One Man’s Fight for Justice

Kosovo Drug Seizure

[Author Comments: The life of Dr. David Sabow and Charles Krauthammer offer striking parallels.  Both men studied to be medical doctors.  Dr. Sabow at Jefferson University and Krauthammer at Harvard Medical School.  Both suffered spinal cord injuries, which would have  prevented ordinary men from completing their medical degrees.  In both cases, they persisted and overcame what had to be extremely challenging physical obstacles.  Charles Krauthammer graduated from Harvard and later on decided to pursue a career in journalism. Dr. Sabow graduated from Jefferson University and went on to become a successful neurologist.

Dr. Sabow gives credit to James Sabow, his older brother, in helping him train in Canada to meet the physical challenges for medical school in Canada.  Jefferson University didn’t known about his spinal cord injury and would have rejected his application had they known (this was the 1960’s and there was little  tolerance for accepting disabled persons into medical school).

The Sabow brother were only one year apart; both graduated from Georgetown University.  Both dated the same girls in high school and for all practical purposes were twins.  James Sabow accepted a commission in the Marine Corps and became a Marine Corps fighter pilot.  The men remained close as they perused their separate careers.

In January 1991, Colonel James E. Sabow was murdered at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, CA. The government called his death a suicide but the forensic evidence supports homicide, crime scene tampering, conspiracy to commit murder, and cover-up at the highest government levels.  For the past twenty-two years, Dr. David Sabow has pursued an independent investigation into his brother’s death with the same tenacity that he exhibited in graduating from medical school and pursuing a successful neurological practice.]

(RAPID CITY, SD) – Last Friday evening, Oct. 26, Fox News presented, Charles Krauthammer: A Life That Matters.  Prior to the airing, I called four friends and asked them to see the story of this extraordinary man. I did not tell them why but I informed them that following the program, I would contact them.  COLONEL SABOW

Long before I knew his story I had been a devotee of Dr. Krauthammer. Being a neurologist, I was impressed by the logical method he espoused in arriving at his conclusions, his encyclopedic fund of knowledge, the courage to express, in an undaunted way, his opinions and a tangible honesty that underscored everything he said.

I subsequently became aware of several of his personal features and I could not help but identify with him. By no means am I suggesting that I equate myself with Charles Krauthammer. Nevertheless after learning the “whole” story last Friday, the similarities in our lives seemed incredulous to me. I wish to share with you some of these parallels.

Like Dr. Krauthammer, I am a 1st generation American, almost. My father emigrated from Hungary at age fifteen. All my grandparents were born in Hungary but my mother was born in Western Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. My father emphasized the importance of education. He insisted that we continually read and included the weekly news magazines as part of the menu. His grammar and vocabulary bore a resemblance of a college professor and he expected the same from my brothers and me.

We were a close family. We vacationed together in Canada every summer: hiking, swimming, fishing and water-skiing. Tom, my elder brother by two years, had a separate group of friends for the most part. Jim, one year older than me, and I were inseparable. We did everything together; same teams, dates, friends and we both went to Georgetown University.

In July 1961, at age twenty, I was enjoying touring with a Canadian water-skiing show. During a show we were giving in the St. Lawrence River near Kingston, Ontario, I took a bad fall in shallow water. My head hit the sandy bottom at just the right angle and I was immediately paralyzed from the neck down. Only a month before, I had completed a two-semester course in comparative anatomy, which emphasized the nervous system. Consequently, I knew at the very moment of impact that I had broken my neck. I was completely submerged and floated flaccidly with my head just above the sandy bottom. I could hear people above me but could not alert them. I accepted without   panic that this was the end. When I could not hold my breath any longer, the manager of the ski troupe, David Lean, jumped into the water and under my shoulders lifted me to the surface. My head was slightly twisted and it seemed to be locked but I had no other discomfort. There wasn’t even the slightest bruising where my head contacted the sandy bottom. I told David Lean what happened. I directed him not to move me until I caught my breath, and then to lower me back in the water face down and float me into the shore. It was a windy day and the water was choppy, so I had him stop floating me as soon as my face felt the sand. Then I had him and others scoop a hole under my mouth that allowed me to take a breath in spite of the waves coming into shore. Luckily, there was a large audience, perhaps a thousand spectators. A doctor was summoned and two immediately came to assist. A short time later an ambulance arrived and transported me to the Queens University Medical Center, Kingston General Hospital.  Crutchfield tongs, a traction device whose pins are inserted into the skull to distract and immobilize the neck and stabilize fractures of the cervical spine were applied. In addition, within twenty-four hours I underwent a posterior decompression and fusion. I stayed in traction for three months.

