HMC Gattoni has claimed two (2) Combat Action Ribbons or “a CAR with a star”.HMC Gattoni has claimed an impressive list of assignments which also include Grenada and Beirut in 1983 as part of a Surgical Support Team on the USS Guam (LPH-9).
HMC Gattoni claims that days after arrival in Beirut he was first on the scene at an incident where eight (8) Marines were killed and two (2) Marines were wounded.
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This is where Gattoni’s story doesn’t add up. The USS Guam (LPH-9) participated in the U.S.-lead invasion of Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury) on 25 Oct 1983. If he was on the USS Guam, Gattoni could not have been in Beirut on 23 Oct 1983 as he claimed on his Twitter account provided above (i.e. below the TIME magazine cover stating “I was there.”). Giving him the benefit of the doubt, Gattoni could have been making a general statement that he was in Beirut but for those not familiar with events it appears he claims that he was there at the time of the bombing. As a Twitter post that stands on its own, it makes this claim even more suggestive.
In addition, the USS Guam (LPH-9) did travel on to Beirut, Lebanon but did not arrive until Thursday 17 Nov 1983. Although one could argue there is a highly remote possibility that HN (Hospitalman, E-3) Gattoni’s presence was so badly needed that he flew in ahead of the 22nd MAU, Gattoni himself indicates that he arrived as part of the 22nd MAU. The point is that it’s difficult to believe Gattoni was there during the bombing on 23 Oct 1983.
As far as the claim that he rendered aid to “two injured 8 dead”, the only incident that Gattoni could be referring to in regard to eight KIAs and two WIAs would have been the battle at Checkpoint 76 (CP76) involving a squad of Marines.
The problem with Gattoni’s claim of being present at CP76 to render aid is that this battle occurred on Sunday 04 Dec 1983. This was over two weeks vs. “two days after we deployed into Beirut” since the USS Guam landed in Beirut, Lebanon on 17 Nov 1983. To attribute this to a nuance of language one can say New Year’s is “days away” which is technically true if you mean 213 days away. However, most would say “weeks” or “months”.
Fog of war? Faulty memory? Nuance of language? Maybe. Let’s now turn to official military records and documentation.
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MILITARY RECORDS – SELECT FOIA RESULTS
Looking at Gattoni’s records obtained by a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)…
Focusing on claims of combat, none of Gattoni’s three DD-214’s reflect a Combat Action Ribbon (CAR), let alone his claim of two as the second award would be designated with a star. Recall Gattoni’s claim of having a “CAR with a star” (screen clip provided above).
Looking at Gattoni’s history of assignments during periods that would have provided a military award for combat, the records show:
 NO GRENADA / BEIRUT – Gattoni was stationed at Naval Regional Medical Center Newport Rhode Island from 29 Jun 1983 to 19 Feb 1985. Although he claims he was mobilized as part of a Surgical Support Team, sent to the USS Guam (LPH-9) and participated in the Invasion of Grenada (Urgent Fury) as well as saw combat duty in Beirut, Lebanon his records do not support such a claim. All sea service was accounted for by a cruise in 1986. Additionally, a call was placed to the Public Affairs Office at Newport Rhode Island and in spite of NAVREGMEDCTR Newport having Surgical Support Teams (now called Independent Individual Augmentees), the PAO confirmed that this would be something annotated on the orders should an individual be mobilized. A CAR for this period of time is doubtful.
 NO ODS – Gattoni was a student at the Naval School of Health Sciences in Portsmouth VA until 05 Sept 1990 and then went to Naval Support Facility (NSF) Thrumont MD (Camp David) until 12 Oct 1992. This period would account for Operation Desert Shield/Storm, so he would not have been awarded a CAR for ODS/S. Of note, there was one month after completion of his school before he reported to NSF Thrumont but it is common for the US Navy to grant liberal leave upon completion of a school.
 NO OEF – Gattoni Reported to Naval Hospital Pensacola Florida on 03 Nov 2000 and finished out his career with that command on 31 Dec 2002. This would account for the early period of the U.S. War in Afghanistan / Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) which began on 07 Oct 2001, meaning Gattoni would not have been awarded a CAR for this conflict.
