The body of former Ambassador Larry Lawrence was removed from Arlington National Cemetery today, a Pentagon spokesman said.
Spokesman Kenneth Bacon told reporters the body was removed “early today,” when he was queried about it at a Pentagon briefing.
Bacon, asked whether the body had been moved to California, said the movement was being handled “privately by the Lawrence family funeral home” and that he did not know any details of the matter.
The removal comes just days after House Republicans continued to press for an investigation into the waiver that allowed the ambassador, a contributor to the Democratic Party, to be buried there.
Earlier this week, Lawrence's widow, Shelia Davis Lawrence, told President Clinton in a letter that she would have the body removed from Arlington and taken to San Diego, where he owned the landmark Hotel del Coronado.
On Monday, Rep. Terry Everett, R-Ala., said his House Veterans Affairs oversight subcommittee wanted to know how Lawrence received the waiver in the first place. Lawrence, a major contributor to the Democratic Party, was ambassador to Switzerland at the time of his death in 1996.
“The subcommittee still has an interest in questions concerning the State Department's actions in the granting of waivers for Mr. Lawrence” Everett said.
The removal also came in the wake of questions about whether Lawrence really served in the Merchant Marine in 1945 and was wounded in action, as he had claimed.
Lawrence died after three years as ambassador, and his Merchant Marine service was cited to help him receive a waiver to be buried in the nation's most prominent military cemetery. But congressional investigators said last week they had searched military records and found no evidence that he served in the Merchant Marine. In addition, Wilbur Wright Junior College in Chicago confirmed that Lawrence was a full-time college student in March 1945, the same month he claimed his ship was torpedoed off the Russian coast.
White House spokesman Mike McCurry acknowledged last week that Arlington was “a place of sacred honor to all Americans, and no one should be buried there who has falsified records.” He spoke after Clinton ordered an investigation into whether Lawrence fabricated the World War II service.
Last year, Patrick F. Kennedy, then-assistant secretary of state for administration, asked the Army to approve a waiver for Lawrence because an injury while in the service would have earned him a Purple Heart. The medal would entitle him to an Arlington burial.
Lawrence maintained that when his ship was attacked in March 1945, he was tossed into icy Arctic waters and suffered a severe head injury. He would have been 18 at the time.
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard