In addition to his three now-documented “exaggerations” or
“reconstructions” — the student with no desk in her science class, the
senior citizen’s need to pick up cans to pay for her prescription drugs
and the supposed trip with FEMA Director James Lee Witt to a Texas fire
scene — Vice President Al Gore’s first presidential debate performance
included another apparent faux pas.
“And when the conflict came up in Bosnia,” said Gore, “I saw a
genocide in the heart of Europe, with the most violent war on the
continent of Europe since World War II. Look, that’s where World War I
started, in the Balkans. My uncle was a victim of poison gas there.
Millions of Americans saw the results of that conflict.”
Question: Did Al Gore really have an uncle who was the victim of
poison gas in the Balkans?
Although World War I did begin in Sarajevo, in the Balkans, there
were no Americans stationed in that region. According to Martin
Gilbert’s seminal work “The First World War,” most of the fighting in
that region was between local groups aligned with the Austro-Hungarian
forces and Russians. American troops fought in France during the war,
but certainly no Americans were gassed in the Balkans.
Independent attempts to identify this relative have been
unsuccessful. Albert Gore, Sr. was the third of five children,
including, according to WND’s research, only one brother, Reginald. A
thorough review of Tennessee’s World War I records reveals no Reginald
Gore on any of the rosters, nor any Gores from Smith County, Tenn.,
where the senior Gore’s family was raised. Gore’s other siblings were
According to an Associated Press report, the uncle Gore referred to
in the debate was his late uncle, Reginald. After the debate, the Gore
campaign contacted the National Archives seeking any World War I records
to support Gore’s assertion. Apparently it came up empty-handed in the
quest for confirmation from official sources, since, as the Associated
Press story reports, the campaign fell back on the uncle’s 1959
newspaper obituary. It said he had been treated for illness caused by
being gassed as a soldier in France (not in the Balkans). Newspaper
obituaries are typically based on information provided by the family,
with no effort made by the newspaper to verify its accuracy.
Could Gore have gotten the story confused with another uncle?
Pauline LaFon Gore, Al Gore’s mother, was one of six children, among
them three brothers — Gilbert, Whit and Everett. Although two of the
three, Whit and Everett, served in World War II, all three were too
young to have served in World War I, nor could they have been exposed to
According to an Emmy-winning story on CBS’ 60 Minutes (produced by
Charles C. Thompson II, one of the writers of this report for WND), the
only troops exposed to mustard gas in World War II were a group of
several hundred naval recruits. The U.S. Navy experimented on these
recruits with mustard gas and phosgene. Later, those men were denied
veterans’ benefits because, according to the U.S. government, no
Americans had been subjected to such experiments.
The cover-up lasted nearly 50 years, until the 60 Minutes story
aired. The Navy was forced to acknowledge the experiments, and the
surviving veterans were given their long-withheld benefits.
Even allowing that Gore could have been referring to a great uncle,
his grandfather’s siblings were far too old for military service in
World War I. Indeed, Gore’s grandfather, Allen Gore, was born in 1869.
On his maternal grandfather’s side, Walter LaFon’s only apparent
brother, Whit LaFon, died in 1919, but again, there’s no record of
Repeated attempts by WND for a response from the Gore campaign were
unsuccessful. WND reporters were referred to Ellen Melody, of the
campaign press office, but she did not respond to messages. Efforts to
reach chief campaign spokesman Doug Hattaway were also fruitless.