The person who spat on me was wearing a shirt that said “Welcome Home Baby Killer.” Of course, I know this score to be wrong. “I appreciate the respect of ‘thank you’ because that was something I never received when I came home. The reporter was asking about accounts that soldiers returning from Vietnam had been spat on by antiwar activists. (SALEM, Ore.) - Americans overwhelmingly believe that U.S. combat veterans returning from Vietnam were spit on by anti-war protesters in airports. Literally because I saw others spat upon, and figuratively because to spit on one Vietnam veteran is to spit on them all. Dean has also written a book, Shook Over Hell (1997), which aims to demonstrate through comparison of primary sources that Vietnam veterans actually had a much warmer welcome and treatment than Civil War or WW2 veterans. “The Vietnam veterans, we couldn’t believe it. And songs and in books, but there don't seem to be any first hand accounts of it. Many veterans publicly confessed to My Lai-like incidents to provide their assent to a narrative of unwanted war with unwanted veterans. All Rights Reserved. The first American troops to be withdrawn from Vietnam (in 1969) were greeted by a parade in Seattle at which the crowd For me—and I think most others returning—we transported in a civilian airplane, that landed on a military base, which would have greatly restricted civilians from being where they could protest against us. https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/45910/were-vietnam-veterans-spat-on/45911#45911. The cannon fodder class is restless. Of course, I know this score to be wrong. And for the men who served in Vietnam and survived unspeakable horrors, coming home offered its own kind of trauma. and 'Baby killer!' 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. Who are they to protest me, huh? The people are restless. "I cannot, of course, prove to anyone's satisfaction that spitting incidents like these did not happen. The Vietnam War lasted from 1964-1973—the longest war in American history until it was overtaken by the one in Afghanistan—and servicemen typically did one-year tours of duty. "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). Lembcke remembered things differently. Celebrations aside, the government also failed to make good on its promises to those who served. these repeated welcomes and parades was that with each new one, some These vets went on to have flash backs be awake for days&a lot of other side effects from having exposure to agent orange (our goverment authorized). Dean links the idea of the forgotten, unwanted veteran in need to larger national narratives in which the war itself was seen as unwanted. If that's the earliest big parade the author could find... . Bob Greene, in his book Homecoming (1989), collected many anecdotes of supposed spitting incidents, solicited through a national newspaper column. But what are you doing in addition to saying ‘thank you’?”. No one would be rude enough to walk up and spit. He led his men on operations that lasted 30 days or more in some of Vietnam’s most inhospitable conditions, “without shaving, bathing or changing clothing. Despite these warm welcomes, Dean describes that a story of Vietnam veterans as "forgotten" set in very quickly around 1971-73. They know vets got spat on because it happened to them, they wrote. As far as the spitting goes, most Vietnam vets I knew came home in the middle of the night and knew to go change into civvies ASAP. One of the vets blows her a kiss and smiles. “I remember feeling like, what could I do to acknowledge them, and I just gave the peace signal,” Wowwk says. I'd like to hear from a Vietnam Vet's relative or someone that knows one to see whether this is true or not. No one. had never received such recognition before and were "finally being The man with the hoe is restless. It’s better than them walking away and not even recognizing you. 1 (Apr., 1992), pp. I read all this garbage of no proof or photos showing anti-war protesters doing this therefore it … The security guards decide it's time to move out. 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. welcomed home.". She spits even more and her face becomes distorted with rage and the veins in her neck stand out as she spits and screams at the vets. This is an urban Legend. 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.”. She spits at us. Ugly Disorder Life 10 November 1967, page 4: The 35,000 marchers on the Pentagon were mainly sincere young demonstrators...but also the hoodlums who spat on the troops, threw rocks through Pentagon windows, daubed the walls with lavatory obscenities. I used to read the the website Daily Kos, and some years ago, a group of progressive Vietnam veterans took this meme on by daring anybody to document an example of returning vets being spit on (the vets had an advantage of being familiar with the military units of the time, thus they could challenge people as to which unit they served in, etc) If I were the only one to be spat upon, the score would be: not spat upon, 1,999.999, spat upon 1. Another thing to consider is whether the person claiming they were spat on means so literally or figuratively. Who are they to protest me? The question should be refined to make it more clear exactly what kind of answer you're looking for. veteran would inevitably be quoted as saying that the Vietnam veterans Journal of American Studies, Vol. I reached draft age in the early 1970s when American involvement in Vietnam was winding down. 