The Pentagon has admitted that dramatic repatriation ceremonies held at a Hawaii base have been fabricated to make it appear as though flag-draped coffins holding the remains of fallen U.S. soldiers were arriving that very day from old battlefields, NBC News reported.
In reality, the remains had already been sitting in American labs for months. The planes were also defunct and non-operational, so the notion that they carried the bodies back to the U.S. is an impossibility.
These controversial staged events have been carried out for the past seven years by the government's Joint Prisoner of War Accounting Command, known as JPAC, with the stated purpose of honoring the fallen.
After months of questions, the stunning admission was made in a statement from the Department of Defense to NBC News.
Officials said that these so-called "arrival" ceremonies began in September 2006. Rather than literal in nature, the events have been intentionally pre-planned to be ceremonial -- but this hasn't been adequately conveyed to the public.
Watch one such event below:
"Part of the ceremony involves symbolically transferring the recovered remains from an aircraft to a vehicle for follow-on transportation to the lab," the Defense Department said. "Many times, static aircraft are used for the ceremonies, as operational requirements dictate flight schedules and aircraft availability. This transfer symbolizes the arrival of our fallen service members."
Veterans and families have attended the events at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii, to witness the apparent return of soldiers killed in World War II, Vietnam and Korea. Many of them believed what they were seeing was genuine. Here's how NBC News described the ceremony:
A C-17 military transport aircraft was parked, its ramp down, outside hangar 35 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. At precisely 9 a.m., after generals and other dignitaries were introduced, a military chaplain offered a prayer, the audience sang "The Star-Spangled Banner," and a Marine bugler played "Taps." Then a military honor guard in dress uniforms carried flag-draped transfer cases, which look like coffins, down the ramp and across in front of the audience. The cases were placed in the back of blue buses and driven away.
The emcee, reading from an official script, thanked the audience for "welcoming them home."
Critics have long blasted these efforts as "phony." In fact, even some officials at the military base have long refereed to them as "The Big Lie," NBC reported.
Ann Mills-Griffiths, chair of the National League of POW/MIA Families, a group that represents military families, has urged JPAC and the Pentagon over the years to stop the "phony arrival ceremonies." Now, it appears some changes could be underway.
Confusion has abounded among the public and the media about whether these events are "dignified transfer ceremonies," when soldier remains first arrive from abroad and are transferred back home.
"Based on how media announcements and ceremony remarks are currently written, it is understandable how these 'arrival' ceremonies might be misinterpreted, leading one to believe the ceremonies are 'dignified transfer ceremonies,' which they are not," the government admitted.
The Defense Department said Maj. Gen. Kelly K. McKeague, commander of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, has changed the name of the ceremonies to more accurately portray what is actually happening at these events. The Pentagon now plans to call the events "honor ceremonies."
To be sure that these events are conducted to truly honor the fallen, leadership will be looking at and reviewing these activities, the department pledged. No clarification was given as to why they were referred to as "arrival ceremonies" when none of the fallen were truly arriving.
(H/T: Daily Mail)