Notable Military Imposters

| May 14, 2021

Photo courtesy Mark Johnston | The Daily Herald

Harold Wolford, a Vietnam veteran, writes a Veteran’s Corner for the Delaware Gazette.  Recently, he has been writing a series about Stolen Valor.  Nothing really new but he has done an excellent job of educating the public.  However, his recent article about notable military imposters deserves a highlight.

Closer look at notable US military impostors

By Harold B. Wolford – Veterans Corner
There are often false accusations against actual military veterans. Accusations do occasionally backfire, with real veterans accused of being imposters. Doug Sterner, a Vietnam War veteran who catalogs military awards, and Stolen Valor author B.G. Burkett, note that some modern veterans have become hypersensitive to imposters, leading to vigilantism or even turning detection into a “hunting game.”
A common error is placing too much emphasis on the neatness of a uniform or certain quirks about how it’s worn, which is not necessarily compelling when a veteran is older and has been out of the service for several decades. Another is making too many inferences based on older regulations, such as gender restrictions that were in place in the past. Even FOIA requests to the National Personnel Records Center, considered the most thorough type of verification for U.S. veterans, are not perfect and sometimes fail to find a record even if the veteran is genuine.
Sterner states, “There’s some people that feel good about confronting people, and making themselves look big by trying to take them down. But when they do that, they’re going to make mistakes.”
Unfortunately, there are many military imposters. Here is a list of some notable American military imposters:
• Joseph A. Cafasso – American con artist and former Fox News military analyst who claimed to have been a highly decorated Special Forces soldier and Vietnam War veteran. He actually served in the U.S. Army for only 44 days in 1976.
• Wes Cooley – Former U.S. congressman from Oregon who claimed to have fought in the Korean War. He served in the U.S. Army for two years, but was never in Korea. Convicted of lying in an official document.
• Brian Dennehy – American actor who claimed to have fought and been wounded in the Vietnam War. He served in the United States Marine Corps from 1959 to 1963. He was not wounded and did not serve in Vietnam.
• Frank Dux – American martial artist, fight choreographer, and author who claims he was on covert missions to Southeast Asia while serving with the United States Marine Corps and was awarded the Medal of Honor. He also claimed he was a CIA field officer. Dux served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve from 1975 to 1981, but he was never sent overseas, never received the Medal of Honor, and was never recruited by the CIA.
• Joseph Ellis – American professor and historian who claimed a tour of duty in the Vietnam War. He had a graduate student deferral of service until 1969 and then taught history at West Point until 1972. He issued a public apology in August 2001.
• Jonathan Idema – American con artist who claimed to be a U.S. government-sponsored special forces operative in Afghanistan, and he had 12 years of Special Forces service, 22 years of combat training, and 18 years of covert operations experience. In actuality, he served in the U.S. Army from 1975 to 1984 primarily in the U.S. Army Reserve and while he did serve with the 11th Special Forces Group, it was purely as logistical support. He never saw combat and was never sent overseas. Convicted of fraud in 1994 and later convicted in 2004 by an Afghan court of capturing and torturing citizens he believed were terrorists.
• M. Larry Lawrence – American real estate developer and later United States ambassador to Switzerland who claimed to be a seaman, first class in the Merchant Marine during World War II and a veteran of the Arctic convoys. Upon his death, he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with a eulogy delivered by President Bill Clinton. A year later, his claims of service were exposed as fraudulent and his remains disinterred.
• Jesse Macbeth – Anti-war activist who claimed to be an Army Ranger and veteran of the Iraq War. In reality, he was discharged from the Army after only 44 days for being “unfit for duty.” Confessed in federal court after being charged with possessing a forged or altered military discharge certificate and making false statements in seeking benefits from the Veterans Administration.
• William Northrop – American military historian, investigator, and writer who claimed to be a U.S. Army Special Forces officer for three years in the Vietnam War, including being badly wounded at the Battle of Lang Vei, an event at which only 24 Americans were present. An extensive search of US military records and a check with the FBI revealed he never served in any branch of the US military.
• Douglas R. Stringfellow – Former U.S. congressman from Utah who claimed to be an OSS agent in World War II, that he was a recipient of a Silver Star, and that he was tortured by the Germans at Belsen Prison, which left him with a mobility impairment that left him unable to walk, requiring the use of a wheelchair. In reality, he was a private in the Army Air Forces, never worked for the OSS, did not receive the Silver Star, and was capable of walking with a cane. Made a public confession after he was exposed by his political opponents.
• Delmart Vreeland – American con artist and sex offender who claimed to be to a U.S. spy and naval intelligence officer where he allegedly learned of the September 11 attacks before they happened. U.S. Navy records revealed he enlisted in 1986 but was discharged before completing basic training due to poor behavior.
• Micah Wright – Author and anti-war activist who claimed to be an Army Ranger involved in the United States invasion of Panama and several other special operations. He was an ROTC student in college, but he neither earned a commission nor served in the military. Confessed and apologized online after learning an exposé was being written.
• Walter Williams – He was thought to be the last surviving veteran of the American Civil War upon his death in 1959. Evidence later surfaced that he was not born the year he claimed and was still a young child when the war ended.
In literature there are also instances of military imposters. Here is one example of one such imposter:
• Cyrus Trask, a character in John Steinbeck’s novel “East of Eden,” loses his leg in the first and only action he saw during the U.S. Civil War. He subsequently creates an entire military career, encompassing nearly every battle of the war, and stating that he was a personal advisor to President Lincoln.
Harold B. Wolford is president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095. He served in the United States Army from 1970 to 1973.

