Meet Gunny Robert Landis Lawton. Mr. Lawton was brought to our attention after he made claims to several Marines at Parris Island of being the last survivor pulled out of the Beirut Barracks bombing in 1983, and his claims did not stop with that. Mr. Lawton stood up in front of some Marines at Parris Island during a Law Mess and presented himself as a survivor of the bombing, being pulled out of the basement after three days. He stated this no less than three times. He also claimed he was a Marine Corps Sniper in front of this group of Marines. Another claim on the flyer below is National Defense with three stars, also not the case, he should have only have two, as the qualification periods he is eligible for are Desert Storm/Shield in the 1990’s and the Global War On Terror.
Here is a statement I received from one of the Marines in attendance at the mess that night:
The mess night consisted of about 40 Marines, in formal dress blues with dinner and a 4-band group, Officers, SNCOs, and junior Marines over formal dinner and drinks, including a dozen or so workers at the O-Club to support the event. This wasn’t just some little, bump into you at the bar type of thing.
He was selected, as a whole, by our Marines here to be a guest of honor speaker at a local Mess Night aboard Parris Island. The Marines knew him due to him working as a volunteer at the local Parris Island Museum. When I met him, during cocktail hours, he told me he survived 3 days in the basement of the bombed BEQ in Beirut. He showed me a gold coin (a Beirut BEQ coin) that, if not mistaken, he told the POTUS gave him afterwards.
He also told me he was a Sniper and that he never wore his PH until the past couple of years. He said his wife finally convinced him after all the years. He told me that he had the DD-214 modified and insisted the PH was taken off. He then told me that he burned the PH certificate a couple of years back on a “drunk night” while he was feeling survivor’s guilt.
During the mess night, his speech included him saying how it felt great to be putting Sniper rounds down range at the enemy that had been snipping at them and killing Marines. He also stated that he had been a 0331-Machine Gunner as well. He made it sound as if he only went to Motor-T after his injuries.
That night at the Mess Night, he wore the PH, Combat Action Ribbon w/ 3 gold stars, had a National Defense ribbon with 2 stars (which would have dated him back to Vietnam), and, yet, only had a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with 2 stars. He also went on to state in his Hollywood stories about his reporting in to Drill Instructor school.
He said the 1stSgt at the time was his DI 10 years prior, as a recruit. He said that before he knocked on the hatch to report in that the 1stSgt said (down the hall, before entering the hatch), “I thought they got you in Beirut!” His reply to that was like a corny, Hollywood scene (which was believe by us at that time)…His reply was something along the lines (don’t quote me) of something like, “Not on this Marine’s watch, 1stSgt!”
He was our guest of honor. He received a free meal and 2 plaques from us (things that we paid for out of pocket), to include, ironically, the Lady Of Justice statue (it was a Legal Mess Night). He consciously lied to all of us that day and took the respect and honor we gave him, even at the cost of disrespect to the fallen Beirut, their families, those service members that were really there, and to himself.
In closing, ironically, at the very end of his speech, he said that when he was in, he and Marines never would go around (or want to be around) the “Legal Beagles” (us Legal Marines). It was said in the context of a joke, and everyone laughed, but, at the end of the day, it bit him in the ass.
It seems to me Mr. Lawton has violated the Stolen Valor act of 2013, as he received free items, as well as awards(plaques) based on lying about his Purple Heart.
This is a copy of one of the flyers from the mess:
According to Lawton, he survived three days in the rubble of the Marine barracks, and that he was rescued on 26 October 1983. But historical accounts from other Marines as well as documentation from that incident shows that the last survivor pulled from the rubble was Chaplain Wheeler on the same day the bombing took place. All the Marines that were in Beirut that I have spoken to assure me no one was pulled out alive beyond the 23rd, and I have spoke to several Marines that were present and going through the rubble.
