There’s been a lot of rambling and invective on the recent Wittgenfeld threads at TAH (here and here). As a result, it’s been easy to lose track of precisely what claims our “friend” Wittgenfeld actually has and has not made – and which of those claims are valid. Since he’s now entered in the Ballduster McSoulpatch Memorial Stolen Valor Tournament, it’s probably best to have that info immediately available. So I thought I’d take a shot at summarizing Wittgenfeld’s claims and their status.
If anyone finds what they feel to be an error in the information below, please let me know and I’ll correct it – provided I agree, of course. (And if you’re reading this, Wittgenfeld, the only way I’ll accept corrections from you is if they’re accompanied with paperwork you haven’t provided previously. Like a copy of your CIB orders, for example.)
The Legitimate Claims
2. He claims to be a Vietnam Veteran. This claim appears valid. Per the assignments section of his FOIA report, he served in-country from Aug 1969 to Aug 1970.
3. Wittgenfeld claims to have seen combat in Vietnam. This claim appears accurate. Per the assignments section of his FOIA report, Wittgenfeld saw combat in Vietnam with 2 different units. The first was D Co 151st Inf (Ranger) – which was reflagged D Co 75th Inf (Ranger) while Wittgenfeld was assigned to the unit (Aug 1969 to Apr 1970). The second was HQ 2nd Field Force Vietnam (HQ II FFORCEV) from Apr 1970 to Aug 1970.
4. Wittgenfeld claims to have an Air Medal for his service in Vietnam. This claim appears accurate. He was awarded one Air Medal, NOT for Valor, while assigned to HQ II FFORCEV. (The orders for this Air Medal have been removed from their former location on-line. However, I personally reviewed these orders prior to their removal from their former location on-line; they appeared legitimate. I will attempt to coordinate with the owner of the site where they were formerly posted to have them re-posted.)
5. Wittgenfeld claims he has two Purple Hearts. This claim appears accurate. He was awarded two Purple Hearts while assigned to HQ II FFORCEV.
6. Wittgenfeld claims to have been awarded the Army Commendation Medal with V Device (ARCOM w/V). That claim appears accurate. Per his DD214 and FOIA Report, he was awarded the ARCOM w/V, apparently while assigned to D Co 151st Inf (Ranger).
7. Wittgenfeld claims to be Airborne. That claim appears accurate. Per his DD214 and FOIA report, Wittgenfeld is Airborne qualified.
8. Wittgenfeld claims to have been a drill instructor. That claim appears accurate. After his return from Vietnam, per the assignments section of his FOIA report he served as a Drill Instructor (Oct 1970 – Jul 1972).
9. Per his DD214, Wittgenfeld received an honorable discharge.
10. Based on new information brought to my attention on 9 October 2012, it appears that Wittgenfeld’s CIB is legitimate as opposed to questionable. Apparently US Army Vietnam (USARV) - in an exception to Department of the Army regulation and policy of the day – authorized 05B RTOs serving with infantry units whose primary duties were to accompany infantry units on tactical operations to be awarded the CIB. While I have not yet personally located and verified the full text of the USARV exception, the exception is unambiguously referenced in a decision of the Army Board for Correction of Military Records (ABCMR). The ABCMR doesn’t tend to get things wrong.
OK, so much for the “good”. Now for the “bad” and the “ugly”. And, finally, my attempt to make sense of it all.
The Questionable Claims
Wittgenfeld claims to have a CIB. This claim is questionable. In fact, Wittgenfeld’s FOIA report and DD214 both indicate he has a CIB. However, the assignments section of his FOIA report indicates he never served in combat as (1) an infantry unit commander, (2) a formally-assigned advisor to RVN forces, or (3) as an infantry soldier (all his assignments in Vietnam were Radio Operator assignments in his primary MOS of 05B). His receipt of the CIB is thus highly questionable, as it appears to be invalid under the regulations of the day (para 96.a., AR 672-5-1, May 1961, w/amendments). Yes, it’s in his records. Whether it’s legitimate or not is another question.
This claim is no longer regarded as questionable. As noted above, Wittgenfeld apparently does legitimately rate the CIB under a US Army -Vietnam exception to DA regulations.
2. Wittgenfeld claims to be, and and promotes himself as, a former “Airborne Ranger”. This claim is arguably true, but – like Roger Maris’ single-season home run record – also comes with a rather large asterisk. Per his FOIA report and the assignments section of same, Wittgenfeld was an Airborne-qualified soldier assigned as a Radio Operator to a Ranger Unit in Vietnam. However, per those same documents Wittgenfeld did not attend Ranger School, is not Ranger qualified, and therefore does not rate the Ranger Tab. Use your own judgement as to whether you accept this claim by Wittgenfeld as valid. I personally don’t buy it – Ranger School has existed in one form or another since 1950, and Wittgenfeld served from 1968-1972 – but I appear to be in the minority on this issue and could well be wrong.
