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Many 1967-72 Spitting Incidents Are Documented in the Press.

Hundreds of Vietnam-era veterans have publicly claimed in recent decades that they were spat on by citizens or anti-war protesters because of their military status, either before they went to Vietnam, when they were on leave, or after their returned from overseas. Yet several journalists and at least one scholar, sociologist Jerry Lembcke of Holy Cross, think that such things never happened, that they are an "urban legend." Lembcke claims: "Stories of spat-upon Vietnam veterans are bogus."

In a 1998 NYU Press book, The Spitting Image; a 1999 scholarly conference paper of the same name; and two op-eds, Lembcke spins an elaborate tale to support his view. In this post I'll take up just a few of Lembcke's arguments (I'll have much more on spitting over the next week):

[1] "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."

[2] The stories started appearing about 1980.

[3] Stories about arriving back from Vietnam into San Francisco and Los Angeles "are implausible," and one of the storytellers lacks "credulity." According to Lembcke, "no returning soldiers landed at San Francisco Airport," and "GIs landed at military airbases, not civilian airports, and protesters could not have gotten onto the bases and anywhere near deplaning troops."

[4] "Many tellers of the spitting tales identify the culprits as girls, a curious quality to the stories that gives away their gendered subtext."

"One clue is that many of the stories have it that it was women or young girls who were the spitters. Students of gender behavior are usually quick to point out that girls do not spit, at least not as a form of communication. That being the case, it seems all the more significant that defeated male warriors would make a point of giving the spitters a gender. One has to consider that the loss of war equates in the culture with a loss of manhood. Coupled with the tendency to alibi for defeat on the battle field, it is understandable that men might have fantasies involving hostility from women."

"The element of spit in the coming-home stories of veterans who feel betrayed reveals a binary, man-nature dichotomy that lies at the heart of our understandings of human existence. . . . Subconsciously, the individual feels a primal connection with the warmth and dampness of that in utero existence, and perhaps even desires to return to it, while consciously recognizing that life itself depends upon successful separation from the safety and comfort of that watery world. . . . The idiom of wetness in myth is also gendered in ways that help us understand why the stories of spat-upon veterans frequently tell of women or girls doing the spitting."

I have been looking into these and other claims by Lembcke and they appear to hold about as much water as do his notions about a primal (wet) unconscious.

It is surprising that, without his having done an exhaustive review of published sources in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Lembcke would manufacture such a speculative argument, essentially treating hundreds of eyewitnesses as victims of "false memory" (at best).

+++++++

EVIDENCE:

Contrary to Lembcke's claims, I quite easily found many accounts published in the 1967-1972 period claiming spitting on servicemen.

UPDATE: I just saw that Jerry Lembcke was kind enough to respond here. Next week I should have time to answer (if an answer is needed), though on a quick read, there appears to be nothing earth-shattering in his response.

cirby (mail):
One of the big problems with his research is that he relied on electronic searches for his newspaper reports. Apparently, computer indexing of newspapers only started in the 1980s (for the most part), so doing a simple search for "spitting" and soldiers" won't turn up anything before 1980 or 81.
2.8.2007 5:24am
Jim Lindgren (mail):
cirby:

In my first post a few days ago, I was the one who first pointed out that he might have used LEXIS or WESTLAW, which have spotty news coverage before about 1980. Especially by the time of some of his later writings, Lembke could have looked at other collections.

Jim
2.8.2007 5:41am
jim:
reveals a binary, man-nature dichotomy that lies at the heart of our understandings of human existence

During my adventures in higher education, I have become deeply skeptical (to put it mildly) of any theory that relies on assuming that "our understandings" consist of "binary" broad-abstract-noun slash broad-abstract-noun "dichotom[ies]."
2.8.2007 6:23am
JK:
Wow, I'm not surprised that he's wrong, but I am surprised by how superficially and blatantly wrong he is. Jim, approximately how long did it take you to find the contradictory information that you presented?