Nice job!   I’m sure we can think of a few more that can be added to Wolford’s list.

Other articles by Wolford include:


Category: Stolen Valor, Stolen Valor Act

Comments (24)

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  1. Ret_25X says:

    “Virtue Imposters”

    What a great term. Applies to so many in so many ways.

    Are you a racist? No problem, go burn down a Wendy’s.

    Are you are rich white kid? No problem, go burn down the Texaco.

    Are you a chickenshit coward? No problem, put on some fake uniform items.


  2. 26Limabeans says:

    “Even FOIA requests to the National Personnel Records Center, considered the most thorough type of verification for U.S. veterans, are not perfect and sometimes fail to find a record even if the veteran is genuine”

    Chipp Reid…paging Mr. Chipp Reid…

    • MarineDad61 says:

      Lesser literary and historian minds have created some impressive autobiographical historical military fiction.
      Impress some, unimpress others.
      Thus reveals… the history of historical literature.

  3. Hack Stone says:

    If there was a thread on Notorious Military Imposters, the article would never get finished.

  4. Green Thumb says:

    We need to get The False Commander “Phony” Phil Monkress (CEO of All-Points logistics) on that list.

  5. MarineDad61 says:

    Good news –
    Chipp Reid can continue writing and selling military maritime history books.

    Good news –
    If a Chipp Reid book earns a spot on a best seller list,
    Chipp Reid earns a spot on this list.

    Win Win.

    [Private “Chipp” Reid – Bassackwards Phony Marine
    Dave Hardin | April 28, 2021]

  6. SFC D says:

    If it wasn’t for Jesse Macbeth, I never would have discovered milblogs. A google search on Macbeth led me to Castle Aaaargh, Blackfive, Greyeagle, Lex, and then here. So he’s got that going for him. Which is nice. For me.

    • Hack Stone says:

      Hack Stone was wondering how The Usual Suspects of This Ain’t Hell ended up here. It should be a thread upon itself. Maybe name the thread “How Did I Get Here?”

      Allow Hack Stone to say how he found this web. Way back in the day, shortly after 9/11, Hack Stone was perusing Stars & Stripes, and they had an article about a Sailor stationed in Yokosuka. The young Sailor was home on leave in the Sacramento CA area, and was talking some some smack about about being deployed to Afghanistan following the attacks. So, his hometown High School friend told the aSacramento Bee, and the did an article about him deploying down range as a Navy SEAL. The internet being what it is, Navy PAO released a statement that he is not nor was ever a Navy SEAL, and his Command in Yokusaka would be “having a discussion” with him. The Stars & Stripes quoted Mary Shanag from POW Network, and Hacwas frequenting the site for posers that she exposed. Hack clicked on a link from another site associated to POW Network, and before you could say Honorary Chief Petty Officer, Hack Stone found himself on This Ain’t Hell, and that networking led to his career as Director of Media Relations for a proud but humble woman owned business that sells software to the federal government.

