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Pentagon brass 'disgusted' by Marine hazing ceremony

hazing January 31, 1997
Web posted at: 9:30 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Under fire for allowing a hazing ritual known as "blood-winging," Pentagon officials acknowledged Friday that the painful rite was not an isolated incident.

The Marine Corps has court-martialed or disciplined about 80 people since 1994 for hazing or more serious offenses, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said Friday during a televised news conference.


But the graphic video of "blood-winging" -- first broadcast Thursday by CNN -- has clearly shaken U.S. military leaders.

In the video, taken in 1991 at a training camp for Marine paratroopers in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a group of men can be seen performing a forbidden ceremony in which they pin paratrooper jump wings directly into others' chests. Marines were shown writhing and crying out in pain as others pounded the spiked medals into their chests through tee-shirts.

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Disturbed and disgusted


"I must say I am disturbed and disgusted by the treatment of young Marines in the hazing incidents that occurred back in 1991 and 1993," Cohen said.

Most disturbing perhaps is the clear implication that dozens if not hundreds of Marines and their leaders must have known about the ritual and done nothing to stop it.

"As this video shows, in '91 or '93, this behavior went on, and it did not signal anything to the people that should have done something about it," said Gen. John Shalikashvili, Joint Chiefs Chairman.

Still, many Marines and former Marines who have gone through similar rituals to get their "blood wings" say it looks worse than it is. It's bonding not barbarism, they argue.

"I'm a little shocked that someone would take something like that and let people get the wrong impression. It doesn't happen everywhere, and I'm sure it's going to continue," said retired Marine Cpl. Ed Manuel.

Spitting bullets


That kind of talk has top Marines spitting bullets. "If they think that the leadership of the Marine Corps believes that beating up on their fellow Marines makes for a better warrior they better find themselves a new occupation," Marine Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak said.

Most of the Marines on the 1991 videotape have been identified and an initial assessment indicates that nine remain on active duty, the Marines said. The service was still working on identifying those in a 1993 tape that depicts a similar hazing incident.

Calling the hazing "shocking and degrading," Corps officials said the five-year time limit had expired for judicial punishment, such as jail, for trainers involved in the 1991 incident.

They said courts-martial and even jail penalties were still a possibility in the 1993 incident, and any active trainers found to be responsible could be dismissed from the Corps in either incident.

The Marine Corps admits it has to do more to instill values in its ranks, and it says it will start by letting Marines who think hazing is a rite of passage, know that they are dead wrong.


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