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THE UNSUNG HERO OF THE USS
IOWA EXPLOSION - HOW THE NAVY
FAILED TO PUNISH A FEMALE
OFFICER'S VENDETTA AGAINST HIM

 

It was one of the most heroic acts in the annals of the U.S. Navy, and if it had occurred in wartime, Petty Officer John Mullahy would have won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Instead, he was the victim of a vendetta so vicious and unrelenting, his Navy career and life was ruined. His enemy, now-retired USN Capt. Patricia Rios, daughter and only child of Vice-Admiral John Barrow (now deceased), is alleged to have gone to great lengths to "punish" Mullahy for what he calls "refusing to obey an illegal order."

After an extensive investigation by MilitaryCorruption.com, we have concluded Mullahy acted properly and was "guilty" of no more than arousing the hatred of an officer who would go to any length to harass and harm him.

All efforts to contact Rios or obtain a comment from Navy officials were unsuccessful.

EXTRAORDINARY HEROISM

Our story begins in the waters off Puerto Rico. The date, April 19, 1989. Aboard the USS Iowa, sailors in Turret 2 of the battleship's 16-inch guns prepared to fire during a training exercise.

Suddenly, a flash and a huge explosion rocked the ship. Quickly, other explosions followed. Fires raged. If the flames reached the powder magazine, the entire ship could be lost!

Deep in the bowels of Turret 2, Gunner's Mate Mullahy, a fearless Irishman from Boston, who'd made the Navy his career, rescued three of his shipmates trapped behind a jammed hatch.

Totally disregarding the extreme danger, and refusing to evacuate the area to save his own life, Mullahy single-handedly battered open the hatch with a wrench and dragged the three sailors to safety.

But that wasn't all.

Knowing the IOWA would be utterly destroyed if the fires reached the ship's magazine, Mullahy found his way through numerous smoke-filled compartments to the damage control center. There, he quickly activated the sprinkler system to Turret 2 and the powder magazine flats. That act of heroism kept the IOWA from blowing up.

Finding Lt. Blackie passed out on the floor, Mullahy, without benefit of a gas mask and nearly collapsing from fumes and smoke, carried the unconscious man to forward battle station, saving the officer's life.

Mullahy continued to help men escape the blast area and even volunteered for casualty identification duty. He worked for 36 straight hours without sleep.

In those critical moments after the explosion, Mullahy stared death in the face and didn't blink.

For his heroism that day, Mullahy was meritoriously promoted and awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for bravery.

One would think the Navy public relations "machine" would roll into "high gear" and, still to this day, be cranking out press releases about how Mullahy's courageous actions saved the IOWA and her crew.

But no, the Navy brass prefer to keep silent about a genuine hero they allowed to be destroyed.

"REFUSING AN "ILLEGAL ORDER"

Three years earlier, in 1986, then Petty Officer 1st Class Mullahy was stationed at a 73-acre Navy ammunition depot at Cartagena, Spain.

At first all went well. Mullahy's boss, then-Lt. Cdr. Patricia Rios was very pleased with his excellent work.

In a document obtained by MilitaryCorruption.com, - Mullahy's "enlisted efficiency report" for 86Jan06 to 86Nov30 - Rios couldn't praise her veteran NCO enough:

"HIS PERFORMANCE HAS BEEN SUPERIOR. A SELF-STARTER, HE HAS TAKEN THE INITIATIVE TO UPGRADE ALL ASPECTS OF AMMUNITION STORAGE, ACCOUNTABILITY AND HANDLING AT THIS ACTIVITY AND HAS DONE A REMARKABLE JOB.

"HE RECEIVED COMMENDATORY COMMENTS FROM THE EXPLOSIVE SAFETY BOARD, CINCUSNAVEUR AMMUNITION OFFICER AND CTF-63 WEAPONS OFFICER FOR HAVING HAD A POSITIVE IMPACT ON THE UNIT'S PERFORMANCE AND FOR IMPROVING READINESS. HIS INNOVATIVENESS, COGENT SUGGESTIONS AND DRIVE TO EXCEL MAKE HIM A VALUABLE ASSET TO THIS COMMAND.

"PETTY OFFICER MULLAHY DEMONSTRATES THE REQUISITE QUALITIES OF A SUCCESSFUL LEADER AND IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR RETENTION AND ADVANCEMENT TO CHIEF PETTY OFFICER."

Sound good? It should. Mullahy was one of the top petty officers in the Navy. But soon, all these deserved words of praise would be forgotten in the anger of a bitter and hate-filled vendetta.

One day in 1987 at the San Javier Airport, Rios ordered Mullahy to spray paint over all "explosive" markings and place the explosive devices - from a U.S. C-130 aircraft - in his personal pick-up truck.

