CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A red-hot debate is swirling on the Internet and talk shows about the Vietnam-era recollections of veterans who say they were spat upon. Some dismiss the spitting as urban myth, and they often cite College of the Holy Cross professor Jerry Lembcke as the chief debunker. His 1998 book, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam, published by New York University Press is the research work they often rely upon.
But the 2,700-student Jesuit university in Worcester, Mass., where Lembcke is employed, isn't totally sold on the idea that the spit never flew. In fact, it has said publicly that Holy Cross graduates were targets.
In April 1999, the school's official publication, Holy Cross Magazine, did a Vietnam retrospective and named two alums who were spit upon. The article is called "The War That Never Ended." One of the Holy Cross alums, Steve Bowen, is a 1965 graduate. He recalled it happened to him in Los Angeles and the spit landed on the front of his shirt. "She was so good looking, I just laughed," Bowen was quoted as saying about the incident.
And there was a lot about Jim MacDougald, a 1951 Holy Cross alum who also recalled being spit upon. MacDougald, with five kids, rose to the rank of Air Force colonel before retiring. Holy Cross published their stories and there is no evidence it suspects they made them up or lied. In fact, they are still available for all the world to view on the college's online portal.
Lembcke, too, is in the same Vietnam retrospective. He doesn't deny that vets were treated badly, and he doesn't deny that spitting took place.
"Many veterans have responded to my book with gratitude that I have set the story straight. Others have challenged my thesis, claiming to have been treated badly when they returned from war. Few of the latter stories, however, lend validity to the myth that it was anti-war activists who were hostile to vets," Lembcke said in the Holy Cross alumni mag article in April 1999. "Upon questioning, vets will often concede the hostility came from older veterans, the Veteran's Administration hospital, or simply a drunk in a bar. The historical fact is that the peace movement saw veterans as potential allies and reached out to them."
The feature article from the same April 1999 issue about the two Holy Cross alums who said they were spit at is HERE.
And Lembcke, a Vietnam vet who became active in the peace movement, is HERE. The stories were published seven years ago, long before the current Iraq war, long before the current anti-war movement existed, and long before the current flap exploded, fanned by some people who claim that those who remember spitting stories from decades past are fabricators.