(NavyTimes.com) - Democratic officials apologized Wednesday for mistakenly displaying an image of the Russian Navy during a tribute to America's veterans at last week's Democratic National Convention. But they also used their response to take a swipe at Republican rival Mitt Romney.
The Russian warships, many of Soviet-era origin, were shown on a giant screen Sept. 6 above 50 veterans while retired Adm. John Nathman honored veterans' contributions to America. The former sailor who spotted the error and notified Navy Times had asked for an apology.
The Democratic National Convention Committee did just that in a statement Wednesday, but also criticized Romney for failing to mention service members during his convention speech in Tampa, Fla.
"Due to vendor error, incorrect images appeared briefly on screen behind fifty-one veterans during the convention and the DNCC apologizes for this mistake," the statement said. "This error should not distract from the words of Admiral Nathman and others who spoke to President Obama's strong record on issues that impact those who have served our nation. We're proud of the service and sacrifice of our veterans and military families, and while they were an important and active part our of convention, Mitt Romney failed to even mention them in his speech in Tampa."
A DNCC spokeswoman said the image of what's believed to be the Russian Black Sea Fleet appeared on screen due to an unspecified "vendor error," but was unable to say how it had occurred or whether the photo had been digitally altered. Naval experts who reviewed the image believe that the photo is a composite of Russian ships and F-5 trainer jets - which are not used by the Russian Navy - streaking overhead in a maneuver.
Naval experts identified the fourth ship in the column, in the foreground on the right, as the Kara-class cruiser Kerch, which was recently put on a list to be scrapped. The next closest ship, or third in the column, is believed to be the guided missile destroyer Smetlivyy, while there's less agreement about the more distant first two ships. But based on this specific grouping of these ship classes, one expert concluded that they were most likely the combatant muscle of the Black Sea Fleet.
A.D. Baker III, a former editor of "Combat Fleets of the World" who inspected the image, concluded that three of the four ships in the photo represented the bulk of the Black Sea Fleet's surface combatants. Baker believes the second ship in the line is a Krivak-III-class frigate in the Ukrainian Navy - based upon the position on its helicopter pad and the type of air search radar at the masthead - and surmised the photo was likely taken at least six years ago at a Navy Day parade near Sevastopol, Ukraine, where both the Ukrainian Navy and Russian Black Sea Fleets are based.
One former Air Force pilot told Navy Times in an email that the wing configuration and distinctive formation made it likely that these planes were the Turkish Stars, an aerial demonstration team of the Turkish Air Force. Animagehe sent appeared to show planes in a very similar formation, however there are slight differences, such as eight planes versus seven in the DNCC image, which could have been edited out.
Many Navy Times readers have cite the image's erroneous broadcast as evidence that the Democratic Party was out of touch with veterans.
"A retired admiral with a shot of Soviet-era ships behind him," one reader, who said he was a Navy vet, commented via Facebook. "Is the Democratic Party that far removed that they can't check up on a simple picture?"