GW Sprayberry, RM3… Comm Check 1 by 5 (Bad Comm check for a Radio operator)
Sitting in my barber’s chair, I noticed a nice coin amongst all the odds and ends on the table next to me. There was a POW/Purple Heart coin belonging to one of his customers, a GW Sprayberry from Fort Worth Texas. My curiosity was aroused and in the thirty seconds it took me to look up the POW/MIA list, I found there was no such name. A damn shame, because it cost a lot of money to mint that little jewel.
So embarked the tale of finding out WHO this GW was. The first person I contacted was my friend Mary Schantag from the POW/MIA website and brought his name to her attention since she knows the entire living POW population out there, I mean THEM ALL. It didn’t take her two weeks to secure his records from the NRPC and funny how real service stories don’t seem to match fantasy.
It turns out that no one had heard of him until a Master Chief at the FRC met him out in town at GW’s business and brought him into the fold over on the Joint Reserve Base. The Navy has a high tradition of honor when it comes to the Chief’s mess and the Goat locker is a sacred place for them to gather and GW has been included in many events including the latest Chief’s Dining in where he cut the cake as the oldest Chief Petty Officer there. He has spewed his tales of being a POW earning the Purple Heart in his actions back in ’66.
So the stories start coming out about how he was aboard the USS Gurke in 1966 and the Marines needed radio operators so bad out in the field that he was assigned “TAD” to a Marine outfit in Chu Lai where he was promptly captured and then freed later by a group of ROK Marines and returned to his outfit and then back to the ship. How do I know this? Well GW told me over a phone call. Here is a shot of his rack that the Chief’s mess bought him. Sad to think of the money they spent on this guy. Some of these medals are pretty pricey.
When I pressed him more about his time with the Marines and being a POW, he went into all that pain he suffered and friends who died so “I don’t really like to talk about it” mode and thus ending the conversation. That is a giant red star cluster to me, the next one is “it’s Top Secret or Classified” which he didn’t use during our talk but others do. His excuse was a stroke he suffered resulting in trashing his memory and things were pieced back by friends and family. It’s a great way to deny the story later when you can claim you really don’t remember that time period of your life. The problem will come for him when he has to explain the documents he used to get the Purple Heart Medal on his license plate and the DOD DEERS ID card he had until NCIS took it and he had to get a new one with the proper rank of E5. This is the fictional war hero GW Sprayberry who actually served honorably but had to ratchet it up a bit to be the hero around our area.
The fun parts of these little investigations are the folks you meet as you start digging. Going to his ship’s webpage, I located GW’s comments that he put on there, showing him as a RM1 but what he didn’t know is that we had a screen shot from his first post to when he modified it from his original rank of RM3. See he had to modify this bio to make the promotions and rank fit…
Of course the Navy says this about GW’s service when it comes to Rank and time in Service. Note RM-2 (E-5), far cry from E-7 Navy Chief Petty Officer. Oh and note the awards. Don’t see the POW/Purple Heart or the Combat Action Ribbon..
Tom Hinote, who served with GW on the USS Gurke, remembered him but he didn’t remember his little joint tour with the Corps. He sent me a copy of his ship’s cruise book page where I located Phil Tilton, a Retired Master Chief out in Hawaii. Phil served in his small group of Radio Operators (Radio Shack) on board the ship during the time that GW claims he was out in the bush with the Marines slugging it out with Charlie.
Took a bit to track him down but his reaction to this incredible story was…
“I am so sorry, I just saw this…..I was stationed on the Gurke from 1965 to 1967…Grandville Sprayberry was onboard with me as an RM3. I can tell you that in 1966 he was onboard Gurke at that time, deployed to Westpac on the Gunline and Northern SAR duties. . I retired as an RMCM in 1986 I would have heard something about this I know he never made chief and as I recall, he got out of the Navy around 68/69.. His story is BS….”
“By the way, he made Chief in 1969……That is impossible, 67 he was a RM3 or at best RM2 (HE COULD HAVE MADE IT AFTER I LEFT THE SHIP), its three years from E5 to E6 and three years from E6 to E7, there was a program that allowed for 1 year between E5/E6 in the mid 60s, that still puts him as an RM1 in 67 and the earliest he could of made chief is 70. Additionally without getting you too much in the weeds, it was impossible to make chief at that time first time up, impossible……I made Chief in 76, Senior Chief in 79 and Master Chief in 82…..I made it fast, and in line with DOD standards for promotion (E7 12 years, E8 15 years E9 18 years)……your document looks good send it on…and thank you…..Regards Phil”
So we know that he got out as an E5 with honorable service based on his personnel records, but he has a DOD ID card now showing him as a E7 with Purple Heart plates on his big Texas truck. How can that be?
Of course here is his Bio from the Chief’s Mess last Friday.
His bio that he provided, makes him 13 when he joined the Navy and shows him making Chief Sept 16th 1969, but it’s funny how his record shows him getting out as an RM2 Aug 29th 1969
Based off of his records, testimony from a shipmate in his radio shop (very small group) I can tell you GW Sprayberry is a fraud and was never wounded in action or a POW. As a matter of fact, I found a reference to another Sprayberry from Texas who was in the Navy and buried in the Philippines with a Purple Heart, maybe his Dad or Uncle? I mean, how many Sprayberry’s can there be and from Texas? Could GW have used this cert and made it his own?
Well, today I brought all my research and confronted GW about his service with a good friend. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty and I destroyed an old man(hell, maybe he’s a good actor). What he had done to the Chiefs down on base was weighing heavily on him he claimed. He truly begs forgiveness if they can find it in their hearts but they seem to ignore the fact he exists now and he is the name no one mutters. He admitted his fraud when confronted with the overwhelming evidence against him and he wrote a short letter to the base CMC confessing his fraud of not being a Chief, a POW or Purple Heart recipient. (They thought his email account was hacked)
Through an open records request from the DMV, I was able to get the forged DD 215 that he used to secure the PH plates on his truck. Those are gone now.
I was asked recently why I was going after this old guy so hard and the answer truly is all about the young men I saw wounded in Iraq. The ones who earned the Purple Heart license plates the hard way and the POW’s like Leo Thorsness who spent six years as a POW in VN. When he made it back to his wife, his first words were “Sorry I didn’t call sooner honey, but I was all tied up.”
I won’t allow anyone to rob them of the sacrifice they endured while serving. GW like many, have served honorably but got caught up on the moment and inflated it.
I doubt I will see him on base much now.
So another example of trust but VERIFY even if he is a 70 plus year old guy telling a tall tale.