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Camp Pendleton Marines Posed With Logo Resembling Nazi Symbol In Afghanistan

Aired 2/10/12 on KPBS News.

The Marine Corps on Thursday once again did damage control after a photograph surfaced of a sniper team in Afghanistan posing in front of a flag with a logo resembling that of the notorious Nazi SS - a special unit that murdered millions of Jews, gypsies and others.

The Camp Pendleton Marines who posed with a flag in 2010 displaying the Nazi “SS” symbol will not be punished. Camp Pendleton spokeswoman Maj. Gabrielle Chapin told the Associated Press the Marines from Charlie Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion were under the mistaken impression that the “SS” symbol on the flag meant “sniper scouts.”

In fact, the SS (which stands for Schutzstaffel) was an elite corps of the Nazi party that carried out mass executions of Jews, Gypsies, Polish leaders, and Russian prisoners of war.

Jewish groups are far from pleased by the Marine Corps’ decision not to punish the men in the photo (Read more from Home Post Blog).

Marines pose with a flag bearing a symbol resembling the Nazi SS emblem in Af...
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Above: Marines pose with a flag bearing a symbol resembling the Nazi SS emblem in Afghanistan.

Special Feature Home Post Blog

The Corps has used the incident as a training tool to talk to troops about what symbols are acceptable after it became aware of the photograph last November, Chapin said.

The image has since surfaced on an Internet blog, sparking widespread outrage and calls for a full investigation and punishment, including bringing those in the photograph and anyone who condoned it to court martial.

"This is a complete and total outrage," said Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, headquartered in Albuquerque, N.M.

His organization sent a letter to the head of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday, demanding punishment for those involved.

It was the second time this year the Marine Corps has had to do damage control for actions of its troops. It's also investigating a separate group of Marines recorded on video urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters..

"First we have Marines peeing on dead bodies and now this," Weinstein said.

The Marines in the photograph are no longer with the unit. Chapin said she did not know if they are still in the Corps.

In the photo taken in the Afghanistan town of Sangin, the Marine Corps unit is posing with guns in front of an American flag and a large, dark blue flag with what appear to be the letters "SS" in the shape of white jagged lightning bolts.

Camp Pendleton spokesman, Master Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, said he did not know where the flag came from but it was likely the property of one of the Marines in the photograph.

The photograph appeared on the blog for a military weapons company called Knight's Armament in Titusville, Fla. The company did not respond to emails or phone messages left by The Associated Press.

The SS, or Schutzstaffel, was the police and military force of the Nazi Party, which was distinct from the general army. Members pledged an oath of loyalty to Adolph Hitler.

SS units were held responsible for many war crimes and played an integral role in the extermination of millions of Jews along with gypsies and other people who were deemed undesirable. The SS was declared to be a criminal organization at the Nuremberg war crime trials.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, headquartered in Los Angeles, said he does not buy the explanation that posing with the flag was an innocent mistake and insisted the American public has a right to know what happened.

"If you look at any book on the Nazi period, this is the dreaded symbol of the SS, and to have a Marine Corps unit adopt it and put it beside the American flag when 200,000 Americans died to free the world of that dreaded symbol is just beyond the pale," he said.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | February 10, 2012 at 9:36 a.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

Very naive on their part. Common sense should've prevailed.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 10, 2012 at 10:16 a.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

Come on, I'm not buying thy were *that* stupid.

Anyone who passed a high school world history course knows that an SS written in that manner and with the white on black coloring is a Nazi symbol.

I find it especially hard, considering these are military men, that they couldn't recognize a symbol synonymous with the military of one of our most virulent enemies during WWII.

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Avatar for user 'mccolgan55'

mccolgan55 | February 10, 2012 at 1:21 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

I do not know if it is a legitimate mistake or an actual "closet" Nazi loving group. What I DO know is that the level of education in this country is so bad that it is not even likely that most high school graduates KNOW the SS symbol, they probably barely know the symbols of our own country let alone those of 1930s Germany.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | February 10, 2012 at 1:40 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

McClogan, thank you. Yours is the best post I've read on that story.

But some of the apologist reactions by posters on other sites are certainly frightening--especially coming after the urination outrage.

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Avatar for user 'd65t38'

d65t38 | February 13, 2012 at 8:20 a.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

I agree with McClogan, probably didn't know and if they did I'm sure it never crossed ther mind, that they would be accused of being associated or Nazi loving. I am a Marine Vet. and a business owner, the kids comming out of school today can not even tell time on a watch today if it's not digital or read a ruler.

That type of attitude would never be tolerated in the Corp. !

The problem today is instant messaging, those in the military are giving their life so that we can set here and post, keep that in mind!!!!

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Avatar for user 'MaxBrash'

MaxBrash | February 13, 2012 at 2:33 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

I disagree with McClogan. As bad as education is today, I find it implausible there isn't AT LEAST one person in that unit that knows perfectly well what that flag represents. Check out this website. The flag is on sale along with other Nazi paraphernalia.

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Avatar for user 'MaxBrash'

MaxBrash | February 13, 2012 at 2:46 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

Also, still agreeing with the education issue, keep in mind that the SS symbol is very popular with white gangs--and in California, even the Nazi Low Riders, which includes in its ranks Hispanics as well as whites. My point? Lots of ignorant, uneducated people are nevertheless very aware of the SS symbol and, roughly at least, its meaning. I don't buy the explanation, "Oh, we thought it stood for sniper scouts." That's their story and they're sticking with it.

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