N.C. man posed as officer, Marines say

Associated Press / May 8, 2010

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WILMINGTON, N.C. — A man who pleaded guilty last year to altering an identification card after he was spotted in the uniform of a three-star Marine general is under suspicion of posing at an April ceremony as a highly decorated Marine colonel, authorities say.

Michael Hamilton, 67, of Richlands wore a Marine uniform at Jacksonville’s Vietnam Memorial during a military recognition day ceremony last month, Marine investigators said this week. Authorities added Hamilton was photographed wearing several rows of medals including the Navy Cross, the second highest award for valor.

Investigators from Camp Lejeune said they searched Hamilton’s house on April 26, two days after his picture was published in the Jacksonville, N.C., Daily News. An evidence report said they recovered a blue dress uniform blouse with seven service ribbons and 18 medals. The report didn’t specify the medals recovered. It is a federal offense to claim or wear military decorations, punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine.

Hamilton has not been charged and the investigation is ongoing, said Major Nat Fahy, a spokesman for Marine Corps Installations East.

A man who answered Hamilton’s home telephone said Thursday evening that he refused to comment. The man, who also refused to give his name, said he was Hamilton’s brother.

Hamilton told the Daily News April 26 that he served in a covert unit that worked in Laos and Cambodia and that he was sworn to secrecy. Hamilton refused to provide any documents supporting his claim. “As far as every medal that I have been awarded, every ribbon, they’re mine; and I’d give them all back for the 286 men I lost,’’ Hamilton told the paper.

In a biography distributed at the April ceremony, Hamilton said he was promoted from private first class to colonel between 1961 and 1969 and was awarded 80 medals, including two Navy Crosses. An affidavit filed by investigators with the search warrant said the highest rank Hamilton attained was private first class. Hamilton served only nine months and was discharged in February 1962, according to the affidavit.