An employee at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware allegedly offered inspectors a chance to take a look at John Glenn’s dead body while awaiting burial, according to a memo obtained by The Military Times.
The paper reported that William Zwicharowski, the mortuary’s branch chief, allegedly “offered to allow the inspectors to view the deceased.”
The memo reportedly said that the offer was “made in the presence of, and observed by, junior personnel on the Dover Mortuary Branch staff.”
The Military Times reported that it reached out to Zwicharowski, but he did not respond.
Glenn, the all-American astronaut and senator who rocketed into history on flights 36 years apart as the first American to orbit the Earth and the oldest person in space, died in December at age 95. Glenn died at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where he was hospitalized for more than a week.
His family reportedly asked the Air Force to care for his remains.
He was eventually buried at Arlington National Cemetery in April with full military honors.
The Military Times reported that the inspectors never viewed the astronaut’s remains. The memo reportedly said that Zwicharowski made the offer on two separate occasions: Feb. 28 and March 2.
The leader of the inspection team reportedly alerted the mortuary’s deputy commander. An Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon said the service’s inspector general is investigating the issue.
“The Air Force takes extremely seriously its responsibility to fulfill the nation’s sacred commitment of ensuring dignity, honor and respect to the fallen and care, service and support to their families," Col. Patrick S. Ryder, an Air Force spokesman, said. "At the conclusion of the investigation, the Air Force will determine what further corrective actions, if any, may be necessary and appropriate. If any allegations of misconduct are substantiated, those involved will be held accountable."
The report pointed out that the memo stated that Zwicharowski indicated that he thought the inspection was payback for his exposing how the mortuary mishandled the remains of some of the fallen service members who served in Iraq or Afghanistan six years earlier.
The memo’s author reportedly denied the allegation, saying, “it is important to note that this inspection was pursuant to a new DoD inspection policy, and three other sites had been inspected prior to the team’s inspection of Dover."
The report cited an interview Zwicharowski had with a local paper back in 2013.
"I want to guarantee the families of our fallen, in the past and in the future, that they're treated with honor, dignity and respect here at Dover. ... As long as I'm here, they'll be treated that way,” he said.