WASHINGTON — The Air Force has launched an investigation into allegations a mortuary employee at Dover Air Force Base offered to show Sen. John Glenn’s remains to Defense Department inspectors as his body was awaiting burial.
There is no indication the inspectors viewed the body, an Air Force official said. But a key question is whether others were also told they could view Glenn’s remains, one military official said.
The Glenn family has been notified about the incident, which was first reported by Military Times.
A long-serving Democratic senator from Ohio and U.S. Marine, Glenn was the first American to orbit Earth in 1962.
He died Dec. 8. The military mortuary at Dover Air Force Base was caring for his body until his burial at Arlington National Cemetery on April 6, on what would have been his 74th wedding anniversary.
The incident occurred during the week of Feb. 27 when a Defense Department mortuary inspection team was conducting its first full inspection of Dover since a new inspection process began.
During that inspection, “someone reportedly offered to show the remains of Senator John Glenn to DOD inspectors,” according to a statement from Air Force spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder.
The employee has been re-assigned and is not being named by the Air Force.
“According to DOD, the inspectors declined the offer and at no time viewed the remains,” Ryder said. “If allegations of misconduct are substantiated, those involved will be held accountable.”
After learning of the incident from the inspectors’ report, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson ordered the inspector general to conduct a full review of the incident as well as mortuary management on May 17, Wilson’s first full day on the job.
The Dover mortuary came under extensive criticism and review in 2011 after it was found some remains were mishandled.
Dover has been the main location for several years for mortuary affairs for deceased service members killed in action overseas.