The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

September 1, 2006

Marine suing Murtha is up for medal

A Marine sergeant who has sued U.S. Rep. John Murtha for defamation in comments about innocent Iraqi civilians being killed in Haditha has been recommended for a medal for heroism that day, The Washington Post reported this week.

Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich and the squad he led in Haditha are being investigated by the Navy in the Nov. 19 incident in which 24 civilians were killed.

The attack has been “alternately characterized as a vengeful massacre and as the unfortunate collateral carnage of war. None has been charged so far,” the newspaper said.

In a suit filed last month, Wuterich maintains that Murtha, D-Johnstown, tarnished his reputation by telling the media that Marines had cracked after a roadside bomb and “killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”

Murtha, who suggested there was a cover-up in the deaths, declined to comment Friday on the recommended medal for Wuterich. After the suit was filed, he said, “My intention was to draw attention to the horrendous pressure put on our troops in Iraq and to the cover-up.”

The Post reported that Lt. William T. Kallop wrote in a praise-filled memo that the incident was part of a complex insurgent ambush that included a powerful bomb, followed by sharp automatic-weapons fire from several houses. He praised Wuterich for leadership in a counterattack on three houses while the unit received sporadic fire.

Wuterich is recommended for a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat distinguished service.

Diana Irey, the Republican running against Murtha, again criticized him for a “rush to judgment” on the incident.

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