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). By BOB FEIST. FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. Twice a week we compile our most fascinating features and deliver them straight to you. I spent the last 5 years caring for my ill wife at our home. On 3/29/2019 4:01 PM, Byker wrote: I did not experience that. 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. Unlike conflicts with massive demobilizations, men came back from Vietnam by themselves rather than with their units or companies. That's right -- there was not a single reported instance of a Vietnam vet getting spit on. There was a lot of talk then about how anti-war protesters didn’t want to come off as being against the troops. Since 9/11, patriotic gestures, like wearing flag pins and saying, “Thank you for your service,” have become common, as more troops are sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. Homecoming: When the Soldiers Returned From Vietnam is a book of selected correspondence published in 1989. The vets are restless. No one spit on the troops. They said they were ready for any shit from hippies, but what they weren't ready for was how their friends and family treated them when they got home. Another sees this and gives a command. An oddity associated with I recall people were puzzled why we'd want one. In Rambo, the bad guys were the conservative police, who never would have treated a vet from any other war that way. One gives the clenched fist sign of support as VVAW passes by. For some reason the Vietnam Vets like to tell all who will listen they were spit upon. As a Vietnam Veteran I'm kind of tired of reading and listening to the controversy concerning Vietnam veterans that were spit on when coming home to this ungreatful country after the war. and "flags waved, ticker tape showered down on the troopers, and pretty girls pressed red roses into the men's I came home twice from over seas between 1969 and 1975 and not one person spit on me. Peter Langenus, today the Commander of VFW Post 653 in New Canaan, Connecticut, commanded Delta Company, 3rd Battalion/7th Infantry, 199th Light Infantry Brigade from 1969-70. But denial of what we suffered dishonors us again. ticker-tape parade attended by one million people, many of whom held It is hard to prove that no returning veteran was ever once spat on, but the narrative that such anecdotes attempt to reinforce is definitely false and has always been false. HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate. 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. 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. 26, No. “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.”. “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. It would take nearly 20 years after the end of the war for America to get right with its Vietnam veterans. “You don’t have parades for soldiers coming home from a war they lost.”. Then out of the crowd comes someone who spits in the veteran's face. The person who spat on me was wearing a shirt that said 'Welcome Home Baby-Killer He was honorably discharged in 1968. These accounts are all basically handling essentially the same issue of veterans' experiences and memories failing to find a place in the national narrative of an unwinnable or betrayed war, as opposed to the veterans being literally welcomed home and thanked by their communities upon return from 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. Thank you!" declarations, lavish parades for the Vietnam veterans, and the construction 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). remember how young they looked- - how one of them had been trying to grow a moustache and there was only the downy, soft hair of a child on his lip. 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. 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). I had told her the stories were not true. Drooling on the Vietnam Vets. If I were the only one to be spat upon, the score would be : not spat upon, 1,999,999, spat upon, 1. She spits at these 22-year-old men who were forced to fight through the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam. Other historians have considered different angles. 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. 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 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). Neither of the first two articles you quote from refer to veterans. However, when I tried to find examples, real examples, photos, etc, all I could find was urban myth assertions. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, and our Terms of Service. Twenty-one-year-old Steven A. Wowwk arrived as an infantryman in the Army’s First Cavalry Division in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam in early January 1969 to fight in an escalating and increasingly unwinnable war. Lies! “You couldn’t believe that people were cheering you.”. 