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Old 28 January 2007, 09:53 AM
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Default Spitting on returning Vietnam vets

This op-ed is from a couple of years ago, but I don't recall seeing it here before. Here's the key part:

Quote:
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. 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.
I know this issue has been covered here before, and some people recall that either they or an immediate acquaintance can recall spitting incidents. Even if it did happen somewhere at some point, it sounds like the issue has achieved official urban-legend status in that a lot of people claim to have witnessed it when they almost certainly didn't.
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  #2  
Old 30 January 2007, 03:30 PM
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I was stationed in Japan at the tail end of the Viet Nam war. When I flew back stateside from Japan, I flew from Yokota Air Base to Travis AFB, north of San Francisco via a MAC (Military Airlift COmmand) flight. There was a shuttle that ran between Travis and SFI. Since air travel was in uniform, unless orders specified otherwise, I arrived in SFI wearing the uniform of my country. No one spit on me but, I was treated rudely and had more than one taunt and curse thrown at me. But, only in SF, not in any other airport. There was a certain mob mentality going on back then when it came to the soldiers returning. Contrary to when my father was in uniform during WWII and treated nice by everyone, wearing a uniform at the end of the Viet Nam war seemed to bring out the worse in a lot of civilians. I am glad to see that, people seem to look back at that time with regret and are not treating our returning warriers with the same disrespect as they did 30+ years ago.

The man writing this article needs to do a little more reseach about when soldiers returned. His lines about traveling only to bases and were dischared or sent on to new locations is flat out incorrect. He speaks of credulity, but his story lacks it from what I see. Returning GI's got home leave and did not immediately proceed to a new duty station for processing. IMore often than not, traveling by commercial air lines in uniform. If he reseached the rest of his book as throughly as he did this tidbit of information, then I would advise to take it with a grain of salt.

Last edited by Sweeney_Todd; 30 January 2007 at 03:44 PM.
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  #3  
Old 30 January 2007, 03:41 PM
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Tangentially related, according to this NYT article, there was a spitting incident between pro- and anti-war protesters on Saturday.

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There were a few tense moments, however, including an encounter involving Joshua Sparling, 25, who was on crutches and who said he was a corporal with the 82nd Airborne Division and lost his right leg below the knee in Ramadi, Iraq. Mr. Sparling spoke at a smaller rally held earlier in the day at the United States Navy Memorial, and voiced his support for the administration’s policies in Iraq.

Later, as antiwar protesters passed where he and his group were standing, words were exchanged and one of the antiwar protestors spit at the ground near Mr. Sparling; he spit back.
Quote:
“These are not Americans as far as I’m concerned,” Mr. Sparling said.
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  #4  
Old 01 February 2007, 07:26 PM
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I was returning from Viet-Nam in July of 1969. We flew from Da Nang to Travis AFB via Japan and Alaska. We landed at Travis AFB in Oakland, CA. On July 25th I was bussed to San Francisco International Airport to await further transportation Eastbound. I was spit on, had coffee spilled on me, and recieved very hostile stares and rude comments like "baby killer" said to me. Some of those who were with us actually had their "awol" bags ripped from their hands. "Awol" bag was a name given to a small gym bag sized carry on that we used at the time.
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Old 01 February 2007, 08:59 PM
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My father was stationed on the West coast of the U.S. during the war and shortly thereafter (his brother already being in country meant it was against the law to also send him). He tells stories about his troubles having to go places in uniform during that time, though nothing about spitting. He especially recalls once using his travel stipend to buy large numbers of burgers, fries, etc. from McDonald's on a long bus ride in hopes of sharing with the passengers. He had to spend the money or give it back, and the money was a whole lot more than one needed at a place like McDonald's. The bus, however, save one little girl, refused his offer of free food. He attributes this to the uniform.

Avril
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  #6  
Old 01 February 2007, 09:17 PM
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Hippies and men with long hair got insulted and spat on all the time. I had long hair during that era and was insulted countless times (I was hit but not spit on).

I guess what goes around comes around.
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Old 01 February 2007, 09:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RBCal View Post
Hippies and men with long hair got insulted and spat on all the time. I had long hair during that era and was insulted countless times (I was hit but not spit on).

I guess what goes around comes around.
I don't get your point. Are you assuming that the insults to servicemen came from hippies who had been insulted?

I'm also a little confused about your age. Your profile says you're 41. I'm 45, and I was in middle school when Saigon fell -- I was only in 5th grade when we pulled our troops out of Vietnam. Did people hit you for having long hair when you were a kid?
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Old 01 February 2007, 09:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Avril View Post
(his brother already being in country meant it was against the law to also send him).
Snopes has a page on the only son exemption, but is it true that only one brother in a family can be sent to war?
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  #9  
Old 01 February 2007, 09:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lainie View Post
I don't get your point. Are you assuming that the insults to servicemen came from hippies who had been insulted?

I'm also a little confused about your age. Your profile says you're 41. I'm 45, and I was in middle school when Saigon fell -- I was only in 5th grade when we pulled our troops out of Vietnam. Did people hit you for having long hair when you were a kid?
Wow, people actually read that? (My age is older than I stated, kind of like Jack Benny).

I had long hair in the early 70s and yes I was insulted and hit. I'm sure I wasn't the only one.

My analogy was that BOTH people who supported and opposed the war were insulted by the other side.
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Old 01 February 2007, 09:48 PM
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My dad returned from Vietnam in November of 1966 on emergency--his mother was dying. He said he landed in San Francisco, and as he was going through the airport to catch a flight back to St. Louis, a woman spit on him.

