Thomas Burch has been in the news lately because of his charity, the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation. According to CNN, his foundation has taken in millions of dollars and donated less than 2% to Veterans. After this story hit the news wire, our friends over at thisainthell busted him on his fake Special Forces claims as well.
Burch had claimed for years he was SF, and proudly sporting around his Green Beret, well come to find out he wasn’t the only one.
Hans Rudy Gresham, who, up until about a year ago, was also with Burch in this charity, has also claimed for years to have been Special Forces, and a number of times claimed to have been retired at several ranks. During the investigation, which was conducted in conjunction with our counterparts at Green Beret Posers Exposed, and SF Brothers, we found that he claimed to have retired as a Lt, all the way up to a Col.
Well when he was supposedly still serving in the Green Berets, he was also selling ads on the radio as seen in this photo we grabbed for WTMA’s memories from 1971. WTMA is a radio station out of Charleston, South Carolina where Rudi is from, the caption from the photo reads, “WTMA salesman Rudi Gresham poses in the WTMA control room (1971).”
Rudy has spent years spinning webs of lies, telling people he served with General Yarborough in Vietnam, he has been able to get people to believe his lies to the point that he has gotten thousands and thousands of dollars from high profile people. He even had the Green Beret community fooled for many years believing he was a retired Green Beret officer, some had their suspicions but couldn’t prove it.
Up until about a year ago Rudi was also a board member of that National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, he was listed on their website as Director of Charity. Now we find out that he was also not what he claims to have been all of these years, telling people he was a Green Beret that served in Vietnam when his official records paint a totally different story.
When people would ask Rudy about his Special Forces claims, he would say he had a letter from General Yarborough that said he served as a Green Beret with in Vietnam. Now I have never known anyone to produce a letter from a General Officer as proof of being anything, usually its a DD214 or something similar.
You can find many stories of Rudi and his tales of Vietnam, here in a story by the Fayetteville Observer, Gresham escorts the reporter around with the retired General saying, “He is visiting to make sure the general is OK with this discussion — any hidden hooks or angles? — and to see that he doesnt gloss over anything important, out of modesty.” Here is an excerpt from the linked article:
Below is a photo of Rudy at the GI Film festival doing what he does best and rubbing elbows with some of the rich and famous, Ross Perot and Victor Hugo to name a few.
After we got Greshams records and members of the SF world found out that he wasn’t what he claimed, we began getting calls from them. Telling us all the stories he loved to tell people of his time with General Yarborough in Vietnam. We got so much information that we will have to do one if not two follow-up stories to this one, we just want to make sure the public knows he is a fraud. He has swindled lots of politicians and SF brothers out of thousands of dollars with his lies, making promises that he never kept.
He got in with General Yarborough when he was in his late 70’s, and it seems he convinced the General that they served together in Vietnam. This gave him the backing he needed for his world of lies about his status as a retired Green Beret LTC who served in Vietnam. It also gave him the backing for his push into politics during the George W. Bush administration, where he helped Bush win Florida. In return he was appointed the Senior Adviser to the Secretary of the VA.
In this CSPAN video, from 2009, if you scroll to 29:30 Rudi makes his claims in front of a bunch of high-profile people. The book he is referring to also never got published, according to sources close to Rudi several donations were given for the book to Rudi but it never came to fruition.
Below is a statement we got from a former Green Beret that has known Rudi for years, and when we uncovered that Rudi was a fake, here is what he sent us.
From Tailwind to Busted: A Con Man’s Tale
Hans Rudolf Gresham, better known as Rudi H. Gresham is a very intelligent and charismatic fellow who has haunted this nation’s sparkling halls of influence and power for four decades and who began his charade by gaining entrance into the Special Forces Association (SFA) by very successfully pretending to have been a Special Forces Captain (he had posted a photograph of himself in uniform with CIB and Master jump wings on his webpage, now taken down) who had served in Vietnam and MACVSOG (a once highly secret intelligence unit during the Vietnam war). In the SFA he even served as its legal counsel and as the association’s spokesman.
Once he was ensconced in the SFA, one can follow the progression of his fantasy military past as he was steadily given promotions in the press all the way to a retired Special Forces full Colonel. He gained entry into some of the most prestigious military organizations including the Special Operations Association (SOA) and the Medal of Honor Society, amongst others. But then things slowly began to go south. What follows is the story of my involvement in his life and how he was eventually exposed as a one hitch Private First Class (PFC) with just three years of active duty.