According to his sworn statement, Mullahy refused because of a number of reasons. First of all, Lt. Cdr. Rios had "forgotten" to get "diplomatic clearance" from the Spanish Government for the explosives-laden aircraft to land. Then, in direct violation of treaty agreements between the United States and Spain, she ordered Mullahy to move the explosives over Spanish roads WITHOUT informing the local authorities and obtaining an escort. The trip, from San Javier to Cartegena was approximately 35 miles, plenty of time for an accident to occur.

Mullahy knew it was a dangerous and illegal command, and true to his "by-the-book" training, he refused the order. When Rios reacted angrily, the veteran petty officer reported the matter to a Capt. Kennedy at CINCNAVEUR in London. Rios was subsequently "called on the carpet," and when she returned to Cartegena, Mullahy said, "all hell broke loose."

This wasn't the first time Rios had violated regulations, Mullahy said. "I remember once she ripped up incident reports when explosives were dropped or otherwise needed to be inspected. It was as if she realized she was a screw-up but was going to cover it up at all costs," he said.

Mullahy told MilitaryCorruption.com of a 1988 incident in which a pallet of 8-inch howitzer ammunition was dropped while being taken off the USS Milwaukee. Two sailors marked the ammunition as "unusable" and prepared a report. But Rios allegedly ordered one of the sailors to "change the markings" to indicate the ammunition was ready for use, then tore up the report and threw it in the trash. Rios allegedly told the sailor he was not "a team player."

REVENGE

Now, Mullahy could do nothing right! At least according to Rios. She was determined to get even. In direct contrast to her earlier signed evaluation, she now "blistered" the petty officer in the next one:

"PETTY OFFICER MULLAHY . . . LACKS THE MOTIVATION, COMMITMENT, SENSITIVITY AND MORAL STANDARDS TO BE A LEADER," she wrote in June 1988.

Her report said Mullahy ". . .IS NOT COMPLETELY TRUSTWORTHY, POMPOUS AND HIS DISLOYAL ATTITUDE HAS UNDERMINED MORALE. HE IS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR ADVANCEMENT OR RETENTION."

Next, Mullahy tells MilitaryCorruption.com Rios started "digging" through his records and finding what she claimed was "theft of government funds."

Mullahy's first wife had abandoned him while he was at sea years earlier. She divorced him in the States without sending him, or the Navy, any notice. And he had no way of finding her for three years.

"I wasn't sure of my marital status," Mullahy said. "During that time, I continued to receive a housing allowance at a 'with dependant' rate. On more than one occasion, I tried to have the allotment stopped, but was advised to continue to receive it since I had no record of my divorce."

Mullahy was told by one Navy lawyer the divorce was "probably invalid" because it occurred while he was at sea. The Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act protects servicemen from judicial proceedings they are unable to attend.

But that didn't faze Rios. She brought up her once favored noncom on charges and suddenly Mullahy was facing a court-martial. He was refused the opportunity to "pay back" the disputed funds.

What happened next will forever be a blot on the U.S. Navy's so-called system of "military justice."

A NIGHTMARE OF INJUSTICE

The day after he returned from his honeymoon with his second wife, a Spanish national, Mullahy was sent to Naval Station Rota on Technical Arrest Orders. Under Navy regulations, the maximum time TAO's are valid is six months. Mullahy was held on them for eight.

Rios extended her harassment to Mullahy's wife. She was denied a dependent's ID card and all Exchange and Commissary privileges. Later, she was given just "24 hours" to "vacate" her husband's military housing - in effect, putting the young woman out on the street.

Two days before his court martial in June 1988, the Navy arbitrarily changed his defense counsel.

Also, on the day the proceedings were to begin, Mullahy was told none of the officers who advised him about the housing allowance could be found to testify in his defense. In addition, his civilian lawyer was barred from entering the base. The "fix" was in.

The veteran petty officer, who was given no counseling, was taken "directly to court-martial" when similar "offenses" were dealt with by a "captain's mast" or some form of non-judicial punishment.

"It was clear that Rios and her family connections, with her daddy being a vice-admiral and all, made my chances to survive a court martial slim-to-none," he said.

Mullahy was advised to plead "guilty," with the "warning" that if he was "convicted" (and the conviction rate against enlisted sailors was around 98 per cent), he could get two years in the brig and a dishonorable discharge. With 17 outstanding years of service behind him, Mullahy chose to plead "guilty," even though he knew he was innocent, and accept a two-grade bust in rank and five months in the Philadelphia brig.

