Pass along a news tip by clicking HERE.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Roasted On A Vietnam Spit: 'Urban Myth' Prof's Urban Miss

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Slate's Jack Shafer this week distanced himself from the contention soldiers in military uniforms were never spat upon by U.S. civilians during the years Americans were deeply divided over the Vietnam War. Shafer found a vet and believes his story from 1971.

The Slate columnist has long based his skepticism about spitting incidents on the research of Jerry Lembcke, a College of the Holy Cross professor who likens spitting stories to urban legends. Lembcke is a Vietnam vet who became active in the anti-war movement after coming home. He contends the myth took hold in popular culture several years after Saigon fell.

Shafer made contact with Delmar Pickett Jr. , a Vietnam vet from Kansas who was interviewed by CBS TV newsman Morton Dean. Pickett told CBS he was spat upon at the Seattle airport while in uniform -- a story he repeated for Shafer last week. The CBS broadcast aired on Dec. 27, 1971, before the war ended, and long before the professor published his research casting doubt on accounts of spitting.

"Pickett's personal history challenges the work of Jerry Lembcke, the author of the 1998 book Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam, who holds the spat-upon-vet story is an 'urban myth' that took root in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It also challenges the half-dozen columns I've written in support of Lembcke's thesis."

That's Shafer, who added the spitting stories had "greater currency in those early years than Lembcke allows." He was respectful of Pickett, who recalled some of the details, but not all, because the passage of time had influenced his memory a bit. Said Shafer:

"I have no reason to believe Pickett is lying, even if his two recountings of that day in 1971 don't match up perfectly. I'm no human lie detector, but his telephone manner seemed remarkably relaxed and candid for somebody getting a call from the press out of the blue. What argues in favor of Pickett's claim over say, Minarik's (another vet from the era), is that a document shows that he made it in the year in happened. And unlike Minarik, he's not making any political hay with it. It's just one soldier's story."

Anyhow, Pickett put it best about rooting around memory banks and recapturing what it was like to live through a time when the nation was more sharply split than today over the prosecution of an unpopular war.

"Memory tends to blur. Things you think happened didn't. Things you think didn't, did. Time softens everything."

H/T BizzyBloglog and the proprietor, Tom Blumer, for passing along Shafer's follow up in Slate.

19 comments:

  1. That an undocumented account happened before Lembcke's theory about the urban myth taking hold was broadcast has nothing to do with the idea of it having become the stuff of urban myths.

    I mean, no one doubts that this happened. The point is it has never been documented -- which is noteworthy given the fevered pitch the story reached after the mythology developed a decade later.

    Besides, you still haven't told us about your own memory -- in 1970 after seeing a movie that did not yet exist.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dean,

    Surely you jest.

    A 1971 TV report watched by maybe 20% of the country at the time (thanks to there being only 3 networks) would form a small part of the general consciousness that gradually built up around the REALITY of Vietnam vets and soldiers of that era being spit on.

    This built-up consciousness of REALITY would explain why movies like Rambo resonated, but the urban myth proponents want us to believe that Hollywood in cahoots with conservatives (that'll be the day) created this perception of reality out of almost nothing.

    And it HAS been "documented" -- just not up to your 2007-Google-YouTube-cameras everywhere standards.

    I notice YOU haven't had a lot to say about (among a gazillion others):
    - the NYT's James Reston in 1967 (reasonable people with no ax to grind would consider what he reported to be an eyewitness account)
    - the Time magazine 1979 piece that Lembcke should have easily found that quotes a soldier saying that in 1970 he returned to SF Airport (you know, the one that soldiers NEVER came back to) with 200 others and that they were spat on.
    - The fact that contemporaneous reports at the time of the protests note that leaders of the movement were imploring their followers, mostly unsuccessfully, to mellow out on the spitting.
    - All the other things Lindgren goes on and on about at Volokh for, what, 6 posts, and about which, unless I've missed it, you have had nothing to say.

    Now I see you're trying to do a walk-back of sorts ("I mean, no one doubts that this happened. The point is it has never been documented"). Pretty funny given where you were a few weeks ago, and given Reston's report at a minimum, which established that spitting was an acceptable tactic of the protest movement very early on. But it's also pretty sad, no, very sad, given the dozens and dozens of personal accounts over so many decades, many of which pre-dated any conceivable credible charge of being agenda-based.

    ReplyDelete
  3. B.

    No, what's sad, BizzyBlog, is that you refuse to hold Sloat accountable here. He said he was spat upon in 1970 after seeing a movie that did not exist.

    His story was about being spat upon, while with three other soldiers, by a lone woman -- which is itself suspect. Makes me wonder if they said something to her? (If she even existed.)

    Sloat said he was spat upon "near the shoulder." What does that mean? Was it his neck? His arm? His chest? All the body parts have common names, you know.

    Lastly, I have not been following this story nationally -- nor do I intend to. As you are well aware, my own writing focuses on local issues and local media. Sloat is a local media guy. I still believe evidence shows he made his stuff up.

    To tell you the truth, BizzyBlog, I don't think it really matters to me one way or another whether some soldiers got spit on them before I even walked the earth. What matters is how those stories are used now, and whether they are being used in a manner that is relevant, honest, etc.

    If you must, post lots of updates and pontificate about how I am wrong. I'm still waiting for Sloat to explain himself.