Perhaps Lembcke is a true postmodernist and believes that actual historical research isn't really that important compared to analyzing the matter with the correct theoretical framework (truthiness?).
2.8.2007 7:03am
Misc Reader:
His mistake about flying back from Vietnam is particularly odd, since it seems that he himself is a Vietnam vet (see the bottom line of his vita).
2.8.2007 7:16am
Ted Frank (www):
Some in the anti-war left continue to spit on soldiers to this day.

Jim, congratulations on some excellent research. A shame that rear-guarding the truth is needed, but I see similar propaganda efforts to rewrite history in my field all the time.
2.8.2007 7:33am
Justin (mail):
Yes, the anti-war folk have a few members in it who are rude and vulgar. The pro-ar folk have a few people who enter us into no-win wars that they poorly planned and couldn't win anyway, on shaky justiification, to the death of thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of foreign civilians. Good job!
2.8.2007 7:38am
Justin (mail):
PS (I feel like I have to do this so I am not intentionally misconstrued)

1) I am not denying there are some real morons and obnoxious a****** in the anti-war group. The left is no more immune, but also no more guilty, of this particular trait than the right.

2) I am not denying that spitting on the troops is wrong, abusive, and uncalled for.

3) I am denying that by sitting here and thinking that this is the real atrocity in the political discussion between those who have supported, and those who have opposed, the two prominantly protested wars, is in my view only explained by a fierce inability to come to grips with how wrong and (either) immoral or irresponsible one's political viewpoints and preferences can be - the analogy seems to be with those whho think MLK should be defined by allegations of personal immorality.

4) I'm also denying that it is either fair or unintended by the pro-war movement to discount and minimalize the anti-war movement generally by focusing on the few miscreants who happen to join them, and then paint the whole group with that broad stroke. If the pro-war movement was held to that standards (or, my god, the military), they would revolt in anger and hysteria. To the left, it's just another day at the office, having to defend something some freshman whose parents were too strict and saw a flyer one morning. I don't think anyone who supports the war feels like they have any moral obligation to defend Lynndie England as an attack on their personal character.
2.8.2007 7:50am
JoshL (mail):

In my first post a few days ago, I was the one who first pointed out that he might have used LEXIS or WESTLAW, which have spotty news coverage before about 1980. Especially by the time of some of his later writings, Lembke could have looked at other collections.


You mean like, say, Proquest, which has included the historical NY Times for years? (Though I don't remember whether it did in 1998).
2.8.2007 8:26am
PersonFromPorlock:
Justin:

The opposite of war isn't peace but surrender. While it pleases the Left to see itself as the embodiment of virtue, the 'pro-war' element is working for peace too -- but on better terms.
2.8.2007 8:36am
sk (mail):
Justin-
You are not making any sense.
Jim Lindgren is responding to a post/piece of research that Jerry Lembke wrote. In other words, 'pro-war' people aren't focusing on the spitting incidents to discredit the anti-war people: rather, anti-war people are focusing on the spitting incidents in order to discredit them.

short version: the anti-war people started it, and initiated the focus on the spitting incidents. Why aren't you disappointed in them?

Sk
2.8.2007 8:54am
rarango (mail):
Justin--the piece Jim wrote is about a book that claims soldiers were never spat on--that spitting stories are an urban myth. I don't understand where you are taking this discussion. Bad people are bad people irrespective of their political views; bad research is bad research irrespective of the researcher's political views--What Lindren has done (again) is expose some awfully superficial research that reaches some unsubstantiated conclusions. Simple, no?
2.8.2007 8:59am
Al Maviva (mail) (www):
I don't think anyone who supports the war feels like they have any moral obligation to defend Lynndie England as an attack on their personal character.

As identified above, the problem with outliers is they are used to impugn the moral character of one's opponents. Andy Sullivan has used Abu Ghraib as an all-purpose totem for anything he disagrees with in the Administration, or anybody who supports trying to bring things to a successful conclusion in Iraq. Yep, support Bush, you are basically either a torturer, or latent torturer in Andy's eyes. Similar thing with Michael Ratner's group and the ACLU - anybody who raises the civil liberties question in the GWOT context immediately gets slammed as being either an America-hater like Ratner, or a blinder-ed civil liberties advocate like ACLU. The same thing happens with the spitters. I think there are principled arguments* to be made in favor of pacifism, but the morons who spit on troops, deface the Capitol or go into a rant about how we need worldwide socialism / Free Mumia / redistribute the wealth at these big anti-war rallies, make it easy to dismiss those who make principled arguments.

