Monday, February 06, 2017

Vietnam Faker Statistics

I’m not sure why this has become such an issue here but I think I have been able to deduce what has happened. I had decided that I would address this in a comment rather than a new post so not to annoy those of you who couldn’t care less and to avoid another long and drawn out but rather pointless fight over the statistics but there is too much information here. So it becomes a regular post.
The Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D. C. Photo copyright by Kevin Randle.
First, a note about sources. Although it was said that no reputable site had posted the extreme figures on phonies claiming service in Vietnam (in-country in the parlance of those of us who were there), I found a number of them. These are a few:

These figures could also be found at:
They wrote, “During that same Census count, the number of Americans falsely claiming to have served in-country was: 9,492,958,” and “During this Census count, the number of Americans falsely claiming to have served in-country is: 13,853,027.  By this census, FOUR OUT OF FIVE WHO CLAIM TO BE Vietnam vets are not.” (Yes, this is somewhat confusing and contradictory, but I think they were referring first to the 1995 census and then to the 2000 census but did not explain this problem.  They said, “All credit and research to: Capt. Marshal Hanson, USNR (Ret.) and Capt. Scott Beaton, Statistical Source.” This doesn’t tell us the source of the data, only who had supposedly collected it or found it which, I think, adds some legitimacy to the figures and does suggest a connection to a census though the connection is not identified.

The wording about the four out of five who claim to be Vietnam vets but are not is the same that has been used at many of the sites that I visited. But the Veterans Today site also wrote, in big letters, “ALL STATISTICS HAVE NOT BEEN VERIFIED OR FACT CHECKED.   They are NOT to be used for official government findings and reports.  The authors of the above article are lobbyists for the Reserve Officers Association.  There is an active controversy involving statistics used.  Other reputable resources offer statistics that differ significantly from those given.  Statistics above have been used to support underfunding of VA services or to support denial of veterans programs in areas of homelessness, suicide prevention and others.” (I will note that this is also a politically driven statement. That same web site published an article, “Who Are the Real Viet Vets,” which claimed that 90% never saw combat and most were anti-war. This is the giveaway as to their agenda because, as a Vietnam Vet I know that most of what was claimed in that article is false but there was no warning about the facts being unverified. Their overall agenda makes their warning suspicious and shows that much of what they print is politically driven.)
It seems, however, that the information is not drawn from the 1990 census and might be related to one that was conducted in 1995 which is not to say that the statistics about the fake Vietnam veterans is in that census either. This is described as “The Statistical Abstract of the United States, published from 1878 to 2012, is the authoritative and comprehensive summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States.

“It is designed to serve as a convenient volume for statistical reference, and as a guide to other statistical publications and sources both in print and on the Web.
“These sources of data include the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and many other Federal agencies and private organizations.”
I think the wording is where everything slides off the rails. Some of the statistics being used seem to have been gleaned from this 1995 census and it seems that everyone is in agreement that there were only “1,713,823 of those who served in Vietnam were still alive as of August, 1995 (census figures).”
Although this seems to be correct, I can’t find anything in the census figures to support it. I wondered if some of this didn’t come from the Department of Defense, but haven’t verified it there either. I can’t find “good” numbers on much of this other than there were 2.7 million service members who were actually in Vietnam and that about 8.5 million served during the Vietnam era. The census figures do confirm the 8.5 million number.

Here’s what I do know. There have been hundreds of fakers exposed in the press in the last few years. There are many sites devoted to Stolen Valor which had exposed thousands of other fakers. They range from the one time publisher of a Phoenix newspaper to an Illinois judge who claimed he had been awarded the Medal of Honor though he was not saying it was for service in Vietnam. Don Shipley at his SEALs website has said that for every real SEAL he identifies, there are a thousand who were not SEALs.

Randle (in Greens) and Senator Tom
Harkin in suit. Photo copyright by Randle
Retired U.S. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa was caught up in this. He had claimed he flew combat air patrols over Vietnam but all he had done was fly repaired or new aircraft into Vietnam. (I wondered about this because it made no sense to me… but then remembered that if you set foot in a combat zone even for an hour or two, then you didn’t have to pay federal income tax for the month… so, ferrying aircraft into Vietnam had a financial incentive.) He also had claimed recon flights over Cuba but that wasn’t true either. He eventually amended his senate bio to reflect his service in the Vietnam era… and before anyone says much about my motives for writing this, I will note that Senator Harkin presented me with the Bronze Star Medal for actions during my tour in Iraq and I have the pictures to prove it.

