Families of the Fallen Favor Transparency


DOVER, Del. – In the weeks since the Pentagon ended an 18-year ban on media coverage of fallen soldiers returning to the U.S., most families given the option have allowed reporters and photographers to witness the solemn ceremonies that mark the arrival of flag-draped transfer cases. […]

The ban on media coverage dated back to 1991, when President George H.W. Bush imposed it during the Persian Gulf War. It was cast as a way to protect the privacy of grieving families, but critics argued that officials were trying to hide the human and political cost of war.

"I think it was to protect the government's butt," said David Pautsch, who allowed the media to witness the return of his son Jason, an Army corporal from Davenport, Iowa, who was killed with four other soldiers in a bombing in Iraq.

He said the ban was more about minimizing the political impact of Americans dying overseas.

"I think it was a reaction against the second-guessing of our country's mission," he said.

Since the ban was lifted, 19 families have been asked whether they wanted media coverage of their loved one's return and 14 have said yes.

Fully story here. Also, see Charles Paul Freund's great 2004 piece on "the strange history of war death imagery."