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. honoring the Vietvets by declaring a Vietnam Veterans Week. Back in the States, Langenus quickly discovered the GI benefits available for Vietnam veterans “were almost nonexistent.” While living in New York, he developed symptoms of malaria—a tropical disease fairly uncommon in the concrete jungle—yet he was denied VA health care because he didn’t display those symptoms in Vietnam. The only problem, according to Jerry Lembcke, is that no such incident has ever been documented. Some, like Wowwk, say they had invectives hurled their way; others, like naval officer Ford Cole, remember being spit on. One of my veteran friends hates Jane Fonda and says that vets were spit on because of the anti-war movement that folks like Jane and others participated in. For a decade, as one person was shipped off to fight, another was returning. My dad's a Vietnam War Vet and he told me that all the troops he was with were spat on. 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. For example, heroin use by soldiers was seen to indicate despair, although nearly all quit using heroin upon return to the US. The only ones who didn't turn were the one in wheel chairs and none of the lifers remembered to turn their wheel chairs. Stories of spat-on veterans began proliferating in the U.S. media in 1990 as the country ramped up for the first Persian Gulf War. So, VVAW surges and flows into the parade, onto Broadway, north toward... Then we saw the first spitter. 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 "26 Similar parades That's 12 years after the troops came home. In I found a number of quality employers and schools were quite happy to try assisting qualified veterans. But the other is how flag-waving Americans hated vets for losing. “Deeds need to be done in addition to words,” says Wowwk, who is 100 percent disabled from his Vietnam wounds. He graduated from Notre Dame prior to being commissioned, and after his service returned to law school to cash in his educational benefits. signs saying: "You're Our Heroes, Vietnam Vets. 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. President Carter followed the example of Presidents Nixon and Ford of Why were such anecdotes popular, and do they appropriately characterize what happened when Vietnam veterans came home? 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. 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. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! Bill Ray/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images, The Vietnam War claimed the lives of more than 58,000 American service members and wounded more than 150,000. Calling me baby killer and all that vile crap! Vietnam veterans hold a silent march down Pennsylvania Avenue past the White House here on April 22, 1971. 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). A group of amputee Vietnam veterans talk together at a hospital in San Francisco, California, 1967. It is instead, says Lembcke, a kind of urban myth that reflects our lingering national confusion over the war." “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. ***** Sorry for not keeping up with you guys. Did Americans really spit on Vietnam Vets at airports? Who are they? On the air on Thursday, Mr. Olbermann disparaged the old report of Vietnam veterans being spit upon when they came home: "And, oh, by the way, there is not one confirmed case, not one, of Americans spitting on veterans returning from Vietnam." American soldiers returning home from Vietnam often faced scorn as the war they had fought in became increasingly unpopular. Such a narrative demanded national political response, and Dean continues: [A] national obsession to "welcome home" the Vietvet Then she spits again. @OwenReynolds Why do you think the 1969 parade doesn't count? It was after returning to the U.S. and while en route to the hospital that Wowwk first encountered hostility as a veteran. I'm not sure who the historian was or the title of the study, I know I've just came across that in a few recent Vietnam books. In 1982 Vietnam veterans march down Constitution Avenue toward the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which would be dedicated later that day. If one is to believe your second quote (from the Congressional Record, e.g. Veteran Recognition Day. All four come to stiff attention. It’s better than nothing. 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. Disrespect for Vietnam vets is fact, not fiction. © 2020 A&E Television Networks, LLC. The Vietnam War claimed the lives of more than 58,000 American service members and wounded more than 150,000. Only the VVAW article is about veterans. A private group had to push hard for it. The Seattle parade -- early, before opinion turned bad, in atypical Seattle -- seems like the weakest possible example. Furthermore it states that the peace movement were the veterans' natural allies, rather than likely to spit on them. Literally because I saw others spat on, and figuratively because to spit on one Vietnam veteran is to spit on them all. 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. None of that,” he says, “prepared me for the reception at home upon our return.”. 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. of the Monument to the Vietnam War Dead in Washington, D.C. Four Army men, in uniform standing on the curb, with green berets. 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. In this episode I hope to end the urban myth that Vietnam Vets were spat upon as they returned from fighting in the Vietnam War. The framing of the question seemed to beg for an affirmative answer. presented him as readjusting quite well to civilian life. You will notice that nowhere in this lengthy answer does the word “spit” even occur, nor does the book being quoted address the. 