My story begins with the CNN “Impact” episode in September 1997 about MACVSOG wherein accusations were seemingly made by a professor known as a fairly well-versed, anti-chemical warfare activist. But the professor denies having made the allegations of MACVSOG personnel being war criminals because he said that the producers and the network used the same kinds of “selective editing” that Katie Couric is now on the hot seat for using in her recent agenda-driven gun control specials that have been pulled.
My 12 year old daughter’s reaction to that false accusation as we watched that program together was what drew me into this story. She was horrified because she knew that I had served in MACVSOG and that her daddy had just been publicly called a war criminal. The look in her eyes gave me all the motivation I would ever need.
I began to explore the rumors that CNN and the same producers were planning another similar story with the same agenda in mind. The story was centered around a 1970 MACVSOG operation given the code-name Tailwind. Suffice to say that I figured out what actually happened, who the key players were, both then and currently, what CNN would claim and a way to short circuit the entire mess before it could ever be aired. Unfortunately I could find nobody in the year old online “Special Forces List” (SFL) discussion group to support the effort to derail it, so it went smoothly along until early June 1998 when it was aired on the premiere of CNN/TIME’s joint cable news venture, “NewsStand” where it broadcast its concocted nerve gas story in two parts and titled it “The Valley of Death” to international banner headlines as was intended.
We were now playing catch up ball and from way behind the power curve.
Enter Rudi Gresham… Gresham had so thoroughly inveigled himself into the power structure of both the SFA and SOA that he was a natural choice for spokesman as he had claimed a prior working relationship with Tom Johnson, then CEO of CNN.
The first I had ever heard of Gresham was that he was named as the “SFA/SOA Spokesman” and then by his first email to everybody in the associations who had that then-new technology. I was informed that Gresham was once an “Aide de Camp” (aka dog robber) to the very well known and respected General Yarborough. The email basically stated that he was in charge and nobody could say anything without first gaining Rudi Gresham’s personal permission. That this missive fell flat among the Special Forces luminaries that then made up the bulk of the SFL, including this one hitch junior SF’er, would not adequately describe how it was received, but we dutifully sent what info we had to Gresham and the SFA. The next news was that Gresham had refused an offer of a half hour block of prime-time offered by FOX News. This was the final straw because everybody on the SFL understood what that would have meant to air our side of the story. We were all stunned by the news and then mad as hell. The SFL decided to pursue the fight on its own. These guys picked me, a one hitch former buck sergeant, to act as point man because I had ID’ed the issues, did all the research and had developed a plan of attack using the internet. The SFA, SOA and especially Gresham were not at all pleased with us and, because I was standing out front, (expendable) me…
Suffice it to say that Gresham’s performance fell far short of what it was advertised to be. At the SFA convention he orchestrated network coverage of a beer can strewn dais with inebriated speakers with virtually no cogent information to share and this sad performance was arranged by a guy who had proclaimed his expertise in Public Relations. We on the SFL watched this display with both shock and anger. Next up in Gresham’s performance was his claim to have arranged a three-hour network news special that vanished into thin air and for which nothing was seen or done.
The SFL effort had by that time introduced a counter-narrative on the internet that began to attract a deal of network and media interest. In conjunction with retired SF Colonel Bob Brown (publisher of Soldier of Fortune), I participated in what was to have been a debate with CNN at the National Press Club in DC, but since CNN by that time had turned tail, it became a news conference covered by the media and every major network to include two crews from CNN. In short order the CNN story collapsed.
However, the fight was far from over. The men directly defamed by the false story began legal actions and the one representing CNN in negotiating out of court settlements was none other than Rudi Gresham. News of this spread immediately and Gresham was fired as the SOA spokesman. SFA took a different position declaring that Gresham’s working with CNN was “…a personal matter” and retained him as their spokesman in the fight with CNN. The story retracted, SFA celebrated Gresham’s victory.
In the two years following the collapse of the Tailwind story and the public disgrace of CNN and the program’s producers, Gresham was again in the limelight. This time he was working with Karl Rove as “The man who delivered Florida to Bush” in the 2000 presidential race according to Gresham’s own description of the public relations tour de force he had orchestrated. Gresham was rewarded with a very senior advisory post (pay grade SES-4, or “Four Star Equivalent” according his own description of the job). He was to advise the Director of Veteran’s Affairs (Principi) and sometimes brief the Whitehouse.
