The secret war record of Col. Sanders (and other businesses using military ranks)
For some businesses, like Kentucky Fried Chicken’s “Col. Sanders,” the title does indeed have military roots. For others however, it seems to be nothing more than clever marketing. So we thought it’d be fun to research the actual military records, or put together what their records may have been, if we were writing the history.
Here we go:
“Col. Sanders” — Kentucky Fried Chicken
Born Harland David Sanders, the future “Col. Sanders” first got into the restaurant business by selling chicken and other dishes out of a Kentucky gas station in 1930. His popular “Sunday dinner, seven days a week” would become the basis for what we now know as Kentucky Fried Chicken.
But was he actually a colonel? Well, as it turns out, Sanders did have a brief stint in the U.S. Army in 1906, when he forged documents at the age of 16 and enlisted. He was sent to Cuba, but served only three months before his honorable discharge, according to Today I Found Out.
So it’s pretty safe to assume that “Col. Sanders” was actually a U.S. Army private. It was only after his business success that he picked up his colonel rank in 1949 from Kentucky Gov. Lawrence Wetherby, who awarded him the honorary title of “Kentucky Colonel.”
Unfortunately, Sanders doesn’t have any cool Army stories or battlefield exploits, although he did shoot a guy working at a competing gas station once.
“Cap’n Crunch” — Quaker Oats
A much beloved cereal brand first introduced in 1963, “Cap’n Crunch” is the name of the cartoon character featured on the side of the box. But what’s the deal with the “Captain” claim? His full name is Cap’n Horatio Magellan Crunch and he apparently knows how to salute and wear a Navy uniform.
But in 2013 — and we’re totally not making this up — the Cap’n was called out for stolen valor after sleuths found him wearing the rank of a commander on his sleeve.
“We have no Cap’n Crunch in the personnel records – and we checked,” Lt. Commander Chris Servello, director of the U.S. Navy’s news desk at the Pentagon, told The Wall Street Journal. “We have notified NCIS and we’re looking into whether or not he’s impersonating a naval officer – and that’s a serious offense.”
“The General” — The General Automobile Insurance Services, Inc.
We looked far and wide for information on the cartoon mascot of “The General,” but came up short. According to the company’s website, The General Insurance was first started as Permanent General Insurance in 1963, but rebranded to its current form in 1997. It wasn’t until 2000 that the cartoon “General” made his first appearance.
A five-star general with a love for oversized cell phones, “The General” seems to have modeled himself after Gen. George S. Patton and has been seen wearing a similar outfit to the Army leader famous for his battlefield exploits during World War II.
Unfortunately, “The General” doesn’t seem to be legit. His mustache and eyebrows are way out of regulations, and the Army hasn’t awarded five star rank to anyone since Omar Bradley in 1950. That’s not to mention that the general’s uniform currently features a mixture of ribbons and a medal — a common problem seen among stolen valor types.
“Sergent Major” — Sergent Major clothing
Started by French entrepreneur Paul Zemmour, Sergent Major is a children’s boutique fashion chain with stores throughout Europe, though most are in France.
As far as we were able to ascertain, Zemmour doesn’t appear to have any military service, so it looks like “Sergent Major” is a brand that has nothing to do with the military. Still, it would be way more interesting if the store was created by a guy named Sgt. Paul Major. In addition to confusing Duty NCO’s when he called and announced himself as Sgt. Major, he served time with the French Foreign Legion and later opened a children’s clothing store that would help him forget the horrors of war.
But hey, that’s not the case.
“Sgt. Grit” — Sgt. Grit Marine Specialties
Sgt. Grit is a popular clothing and accessories brand based in Oklahoma, and it is the only company on this list that can claim its branding as 100% legitimate. It was started by Don Whitton in 1988, borrowing the nickname he earned in Vietnam while serving as a Marine Corps radio operator with 11th Marines.
“I’d like to say it was because of my John Wayne type persona, but unfortunately, it was only because I was from Oklahoma,” Whitton writes on his website. Though he started out as Pvt. Grit in 1969, he eventually was promoted to Sgt. and the nickname followed with it.
His business started as just himself in his basement, but Grit now has more 25 employees and operates out of a 22,500 sq. ft. warehouse.