But the Navy was not done torturing the petty officer. In what the Navy now acknowledges was it's own "error," Mullahy was ordered to "repay" cash advances he had legitimately received for food and housing while awaiting his court-martial.

Meanwhile, Rios allegedly contacted all of the petty officer's creditors and told them because of his court-martial, Mullahy was now a "felon." The result was devastating.

"Ford took my truck. I was three payments ahead with Sears and J.C. Pennys. Those and my bank credit cards were cancelled. I was financially ruined. Rios even opened my mail in my absence, for what reason I will never know," Mullahy said.

NO LET UP

In 1991, two years after the IOWA explosion, now restored to his original rank of Petty Officer 1st Class, Mullahy retired from the Navy.

But the vendetta continued unabated. And the Navy was not about to discipline or punish the daughter of an admiral. This, despite a 1989 Inspector General's report that found, in part, Lt. Cmdr. Patrica Rios "MADE DELIBERATE EFFORTS TO RUIN THE CAREER AND REPUTATION OF GUNNERS MATE JOHN M. MULLAHY JR." Incredibly, Rios was PROMOTED twice after that. John Mullahy, a certified hero, doesn't even get to be a chief petty officer!

In the years since Mullahy left the Navy, the campaign of slander and harassment got worse. It reached its zenith in the mid 1990's when Ms. Andremda Tommasi, an official translator for the 6th Fleet and a close friend of Patricia Rios, got up at an official Navy function in Cartegena and slammed retired PO1 Mullahy.

In front of the mayor of Cartegena, U.S. Ambassador to Spain and the Commander of the U.S. 6th Fleet, Tomassi declared:

"I AM THE U.S. NAVY REPRESENTATIVE AND THIS IS THE OFFICIAL POSITION OF THE UNITED STATES NAVY AND THE NAVAL INVESTIGATIVE SERVICE - THAT JOHN MULLAHY WAS A SUSPECT IN THE MASS MURDER OF 47 MEN IN GUN TURRET #2 ON THE USS IOWA."

Incredible! Now Mullahy was being publicly accused of MURDER, when he actually saved his ship and the lives of the men aboard her!

The NIS later denied Tommasi was their "official representative" and when they investigated WHERE the translator had received her outrageously false information, they were told it came from . . . "Captain Patricia Rios!"

Within hours of Tommasi's libelous statement, two days before Christmas 1994, Mullahy was fired from his local job. The commanding officer of the Naval Station at Rota, Spain (where Tommasi was assigned) sent a letter of apology for the defamatory statements, but that did nothing to restore Mullahy's reputation in Cartegena where he and his Spanish wife made their home.

Three years later, just prior to Christmas 1997, someone reported to the Navy that Mullahy was "dead" and his pension checks stopped. It took months for the retired petty officer to straighten out that mess.

HOW TO RECTIFY THIS OUTRAGE

Anyone having an ounce of decency and a sense of justice reading the above account would know there MUST be action taken to clear retired PO1 John Mullahy's name, his military record and a financial remedy must be arrived at to compensate him, at least in part, for his pain and suffering.

At the very least, the incoming secretary of the Navy should order Mullahy's court-martial "expunged" from his records and the petty officer promoted to at least the rank of Chief Petty Officer (E-7), which assuredly a man with Mullahy's experience and years of service would have attained under normal conditions. His retirement pension should reflect the change of rank, retroactive back to the time he left the Navy.

Mullahy is anything but an ordinary sailor. The highly-decorated Vietnam veteran was a hero in 1975 when he threw himself on a live grenade near the Subic Bay Naval Station, Philippines, saving the lives of four of his comrades.

All during his 20 years in the United States Navy, Mullahy excelled in every assignment he was given. This nation should be proud that men like John Mullahy still exist. Isn't it time to render him JUSTICE? Don't we owe him at least that much?

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Telephone and E-mail all the members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. Appeal to the Secretary of the Navy. Write President Bush. Sen. John Warner of Virginia, is a former Secretary of the Navy and a good and decent man. Let him know how you feel about this injustice.

Download and print out copies of this article and send them to your local news media. Support our sister web sites CAMI, (Citizens Against Military Injustice) at www.militaryinjustice.org and USCOVA (United States Council On Veteran's Affairs) www.uscova.org . If you have loved ones in the Navy, send them a copy of this story. Ask them to pass it around.

Finally, if you feel shame for what the Navy and this country has done to retired PO1 John Mullahy, please E-mail him at JOHNMU@teleline.es . Let him know how much you appreciate his military service.

EDITOR'S NOTE: while retired Capt. Patricia Rios and any U.S. Navy officials have yet to contact MilitaryCorruption.com, with any comment on the Mullahy case, we offer them equal space on these pages to respond to any allegations made.

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