A Secretary Without Honor by Philip Jennings-Correct Attribution!
Summary of eRumor:
Phillip Jennings, a former Marine Corps pilot, recounts how a Marine captain owned up to the mistake of leaving a nuclear codes booklet unsecured in the 1960s, damaging his career, and compared the tale to Hillary Clinton’s email scandal.
Key details of Philip Jennings’ story about a Marine captain who took responsibility for unattended nuclear codes don’t check out, but we can’t prove with certainty that this one is truth or fiction.
Philip Jennings’ column appeared under the headline “Secretary Without Honor” in June. After USA Today published the column in its online op-ed section, the story made the rounds in forwarded emails and discussion forums.
Jennings recounts that he was the air liaison officer for a battalion of Marines aboard 11 ships in the Mediterranean in the mid 1960s. As officer and senior captain, Jennings writes, he had a rotating responsibility for a nuclear code book that was kept in the operations room of the lead amphibious squadron ship.
Jennings wrote that he shared the responsibility with Captain Leonard F. Chapman III, who was the son of a “high-ranking” Marine. The captain’s father was Gen. Leonard F. Chapman Jr., the former commandant of the Marine Corps.
Jennings writes that Captain Chapman mistakenly left the nuclear code book unattended for “seconds,” and returned to find the operations sergeant looking at the code book. Jennings continues:
Against all regulations, the code book had been out of the safe and unattended. It mattered not that it was unattended for only seconds, that the ship was 5 miles at sea, or that it was certain no one unauthorized had seen the code. The captain could have explained this to the operations sergeant. He could have told the sergeant that he “would take care of it.” He could have hinted that his high-ranking dad could smooth it over.
But the Marine Corps’ values are honor, courage and commitment. Honor is the bedrock of our character. The young captain could not ask the sergeant to betray his duty to report the infraction, no matter how small. Instead, the captain simply said, “Let’s go see the colonel.”
That captain had wanted to be a Marine officer all of his life. It was the only career he ever wanted. When he reported the incident to the colonel, he knew he was jeopardizing his life’s dream. But he did it.
The results went by the book. The amphibious squadron stood down. Military couriers flew in from NATO. The codes were changed all over Europe. The battalion was a day late in leaving the Mediterranean. The captain, Leonard F. Chapman III, received a letter of reprimand, damaging his career. He stayed in the corps and died in a tragic accident aboard another ship.
I saw some heroic acts in combat in Vietnam, things that made me proud to be an American and a Marine. But that young captain stood for what makes our corps and our country great.
Jennings then concluded that Hillary Clinton’s lack of accountability and responsibility in her use of a private email server proved that she was “the antithesis” of that young captain and a secretary without honor.
Leonard F. Chapman III died in a scuba diving accident in 1979. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His headstone lists his rank as “Major.”