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Hackworth says error doesn't compare to Boorda suicide case

May 16, 1997 Web posted at: 11:00 a.m. EDT


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From Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- David Hackworth, the retired army colonel turned journalist who questioned medals worn by the Navy's top admiral -- who later killed himself -- acknowledges he wrongly claimed credit for two of his own military honors.

The awards, which had been listed on Hackworth's personal Internet page, have now been removed.

Hackworth, once a columnist for Newsweek magazine, has described himself as America's most decorated living veteran. He was scheduled to interview Adm. Jeremy Boorda, chief of naval operations, on the day Boorda committed suicide one year ago.

Boorda, 56, committed suicide less than two hours after he learned that reporters would be questioning him about two pins on ribbon decorations that he had worn.

He left notes lamenting the coming disclosure that he had improperly worn the two bronze "V" pins, which normally are awarded for valor in combat.

Ranger? Not


From his home in Montana, Hackworth told CNN by telephone Thursday that he recently found out that he was not entitled to a Ranger tab, an insignia worn on the shoulder of a uniform.

Normally, it indicates that the wearer has completed one of the Army's toughest training courses, a rigorous entry to one of the service's most elite groups. Hackworth said he thought he earned the Ranger insignia during his service in the Korean War.

He also told CNN he found that the Army had given him two Distinguished Flying Cross medals, when he had only earned one.

In both cases, Hackworth says the mistakes were made by the Army, not him. Before he died, Boorda said he thought he had earned the medals in question during service in the Vietnam War.

'(Adm. Boorda) was wearing valor awards he wasn't entitled to wear. ... I was wearing tabs I was entitled to wear according to the Army's regulations at the time.'

-- -- Retired Army Col. David Hackworth

'I zapped it'


"The minute I found that the qualification didn't pertain to me, I zapped it," Hackworth said, referring to the entry on his Internet page. He contends that there was no comparison of his situation with Boorda's.

In a column written shortly after Boorda's death, Hackworth said: "It is simply unthinkable an experienced officer would wear decorations he is not entitled to, awards that others bled for. There is no greater disgrace," he wrote.

Questions raised

Vietnam veteran Terry Roderick, who raised the questions that led to Hackworth removing the two items from his Internet page, said the unit Hackworth served with in Korea was not a Ranger outfit.

Hackworth said he also served with the 8th Army Ranger company, but Charles Pitts, who was the first sergeant of that unit, told CBS he "never knew him."

An Army official, asked whether the service had done a search of Hackworth's medals, said it had not.

"He's retired. There was no reason to," said the official.


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