An acclaimed journalist may have faked the Korean War heroics which helped make him a legendary figure in the world of sports writing.
At today's annual Boxing Writers Association of America Awards, the "Pat Putnam Perseverance Award" is scheduled to be presented. The award is given in honor of the legendary boxing writer who also claimed to have survived 17 months as a prisoner of war in Manchuria and to have received the prestigious Navy Cross medal. Recent research shows Putnam never was a POW and that his war stories of earning the Navy Cross and four Purple Heart medals were all products of his imagination.
Putnam, who made his name covering Muhammad Ali and died three years ago, claimed he had been held captive for 17 months during the Korean War and that he was wounded multiple times earning him four Purple Hearts. There is no record that Putnam was ever wounded in battle or was a POW, according to the Marine Corps History Division. Additionally, he never earned the Navy Cross, according to military historian Doug Sterner who runs a database of valor awards recipients.
Since his death, an award known as the "Pat Putnam Perseverance Award" has been presented by the Boxing Writers Association of America. Last year, the Pat Putnam award was presented to Muhammad Ali. This year's BWAA awards ceremony takes place today in Los Angeles.
Putnam's daughter told ABCNews.com that her father always was a story-teller. "He was Irish and could tell a story," said Colleen Putnam. "Maybe this one he yarned. I don't know."
Putnam said her father's war stories began when someone asked him about the scars on his back that were from a car accident. "He said he was in the war, and it grew and grew. Maybe my father didn't know how to stop it."
Ed Schuyler, a retired Associated Press boxing writer who was a dear friend of Putnam's, said he was shocked to learn that Putnam 's stories were false. "He was a wonderful man. I am stunned by it. I believe it started like a lark and then went on and on," Schuyler told ABCNews.com.
Many observers and those who track phony war heroes are stunned to learn that Putnam's story outlived even the man himself. "It is a disgrace that somebody allowed this to go on for so long," said Mary Schantag of POWnetwork.org. "I have no sympathy for someone that told lies like this and goes to his grave this way."
In light of this new information, the BWAA said today that while they will indeed present the award this evening, they will drop any reference to Putnam. "There is irrefutable proof that the story that Pat Putnam told for 50 years was a complete fabrication. Colleagues, family and friends were deceived. I am embarrassed for the organization but more so than that I am sorry that people are going to be hurt by this," said BWAA president Bernard Fernandez.
Fernandez said that due to the fact that the BWAA did not know the truth about Putnam until now, it is too late to erase the engraving on this years "Pat Putnam Perseverance Award."