Skip to comments.Debunking a spitting image - (says Viet Vets never spat upon when they returned to USA!)
Posted on 05/01/2005 8:53:50 PM PDT by CHARLITE
STORIES ABOUT spat-upon Vietnam veterans are like mercury: Smash one and six more appear. It's hard to say where they come from. For a book I wrote in 1998 I looked back to the time when the spit was supposedly flying, the late 1960s and early 1970s. I found nothing. No news reports or even claims that someone was being spat on.
What I did find is that around 1980, scores of Vietnam-generation men were saying they were greeted by spitters when they came home from Vietnam. There is an element of urban legend in the stories in that their point of origin in time and place is obscure, and, yet, they have very similar details. The story told by the man who spat on Jane Fonda at a book signing in Kansas City recently is typical. Michael Smith said he came back through Los Angeles airport where ''people were lined up to spit on us."
Like many stories of the spat-upon veteran genre, Smith's lacks credulity. GIs landed at military airbases, not civilian airports, and protesters could not have gotten onto the bases and anywhere near deplaning troops.
(Excerpt) Read more at boston.com ...
Better yet ask them why the train ended in CANADA instead of the North.
My first thought was, I can't believe that printed that biased load of manure....but then I realized it was the Boston Globe.
After coming back from Vietnam I spent several years on a University campus in So. Calif.
Being called 'Baby Killer', 'Jet Pilot', 'Napalm Man' etc. was common place. It was a very hostile environment.
Being in the USAF Reserves at the time I was a target because of my short hair.
Thanks for your service and welcome to FR.
Thank you for writing this letter. I have to wonder about Mr. Lembcke's starting point, his hypothesis that it was highly unlikely that any of the raging unwashed so called war protesters could possibly EVER have put their saliva onto a returning vet. He then goes about "researching" to support his hypothesis and comes up with "IT NEVER HAPPENED." Why did he find it unlikely in the first place? Aren't like-minded jackass college jerks throwing pies at conservatives today?
My brother served three consecutive years (36 months from 1966 ~ 1969) with only enough time off to heal from three wounds.
He told me he finally realized who the real enemy was when he got off the plane at SFX and the freaks were throwing buckets of human feces on the Marines as the ran across the tarmac.
Another comment of his: "I would have killed as many of them as I could have if I had had my 45 on me."
Like many stories of the spat-upon veteran genre, Smith's lacks credulity. GIs landed at military airbases, not civilian airports, and protesters could not have gotten onto the bases and anywhere near deplaning troops. There may have been exceptions, of course, but in those cases how would protesters have known in advance that a plane was being diverted to a civilian site? And even then, returnees would have been immediately bused to nearby military installations and processed for reassignment or discharge.
Yes, we often did land at Military Bases. However, many of us were reassigned, as he said, but how did we travel to our new duty assignments? Civilian aircraft at civilian airports. Once we received orders, we were released to go through the main gate (often where protesters stood to hassle us) and sent on our way to travel where need be.
Since we weren't paid very much, we qualified for what was known then as Military Standby airfare. In order to gain it, we were required by the airlines to travel in full uniform and show orders.
Not only that, even if traveling in civies, if discharged, your luggage, an Army Duffle Bag, short hair and such immediately identified you as a Veteran or member of the Military. Most, after discharge, still flew in uniform to qualify for the cheaper rate of airfare.
All transfers between duty stations were by civilian transportation, airlines, bus or train, bus and airlines being the most commonly used.
Protesters would not have to know when a returning flight of of Veterans was diverted, on a daily basis, members of the military traveled through nearly every airport in the country. Back then, all airports had USOs in them as well. If we weren't using the civilian airports, why the USOs? We became simply Targets of Opportunity to them.
Is Lemcke truly a Veteran? I don't know, but he sure should be aware of what I say above, it's how we all traveled about.
For a book I wrote in 1998 I looked back to the time when the spit was supposedly flying, the late 1960s and early 1970s. I found nothing. No news reports or even claims that someone was being spat on.