    I mean, if I said 3CDC was evil because I heard Bill Donabedian say something when I was at the table next to his eating dinner in 2003 -- at the restaurant McCormick & Schmick's (and further if I claimed my memories of this dinner were very vivid) -- well, I'm sure people might think that strange since the restaurant didn't exist in 2003, and since therefore I could not have had a memory of hearing Donabedian there.

    Everyone would expect, no, they would DEMAND that I explain myself.

    No one does that with Sloat.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Actually lots of people agree with you, Dean. It's just that Sloat routinely deletes comments that challenge his story.

    Sloat has been trying to change the subject from his own Stephen Glass moment to other spitting tales from the minute he got busted.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Let's go over the facts.

    a. Bill Sloat claims to have been spat upon in 1970 in New Orleans by a young woman because he was wearing his military uniform.

    b. Questions were raised about about the veracity of Sloat's story and how it may be part of a bigger story, Prof. Jerry Lembcke's research that numerous spitting stories which resemble Sloat's appear to be fabricated.

    c. BizzyBlog and Mr. Sloat then attempted to disprove Prof. Lembcke's theory by locating other spitting stories which they consider to be authentic.

    There are at least two problems here.

    1. For many years, Mr. Sloat was a professional journalist and would be considered a reliable source. Therefore, why hasn't Mr. Sloat contacted Prof. Lembcke and Jack Shafer to provide them with details of his spitting episode? By failing to do so (as well as failing to answer previous questions from the Dean), Mr. Sloat undermines the integrity of his own claim.

    2. If BizzyBlog believes Mr. Sloat's story, shouldn't he be encouraging Mr. Sloat to contact Prof. Lembcke and Jack Shafer or contacting them himself? By failing to do so, BizzyBlog appears to be revealing his own doubts about the veracity of Mr. Sloat's story.

    Here's Prof. Lembcke's contact information:http://tinyurl.com/2y7pg5 and here's Jack Shafer's e-mail address: slate.pressbox@gmail.com

    I look forward to learning whether Mr. Sloat or BizzyBlog contact Prof. Lembcke and/or Mr. Shafer to provide them with details of Mr. Sloat's story.

    Given Mr. Sloat's history of deleting certain comments, this message is being screenshot.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Let's go over the facts.

    a. Bill Sloat claims to have been spat upon in 1970 in New Orleans by a young woman because he was wearing his military uniform.

    b. Questions were raised about about the veracity of Sloat's story and how it may be part of a bigger story, Prof. Jerry Lembcke's research that numerous spitting stories which resemble Sloat's appear to be fabricated.

    c. BizzyBlog and Mr. Sloat then attempted to disprove Prof. Lembcke's theory by locating other spitting stories which they consider to be authentic.

    There are at least two problems here.

    1. For many years, Mr. Sloat was a professional journalist and would be considered a reliable source. Therefore, why hasn't Mr. Sloat contacted Prof. Lembcke and Jack Shafer to provide them with details of his spitting episode? By failing to do so (as well as failing to answer previous questions from the Dean), Mr. Sloat undermines the integrity of his own claim.

    2. If BizzyBlog believes Mr. Sloat's story, shouldn't he be encouraging Mr. Sloat to contact Prof. Lembcke and Jack Shafer or contacting them himself? By failing to do so, BizzyBlog appears to be revealing his own doubts about the veracity of Mr. Sloat's story.

    Here's Prof. Lembcke's contact information:http://tinyurl.com/2y7pg5 and here's Jack Shafer's e-mail address: slate.pressbox@gmail.com

    I look forward to learning whether Mr. Sloat or BizzyBlog contact Prof. Lembcke and/or Mr. Shafer to provide them with details of Mr. Sloat's story.

    Given Mr. Sloat's history of deleting certain comments, this message is being screenshot.

    ReplyDelete
  7. That last comment was so nice, he posted it twice.

    So, Bill, when may we expect answers from you and your Bizzy buddy about why you haven't contacted Lembcke or Shafer?

    I'm getting the feeling it's because you don't want your tale to show up in Jack Shafer's column on Slate.

    (And since it seems like a way to motivate you to post comments, this one has been screenshot, too.)

    ReplyDelete
  8. For the record, I'm not taking a position on Bill Sloat's own spitting story -- never have, and don't feel the need to. I don't have any compelling reason to disbelieve him (see third para). He's a big boy and I'm sure he can defend himself.

    As to Sloat's relevance to the big picture, it has become pretty clear that Lembcke and the "spitting myth" holdouts aren't satisfied with anecdotes, so there's no point in adding Sloat's -- not when there are so many examples with more support that have already blown Lembcke's central claim to bits.

    I will note that Shafer cut the guy in the 1971 CBS report some slack, even though all of the details in his memory weren't in order either -- that can happen with the passage of 35 years. Shafer is mature enough to realize that, a characteristic totally lacking on the part of the few who appear to have quite the fixation on ONE other person's story.

    My "fixation" has been on the idea that one prof and a number of gullible media members (Shafer appears to have nearly removed himself from that group) are attempting to recast the historical record of how vets serving in Vietnam, returning from Vietnam, and in the military in general were treated by those who were most opposed to the war, during the war and shortly after it. The correct answer is "all too often with contempt, up to and including frequent incidences of spitting." It appears that the center of gravity on that aspect of history has moved back to its proper place, and is now more likely to stay there.

    So I'm still waiting for Dean to walk back his Jan. 28 statement here:

    Firstly, let’s just acknowledge the fact that the myth of the spat-upon veteran is simply a myth.

