Naval officers face court for sexual assault: Pentagon report says aviators molested dozens of women at Tailhook convention

THE DISGRACE inflicted on the US Navy by allegations of mass sexual misconduct at a naval aviators' conference deepened yesterday after a Pentagon report suggested that it involved greater numbers than thought.

In its report on the affair, the Pentagon said no fewer than 117 senior officers indulged in offensive and possibly criminal behaviour at the so-called Tailhook Convention of naval and marine aviators at the Las Vegas Hilton in September 1991.

Moreover, the document, compiled by the Pentagon's independent inspector-general, reveals that 83 women and seven men were assaulted during the three nights of the gathering - a much higher figure than was recorded in the Navy's own report into the affair, released last year.

During the convention, women - naval personnel and civilians - were forced to run the gauntlet down hotel corridors while officers pawed them. Hospitality suites in the hotel featured strippers, screenings of pornographic films and bars with obscene drinks dispensers.

The report suggests that during the three evenings, the convention degenerated into a lewd and offensive orgy, in which some became unwilling participants. 'Many attendees viewed the annual conference as a type of 'free-fire zone' wherein they could act indiscriminately without fear of censure or retribution in matters of sexual conduct or drunkenness,' it said. 'Witnesses described incidents in which couples had consensual sexual intercourse or oral sex in the suites, with other persons watching. Other witnesses observed oral sex or sexual intercourse in the pool patio area or near the tennis courts.'

Most devastating for the Navy, the Pentagon spells out the responsibility of the most senior officers at the convention - including 33 admirals - in failing either to prevent the misconduct or to act quickly to report it.

'Some of the Navy's most senior officers were knowledgeable as to the excesses practised at Tailhook 91 and by their inaction, those officers served to condone and even encourage the type of behaviour that occurred there,' the report stated.

None of the names of those implicated were released by the Pentagon; however, they are thought to include some of the admirals and many flag officers - who make up the sub-admiral ranks - including captains.

Although this is the Pentagon's last word on what happened at the Hilton, the repercussions of the report are certain to be felt for months ahead. A panel of senior Marine and naval officers will now be responsible for determining what disciplinary action will be taken against the 117 officers.

Of those implicated, the report says, 23 have been determined to have participated in 'indecent assaults' and an additional 23 in 'indecent exposure'. Those considered by the disciplinary committee to be guilty of misconduct of a criminal nature are certain to face courts martial.

The inch-thick report includes photographs of events at the Tailhook meeting, named after the hook that stops a plane when it lands on an aircraft carrier. The pictures, in which faces have been blacked out, include one of a naked women straddling the face of an officer. Another features a mural of a rhinoceros to which a large phallus had been attached, for use as a drinks dispenser.

The report says other officers may be referred for disciplinary action as investigations continue. 'It should be noted that the number of individuals involved in all types of misconduct or other types of inappropriate behaviour was more widespread than these figures would suggest.'

The scandal has haunted the Navy since it first came to light early last year. One of its first victims was President Bush's Secretary of the Navy, Lawrence Garrett, who was forced to resign last autumn.

Yesterday, the acting Secterary and chief naval officer, Admiral Frank Kelso, insisted that no such event could take place again. He said he hoped that the shock of the Tailhook affair would help the Navy correct attitudes and instil a new culture respectful of women.

'We sincerely regret that this incident brought such discredit on our entire service,' the sombre-faced admiral said. 'This is a watershed event that has brought about cultural change. Something like Tailhook is not going to happen again.'

A feature of the investigations was the consistent attempts by naval officers to withhold information to protect colleagues. There was also a widespread view among participants that what happened at Tailhook did not need to be taken seriously. The report said 50 officers were found to have lied in their original statements.

Admiral Kelso was adamant that steps were being taken within the Navy to ensure a change in attitudes towards women. These included special training at all ranks and much tougher procedures for disciplining servicemen found guilty of sexual misconduct or harassment.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pillar 1, 2 & 3) Insurance

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...

Manager - SAS - Data Warehouse - Banking

£350 - £365 per day: Orgtel: Manager, SAS, Data Warehouse, Banking, Bristol - ...

Web Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – Up to £43k

£35000 - £43000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment