James W. Fritch – Beirut Search and Rescue Team; Anti-Terrorism Recon Unit; ODS Recon Team in Iraq; Blog of Shame16
05/07/2016 by militaryphonies
Recently, James Fritch was featured on Saturday February 5, 2016 in the regular ‘Meet A Veteran’ section of the Norwich Bulletin in Norwich, Connecticut. The article was written by Jaclyn Diaz ( email: firstname.lastname@example.org ), a journalist with the Norwich Bulletin. The editor is Scott Albright. The original article is not available, but here is a scanned version… (Note: Text version follows for easier reading)
Below is a text version to make it more easily readable…
Norwich Bulletin (CT)
February 6, 2016
Section: CT News Page: 3
MEET A VETERAN
Vet witnessed Beirut bombing
He helped with search and rescue in aftermath
In the service: James Fritch, 57 of Plainfield, followed a family tradition and enlisted in the military as a reservist at 22. He went active duty at 23 and served from 1980 to 1992, first in the Air Force and then the Army. “It always seemed like a thing to do,” he said. “My family has always served in the military, either here in the states or in Germany. So I was just following tradition.” Fritch started off in the Air Force as a law enforcement specialist. He transferred to the Army to train in medicine and special operations and served as a special forces medical specialist. “I loved everything,” he said of his time in the military. “The camaraderie, the pride everyone took in the job they were doing. The ability to serve my country was a joy.” Fritch was in Beirut in 1983 when the Marine Compound was bombed, killing 241 U.S. military personnel, and was in country during the U.S. embassy bombing that killed 63 people and the 1984 bombing of the U.S. embassy annex building. On the day of the Marine Compound bombings, Fritch and his unit were in their tents only a kilometer away. When they heard the blast, his unit rushed to the barracks and tried to rescue survivors and remove bodies from the rubble. For two weeks after the attack, Fritch helped identify bodies, working 18 to 20 hours a day. “We tried to return them to their families,” he said. Fritch served for a total of seven months in and out of Beirut as part of a small unit focused on anti-terrorism and finding terrorist leaders in Lebanon. Fritch also took part in Operation Desert Shield in Iraq as a reconnaissance team, but in 1992, old injuries forced him to retire. “I didn’t want to leave my buddies,” he said. “We were very close-knit.”
Life after the service: Once he returned, Fritch did odd jobs while he was recuperating. He started work as a paramedic in 1994 and has been working in that field ever since. Fritch has worked as a paramedic for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and works now at the American Medical Response office in Putnam. He also works part-time with KB Ambulance in Danielson, as a medic. Recently, Fritch completed a novel, the first of a series he plans to publish, called “Shadow Ops.” “I worked on that for four years, I’m looking for a publisher now,” he said. “I’m in the middle of writing two other books and started another book on the start of the American Civil War.”
Quotable: Fritch said he will never forget the day of the Beirut Marine Compound bombing. “We were rustled out of our bunks. We felt the shockwave first before we heard the blast. It felt like a nuclear bomb went off. We looked outside and there was a huge cloud,” Fritch said. “We all went over there with our vehicles and we started digging out the people we could find. There weren’t many and I had some friends there that didn’t make it.”
Copyright 2016, Norwich Bulletin, All Rights Reserved.
* Served in the U.S. Air Force in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983
* Was in country for the US Embassy Bombing in Beirut on 18 Apr 1983
* Was in country for the Beirut Marine Barracks Bombing on 23 Oct 1983
* Witnessed the Beirut Marine Barracks Bombing on 23 Oct 1983 – lost friends
* Rescued survivors of the Beirut Marine Barracks Bombing on 23 Oct 1983
* Was in country for the US Embassy Annex Bombing in Beirut on 20 Sept 1984
* Served in Beirut in anti-terrorism unit focused on finding terrorist leaders
* Took part in Operation Desert Shield in Iraq as part of a reconnaissance team
In addition, Fritch claims in the article above that he “served as a special Forces medical specialist”. This claim is supported by the photos he posted on Facebook.
Fritch has even suggested that he is writing a new book. Based on his experiences?
Since the published article about James Fritch raised a few flags, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was initiated.
. . . . .
FOIA RESULTS – SELECTED
As far as Beirut, Lebanon is concerned…
As far as Iraq/ODS are concerned…
. . . . .
FOIA RESULTS – COMPLETE
|US AIR FORCE||US AIR FORCE
|US ARMY||US ARMY
. . . . .
SUMMARY AND DISCUSSION
James Fritch’s official military records do not show that he was in Beirut, Lebanon. They also show he was stationed at Rhein-Main in Germany at the time of all three bombings in Beirut, Lebanon.
