Rep. Douglas Stringfellow (R-Utah), was exposed as a fraud when seeking reelection to the House in 1954, was born in Draper, Utah in 1922.
Stringfellow had enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1942. He was wounded by a land mine in 1944 and thereafter walked with a cane. He returned home a supposed war hero — claiming to have been the sole survivor of an Office of Strategic Services unit. He said he was captured and tortured in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, after parachuting into Germany. On an earlier mission, he said, he had kidnapped Otto Hahn, a nuclear physicist, and spirited him to Britain.
This story helped propel Stringfellow to a landslide victory over his Democratic opponent in 1952. The then-open seat fell into GOP hands for the first time in nearly two decades.
Several Hollywood moguls bid for the movie rights to Stringfellow’s adventures after he retold his story on “This Is Your Life,” a popular TV show. When the Army Times later challenged his account, Stringfellow appealed to the Eisenhower administration to open classified records to back his claim.
Then, in a stunning reversal, 16 days before the election, Stringfellow went on television and admitted his story was a hoax. “I fell into the trap, which in part had been laid by my own glib tongue,” the lawmaker confessed. “I became a prisoner of my own making. … I have made some grievous mistakes for which I am truly sorry.”
The Republican State Central Committee accepted his offer to bow out and nominated Henry Dixon, a Utah State Agricultural College professor.
Stringfellow, who had actually served as a private in France, died after a heart attack at age 44 in Long Beach, Calif.
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