For years, Mount Holyoke professor Joseph "Full Metal Jacket" Ellis had been regaling students, interviewers and friends with gripping stories of his service in Vietnam. He claimed to have been a platoon leader and paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division. He said he served in Saigon under Gen. William Westmoreland.
Ellis was recently forced to apologize for "having let stand" the "assumption" that he served in Vietnam. Ellis whiled away the Vietnam War in his college dorm room, presumably, like most academics, smoking pot and listening to the Beatles' "White Album."
Among the "assumptions" Ellis had "let stand" was his claim that after witnessing the horror of Vietnam, he came home and enlisted in the anti-war movement. He also boasted of having helped David Halberstam with his 1972 best seller, "The Best and the Brightest," by sharing his vivid recollections of Vietnam.
He had no involvement in the anti-war movement, and Halberstam says he's never talked to Ellis.
The fantasy life of this deskbound Walter Mitty didn't stop at Vietnam. He has also bragged about his work in the civil rights movement. He claims that while on the Freedom Trail in Mississippi, he was the victim of racist Southern cops banging on his door late at night and following him in his car. He wistfully recalled his years as a high school football star, describing to a reporter last year how he once scored the winning touchdown.
He wasn't in Mississippi, and his greatest moment on the football field involved a clarinet.
Between 'Nam flashbacks and Freedom Rider reunions, Ellis co-authored the groundbreaking 1998 report, "Jefferson Fathered Slave's Last Child." You may remember this report if you weren't on the moon when it was released. It was the Clinton flacks' giddiest "Gotcha!" moment. The report was unveiled to instant acclaim -- as luck would have it -- just weeks before the House impeachment vote.
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