Ferdinand Waldo Demara Jr
was a prison warden, a monk, a lawyer and a religiously-oriented psychologist, and yet he was actually none of those things. Now known as "The Great Imposter", Demara held many careers as he faked his way through life, but his most famous exploit was to masquerade as surgeon Joseph Cyr aboard the HMCS Cayuga
, a Royal Canadian Navy destroyer, during the Korean War.
During his time as a surgeon on the Cayuga, Demara managed to improvise successful major surgeries and fend off infection with lots of penicillin. He performed surgery on 16 Korean combat casualties who were loaded onto the Cayuga.
The way he pulled off this deception was as impressive as it was dangerous for his patients. Apparently after ordering personnel to transport injured patients into the ship's operating room to prep them for surgery, Demara would disappear to his room with a textbook on general surgery and proceed to speed-read the type of surgery he was to perform, including major chest surgery. Amazingly, none of these patients died as a result of his surgery.
Ironically it was because of his skill as a surgeon that Demara was exposed. According to this article
, the removal of a bullet from one wounded soilder made the papers, and when the mother of the real Dr Joseph Cyr read that her son, who operated a civilian practice, was now in the war, she rang him only to be assured by her son that he was indeed still in civilian practice. She then contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and Demara was exposed for the fraud that he was.
His life and exploits would go on to inspire a movie
and the name of a band
. When asked to describe why he did what he did, Demara is said to have responded "Rascality, pure rascality."
Ferdinand Demara died in 1982.