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10 PEOPLE WHO PRETENDED TO BE WAR HEROES

There are few people more revered in our society than the brave soldiers who venture out into the world to defend freedom and democracy. The sacrifices made by our men and women in the service are beyond reproach, and we respectfully salute them. The 10 men in this feature, though, get a different salute — one with the middle finger. They all pretended to be decorated veterans for fame, fortune or just sick thrills until somebody exposed their stolen valor.

Dave Harper
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Modern technology has made it easier than ever to fake military service. A few hours in Photoshop can create documents that will fool most observers. That is, unless you’re British man Dave Harper, who trotted out the most hilariously faked photo in the world to claim that he was awarded a Military Cross in 1969 for service in Northern Ireland. Harper simply pasted his face over actual war hero Alfie Pope, who was awarded the Cross after saving three fellow soldiers from a hail of bullets in Afghanistan in 2012. A group of British stolen valor hunters quickly exposed Harper, noting that there were no Military Crosses awarded in 1969 and the photo would have probably been in black & white, even if it wasn’t a lousy Photoshop.

Kenneth Crocheron
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The majority of these military frauds use their bogus service to impress friends or strangers, but Utah manKenneth Crocheron faked service for just one family. For decades, Crocheron claimed to have served in Vietnam, where he was awarded three Purple Hearts before getting cancer from Agent Orange exposure. In reality, he made everything up to impress one kid: the son of actual vet James Jeanes, who was suffering from a rare disease. At one point, he even claimed to be “deployed to Afghanistan” and called the Jeanes family with gunfire sound effects in the background. Crocheron’s bizarre imposture continued for over a decade until the Jeanes family discovered that he never went overseas and his only service was at a base in Utah.

Roger Day
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The thing with faking military commendations is that most people can’t stop at just one. When British manRoger Day marched in the 2009 Remembrance Day parade, you couldn’t help but notice the array of medals pinned to his chest, including the Military Cross, Distinguished Service Order and Kuwaiti Liberation Medal. If any soldier had racked up that many commendations, he’d be a legend — but nobody had any idea who Day was, especially the actual soldiers he was marching with. When confronted, Day claimed that all of the medals were legit, but his wife later fessed up to buying them for him.

Matthew Buckingham
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Military charity scams are big business. It’s easy to get a few bucks out of people when they know the cash is going to our veterans, who need all the help they can get. So there are few things as disgusting as somebody claiming to be an ex-soldier and scamming donations at the same time. St. Louis man Matthew Buckingham said he served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was injured overseas and now spent his time dealing with local gangs. He set up a raffle to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project but spent all the takings on himself before cops tracked him down.

Rex Crane
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Many of these military impostors seem simply incapable of lying low. Australian Rex Crane had an incredible backstory, with lurid tales of being a Singaporean prisoner of war during World War II. Allegedly captured at 15, he was one of the youngest POWs of the war — well, he would have been, if his story were true. In 2009, researchers determined that Crane had made the entire thing up and was in Australia for the length of the conflict. He had been collecting a fraudulent military pension and other cash awards since 1988. Adding insult to injury, Crane was then serving as the president of the Ex-Prisoners of War Association of Australia!

Joseph Cafasso
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Right-wing media has an endless appetite for ex-military folks who can get mad at Obama on cue, so it’s not surprising that when Joe Cafasso came to Fox News with a pedigree that included Special Forces service and a Rolodex full of sources, they put him right on the air. Unfortunately for the network, Cafasso was nothing but a con man. Instead of a decorated Vietnam War veteran who also participated in Operation Eagle Claw to free hostages in Iran, Cafasso had actually only served 44 days at Fort Dix in boot camp before being discharged. His backstory reveals multiple other identity frauds and fake names.

William James Clark
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The Green Berets are one of the most respected operations forces in the entire U.S. military, and you have to be the best of the best to make muster. That’s why it was so bizarre to see a morbidly obese man huffing around Alaska gun shows in full Green Beret uniform, complete with two-star Combat Infantryman Badge. The man was William James Clark, a serial hoaxer who had done prison time in the past for impersonating an Army captain. When a real infantryman spotted Clark, he dragged him out into the parking lot and upbraided him before stripping him of his unearned medals and insignia.

Donald R. Nicholson
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It’s hard to say what really inspires people to fake distinguished service. It’s a need for attention, sure, but there has to be something deeper behind it. When Donald “Nick” Nicholson walked into the Clermont County Vietnam Veterans of America post, he was instantly welcomed by his fellow vets. They listened to his tales of valor that earned him a Distinguished Service Cross and accepted him as one of their own. That is, until they learned that the former police chief had been in Florida during the war and bought his medals at an antique store. He was quickly expelled from the VVA and turned into a pariah when his deception became known.

Billy Dailly
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Most of these fake war heroes get exposed on the internet, which is bad. But British scammer Billy Daillysuffered the ultimate humiliation when a couple of paratroopers proved he was a liar in front of the patrons at the pub he owned. Dailly spent two decades claiming that he’d served in the Falklands as part of the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment, and even had medals to show for it. But when two actual veterans from that regiment caught wind of his claims, they swooped in to show Billy’s loyal crowd that he made the whole thing up, and even made his own medals to make the scam more believable. The disgraced barman fled the scene in shame.

Douglas Stringfellow
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For a politician, decorated military service is worth more than just about anything else. The voting public loves a war hero, after all. So when Douglas Stringfellow ran for a Congressional seat in Utah, his distinguished service in World War II was a huge asset. According to the man himself, he was awarded the Silver Star for his efforts as a member of the OSS behind enemy lines, and had been captured and brutally tortured by the Nazis but never gave up his love for America, even after it cost him the use of his legs. Unfortunately, a TV appearance on “You Bet Your Life” gave Stringfellow a little more exposure than he bargained for and his opponents revealed that he wasn’t in the OSS, didn’t get a Silver Star and was actually able to walk!

 

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