The question hung in the air for many of us. Just how did Gresham pull off such a accomplishment when two years earlier during his time as the spokesman for Special Forces he was such a complete and utter failure? My suspicion was that it was deliberate. Given what we knew of Gresham’s past, he had to have known that discarding a half hour prime time network special hot on the heels of the scurrilous Tailwind allegations was almost a death sentence for our side of the story. Prime time network news is harder to break into than an esbat of witches as I found out during the SFL Tailwind efforts. So the question becomes “why” and in the light of his later for-fee plum job of buying off the litigants against CNN/TIME, it does not seem a very long stretch to go there. But as yet there was no hard proof, just deep suspicion.
In 2013 it is relayed to me that it is suspected that Gresham was not what he claimed to be at all (which was news to me) and that there was going to be an effort at the SFA to uncover the facts in the matter and take appropriate action. Since I left the SFA in 1998 over their handling of the Tailwind affair I left this to the SFA to sort out, though I did check the status a couple of times.
In the Fall of 2015, a charity that putatively provided aid to hospitalized Vietnam veterans but delivered only a pittance to them, while raking in the cash, comes to the attention of a group of bona fide Special Forces people. As a part of that group, I looked up who was on their Board of Directors. On the board sits Director Gresham and my index of suspicion goes ballistic, so I dig deeper, but the charity is anything but transparent. I contact the SFA where Gresham is still a member to alert them to this situation that I felt had a good chance of blowing up in their faces. The SOA had already removed Gresham for cause before this all came to light and therefore he was no longer their monkey. The SFA replies that they have had their doubts about Gresham for some time, advise me to stay well away from him and that they have the ball. So that is what I do since he’s not my monkey either.
Now it is May of 2016 and the charity is in the news on CNN as scam, reportedly devoting less than 2 percent of their intake to hospitalized veterans. I contacted the SFA who are caught unaware of the unfolding scandal with the charity. We find that the head of the charity is also an SFA member who is characterized to me as having sketchy credentials like Gresham. The SFA has done nothing to determine Gresham’s right to be an SFA member and relate that previous efforts have been frustrated by incorrect ID being provided to them by Gresham. The SFA also intends to continue doing nothing. They just settled a lawsuit and aren’t looking for another.
Frustrated at this studied lack of curiosity about an individual festooned with so very many red flags (at least in my eyes) I brought my concerns and assessment to the same group of Special Forces personnel who had brought up the issue of the charity, strongly stating my concerns and requesting that Gresham’s bonafides be confirmed through official channels. Talk about a throwing a fox into a henhouse, because I certainly had my memory refreshed as to my status as a long ago, one hitch buck sergeant and that Gresham had friends and not a little influence in SFA. But eventually enough red flags became apparent to perform due diligence on Gresham’s military service with the result of finding multiple identities and eventually his proud status as a former PFC Chaplain’s Assistant and rifleman in the 82nd Airborne. No SF. No Vietnam. No MACVSOG. No officer’s commission of any sort. No “Aide de Camp” to any General, famous or not.
Perhaps I should feel vindicated, but I don’t. It has taken me 18 years and not a little abuse to get him scraped off of my shoe.
************************** About the writer: I walked out of my first year of engineering school to enlist after Tet 1968 and completed SF training in Aug 1969, proceeding straight to the 5th SF Group in Vietnam having volunteered again. I was surrounded by people who did much the same things and so I hardly stood out in that crowd. I did two back-to-back tours in Vietnam and volunteered for MACVSOG in my second tour and so was assigned to Command and Control North. The awards I received were nothing particularly special in that group nor was my volunteering anything out of the routine. I never forgot the men I served with, living or dead and once again, that is average among us. After a break in service I went on to serve 17 more years, finishing in the United States Navy Submarine Force where I was the “Doc.”
We would also like to note, that once Rudi got wind that his records had been obtained he resigned from the SFA.
Now to Rudi’s true military history, we reached out not only to the NPRC to get his official records, but GBPP reached out to Fort Bragg and they also have no record of Rudi Gresham having ever been a Green Beret. So not only does his records show he never was an officer, nor a Green Beret, but Fort Bragg has no record of him at all in the SF database. He is also registered with the Veterans Administration as a PFC, not an Officer. Also he has no service in Vietnam, no deployments are recorded nor does he have any awards that would show he was deployed to that area. We double checked with our sources to make sure there were no other service after the below, NPRC has ensured us that this is the only service record for Gresham.
Below is one article of many where he is said to be a retired SF Officer, a simple google search shows many more:
We continue to get more information via email and phone on Mr. Gresham, we will update as we get it.