The first time I got a letter in the mail from Who’s Who saying that they wanted to include me, I thought I was pretty special. I had just gotten my Ph.D. and was at the Harvard Society of Fellows at the time. I called my Dad to brag.
He laughed out loud at me. “Only fools put themselves in Who’s Who,” he said. “They ask me every year, and I never fill out the form.”
When I studied the materials more closely, I came to concur with him. I can’t remember whether they actually charge you to put a listing in there, or just that you feel like you should buy the book once your name is listed. Whatever it was, I realized that if you care about getting your name in Who’s Who, you don’t belong there.
Thus, I was only half surprised to read an amazing example of investigative reporting by John Crewdson of the Chicago Tribune, in which he uncovers that many of the entries in Who’s Who falsely claim to have earned high military honors.
Out of 700 medal claims he researched, only 297 turned out to be verified in official military records — barely 40 percent. For the highest prize, the Medal of Honor, fully 93 percent of those claiming to have won it were lying.
When contacted by the Tribune, those who had made fraudulent claims had a range of responses: admitting guilt, saying it was a secretary’s mistake, or arguing that his mission was so secret that the award he won is still classified.
My favorite, however, is from Jeremiah Edmund Dorsey, whose excuse was that he meant to list his award as the Republic of Vietnam Honor Medal, not the Medal of Honor. The Republic of Vietnam Honor Medal was given to U.S. soldiers by the former South Vietnamese government, according to the article.
The only problem? Jeremiah didn’t win that one either.