Subscribe to Breaking News emails

You have successfully subscribed to the Breaking News email.

Subscribe today to be the first to to know about breaking news and special reports.

Air Force Probing Disrespect of John Glenn's Body Before Burial

by Courtney Kube and Corky Siemaszko /  / Updated 
Frmer astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn lies in repose, under a United States Marine honor guard, in the Rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse December 16, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio.Bill Ingalls / NASA via Getty Images

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

The Air Force is investigating allegations that a mortuary worker at its base in Delaware made Defense Department inspectors a ghoulish offer they refused — a peek at John Glenn’s body before the astronaut and American hero was buried.

It allegedly happened while Glenn’s remains were at the Dover Air Force Base “pending his interment at Arlington National Cemetery on April 6, 2017,” Air Force spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder said in a statement on Friday.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

“The inspectors declined the offer and at no time viewed the remains,” Ryder said.

But when they reported the alleged offer, Air Force brass was outraged.

“The Air Force takes extremely seriously its responsibility to fulfill the nation's sacred commitment of ensuring dignity, honor and respect to the fallen and care, service and support to their families,” Ryder added. “If any allegations of misconduct are substantiated, those involved will be held accountable.”

Several hours later, Glenn's daughter Lyn released a statement.

"The Air Force is taking complete responsibility and is conducting an investigation," she said. "We are asking that our privacy be respected."

Ryder did not identify the worker. But two defense officials confirmed to NBC News he is Bill Zwicharowski, the chief mortician at Dover Air Force Base.

Annie Glenn, seated, widow of John Glenn, watches as members of the U.S. Marine Corps from Marine Barracks Washington carry the casket of her husband during his graveside service at Arlington National Cemetery on April 6.Rachel Larue / U.S. Army via AP

Zwicharowski could not be reached for comment. However, in an interview Friday with the Washington Post he said he was being punished for blowing the whistle back in 2011 on how the bodies of slain soldiers were being mistreated.

“I have a target on my back,” he told the paper. “It’s continued retaliation.”

Zwicharowski also said he did nothing wrong when he offered to show Glenn's body to the inspectors.

“I was proud of the job we did and wanted them to see our care and work,” he told the paper. “After all, that was what we were being inspected for.”

Glenn, a war hero who became the first American to orbit the earth and later served four terms in the U.S. Senate, died in December at age 95 in his home state of Ohio. Thousands of people filed into the Ohio Statehouse rotunda to pay their respects before Glenn's body was flown to Delaware, its first stop on the way to Arlington National Cemetery.

The story was first reported by the Military Times.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
MORE FROM news

Have feedback?

How likely are you to recommend nbcnews.com to a friend or colleague?

0 = Very unlikely
10 = Very likely
Please select answer

Is your feedback about:

Please select answer

Thank you!

Your feedback has been sent out. Please enjoy more of our content.

We appreciate your help making nbcnews.com a better place.