Over the past four years, we've tried to do our part in exposing military phonies. From our perspective, there is nothing worse than a veteran--or someone who never served--offering bogus claims of valor and sacrifice. Real heroes (see our previous post) are an increasingly rare commodity; their exploits should never be cheapened by the frauds and charlatans.
With that in mind, we propose a special place in the Military Hall of Shame for Howard Manoian. Since the late 1940s, the Lowell, Massachusetts resident (and World War II veteran) has masqueraded as a former paratrooper.
For 60 years, Mr. Manoian told anyone who would listen that he served in combat with the 82nd Airborne Division during some of its toughest battles. As a member of the iconic unit's 505th Airborne Regiment, Manoian said that he jumped into Normandy on D-Day and Holland during Operation Market Garden. He also claimed two battle wounds.
It was all a lie.
Last month, about the time that Manoian was receiving France's highest military award, he was finally exposed as a phony. The Boston Herald, using information unearthed by military researchers, discovered that Manoian was never a member of the 82nd, or any other airborne unit. He served in Normandy, but as part of a chemical decontamination battalion. When it became obvious that the Germans would not use chemical weapons, Manoian's unit became a supply outfit.
Since then, the European edition of Stars and Stripes and a British paper have picked up the story. Mr. Manoian, as you might expect, has been reluctant to discuss his real military record. He's been living in France for several years, in a village (Sainte-Mère-Église) where American paratroopers landed on D-Day. But, when a Stripes reporter attempted to contact Manoian, his French landlord reported that the phony paratrooper had returned to the U.S.
Make no mistake; Howard Manoian served honorably in World War II. His unit came ashore on Utah Beach during the Normandy invasion and ran the supply dump for that sector. But apparently, that resume wasn't exciting enough, so he fabricated his service as a member of the 82nd.
At his age, Manoian probably won't be prosecuted for his fraud. But he deserves lasting enmity for his decades-long charade. When it comes to stolen valor, there is no age limit, or statute of limitations.