SEATTLE - The owners of an Army-Navy surplus store acquired four Medals of Honor between the years 1955 and 1980. They only displayed them and never offered them for sale. Now, after learning they all were fakes and had never awarded to any veteran, they gave them up Oct. 19 during a ceremony at the Seattle field office of the FBI.
According to reports, the medals at issue had all been fabricated by the company that once had the government contract to produce Medals of Honor, Lordship Industries Inc. of Hauppage, N.Y. The company was eventually fined for selling hundreds of bootlegged medals.
There are 85 living Medal of Honor recipients. To help root out military medal imposters, Congress in 2005 passed the Stolen Valor Act, which made it a crime punishable by up to a year to buy, sell, wear or claim to have received an honor one never earned — a law struck down by a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said it violated the First Amendment by criminalizing lies that don't necessarily harm anyone. The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Oct. 17 it would review that decision.
Seattle FBI agents noted that had the medals from the store been stolen, someone might have wound up using them to pose as a Medal of Honor recipient, damaging the integrity of the award.
Each recipient of the honor is awarded two medals: one with the recipient's name engraved on the back, and one that says "duplicate." The medals from the Seattle shop are blank.