The Man and the Myth

Ole Anthony has built a mythology of his life dating back to childhood.

Here's what is true: Anthony was born in Minnesota on October 3, 1938, and moved with his family to Wickenburg, Arizona, at age 10. The desert town called itself the "dude ranch capital of the world." His mother, a nurse's aide, ran a small nursing home until her death in 1997. His parents divorced, and his father died in 1972.

Anthony, however, has made many claims that the Dallas Observer found to be false or exaggerated after interviewing numerous people who grew up with him and examining public records as well as documents provided by Anthony himself.

Claim: Anthony says he was Wickenburg's most notorious juvenile delinquent. At age 16, he says, he grew his hair and beard long, used heroin with a girlfriend and stole cars.

Reality: His classmates and younger sister say that Anthony did not have long hair and a beard in high school. Outwardly, at least, he was an ordinary teen. An article that appeared on August 12, 1955, in the Wickenburg Sun lists Anthony, then 16, as a Safeway employee. His senior picture in the 1956 Wickenburg High School annual shows a neatly groomed Anthony wearing a National Honor Society pin on his lapel. He was co-editor of the yearbook and belonged to the radio club.

Claim: Anthony told The New Yorker in 2004 that he was arrested for setting fire to a 40-foot wooden cross in a desert amphitheater on Easter morning in 1955 and was given the choice of prison or the military. Anthony picked the Air Force, enlisting in March 1956, two months before he would have graduated from high school.

Reality: He did enlist in the Air Force, but the fiery cross had nothing to do with it. In 1995, Anthony told The Charlotte Observer that when he was "about 14," he and another boy burned the cross as a prank but were never arrested.

Claim: In the Air Force during the Cold War, Anthony was chosen for a top-secret unit that looked for evidence of nuclear weapons tests. While witnessing a nuclear bomb test in the South Pacific, he was blown into the water. Then, after receiving "two presidential citations," Anthony left the military but continued clandestine work. From 1956 to 1968, "Anthony skulked behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains, installing arrays of seismic, atmospheric, and oceanographic sensors," The New Yorker said.

To fight Robert Tilton's charges that he lied about his background, Anthony obtained an affidavit in 1991 from a former commanding officer stating that from 1956 to 1968, Anthony was a "surveillance operative and analyst" for the Air Force and later was a contract employee. He had top-secret clearance and was "trained and qualified in foreign and domestic small arms." The affidavit also notes that he "studied and translated in several foreign languages" and acquired "advanced training in surveillance techniques."

Reality: Anthony's DD-214, a discharge record that the Observer obtained with his permission, confirms that Anthony served in the Air Force from March 13, 1956, until December 10, 1959, as a "special weapons maintenance technician." But the only training he received beyond basic was a 10-month school in electronics. Anthony admits he speaks no foreign languages. He received the Good Conduct Medal and two "outstanding unit" awards and was discharged as an airman second class.

When the Observer contacted Captain William D. Ballard, who supposedly wrote the affidavit provided in the Tilton case, he offered a different version of events. He confirmed that Anthony was chosen for a top-secret unit of the USAF that installed seismic monitoring systems to detect nuclear weapons tests around the world. But while Anthony spent almost a year in South Korea and four months in Alaska, his group did not go behind the "Iron and Bamboo Curtains." There's no evidence from his record that Anthony witnessed atomic tests in the South Pacific. "We were not that kind of field operation," Ballard says.

Ballard didn't return several other phone calls from the Observer when I sought to confirm whether he'd written the affidavit in the first place.

Claim: Anthony's résumés, campaign literature and Trinity press releases say that he received his "formal education" at the University of Arizona, SMU and Harvard.

Reality: The sum total: an uncompleted semester at UA, a seminar at SMU and a short continuing-education business management course at Harvard.

Claim: The New Yorker quoted Anthony as saying, "I own nothing, I have nothing, and I make $55 a week...I'm 66 years old, and I have no privacy and no retirement plan."

Reality: Records provided by Anthony show that since 1985, he has received an annuity of $600 a month, plus lump sum payments paid on November 1 every five years, for a total of approximately $214,000 to date. The last lump sum payment was $25,000 in 2005.

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Glenna Whitley