    Dean, you've travelled from there to the above:

    "To tell you the truth, BizzyBlog, I don't think it really matters to me one way or another whether some soldiers got spit on them before I even walked the earth."

    How did THAT happen? What happened, of course, is that six weeks of intervening truth has cascaded down on you -- and instead of backing off the italicized claim above that is no longer conceivably supportable, you in essence say "I don't care."

    Not good enough, pal. We need to hear an "I was wrong. I am sorry," and perhaps an "I got played." Your snit fit with Bill Sloat is between you and him.

    ReplyDelete
  9. The problem with BizzyBlog's argument is that he misunderstands the premise of Prof. Lembcke's theory. B-Blog has already stated on his own site that he hasn't bothered to read Prof. Lembcke's book, but clearly that hasn't stopped him, like Lucy in "Peanuts," from pontificating at the top of his voice.

    In any event, let's take it from the top. If B-Blog or Bill Sloat would read Prof. Lembcke's book, they would know Prof. Lembcke's central thesis is that the pervasive conventional belief that scores of returning Vietnam vets were spat upon appears to be an urban myth.

    Prof. Lembcke has never claimed that no returning soldiers from Vietnam were ever spat upon; his claim is that he has been unable to verify any such cases as more than anecdotal.

    Second, as B-Blog has acknowledged, there has been a plethora of these spitting stories. However, all of them appear to be anecdotal, that is, unverifiable by any official records. As reporter Bill Sloat is aware, but B-Blog is not, official records do not consist of news reports. As any reporter knows, people tell reporters all sorts of made-up stories. Given the volume of such spitting claims, it stands to reason that some of these cases should be verifiable through official records.

    For example, if a vet was spit on, especially at a public place like an airport, where many of these stories allegedly took place, he or she would conceivably file an official complaint, say with airport security. Wouldn't you if you were spit on by a stranger? Or, if the returning vet took a swing at someone who spit on them, a reasonable response under the circumstances, especially by a soldier, the spitter might have filed a complaint against the vet.

    Do any official reports exist? If so, I encourage B-Blog, Bill Sloat, or anyone else to locate them and to provide them to Prof. Lembcke. I'm confident he would welcome receiving them.

    Moving along, for the sake of argument, let's assume that even if a few or a dozen such reports turn up, that doesn't invalidate Prof. Lembcke's central thesis, that the spat-upon vet is an urban myth.

    Regarding B-Blog's disinterest in researching Bill Sloat's claim, a case which has been staring us all in the face for months, that's all that needs to be said about B-Blog's approach to journalism, one which begins and ends with a foregone conclusion based on his political prejudices.

    As for Mr. Sloat, he continues to open the door by posting items which pretend to undercut Prof. Lembcke's thesis, meanwhile refusing to answer questions which, as a reporter, he himself would expect to be answered by a source. Having watched this
    story develop, my opinion is that his behavior seems to be saying, "Catch me if you can." If that's the case, Mr. Sloat may be playing with matches.

    (This comment has been screenshot.)

    ReplyDelete
  10. The problem with BizzyBlog's argument is that he misunderstands the premise of Prof. Lembcke's theory. B-Blog has already stated on his own site that he hasn't bothered to read Prof. Lembcke's book, but clearly that hasn't stopped him, like Lucy in "Peanuts," from pontificating at the top of his voice.

    In any event, let's take it from the top. If B-Blog or Bill Sloat would read Prof. Lembcke's book, they would know Prof. Lembcke's central thesis is that the pervasive conventional belief that scores of returning Vietnam vets were spat upon appears to be an urban myth.

    Prof. Lembcke has never claimed that no returning soldiers from Vietnam were ever spat upon; his claim is that he has been unable to verify any such cases as more than anecdotal.

    Second, as B-Blog has acknowledged, there has been a plethora of these spitting stories. However, all of them appear to be anecdotal, that is, unverifiable by any official records. As reporter Bill Sloat is aware, but B-Blog is not, official records do not consist of news reports. As any reporter knows, people tell reporters all sorts of made-up stories. Given the volume of such spitting claims, it stands to reason that some of these cases should be verifiable through official records.

    For example, if a vet was spit on, especially at a public place like an airport, where many of these stories allegedly took place, he or she would conceivably file an official complaint, say with airport security. Wouldn't you if you were spit on by a stranger? Or, if the returning vet took a swing at someone who spit on them, a reasonable response under the circumstances, especially by a soldier, the spitter might have filed a complaint against the vet.

    Do any official reports exist? If so, I encourage B-Blog, Bill Sloat, or anyone else to locate them and to provide them to Prof. Lembcke. I'm confident he would welcome receiving them.

    Moving along, for the sake of argument, let's assume that even if a few or a dozen such reports turn up, that doesn't invalidate Prof. Lembcke's central thesis, that the spat-upon vet is an urban myth.

    Regarding B-Blog's disinterest in researching Bill Sloat's claim, a case which has been staring us all in the face for months, that's all that needs to be said about B-Blog's approach to journalism, one which begins and ends with a foregone conclusion based on his political prejudices.

    As for Mr. Sloat, he continues to open the door by posting items which pretend to undercut Prof. Lembcke's thesis, meanwhile refusing to answer questions which, as a reporter, he himself would expect to be answered by a source. Having watched this
    story develop, my opinion is that his behavior seems to be saying, "Catch me if you can." If that's the case, Mr. Sloat may be playing with matches.

