Martin F. Dardis (November 25, 1922 – May 16, 2006) was an American soldier, policeman, investigator and reporter. As the chief investigator of the Dade County, Florida state attorney in 1972, he was a key figure in the Watergate scandal, linking the Watergate burglars to President Richard Nixon's reelection campaign. He passed this information along to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein. Later, as a reporter for Sports Illustrated, he broke the story of baseball player Pete Rose's gambling.
World War II
During World War II, on December 29, 1944, Dardis was a gunner with the 468th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion in General George Patton's Third Army in the Battle of the Bulge. After twelve hours, Dardis's crew and that of another half-track had shot down four German aircraft with 37-mm cannons and .50 caliber machine guns, while pinned down by aerial bombing and artillery and small arms fire along the Arlon-Bastogne road, for which the other crew were awarded Silver Stars. He and his comrades also rescued downed pilot Kenneth H. Dahlberg behind enemy lines; Dahlberg almost shot Dardis before the airman realized he was friendly. Their paths would cross again many years later.
In 1988, bothered that the other half-track crew had been awarded Silver Stars while his had not, Dardis began researching to build a case, forwarding his findings to the Military Awards Bureau and the Board to Correct Military Injustices. After 18 months of deliberation, a unanimous verdict was reached, and in June 1991, Silver Stars were awarded to Dardis and the four other members of his crew, though two had to be posthumous.
Law enforcement career
Policeman and investigator
After leaving the Army, he became a policeman in his hometown of Endicott, then a New York state trooper. In the 1950s, he was the police chief of North Bay Village, Florida. He then became an investigator for Florida Attorney General Richard Ervin in the 1960s. When Ervin's term ended in 1964, Dardis went to work for Dade County state attorney Richard E. Gerstein. He also worked for Janet Reno.
As Gerstein's chief investigator, in 1972 Dardis was tipped off about a connection between a Miami bank and Bernard Barker, one of the Watergate burglars who had been caught in the act inside the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate building. A check for $25,000 had recently been deposited in Barker's account. That check had been written by a major Republican fundraiser: Kenneth H. Dahlberg, the man Dardis had rescued in World War II. While Dahlberg was never accused of any wrongdoing, the money linked the burglars to Nixon's reelection campaign. When Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein arrived at the state attorney's office, Dardis passed along the information, which would eventually lead to the Watergate scandal and Nixon's resignation in disgrace.
Dardis continued to uncover other major crimes, including a "$862,000 fraud at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in 1974, a $258,931 trifecta scam at Flagler Dog Track in 1977". In the late 1970s, he went undercover, posing as a crooked cop; the investigation led to the dismantling of a "drug ring with annual sales of $500 million". Threats persuaded Dardis to relocate his family back to Endicott, New York, in 1979.
In 1981, Dardis went to work for Sports Illustrated as an investigative reporter. He was involved in major stories, including Don Reese's revelation of widespread cocaine use in the National Football League and Pete Rose's gambling. He continued working for the sports magazine until about 2005.
Personal life and death
Dardis married four times and divorced three times.
He died of vascular disease in Palm City, Florida at the age of 83. He was survived by his wife of 42 years, Barbara, their two children and four children by previous marriages. He was buried in section 69 of Arlington National Cemetery.
- "Dardis, Martin F". United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved October 3, 2012.
- Amy Driscoll (May 17, 2006). "Martin Dardis: Obituary". Miami Herald.
- Associated Press (May 20, 2006). "Martin Dardis, 83, Watergate Investigator, Dies". The New York Times.
- Patricia Sullivan (May 19, 2006). "Martin F. Dardis, 83; Investigator Linked Watergate Crime to Nixon". Washington Post.
- "Martin Dardis: Sergeant, United States Army". Arlington National Cemetery. May 18, 2006.
- John Papanek (June 17, 1991). "From the Editor". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 3, 2012.