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Blog: Semper Fidelis (The Story of Colonel James E. Sabow)

Semper Fidelis (The Story of Colonel James E. Sabow)

David Hoffman, undated estimated 2000

On January 14, 1991, Colonel James E. Sabow, 51, was named Acting Chief of Staff of Marine Corps Air Operations for the Western United States. Eight days later he was found at his home at El Toro Air Station, killed by a shotgun blast to the head.

Like Admiral Boorda, he left behind a wife and two children.

And, as in the case of Admiral Boorda, the Marine Corps and the NCIS claimed that Colonel Sabow took his life because he was despondent over an investigation of a minor infraction: whether he took some stereo equipment and household items to his son while making a routine flight onboard a military plane.[*]

Yet Sabow suspected that there was more than just the alleged misuse of aircraft. He and his friends in the Corps found it rather absurd that Marine Headquarters would consider the matter of such importance that they would jeopardize the operations of this strategic base during “Operation Desert Shield.” At least some of the allegations levied against Sabow (and his neighbor, Colonel Joseph Underwood, Chief of Staff at El Toro at the time) were of a type that were considered trivial and “common practice” among the military flying community. In fact, retired Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Major General J.K. Davis said that any pilot who had ever flown in the military would be “canned” had they been held to the same standards as the allegations against Colonel Sabow.[*]

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