Byline: From Peter Allen in Paris and Chris Brooke
HOWARD Manoian was a local hero in the Normandy village that he had retired to - feted for his tales of sacrifice in liberating France from the Nazis.
The American was happy to tell how he was wounded in action twice after parachuting into nearby Sainte-Mere-Eglise on D-Day in the fierce battle later depicted in John Wayne's film The Longest Day.
Numerous admirers heard how he was shot in the hand and legs by a German machine gun during a fire fight and then again by a Messerschmitt which strafed the field hospital where he was recovering.
In his new home of Chef-du-Pont a plaque in his honour sits beside the entrance to the village museum to his former division, 82nd Airborne.
France recognised his sacrifice at last month's 65th anniversary of the Normandy landings, presenting him with the country's highest award for bravery - the Legion d'Honneur.
But now the 84-year-old is unlikely to be showing his face again soon in the regular veteran's bar, The Stop, where for the moment photographs of him in military uniform still adorn the walls.
Research into U.S. military archives has revealed the less than illustrious truth of his war record.
His unit was not the fabled 82nd Airborne Division, but the 33rd Chemical Decontamination Company.
The company was formed to decontaminate men and machines following a chemical attack but the men were never needed for this purpose.
After arriving at Utah beach by supply ship, Manoian and his company spent the rest of the war minding a supply dump in Northern France and providing showers for warweary soldiers.
As for his injuries, he was indeed hurt days after D-Day - when he broke his middle finger accidentally while on standby in England.
His second injury was merely some bruising to his other hand on a later occasion.
It appears Manoian's war stories were inspired by Hollywood. When Band of Brothers, Steven Spielberg's TV drama about U.S. parachutists fighting across Europe came out in 2001, he frequently commented on how realistic it was.
Manoian brazenly described his fictional heroics in many media interviews and TV documentaries over the years.
In one recent interview he spoke about jumping out of an airplane on D-Day 'just after midnight' and recounted a ferocious battle to stop the Germans crossing a key bridge three days later. …