Sailors at a Navy facility for transient personnel in Norfolk have told congressional investigators they were handcuffed to their bunks and beaten, verbally abused and denied food.
A three-month investigation, conducted by Rep. Harold (Cap) Hollenbeck (R-N.J.) and his staff, also uncovered complaints from the men housed in Nimitz Hall at the Norfolk Naval Station of overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions, understaffing, theft and repeated administrative foul-ups.
The sailors -- some of whom were staffers at the facility -- alleged that Nimitz Hall superiors authorized such physical abuse and even punished one sailor who appealed to a congressman for help. The report will be submitted to the House Armed Services subcommittee on investigations later today.
Nimitz Hall is a facility for Naval personnel awaiting nondisciplinary action such as new orders, medical evaluations or discharge, as well as those awaiting disciplinary action such as courts-martial or bad-conduct discharges. Sailors returning from unauthorized absences also are assigned there.
The report, which does not name the complaining sailors, makes these conclusions:
* Sailors were, on many occasions, "tied down . . . handcuffed to bunks while being beaten . . . detained for no apparent reason . . . verbally abused, pushed around and denied mess privileges."
* Sailors returning from meetings with supervisory personnel, a 10-year veteran petty officer told Hollenbeck, showed "signs of being beaten (bruises, cuts, etc.)." He said one master-at-arms "had also authorized such abuses and had sent individuals to the brig for no reason."
* A sailor said he missed several meals because no escort was available to accompany him to the mess hall. The same sailor said he underwent "constant verbal harassment and humiliation," and had witnessed one supervisor "kick several people."
* A quartermaster with a college degree and legal training who was assigned to Nimitz Hall for 45 days upon returning from an unauthorized absence, reported that as a "direct result (of using his legal background to help other sailors at the hall) he was placed in protective custody and that all of his notes and reference material were destroyed."
After the quartermaster contacted Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) to request assistance, the report said, superiors who learned of his request confiscated his military identification card and took away his leave privileges.
The investigation also found "serious problems concerning lost or misplaced records."
Cmdr. William C. Tredick, former commanding officer of Nimitz Hall, said in a statement in the report that he had faced a "lack of sufficient staff and/or assignment of just anyone to fill key positions . . . We just had no recourse but to watch newly 'trained' masters-at-arms so that any ill-tempered, unsuitable or yes, bigots, were yanked out quickly."
In a response sent to Hollenbeck on Oct. 22, Navy Secretary John Lehman said the Navy recently had researched three complaints of "unusual force or irregular behavior" by Nimitz Hall staffers, and found "a lack of evidence . . . to warrant further action."