of an ambush to aid both Americans and Afghan troops.

McClatchy Newspapers, which conducted an investigation into the accounts, said on its website that parts of the Marine Corps' account of the battle were "untrue, unsubstantiated or exaggerated."  The article noted the exaggerations probably were unnecessary and that Meyer did deserve the medal for his heroic acts.

In a statement Wednesday, the Marine Corps said it firmly stands behind "the Medal of Honor (MOH) process and the conclusion that this Marine rightly deserved the nation's highest military honor."

The Marines say the award is "entirely appropriate and well-deserved," and that their investigation as part of the award process focused on direct eyewitness accounts and other recorded information.

But the Marines do admit that over the course of a six-hour battle, not every witness had "equal and accurate visibility or situational clarity on every activity."

One issue of contention is a description, a "narrative," of that day posted online by the Marines, which included information from Meyer himself that was separate from the formal investigation that led to the award.

"Sworn statements by Meyer and others who participated in the battle indicate that he didn't save the lives of 13 U.S. service members, leave his vehicle to scoop up 24 Afghans on his first two rescue runs or lead the final push to retrieve the four dead Americans," according to the McClatchy report.

"The statements also offer no proof that the 23-year-old Kentucky native 'personally killed at least eight Taliban insurgents,' as the account on the Marine Corps website says. The driver of Meyer's vehicle attested to seeing 'a single enemy go down.'"

The Marine Corps said Meyer's narrative "was posted on the Headquarters Marine Corps webpage to allow the American public to read Cpl. Meyer's personal account of the sequence of events and actions on this day."

"We supported this communication method in large part because of Sgt. Meyer's personal desire to not retell with each interview, and thereby re-live, what he calls the 'worst day of his life."

Meyer was a corporal in the Marine Corps when he served in Afghanistan and is now a sergeant.

That "Heroic Action" summary entry, as the newspaper group pointed out, now states that it "was compiled in collaboration with Sgt. Dakota Meyer's personal account and HQMC (Headquarters Marine Corps) Division of Public Affairs.

Meyer, contacted by CNN via e-mail, had no comment.

In the White House ceremony, Obama praised Meyer as "an American who placed himself in the thick of the fight - again and again and again."

"The story of what Dakota did next will be told for generations," the president said, describing how Meyer kept returning to the fight.

"For a fourth time, they went back. Dakota was now wounded in the arm.  Their vehicle was riddled with bullets and shrapnel," Obama said. "Dakota later confessed, 'I didn't think I was going to die. I knew I was.'  But still they pushed on, finding the wounded, delivering them to safety."

"And then, for a fifth time, they went back - into the fury of that village, under fire that seemed to come from every window, every doorway, every alley.  And when they finally got to those trapped Americans, Dakota jumped out.  And he ran toward them. Drawing all those enemy guns on himself, bullets kicking up the dirt all around him. He kept going until he came upon those four Americans, laying where they fell, together as one team," Obama continued.

"Dakota and the others who had joined him knelt down, picked up their comrades and - through all those bullets, all the smoke, all the chaos - carried them out, one by one. Because, as Dakota says, 'That's what you do for a brother,'" the president said, with Meyer at his side.

The president's comments that day were based on "the extensive documentation provided by the Department of Defense and the Marine Corps, including sworn testimony from Sgt. Meyer himself and sworn eyewitness testimonies of others present at the scene," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Thursday.

The Marine Corps says the official citation, the heart of the formal investigation, was true.

"We are personally very disappointed in the McClatchy Newspapers' decision to publish the article, "Marines Promoted Inflated Story for Medal of Honor Winner" alleging that the Marine Corps embellished Corporal Dakota Meyer's story," the Marine Corps statement says.  "The accomplishments described in the MOH citation are valid, supported by two eyewitnesses as required, and confirm the merits of the MOH properly awarded to Cpl. Meyer."

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Virginia, a Marine combat veteran in Vietnam, gave his support to the Marine Corps and Meyer.

"Given the Marine Corps' long tradition of rigid standards and its thorough review process regarding recommendations for combat awards, I have no doubt that Sergeant Meyer has been appropriately recognized for his actions on September 8, 2009, in Afghanistan," Webb said in a statement issued by his office.  "Out of respect for the obvious heroism of Sergeant Meyer, it is important that any discussion of this matter begin with this recognition."

Post by:
Filed under: Marines • Medal of Honor • Military
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. russ

    Sgt meyer is a hero and i will tell you why. After the Marine Corps he worked for a company that made scopes for rifles but was terminated because he raised concerned that the company was going to sell those scopes to Pakistan. Sgt Meyer filed an unlawful termination lawsuit and the company that was about to sell the scopes to Pakistan canceled the deal given the press coverage. Those scopes could could have possibly been used against ISAF and Afghan troops. I don't think Sgt Cody Meyer's bravery, honesty and intregrity as an American hero should be questioned after this!!!

    December 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Reply
  2. wharf0rat

    And Pat Tillman was killed by enemy fire.

    December 16, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Reply
    • SFC Mike

      Two different services, two completely different sets of circumstances, two different commands, and far less oversight and review in the Army's reporting of the situation with CPL Tillman and his death. The biggest difference is that SGT Meyer is alive and able to report under oath his own recollection of events. CPL Tillman is not, and the "management" of his story started with some REMF types who had never seen combat and were not there. Eyewitness statements wrt CPL Tillman's death were ignored or suppressed. That is not the case with SGT Meyer's actions.