At the same time rank partisanship enters into it. The Republicans were all too happy to capitalize on security concerns and boosting the Iraq war when things looked good because it was cost-free; now that there's a potential political cost to be paid, many of them are gutless. The Democrats were happy to go-along-to-get along when opposing the Iraq war could have cost them seats in Congress, but now that they sense there's some gain to be made, they're happy to oppose it. But not enough to do anything about it because defunding would entail risk.

Thus actual dialogue is pretty much cut off, at the national level by truly rank partisan cynicism, and by the somewhat greater numbers of people on either side of the debate who are pretty sure that flinging poo is how you win debates, and if you aren't winning, the answer is to fling more poo.

It's entertaining on the same level Springer is, but is really disappointing when you consider this is supposed to be how we manage the public sphere, not some reality TV show.
2.8.2007 9:06am
Mike BUSL07 (mail):

Subconsciously, the individual feels a primal connection with the warmth and dampness of that in utero existence, and perhaps even desires to return to it, while consciously recognizing that life itself depends upon successful separation from the safety and comfort of that watery world

Is the ability to speak in vapid, utterly unsubstantiated but authoritative hypotheses the sole requirement for a place in academia? Pretty sweet work, if you can get it.
2.8.2007 9:09am
Towering Barbarian (mail) (www):
Justin,
With all due respect, while I understand your concern (Although please note that in some cases understanding and sympathy can be two very different things!) that is not the point. The real atrocity in the case of Lembcke's book is not against Man but rather against History. The kindest thing that can be said on Lembcke's behalf is that he appears guilty of some very sloppy research in a situation where real information on the matter was not at all hard to find. I repeat, that is the very *kindest* thing that can be said on his behalf or upon the behalf of upon certain of his fellow leftists who also denied so vehemently that these things ever happened. History is universal memory and those who falsify it, whether by intention or not, are guilty of tainting the intellectual waters in which we all swim.

That said, would you really want to make any bets that Lembcke himself thinks this as minor a matter as you state it to be? If so, would he not have been more careful in his research or upon being proven wrong move quickly to acknowledge that wrongness? It is to your credit that you are willing to acknowledge the facts. It is not to the credit of your fellow anti-war activists that so many of them still persist in denial. Perhaps they are more worried about persuading their own conscience rather than the rest of the world? Your phrase, "...a fierce inability to come to grips with how wrong and (either) immoral or irresponsible one's political viewpoints and preferences can be" certainly seems to apply to them quite well. In any event, I feel in this case it is their denial of easily verifiable fact more than the incidents themselves that taints the "anti war" movement. After all, if they are swimming De Nile over this one then why shouldn't we think them as inaccurate on all other matters as well? o_O
2.8.2007 9:14am
D Anghelone:
..GIs landed at military airbases, not civilian airports...

FWIW, I went to Vietnam as an individual (not as part of a unit or assigned to any unit) in 1966 on a chartered civilian plane of all military passengers. I returned a year later, as an individual, on a civilian flight and to SeaTac Airport.

Never spit at or hassled in my home town of NYC.
2.8.2007 9:17am
Mike Rentner (mail) (www):
At the risk of appearing too pedantic, there is no such thing as a "Congressional Medal of Honor." It's the "Medal of Honor." It's awarded by the president as the commander-in-chief. Congress has a society to honor Medal of Honor recipients which is named the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, but that's the name of the society, not the medal.

I was in the military in the mid eighties and I heard many stories from veterans who were spit on in airports. The evidence is so prevalent and common place, it's amazing that someone would attempt to deny it. It makes you wonder if this is incompetence or intentional.
2.8.2007 9:26am
alkali (mail) (www):
Candidly, I don't think the list in this post is all that convincing. Most of the stories do not appear to involve Vietnam vets. Many are reported second-hand (the fact that presumably well-intentioned people reported those stories does not make them convincing; that's characteristic of an urban legend). A few of the stories do not seem to have anything to do with war protestors: while I don't have convenient access to the articles, the Allentown story seems like a garden variety fight.