He did say however, that the people on the flight from San Francisco to St. Louis were very nice to him. Everybody apparently thought he'd been starving (my dad is six foor three and his weight had dropped to the low 160's) and kept giving him their desserts. He said he probably never ate so much chocolate cake in one sitting in his life.

Magdalene
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  #11  
Old 01 February 2007, 10:09 PM
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Another bit more violent instance than spit

May 4, 1970
Four anti-war hippies shot to death at Kent State.
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  #12  
Old 01 February 2007, 10:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simply Madeline View Post
Snopes has a page on the only son exemption, but is it true that only one brother in a family can be sent to war?
My father's military service is something of an enigma all around. That's the explanation he gave me. I think it also had to do with the circumstances surrounding him being drafted. There was a paperwork error, a man with the same name as he had and a SSN one digit off who they supposedly intended to draft instead, and I think he could have fought it given the fact that he was only 17 and still in high school, but having hated school, I think he seized the opportunity to get out. I'm still not entirely clear on what happened after that. I do know that eventually two of his brothers did end up in Vietnam, one through draft and one through enlistment. Anyway, his story has always been that, because one brother had already been drafted, he could not be sent overseas. The whole thing is murky and my father tends to fill in the details of what he can't remember, so maybe one should take it all with a grain of salt, but that is the explanation he gave me. The question is not really whether this is true now, but whether this was true at the time, and whether it applied to draftees, enlisted men, officers, or some combination. I'll leave that to those more expert than me to explain.

Avril
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Old 01 February 2007, 10:37 PM
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Something I really don't understand about these kinds of "anti-Urban Legends": how can you show that something "never happened?"

I've seen the same thing with respect to feminists burning their bras, or draft protesters burning their draft cards. Every so often, someone pipes up, "Oh, that never really happened." Huh? How in the name of Paul Bunyan can you make a blanket claim like that?

Seems darned silly to me. Nigh as stupid as spitting on a serviceman who has just returned from a combat zone and probably still has some fighting relfexes.

Silas
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Old 01 February 2007, 11:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RBCal View Post
Wow, people actually read that? (My age is older than I stated, kind of like Jack Benny).
Yes, and the site rules state that you must post your real age. So if you've been subtracting a few years, you might want to update it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RBCal View Post
Another bit more violent instance than spit

May 4, 1970
Four anti-war hippies shot to death at Kent State.
Not all the students who were shot were hippies, or anti-war protestors. That was one of the problems with the Guardsmen's claim of self-defense: some of the people they shot were just walking to class. And you can't really compare the Guardsman to soldiers who served in Vietnam; people joined the Guard to avoid going to Vietnam.

I do get your point that there was ugliness and violence on both "sides" during Vietnam. I was a kid, but I do remember Vietnam and the 1960s. I particularly remember the Kent State shootings, which occurred in my hometown a couple of miles from my house (but that's another story).
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Old 02 February 2007, 06:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
Something I really don't understand about these kinds of "anti-Urban Legends": how can you show that something "never happened?"

I've seen the same thing with respect to feminists burning their bras, or draft protesters burning their draft cards. Every so often, someone pipes up, "Oh, that never really happened." Huh? How in the name of Paul Bunyan can you make a blanket claim like that?
Of course you can't show that something never happened, but as with the snopes bra-burning article, you can show where the original myth originated.
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  #16  
Old 02 February 2007, 06:48 PM
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Quote:
Jerry Lembcke argues that the story is bunk in his 1998 book The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam. Lembcke, a professor of sociology at Holy Cross and a Vietnam vet, investigated hundreds of news accounts of antiwar activists spitting on vets. But every time he pushed for more evidence or corroboration from a witness, the story collapsed--the actual person who was spat on turned out to be a friend of a friend. Or somebody's uncle. He writes that he never met anybody who convinced him that any such clash took place.
He claims that one origin of the spitting myth is from Stallone's move "First Blood"

Quote:
John Rambo, played by Sylvester Stallone, gives a speech about getting spat upon. Rambo says:

It wasn't my war. You asked me, I didn't ask you. And I did what I had to do to win. But somebody wouldn't let us win. Then I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport. Protesting me. Spitting. Calling me baby killer. ... Who are they to protest me? Huh?

http://www.slate.com/id/1005224/
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  #17  
Old 02 February 2007, 07:06 PM
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Come on. Some of us are old enough to have heard these stories while they supposedly occured. Saying that a Rambo movie inspired a myth? Myth or not, I heard these accounts in the 60s and 70s. This was also one of my mother's (The absolute queen of UL spreading) standard go to lines. "They'are SPITTIN' on hour boys!"
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  #18  
Old 02 February 2007, 07:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rangerdog View Post
Come on. Some of us are old enough to have heard these stories while they supposedly occured. Saying that a Rambo movie inspired a myth? Myth or not, I heard these accounts in the 60s and 70s. This was also one of my mother's (The absolute queen of UL spreading) standard go to lines. "They'are SPITTIN' on hour boys!"
I'm older than you are, but I don't remember hearing anything about this at the time it was supposed to be happening. So I guess mileage varies.
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Old 02 February 2007, 07:53 PM
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A columnist for the Chicago Tribune (unfortunately I can't remember which one though definately not Mike Royko) wrote several columns in the late 80's or early 90's regarding this subject. He asked that participants contact him with information regarding dates places etc. He recieved a fairly large reply from servicemen who had been spit on but not a single reply from anyone who had spit.
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  #20  
Old 02 February 2007, 08:08 PM
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Not so much spitting. But I heard about people who had Gold Stars on their windows, having lost someone in Vietnam, and then having rocks/bricks thrown through them.

On the other side, a teacher of mine back in High School mentioned seeing a young guy with long hair being heid down and his head shaved(this was in Texas).

Just pointing out that you have idiots on both sides of the fence.
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