He posted about the bombing on the 30th anniversary, which was this past October and made the claims as well. This was also the same day we received his records from the Marine Corps, we have investigated Lawton for several months now.
On top of this, Lawton also claims a Purple Heart from the bombing as well as three Combat Action Ribbons. Once we saw all of these claims, we reached out to our contacts and the Marine Corps sent us Lawtons official records. Lawton has a stellar Marine Corps record, but he also was not present in Beirut during the bombing, he does not have a Purple Heart and he does not have any Combat Action Ribbons.
Below are photos of him wearing a Purple Heart on his dress uniform.
Here are his official Marine Corps records:
This is Mr. Lawtons initial DD214, this covers the period in which he claims he was present at the Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut in 1983. As you can see it does not show a Purple Heart.
Below is his last DD214, per his retirement date of 20020731.
As you can see from the above DD214 Lawton had one stellar career as a Marine, he even served as a Drill Instructor for a period of time. He also only has two National Defense Service Ribbons, But his official record does not annotate a Purple Heart nor does it show any CAR’s(Combat Action Ribbons). For those that may not know what a CAR is, here is the definition and requirement.
“The Combat Action Ribbon (CAR) is a personal decoration of the United States Department of the Navy and U.S. Coast Guard that may be awarded to those who, in any grade including and below that of a Captain in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard (or Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps), have actively participated in ground or surface combat.”
Mr. Lawton claims three of these, but the Marine Corps has no record of them. His 214 shows the Kuwati Liberation Medal, which means he participated in Operation Desert Storm/Shield but he did not see any combat.
Just to be sure, we went over all the records we acquired from the Marines, some of which are below.,
According to the document below, Mr. Lawton did eventually deploy to Beirut as part of a Contingency Operation, 6 months AFTER the bombing took place. The bombing took place on 23 October 1983, Mr. Lawton did not have boots on the ground until 07 April 1984. And again, no mention of a Purple Heart in the awards section.
Below is another document where he participated in another Contingency Operation, and again no mention of a Purple Heart.
Here are the dates again on anther document, 6 months after the bombing takes place.
So when we received the records from the Navy, we decided to contact Mr. Lawton and see what he had to say. After his retirement he began volunteering at the Parris Island Douglas Visitor’s Center, and also runs a Facebook group that helps keep families up to date on what their children are going through during training. From what I saw, he was doing great things and wondered what made him lie about his service. The Marine Vets that were in Beirut were not happy he was claiming all of this and felt he was degrading the memory of those who lost their lives that day.
Below is the conversation one of our investigators had with Mr. Lawton several weeks ago. He seemed to express regret and promised to remove the Purple Heart and all claims of being at the bombing, but soon after this conversation, he again claimed he had the Purple Heart.
So we decided to give him a chance, and get on the right track. Well that did not last long, as he again claimed the Purple Heart in one of his groups, and some people questioned him on it and he claimed his certificate got burned by his ex-wife.
So now, even after he admitted to us he lied, that he would remove the Purple Heart and never speak of being present at the bombing again, he did in fact continue his claims.He claims that he burned the Purple Heart certificate because of survivors guilt to the Marines at the Mess, but in the above screenshot, he claims his Ex-Wife burned it.
It is cases like this one that make me ask, why? He had one hell of a great career with the Marine Corps, why did he feel like he needed more?
Not only that, but he had to know that the Beirut bombing of our Marines is something you can not just lie about and expect no one to call you on it.
In the attack on the building serving as a barracks for the 1st Battalion 8th Marines (Battalion Landing Team – BLT 1/8), the death toll was 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers, making this incident the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since World War II’s Battle of Iwo Jima, the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States military since the first day of the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive, and the deadliest single attack on Americans overseas since World War II.
I believe Mr. Lawton owes these Marines and the families of those we lost an apology, and he should return the plaques he received at the mess. I also want to apologize to the Beirut Marines for placing my faith in Lawton that he would correct himself and remove the PH and apologize.