3. Wittgenfeld also claims (by wearing the awards publicly) that he served with a unit during a period for which it was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC), Valorous Unit Award (VUA), and Meritorious Unit Award (MUA). This claim is questionable if not outright false. I’ve checked the official Army listing of unit awards; none of Wittgenfelds units in Vietnam seem to be listed there – so none of them appear to have ever been awarded a PUC, VUA, or MUA. That means Wittgenfeld almost certainly isn’t authorized these unit awards for permanent wear – and thus shouldn’t be wearing them now. (His Vietnamese Unit Awards are probably legit; many if not most US Army units deployed to Vietnam received one or both of those.)
4. Wittgenfeld has also made claims of “skydiving in Vietnam to entertain the orphans”. Yeah, right. Sorry, but I’m gonna need independent verification from a disinterested party before I’ll buy that one. I’m calling this claim at best questionable if not an outright whopper of a lie.
The Bogus Claims
1. Wittgenfeld was cited multiple times in the past in published articles as having received a “Bronze Star for Valor”. There’s really only one place those reporters would have gotten that info: from Wittgenfeld himself, either by interviewing him personally or from written material provided by him. Follow this link for one example of such a false claim. Per Wittgenfeld’s DD214 and FOIA report, these claims are bogus – and IMO, so is Wittgenfeld’s current claim that he had no influence over what those reporters wrote about him in the past. The fact that there are several other similar articles near the end of the web page linked here IMO effectively disproves Wittgenfeld’s claims of innocence in this area. Could one reporter “screw the pooch” and get his decorations wrong? Yes. Several, all making the same identical mistake? Uh, no, I don’t think so. I’m calling this claim, and Wittgenfeld’s oblique denial that he bears any responsibility for the misinformation those stories, bogus.
2. Wittgenfeld also apparently hoodwinked the Special Forces Association into admitting him by reputedly making false claims of serving as an advisor to the “Royal Thai Army” and of being temporarily attached to the 11th Special Forces Group. These claims also appear to be bogus. No such assignments are documented in the assignments section of Wittgenfeld’s FOIA report. Rather, Wittgenfeld’s Purple Heart orders show him assigned to “RTAVF-SLS”. I’m reasonably certain this designation stands for “Royal Thailand Army Vietnam Forces – Staff (or maybe Strategic) Liaison Section”. His duty position there was 05B – Radio Operator (SLS). Providing comm support while assigned to a liaison team ain’t the same thing as advisory duty.
3. Wittgenfeld’s also made claims of being “Airborne Ranger Special Forces”, too. Those claims are also bogus – there are no SF assignments in his record whatsoever. Wittgenfeld’s claims of “hanging out” with the 11th SF while on “compassionate leave” don’t cut it – that’s neither formal assignment nor attachment, and I’ve seen nothing documenting that it even happened at all. Ditto his claims of being a Ranger Advisor to the Royal Thai Army (serving on a liaison team ain’t the same thing). Bottom line: Wittgenfeld never served with SF, either in CONUS or in Combat. He was never Special Forces, nor is he authorized to wear the Green Beret – period. Even if he did con his way into the Special Forces Association.
4. Finally, Wittgenfeld claims to have been a “LRRP” or “LRP” in Vietnam. This claim is bogus. Wittgenfeld was never a “LRP” or “LRRP” in Vietnam. His first unit there – D Co 151st Infantry – was indeed originally designated as a Long Range Patrol (LRP) unit. But that designation changed about 6 months before Wittgenfeld ever arrived. D Co 151st Infantry’s status and designation was changed in Feb 1969 from LRP to Ranger. Wittgenfeld arrived in Vietnam in Aug 1969, so he never served with a LRP unit in Vietnam – and he absolutely did not serve with the 101st as a LRRP, as he’s previously implied. Wittgenfeld served as an RTO while assigned to a Ranger unit. He never served in a LRP or LRRP unit.
Other than the above, Wittgenfeld’s dealings with others are textbook examples of how to make enemies and influence people the wrong way. Read the comments by “LoNg RaNgE PaTrOL 41” starting here. Yes, that really is Wittgenfeld playing with the shift key like a teenage girl (or a spastic) and using that asinine screen name. And after reading those comments, you can probably decide for yourself whether his tournament nickname of “Flying Assclown” is apropos.
His abuse of the Army uniform and his disrespectful attitude towards other veterans, veterans’ supporters, and others in general are reprehensible. His narcissism is obvious in his staged photos, his deeds, and his words. He is also one of very few people I’ve ever even heard of to get arrested for flying a plane while intoxicated (2nd part of article here). And when you read Wittgenfeld’s own words, it’s easy to conclude that he’s also a racist.
In short: he’s a real piece of work. He’s definitely a legend in his own mind, and obviously thinks he deserves to be famous.
The rest of the world? Either “deserves to be infamous” or “Dallas Who?” is probably more a accurate description of how the rest of the world feels about Wittgenfeld.
Reconstruction of Events, AKA Reality
Here’s my reconstruction of what likely actually happened. I could be wrong, and if I’m presented documentary evidence I am, I’ll revise this.
