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"I shot one, I shot two, I shot fifteen more than you; with an MA5B ICR, SPARTAN targets can't run far!"
―A Gilgamesh Free State chant regarding the MIA Scandal

The Missing In Action Scandal was a scandal involving the SPARTAN-II program, and particularly ONI Directive 930, which caused all deceased SPARTAN-IIs to be listed as Missing In Action instead of Killed In Action. During the initial stages of the UNSC-GFS War, a team of Class II SPARTAN-IIs were inserted onto the planet to aid in the UNSC's offensive efforts. During the Battle of New Belgrade, two of the SPARTANs were killed by anti-tank gun fire. While UNSC forces quickly moved to recover the bodies, they were unable to do so before advance rebel units were able to obtain some remnants of the SPARTANs, though not enough to give any technological advantage.

However, this evidence was only recovered by the Free State after Operation: TIDAL WAVE. Once it was confirmed by operatives from the 1st Intelligence Battalion that the evidence was all legitimate, the Free State released the evidence regarding the deaths of the supersoldiers on the ChatterNet. The news spread like wildfire, and while the UNSC Navy and Office of Naval Intelligence attempted to perform damage control, leakers within the Navy released the statuses of SPARTANs, and the dates they had been declared missing in action or wounded in action. For two of them, their dates of being declared WIA coincided with the UNSC-GFS War.

Suddenly, the myth of SPARTAN invincibility had been shattered, however, ONI vehemently denied the truth of the GFS's allegations, and after the Free State's fall in October 2555, documents were forged to prove that the photos and armor pieces were all faked by the rebels for a propaganda coup. Nevertheless, many still doubted the truth of ONI's counterclaim, and the evidence from the Free State were still consistently utilized in rebel propaganda.

History

Battle of New Belgrade

During the UNSC invasion of the Gilgamesh Free State, in order to act a force multiplier against the GFS's military forces, one of the few professional rebel militaries in the galaxy, a team of SPARTAN-IIs were allocated to be utilized as the invading force saw fit. However, rather than keeping the team together, General Joseph Hernandez, the officer in charge of the invading force, instead divided them, sending several to aid UNSC troops in the Battle of the Borderlands, with the other two, Maddison-140 and Van-497, sent to take part in the Battle of New Belgrade.

On March 6th, after several days of bombardment, the SPARTANs were sent to aid 7th Battalion, 21st Marine Division in breaking through rebel lines in the suburbs of New Belgrade in order to link up with trapped elements of the 105th Shock Troops Division. Launching the attack in the early hours of March 7th, the UNSC forces, supported by the SPARTANs, made initial headway into the rebel defenses, inflicting heavy losses on the GFA's 3rd Infantry Regiment, and forcing them to pull back. To counter the advance, the 4th Infantry Regiment directed one of its rifle battalions to reinforce the 3rd, and launch a counterattack in conjunction with an artillery bombardment from both regiments' batteries.

At 0330 Hours, the bombardment and subsequent counterattack began. While the bombardment was intended to hit the advance UNSC units, rebel gun crews, fearing hitting their own troops, ranged the shots further, instead trapping the advance units. As the rebels advanced, M754 armored cars provided field support against UNSC armor and infantry. One of these cars, with Sergeant Louis Jacowitz spotting from atop it, inadvertently killed Van-497 during the counterattack. Firing a round intended to hit a machine gun-armed M12 LRV pinning down a squad of rebel troops, the round missed, instead hitting Van, who had been providing sniper support from a nearby building. Van, who had been mortally wounded by the shell, was then attended to by Maddison-140, who began making preparations to destroy his armor, neglecting the heavy fire all around her. Spotting the now-exposed SPARTAN, First Lieutenant Frank Thompson pointed her out to the other rebels, calling in artillery support alongside directing fire from the other rebel troops on her. Within seconds, Maddison too had been killed. Encouraged by the sight of a dead SPARTAN, and the UNSC troops likewise shocked, the rebels continued the counterattack, driving back the UNSC troops, with rebel troops seizing the opportunity to take what gruesome souvenirs they could and taking photos of the bodies.

While Thompson had radioed for a unit to retrieve the remains of the SPARTANs, UNSC officers, well aware of what had just occurred and the consequences for themselves and the UNSC if the rebels were able to retrieve the bodies, ordered a concerted counterattack on rebel positions. At the same time, rebel officers receiving Thompson's request thought he had simply been mistaken, and as a result few units were redirected to hold the sector and retrieve the remains. While the UNSC counterattack drove the rebels back and kept the majority of the SPARTAN remains from falling into enemy hands, this came at a grievous cost. With panic setting in among the already shaken UNSC troops from due to what had just occurred, the first attacks were rushed and uncoordinated, and as a result were driven back at heavy cost to UNSC troops.

Legacy

Sergeant Louis Jacowitz in the film Invincible, portrayed by actor Kevin Eperts

"Loose the folds asunder/Flag we conquer under!/Placid skies that hear our cries/Shall launch their bolts of thunder!"
Men of Harlech

The scandal destroyed the image of the SPARTANs as invincible killing machines, a issue that was only further exacerbated years later when units from the Republic of Levosia tracked and killed a Headhunter team, their bodies on display for the galaxy to see. Among rebel militias and secessionist states, the news was met with overwhelming joy, with the 3rd and 4th Infantry Regiments showered with unit awards and citations

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