I have been able to find reliable statistics on the number of men and women who served in-country, on those who served in areas surrounding Vietnam such as Thailand, Guam and in the deep water Navy, and some statistics on those claiming Vietnam service and have been exposed as frauds. What I haven’t found in the census documents is a number for those falsely claiming Vietnam service. I have found references that suggest the number came from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) magazine and from the Reserve Officers Association magazine which I would think of as reliable sources except I do not have copies of either magazine so that I have nothing on their sources.

Here’s what I think happened. The figures for those who served in the Vietnam era were recorded by the census in 1990 and 2000. The census count in 1995 apparently identified about 1.7 million Vietnam Veterans still alive at the time of the count, though I have not found any record of this in the census figures I looked at. I did not look at those sites that required registration, a fee or an email address so they might have been there and I therefore did not find the whole record for the breakdown of the numbers.

Someone might have found, in those census figures somewhere, a report that suggested 12 to 14 million had claimed to be Vietnam Veterans and subtracted the true number from it to arrive at the 9.4 million. The trouble is I don’t know where that 12 to 14 million number originated, how it was collected, or if it was part of some study that ran parallel to the census. I don’t even know if it is bogus or authentic though I suspect the number is close to accurate. I did find a claim that in the 2000 census the number had jumped to 14 million, but again, this does not seem to be accurate and my review of the census doesn’t bear this out.

Without copies of the VFW magazine or the ROA magazine so that we can see if they provide a source, I don’t know where to take this. I know that there are many claiming Vietnam service who were not there and that there are many claiming awards and decorations they did not earn. But tracking this back to the US Census is not something that I was able to do. David Rudiak was right about that. The only number coming out of the census was 8.5 million Vietnam era veterans of which according to other sources, about 2.7 actually served in Vietnam.


Matt Wiser said...

It's not just Vietnam fakers: there was a USA Today story some years back about phony Gulf War vets. The article cited a VA document that reported 80 people had claimed POW benefits for having been captured during the Gulf War, when there were only 21 POWs.

Scam artists will try anything, sad to say.

David Rudiak said...

Thank you for acknowledging that the actual U.S. Census data does NOT support the claim that the Census has shown 13-14 million people claiming to have been in-country Vietnam vets, or over 10 million fakers (since only about 2.7 million served in-country).

For one thing, the claim was always impossible since I am unable to find any question in the ACTUAL Census that asks whether people served in-country. Instead the standard Census question on the long form is whether somebody has ever been active duty military and lists multiple war and peace eras, including the Vietnam era from 1964-1975. Thus the Census provides the total numbers of ALL people claiming to have been active duty veterans during Vietnam, but not the number claiming service in-country. This alone falsifies the claim that the Census data shows 10 million fake Vietnam vets.

The ONLY possible evidence in Census data I have found of POSSIBLE fakery was the 2000 Census, which found 8.4 million saying they were Vietnam ERA vets out of the actual 8.7 million figure of the Pentagon. Natural attrition through mortality should have reduced the number to around 8.2 million surviving Vietnam era vets. Is this evidence of ~200,000 fakers, or is there some other explanation, such as how you define active duty military personnel? The same vet websites Kevin links to also give a ~9.1 million figure for "military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam Era." If that was closer to the true figure, then the 200,000 fakers evaporate.

Having found maybe a few thousand fakers is a VERY, VERY LONG way (by a factor of at least one thousand) from the 10+ million claimed in the "Stolen Valor" book, allegedly based on Census data, and endlessly repeated in multiple vet publications, including the websites you linked to. They are all repeating the same phony "statistic" of the Stolen Valor book, claiming it is based on Census data. It is not. It is totally made up, apparently to push the author's and other veterans political or emotional agenda.

The same goes for Don Shipley and his alleged 10 million fake Navy Seals. This is all based on his say-so with nothing to back it up. He does claim an "FBI study" "a few years ago" estimated 300 fakers for every real living Seal. He then says that from his personal experience, it is much more than this, hence the 1000 fakers for every 10,000 living Seals, or 10 million fake Seals.

Like the nonexistent Census data of 10 million fakers, this seems to be all totally made up by Shipley to push his own agenda. I have searched in vain for this alleged FBI study. It doesn't seem to exist. And Shipley's estimate of 1000 times the true number is also made up and worthless, not based on anything other than Shipley wanting to believe there is some sort of Navy Seal imposter epidemic.

Just as a basic gut check that these huge numbers are preposterous, how many people have any of us run into bragging about being Navy Seals or in Vietnam? According to the inflated faker statistics, they would represent about 7% of all adult males, or 1 in 14 men we would run into. We should be tripping over them in daily life.