I remained completely paralyzed for about five weeks. One night while not being able to sleep, I felt a peculiar sensation throughout my right side. Without thinking I tried to move my right arm to an adjacent table. It moved. Then I made a similar effort in my leg and I could feel a slight movement. Initially, my nurses and especially my neurosurgeon were in disbelief, thinking that I was experiencing the first phase of musculoskeletal spasms that typically follow a period of spinal shock. Indeed, when I was alone trying to move more and more in different directions, I could cause my extremities to stiffen in uncontrollable spasms. In spite of the spasms, I was enjoying improvement in movements and sensation with the assistance of bedside therapy. I could not stop. I wanted to move constantly. I tired myself out against the direction of my doctors, but I felt I had no choice. Up to this moment, I felt that my goal to attend medical school was lost. Now I was experiencing a reprieve. However, there was a big problem.

Earlier in the year, I took my MEDCATS (Medical College Acceptance Tests). A short while later, I received an invitation for an interview at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. I was accepted into medical school without having to attend my fourth undergraduate year of college. But here I was in Crutchfield tongs tied to a bed. However, I knew that with the gains that I was experiencing I was going to live my dream. I simply informed Jefferson that I thought I would rather they save my place for the following year. It was agreeable. I also knew that I was not totally honest, for I never mentioned anything about my physical situation. However, the power that this news gave me was incalculable. I feel that one always would have described me as a goal-oriented, maybe a somewhat driven person, but now I knew that I had only one chance to achieve my dream.

After three months at the Kingston General Hospital, I was taken by ambulance to the Toronto Union Station. A window was removed from a Pullman car and I was lifted through to a prepared sleeper. My father accompanied me on the over-night trip to Pittsburgh. Upon arrival, I was taken to the Rehab Unit of St. Francis Hospital. I remained as an in-patient for three months. My progress was encouraging and I graduated from long leg steel braces and Canadian crutches to a single brace on my left leg and a cane.

In late May, 1962 I was extraordinarily fortunate in acquiring my own personal trainer. My brother Jimmy graduated from Georgetown University. Instead of waiting to be drafted into the military, he applied for Officer Training in the Marine Corps. Fortunately for me, he did not have to report to Quantico, VA until the following January. Right from the graduating ceremony, Jimmy, our mother and I drove to our summer home in Canada where we spent the entire summer. This was an especially significant time in my life for I am convinced that without my brother, Jim’s, dedication, guidance and understanding, I would not have achieved enough strength and endurance to successfully enter and thrive through the rigorous first year of medical school. He literally took over my training. Both Jimmy and I were athletic, so that gave me an edge. Hiking through the underbrush surrounding our cabin started the morning. Crawling to the nearest cedar tree and grasping the pegs on the trunk was how I righted myself after the dozens of falls. My mother rebuked Jimmy for torturing me when we returned to our cabin and I was covered with the scratches from the wild raspberry bushes. From there we went to the winding river that had both rapids and pools and wound around our property. This was right up Jimmy’s alley for he both dove and swam on Georgetown’s swimming team.  Back and forth across the largest pool, I swam. Then he fashioned a kickboard and headed me into the fast moving water below the rapids. There I had to kick and kick while he measured the progress. The closer I made it to the rocks, the happier he would get and the less he would scream.

I knew we were extremely close, more so than other brothers that I had observed growing up. But during that summer, I realized that Jimmy wanted me to succeed in medical school as much as I wished to. In fact, when the summer ended and we returned to our home in Pittsburgh, Jimmy accompanied me to Philadelphia, prepared my apartment and remained several days helping me adjust.

