Camp Pendleton-based Marines confirmed a controversial photo published online does in fact show a group of U.S. Marines posed in front of an “SS” flag.
The image, posted on a weapons supplier’s blog, shows personnel from 1st Recon Bn deployed in Afghanistan in September 2010 standing in front of an American flag and a black flag with the SS symbol resembling that seen on Nazi flags in World War II.
The office of Col. John Guthrie, the Inspector General for I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) first learned of the photo in November. A professor alerted Guthrie believing the existence of a photo like that would bring discredit on the Marine Corps.
The Marines in the photo are no longer with the unit which has been deployed again Guthrie said.
Some Scout Snipers have been known to use the "SS runes" as a symbol but Guthrie said “…rest assured, the Marine Corps (including I MEF, 1st Marine Division and 1st Recon Bn) does not allow the use of “SS Runes.”
On Thursday, The Military Religious Freedom Foundation in Washington told the Associated Press it was outraged by the photograph and wants a full investigation.
Mikey Weinstein of the foundation said he has been flooded with calls from former Marines offended by the photo and from one member of his organization who is an Auschwitz survivor.
"Heads need to roll and this needs to be fully investigated. This is a complete and total outrage," he said.
Weinstein said his organization was sending a letter to the head of the Marine Corps and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
On Wednesday, Lt. Col Stewart Upton said the USMC had addressed the issue but did not specify what action was taken.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, a spokesman at Camp Pendleton, Calif., said the 1 Marine Expeditionary Force inspector general found there was no intent on the part of the Marines to identify themselves with a racist organization.
Oliva said the investigation found that the SS symbol was meant to identify the Marines as scout snipers, not Nazis, but was nonetheless not acceptable.
This is the second time this year the Marine Corps has had to do damage control for actions of its troops.
The Marine Corps is currently investigating a group of Marines recorded on video urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters. Those Marines were based at Camp Lejune, N.C.
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