I would note that a couple of the stories involve hostility to military recruiters and ROTC personnel, which I think is quite likely to have actually happened (which is not to say that it was at all justified).

Over the following eight months, there was an explosion of concern about the shabby treatment of veterans returning from Vietnam, discussions in which some version of Minarik's story seemed to resonate.

I think this is an awfully naive reading of events. There was an active PR campaign attempting to place responsibility for the failure in Vietnam on the anti-war left, and part of that narrative was the idea that the US was not succeeding in Vietnam because the anti-war left was demoralizing the troops. That doesn't mean that the stories are true or untrue, but it's a mistake to read those events as a entirely spontaneous upswell of concern for the treatment of returning troops.
2.8.2007 9:37am
Houston Lawyer:
It's nice to stop historical revisionism. As soon as the Soviet Union fell, all the lefties were suddenly critical of communism, as if they had been all along. If we persevere in Iraq and reach an acceptable solution there, they'll try to get credit for that as well.
2.8.2007 9:51am
Ken Arromdee:
As identified above, the problem with outliers is they are used to impugn the moral character of one's opponents. ... The same thing happens with the spitters.

As has been pointed out already, this started when a leftist wrote a book claiming that soldiers were deluded for claiming they were spit upon. Jim is not using the spitters to impugn the character of leftists; a leftist is using the supposed nonexistence of the spitters to impugn the character of supporters of the war. Proving that spitters exist is a defense against these accusations.

Besides, in some cases outliers do tell you something. If a group can't get rid of, or at least disclaim, outliers, that often means that the outliers have a lot of influence in the group but the group wants to hide it. This goes double if the group actually tries to cover up the existence of the outliers.
2.8.2007 9:58am
ech:

There was an active PR campaign attempting to place responsibility for the failure in Vietnam on the anti-war left ...


Where it belongs. The military fact is that the US military defeated the Viet Cong, rendering them unable to threaten the South's government, and then turned back the first major invation by the North. The US policy of Vietnamization worked well enough to allow their army to control the country. What they couldn't do was hold back a major mechanized invasion from the North - Congress reneged on our promise of logistic and air support if the North invaded, leading to the fall of South Vietnam.
2.8.2007 10:00am
Kent G. Budge (mail) (www):
To paraphrase the caption of a John Trever political cartoon:

"Leftists spitting on soldiers? Never happened ... but we're working on it!"
2.8.2007 10:06am
Alex R:
I have not looked at Lembcke's claims in detail, nor do I have access to the sources that Prof. Lindgren cites.

But I'd like to go back to the myth-or-not that Lembcke seems to be debunking: that it was at least somewhat common for anti-war protesters to physically spit on servicemembers returning from Vietnam.

I insert the word "physically" here because the phrase "spit on" is frequently used as a metaphor for disrespect, and it may sometimes be difficult to determine in a quick text search whether the phrase is being used metaphorically or literally.

Now let's look at the offered counterexamples:

The first, Geyer and Bowers: I don't have the original article, but is there evidence that their attackers were in fact anti-war protesters and not just kids looking for trouble?

The second, the Washington anti-war protest described by Reston: ugly behavior described, to be sure, but "soldiers in the front line at the Pentagon" is not the same as servicemembers returning from Vietnam. Remember the *specific* thing that Lembcke is claiming to "debunk" -- that soldiers *returning from Vietnam* were spit on, at locations such as airports.

The third, from the Pomona Progress-Bulletin: again, the head of an ROTC program is not the same as a soldier "returning from Vietnam".

The fourth, Northwestern student spitting on a midshipman: lets not pass off the denial too quickly. Also, without context, I can't tell if the midshipman was "returning from Vietnam".

The fifth, from the Panama News: obviously, a Marine recruiter is not "returning from Vietnam".

I'll take a break at this point that the attitude of the 1960's antiwar left was likely that ROTC programs and campus recruitment represented the policies supporting the war -- ROTC officers and recruiters make more logical targets than returning servicemembers. I could imagine that midshipmen -- in training to lead sailors into battle -- might fall into the same category.

