I spent the last 5 years caring for my ill wife at our home. There seems too be a current meme—I see it a lot on facebook— that Vietnam vets were mistreated and spat upon when they returned. A group of amputee Vietnam veterans talk together at a hospital in San Francisco, California, 1967. In his book The Spitting Image Jerry Lembcke claims that it's a myth and never happened, or at least not in any confirmed incident. He graduated from Notre Dame prior to being commissioned, and after his service returned to law school to cash in his educational benefits. Some were spit on but a historian, in the 1990s I believe, looked into to how often these incidents occurred and found that it wasn't as common as people believed at the time. Protestors demonstrate for full benefits for all US veterans, including Vietnam War veterans in July, 1974. Spitting stories, while true, aren't the point. The grunts are restless. Jerry Engel/New York Post Archives/NYP Holdings, Inc./Getty Images, “The society really was ill-prepared to give these guys what they deserved,” says Christian Appy, professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and author of three books on Vietnam. According to the Congressional Record, House of Representatives, 5 December 1967: We saw the “hippies” and their “peacenik” pals, male and female, rush in behind the vanguard cadres and advance on the MP's and Federal Marshals, spitting in their faces, reviling them with obscene profanity, and, yes, attacking the militia... Another example is, as reported in 17 July 1971 Lawton Constitution at page 8, and in other newspapers: Another example is described by Norm McDonald as published in the article "Some Vets were Spat Upon", as published in The Daily Utah Chronicle, 14 Feb 1991, page 6: Another specific example was that vets were spat upon in a New York parade as described in Amex-Canada volume 4. She leans over the saw-horses which form the police barricade. 1960s, most accounts of the Vietnam veteran returning from the war zone Some, like Wowwk, say they had invectives hurled their way; others, like naval officer Ford Cole, remember being spit on. “You don’t have parades for soldiers coming home from a war they lost.”. The vets are restless. While the economy after World War II was one of the most robust in American history, during and after Vietnam the nation was in a death spiral of stagflation and economic malaise. The VA is often criticised for how poorly it treats veterans, as is the fact that many of them rely on food stamps and handouts rather than have a decent veterans' pension and/or job prospects. Veteran Recognition Day. May 02, 2000 7:49 AM. © 2020 A&E Television Networks, LLC. It makes it sound like no one could find parades in major cities in the early 70's, when the supposed Vet-hatred would have stronger. So, VVAW surges and flows into the parade, onto Broadway, north toward... Then we saw the first spitter. Tracy Karner, in her article "Fathers, Sons, and Vietnam" (American Studies 37.1, 1996), analyzes this from a slightly different angle, proposing that the veterans' own self-identity as men was wounded by this inability to live up to the heroic WW2 narrative, and that this often manifested itself in a new narrative of loneliness, meaninglessness, and attempts to prove oneself with dangerous activities and drinking. “The Vietnam veterans, we couldn’t believe it. It is instead, says Lembcke, a kind of urban myth that reflects our lingering national confusion over the war." But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! Bob Greene, in his book Homecoming (1989), collected many anecdotes of supposed spitting incidents, solicited through a national newspaper column. Bleachers erected on the east side of the street on Central Park West. Lembcke has published a number of articles asserting many times that this is a myth, so it is probably helpful to cite another writer on the same subject. He also seems to whitewash the memorial. Three or four hundred lifers and colonels, resplendent in their dress uniforms, like brilliantly colored roosters, standing at stiff attention as the flags and little boys in uniform marched by. Lembcke remembered things differently. But looking out the window and seeing civilians stop to watch the small convoy of hospital-bound vehicles, his excitement turned to confusion. Then, near the reviewing stand. It's mentioned in the movie First Blood ("Rambo"): Then I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport protesting me, spitting. And as more and more wartime atrocities came to light, there was a national implication of guilt and shame placed on Vietnam veterans as participants in and avatars of a brutal, unsuccessful war. Does any occasion where any Vietnam vet was ever spit on by anyone for any reason count, or are you specifically looking for cases where veterans were spat on in public events by protesters? By BOB FEIST. Disrespect for Vietnam vets is fact, not fiction. And it's hard to believe that such an outrage would be covered up, no matter how anti-war the media were (and the media were actually pro-war until after the Tet Offensive). Its genesis was a controversial newspaper column of 20 July 1987 in which Chicago Tribune syndicated columnist Bob Greene asked whether there was any truth to the folklore that Vietnam veterans had been spat upon when they returned from the war zone. By June, Wowwk had been wounded twice—the second time seriously—and was sent back to the United States for treatment at Boston’s Chelsea Naval Hospital. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, and our Terms of Service. For example, heroin use by soldiers was seen to indicate despair, although nearly all quit using heroin upon return to the US. I need some back-up support here because some f'd up lunatic is trying to say my dad's lying (although he's not). (SALEM, Ore.) - Americans overwhelmingly believe that U.S. combat veterans returning from Vietnam were spit on by anti-war protesters in airports. In 1982 Vietnam veterans march down Constitution Avenue toward the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which would be dedicated later that day. A private group had to push hard for it. 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). It's mentioned in the movie First Blood ("Rambo"): Then I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport protesting me, spitting. Literally because I saw others spat upon, and figuratively because to spit on one Vietnam veteran is to spit on them all. Unless they've been me and been there and know what the hell they're yelling about! This was partly due to the logistics of the never-ending conflict. As the enraged spitters yell and spit at the vets, I remember how quiet they were in the field hospital near Saigon in 1968, how they lay in rows, so quiet and so blue, and how badly hurt they were when the fighting was so intense around Saigon and in the suburbs of Saigon. It would take nearly 20 years after the end of the war for America to get right with its Vietnam veterans. Dean and Lembcke are in agreement that soldiers received a warm welcome. 26, No. these repeated welcomes and parades was that with each new one, some of the Monument to the Vietnam War Dead in Washington, D.C. But the specter of Vietnam still lingers, and some of that war’s veterans view such acts with a wary glance. Who are they? “I remember feeling like, what could I do to acknowledge them, and I just gave the peace signal,” Wowwk says. The security guards decide it's time to move out. As a cohort, Vietnam veterans were met with none of the fanfare and received none of the benefits bestowed upon World War II’s “greatest generation.”. Then she spits again. I had told her the stories were not true. The question should be refined to make it more clear exactly what kind of answer you're looking for. An Associated Press story of April 9 reported stories of spat-upon Vietnam veterans surfacing in several cities including Spicer, Minnesota whose mayor said he was spat upon in the San Francisco airport while coming home from Vietnam in 1971. They know vets got spat on because it happened to them, they wrote. An oddity associated with “At a time when I was paying $300 a credit, my entire educational benefit was $126.” And when it came to finding a job, he was met with thinly veiled disgust and discrimination from law firms upon learning he was a Vietnam infantry veteran. This answer in no way answers or even addresses the question “Were Vietnam veterans spat upon?” Instead it answers a completely different question “Are there any cases where Vietnam vets were treated well?” and then pretends that because sometime they were treated well, then they must never have been spitted on. One of the vets blows her a kiss and smiles. The only problem, according to Jerry Lembcke, is that no such incident has ever been documented. The first American troops to be withdrawn from Vietnam (in 1969) were greeted by a parade in Seattle at which the crowd The Seattle parade -- early, before opinion turned bad, in atypical Seattle -- seems like the weakest possible example. Neither of the first two articles you quote from refer to veterans. Vietnam veterans, and Congress declared 26 April 1981 to be "Vietnam We could not understand getting letters from school kids,” says Langenus, also a veteran of Desert Storm. “The collective emotion of the country was divided,” says Jerry Lembke, a Vietnam veteran, sociologist and author of The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam. Spitting never happened. Literally because I saw others spat upon, and figuratively because to spit on one Vietnam veteran is to spit on them all. https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/45910/were-vietnam-veterans-spat-on/45914#45914, You might want to add (since it will not be obvious to anyone unfamiliar with the acronym) that VVAW stands for. The cannon fodder class is restless. @OwenReynolds Why do you think the 1969 parade doesn't count? 