But just to cite my own anecdotal experience, I have never in my life run into anybody claiming to have been a Navy Seal and only one person bragging about their exploits in Vietnam in Special Forces who I strongly suspected of being a bullshitter. Everybody else I know who said they served in Vietnam actually served there. These are old friends from high school and a relative. But other men (and women) I've run into over the past 4 decades, thousands of them, have mentioned nothing about being Vietnam vets.

Why bother to be a faker unless you are going to brag about it to people you meet? Where are all these millions of fakers anyway?

KRandle said...

Well, to cite my own anecdotal experience, I have run into many people claiming to be Vietnam vets. One said he was a doorgunner on a helicopter but didn't know the basic nomenclature, didn't seem to understand the tactics and was a little vague on the units to which he had been assigned. Another at a Veterans Day celebration couldn't identify where he had served other than up north somewhere and seemed unfamiliar with the tactics employed. A third, claiming to be homeless, was unable to identify where he served in Vietnam, exactly when, and provide a proper unit designation. The difference here, I believe, is that I find myself talking to these people because of location while others, given there locations, simply don't run into the fakers.

I still haven't found out much about this 1995 Census and I believe there was another in 2005 and maybe 2015... there could have been some sort of study run at the time. I did provide some information from reliable sources about the large number of fakers and all you need to do is type Stolen Valor into your search engines and you'll find name after name.

Shipley's web site and other sources supports the idea that there are, literally, thousands claiming to be SEALs who were not. All you need to do is look at the numbers he supplies... and his agenda is sort of like mine... it annoys me that the fakers are out there spouting their nonsense. They are believed when they tell their stories, but they either have made them up or the have inserted themselves into movie scenarios to make it sound real.

As for where are the millions of fakers... They're all around you. I have run into many of them and I don't get out all that much.

KRandle said...

I think I have finally unraveled the great Vietnam Veteran impostors statistics. The numbers cited are from various forums including the United States Census and given the way some of this was written on the sources I visited it was easy to confuse what number came from what source. In 1990 and again in 2000, there was a question on the census long form that asked if the respondent was a Vietnam era veteran, and the number generated there was about 8.4 million. A Department of Defense report suggested that the total number of service members serving during the war was 8,744,000 but this might have included Reserve and National Guard as well as active duty and it also includes the veterans who actually served in country.

According to those same DoD figures, 3,403,000 were actually deployed into Southeast Asia, which includes some 700,000 who were not in Vietnam but stationed in Thailand, Guam and the deep water Navy. You can find the figures here:

Using both the census and the DoD numbers, Navy Captain Scott Beaton conducted a survey for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. I have been unable to find that precise survey, but this seems to be the place where the 13,853,027 number of impostors comes from. You can read about this here:

What this does demonstrate is that a minority of men and women who were in the military during the Vietnam era were actually deployed into the combat arena. The numbers quoted by me were based on all these sources, though it had been suggested, and I followed suit, that some 13,000,000 had lied on the census form. I have found a legitimate source for the large number of imposters which was based on an actual survey so the only error is suggesting the number came from a census, though I have still not found good figures for the 1995 interim census. I believe we can put all this behind us and return to UFOs, treasure hunting, and other areas of strangeness that interests us.

(If you are interested in pursuing this, just type Stolen Valor into your search engine and see the numbers of those caught pretending to be what they are not.)

David Rudiak said...

Kevin, the only reason I waded into this whole “Stolen Valor” thing to begin with was because you used this Stolen Valor “statistics” as justification for dismissing most Roswell witnesses, who you said you previously believed. But the Stolen Valor claim is itself a fraud perpetrated on the public.

By some estimates, 4-5% of the population in general are sociopathic liars. I would expect that number to apply to everything, including number of claimed Vietnam vets or Roswell witnesses. But 80%? Really?

As for another claimed but phony reference used by vet websites, the Census Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1995”, that allegedly has that 13+ million Vietnam veterans statistic, that Census Report can be found here:

This provides a link to Section 11 pertaining to military and veteran statistics:

Where, AGAIN, nowhere can be found anything like 13 or 14 million people that allegedly the U.S. Census documented people saying they were Vietnam Vets.

Starting on page 12 of this pdf in parts No. 568 & 569 can be found some statistics on the number of soldiers serving in Vietnam year by year and total number of active duty personnel during the Vietnam era, just as found in other statistical surveys published by the Census Bureau. The number of personnel serving in Vietnam year by year (No. 568) comes from DOD statistics, not any public Census data. Same for number of active duty personnel during this period (in No. 569).