Sixth example, National Guard training: Suggestive, but obviously not an example of the posited behavior.

Seventh example, the Thomas Kelly column: This is a column and not a contemporaneous news report. It's not at all clear that Kelly's use of "spat upon" here is not metaphorical, and the particular incident described involved verbal heckling (responded to with violence), not spitting. Oh, and Congressional Medal of Honor winners -- even if they served in Vietnam -- can't really be considered to be "returning from Vietnam".

Eighth example, Jack Risoen: Risoen says that "kids" spat on his father, a veteran. Not obviously antiwar protesters, not "returning from Vietnam".

Ninth example, "anti-war students spitting on ROTC uniforms": ROTC uniforms are not servicemembers returning from Vietnam... :-)

I'll skip the comments about "spitting" from politicians and letters to the editor, as it does not appear to be a specific example of the claimed activity.

Tenth example, Jim Minarik: It's not clear from this example who was supposedly doing the spitting, or whether he was returning from Vietnam at the time. Considering that he was being promoted as a leader of a counterforce to the VVAW, you'll forgive me I discount his statement slightly.

Eleventh example, Birch Bayh: I suppose you just put this here to indicate that a whole lotta spittin' goin' on... Obviously, not the claimed behavior.

Twelfth example, Zinberg: Obviously, no specific details here.

To summarize: I think that you've done a pretty good job refuting the claim that no one was talking much about spitting before 1980.

However, I don't believe you've presented a single clear example of an anti-war protester spitting on a returning Vietnam veteran. So far, the story "veteran walks off a plane and is spit on by an anti-war protester", unless you've got a better example in the queue, still looks like an urban myth.
2.8.2007 10:13am
Can't find a good name:
Jim: Great research, but one sentence is garbled:


This was one of many stories published in American newspapers in the late 1960s and early 1970s in which American servicemen were spat on by citizens or anti-war protesters or the opposite: pro-war servicemen or citizens were spat on by anti-war protesters.


That's not the opposite; I think the latter part of the sentence is supposed to say "the opposite: pro-war servicemen or citizens spat on anti-war protesters."

Alex R: I have read Lembcke's book, although I don't have it at hand now. I don't believe he said that it was not common "for anti-war protesters to physically spit on servicemembers returning from Vietnam." I believe he said that he couldn't find any contemporaneous evidence that it had happened at all.
2.8.2007 10:21am
Tantor (mail) (www):
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 salive 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."

I was a cadet at the Air Force Academy in 1973 and can tell you that it was common to be called names by hippies in public when you wore your uniform and to be accosted in public places. I distinctly remember being called a baby-killer in an LA bus terminal in the summer of 1974. Such insults and abuse were facts of life for everyone in the military. It happenned to everybody.

In fact, anyone in any kind of a uniform was a target of abuse. Security guards in grocery stores were called pigs. Boy Scouts were called little fascists. The hippie hate for the military was so widespread for the military that it just astounds me that liberals are denying it now and rewriting history.
2.8.2007 10:28am
FredR (mail):
Thanks very much for digging out the truth on this, Mr. Lindgren, especially since there has been an active campaign of historical revisionism. The antiwar left caught a lot of justifiable heat for their treatment of veterans, which they have been trying to airbrush out ever since.

Just to clear up a few things:

Soldiers went to Vietnam for the most part in civilian airliners, but these were chartered aircraft that flew out of military bases such as Travis AFB (just outside of SF). However, most soldiers flew in or out to Travis via commercial air, then took a bus or cab to Travis. So if you got back you'd take a bus to SF Int'l and then fly commercial from there to wherever.

Lembcke is technically correct that soldiers flew in and out of Vietnam from military bases, but it's also true that they would have gone directly from there to civilian transportation (air, bus, etc.) to get to or from the point of embarkation. So there was plenty of opportunity for interaction with civilians. This would have been simple enough to figure out if he'd bothered to interview any vets.

