Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in his soon-to-be-released memoir, said that he initially supported a Medal of Honor for deceased U.S. Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta in 2008 before reversing his position.
These recent revelations were made in a report by Marine Corps Times.
Gates wrote in the his book Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War that at first, evidence supporting the Medal of Honor award for Sgt. Peralta convinced him to submit a recommendation to the President in support of the award.
However, controversy drove him to rescind his approval.
“The medal recommendation had been endorsed by the proper chain of approval, including the secretary of the Navy and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. However, the documentation also included dissenting views from the medical forensic community and the undersecretary for personnel and readiness,” stated Gates.
“As a result, I personally interviewed several senior officers in Peralta’s chain of command, and in light of the unanimous support of the entire uniformed leadership involved, I approved the recommendation. I was satisfied that Sergeant Peralta met all the criteria and deserved the Medal of Honor,” he added.
The former secretary then learned of a complaint filed to the Pentagon Inspector General making a case against Peralta’s deserving the nation’s highest military award.
Gates wrote that the complaint “alleged Peralta could not have acted consciously to cover the grenade and save fellow Marines’ lives. Forensic evidence shows Peralta had been hit in the head by a ricocheting bullet fragment that some argue would have incapacitated him prior to the grenade blast,” reported Marine Corps Times.
“I decided that the only way to clear the air quietly was to ask a special panel to look into the allegation,” stated Gates in his memoir.
“Perhaps someday, should additional evidence and analysis come to light, the criteria for the award will be deemed to have been met, and Sergeant Peralta will receive the Medal of Honor,” also wrote the former defense secretary. “Regardless, there is no doubt he was a hero.”
Peralta died on November 24, 2004 after cradling a grenade with his body to save the lives of other Marines. He was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously.
However, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), along with other lawmakers, wants Peralta to receive the Medal of Honor.
He recently revealed new eyewitness accounts and evidence, including Peralta’s damaged body armor, in pushing for the re-opening of Peralta’s Medal of Honor case.