      • UpNorth says:

        I got to TAH via Blackfive. Saw it mentioned in a post there, looked it up on the Googler and here I is.

      • Fm2176 says:

        I received an emailed alert about possible protests that could affect military personnel, back around 2009. Researching the group behind the protests led me to TAH and Blackfive. I frequented both sites for a few years and now visit only this site, ToolGuyd, and a couple of law enforcement blogs daily.

      • Green Thumb says:

        I got lost and found a home for wayward boys.

  7. KoB says:

    Was Barksdale’s Mississippians or Wheat’s Louisiana Tigers the FIRST True “Delta Force”? Or would that be some gal named “Dawn”? One does have to wonder what was that flower she had on. Either way, Imma gonna meet the Real Heroes in that Mansion in the Sky.

    I was raised to not hate anybody or anything, but I swear (forgive me Mama) I absolutely DESPISE anyone that embellishes or downright lies about their Military Service. Every job in the Military is vital and important and whether you enlisted or were drafted, you should do your duty, to the best of your ability, in all things. You can never do more and you should never wish to do less.

    On the flip side of these embellishers, there is strong evidence that the records of the Georgia Militia (units that gave a good accounting of themselves on many battlefields) were purposely destroyed at the end of the WBTS in a Macon GA Warehouse fire. Many of the prominent citizens of the area had served and wanted no record of it since those “damned insurrectionists Johnny Rebs” could not hold political office, vote, or have other Civil Rights if they had participated in “The Rebellion”. They swore that they had been “Good, Union Men” during the whole time. Oddly, many years later when WBTS Vets were being offered a pension for their Service, these same men were FIRST to sign up for that 8-12$ a month. Hell, how many fellows claimed their name was Cain…or they marched with Alexander…or rowed Cleo’s barge…or served on Julius’ Staff…or… The list goes on!

  8. Sj says:

    Round Ranger, Heavy Chevy, Forging Frank….the good old days

    • Hack Stone says:

      They were truly legends in their own minds. Quite a few “Old Time Posers” that truly considered themselves the Greatest Of The Greatest Generation. Who could ever forget the Phil Rizzuto look alike who was the Secret Naked Combat Warrior? Or that Oddfellow who liked to dress up wearing leather gardening gloves while laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery? Fortunately, we do have millennials willing to step up and serve their country with false claims of valor and being wounded in combat, such as the punk ass who had his face rearranged while trying to buy some coke outside of a White Castle while home on leave. Hack al it’s forgot to mention The Pirate Lesbian, who definitely could take some Photoshop lessons from Daniel Bernath.

      • Green Thumb says:

        Toss in “Ranger” Burrell (when he gets back from his weekend at Ricks), The False Commander “Phony” Phil Monkress (CEO of All-Points Logistics), John Giduck, “Turd” Bolling of Ambassador Worldwide Protection Agency (both national and international) and we have a poser party!

  9. Anonymous says:

    The next twist is that someone will claim stolen valor a reparations because they could’ve gone except, of course, for racism that prevented them for doing so and now they need restorative justice.

    • Hack Stone says:

      Hack Stone has a High School classmate Facebook friend. Leans extremely to the right on the political spectrum, which Hack has no problem with. He never did serve in the military, nor did he eve claim to serve. He did say that he did try to enlist in the Navy, but failed the hearing test. Nothing wrong with that, he just wasn’t physically qualified. One of his Facebook friends then posted “If you did go in, I’m sure that you would be a SEAL.” No idea how this woman knows who would and would not qualify to complete SEAL training. Hack just did a virtual eye roll.

  10. Skyjumper says:

    Of course we can’t forget about Hillary Clintoon wanting to join the Marines but they said no because she was too old (age 26) and because she was wearing glasses. Too bad they didn’t sign her up because she probably could have taken out the sniper that didn’t shoot at her in Bosnia.

    And of course Brian Williams. Never was in the military, but was shot down while in a Army helicopter in Iraq.

  11. Anonymous says:

    “So, I said to Leonidas, tell that punk ‘This is Sparta!’ and kick his ass into the well.” –Brian Williams

  12. ChipNASA says:

    Ah Frank “Dicks”, Asian Assassin.
    He has a more fake look than Sidney Toler.