Aiming to Right History, Group Sniffs Out Fake POWs

Pretending to be war prisoner is legal, but vets say it dishonors the true heroes
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 23, 2008 12:38 PM CST
John McCain is administered to in Hanoi, Vietnam, as a prisoner of war in this 1967 file photo.   (AP Photo, File)
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(Newser) – When Richard Cayton told a Texas newspaper about his harrowing escape from captors in Vietnam, former Navy SEAL Steve Robinson thought something smelled fishy. He ran some quick checks, and told the newspaper that it had been lied to—Cayton had never been a prisoner of war. Sniffing out such fibs is the raison d’être of the POW Network, a group of hobbyist watchdogs who have exposed 1,900 impostors since 1998, the Chicago Tribune reports.

“It’s taken over our lives,” said a POW Network member. Unlike pretending to have won a military honor, which is a federal offense, pretending to be a POW is legal. But “the lies are changing history,” she says. “It's wrong. It causes the real heroes to be grouped with the phonies and frauds.” Luckily tracking down fakes is relatively easy. All 766 authentic Vietnam POWs are documented in a searchable online database.