Roddy Stinson: 'Avoid wearing of uniform' general warns local soldiers
Web Posted : 04/13/2003 12:00 AM
"If possible, avoid wearing of the uniform when dining in public places."
From a "Protective Measures Awareness" notice sent to San Antonio's U.S. Army personnel by Maj. Gen. Darrel R. Porr on Friday
April 11, 2003, will be remembered as one of the saddest dates in Alamo City history.
Because of recent instances of harassment of uniformed personnel, Porr, the commanding general at Fort Sam Houston, felt compelled to warn the men and women who serve under him to use caution when traveling, shopping and dining in San Antonio.
"Two separate incidents against military personnel have occurred," Porr reported. "In the first incident, two males on the city's Northeast Side made threatening gestures and pounded on the car window of a drill sergeant and his spouse while they were on their way home.
"The second incident involved two sailors, in uniform, who were accosted by several males who said, 'You'd better not go to war,' as they departed a River Walk restaurant."
Porr provided this possible explanation for the hostile actions:
"There has been a significant increase of demonstrations throughout the United States in opposition to the ongoing U.S.-led military operations in Iraq.
"As individuals voice their opinions against military operations, they tend to direct their frustrations toward governmental and military symbols."
On receiving a copy of the notice from an anonymous e-mailer, I called Fort Sam to ask for more details about the incidents, in general, and the harassers, in particular.
A post spokesman indicated that more information was available, but declined "to go there."
He then made a point of emphasizing:
"Soldiers here in San Antonio have always proudly worn their uniform because of the support for the military.
"Previously, there has never been any perceived threat. This is quite unusual.
"Even during Vietnam, San Antonio was one community that supported the military forces.
"That's one reason the general put that notice out ... because (such harassment) is so unusual in this community."
The notice included cautions other than the warning not to wear uniforms when dining in San Antonio restaurants.
Porr also recommended:
"Be cognizant of people who gather and voice their sentiments against the military efforts in Iraq. Do not get involved."
"When in public facilities, soldiers should avoid conversations related to work or military operations in general."
"Always practice the 'Buddy System' when traveling."
"When in uniform, minimize the number of stops when traveling from home to work or vice versa. Wear civilian clothing when possible."
There you have it: San Antonio, Texas, anno Domini 2003, in all its un-glory.
What's worse ...
Community leaders continue to show pitifully little support for U.S. soldiers.
Example in point:
City officials have been mute as mice since troops entered Iraq. (The San Antonio City Council, which regularly passes resolutions honoring everything from the Dallas Cowboys to Hike and Bike Week, has deigned only to observe "a moment of silence" for the troops and their families.)
Add to that palpable hush the rants of the town's Saddam Hussein apologists, and "Military City USA" can easily degenerate into a South Texas backwater, where men and women in uniform can't safely wear their uniforms in public.
"Sad" hardly describes such a miserable state of affairs.
Fortunately, all of the news surrounding the recent threats isn't dreary.
One unofficial source I talked to said he had seen the police report of the incident on the River Walk, and he provided this description of the confrontation:
"Some Marines who were nearby saw what was happening and went to the sailors' aid.
"The matter was then taken care of by combined military action."
I am one of those veterans who was spit at when he was home on leave, and I have heard many personal stories of those who were spit at, had beer bottles thrown at me from passing cars, heard the baby-killer comments, all that.
This professor claims it never happened.
He claims it is just an urban legend. I cannot keep my anger at this a secret.
When Vietnam vets came home
By JOHN LLEWELLYN
WINSTON-SALEM -- Last week voters went to the polls to select a vision for the future. Now Americans must find a way forward together. This week, as we honor service and sacrifice on Veterans Day, an image from this political season must be put to rest.
The presidential campaign featured the resurgence of a myth from the early 1990s. That myth is that soldiers returning from Vietnam were spit upon by citizens or war protesters. That claim has been used to turn honest differences of opinion about the war into toxic indictments.
As a scholar of urban legends I am usually involved with accounts of vanishing hitchhikers and involuntary kidney donors. These stories are folklore that harmlessly reveals the public imagination. However, accounts of citizens spitting on returning soldiers -- any nation's soldiers -- are not harmless stories. These tales evoke an emotional firestorm.