      December 17, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Reply
    • jim

      depends on your definition of enemy fire.

      December 20, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Reply
  3. PissedMarine

    Anyone with the gall to question this man's story is sick and Un-American. That paper must have been ran by jihadi's and taliban a**holes

    December 16, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Reply
  4. Krusatta

    Fact of the matter is this: When writing decorations packages there is language that is required. With the Medal of Honor, not only must it be properly written, but there is a lengthy and stringent investigation. Rather than question the ability of anyone to reconstruct exact events in the fluid and extremely high pace of modern combat operations, perhaps we should all sit down and think about this: "What have I done lately?"

    December 16, 2011 at 10:29 am | Reply
  5. TB

    I never served in the military, but now countless that have and do. I have nothing but respect for those that server their country. In this situation, do the details that have been asserted as being embellished by the newspaper in ANY way preclude this man from the honor bestowed upon him? No. At all. This man did in the heat of battle what most of America can only say they have seen in movies or in video games. The fact that he went back at all into gunfire to help out fellow Marines and Afghan soldiers makes him worthy. The fact that he DID go back again and again is just more proof of his dedication to his brothers and his country. The fact that a media outlet would harp on it not being quite as hellish as they thought makes me sick. The truth is the truth, yes. But the truth is that this man not only deserves his honor for what he did and what he COULD have sacrificed in conditions that most of us THANKFULLY will never even come close to, but he deserves our respect. So while the writers can sit at their air conditioned desk and type away on their Macs while sipping Starbucks. Give this Marine his respect.

    December 15, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Reply
  6. Ron445775785

    If you believe the President George W. Bush lied - not merely depended upon bad information - about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in order to further his political agenda, then you must also believe that President Obama lied about this Marine's medal. Personally, I think both presidents merely got it wrong at the wrong time and aren't "lying" ... but one cannot have it both ways.

    December 15, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Reply
    • opus512

      Wow, you're directly comparing one single action by one single Marine to the entire Iraq war? Okay, I believe both are lying then. Which lie cost the US more?

      December 16, 2011 at 12:28 am | Reply
    • Paul

      you have real issues: Obama did not write the report about the facts of the actions. He got the report and used to justify the medal. I don't call that a lie. Now you can say the same about GWBush and the war on Iraq, by saying Bush didn't know the truth, he just believe the report that were given to him about WMD, which were all lies.

      Now, if you have only the shadow of a brain, you understand that you are comparing lying about sending an entire country into war at the cost of $2.5T, 4000+ US death and 500'000 Iraqi deaths to exaggerating the report about war action by one single marine during the heat of battle. Not only, these are lies, if they really are so, that are told after the war has ended. What would be the point of doing that??? To make people believe the war is going well? The war is already over!! You might want to lie during the war to make it look like you are winning or something ...

      Here is the real explanation: you have personal issues and can't stand the idea that Obama is your President, a black guy, who ended the war your white GWBush started on a lie, which costed to this country the respect of the world and its very same soul of a respectful democracy.
      Thanks to GWBush, today anyone can torture an American soldier and get away with it, because they would simply do what the Americans openly did in the first place.

      You must be on drugs ...

      December 16, 2011 at 3:57 am | Reply
      • Jill-IN

        RIght on!

        December 16, 2011 at 8:53 am |
      • Rob in VA

        Paul, you are the obvious racist here. I think Ron used a poor choice of words and a bad comparrison. GW didn't lie: he was (possibly) misinformed. I say possibly because the reality is that there could still be places that hide WMD. The country is full of caves. Obama is guilty of neither. I saw nothing to lead me to believe that Ron is a racist one way or the other. You just saw a veiw that you didn't agree with and call the guy a racist. REALLY??? I think you need help because you have serious issues. By the way, Americans (soldiers, journalists, and civilians) have been tortured long before GW. You're comparing soldiers parading a terrorist around in his underwear or waterboarding to these fanatics cutting off Ron Pearlman's head (captured on video) Again, REALLY???? It's already been proven that these techneques prevented ANOTHER terrorist plot against the US. I'M ALL FOR IT!! I guess you would prefer that the attack was carried out. I've got an idea for you. Why don't you go to Ron Pearlman's family and say what you think. I bet that you will get a harsh response from them. While you're there, why don't you leave all your personal information with the FBI and CIA as suspect you are obviously racist and have sympathy for terroists: you should be under investigation.

        December 16, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  7. Chris Honry

    Article "But the Marines do admit that over the course of a six-hour battle, not every witness had "equal and accurate visibility or situational clarity on every activity." "admit"? that's not an admission, that's a statement, retard.
    Always some left winger reporter trying to piss on someone's parade, jealous that they didn't receive anything.

    December 15, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Reply
    • Jake

      I second that. Taking a statement which was originally made to provide more contextual understanding of the events, and spinning it as an admission of some sort is not journalism. Its story-telling, and it is underhanded reporting. Drop your agenda, or stop reporting the news. American Heros deserve better.

      December 16, 2011 at 11:02 am | Reply

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.