Accuracy in Media

Daniel J. Flynn, who served as executive director of Accuracy in Media’s sister organization, Accuracy in Academia, from 1997 to 2003, teamed up with American Spectator editor R. Emmett Tyrrell to investigate claims of wartime heroism made by popular historian William Manchester.

The target of a Jackie Kennedy lawsuit and the author of the bestselling nonfiction book of 1967, The Death of a President, Manchester made boasts of numerous wounds, acts of heroism, and specific decorations awarded to him while serving in the Pacific Theater as a Marine during World War II, according to Flynn and Tyrrell, who obtained Manchester’s 199-page service record from the Marine archives. They researched his wartime letters stored at the University of Massachusetts, and examined his papers at Wesleyan University. They discovered at least four separate fraudulent claims of war wounds, including a bullet to the heart reported by Bob Herbert of The New York Times, a forged Navy Cross citation, and numerous tales of heroism that simply did not occur.

Manchester’s 1980 bestseller Goodbye, Darkness, and his 1987 New York Times Magazine piece “The Bloodiest Battle of All,” contain particularly egregious instances of lies.

Accuracy in Media has excerpted from the original American Spectator investigation below, with the full article linked here:

“‘Thank you for providing documentation in support of your claim of having received a Purple Heart Medal,’ the Veterans Administration informed an ailing William Manchester three years prior to the prolific author’s death that provided the sad coda to 2004’s Memorial Day Weekend. ‘Unfortunately, the documentation you provided is not sufficient for us to make a determination regarding your receipt of the medal; therefore, we are requesting additional documentation from you.’

Of the many boasts the historian made about his service as a Marine during World War II, this undoubtedly true claim ironically failed to persuade federal bureaucrats. Nine months later, President George W. Bush bestowed upon the ‘gifted historian and biographer who makes the past come alive for millions of the readers’ a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) medal.

‘Manchester’s life has been showered with awards,’ the NEH noted in the biographer’s accompanying 2002 biography. ‘He was valedictorian at the University of Massachusetts. He received the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts for his time as a marine.’

Manchester wrote such blockbusters as The Death of a President, The Glory and the Dream, and a trilogy on Winston Churchill. He did not serve as valedictorian at the University of Massachusetts. He did not win the Navy Cross. He did not rate a Silver Star. He did not receive two Purple Hearts.

The lists of Silver Star and Navy Cross recipients maintained by the Department of Defense omit Manchester’s name. His 199-page service record, obtained by The American Spectator, contains no mention of the Marine-turned-historian receiving two of the most prestigious awards given for combat valor. In the decades immediately following the war, Manchester not only never made such claims about his wartime heroism, but when noting the honors he did receive excluded any mention of a second Purple Heart, a Silver Star, and a Navy Cross.

Even the valedictorian boast proves false. College transcripts and records provided by the University of Massachusetts Special Collections show that Manchester, a transfer student, graduated without distinction after receiving mostly Bs and Cs in the last class at Massachusetts State College before it became the University of Massachusetts. The May 16, 1946, issue of the Massachusetts Daily Collegian does report his speaking slot at a senior convocation. But not only did other students deliver prepared remarks at the actual graduation ceremonies, the school did not feature a valedictorian in those years…”

Read the rest of the article at the American Spectator.

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