David Stirling

The World's Most Successful Walter Mitty

David Stirling

97-year-old Hugo Plaun had a resumé that we would all be proud of.

Originally a US citizen, Plaun moved to Denmark so he could join in the war, and from there he joined the Canadian Army's First Parachute Brigade, which was stationed in North Africa.

He would soon be fighting the Nazis in Egypt, but not as a Canadian PARA.

His potential was spotted and he was transferred to an up-and-coming unit conducting daring missions behind enemy lines: the SAS.

This is was what Hugo Plaun tells of being a part of - audacious raids that destroyed 435 enemy aircraft.

He goes on to talk about later serving in Europe in a joint SAS/Dutch Resistance operation to observe enemy movements during Operation Market Garden.

Keeping tabs on SS units, he helped rescue 1,200 men by getting them across the Rhine.

From there, he went on to serve in the Korean War, where he was wounded.

But Plaun came through alright, and in more recent years met NATO chief Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Prince Charles, his chest packed with medals along with the iconic and much coveted SAS winged dagger.

There's just one problem: It is all a lie.


Egypt World War 2
The SAS insignia (left, image: MLPM) and a model of an LRDG vehicle (right, image: Minorhistorian)

According to the Danish newspaper 'Weekendavisen', Hugo Plaun was never in the SAS.

In fact, Plaun isn't even just a regular Walter Mitty because not only did he not serve with the British, he was instead within enemy ranks.

He has admitted to volunteering for the German SS, though claims to have never fired a shot while he was a member.

His deception was uncovered by policeman Martin Q Magnussen who combed through archives which showed that Plaun was actually an SS deserter. His job had been writing Nazi propaganda.

The SAS story came about while he was living in Worcester in the 1980s.

It was here that he befriended members of the regiment from neighbouring Herefordshire.

After hearing some of their war stories while socialising with them in the pub, he decided to cook up a tale based upon them.

Now that he has been unmasked, we know at least one thing about his time in the SS is not true either.

He did fire his weapon - he shot himself in the leg in 1944 to get out of the SS because he knew Germany was going to lose the war.

Sweden was where he escaped to, but the authorities there became suspicious about his story and he was arrested and turned over to Denmark.

They sentenced him to eighteen years in prison for participating in the war on the German side, but he was released at the end of 1946.

When asked about the tale by Weekendavisen, Plaun said:

"I am actually surprised that this has not yet been unmasked."

He added: 

"Is there anything wrong with having a fantasy?"

However, he also said he would not excuse himself or avoid responsibility for having lied about his service for so many years.

According to Morten Thomsen of the Home Command, it is yet to be decided whether there will be any further consequences for the 97-year-old.

Cover image from 'Stirling's Desert Triumph: The SAS Egyptian Airfield Raids 1942' by Gavin Mortimer © Osprey Publishing, part of Bloomsbury Publishing. 

Hitler's personal bodyguard
SS Soldiers in 1940 (image: German Federal Archives)

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