President Barack Obama was proud to award US Marine Dakota Meyer his nation's top honor, his spokesman said Thursday, after the corps rejected reports they exaggerated the young warrior's deeds.
But McClatchy newspapers Thursday published a story alleging that a number of key facts in the Marine Corps account of the action were inaccurate, overstated or unsubstantiated.
The Marines insisted that a rigorous process had been carried out before the Medal of Honor was awarded and that Meyer deserved the accolade.
"The president was very proud to present the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Meyer for his extraordinary service in Afghanistan," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
"As the president said that day, in Sergeant Dakota Meyer we see the best of a generation that has served through a decade of war."
The McClatchy report, written by Jonathan Landay, a journalist who was accompanying Meyer's unit and witnessed the 2009 battle in the Ganjgal Valley, said that details of that account are untrue or unconfirmed.
It was not possible for Meyer to have saved 13 American troops, the article said. Twelve Americans were ambushed in the battle, including the McClatchy reporter, and four were killed, it said.
Military documents indicated that the arrival of helicopters secured the survival of the remaining troops, not Meyer's vehicle.
There are no statements from fellow troops confirming that Meyer killed eight Taliban as claimed on the Marine Corps website, the article said. The driver of Meyer's vehicle, Staff Sergeant Juan Rodriguez-Chavez, reported seeing Meyer kill one insurgent.
There were no sworn statements that backed up the portrayal of Meyer leaping out of his gun turret and pulling 24 wounded Afghans into his truck, the report said.
Meyer's driver described nine Afghan soldiers getting into the Humvee by themselves while Meyer remained in the turret, it said.
The article also said there was no evidence that supported the White House and Marine Corps account that Meyer defied orders by heading towards gunfire to help his fellow troops.
The Marine Corps acknowledged that eyewitness accounts might differ in some aspects but said that was typical in the confusion of combat and insisted the award was backed up by numerous statements by witnesses, graphics, a command inquiry and two Army investigations of the battle.
The article lamented the Marine Corps' handling of Meyer's story, saying the young corporal had displayed courage and deserved to be decorated, without the need for embellishing details.
Source: AFP American Edition