    (This comment has been screenshot.)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Anonymous apparently wishes to rewrite Mr. Lembcke's book for him. Here is what Lembcke actually says in his book:
    "Slightly less but still compelling evidence might be found in news reports of the late 1960's and early 1970's"
    Spitting Image, p. 73.
    "The fact that there are no news reports of spitting on verterans raises doubts about whether such incidents ever occurred ..."
    Spitting Image, p. 74.

    O.K. So, now there is "compelling evidence" by Lembcke's own admission, and no longer any cause to doubt that such incidents occurred.

    A thesis is nothing without proof to back it up. To the extent that Lembcke's thesis is falsifiable, it has been falsified. To the extent that it is not falsifiable, it is no longer social science.

    Indeed, Lembcke's central thesis is that stories of spitting were some kind of Thermidorian reaction generated years after the war to assign blame for the loss of the war on the counterculture. That thesis is a buncombe. There is abundant evidence that stories of spitting on Vietnam vets were widespread, at least among vets, in the 60's and 70's. See
    Drug Abuse Prevention and Control:
    United States Senate: Committee...
    U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1971.
    OCLC: 251394; p. 388

    "The Vietnam veterans consistently report an incident that goes something like this:
    'Pete received a letter from a guy that used to be in his outfit. He had gotten home and walked down main street in his uniform and had and had either got beaten up or someone had spat on him.'

    For the men in Vietnam what incidents like that represent is that the war is not going to be over as far as they're concerned."

    The notion that there is no "official record" of such incidents is absolutely a bad-faith argument. First, how do we know that there are no "official records"? Who has looked for them? How does one conduct a systematic search for such records? We know that there was at least one FBI report on an SDS student that accused her spitting on a soldier. Even then, offficial reports only contain the same thing that newspaper articles do, people reporting what happened to them. Would you accept the veracity of those "anecdotal" statements? I suspect not.

    In any event, at its heart, this is an academic scandal. Lembcke's frequently cited book has been revealed as poorly researched, at best, and a fraud at worst.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Y'know, if I understand the premise that someone holds and articulates, and the person involved explains the conclusions he's reached in newspaper and mag articles, I don't need to read the freaking book -- unless I think he's lying about what he wrote in his book (hmm, with Lembcke, maybe I should reconsider, but I digress).

    K.Bowman made the obvious points so I don't have to. So it's a win-win: Thanks to K.Bowman, the work Anon Screenshot wanted to assign to me (which was, as noted, unnecessary anyway) doesn't need to be done, and Anon Screenshot can stop whining about whether or not I wasted my precious time on a book that is "poorly researched, at best, and a fraud at worst." Gracias, K.Bowman -- delegation is a good thing. :-->

    And of course my disinterest in Sloat's story says nothing about, and is irrelevant to, whether Jerry Lembcke is, as K.Bowman concludes, is a poor researcher at best, or a liar at worst. That is all I have been interested in from the start, and I have adequately explained why I am inclined to give Sloat the benefit of the doubt, as did Shafer with the subject of the 1971 CBS Evening News Report. It's not at all surprising that Anon Screenshot doesn't understand points as elementary as these. Anon Screenshot can repeat his/her/its irrelevancies as long as Sloat is willing to put up with them, but that doesn't make them any less irrelevant.

    ReplyDelete
  13. K.Bowman: Anonymous apparently wishes to rewrite Mr. Lembcke's book for him. Here is what Lembcke actually says in his book: "Slightly less but still compelling evidence might be found in news reports of the late 1960's and early 1970's" Spitting Image, p. 73.

    O.K. So, now there is "compelling evidence" by Lembcke's own admission, and no longer any cause to doubt that such incidents occurred.


    In fact, as K.Bowen is aware, Prof.Lembcke arrived at just the opposite conclusion. Read the entire paragraph here: http://tinyurl.com/3xstuu Here's the gist:

    Slightly less direct but still compelling evidence might be found in news reports of the late 1960's and early 1970's. But a detailed study of news stories in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and selected other sources conducted by sociologists at the University of California at Santa Barbara found no such reports. In all, the researchers examined 495 instances in which there were references to troops or veterans or anti-war protesters....They found no reports of anti-war activists spitting on soldiers or veterans."

    K.Bowman supplies a partial quote in order to mislead. BizzyBlog falls for it, hook line, and sinker. Quite a pair.

    Bill Sloat, next time you think about using BizzyBlog as a source for an item, remember what they say about lying down with dogs....

    (Comment has been screenshot.)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Asked and answered a gazillion times, Anon Screenshot. The conclusion stands and is beyond dispute:

    Vets serving in Vietnam, returning from Vietnam, and in the military in general, were treated all too often with contempt by those who were most opposed to the war, both during the war and shortly after it, up to and including frequent incidences of spitting."

    QED. You're wrong; hundreds of victims, eyewitnesses, reporters, and others are right. Period. Buh-bye.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Bizzy's familiar line of debate: "Nyah, nyah, I can't hear you." No surprises there.

    However, you'll note that Bizzy just signed out with "Period. Buh-bye." So he's said he's done, right?

    Not so fast, everybody. My wife and I have a bet going about Bizzy. One of us says his emotional makeup makes him physically unable to resist getting in the last word in any online discussion; the other says he can control himself.

    (Comment has been screenshot.)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Anonymous:

    Read what I wrote again. You are misreading what I wrote and missing the point. Lembcke says that newspaper reports from the 60's and 70's --would be-- compelling evidence, and then, as you note, claims there weren't any.

