ESSEX -- A World War II veteran who spoke nationally about his participation in the D-Day invasion and stood with other veterans behind President Obama at the 70th anniversary in Normandy has admitted to misrepresenting his military record.
Morley Piper, 93, of Essex, said he was not a member of the 29th Infantry Division, which suffered heavy casualties as part of the first wave of the historic invasion, as he had claimed.
Piper's fabrication was brought to light when someone contacted the New England Newspaper & Press Association, where he worked for 47 years and has an award named in his honor.
The association said in a statement that Piper, when confronted with the allegations, admitted to making up stories about serving in the invasion force. The association said it would no longer name its annual First Amendment award after Piper.
In an interview at his Essex home Wednesday night, Piper apologized for lying about his military service. He said he served in the Army with the 459th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion and participated in the Normandy invasion but well after the 29th Infantry stormed the beaches and bore the brunt of the German resistance. Piper's updated account of his military service could not be immediately verified Wednesday night.
Piper said he began lying about his experience when he needed a credential to attend the 50th anniversary of Normandy in 1994. He told organizers he had been a member of the 29th Infantry so that he could participate in the ceremonies, he said.
When he returned to the United States and was asked to speak about his war-time experiences, he began including the misrepresentation that he had been with the 29th Infantry, including in stories that appeared in The Salem News.
"I could have shut it off afterward, but I didn't," he said. "It kind of spiraled out of control."
In speeches to various groups, including schoolchildren, Piper give details about what he said it was like on D-Day. "Inch by inch, we managed to get up off of the beach and mollify the guns," he said in a 2015 speech to the Georgia Press Association. "We captured small towns along the beach and took the main coastal highway."
Piper told the group that he earned a Bronze Star for heroism that day but now acknowledges that was not true.
Piper gave a speech in Normandy during events recognizing the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, and even shook hands with then-President Barack Obama during remembrance ceremonies in France.
In a message that Piper said he planned to send to friends and others affected by his fabrications, he wrote, "I am profoundly sorry that I have to tell you I am one of those sad old men with an altered WWII military record. I made a terrible mistake. It should have never happened."
Piper, a native of Illinois, was 18 when he joined the Army. He worked in the newspaper business for more than 60 years, including 12 years at The Boston Globe and 45 as a member and eventual director of the New England Newspaper Association.
The association said its board plans to meet to determine whether any other action regarding Piper is warranted.
"I meant no harm, though it seems inadequate to say that now," Piper wrote in his message to friends and others. "People make mistakes. Mine is inexcusable."
This article is written by Paul Leighton from The Salem News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.