As for the girls, this was part of a larger strategy one saw at demonstrations and such. "Chicks to the front" was a common cry, because they could get away with confrontational activities (spitting, cursing, etc.) that men could not. If a man approached a vet and spit on him he'd get decked, but it probably would not happen to a girl. So far from being some sort of gendered narrative, it was a considered tactic.
2.8.2007 10:31am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Let's agree that the stories Alex references do not prove that the spitter(s) were anti-war activists, and that some of the victims were going about their lawful occasions other than coming home from Viet Nam.
So?
The spitting was motivated by the actual or suspected involvement of the servicemember in military activities, which included the war in Viet Nam. If a service member is spat upon in an airport on his way from Ft. Bragg to Ft. Ord, does that count? If not, why not? Alex would say it does not because the service member was not coming home from Viet Nam. The theme of the entire issue is the active, sometimes physically manifested, dislike, contempt for, and even hate of the military by left-wing wackos. Whether they were on their way home from SEA or not makes what kind of difference, exactly?

It is possible that some kids, hearing about the spitting, might think it's a fun way to make trouble and so forth, the war being secondary. But that's not the way to bet.
2.8.2007 10:37am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
did lembcke really misuse 'credulity' that way/
2.8.2007 10:43am
Cold Warrior:
Alex R. said:


I don't believe you've presented a single clear example of an anti-war protester spitting on a returning Vietnam veteran. So far, the story "veteran walks off a plane and is spit on by an anti-war protester", unless you've got a better example in the queue, still looks like an urban myth.


And "alkali" had noticed the same thing.

And I noticed the same thing, too.

Look, the claim is this: "Soldiers returning from Vietnam were spat on when they arrived home." Not "ROTC recruiters were spat on." Not "hippie chick war protesters liked to spit." Not "sailors on leave in Allentown, PA got into a scuffle with local kids in 1967."

So far, I haven't seen a single contemporaneous account of any "spitting upon return" claim.

So far, Lindgren's rebuttal is considerably less persuasive than Lembke's point.

Actually, Lindgren's research supports the urban myth theory. By the mid-1970s, the myth had become so ingrained (first in the military itself, later in popular consciousness) that it was used as support for all manner of other purposes, from claims of PTSD to general railing against the anti-war left.

Don't you think we'd be able to find one example of an actual spitter being arrested by airport police? Of one actual spitter getting into an altercation with a returning soldier?

Ask yourself this: could you assemble a similar list of a dozen newspaper references, c. 1967-1980, documenting real alien spaceship sightings? Does this prove that aliens have visited the earth?
2.8.2007 10:49am
JosephSlater (mail):
Justin:

Nice try getting to the actual (non)-issues.

In the even broader picture, here's something I've noticed about the hard-right these days. Is man-made global warming becoming even more of a consensus position? Well, let's launch personal attacks on proponents of global warming that don't even go to the merits. For example, "X proponent of global warming is a BIG HYPOCRITE because they fly on certain types of jets," or even, "I'll take global warming seriously when X proponent of it stops doing Y."

Similarly, with the Iraq war, you can't really say things are going well on the ground there, but dang, it must really hurt to think all those lefty-hippie anti-war types we were just calling traitors the other day were right. And there's now enough conservatives opposing the Iraq war so we can't continue to lable all Iraq war opponents as dirty anti-American hippies, so let's go back to the Viet Nam war. . . .
2.8.2007 11:03am
rarango (mail):
For those suggesting returning soldiers were not spat upon, it appears that they would only accept a first person account if that account were witnessed, or were some other type of corroborating activity available (police records etc). That is, of course, a very desirable thing, but I would suggest it is an awfully high hurdle that would negate most historical research which relies extensively on first person accounts.

IMO, Lindgren has more than adequately pointed out a very basic point: there IS contemporary stories and accounts that Mr. Lembcke did not find or consider. For Mr. L to make the sweeping claim he does, he really should address why those contemporary accounts are false, inadequate, or should not be considered.

From a methodological standpoint I would suggest Lembcke's work is flawed.
2.8.2007 11:06am
Brian C (www):
Cold Warrior spews forth:
So far, I haven't seen a single contemporaneous account of any "spitting upon return" claim.

So far, Lindgren's rebuttal is considerably less persuasive than Lembke's point.


Obduracy is such an ugly thing....
As Tantor informed you:

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 salive 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."
So the real question is, what is your standard of proof?

