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Amid Controversy, Lawrence To Be Removed from Arlington

By Terry M. Neal
and Stephen Barr
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

The wife of the late ambassador M. Larry Lawrence asked President Clinton on Monday to remove her husband's body from Arlington National Cemetery because "the controversy of the past few days precludes his resting there in peace."

Shelia Davis Lawrence did not address criticism that Lawrence should not be buried in the cemetery because he lied about being in the Merchant Marine during World War II, writing Clinton that her husband's service as ambassador to Switzerland justified his burial there. But she added, "There is much that I still do not understand about recent events."

In his written reply, Clinton said: "It is with a deep sense of personal sadness that I received your letter this afternoon. I will of course ensure that the Department of Defense accommodates your wishes."

The controversy over Lawrence's burial grew out of heated exchanges between the White House and conservatives last month over allegations that Clinton had rewarded Democratic donors with plots at Arlington. Lawrence, who died in 1996 at his official residence in Bern, gave about $200,000 to Democrats from 1991 to 1996.

Lawrence was one of 69 individuals in the past five years who received special waivers to be buried in Arlington. Last month, White House and Army officials, citing Lawrence's wartime record, defended their decision to allow him to be interred there.

But last week, House Republican investigators said that a search of military records turned up no evidence to support Lawrence's claim that he served in the Merchant Marine or aboard the SS Horace Bushnell in March 1945 when it was sunk by a German torpedo while part of a convoy headed toward the Russian port of Murmansk.

Some Republicans and veterans groups in recent days raised the prospect that Lawrence's body should be removed from the cemetery, the nation's most hallowed ground for military heroes, if it were proved he fabricated his Merchant Marine background.

Records released Monday suggest Lawrence was a full-time college student in Chicago during the time he claimed to be aboard the Bushnell.

Ruth Moscovitch, general counsel for the City Colleges of Chicago, said Monday "an individual named Maurice Lawrence, with date of birth August 16, 1926," was enrolled at Wilbur Wright College from September 1944 to June 1945.