The Pentagon inspector general has cleared an admiral of blame in the illegal attempt to bring 24 automatic rifles into the United States from Grenada in 1983, Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. said Friday.
Vice Adm. Joseph Metcalf III, who commanded the U.S.-led invasion of the Caribbean island on Oct. 25, 1983, was cautioned by Lehman after Customs Service officials caught him trying to bring home the Soviet AK-47 rifles as souvenirs, a violation of a 1969 law.
Lehman considered the matter closed, but the Pentagon said on Feb. 28 that it was dissatisfied with the Navy investigation of the case and that Inspector General Joseph Sherick was opening an inquiry.
The Pentagon did not release Sherick's report, but the Navy issued a terse statement by Lehman saying that the inspector general had cleared Metcalf of blame.
"I have reviewed the inspector general's report . . . and am pleased to note that Vice Adm. Metcalf is exonerated of wrongdoing," Lehman said.
However, sources said, the report finds that Metcalf must bear overall responsibility for the attempt to bring the 24 rifles back to the United States, that Metcalf failed to follow proper procedures for returning weapons for use in "command presentations" to dignitaries and that the Navy must be faulted for not conducting a proper investigation of the matter.
The sources, who agreed to discuss the matter only if they would not be named, said that the inspector general's investigation would not lead to any further disciplinary actions against Metcalf.
But Lehman said that another officer on the admiral's staff will be issued a non-punitive "official letter of caution" for acting on his own to procure additional weapons.