A newly surfaced video shows Assemblyman Randy Voepel saying that he “served in Vietnam” with South Korean troops — a claim rejected by his GOP rival in the East County district.
Video of Voepel from last September shows him urging passage of a resolution he co-authored to honor Korean-American veterans of the Vietnam War. (It passed on a vote of 77-0.)
“I served in Vietnam with the Tiger Battalion, and when they went into an operational area, the Viet Cong took a vacation,” Voepel says in the clip posted by digitaldemocracy.org.
Voepel then said: “Seriously, all combat in that area would cease. Because the Koreans were so fearless and such good killers of communists, they just left the battlefield, the enemy did.”
Wilske, a retired Navy SEAL, on Wednesday noted that documents showing Voepel’s military record contain no reference to service with South Korean forces in Vietnam.
“My guess is that this is just a tall tale,” Wilske said, adding that he had spoken to a Vietnam vet who said: “Unless the guy was a forward air controller or a corpsman, there would be no reason for him to ever go ashore.”
Would Voepel’s claim qualify as stolen valor?
“You bet,” Wilske said in a phone interview.
“There he is in a political environment, trying to gain favor with the movement of the time in that video honoring Korean soldiers by saying he was with them,” Wilske said. “And that’s a lie.”
Records gleaned via a Freedom of Information Act request show “there’s no duty station in there with anybody working with the ROKs — the Republic of Korea troops,” Wilske said.
Voepel’s office didn’t immediately return calls or email requests for comment.
But Wilske’s campaign is making hay of the claim, with Wilske’s strategist arguing that associating himself with the South Korean Tiger Division [not a battalion] may hurt Voepel as well.
“They tolerated no opposition and were ruthless with both enemy forces and the civilian population,” Dave Miller, the Wilske strategist, said of the Tigers. “They usually dealt harshly with prisoners and with civilians who were suspected of sympathizing with the [Communist] Viet Cong or who violated the laws or regulations established by ROK commanders.”
Miller said thieves were hung from meathooks.
“Some Americans looked on ROK troops with respect, but critics viewed their severe methods not as truly pacifying an area, and surely not as ‘winning hearts and minds,’ but as generating new supporters for the Viet Cong.”
Terence Hoey, a New Yorker who took part in a press conference last week denouncing Voepel, told Times of San Diego: “We are still holding back on more devastating information on Voepel.”
In the video of the Sept. 5, 2017, Assembly hearing on ACR 112, Voepel closes by saluting “my Korean brothers, the fiercest warriors in the world outside of the Americans and the Israelis. I love you, man.”