In a way, it is worthless to re-visit this topic but having grown up in the 70s, I’ve always wondered about the veracity of the ‘abuse of returning veterans’ reports. I never witnessed any such disrespect and despicable behavior but far too many of us make the mistake of basing our opinions solely on what takes place in own own orbit.
One question that confounds me is that many (though not all) of the anti-war individuals were not exactly of the Incredible Hulk variety. Choosing to go after a returning vet and harass him would quite possibly and stupidly put one in harm’s way. Think about it: one who has no military training versus an individual who has been trained to defend himself and actually trained to kill.

But stranger things have happened. We wouldn’t have the annual Darwin Awards without such everyday ‘unenlightened’ behavior.

Having done a bit of googling on the subject, the matter seems as confusing as ever, with claims, counter claims and accusations of bias and slanted reporting.

My sense is some of these barbaric acts certainly took place but probably not to the degree offered by those who try and politically benefit from re-telling these tales.

To those who experienced such derogatory and senseless acts, an apology is due. To those who try to profit by manipulating and expanding on what did actually take place–labeling you vermin for your parasitical behavior is too good for you.

* Also, the repugnancy of the treatment of Vietnam veterans by many in the Veterans Administration and by the nefarious politicos who were so gung-ho on the Vietnam War–the scientific studies about the effects of Agent Orange and post traumaticstress disorder repudiated you and exposed your sins–your behavior easily qualifies as a greater abuse of veterans. Shame on you.

The following are some cut-n-pastes on the subject:

    Did Vietnam-era protesters spit?

    May 7, 2003
    Ithaca Journal

     The Journal editorialized on March 28, that “During the 1960s and 1970s, people opposed to the Vietnam War took out their rage on the wrong people: The soldiers, sailors and aviators who fought the war but had nothing to do with the decision to enter it. Today, it seems, most Americans place the blame where it belongs: On the backs of elected officials who set policy.”

    The editorial writer may be forgiven for a youthful memory, especially in light of today’s propaganda that spawns Vietnam-era myths. The statement must be corrected, however, because it retains the impression that Vietnam vets were abused by protesters.

    I served honorably in the U.S. Navy from 1962-1966. A few years later, I joined thousands of other vets in the antiwar movement who ardently supported the rights of those blacks, Hispanics and poor whites who were disproportionately drafted into the military.

    Meanwhile, wealthy white boys like the current resident of the White House used family connections to find cushy spots in the National Guard; or they evaded military service altogether like Vice-President Dick Cheney. It’s also important to note that “the peace movement” included anyone — genuine peace activists, lunatics and provocateurs — who spoke and acted in its name.

    The vast majority of protesters, however, shared great sympathy and solidarity with American soldiers in the field, in the protest lines and in the halls of Congress where hundreds of vets threw their medals back to the government that spawned such human misery upon themselves and the peoples of Vietnam.

    Jerry Lembcke, an associate professor of sociology at Holy Cross and a Vietnam combat veteran, has written a well documented book, “The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam” (New York University Press, 1998) that thoroughly debunks the tales of protesters “spitting upon” Vietnam vets. Lembcke conducted extensive research to ascertain that there were no contemporaneous news reports or police complaints lodged to substantiate the claims that began appearing in the media about 1991. The perpetuation of such myths only blocks the healing of Vietnam veterans from our “culture of victimization,” and it serves the agenda of those pro-war forces who place fear and intimidation in the path of open debate on the pressing issues of the moment.

    — Milich, a lifetime member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, lives in the City of Ithaca, NY.


    When Vietnam vets came home (Soldiers being spit on is just an urban myth)
    News and Observer Nov 10, 2004 JOHN LLEWELLYN

    Posted on 11/10/2004 3:35:05 PM PST by mykdsmom

    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.


    From Publishers Weekly

    Chicago Tribune staffer Greene composed several of his syndicated columns around responses he received from Vietnam vets after he asked whether any of them had been spat upon. Unfortunately, the enormous impact of the columns is lost in their expansion to book form. Some servicemen were spat upon on their return, but more suffered verbal abuse or icy indifference. Many contributors point out that they did what their country asked them to do, and they were stunned by the cruelty, even savagery, of some of the anti-war protesters, many of whom proclaimed belief in love and peace. Some are still not reconciled to the treatment they received, while others welcome the change in the attitude toward them as a chance “to wipe a little spit off our hearts.”


    From Library Journal

    “Were you ever spat upon when you returned home to the United States?” asked syndicated columnist Greene of the Vietnam veterans among his readership. He received over 1000 letters in reply, many recounting specific details of just such a painfully remembered incident. Evidently this recollection of “hippies” (as they are often called in the letters) spitting on combat veterans has become one of the war’s most unpleasant, enduring images. Conversely, other letters describe acts of generosity toward servicemen, from the typical free beers at the bar to a free show. But the over 200 letters excerpted here do more than confirm popular notions. They bring back the incidents of 20 years ago vividly, but not always with bitterness. And they reveal healing solidarity among veterans in response to what for many was not a happy homecoming.

    Recommended. Richard W. Grefrath, Univ. of Nevada Lib., Reno

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