Morley Piper, 93, once stood with President Barrack Obama during the 70th-anniversary ceremony for the D-Day invasion of Normandy. The World War II veteran now admits that he falsified his military record.
Piper, from Essex, MA, had stated that he had been a member of the highly decorated 29th Infantry Division. The 29th Infantry was part of the first wave of landings on the beaches of Normandy that day and suffered heavy casualties as a result.
His fabrication was discovered when someone contacted the New England Newspaper & Press Association. The association has an award named after Piper.
When the association confronted Piper with the allegations, he confessed to lying about his involvement in the invasion. As a consequence, the association is dropping Piper’s name from their annual First Amendment award.
Piper was apologetic about his lies when interviewed. He says that he actually served in the 459th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion. He was a part of D-Day, but not until after the initial landings had taken place and the 29th Infantry had already taken the bulk of the casualties in the invasion.
Piper’s new account of his service record has not been officially verified as yet.
Piper began lying about his service record when he was trying to gain access to a 50th-anniversary ceremony for the Normandy invasions. He lied about his membership of the 29th Infantry in order to gain access to cover the ceremony.
When he returned to the States, he continued telling people that he had served in the 29th Infantry.
“It kind of spiraled out of control,” he said,
In multiple speeches, including talks with school children, he described what it was like to hit the beaches on D-Day. He even stated that he had received the Bronze Star for heroism, which he now admits is not true.
At the ceremony for the 70th anniversary of Normandy in 2014, he traveled to France to give a speech. He even shook hands with President Obama at the event.
Piper was 18 when he joined the Army. After his service in the military, he worked for newspapers for 60 years, including time at The Boston Globe and 45 years as a member and eventual director of the New England Newspaper Association.
The association plans to hold a meeting to determine whether any other action is required concerning the revelations about Piper’s altered military record.
In a message he said he intended to send to people affected by his lie, he stated that he was aware that the mistake he made was “inexcusable.”
According to Dan Kennedy, an associate professor of journalism and media ethics at Northeastern University’s School of Journalism, Piper’s lies play into a public perception that journalists simply “make stuff up.”
He said that especially with the current president accusing the media of creating “fake news,” this type of behavior by journalists contributes to the narrative that the media is dishonest. He also compared Piper’s confession to recent news about a columnist at the Boston Globe exaggerating stories concerning the Boston Marathon bombing and a journalist being fired by Gatehouse Media for plagiarizing the work of a high school student.
Dale Kurtz, Franklin Veterans Service Agent, said, “It’s disappointing.” He feels that Piper’s lie “takes away from those who did go above and beyond the call of duty for their country.” Kurtz further stated that if “you raised your right hand and took the oath … you are a veteran, and you did your job. You don’t need to exaggerate that.”