No. 569 again lists an ESTIMATED 8.744 million active duty military personnel during the Vietnam era, here defined as Aug. 4, 1964 to Jan. 27, 1973. It is noted that these dates may differ from those used to define various veteran’s benefits. It also notes that information on total personnel abroad (Vietnam and elsewhere) was not available.

Finally No. 576 (p. 15) has the number of Vietnam era vets as of 1994, listed as 8.246 million. The source of this data is explained thusly: “Data were estimated starting with veteran’s place of residence as of April 1, 1980, based on 1980 Census of Population data, extended to later years on the basis of estimates of veteran interstate migration, separations from the Armed Forces, and mortality; not directly comparable with earlier estimates previously published by the VA.

So the number is only partially based on actual Census data from 1980 plus estimates of normal mortality, migration, etc. since 1980.

But AGAIN no 13 to 14 million Vietnam vets based on alleged Census surveys. As I say again, the alleged 10+ million Vietnam vet fakers figure, promoted by various Vet organizations and publications, has absolutely no basis in fact, no actual documentation anywhere to support it, certainly not any ACTUAL Census report that has been cited repeatedly as a “reference”.

KRandle said...

David -

You said, "Kevin, the only reason I waded into this whole 'Stolen Valor' thing to begin with was because you used this Stolen Valor 'statistics' as justification for dismissing most Roswell witnesses, who you said you previously believed."

I said no such thing. I said that this provided an insight into those who claimed inside knowledge of Roswell. That in no way suggests dismissing most Roswell witnesses. You have extrapolated meaning into somewhat innocuous sentences. Are there people involved in the Roswell case who lied? Frank Kaufmann provided his discharged documents which we accepted as authentic but later learned that he had forged them. He hadn't been trained in intelligence and he hadn't been a master sergeant. Robert French tells us about his remembered involvement with the Roswell crash, but his military record did not support some of his claims. Bill English claimed to be a Special Forces captain who served in Vietnam but he was a PFC who did not... he lead us to the Roswell nuns. And what about Trowbridge who claimed he was playing bridge at Marcel's house the night Jesse returned with the debris?

The point was that there are people out there who inject themselves important events and who lie about their military service. There are literally millions of them.

You can reject, out of hand, the 13 million figure and the military web sites that use it, but I have traced it to its point of origin which was a survey conducted by The Vietnam Veterans Fund and by Captain Scott Beaton so that we have a good source on it. I explained that given the way some of this was explained on the various sites was somewhat misleading and I was mislead, but you have nothing to prove that it is wrong other than your own beliefs. If you look at the sites and read the information carefully, you will see, as I noted, that some of the information is from ACTUAL Census reports, some from the DoD and some from Beaton's survey.

So, you can continue to beat the dead Census reports horse if you so desire, but I believe we (you and I) have corrected the information, we have supplied the links to the web sites and identified the source of the 13 million figure. Reject it if you wish, but that doesn't mean it is wrong... and look at all the Stolen Valor sites where you will find claimant after claimant who has been exposed.

David Rudiak said...

You can reject, out of hand, the 13 million figure and the military web sites that use it, but I have traced it to its point of origin which was a survey conducted by The Vietnam Veterans Fund and by Captain Scott Beaton so that we have a good source on it.

I reject out of hand because there is no evidence to support the statistic, certainly not in the source ALWAYS given (U.S. Census). Further, if you bothered to read Beaton’s statistics, as at this webite below, said to be written by Beaton and Cpt. Marshal Hanson (and apparently quoted by every vet site as complete gospel), he provides the U.S. Census as the source, just like everybody else:

“Interesting CENSUS STATS and “Been There” Wanabees:

a. 1,713,823 of those who served in Vietnam were still alive as of August, 1995 (CENSUS FIGURES).
b. DURING THAT SAME CENSUS COUNT, the number of Americans falsely claiming to have served in-country was: 9,492,958.

...DURING THIS CENSUS COUNT, the number of Americans falsely claiming to have served in-country is: 13,853,027. By this census, FOUR OUT OF FIVE WHO CLAIM TO BE Vietnam vets are not.”

So AGAIN there is the claim in black and white. The alleged 13.8 million fakers or “four out of five who claim to be Vietnam vets” is CLEARLY stated as being based on U.S. CENSUS DATA, not some independent survey. (At other sites, the claim is the 1990 or 2000 CENSUS)

I just posted a link with results to the 1995 Census Statistical Abstract of the United States, upon which Beaton claims the statistics resides, and as proven by the Census document itself, there is NO SUCH NUMBER, only the number of living active duty vets during Vietnam. (The ONLY question EVER asked by the Census, NOT if they were actually serving in Vietnam.) How many times do these real FACTS have to be repeated?

