Hoaxes (Military Related)

At Tin Can Sailors we want to stick to destroyer history, the memories and friendships we have from destroyer service, and the support of today's U.S. Navy. That's our mission. We welcome your e-mails on these topics.
But we keep getting e-mails sending stories that have nothing to do with our mission, stories that simply are not true. (If you receive a really inflammatory story via e-mail, the odds are it's not true.) Please don't send these stories to us! We have enough trouble staying up with the legitimate e-mails!
Here are some of the stories we have received:
Story: Actor Lee Marvin and Bob "Captain Kangaroo" Keeshan were both awarded the Navy Cross for heroism at Iwo Jima. Marvin supposedly told the story on the Johnny Carson Show.
Fact: Lee Marvin was wounded at Saipan, not at Iwo Jima. There is no evidence that he was awarded the Navy Cross. Bob Keeshan also served in the Marines but saw no combat.
Story: September 11 terrorist Mohammed Atta was arrested and imprisoned by Israel in 1986 for a bus bombing. He was released at the insistence of the U.S. (one version of the story blames President Clinton and Secretary of State Christopher) in 1992. He "thanked the U.S." by flying an airplane into the World Trade Center.
Fact: A Palestinian man named Mahmoud Abed Atta was arrested and convicted for a 1986 bus bombing. Terrorist Mohammed Atta was an Egyptian and 17 years younger than the man arrested in 1986. Starting to see the problems with the story? Similar names, two different people; typical erroneous crud being spread around the Internet.
Story: The U.S. Marines that meet Marine Corps One (the presidential helicopter) salute President Bush differently than they did President Clinton. The implication is they have more respect for President Bush and, therefore, behave differently.
Fact: The story is supposed to be an insult to former President Clinton but it's really an insult to the United States Marine Corps. They are far to classy an outfit to engage in such petty antics. When we reported this story to a Marine officer at the Pentagon, he assured us no Marine assigned to that helicopter would behave that way.
Story: During testimony before a congressional committee in 1987, Oliver North said he needed a home security system because his family was threatened by a terrorist named Osama bin Laden.
Fact: Oliver North named Abu Nidal as the terrorist who had made threats against him. He made no mention of Osama bin Laden. "I want you to know that I'd be more than willing . . . to meet Abu Nidal on equal terms anywhere in the world. There's an even deal for him. OK? But I am not willing to have my wife and my four children meet Abu Nidal or his organization on his terms."
Story: When the Gold Star Mothers came to Washington, only one senator refused to meet with them: Hillary Clinton.
Fact: "American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., deeply regret the misunderstanding about Senator Hillary Clinton. The two mothers who visited Washington did not have an appointment with the Senator and she was not in her office on that day. We would appreciate it if the e-mails and negative comments about Senator Clinton would cease."
Georgianna Carter-Krell, National President
Story: During Jane Fonda's infamous visit to Hanoi in 1972, POWs gave her slips of paper with their Social Security numbers on them. She gave those to the North Vietnamese guards who then beat several POWs to death.
Fact: Hanoi Jane did some very bad things but this story is total rubbish. Never happened. The real POWs named in the story deny it.
Story: The expression "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey" comes from the way cannon balls were stored on a holder called a "brass monkey." If it got really cold, the difference in the contraction rates of the metals would make the cannon balls fall off the brass monkey.
Fact: Someone developed a very elaborate story that has no basis whatsoever in fact. There was no "brass monkey" on which cannon balls were stacked.
Story: When the USS Constitution sailed in 1779, she carried 48,000 gallons of water, and so on. When she returned she still had the water, the implication being the crew drank rum instead.
Fact: Although this story has been printed in some very reputable publications, there's absolutely no evidence that it's true. The Naval Historical Center staff say they are aware of nothing to substantiate the story. The ship wasn't even launched until 1797, some 18 years after the story supposedly took place.
Story: Congressman Schnell has introduced Bill 602P to allow the federal government to impose a 5-cent surcharge on every e-mail sent over the Internet. The money would be turned over to the U.S. Postal Service.
Fact: There is no such proposal. There is no Congressman Schnell. Bill 602P does not fit with the numbering system used by either the House or Senate.
Story: The haunting melody we know as "Taps" was found in the pocket of a dying Confederate soldier by a Union officer who happened to be the soldier's father.
Fact: About the only part of the story that is true is that Taps was written in 1862 at Harrison's Landing. Taps was actually composed by Union Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, probably basing it on a French melody called "Tattoo."
Story: One of the Blue Angels jets carried a donor liver for a little girl named Crystal. To this day that jet carries her name.
Fact: We checked with the Blue Angels. There's no truth to the story.
Why do people fabricate these stories? Probably they enjoy watching them circulate on the Internet.
A recommended web site for checking out folklore and "urban legends" is It's a wonderful site with many interesting stories that they have carefully researched.