I have studied urban legends for nearly 20 years and have been certified as an expert on the subject in the federal courts. Nonetheless, it dawned on me only recently that the spitting story was a rumor that has grown into an urban legend. I never wanted to believe the story but I was afraid to investigate it for fear that it could be true.
Why could I not identify this fiction sooner? The power of the story and the passion of its advocates offer a powerful alchemy of guilt and fear -- emotions not associated with clearheadedness.
Labeling the spitting story an urban legend does not mean that something of this sort did not happen to someone somewhere. You cannot prove the negative -- that something never happened. However, most accounts of spitting emerged in the mid-1980s only after a newspaper columnist asked his readers who were Vietnam vets if they had been spit upon after the war (an odd and leading question to ask a decade after the war's end). The framing of the question seemed to beg for an affirmative answer.
In 1998 sociologist and Vietnam veteran Jerry Lembcke published "The Spitting Image: Myth, Media and the Legacy of Viet Nam." He recounts a study of 495 news stories on returning veterans published from 1965 to 1971. That study shows only a handful (32) of instances were presented as in any way antagonistic to the soldiers. There were no instances of spitting on soldiers; what spitting was reported was done by citizens expressing displeasure with protesters.
Opinion polls of the time show no animosity between soldiers and opponents of the war. Only 3 percent of returning soldiers recounted any unfriendly experiences upon their return.
So records from that era offer no support for the spitting stories. Lembcke's research does show that similar spitting rumors arose in Germany after World War I and in France after its Indochina war. One of the persistent markers of urban legends is the re-emergence of certain themes across time and space.
There is also a common-sense method for debunking this urban legend. One frequent test is the story's plausibility: how likely is it that the incident could have happened as described? Do we really believe that a "dirty hippie" would spit upon a fit and trained soldier? If such a confrontation had occurred, would that combat-hardened soldier have just ignored the insult? Would there not be pictures, arrest reports, a trial record or a coroner's report after such an event? Years of research have produced no such records.
Lembcke underscores the enduring significance of the spitting story for this Veterans Day. He observes that as a society we are what we remember. The meaning of Vietnam and any other war is not static but is created through the stories we tell one another. To reinforce the principle that policy disagreements are not personal vendettas we must put this story to rest.
Our first step forward is to recognize that we are not a society that disrespects the sacrifices of our servicemembers. We should ignore anyone who tries to tell us otherwise. Whatever our aspirations for America, those hopes must begin with a clear awareness of who we are not.
(John Llewellyn is an associate professor of communication at Wake Forest University.)
Here is a link to personal stories of men like me who received this abuse. These stories are real. This professor never asked us apparently
I wasn't spat upon, but then I've always had an affinity for cutlery. But there were in fact, many protestors along the route. I remember because my middle finger was sore for days afterwards...
Dad was in the Marines in Korea. He was in the Air Force when he was in Vietnam. I don't know that he was spit on when he came home to the airport in Memphis, but I do remember his car getting egged while he was stationed at the Pentagon.
Professor Llewellyn wrote: "Our first step forward is to recognize that we are not a society that disrespects the sacrifices of our servicemembers."
Huh. Like all the douchebags and f*ckwits who protest servicemembers at the gates of their installations, as they leave for Iraq or Afghanistan, or return?
Like the filth that hold signs that read, "We'll support our troops when they shoot their officers"?
Like the fat tub of blubbery pus that almost got the beatdown of his life for holding a sign that read, "Shame on US troops"?
Like the girl who told me I was a "Nazi" in 1995, because I had a bag with unit patches on it?
Like my best pal and roommate, who was ROTC at the time, who was nearly thrown out of a class the first day he had to wear his BDUs?
Like the all the veterans' memorials and landmarks that are regularly vandalized, year after year?
Llewellyn, you don't know what the f*ck you're talking about. I'm sure you're right at home in academia.
The son of a bitch just spat on all of us with that statement.
Excellent response. Probably won't get printed in the Glob, but let Hannity know or his producer, Sweet Baby James. You never know. They might run with it....
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