Those claims, similar to instances of 'survivor fraud' (psychologically disturbed or merely opportunistic people claiming to be survivors of the Titanic, the Lusitania, 9/11, the Victorian Bushfires, the Shoah or satanic rituals), are an inevitable feature of our society. Impostures by people who believed their own lies or who merely wanted others to believe them are discernable from at least the time of Imperial Rome.
An interesting aspect is the bizarre nature of some claims (eg a perpetrator claiming to have walked across wartime Europe while being fed by wolves) and what might seem to be egregious risk-taking on the part of some claimants (eg awarding yourself trivial honours is less likely to attract attention than decorating yourself with the Victoria Cross), an excess that arguably indicates psychological disturbance - or sheer howling stupidity - rather than a rational assessment of an easy way to cash in.
Australia's Charles Sturt University fired James Montgomery, who modestly claimed to have been awarded the Victoria Cross (somewhat rarer than a Nobel Prize) and to have served as a US Marine, a US Navy SEAL, an Australian SAS Captain, a SAS Major, a Commando and a RAN Reserve Captain. No, he wasn't employed as a lecturer in creative writing.
Another aspect is the delay in detection of some fraudsters and the failure of gatekeepers,including specialists used by some large corporations that face substantial reputational risk in appointing senior executives with bogus CVs. One example was CV embellishment by Jeff Papows of IBM, which provoked the UK Register to comment -
So he's not an orphan, his parents are alive and well. He wasn't a Marine Corps captain, he was a lieutenant. He didn't save a buddy by throwing a live grenade out of a trench. He didn't burst an eardrum when ejecting from a Phantom F4, which didn't crash, not killing his co-pilot. He's not a tae kwon do black belt, and he doesn't have a PhD from Pepperdine University.I was thus interested to read in today's Melbourne Age that the Australian Federal Police are investigating an alleged fraud by 83 year old Arthur Rex Crane, federal president of the Prisoners of War Association of Australia. Crane has reportedly been on the highest level of service pension since 1988, received a substantial ex gratia payment and claimed to be one of Australia's youngest prisoners of war.
Crane reportedly alleged he was captured by the Japanese in 1942, became a prisoner of war at 15, was imprisoned in Singapore's Outram Road jail, had his hands nailed to a tree by his captors and had his head smashed by a soldier wielding a baseball bat. Alas, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that throughout the war the 83-year-old lived in Adelaide and had never served in the military. His supposedly dead brother is alive and well. When confronted by journalists, he reportedly responded "It is me living a lie, isn't it?"
A media release [PDF] from the federal Veterans Affairs Minister Alan Griffin describes the matter as disgusting -
Personally, I think for anyone to impersonate a prisoner of war is disgusting. It is a betrayal of all the values our veterans stand for. ... This matter should be pursued to the fullest extend of the law and I am confident that the AFP will do so. I eagerly await the outcome of that investigation."Crane's alleged offence echoes deceptions such as those involving 'Major' Reg Newton, who rose to become junior vice-president of the 8th Division Association in Australia. Newton claimed a Military Cross and bar ("awarded MC for heavy action Laos"). He had supposedly been in service as a secret agent during the Cold War (setting up escape lines in East Germany in 1951), been wounded in Korea, almost killed in Mongolia and decorated by King George VI.
Unfortunately for him, after basking in the esteem of his fellows and being featured in newspaper articles, he was sprung in 2006. A NSW court heard that he was never a major, had never won a Military Cross and indeed never served overseas. The court was apparently unimpressed with reports that he explained discrepancies and the absence of documentation on the basis that his work was "top secret".