Russian Ships Displayed at 2012 DNC Tribute to Vets

A backdrop of naval vessels displayed at the 2012 Democratic National Convention included images of Russian warships.

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Image via Military Times


A backdrop of naval vessels displayed at the 2012 Democratic National Convention included images of Russian warships.
Were the ships being shown on the screen behind retired Adm. John Nathman while he was honoring veterans at Dem convention actually Russian warships?
Collected via e-mail, September 2012


A week after the end of the Democratic National Convention in September 2012, the Navy Times reported that a backdrop of naval warships displayed behind retired Adm. John Nathman as he addressed the convention on its final evening (seen above) had included pictures of Russian vessels rather than American ships:

On the last night of the Democratic National Convention, a retired Navy four-star took the stage to pay tribute to veterans. Behind him, on a giant screen, the image of four hulking warships reinforced his patriotic message.

But there was a big mistake in the stirring backdrop: those are Russian warships.

While retired Adm. John Nathman, a former commander of Fleet Forces Command, honored vets as America’s best, the ships from the Russian Federation Navy were arrayed like sentinels on the big screen above.

These were the very Soviet-era combatants that Nathman and Cold Warriors like him had once squared off against.

Naval experts concluded the background was a photo composite of Russian ships that were overflown by what appear to be U.S. trainer jets. It remains unclear how or why the Democratic Party used what’s believed to be images of the Russian Black Sea Fleet at their convention.

The background — featured in the carefully choreographed hour leading up to the president’s Sept. 6 speech accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination — showed four ships with radar designs not used in the U.S. fleet.

The day after the Navy Times‘ report, the Democratic National Convention Committee apologized for the mix-up, attributing it to an unspecified “vendor error”:

Democratic officials apologized for mistakenly displaying an image of the Russian Navy during a tribute to America’s veterans at [the] Democratic National Convention.

“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.

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.

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.

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Fellman, Sam.   “Russian Ships Displayed at DNC Tribute to Vets.”
    Navy Times.   11 September 2012.

Fellman, Sam.   “DNC Apology for Backdrop of Russian Ships.”
    Navy Times.   12 September 2012.