At the end of January, I reported in this column that a retired Navy petty officer, whom we did not identify, had told us that on the night that TWA Flight 800 was shot down by a missile, he was on the bridge of a submarine that was very close to the site of the crash. He said that he had seen something go up and the plane come down and that the sub had submerged to avoid being hit by the falling wreckage. He said there were two other submarines close by and that they were engaged in an operation. That confirmed what James Kallstrom, who headed the FBI investigation of the crash, had previously told me – that three vessels close to Long Island that showed up on radar were Navy vessels on classified maneuvers.
Those three vessels have been identified by the FBI as the Trepang, the Albuquerque and the Wyoming, all submarines. Our petty officer contact was Master Chief Randy Beers, the corpsman on the Trepang. He had acknowledged that there were a number of other Navy ships that were participating in maneuvers off Long Island that night. I assumed these to be the 30-odd vessels that radar data showed were in or sailing toward W-105, a large area of the ocean that is frequently used by the military for training exercises or tests. He also said that when the Trepang returned to port, the crew had been interviewed by FBI agents, who wanted to find out if they had returned with all their weapons intact. He said they had, but the question suggested that the FBI was trying to find a Navy vessel that had launched a missile that night.
Beers story seemed credible. He claimed to have seen what many civilians had seen. Beers said nothing that he told us was classified, but when we spoke to him four days later he was very worried. He gets a disability pension, and he feared the Navy would cancel it if became known that he was the source of what I intended to publish. My efforts to assure him that the Navy would not and could not do that made no impression on him. His fears strengthened my belief that he was telling the truth. I had made no commitment to conceal his identity or that of the Trepang, and I decided in early February to report the story and identify the source.
When I told him of my intention, he told me that he had not been able to sleep because he was so worried about losing his pension. He said that he had made up the story, that he had not seen the TWA 800 crash and that the Trepang was in Groton, its home port, that night. That is obviously false because the FBI has identified it as one of the three submarines off Long Island. When I indicated that I didn’t believe his retraction, he said, “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” I took that as a warning that he would tell reporters that he had lied if I identified him as my source.
I reported this in Accuracy in Media’s newsletter, saying I did not believe his retraction. But I began to check it out. I located and interviewed five officers who served on the Trepang with Beers. The one who Beers said was on the bridge with him when TWA 800 crashed checked his records and told me that he had been transferred off the Trepang three months before the crash.
The rest were on the Trepang that night, and they all acknowledged that it was off Long Island, but they didn’t know their exact location. One of them, a navigator, said they were close to the crash site, but none saw the crash. Two were sure they began a long deployment that night. They refused to say where they went. Questioned by the FBI on their return, they told them that U.S. submarines carry no surface-to-air missiles.
All said they heard about the crash from the radio. None heard about it from Beers. He lied to me, and I regret having been deceived by him. But his lie is nothing compared to our government’s lies about TWA 800. The establishment media spread those lies. They refuse to do what I have done – check the evidence and admit that they have been deceived.
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Reed Irvine is the chairman of Accuracy In Media, a media watchdog group based in Washington, D.C.