    Well, Lembcke is wrong. He either did not look hard enough or failed to exercise good faith in the search. There are many such contemporaneous reports. But, the important point is that Lembcke himself admits that such reports would be compelling evidence of the event occurring. QED.

    Now, in the face of what Lembcke called "compelling evidence" his supporters want to argue about something else or claim that such reports prove nothing. But, according to Lembcke's announced standard of proof in his own book, his thesis has been falsified.

    Frankly, your inability to comprehend this comparatively simple point does you no credit. The fact that you build upon your own miscomprehension to insult others does you less.

    (I am now photographing this screen with my digital camera and printing off 100 copies mailed to various locations around the globe.)

    (OK, now I am doing it again with the flash off.)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Kbowman, cut the crap. Everyone saw that you provided a truncated quote in order to mislead.

    As for my screenshots, posters on this blog know that Bill Sloat has a habit of censoring critical comments. He does appear to be mending his ways now that the Dean at the Cincinnati Beacon has been keeping on eye on him. Sloat knows that the screenshots could end up on the Beacon. Using that bit of stick on him seems to be working.

    (Comment has been screenshot.)

    ReplyDelete
  18. "...I was a red-hot leftist (marxist) revolutionary back then, and I did spit on a couple of returning vets. From the safety of a crowd, behind a barricade and a police line.
    I was an America-hating asshole and a coward. I’ve learned better, and I’ve learned to feel regret for my shameful actions then. Can’t say the same for the current crowd of shameless, cowardly, America-hating leftist jerks, though. (Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds).
    -Bill Quick
    Daily Pundit
    http://dailypundit.com/?p=24230
    Cached: http://209.85.165.104/search?q=cache:K4jZHS7l1yMJ:dailypundit.com/%3Fp%3D24230+Bill+Quick+I+was+an+America-hating+asshole+and+a+coward&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us
    **********
    Rick Atkinson, Pulitzer Prize winner and former assistant managing editor at The Washington Post, writes in his book, "The Long Gray Line: The American Journey of West Point's Class of 1966," of Captain Tom Carhart's return from Vietnam, pp. 324-5:
    "Still in uniform, he was strolling through the O'Hare terminal in search of a telephone when a group of hippie girls darted up and spat on him. The shock and pain could have been no more intense if they had slashed him with knives. Reeling with surprise and uncertain what to do, he did nothing. His assailants scampered off through the airport crush as Tom wiped the saliva from his face, now aflame with humiliation. That night he got into an argument about the war with his friends' daughter, who was home from college. This is great, he told himself sardonically. I'm back less than twenty-four hours, I get spat on, then I get hassled by my countrymen over a cause for which I got myself shot twice. Welcome home, Johnny."
    **********
    "Yes, I am a Vietnam veteran who was spat upon -- literally and figuratively. By hippies? I don't know. In the airport? Yes. San Francisco International Airport on October 11, 1971 at 3:15 p.m., and yes, I was still in uniform. To be exact, it was the same uniform that I wore during the last Fire Support Mission I was involved in, just 36 hours before landing in San Francisco Airport. No, I didn't have mud, dirt, or gunpowder on my uniform. A very kind Vietnamese woman at the Transit Company washed and ironed it for me so that I could come home to the country I love looking nice. This was one hell of a lot more than I received upon arrival.
    If I were the only one to be spat upon, the score would be : not spat upon, 1,999,999, spat upon, 1. Of course, I know this score to be wrong. Literally because I saw others spat upon, and figuratively because to spit on one Vietnam veteran is to spit on them all.
    The person who spat on me was wearing a shirt that said 'Welcome Home Baby-Killer.' ...
    About that image of a burly Green Beret walking through the airport and being spat upon by a war protester -- let's also remember that most war protestors or hippies or whatever name you want to attach to them were also becoming very aware of their rights as U.S. citizens, and they knew that if this burly Green Beret did nothing they (protesters) had won, and if the burly Green Beret retaliated, they (protesters) still won. How could they lose?"
    Robert E. McClelland; Massillon, Ohio, pp. 41-43
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989
    **********
    "I think the date was March 7, 1972. I was in the San Francisco airport. I had just showered and put a fresh uniform (Air Force) on for my first leg home. Walking out to my gate I passed a 'hippie' who spat upon me and continued walking in the opposite direction, without a word.
    I made nothing of the incident for two reasons:
    (1) I was happy to be going home after 367 days in Thailand, and didn't want anything to screw it up, and
    (2) Officers who get in public fights, while in uniform, are dealt with in a fairly severe fashion."
    Chris Ramel; Denver, Colorado, p. 37
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989
    **********
    "I am a retired Catholic chaplain who served the Air Force community for twenty years. I had two tours in Vietnam (Phan Rang and Bien Hoa). I left Bien Hoa on November 18, 1968, flew military contract aircraft to Philadelphia, and then on to New York for two weeks' leave.
    While I was leaving the JFK airport to catch a bus to the city, a lady (around 43 years old) told me that 'I napalm babies' and she spit on me. I didn't take her for a 'hippie' though.
    Needless to say she ruined my two weeks' leave."
    Father Guy Morgan; Fort Collins, Colorado, p. 44
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989
    **********
    "I am a female veteran of the U.S. Air Force -- 1967, 1968, 1969, and 1970. I was in Southeast Asia though not actually in Vietnam. I returned to the States in 1970 through Travis Air Force Base, and from there I visited a friend for a week and then flew back to the Midwest through O'Hare. I worked at a vegetable canning factory and at a local ski resort before returning to college at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in the fall of 1971. This is where my spitting story takes place.