Conclusion: No Combat Action Ribbons are designated under Gattoni’s awards, and his history of assignments do not allow for participation in a conflict that would’ve earned him a CAR, let alone two.
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Focusing on claims of being on the USS Guam as part of a Surgical Support Team and participating in Operation Urgent Fury (Grenada) and Multinational Forces Lebanon (Beirut), Gattoni’s official service records show that sea service in 1986 accounts for all of the member’s sea service time and therefore does not allow for any deployments in 1983.
Oddly, there is an entry under Block 13 for Decorations, Medals, Badges, etc. that’s somewhat hard to read but it indicates “SEA SERVICE DEPLOYMENT [SECOND]”. This is one of several inconsistencies in the medals awarded since, as stated above – all sea service was accounted for in the USS Guam 1986 Mediterranean deployment.
Conclusion: Gattoni’s official military records show no deployment to a ship or the conflicts in Grenada or Beirut in 1983. All sea service time during the 1983-86 period was accounted for three years later in 1986. Medals awarded are inconsistent with the History of Assignments.
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A member of the USS Guam surgical team on board in late 1983 was contacted and asked about this and he said that he recalls nobody by the name of “James Gattoni” on their team.
In 1983, Gattoni was a (HM-0000) “quad-zero” rated corpsman that was not trained in any specialty. Although there are allowances for slots on the team for junior rated 0000 corpsman, most corpsman are x-ray tech, surgical tech and FMF qualified.
If one were to accept the fact that Gattoni was part of a Surgical Support Team on the USS Guam in spite of several major discrepancies in Gattoni’s service record that do not support such a claim — Gattoni also said that he went ashore and worked at the BAS (Battalion Aid Station).
According to NAVMED P-5084, the “GUIDE FOR MEDICAL PERSONNEL AUGMENTING FLEET MARINE AND AMPHIBIOUS FORCES” references BUMEDINST 6440.1 and outlines guidance for Surgical Support Team augmentees (again, this is assuming Gattoni was one). The instruction has a checklist in the appendix that mandates FMSS training for all augmentees although it’s fair to say that it does leave the door open for exceptions. It also notes the importance of orders.
According to his service records, Gattoni did not go to Field Medical Service School (FMSS) until years later – 12 Mar 1985.
FMSS is a course which trains and qualifies Navy corpsmen to work with USMC Fleet Marine Force (FMF) units. The emphasis is on field first aid, safety under fire, understanding Marine Corps rank, structure, chain of command and how the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps assets are integrated. Stated simply, to insert an untrained, junior rated Corpsman ashore and expect him to integrate smoothly is not entirely impossible, but unlikely.
Returning to Gattoni stating that “I made several trips into Beirut to assit at the BAS.” (posted above), Gattoni was asked numerous times which BAS he worked at on shore as well as a doctor (Medical Officer) that he worked with. After several days of repeating these simple questions with no response from him other other than statements on other matters, Gattoni finally answered the question on the BAS but never gave a name of a doctor that he worked with on shore in Beirut. However, he stated later that a “CDR Roger Dufort”, a Medical Officer (i.e. doctor), was with him on the Surgical Support Team.
Then, Gattoni said that he was present onshore in Beirut at an incident where he claimed that he rendered first aid to 8 Killed In Action (KIA) and 2 Wounded in Action (WIA). Extensive interviews with Gattoni, Beirut veteran eyewitnesses, experts on the history and comparison to references in print lead to the following conclusions:
* A surgical tech on board the USS Guam at the time does not remember a “James Gattoni”.
* Gattoni was highly accurate in his description about specific wounds and physical description of the casualties, but was vague or often wrong about other details that he should’ve known.
* Several of the corpsman involved with the casualty event, including first responders, are listed by name both in print and by eyewitnesses. None of those names are “James Gattoni”. Corpsman directly involved with this specific casualty treatment say Gattoni was not there.
* Gattoni never mentioned and when asked could not give the exact name of the position where the incident occurred. Nor had he supplied a date of the incident other than “a few days after we deployed into Beirut”.
* Gattoni claims he “was a rent a doc, from the 22 MAU HQ element”, meaning he was available to fill in where needed. However, the priority would be a FMF qualified corpsman (8404) attached to the platoon, or the next choice would be extra corpsman from MSSG-24, not HQ.
