Marine Corps officials say the Marines who posed with this Nazi SS flag did so because they had no idea those distinct S's were Nazi symbols, they just thought it was a neat font they could use to represent sniper scouts, the Associated Press's Julie Watson reports. "I don't believe that the Marines involved would have ever used any type of symbol associated the Nazi Germany military criminal organization that committed mass atrocities in WWII," Camp Pendleton spokeswoman Maj. Gabrielle Chapin told Watson. She summarized Chapin's explanation as the Marines making a "naïve mistake." The Marines will not be punished.
The photo was taken in September 2010 in the Sangin province of Afghanistan and sent to weapons maker Knight's Armament Company. KAC posted the image on its blog with the caption, "The 'SS' flag has been adopted and used by the Marines in referrence to 'Scout Sniper.'" That they would sent this photo to a third party for publication is probably the best evidence that it really was a "naïve mistake." Still, the Marines would have had to have missed every Nazi movie and video game, and never spoken to one of the many, many American military members who served in Germany, which has banned the band Kiss's logo because the S's are too close to Nazi iconography. (In Germany, Kiss posters have Z-like S's instead.) Gawker's Maureen O'Connor, who links to a cached version of the Knight blog that has since removed the photos, is skeptical. "[H]ow you end up acquiring Schutzstaffel flag? Unless our men in uniform sewed the flag themselves, you'd think the whole 'Please make your check out of Nazi Memorabilia 'R' Us' thing would have tipped them off."