Weapons missing from Dayton Air Force Museum

The federal government is once again guilty of irresponsibility when it comes to the safe storage and protection of firearms.

The Dayton Daily News is reporting that more than 1,000 artifacts are missing from the United States Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton.

Auditors reported three Russian-made 23 mm anti-aircraft cannons missing in March 2002.

On the latest list: Bombs, bomb fuses, and guns.

Click on the "Read More..." link below for more.

Nine other weapons that auditors could not account for also remain missing, according to the museum, and the effort to identify them "has been inconclusive."

"These guns have not been located," the museum confirmed.

The official list of missing items numbers 510, but it also appears incomplete.

Scott A. Ferguson, the former chief of collections, is under indictment in U.S. District Court, charged with selling an armored vehicle in 1999, knowing it had been stolen from the museum in 1996.

"It's quite obvious if you have a leak at that level, you could lose your shirt before you knew it," retired Air Force Col. Richard L. Uppstrom, the museum's civilian director from 1985 to 1996, said of the indictment.

Investigators dismissed early complaints from Albert Harris Jr., a former materials handler at the museum. But a later probe led to the federal indictment this year of the museum's former chief of collections, charged with selling an armored vehicle that he knew had been stolen from the museum.

Harris said that shortly after he was interviewed by the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), the Air Force's major investigative service, he was retaliated against when his position was eliminated.

Harris said he was reduced to washing dishes at the base hospital after he claimed to investigators that Ferguson was involved in the thefts.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) confirms Harris reported his suspicions about Ferguson in 1997 — Harris said it was as early as 1993 that he reported his suspicions of thefts to his supervisor.

Harris stated, for example, that on a late Friday afternoon sometime around 1996, Ferguson asked him to help him remove an M-60 machine gun mounted on a helicopter because Metcalf said historically it didn't belong on that copter.

After they removed the M-60, Harris said, Ferguson "told me that it was late and he was not going to the vault (where guns are stored) and he put the M-60 in his office."

Harris said it hasn't been seen since.

A museum restoration employee, who asked not to be identified, said he saw Ferguson and Harris remove the machine gun from the helicopter and thought it strange because this was work normally "done by the restoration division."

Maj. Gen. Charles Metcalf, the museum's director, said it was not possible to determine if the M-60 removed from the helicopter is the same one that's missing because "there is no register of what gun was taken out of the vault and put on" the helicopter.

"We don't know what that (M-60) went on, don't know what it came off because the paperwork was not prepared in collections," Metcalf said.

The museum was violated as well, Harris said.

On one occasion, Harris said, he and another employee visited the "vault" where guns, swords, knives and other items are stored.

"It looked like a hurricane hit it," Harris said. "I was shocked. Stuff was pulled out all over the floor."

Among items missing from the museum are guns, swords and knives — items normally stored in the museum's vault.

Harris said OSI investigators didn't bother to accompany him to the scenes of the disappearances when he reported them.

The OSC probe cleared Ferguson in 1999 of Harris' claims of theft. That was about the time Ferguson was selling an armored vehicle that a grand jury's indictment said was stolen in 1996 from the museum.

Travis Elliott, the OSC's acting director for congressional and public affairs, said the OSC inquiry determined only whether Harris' claims should be investigated. He said the OSC determined that they were insufficient to warrant such a probe.

"The allegations have to be specific and sufficient in order for us to refer it for investigation," Elliott said.

In a letter dated July 8, 1999, the OSC advised Harris that Ferguson had been cleared of "your allegations of theft" and that Harris was not entitled to whistleblower protection.

"You cause trouble, you rock the boat, you follow Al," he said of himself. "And where did Al go? To the kitchen."

Click here to read the entire story in the Dayton Daily News.

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