* Stated simply – it’s extremely difficult to believe Gattoni was there with the answers he provided.
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DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
HMC(FMF/DV) James Michael Gattoni USN has an impressive list of assignments, but there is room for skepticism about his claims regarding his involvement in Beirut in 1983. His sea service listing does not allow for it and his medals are not consistent with his history of assignments. Although there are no history of assignment entries nor photographs to support his claim of being awarded two Combat Action Ribbons (a CAR with a star), this claim puts him on the radar for violation of the Stolen Valor Act of 2013. It is doubtful that he saw combat so this undermines his claim of being a “20 year combat veteran”. However, this entire controversy can easily be brought to an end by Gattoni himself. A suggestion will be made in the Pearl Harbor photo below.
BE ON THE LOOKOUT: Gattoni frequently posts inflammatory statements in online group forums. This can take the form of topics on current events, politics, race, gender or military issues. This is true for many Facebook users, but Gattoni is quick to call people liars or challenge them to meet him for fistfights should they disagree with him. He doesn’t answer simple, direct questions that would quickly resolve the controversy so it puts the burden on others to either accept his claims without question or face his wrath – an extremely odd reaction to legitimate questions.
As far as Beirut, since he was accurate about wounds but not about the events, several have put forth a plausible theory — during some downtime while Gattoni was stationed on the USS Guam in 1986, he read some of the ship’s medical logs and/or post-mortem reports to gain this knowledge. As a corpsman, he would have been working in the ship’s medical spaces. Ship’s company medical staff could have even highlighted documents/logbooks that contained a significant part of the ship’s history in regard to receiving KIAs/WIAs.
An alternate explanation is if one were to believe all of the exceptions (i.e. lack of entry on orders, improper sea service time) that would have to occur for him to be part of a Surgical Support Team on the USS Guam in 1983 off the coast of Beirut, Gattoni may have “stretched” the truth to place himself on shore. He may have then took it even further in order to place himself as part of the incident that involved 8 KIA and 2 WIA.
James Gattoni leverages shades of grey when talking about events. Although some that do this convince themselves they are being truthful, in reality they’re still embellishing facts by allowing others to believe something that is untrue as well as allow it to continue uncorrected. Distorting facts and signaling anger when people naturally seek clarification spoils honesty in relationships.
Navy corpsman have to live with images of the dead and wounded but as professionals they learn to selectively share what they have seen or sanitize the language. When challenged on facts and asked simple questions, Gattoni instead insists on talking about blood, guts and severed body parts in the very forums where families read the posts and there’s no dignity displayed for fallen brothers. Someone that has been to Beirut knows that this is sacred ground. Here is one example on Gattoni’s own Facebook page that underscores this point — Pearl Harbor.
Whether this is true or not it shows disrespect for the fallen.
The uniform above is clearly a Navy Chief’s uniform. That means it would be later in his career but after he made HMC on 16 Jan 1997. We’re confident that HMC Gattoni would have photos of himself with his ribbons late in his career. Why not post a high resolution image and support the claims that are not supported in his military records?
We really want to believe HMC James Gattoni, but his military records, his stories, his explanations and his vague answers or lack of answers make it nearly impossible to accept some claims as truth.
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JAMES M. GATTONI II – SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
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JAMES M. GATTONI II – RECENT PHOTOS
MILITARY RECORDS – COMPLETE FOIA RESULTS
BEIRUT PHOTOS – JAMES GATTONI
The following photos were submitted by James Gattoni as evidence that he was in Beirut in 1983. In Photo #2, Gattoni said the ship in the background is the USS New Jersey. In Photo #3, when asked if this was aboard ship, Gattoni said this was a “fellow corpsman in a bunker” and is not him in the photo. He added that “We had to go to into Beirut to have a beer. No beer on the USS Guam.”
UPDATE: In Oct 2017, more than two years after this blog was posted, James Gattoni updated his cover photo with a ceremony photo of him as a Chief (E-7).
Gattoni’s medals are clearly visible and he has no Combat Action Ribbon, let alone two (i.e. a “CAR with a star”) as he had claimed.