It confirmed, however, that weapons – both personal and “crew-served” – had been destroyed before the State Department-ordered departure, “in accordance with an approved destruction plan.”
Earlier, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters that members of the detachment had handed over their pistols and rifles at the airport, as they were not permitted to take them on commercial aircraft organized for the evacuation.
Warren also said the Marines had destroyed their crew-served weapons – that is, weapons systems requiring more than one person to operate, such as heavy machine guns.
The idea that U.S. Marines would surrender their personal weapons to anyone, let alone to members of the Iranian-backed, anti-American Shi’ite militia that now claims to control Yemen, drew an angry response on social and other media.
But the U.S. Marine Corps in a statement disputed that version of events.
“No Marine handed a weapon to a Houthi, or had one taken from him,” it said.
The statement did confirm Warren’s remarks on the destruction of the crew-served weapons.
“The Marine Security Force left the American embassy in Yemen for the movement to the airfield as part of the ‘ordered departure’ with only personal weapons. All crew-served weapons were destroyed at the embassy prior to movement,” it said.
“None of them were ‘handed over’ in any way to anyone. The destruction of weapons at the embassy and the airport was carried out in accordance with an approved destruction plan.
“Upon arrival at the airfield, all personal weapons were rendered inoperable in accordance with advance planning,” the statement continued.
“Specifically, each bolt was removed from its weapons body and rendered inoperable by smashing with sledgehammers. The weapons bodies, minus the bolts, were then separately smashed with sledgehammers.
“All of these destroyed components were left at the airport – and components were scattered; no usable weapon was taken from any Marine at Sana’a airport. To be clear: No Marine handed a weapon to a Houthi, or had one taken from him.”
Earlier, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly reported that, according to a source, the order for Marines to hand over their personal weapons at the airport had come from the State Department.
“Now, tonight, a senior Defense official confirming to Fox News that Marines were directed to turn over their weapons before they were allowed to leave,” Kelly said on her show. “According to one source, the order came from the U.S. State Department.”
Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Pete Hegseth, a guest on “The Kelly File,” voiced outrage.
“So, we’re surrendering around the world, we’re surrendering our embassy, and now we’re asking U.S. Marines to surrender their dignity, give up oaths that they make, creeds that they live by, and surrender their rifle,” he said.
“Never heard of Marines surrendering their weapons,” was a typical comment on Twitter, where reactions to the allegation poured in. “For shame,” “outrageous” and “disgraceful” were among the observations. Others were unprintable.