    I had joined a veteran's group called Vets for Peace. We were active in anti-war protest marches in Milwaukee, Madison, and Chicago. We usually marched with a group of veterans from Chicago called Vietnam Veterans Against the War. It was in Madison, on Veterans Day, 1971, as I was walking to the Capitol building from campus (all alone). I was wearing my Air Force overcoat and my Vets for Peace hat when a man about 19 or 20 years old looked me in the face and spit right into my face. He was a normal looking man, nothing to distinguish him from a thousand other people. But I will never forget what he did to me."
    Rose Marie McDonough; Green Bay, Wisconsin, pp. 43-44
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989
    **********
    "Late at night in mid-August 1969, I was spat upon in the San Francisco airport by a man in his early twenties. I had just returned from my tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam, processed through the mess at the Oakland Army Depot, and was waiting at the airport for an early morning flight to my Denver home. The man who spat on me ran up to me from my left rear, spat, and turned to face me. The spittle hit me on the left shoulder and on my few military decorations about my left breast pockets. He then shouted at me that I was a "mother-fucking murderer." I was quite shocked and just stared at him, probably with a stupid look on my face.
    The spitter then called me a "mother-fucking chicken-shit." He was balling up his fists when he yelled this. A cop or security guard then showed up and grabbed the man from behind. I did not see where he came from, nor do I have any notion of how much time went by between the spitting and the cop's arrival, though it could not have been too long. A pretty good struggle went on between them for a few seconds, and then two more cops showed up. All the time the man who spat on me was calling me (and, I suppose, the cops) names, indicating we lacked bravery.
    Having talked to other servicemen during the remainder of my service, I found two other young men who told me that they had similar experiences, one in an airport, the other in a bus station. I have no reason to doubt them. I also related my experience that same night to the man at the San Francisco airport who was running the USO center there. He confirmed what the police had told me: that a number of similar confrontations had occurred there recently."
    Douglas D. Detmer; Farmington, New Mexico, pp. 83-4
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989
    **********
    "Yes, I was spat on. I returned from Vietnam in July of 1970 after a year in country with the 12th and 11th Marines. We flew into Norton Air Force Base in Southern California and, after processing, several of us took a cab to LAX. After saying our farewells, I went to the terminal in which I would catch my flight back to Illinois (I'm from Peoria).
    While walking down the corridor, I encountered a young man, no older than myself I'm sure, who looked me in the eye and without hesitation, spit on my ribbons. I didn't know what to do. I still don't. For all these years, I've remembered that experience."
    Scott Brooks-Miller; Spokane, Washington, p. 18
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989
    **********
    "From January of 1969 until February of 1970, I was stationed in the city of DaNang, as part of the U.S. Navy's support unit there. In February I returned to the States, where I was separated from active duty at Long Beach, California. After processing, we were driving to the Los Angeles International Airport.
    While walking down one of the concourses, I was stopped by a young lady wearing typical flower child attire - a long maxi-dress, with granny-type glasses. She stopped me and, seeing my campaign ribbons, asked if I had been to Vietnam. When I told her was just coming from there, she spat upon my uniform and ran off.
    I had a military duffel bag slung over one shoulder, and I was carrying both a briefcase in the other hand. I immediately dropped both articles and proceeded to run after her. After running about twenty yards, I stopped, said a couple of choice curse words, and thought: Welcome home."
    Chester J. Leblanc; Lake Charles, Louisiana, p. 19
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989
    **********
    "After a year of unbelievable hell in Vietnam, I was at the "repo depo" in Long Binh awaiting my flight out. The last thing I was told by the sergeant in charge as we boarded the aircraft was not to expect any welcome home committees when we got off the plane.
    I arrived at Oakland Air Force Base [sic, more likely it was the military terminal of the Oakland airport] on April 14 (my mother's birthday), 1970. I had sat near the front of the plane, and therefore was one of the first to get off. As I looked out toward the terminal, I noticed a large crowd, maybe 200 or so people, on the far side of a cyclone wire fence. In front of them, on our side of the fence, were MPs, wearing ponchos. As we started to file out of the plane, the MPs shouted to us to move quickly, and began holding up their ponchos.
    We were in khaki short-sleeved uniforms, and I was surprised that it would be raining in California. As I got closer to the MPs and the crowd, I still could not make out what they were yelling. Then the first egg landed near my foot. At first, like a fool, I looked up in the air, still not putting together what was going on. As my ears popped, adjusting to the change in pressure, I began to hear for the first time the chant: "How many babies did you kill today?"
    Several of them were leaning against the fence, spitting at us and at the MPs blocking their view. Others were heaving eggs over the fence and into our midst. The MPs were covered with spittle and eggs, which explained the ponchos. They were obviously used to this ritual. The fellow behind me said, "Jesus, I wish I had brought my M-16!," and my stomach dropped as I realized for the first time what was going on.
    I stopped to ask one of the MPs who these people were, and as I did so a woman about forty years old, not a teenager by any stretch of the imagination, leaned back and spit on me with all her strength. It landed on my shirt pocket, near the ribbons that I was wearing for the first time. "Bull's-eye!" she yelled. An MP lieutenant took my arm and said, "Go inside, son, and ignore them.""
    David McTamaney; Newburgh, New York, pp. 21-23
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989
    **********
    "I take no pleasure in a 'Yes, I was spat upon' vote, but here it is.
    In June or July of 1969 I was going to take a college entrance exam at Palomar College near Oceanside, California. I had plans of going on to college in the fall after getting an early out from the Marines. While waiting on the steps leading from the parking lot, I was approached by a female and two males -- average looking, nicely dressed, 17 or 18 years old.
