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IOWA SAILS HOME UNDER CLOUD OF CONTROVERSY

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The USS Iowa sails into port this week with the controversy over an explosion that killed 47 sailors no more settled than when the battleship set sail six months ago.

The Iowa was in the Mediterranean when the Navy released a report saying a disgruntled gunner's mate, who died in the April 19 blast, sabotaged one of the warship's massive 16-inch guns.But the Navy report has been widely criticized by relatives of the victims and military watchdog groups, and intensely scrutinized by Congress.

The House Armed Services subcommittee is holding hearings on the report next week, and the Senate Armed Services Committee next week will get testimony from Capt. Fred P. Moosally, the Iowa's commander. The General Accounting Office is reviewing the Navy's findings.

The Iowa is due in port later this week, probably Thursday, according to officials.

The Navy said the explosion was most probably caused by an intentional act and "the most likely person with the access, knowledge and possible motivation to accomplish this act has been identified as Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Clayton Hartwig."

The Navy said the 24-year-old Hartwig, of Cleveland, was suicidal and that he placed a detonating device between sacks of gun propellant in the middle gun of the three-gun turret and triggered the device.

"I think that conclusion must be in the `Guiness Book of World Records' for the longest standing leap from conjecture to an unsupportable conclusion," said retired Rear Adm. Eugene Carroll, executive director of the Center of Defense Information in Washington, D.C., and a frequent Navy critic.

Kreig Brusnahan, a Cleveland attorney representing Hartwig's family, said congressional hearings will show incompetency and bias in the Navy's report.

"The Navy is still engaged in a cover-up. . . . Every action taken is designed to find human error instead of the truth," said Ellis Rubin, a Miami attorney representing Kendall Truitt, one of the survivors of the explosion.

Lt. Cmdr. Craig Quigley, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon, said the service stands behind the report as unbiased, factual and correct.