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Medal of Honor Impostors


dejoseph_ron.jpg (18379 bytes)During two tours in Vietnam, I never met as many Rangers, Green Berets or Navy Seals as one can find on almost any given evening at the "watering holes" of virtually any American city.  Thirty years ago returning Vietnam veterans were told not to wear their uniforms into town, due the negative responses the unpopular war often evoked.  TIMES HAVE CHANGED!   Today, for whatever reason, Vietnam veterans are becoming recognized for their dedicated service to the extent that large numbers of veterans who served in other theaters, and even men who NEVER served in uniform, present themselves as Vietnam veterans.  The photo of "former Marine Corps Vietnam veteran" Ron DeJoseph at right, caught the attention of the media when it was first printed in 1996.  It also illustrates the degree to which many men will go to portray themselves as Vietnam veterans and prey on the sympathy of others.  Ron DeJoseph was, much to the chagrin of the media which touted this photo taken at the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall in New York, in impostor.

The problem is not confined to non-Vietnam veterans either.  Virtually any military patch, pin, ribbon or medal can be easily and cheaply purchased on the Internet or in local military surplus and supply stores.  This has made it easy for anyone who wants to (illegally) upgrade a Bronze Star to Silver, obtain and wear a Purple Heart never earned, add a colorful "Ranger Tab", or sport a Green Beret.  There are organizations among Rangers, Special Forces, and Navy Seals that aggressively pursue and expose the "fraudulent elite".  There is no more aggressive pursuit of impostors however, than that conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) to expose, prosecute, and even imprison the very WORST of all phonies....Medal of Honor impostors.

They range from a sitting judge in Illinois (who claimed TWO Medals of Honor for heroism in Lebanon), to a truck driver in Florida, to a California real estate executive.  The phonies are sometimes veterans, sometimes even combat veterans.  There are others who have draped our Nation's highest award for military valor around their neck, who have never served in uniform.

fbi_display.jpg (30029 bytes)World War II Medal of Honor recipient Mitchell Paige has devoted his time and energies to exposing the fraudulent heroes who tarnish not only the Medal, but the title "Veteran".   He is backed by the full force of the F.B.I., let by one particularly effective and resourceful special agent headquartered in New Jersey.  The investigation has led to the prosecution of the world's largest manufacturer of military medals for selling unauthorized Medals of Honor, to the recovery of many of these bootlegged medals and even the return of several legitimate Medals of Honor stolen from the true recipients.   Presently the F.B.I. has turned some of this collection into an exhibition to educate the public on the Medal of Honor.

It is a violation of law (Title 18, U.S.C.) for a non-recipient of the Medal of Honor to:

Manufacture the Medal of Honor (It is copyrighted)
Sell the Medal of Honor
Wear the Medal of Honor

Violators may be punished by fines up to $100,000 and imprisonment for up to a year.

Loopholes in the law do not allow prosecution of the fakes who "simply" mis-represent themselves as a Medal of Honor recipient.  These phonies usually have similar stories:

"I was a Navy SEAL (or Special Forces), and our missions were TOP SECRET.  For this reason my Medal of Honor citation is classified."

Sadly, such common stories are not only frequently believed by the general public, but printed in newspapers and broadcast on TV.  There have even been instances of these fakes riding as guests of honor in both city-wide and official military parades.

How To Spot A Phony

  • Ironically, the phonies are usually quite easy to spot...their stories are just too outlandish.  There have been instances when the details of a Medal of Honor have been classified to the point of the citation being written in rather general terms.  Such was the case with REAL Navy Seal Thomas Norris who earned the Medal of Honor in Vietnam in 1972.  Though details of his action were classified for many years, a citation was still written and his Medal of Honor presented in a VERY public ceremony in the White House by President Gerald Ford.   (You can read the story of Tom Norris' action, now declassified, HERE!)

  • Often the impostors claim to have received their Medal for "covert" action in such places as Panama, South America, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, etc.  

  • The easiest way to spot a phony is to check the HONOR ROLL.  You can contact the Congressional Medal of Honor Society if you have any questions, or peruse the names from the Honor Roll as presented in this web site.  At the bottom of this page we provide two lists:

    • A list of ALL living Medal of Honor recipients.  (There are 105 as of April 1, 2008).  If someone tells you they have the Medal of Honor and you can not find their name on this list....they are a fake, a fraud, and a phony.

    • A list of ALL Medal of Honor recipients from all wars since the Medal was authorized in 1861 (for the Navy - 1862 for the Army).  We have put this list together to include alternate spellings of legitimate recipients, as well as including the alias of any TRUE recipient who served under or received their medal under, a different name.  If a person's name DOES NOT appear on this list, they are NOT a Medal of Honor recipient.

phony_stone.jpg (11075 bytes)ross_stone.jpg (13669 bytes)Not all Medal of Honor impostors are living thieves.  The grave stone at left, from a cemetery in Wisconsin, is bogus.  The corporal (whose last name we have erased for the sake of surviving family) IS NOT a Medal of Honor recipient.  (Currently an effort is being made to correct this headstone.)  The Medal of Honor headstone at the right, from the National Cemetery in Chattanooga, TN, is a legitimate marker for Marion Ross, who was the first posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor in the Civil War.  

The lies of the fakes and the frauds follow them, even in death.  It is a sad task to inform a family that the marker of a deceased loved one is phony, based upon their faith and belief in the "war stories" told by a relative who had no honor.

If you suspect that a Medal of Honor marker is fraudulent, you may check the name against our complete roster of recipients.  If the name on the marker is not found in the list, the headstone is in error.

The headstone at the upper-right is the most commonly seen, legitimate Medal of Honor headstone.  The Medal of Honor Historical Society has spent the last several years locating the graves of the TRUE recipients and insuring that they are marked by a Medal of Honor headstone.  Other legitimate headstones may differ in size and design, especially when a "family" marker is used.  If you are aware of a TRUE Medal of Honor recipient who is buried without a Medal of Honor marker, please let us know and we will send that information on to the Medal of Honor Historical Society.


What to Do if you Identify an Impostor

While the loopholes in the law do not permit criminal prosecution of impostors who "simply" claim the Medal of Honor but do not posses or display the medal, the matter is serious enough to be reported.   In some cases, when following up on such leads, the "verbal impostors" have been found to actually have a bootleg Medal of Honor in their possession, though it was not displayed.

If you suspect an impostor, first check their name against our roster or contact the Congressional Medal of Honor Society to verify the name against the Official Honor Roll maintained by them.  You then have three options:

Contact the

Congressional Medal of Honor Society
40 Patriots Point Road
Mt. Pleasant, SC  29464
   Phone:  (843) 884-8862
   Fax:  (843) 884-1471

Visit the CMOHS Web Site

Contact the F.B.I.
fbi_logo.gif (14795 bytes)
Contact your local F.B.I. Office

If you have any doubts or questions, feel free to:



Click HERE to meet

The lawman who had dedicated so much of his time and energy to preserving the integrity of the Medal of Honor


bn_stolen_valor.jpg (7245 bytes)B.G. Burkett has written an excellent book exposing those who would heap praise upon themselves by stealing credit for heroism they never displayed.  His book, Stolen Valor, can be ordered from by clicking on the button at right.  Current Price is $25.56.  ( prices are subject to change without notice.  Our link will provide updated price and order information.


Roster of ALL Medal Recipients from All Wars
(Living and Deceased)

A - E

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M - R

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