William Goehner can’t get a punchline right (it’s “hare”-line not “headline”, come on, bruh).

And apparently, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to him getting things right.

According to the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose-area ABC 7 I-TEAM, the 89-year-old Santa Clara, California man has been telling tall tales about his heroic deeds as a Navy sailor for years — the Library of Congress included — and getting away with it, going so far as claiming that he’s the second-most-decorated military serviceman in World War II.

He says he met Patton in Sicily.


He claims he went on “suicide missions” with the Underwater Demolition Team (a group that predated the Navy SEALs), lost most of his men, wiped out nearly all of the German submarine fleet in the Baltic Sea and earned the Navy Cross, three Silver Stars and four Purple Hearts for all of it.

Lie. Lie. Lie. Lie. Lie. Lie … (losing track here, plus it sounds like someone’s singing a Simon & Garfunkel song)

“The worst one was in the North China Sea,” he told the I-TEAM. “Got stuck down below in the ship and it burned up and I woke up four hours later on a hospital ship.”

More from them:

He added that he was the youngest lieutenant commander ever to serve in the Navy, “I went through the Navy there and ended up to be a lieutenant commander at 19,” he said. “Hollywood heard about it and made a movie about me, Richard Widmark played me.”

Goehner claimed he was a consultant on the movie The Frogmen, and that he became so famous that even a renowned general sought him out.

He wasn’t. Nope. No.

The truth? He was a seamen first class in the United States Navy during World War II. He was not a lieutenant commander. Ever.

According to the Freedom of Information Act, Goehner received no awards of valor, despite the fact that his “stories” were documented by the U.S. government back in 2004 as part of a million dollar undertaking known as the Veterans History Project — accounts that were eventually cataloged in the Library of Congress.

Once again, from the I-TEAM:

In his interview, Goehner said, “I got a bullet here and it came out between two ribs.” The recording and its Library of Congress listing convinced a reporter for the Gilroy Dispatch and Morgan Hill Times to write a glowing feature in 2013 on Goehner called, “The Original Navy SEAL.”

“I tracked him down in Morgan Hill after reading a newspaper article written about him in Morgan Hill,” said United States Air Force veteran Brian Shiroyama.

Shiroyama was so impressed after meeting Goehner that he brought him to the USS Hornet Museum’s Director of Education Heidi Schave, who didn’t think to check Goehner’s records.

“I apologize, I’m just shocked as anyone else,” she said. “That’s not our policy here at all to promote any fraud at all, this is the first of my knowledge.

Goehner’s own son told the I-Team that he heard the same war stories all his life and it’s a shock. He’s trying to figure out what this means for the family.

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