Many of the Beirut casualties were evacuated to Germany. The living were taken to the Weisbaden Air Force Hospital and Landstuhl Army Hospital and the fallen were subject to remains identification at a temporary facility set up nearby for that purpose. It appears that Fritch participated to some degree with that effort, but it was impossible for him to be in a tent one kilometer away from the Marine Headquarters in Beirut when it was blown up on 23 Oct 1983 – at least as far as his records are concerned.
In fact, two Air Force Meritorious Medal awards (in the US Army FOIA results) specifically say that Fritch was in Germany during that span of time.
People that were part of the remains identification efforts in Germany were consulted.
The 435th SPS (Security Forces) were assigned to Rhein Main. The only Security Forces units that worked the tents were from the 435th and the 62nd out of McChord (Washington State). A then E-6 from the 435th SF had never heard of Fritch.
Fritch’s records also do not support his claim of being part of a anti-terrorism team that went in and out of Beirut to search for terrorists. If true, this would be reflected in the Assignments section.
Although it is true that a secret covert team was assembled, it consisted of a five-man undercover unit from the Pentagon’s supersecret Intelligence Support Activity (ISA) lead by LtCol Bill Cowan USMC (ret). There is no indication that this team consisted of active duty assets. They came back to the US in early 1984 and did not return. Fritch stated that he was in Beirut, Lebanon during the US Embassy Annex bombing in Sept 1984.
Does it seem likely that ISA would use an active duty Law Enforcement Specialist from the US Air Force to be a part of covert, anti-terrorism efforts in Beirut, Lebanon? One would have to accept this to believe Fritch’s story. One would also have to accept that Fritch was in two places at once – Beirut at the time of the Marine Barracks bombing and in Germany. Although conceivable they could have shuttled him back and forth based on a critical need for his skills, there’s nothing in his record to suggest this.
There has been a recent ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States that allows people affected by the Beirut bombings to be compensated from frozen Iranian assets. The Stolen Valor community has seen a drastic spike in people claiming to be in Beirut at the time of the bombing and/or helped in the on site recovery operations.
NOTE: The term used in Beirut for efforts in the aftermath of the bombing on 23 Oct 1983 was actually Search and Recovery (SAR) vs. Search and Rescue, the latter term being used by James Fritch.
Since some of those that participated in the Search and Recovery (SAR) operations are also included in the lawsuit judgement, it stands to reason that the number of claimants will increase. Many are legitimate, but a good number are not and never set foot in Beirut.
While we cannot know an individual’s motivation for claiming to be in Beirut when the bombing occurred, we cannot help but think that some have a financial motivation for doing so. The same is true for Fritch as we cannot say what his motivation is for claiming he was in Beirut when his records do not support such a claim, but the timing is oddly suspicious. Then again, he could have been making these claims for years. Which is the less egregious scenario – recent claims or claims that have been around for years?
SPECIAL FORCES MEDICAL SPECIALIST
There is nothing in his record to suggest he was a Special Forces medic.
The tabs and patches in the photo he posted on Facebook are not supported by assignments and awards. The “chocolate chips” desert camouflage, however, are indicative of ODS/S.
OPERATION DESERT SHIELD
There is nothing in his record that supports Fritch’s claim that he was in Iraq or Desert Shield/Storm for that matter. Most of the US troops were pre-staged in Saudi Arabia in 1990 vs. Iraq. When Desert Storm kicked off in 1991, the bulk of US troops did not travel north into Iraq, although there were some. This would have been rare during Operation Desert Shield.
To believe Fritch’s story one would have to believe he was plucked from his unit to participate in a covert operations reconnaissance team in Iraq, but his records indicate that he was stationed in a school in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Even if there is an explanation for some of these inconsistencies, if you take them as a whole, there is a lot that doesn’t add up and so it is fair to say that it enters the territory of “if-then-but” exceptions.
What is safe to say is that James W. Fritch’s service claims are not supported by his official military records.
If Fritch has a reasonable explanation for every inconsistency and has the proper documentation to support his claims; then he should probably ensure that the supportive documentation makes its way to the National Personnel Records Center.
If he would claim that his assignments were classified and won’t be found in his records, why is he talking to the newspapers and telling his stories? Or maybe it will all be explained in his forthcoming book?
Many families and veterans were affected by the tragedies in Beirut, Lebanon. James Fritch appears to have served honorably and provided some support role in Germany, but he was not in Beirut. To claim being there and participating in the rescue of survivors and digging out bodies of the fallen crosses a line in the eyes of many people if Fritch was not actually there.
If Fritch cannot back up his claims and explain why none of them are supported by his official military records, it is our belief that he is stealing valor in one of the worst ways imaginable — off the backs of grieving family next-of-kin and servicemembers that lost brothers in those bombings.
. . . . .
PHOTOS and SOCIAL MEDIA
. . . . .
. . . . .
This Ain’t Hell: http://thisainthell.us/blog/?p=65651