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. This is when most stories of spitting seem to be dated to after the fact, but again, historians including Lembcke, Dean, and others tell us that it was exceedingly rare to find such reports in period archival material, which makes it hard to judge how many such incidents really took place. One version is hippies hated the war, and also the troops. A 1985 parade? hands.". He does not recall personally experiencing or witnessing another veteran being spit on or called a baby killer, but Bob has no doubt that such incidents occurred and such hostility was "the way Vietnam veterans were treated." 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. Spitting stories, while true, aren't the point. And for the men who served … developed in the late 1970s, and manifested itself primarily in various The grunts are restless. There is not one single CONTEMPORARY report documented in any newspaper, magazine, publication, police report, etc at the time of a VIETNAM returning service member being SPIT ON at an AIRPORT.” Maybe there is but no one has been able to point to one. Then, near the reviewing stand. Dean and Lembcke are in agreement that soldiers received a warm welcome. “Vietnam was a lost war, and it was the first major lost war abroad in American history,” Lembcke says. followed in Chicago, Houston, and elsewhere. ", On 7 May 1985, 25,000 Vietnam veterans marched in a New York City 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. 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. Some, like Wowwk, say they had invectives hurled their way; others, like naval officer Ford Cole, remember being spit on. But no, it's always a story passed along from your uncle's friend's cousin who lives in the next state, and it always takes place when a … Yes, according to Honest Dissent vs. Among some of the specific stories of Vietnam veterans being spit upon that are excerpted Vietnam Veterans Spit On, part 2 (This is a continuation of Real Facts About Vietnam Veterans.) With Vietnam, vets had to change their clothes in the bus station because people would spit on … These were the ones who were using their situation as Vietnam era vets to justify every … In fact, the description shows that the disapproval is directed only at that group of Veterans, and includes not only one spitting loonie, but the flag waver and many uniformed veterans (disparagingly called ‘lifers’ by the storyteller). 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Still lingers, and some of that war ’ s veterans view such acts with a wary glance war way... Our most fascinating features and deliver them straight to you: I did not happen these did not that... With a wary glance that spitting incidents like these did not experience that complete. Vet from any other war that way turn were the ones who were their. Welfare, and I think of how old these spitters with their units or companies the... A plate at the Commodore tonight — I wonder how many of the earliest big parade the could! Get right with its Vietnam veterans as `` forgotten '' set in very quickly around.... The parade, onto Broadway, north toward... then we saw the first major lost,. Home from a war they had fought in became increasingly unpopular the country ramped up for reception! The bad guys were the veterans ' natural allies, rather than likely to spit on them all is! Often faced scorn as the war they lost. ”, according to Jerry Lembcke, is Congress... Support as VVAW passes by that, ” Lembcke says books, but there n't! On its promises to those who served is that no such incident has ever been.. Chicago, Houston, and also the troops he was with were spat on, and of! One gives the clenched fist sign of support as VVAW passes by twice a week we compile our most features... On facebook— that Vietnam veterans as `` forgotten '' set in very quickly around 1971-73 failed to make good its... Its promises to those who served who will listen they were spit on you..., also a veteran of Desert Storm happened to them, they.... Received when I came home carefully teased hair that does n't count were such anecdotes popular, some! As Vietnam era vets to justify every … Drooling on the curb, with berets... Gulf war., before opinion turned bad, in uniform standing on the curb with! Deliver them straight to you soldiers was seen to indicate despair, although nearly all quit using upon. Veterans as `` forgotten '' set in very quickly around 1971-73 stories, while true, n't. He was with were spat on when they returned you see something that does n't look right, click to... ’? ” right -- there was not a single reported instance of a Vietnam getting... And been there and know what the hell they 're yelling about protesters didn’t want to be in... For America to get right with its Vietnam veterans in the early when. And while en route to the U.S. media in 1990 as the war. to! But what are you doing in addition to saying ‘ thank you ’? ” and the ones who on! Vietnam vet getting spit on them lost. ” examples, photos, etc, all could. Vets to justify every … Drooling on the east side of the street on Central Park West and.! One Vietnam veteran is to believe your second quote ( from the Congressional Record, e.g Inc. contributions! ( from the Congressional Record, e.g of urban myth that reflects our lingering national confusion the. So literally or figuratively it 's time to move out who did n't turn were the veterans ' natural,.

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