Image, Congressional Pictorial Directory, 83rd Congress
A one-term Member from Utah, Douglas Stringfellow's political career ended abruptly after he admitted he lied about his war record.
On this date, Representative Douglas Stringfellow
of Utah, who later stunned the nation when he admitted he had lied on national television about his World War II service record, was born in Draper, Utah. Stringfellow, who enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942, was wounded by a French land mine in 1944 and thereafter walked only with the aid of a cane. He returned home a war hero, claiming to have been the sole survivor of an Office of Strategic Services (OSS) espionage unit, captured and then tortured in a concentration camp after parachuting into Germany to kidnap a prominent Nazi nuclear scientist. In 1952, Stringfellow’s intrepid tale aided him in upsetting six-term incumbent Walter Grange
r for a House seat representing most of Utah, bringing the district over to the GOP column for the first time in nearly two decades. During his campaign for re-election in the fall of 1954, Stringfellow appeared on the television show This Is Your Life
to re-tell his story, prompting several Hollywood directors to bid for the movie rights. But the Army Times
challenged his account, citing contradictions raised by a few “doubting Thomases” within the ranks. Stringfellow initially dismissed his naysayers as politically motivated and appealed to the Dwight D. Eisenhower
administration to open classified records to support his claim. In a stunning turn of events, on October 16, Stringfellow went before a television audience and tearfully admitted the story was a hoax, woven over a series of speeches and maintained because he reveled in his rise in popularity. “I fell into the trap, which in part had been laid by my own glib tongue,” the contrite lawmaker confessed. “I became a prisoner of my own making. . . . I have made some grievous mistakes for which I am truly sorry.” He offered to withdraw from the election, prompting Utah GOP leaders to call an emergency meeting. The Republican State Central Committee accepted his decision to bow out of the race, nominating Utah State Agricultural College professor Henry Dixon
in his stead. Stringfellow returned to his previous career in broadcasting in Utah, where he remained until his death on October 20, 1966, at age 44 from a heart attack.