Years later after medical school, two residency programs and a successful career in Neurology, it seems that again Charles Krauthammer and I had somewhat similar paths. Mr. Krauthammer completed his training in psychiatry and early on decided to pursue a vocation in political writing and he became a formidable political columnist and TV personality. My career also took a transformation but out of necessity –not by choice.

On January 22, 1991, Colonel James Sabow, Chief of Operations and Assistant Chief of Staff, Marine Air, Western Area stationed at El Toro, MCAS, CA was called into the backyard of his home on the El Toro base by his next-door neighbor, Colonel Joe Underwood. Underwood attacked his unsuspecting neighbor and held him while two or three trained assassins viciously clubbed SABOW ON PATIO DEADCol. Sabow behind his right ear. A massive depressed skull fracture, as well as multiple basilar fractures resulted. A short time later, after Col. Sabow aspirated a large quantity of blood into his right lung, doubling its weight, he expired. However, that wasn’t enough for these cowards. Then they returned to the crime scene from the interior of the Sabow house where they were awaiting the return of Sally (Jim’s wife) from a weekday mass. Their original plan, which was to stage a murder-suicide scenario, was thwarted by Sally’s unpredicted absence. Unwilling to wait any longer for Sally’s return, Underwood and the other killers left through the back door. Then they thrust a 12 gauge shotgun into Jim’s mouth in an attempt to destroy the evidence of the external blunt force to his skull. However, they failed. The muzzle contacted the soft palate resulting in the angle of the barrel directed to the anterior bodies of the first and second cervical vertebrae. Much of that initial force was dissipated by the vertebral bodies. The upper portion of the spinal cord disintegrated. The remaining force that consisted of four to five gallons of explosive gases and pellets were directed upward through the base of the skull and into the cranium. The autopsy stated that there was “no observable brainstem remaining”. It also stated that the right lung was filled with “aspirated” blood.

I include this brief description of this brutal attack on my brother to help explain why I felt forced to change my life’s focus. With my knowledge and experience, I knew early on that my brother was murdered. However, for twenty-three years I have heard repeatedly, “There is not one shred of evidence other than suicide”. More recently, the United States Attorney General stated that the “Federal government has no jurisdiction in this matter” and then referred me to the AttGen of California. Most disingenuous is the fact that Col. Sabow was on active duty and was killed on base housing under exclusive federal jurisdiction.  Furthermore, when the CA attorney general tried to investigate in the early 90’s they were informed that this was a federal matter and that CA had no business getting involved.

The greater the efforts that were made from Washington to marginalize me, the greater I responded in my attempts to expose their criminal activity that my brother was about to expose. His killers made a grave error. They thought that by killing him, the agenda involving smuggling weapons and drugs into and out of military bases would die with him. They made a grave mistake!  I didn’t abandon my profession but I expanded my career to become a “forensic neurologist”.



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Robert O’Dowd served in the 1st, 3rd and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings during 52 months of active duty in the 1960s. While at MCAS El Toro for two years, O'Dowd worked and slept in a Radium 226 contaminated work space in Hangar 296 in MWSG-37, the most industrialized and contaminated acreage on the base. Robert is a two time cancer survivor and disabled veteran. Robert graduated from Temple University in 1973 with a bachelor’s of business administration, majoring in accounting, and worked with a number of federal agencies, including the EPA Office of Inspector General and the Defense Logistics Agency. After retiring from the Department of Defense, he teamed up with Tim King of to write about the environmental contamination at two Marine Corps bases (MCAS El Toro and MCB Camp Lejeune), the use of El Toro to ship weapons to the Contras and cocaine into the US on CIA proprietary aircraft, and the murder of Marine Colonel James E. Sabow and others who were a threat to blow the whistle on the illegal narcotrafficking activity. O'Dowd and King co-authored BETRAYAL: Toxic Exposure of U.S. Marines, Murder and Government Cover-Up. The book is available as a soft cover copy and eBook from See: