Marines were heroes after Kenyan attackI was very...

Letters to the Editor

August 15, 1998

Marines were heroes after Kenyan attack

I was very concerned at the way "Kenyans say Marines ignored bombing victims" (Aug. 12) portrayed the actions of the Marine security guards in the hours immediately after the tragic bombing in Nairobi.

Excerpts from a communique by the on-scene Marine security guard company commander recounting the tragedy will help your readers better understand the responsibilities of those Marines and what happened:

"It has been almost 96 hours since the devastating blasts ripped through the embassies. With the situation now somewhat stabilized, I want to take a few moments to provide you with a commander's perspective of the actions of our Marines after the explosions.

"On Friday morning, 8 August 1998 at 10: 40 a.m., a truck filled with explosives crashed into the rear wall of the embassy and exploded. A small bank building behind the embassy collapsed onto the chancery's emergency generator, spilling thousands of gallons of diesel fuel into the basement of the embassy.

"As injured and confused people ran out of the chancery screaming and choking, the Marines ran into the building looking for survivors. With no thought for their own lives, having no idea what else may happen or whether or not the shattered structure would cave in, the Marines immediately reacted and began a sweep of the building.

"They made their way through the rubble, fire and smoke, looking for survivors, fended off local looters who swarmed the embassy moments after the blast, secured classified material and began to search for Sergeant Aliganga (missing marine).

"The embassy in Nairobi is a seven-floor concrete structure. The force of the blast was so devastating it blew out almost every closed window and frame on the building. Twelve-inch thick concrete walls, on all floors, were shattered like thin plates of glass. Solid wooden doors mounted on steel frames went airborne, landing throughout the structure. There was not an office space that survived. Bodies were spread all over, most of which were buried under up to eight feet of rubble.

"The Marines worked throughout the day and night clearing the embassy, providing local security and moving the injured and dead from the rubble. The condition of many of the dead was horrific, making the task of search and rescue that much more difficult.

"At 4 a.m., Army special forces soldiers volunteered to stand post. I ordered the Marines home to shower and sleep. At first light, all of the Marines were back to continue their mission. After hours of digging by hand through tons of rubble, we moved to the area of the bank. This was one of the hardest-hit areas with 12-inch slabs of reinforced concrete piled up to the ceiling, and desks, computers and file cabinets reduced to scrap.

"The Marines, soldiers and Department of State personnel worked frantically against the clock. By this time, over 30 bodies had been recovered from the rubble, including 10 Americans.

"Finally, after nearly 28 hours of relentless digging, the body of Sergeant Aliganga was recovered from the rubble. The Marines gently wrapped Sergeant Aliganga in the American flag and very purposefully marched him through the rubble and out of the embassy to the waiting vehicle. Although there were no cameras or music, the crowds were still.

"What must not be missed is the incredible bravery and heroism displayed by our Marines. Without any regard for their own lives or safety, they maintained incredible presence of mind in the face of tremendous devastation."

On Monday, a story reported that an injured Marine security guard was described as a hero for returning to the scene after being treated for his personal injuries to help others who had been hurt. Imagine the pain and confusion your article has brought to him and to the other Marines who endured this ordeal.

The Marines who were involved in this tragic bombing deserve to have their story told, and your readers deserve to hear it.

Charles C. Krulak

Washington

The writer is commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Bay can't survive balancing act of business, nature

Thanks to Tom Horton for keeping voters up to speed on who is a friend of the environment and who is not ("Striking a legislative balance," Aug. 7). If politicians are the bay's primary caretakers, let's elect those who harm it the least.

But can business and nature really strike a healthy balance on the Chesapeake? Are we being lulled into believing that it's OK to sicken the bay because legislative balancing acts will ultimately heal it? The cure for ambitious, water-unfriendly profiteering may prove elusive.

We are being promised timely medicines from those who make their living in earth science studies, a nurturing kiss from natural resource officials, and a pitbull-like determination from government aid programs, which change on electoral tides. We hope, like a damsel in distress, that the good guys will somehow come through and save the day.

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