Fascinating True Stories From the Flip Side of History

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Pretended to be an Astronaut

On June 13, 1963, comedian Milton Berle was performing in a Houston, Texas nightclub when he decided to introduce astronaut Lt. Commander Jerry Clayton to his audience.

Perhaps you have never heard of an astronaut named Jerry Clayton. You are not alone. Neither had the four other astronauts or the NASA public affairs officer who were also seated in the audience that night. They quickly pointed out that Clayton was an imposter.

Jerry G Tees - Astronaut Imposter
The real Jerry G Tees in handcuffs. This image appeared in the June 21, 1963 issue of the Star Tribune on page 47.

28-year-old Jerry G. Tees was arrested and charged with impersonating an officer for credit purposes since he had obtained credit at a cafe. Bail was set at $5,000, which is approximately $40,000 today.

It turns out that Tees had been impersonating an astronaut for about a month and used it to his advantage. He was given food and drink, taken on fishing trips, and was offered cars, boats, and jobs. Over the previous ten years, he had impersonated other military officers, doctors, and businessmen.

He was quoted as saying, “I don’t know why I do it.” He added, “I just live in a dream world, I guess.”

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