    The girl asked if I was in the Marines -- I guess because of my haircut. I said yes. She then said, "So you're one of those baby killers." Then one of the boys spit on me, hitting my neck and shirt collar.
    I punched at him while his buddy ran away and his girlfriend screamed at me, calling me all kinds of vulgarities.
    I didn't take those exams. I just drove back to Camp Pendleton, as I had no desire to be further reviled by my fellow countrymen, for what I perceived to be a hatred of those who served this country.
    I still feel the slime on my neck."
    Ronald L. Trousdale; Las Vegas, Nevada, p. 23
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989
    **********
    "I was medically evacuated from Vietnam in November, 1969, to a Naval hospital in Japan where, after my recovery, I was stationed. During my tour there I married a Japanese lady and adopted her son. She became pregnant; in early 1970 I was transferred back to the U.S.A.
    My family and I landed at San Francisco International Airport after a very long flight from Japan. We were going into the cafeteria to eat and, of course, I was in my uniform with all my Vietnam medals, including the Purple Heart adn the Gold Star.
    My family and I were standing in line, when, out of the blue, this middle-aged lady walked up to me with a bowl of potato salad in her hand.. She threw the potato salad smack in the middle of my chest and spat what salad she had in her mouth in my face. Then she proceeded to call me a "baby killer," "war monger," and a lot of other vile names.
    I became so angry and humiliated that I balled my hands into fists and would have hit this 'lady,' had it not been for two other servicemen who grabbed me and got me out of there. I'm glad they did get me out of there before I'd had the time to react, because I later thought about headlines that could have read: "Craze Vietnam Vet Assaults Middle-Aged Woman."
    That is how I was welcomed home. That is how my family was first introduced to America.
    This 'lady' was no hippie. I sort of get the feeling it has been easy to 'blame' hippies for things like this because they were easily identifiable, and because they did dramatically, in many cases, communicate their opposition to the Vietnam war. But the verbal and physical abuse of returning Vietnam veterans took place in all levels of American society."
    Frederick H. Giese; Arlington Heights, Illinois, p. 24
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989
    **********
    "It happenned to me, and it was no joke.
    In September of 1967, I was called to active duty with the U.S. Army Medical Corps. I was a neurosurgeon then (as I am now), and had recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California at Berkeley. I was fortunate during my military service (two years of active duty) to be stationed at a large hospital facility stateside -- although I did not actually go to Vietnam, I was responsible for the treatment of a large number of wounded Vietnam soldiers.
    I was stationed at Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco, and I commuted between the hospital and my home in Berkeley. ... In any case, when I would come home from the hospital (of course wearing my uniform, which was required), I would receive many negative comments from other residents of Berkeley. One afternoon a youngster, approximately twelve years old, who lived across the street from us, literally spat on me as I got out of my car. He shouted, "How many did you kill today?"
    You can imagine how I felt -- especially since I had spent that day trying to reconstruct the skull of a Vietnam soldier who had suffered severe shrapnel wounds, and who had recently been transferred back to the United States for surgery."
    Dr. Robert A. Fink; Berkeley, California, pp. 26-27
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989
    **********
    "When I got back to the U.S. I had what they called burial detail. That's when you have to escort a person's body back to his next of kin and represent the U.S. and tell them their son, husband, or whoever had given his life for his country and you had to stick around until he was buried -- you were there to make sure the next of kin was okay.
    Well, I had to take this fellow's body to his wife -- she was nineteen years old. It was in 1966 and his home was in Sacramento. ...
    But to get to the bad part, I was helping the mortician take the casket out of the hearse. Of course, I was in my dress uniform, medals and all that, and the American flag was over the casket and some guy walked by when we had it out about halfway and the fool spit on it and said, "Good, he deserved to die.""
    Tony J.; San Francisco, California, pp. 26-27
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989
    **********
    "During August of 1966, while I was assigned for duty in the Munitions Building on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. I was spat upon by a complete stranger while returning from lunch.
    I was in Class A uniform, a CWO in the Army, walking along the street when I passed this man in casual civilian dress. As he passed he spat and made a remark: "You dirty (obscenity) killer."
    I didn't realize he had spit on me at first, and decided not to cause a scene over what he had said. But I noticed his spit on my tie shortly after. His only possible provocation was my being a soldier in the uniform of my country.
    He was not a hippie. He could have been a tourist, and both he and I were walking alone walking in different directions. I had never seen the man before.
    As a result of this instance and to avoid other problems, our commanding officer encouraged us to wear civilian attire to work instead of our uniforms."
    Claude A. Smith; Gaithersburg, Maryland, p. 31
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989
    **********
    "In June 1969, the LST I was on sustained implosion damage from the grenades used to ward off 'zappers.' The damage required dry docking, and the ship was sent to Japan. I had been overseas for 19 months already, and the majority of that time was spent in Vietnam. I got lucky and was able to get a hop all the way from Yokota, Japan, to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, which was great, considering home was a suburb of Cleveland.
    I was sitting in a chair in the Columbus airport talking to some of the infantrymen who had hopped in with me, passing time. We had some girls come over to us and one or two hippies had a word to say, but we ignored them (not the girls, of course). ...