1 (Apr., 1992), pp. For those unfamiliar with the phrase stab-in-the-back in the context of wars, it’s used to describe a conspiracy theory, very popular with the Nazis and usually with anti-Semitic scapegoating, that Germany didn’t lose because of military factors but instead because of sabotage on the home front. “Deeds need to be done in addition to words,” says Wowwk, who is 100 percent disabled from his Vietnam wounds. But what are you doing in addition to saying ‘thank you’?”. These were the ones who were using their situation as Vietnam era vets to justify every … Other historians have considered different angles. Only the VVAW article is about veterans. The dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982 began the process, but many identify the Gulf War of 1990-91—with its national flag-waving, yellow-ribbon cultural mobilization and the grand celebrations of a successful campaign—as ending Vietnam Syndrome. I came home twice from over seas between 1969 and 1975 and not one person spit on me. Drooling on the Vietnam Vets. Of course, I know this score to be wrong. They didn’t want to be like those terrible Vietnam-era protesters, the ones who spit on returning troops. If one is to believe your second quote (from the Congressional Record, e.g. developed in the late 1970s, and manifested itself primarily in various A review published in the Los Angeles Times reads: "The image is ingrained: A Vietnam veteran, arriving home from the war, gets off a plane only to be greeted by an angry mob of antiwar protesters yelling, 'Murderer!' Yes, according to Honest Dissent vs. As a cohort, Vietnam veterans were met with none of the fanfare and received none of the benefits bestowed upon World War II’s “greatest generation.” No ‘Welcome Home’ parades for Vietnam vets “They were not necessarily looking for a parade, but they were certainly looking for basic human support and help in readjusting to civilian life after this really brutal war.”. Then, as the fatigue-jacketed VVAW contingent marches by, upon obviously pre-arranged signal the lifers turn their backs on VVAW and we see a sea of brightly colored uniformed backs (asses). No one. It was after returning to the U.S. and while en route to the hospital that Wowwk first encountered hostility as a veteran. Who are they to protest me, huh? “I appreciate the respect of ‘thank you’ because that was something I never received when I came home. Many veterans publicly confessed to My Lai-like incidents to provide their assent to a narrative of unwanted war with unwanted veterans. HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate. presented him as readjusting quite well to civilian life. “You couldn’t believe that people were cheering you.”. a congressman's speech), one would also have to believe of the protesters: "From beginning to end, it was an unrestrained public spectacle of and immorality, an incredible challenge to all rules of moral conduct. https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/45910/were-vietnam-veterans-spat-on/45911#45911. and 'Baby killer!' They provide only slightly differing accounts of how the myth of being spat on developed, with Dean attributing it to the narrative of the war being unwinnable, and Lembcke more specifically citing right wing commentators' belief in a stab-in-the-back story of "betrayal at home" (a common myth which continues to be repeated by sources like PragerU on YouTube). yelled "Thank you! In fact, this article by Karner is one of the earliest uses of the phrase "toxic masculinity". That's 12 years after the troops came home. In popular culture, the stereotype of the broken, homeless Vietnam vet began to take hold thanks to films like The Deer Hunter (1978), Coming Home (1978) and First Blood (1982). welcomed home.". and "flags waved, ticker tape showered down on the troopers, and pretty girls pressed red roses into the men's At Times Square there are more spitters and one older man chants while waving two flags, he chants and hoarsely, "Honor America, Honor America, Honor America". In "To be spat on" can very well mean they were treated poorly in general, which is well documented (and still often the case with veterans of other conflicts in both the US and other countries). However, when I tried to find examples, real examples, photos, etc, all I could find was urban myth assertions. Simple explanation, that was one awesome spitter, she spit about thirty miles,(to the military base where they came in)and she spat on many many people. All of the official veterans groups have passed by, onto and up Broadway, and VVAW [Vietnam Veterans Against War] has still not been allowed by the parade officials to turn up Broadway to join the parade. I recall people were puzzled why we'd want one. The person who spat on me was wearing a shirt that said “Welcome Home Baby Killer.” The only ones who didn't turn were the one in wheel chairs and none of the lifers remembered to turn their wheel chairs. 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