D Co 151st Infantry (Long Range Patrol) was an Indiana National Guard unit. It was one of the few Army Reserve Component (USAR and ARNG) units mobilized and sent to Vietnam, and was the only National Guard Infantry unit so mobilized and deployed. This unit was mobilized in April or early May 1968, departed Indiana in mid-May for extensive pre-deployment training at Fort Benning, and deployed to Vietnam in December 1968. The unit was assigned to II FFORCEV. It was redesignated D Co 151st Infantry (Ranger) in Feb 1969.
Per Wittgenfeld’s FOIA, Wittgenfeld was not originally a member of D Co 151st Infantry - he enlisted after D Co 151st Infantry had departed for pre-deployment training. The assignments section of his FOIA shows Wittgenfeld began active duty in September 1968; attended basic training at Fort Campbell; Leaders Prep and 05B AIT at Fort Knox; Airborne School at Fort Benning; and then was assigned to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, arriving in April 1969. He served as an 05B – Radio Operator with the 82nd Airborne for approx 3 months, then ended up on orders for Vietnam. He arrived in Vietnam in late August 1969 and was assigned to D Co 151st Infantry (Ranger) shortly thereafter.
Wittgenfeld was thus never assigned to D Co 151st Infantry while it was designated a “Long Range Patrol” unit, arriving approx 6 months after the unit had been redesignated “Ranger”. He was most likely either an individual replacement or Regular Army cadre assigned to that unit because of the pending reflagging of that unit as D Co 75th Infantry (Ranger), which occurred in November 1969 and was almost certainly due to the end of the period of mobilization of D Co 151st Infantry. Wittgenfeld thus served in D Co 151st Infantry (Ranger) for 2 1/2 to 3 months, and then continued to serve with D Co 75th Infantry (Ranger) after his unit was reflagged. While assigned to D Co 151st Infantry (Ranger), Wittgenfeld apparently received an ARCOM w/V. Per his official records, his assignment with both units was as an o5B – IS Radio Operator.
Wittgenfeld’s reflagged unit of assignment, now D Co 75th Infantry (Ranger) continued as a part of II FFORCEV until April 1970. At that time, D Co 75th Infantry (Ranger) stood down. As a Active Duty soldier on a 1-year tour, Wittgenfeld still had several months remaining in-country. He was then transferred to HQ FFORCEV for the remainder of his time in-country.
Wittgenfeld appears to have been assigned to a HQ II FFORCEV Staff/Strategic Liaison Team (RTAVF-SLS) with the mission of providing II FFORCEV liaision between HQ II FFORCEV and a subordinate Royal Thai Army unit HQ (the Royal Thai Army Vietnam Forces were subordinate to II FFORCEV). Wittgenfeld’s duty assignment was 05B – Radio Operator (SLS); his duties doubtless consisted providing long-range comm support for the liaison team, most likely often relating to fire support provided by US artillery to Royal Thai Forces. This is in no way, shape, form, or fashion “duty as a Ranger advisor to Royal Thai Army Rangers”. While assigned to this liaison team, Wittgenfeld was wounded twice and received an Air Medal. He served with II FFORCEV for less than 4 months – from April to Aug 1970. Approx 10 days before Wittgenfeld’s one-year in country anniversary, he departed Vietnam for CONUS.
After departing for CONUS, Wittgenfeld took about 45 days combined leave and travel time. He arrived at Fort Knox, KY, in early Oct 1970. He served as a Drill Instructor at Fort Knox until his ETS in July 1972.
Wittgenfeld served honorably in dangerous and demanding assignments in Vietnam. He received both combat decorations and wounds. But was never “Special Forces”, a “Ranger Advisor”, a “LRRP”, or a “LRP”. He does not have the Ranger Tab. He was an Airborne-qualified RTO assigned to a Ranger unit for about 8 months, then was assigned as a radio operator for a liaison team from HQ II FFORCEV to a subordinate Royal Thai Army unit HQ for a bit less than 4 months. That’s all.
Wittgenfeld’s a rather sad case, actually. His military service was honorable, and based on what I’ve seen his claim of PTSD could well be legitimate. IMO he definitely seems to have operator headspace and timing issues.
But having issues is no excuse to be a liar and a out-of-control asshat. And IMO Wittgenfeld is both of those many times over.
Author Note: The original article castigated Wittgenfeld for falsely claiming to be an “Airborne Ranger” even though he does not have a Ranger Tab. However, the consensus of initial comments appears to be that service with a Ranger unit vice qualifying for the Ranger Tab entitles one to call himself a “Ranger” permanently. I’ve thus removed those portions of the original article and/or reworded them appropriately.
Jonn added: Here’s another picture I have of Wittgenfeld’s uniform with some SF beret flash on his pocket with the SF DUI stuck to it;
ADDED: Kevin writes to tell us that the SF thingie on his pocket is the SF Association’s thing. The SF Association told us that Wittgenfeld wouldn’t be a member these days because he’s been grandfathered from a time before they required documentation and he has none on file.