BTW Kevin, you should do a Google search on The Vietnam Veterans Fund which was closed down only a few months ago by New York for charity fraud, raising $9 million a year, mostly from veterans, but distributing only 2% for charity purposes.

NY Atty General: “This Organization Took Advantage Of The Good Will Of MILLIONS Yet Failed To Fulfill Nearly All Of Its Promises To Help Those Who Have Sacrificed For Our Nation.”

If Beaton and the VVF are the original source of the Census claim, they are hardly a “good source”. Ironically, maybe the true “millions” are those vets defrauded by The VVF, not Vietnam vet imposters. Maybe creating phony statistics on nonexistent vet imposters was designed to get vets understandably angry so they would send their hard-earned money to scam vet charities like the VVF.

Since you are so death on fraudulent Roswell witnesses, as you should be, I think you would be equally outraged by phony, clearly fabricated statistics, fraudulent references given in support (U.S. Census), and fraudulent veteran’s charities taking advantage of veterans. In the end, the primary agenda for making up phony “facts” is the usual one of scammers: $$$$$$$$

Yes, there are liars out there, but there is NO VALID evidence for literally millions and millions of Americans claiming to be Vietnam vets who weren’t, although you obviously still very much want to believe this considering you keep repeating the claim.

KRandle said...

David, David, David –

I tried to end this diplomatically but you just can’t let it go. I don’t understand your holding onto your point of view with such tenacity. But since you want to continue, here we go…

You wrote, “Further, if you bothered to read Beaton’s statistics, as at this webite below, said to be written by Beaton and Cpt. Marshal Hanson (and apparently quoted by every vet site as complete gospel), he provides the U.S. Census as the source, just like everybody else:”

Had you read my post, you would have seen that I quoted this source, including its negative note at the end that was highlighted in yellow and typed in boldface. But this site also has a political agenda, but since it seems to mirror yours, it is reliable and all the other sites are not.
But you might want to look at:

And while there is a title that says, “THOUSANDS WEARING SERVICE RIBBONS NEVER EARNED IN VIETNAM” which sort of reinforces my point of view, there are many things in the article that are wrong. He said that 90% of the Vietnam Veterans never saw combat but that is probably based on the idea that for every service member in combat there were nine supporting him. But the real truth is that nearly everyone was exposed to indirect fire, ground attacks at base camps, and other elements of combat based on the nature of the war. He said that his unit was 100% anti-war, which I doubt, and in my experience very few of us in Vietnam could be considered anti-war (though I did burn my draft card in Vietnam… I figured if everyone else was doing it, I should too… but I digress.) The point is the magazine has a political agenda. You might find it more reliable than the other sites but I say it is just as biased in its way as those you reject.

I have suggested that these figures were based on the US Census which did, in fact, ask about service during the Vietnam era (which you, yourself, pointed out), but also on numbers gathered from the DoD, such as the numbers of those actually in country, and on a survey conducted by Captain Scott Beaton. Or, in other words, the census did contain some of the information reported… and as I said, this, the wording of it, is confusing… But Beaton’s statistics were based on more than just the census. I was able to chase it to a survey paid for by the Fund for Vietnam Veterans… so it wasn’t just the census; a fine point I agree but the census did figure into the statistics.

So we can continue this… no we can’t because I’m not going to play anymore. There is no more to be said. We have been reduced to repeating ourselves and you actually point me to a source that I pointed you to in the beginning. This has become pointless and I just don’t any more time to devote to it.

Sarge said...

The VA shows on their site That only 3,403,000 served incountry in Vietnam, and that a total of 8,744,000 served in that era world wide.

On the US Census web site on page 45 there is a chart that lists veterans and which era they served in. The 1990 census shows 7,646,908 claim to be Vietnam era vets. This is well within the range of possibility.

The 2000 census site at shows the claims rose to 8.4 million Vietnam era Vets.
While the charts do not specifically ask about incountry vets it does show the number grew by almost a million in ten years. If fact it is close to the total that served and suggests that Viet vets don't die as quickly as others.

Either the 2010 figures haven't been digested yet or I could not find them.

On the other side of the coin the VA on their site offers a Excel worksheet that shows only 6,673,279 Vietnam era vets believed still living as of 2014. I guess the spell has broken and we are dropping like flies now.

I don't think this matter to anyone but us anyway.