    Shortly thereafter another hippie-type person came over to us, stood directly in front of where I was sitting and, in language flowered with the best vernacular of the day, was pointing at our service ribbons and other accoutrements, and calling us sarcastically 'war heroes.' He then proceeded to spout a line I had not heard before, but I would live to hear over and over: He called us 'baby burners.' At that point he spat on me. I'm sure he never expected the response he got. As a reflex action, I sprang up and put his lights out. It was the proverbial two-hit fight.
    Before I even realized what I had done, one of the local constabulary had grabbed me and was escorting me to the Security Room, despite the objections fo the other servicemen present. The person I hit was not detained even a moment. He was helped to his feet, asked if he was okay, and summarily dismissed. They didn't even ask him if wanted to press charges. ... I think the only reason they did, in fact, let me go was because they had neglected to have the guy sign a complaint or press charges. ... Looking back on things, it is obvious to me now that the guy who spit on me was performing for the others nearby."
    George M. Householder; Painesville, Ohio, pp. 35-36
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989
    **********
    In January 1969 I joined the Army due to a draft declassification back to 1A while attending college at Texas Wesleyan in Fort Worth. ... Aprile 1970 and I am at the airport in Dallas on my way to Nam. The airport Bible flippers wouldn't even approach you because of the uniform. I think 'Mother fuckin' baby killer' was the favorite line we heard. In Frisco, we had to change flights with a one hour wait. I was spit on twice -- once by a female hippie-type who smelled as bad as she looked and secondly by a well-dressed young business type who would be called a 'yuppie' today. Him I flattened with a left hook in the gut and a right to his big mouth. My fellow officers and I were escorted to our plane by security and held there until the plane left. The average American in the airport only called us names without any physical violence threatened. Terms such as 'Murderer,' 'Baby killer,' 'Mercenary asshole,' 'Rapist,' and 'Fucking Bastard War Monger' were the parting words from our fellow Americans we were getting ready to die for.
    These taunts came form men and women, young and old. ...
    Vietnam was Vietnam. I came back on a stretcher with seven bullet holes in me, 57 combat decorations (two Silver Stars), and spent two years in an Army hospital due to my service.
    Some of my friends that didn't come back on military Medevac told me the name-calling and spitting got them again in Frisco and other major airports. We all resolved this in our future assignments by not wearing our uniforms in public. This worked well, because the Army was letting us wear our hair longer and we purchased civilian-type luggage and did not use the bags issued to us by the military. As long as you didn't look like military, you were left alone. ...
    If we ever do go to war again and I decide to participate if the Army will have me, I'll shoot every SOB who curses or spits on me for defending our country."
    Lou Rochat; Universal City, Texas, pp. 37-39
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989
    **********
    "The circumstances of my being spat on were somewhat different than the stereotype, and, frankly, I never realized that there were other veterans complaining of similar occurrences.
    I served in Vietnam during the height of the war, September 1967 to September 1968. If you recall, the war sentiment at the time was such that when I went to Vietnam I was still considered by many to be a patriot. By the time I was ready to return home, the United States had experienced the Chicago Democratic Convention, the riots in Detroit, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, the riots in many cities -- and Haight Ashbury in San Francisco had blossomed. Frankly, I felt safer in Vietnam.
    When I returned from overseas duty, I was to leave the Army and 'outprocess' in San Francisco. My girlfriend, who became my fiancee in San Francisco and now has been my wife for eighteen years, met me upon my arrival. One day while simply touring San Francisco, in uniform, a rather nondescript man on the street spit at my uniform because he was obviously in disagreement with what it represented at the time. Nothing was said, but the incident saddenned and confused me. I took off my uniform later that day and never put it on again during the rest of my stay in San Francisco.
    What bothered me the most about the incident was that, having been born in 1944, I grew up with World War II movies which made soldiers heroes, and always showed them coming home to ticker-tape parades down Fifth Avenue. If there is any aspect of the war I have trouble coping with, it was trying to understand spitting on a uniform. I was an officer involved in covert intelligence work in Vietnam, so I did not experience some of the horrors of the infantrymen who were in the heat of battle every day. The only 'mental scar' that remains with me today was the unwelcome display of that man in San Francisco.
    I had effectively put the incident out of my head to the point that I do not remember anything about the man except that he was not a hippie. Until now, I always thought my experience was somewhat isolated."
    J. Leonard Caldeira; Chicago, IL, pp. 40-41
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989
    **********
    "I attended a military reunion in New York in 1968. I was standing in front of the Waldorf waiting for a cab when a young girl walked up to me and spat. She said something and walked away. The doorman told me that it was not a 'good idea' to wear a uniform in New York."
    M. Tierny; Las Vegas, Nevada, p. 41
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989
    **********
    "Upon my return from Vietnam in March 1969, I was assigned to duty in Detroit, Michigan. I was given the duty of notifying and providing assistance to the next-of-kin whose loved ones were killed in Vietnam. This job required special care and sensitivity to assist people who had lost someone they cared for. While walking through a local shopping mall I was spat upon by other Americans. It was quite a shock to have people so hostile toward me. I felt rejected by my country, and still do. The same country I was willing to die for, if necessary. To the American people: please, for my sake and for the sake of other Vietnam veterans, understand that we want to come home. Unfortunately for many, the horrors of war will last a lifetime. And also to the American people: thank you for listening to our stories."
    Fred G. Alderman; Denver, Colorado, p. 47
    Bob Greene, "Homecoming: When The Soldiers Returned From Vietnam", 1989

    ReplyDelete