Crash Story File: Jose Padilla’s “Stolen-Valor” Military Claims

Crash Story File: Jose Padilla’s “Stolen-Valor” Military Claims

By Douglas Dean Johnson

Original publication: May 1, 2023. Subsequent revisions are listed in a log that appears at the end of the article.

You are in the Crash Story Files, a series of investigative reports examining claims that a UFO crashed and was recovered near San Antonio, New Mexico, in August 1945. To go back to the Crash Story hub story and index, click here.

In 2003, Joseph Lopez Padilla (Jose Padilla) (1936- ), one of the two "primary witnesses" to the purported August 1945 UFO crash near San Antonio, New Mexico, told writer Ben Moffett of the Socorro County Mountain Mail that he (Padilla) had joined the New Mexico National Guard at age 13 (that is, in 1949 or 1950), under a New Mexico National Guard policy that allowed this at the time, and that he later "spent time in Korea."

In 2015, Moffett wrote that he had based his articles entirely on information provided by Reme Baca and Jose Padilla.

At some later date, Padilla told Vallee-Harris that he had received a wound during the Korean War – a wound that still troubled him in 2020, according to Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret (Second Edition), page 229:

On Friday, the 16th of October 2020, Paola and I were back in Socorro one more time, to meet again with Mr. Padilla...Jose was recovering from an operation on his first bullet wound, the one from Korea. The second wound would require another surgery, a few weeks away. He now walked with a cane but after a period of depression his old energy was returning.

[The "second wound" is a reference to "a bullet that had lodged itself in his abdomen as he was arresting a criminal in California during his active years," according to Vallee and Harris (pages 126, 234)– a bogus claim that I debunk elsewhere.]

In the real world, the New Mexico National Guard (like the rest of the Army) never enlisted anybody known to be under age 18 (or 17 with parental consent), and there was certainly never a policy allowing enlistment persons under age 17. The claim of Padilla (via Ben Moffett) that there was a policy allowing enlistment by a 13-year-old into the New Mexico National Guard was implausible on its face – but, as Moffett wrote in 2015, he merely dutifully recorded what Jose Padilla and Reme Baca told him.

Searches of the membership records of the New Mexico National Guard and the New Mexico Air National Guard found no record of Joseph Lopez Padilla ever having served in either organization. The search was conducted using name variants, date of birth, and Social Security number.

The Korean War ended on July 27, 1953, when Padilla would have been 16 years old—too young to serve in the military, much less in combat. Moreover, no variation of Joseph Padilla's name appears on the official lists of Army personnel killed or wounded during the Korean War, which may be searched through the on line resources of the National Archives and Records Administration.

It is my opinion that Padilla did not serve in military service in the Korean War and was not wounded during the Korean War. It is my opinion that if he made such claims, as clearly reported by Vallee-Harris, it would constitute an example of what is sometimes termed “stolen valor.” That is not a crime, but I believe that if Padilla told such lies it is reprehensible, and certainly further destructive of Padilla's credibility.

[UPDATE (September 25, 2023): In a public memorandum posted May 15, 2023, Jacques Vallee conceded that Padilla had been too young to serve in the Korean War, but offered in replacement a new and equally improbable claim: "Jose was 16 in 1953, the last year of the Korean War, but no Peace treaty was ever signed. After the theoretical 'cease fire,' the US Army still needed boots on the ground for clean-up, repatriation of matériel, documentation and the like. Mr. Padilla has told us repeatedly that his service in Korea was during that phase, and that he was shot as part of mop-up operations, but not in regular combat." In my opinion, this is merely another fabrication by Padilla. Based on research after initial publication of this article, I now think it is very improbable that Padilla ever served in any branch of the military, and if he actually carries any bullets in his body, I highly doubt they are related to military service. However, it would be a rather simple matter for Vallee to establish whether or not Padilla is being truthful. Padilla would merely need to sign a Standard Form 180 (see below), authorizing release of all medical records. Vallee could then turn it over to some independent journalist who has no prior stake in the controversy, to obtain and publish any actual military records that may exist. I predict that this will never happen, because in my opinion, Padilla knows very well that there are no records that would validate his military claims.]

Since Padilla's advocates, Paola Harris and Jacques Vallee, have recited his purported Korean service and supposed military-related wound as part of the portrait of credibility that they disseminated in their book, the burden falls on them to document that they were not deceived– and that they did not, being deceived, mislead their readers.


(1) September 25, 2023: I added an update quoting from a public memo posted by Jacques Vallee on May 15, 2023, in which he set forth the unvalidated claim that Jose Padilla was wounded in Korea during post-war "mop-op operations." I added statement that it is now my opinion that Padilla never served in any branch of the military, but that the matter could be settled by Vallee obtaining from Padilla a signed Standard Form 180. I inserted an image of the Standard Form 180, by which an individual may authorize release of all military records to a third party.

Clockwise from 1 o'clock: Remigio (Reme) Baca, Paola Harris, William P. "Billy" Brophy, Jacques Vallee, Joseph Lopez (Jose) Padilla. To return to the Crash Story hub story, click here.