Rumor Doctor blog archive

Will the military force out troops with criminal convictions?

The U.S. government is drowning in debt. Defense spending is taking a big hit. As a result, the military will shrink. Land forces will bear the brunt of the cuts with Army alone expected to trim its ranks by at least 50,000 soldiers as combat in Afghanistan ends.

Congress recently made things even more uncertain recently when the supercommittee failed to reach an agreement on cutting the country's debt, meaning the Defense Department could face an additional $600 billion in cuts starting in 2013.

Do veterans have a right to free health care for life?

Time and time again, Stars and Stripes hears from readers who say they were promised free medical care for life when they joined the military. The topic usually comes up when there is talk of raising Tricare fees for military retirees.

"I do mind paying more than $460.00 per year," one reader commented on such a story in January. "I was promised FREE medical and DENTAL for me and my family, for life. So to me any increase is a continuation of the break of a promise that was already broken."

Why was Armistice Day renamed Veterans Day?

The world was irrevocably changed by World War I, which was supposed to end all wars. By the time the guns fell silent in November 1918, millions were dead, empires had fallen and the course for the rest of the 20th century had been charted.

For years afterward, the United States celebrated Armistice Day on Nov. 11 to mark the end of the war. Then in 1954, the holiday was renamed Veterans Day to commemorate veterans of all wars.

Does Chuck Norris offer hope to Iraq?

As all but a handful of U.S. troops prepare to leave Iraq by the end of the year, talking heads will debate whether the mission was a success. Certainly, Iraq is not the pluralistic democracy that we had hoped for, but it's also not the base for al-Qaida that we feared it might become.

We probably won't know for some time whether Iraq will turn out as a success story, but The Rumor Doctor can think of one reason why things just might turn out OK: Chuck Norris.


Why can't Hollywood get military uniforms right?

Sometimes The Rumor Doctor can't shut up. A few years ago, The Doctor saw a particularly bad movie where the main character wore an Army uniform with the wrong camouflage pattern. Not only did the Doctor complain for the entire movie about how the uniform was wrong, but he still brings it up with his friends who had to listen to the original tirade.

Thus we have established that few things irk The Rumor Doctor more than when movies and TV shows screw up military uniforms, and one reader asked The Doctor if there is a reason why Hollywood can't seem to get it right.

Is West Point's Room 4714 haunted?

It’s late October. The weather is cold and crisp, and that means it’s time for The Rumor Doctor to make his yearly metamorphosis into The Ghost Doctor, expert on all things paranormal or otherwise just plain weird.

This year’s tale of unexplained phenomena comes from West Point, nestled in New York’s Hudson Valley, not too far from Sleepy Hollow. In 1972, cadets sleeping in Room 4714 of the 47th Division Barracks reported seeing an apparition that looked like a 19th century soldier.

Can running the Marine Corps Marathon make you shorter?

Running is definitely not The Rumor Doctor's favorite pastime. In fact, The Doctor believes that running became obsolete with the invention of the internal combustion engine.

But since some readers may be participating in the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon this month in Washington, D.C., The Doctor felt it was a good time to investigate a running rumor: Marathon runners are measurably shorter at the end of the race than at the beginning.

How destructive was Sherman's march?

To some, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman was one of the few Union generals who understood modern war. To others, most notably the Southerners whom he defeated, he is a war criminal.

From August 1864 through April 1865, Sherman --  then a major general -- blazed a path through Georgia and the Carolinas, destroying anything of military value including railroads, grain bins and livestock.

Will the Iraqi government award U.S. troops liberation medals?

Whether or not any U.S. troops remain in Iraq beyond the end of this year, the U.S. military's involvement in the Iraq war is drawing to a close.

Since Saudi Arabia and Kuwait issued awards to U.S. troops in recognition for their service during the Gulf War, will the Iraqi government follow suit? That was a prominent rumor at one point.

Follow-up visit: The Rumor Doctor's dissertation on stress cards

In August, The Rumor Doctor thought he had thoroughly debunked the myth that the Army once issued recruits "stress cards," which soldiers allegedly could show to a drill sergeant when they felt overwhelmed by the physical and mental stress of basic training.

But a few of you said there was more to the story.