US man (96) hailed as D-Day hero admits he was in Northern Ireland at the time
War veteran George G Klein feted for his bravery during the Normandy landings was in Northern Ireland the whole time.
The 96-year-old American has admitted claims that he fought in the bloodiest battle of June 6, 1944 were fake. Instead, he got little further than a staging post in Kilkeel, Co Down.
Klein was awarded the Purple Heart by the US and received the Legion D'Honneur from France for his World War Two heroics.
He was hailed a hero for more than 70 years for his supposed role in D-Day as part of the elite 2nd Ranger Battalion who scaled 100ft cliffs at Pointe Du Hoc on a mission to destroy six lethal Nazi 155mm howitzers that Allied intelligence had identified as being sited in emplacements there.
Of the 255 US troops who spearheaded the assault, just 90 survived the fierce encounter.
The death rate of 68% was the highest recorded during Operation Overlord.
After capturing their objective the Rangers discovered that the battery of six guns had been moved inland days before. They were later found and put out of action.
The Rangers held on to Point Du Hoc in the face of fierce counter-attacks before finally being relieved.
However, Klein had to admit that he wasn't actually there when historians Martin Morgan and Gary Sterne could find no trace of his presence in France.
Their doubts were confirmed as accurate last week when other surviving members of the crack US unit said that Klein had not been with them during the Pointe du Hoc assault.
In fact, Klein did not arrive in Normandy until July.
The American veteran had travelled to France this year as part of the 73rd anniversary ceremonies. He played a prominent role in the event and signed hundreds of autographs.
Marc Laurenceau, head of the Overlord D-Day Association, an organisation that commemorates the landings, told a local newspaper in Normandy: "I'm in contact with his family, with whom I have become friends. They are devastated. So are we, as we believed his story. We put a lot of effort into getting him to Normandy."
The association raised over £3,000 in order to get Klein from his home in Illinois to France for the commemorations. It's believed that Klein was able to convince people he was in the thick of the fighting because of his detailed knowledge of the bloody three-day battle.
He also explained his absence from a list of those who took part in the assault by saying he had been drafted in at the last minute as an acting lieutenant to replace a platoon leader.
Instead, he was in Kilkeel, attached to the US 46th Field Artillery Battalion, which was using a training and staging post for American troops before its departure for France.
Such was the importance attached to the role of the US forces in Overlord that General George Patton addressed the men at Kilkeel before they sailed off to battle.
However, the Overlord D-Day Association said that despite his lies, Klein "should not be ashamed of his real contribution to the liberation of Europe", as he was wounded in action in Germany in November 1944.
"Trapped into a lie that shaped him in the eyes of his entourage, and from which he could no longer escape, he finally resolved to tell the truth," it said.