6 Public Figures’ Amazing and Untrue War Stories

Brian Williams isn’t the first public figure tell tall tales.

At this point, there’s no denying it: Brian Williams lied about being aboard a CH-47 Chinook helicopter that was forced down by RPG fire during the invasion of Iraq. And why wouldn’t he? After all, a little “combat experience” can go a long way. Although, it’s hard to imagine that Mr. Williams’ career as a nationally revered news anchor would have been any less illustrious had he kept his mouth shut. But Mr. Williams isn’t the first American public figure to get his or her hand caught in the cookie jar of battlefield glory. Lest we forget, let’s take this opportunity to salute a few of those who preceded Mr. Williams in the long tradition of influential people conveniently mis-remembering their experiences in combat.

Hillary Clinton

The Lie: During a campaign event in 2008, the former First Lady and then presidential candidate told a harrowing tale of surviving a sniper attack in Bosnia in 1996, saying: “I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get to the vehicles to get to our base.”

The Truth: Clinton’s greeting ceremony in Bosnia went pretty much exactly according to plan, and was 100% sniper-free.  

Ronald Reagan

The Lie: On at least two occasions, the Teflon president claimed to have been present during the liberation of Nazi death camps toward the end of World War II.

The Truth: While Reagan never actually deployed overseas during the war, he did make a few movies about it. That kind of counts, right?

Dick Blumenthal

The Lie: During his campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2010, it was revealed that Senator Blumenthal had a history of telling people –usually large groups of people – about his “war service” in Vietnam.

The Truth: Mr. Blumenthal did spend some time in the Marine Reserves during the war, but he never stepped foot in Vietnam.

Michael F. O’Brien

The Lie: For 20 years, Illinois judge Michael F. O’Brien maintained that he had earned not one, but two Medals of Honor for extraordinary heroism in combat.

The Truth: Judge O’Brien served in the Mediterranean with the U.S. Navy in 1958, but the total amount of Medals of Honor awarded that year wasn’t two; it was zero.

Darrow “Duke” Tully

The Lie: Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Duke was one of the most influential people in Arizona. He was the godfather of Sen. John McCain’s daughter and the publisher of The Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette. And, if he were to be believed, he was also a highly decorated veteran of the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Until he was finally called out in 1986, Mr. Tully had spent nearly 30 years telling tales of incredible derring-do in combat, often appearing in public wearing full military dress uniform.

The Truth: Mr. Tully never served in either Korea or Vietnam. In fact, he never served in the military at all.

Photos by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images