The idea that "soldiers being spit upon is an urban legend" is a rather recent invention, useful for the coginitive dissonance created by illusory "support for the troops" claimed by the vile Left.
2.8.2007 11:25am
Cold Warrior:
Brian C., unwittingly proving Lembcke's point, cites Rick Atkinson's 1989 book, "The Long Gray Line."

Which disproves Lembcke's claim that "the stories starting appearing around 1980."

Oh.

Nevermind.
2.8.2007 11:55am
Misc Reader:
Fred R: Lembcke is a vet. (See my 7:16 a.m. comment.) He still should have interviewed more veterans, he may still be wrong about his larger point, but let's not let the fact that he is a vet get lost here.
2.8.2007 11:57am
Alex R:
I appreciate Tantor's example, which at least confirms the story that is being debunked rather than some other claim. (If I were ultra-pedantic I could question whether "hippie girls" were necessarily antiwar protesters, but I won't.)
What the mythbusters are saying, though, is that if this really did happen sufficiently often that it there were real incidents behind the commonly repeated stories, there would be *contemporaneous* news articles documenting those incidents. I don't think that that should be an unreasonably "high hurdle" as rarango says. The 1989 book Tantor references provides a to-the-point account, but it's still not a contemporaneous source.

By the way: I'm personally an agnostic as to whether incidents matching the story occurred, and I suspect they probably did at least once or twice. But I'd still like to see the contemporaneous evidence.
2.8.2007 12:04pm
MnZ (mail):
To Alex R., Cold Warrior, et al.: Please, stop defending Lembcke.

Lembcke had the audacity to say the following: "Stories of spat-upon Vietnam veterans are bogus." (Emphasis added.)

He did not say "unsubstantiated," "doubtful," or even "half-truths." No, Lembcke went for the full bore and called the stories "bogus."

Did he have any justification for using the term "bogus"? Jim Lindgren's evidence proves otherwise.
2.8.2007 12:06pm
da kine (mail):
Like Mike Rentner, I don't want to be pedantic, but those who receive Medals of Honor are not winners, but recipients. It isn't a lottery, it is an award.
2.8.2007 12:07pm
Al (mail):
>>but dang, it must really hurt to think all those lefty-hippie anti-war types we were just calling traitors the other day were right. And there's now enough conservatives opposing the Iraq war so we can't continue to lable all Iraq war opponents as dirty anti-American hippies, so let's go back to the Viet Nam war. . . .

Slater, I realize that you are just venting (projecting?)and not making a serious argument, but would it be possible for you to fit any more exaggerations and misrepresentations into less than two sentences?
2.8.2007 12:09pm
WHOI Jacket:
Nope, the hippies never spat on our troops. They had nothing but joy in their hearts and flowers in their hair when encountering uniformed soilders returning at airports.



We have always been at war with Eastasia.
2.8.2007 12:14pm
Adeez (mail):
I was originally attracted to this site b/c I thought it was above the usual "us vs. them" mentality that poses as discourse these days. Unfortunately, I think it's reverting back to that point.

It's amazing how people can still refer to the "left" as if it's some fringe group, yet also somehow use it to refer to over half of our population.

OK, for those who hate us pesky "leftists," or "liberals" or whatever term you prefer: do you really think that this administration and its cheerleaders (Fox being the best example) want people to think otherwise? That soldiers were not spat on? Do you actually believe that they have any incentive to dispell the myth that all those who oppose this occupation are unpatriotic, soldier-haters?

Of course not. They have an agenda that many of us find unconscionable. So instead of debating the real issues, we get sidetracked over nonsense. OK, so let's assume a few soldiers were spat on by a few protesters. AND? So, .00001% of the antiwar movement did some nasty things to the wrong people to vent their frustrations with the government. It's utterly irrelevant, but unfortunately there are so many who will stop at nothing to brand the whole movement---millions of fellow Americans---as bad.

I get it. Someone will now call me dumb b/c (a) I implicitly declared my allegiance to the "left," and (b) b/c the precise issue at hand is the author's faulty research methods. After all, it was he who brought it up.

That's not my point. Time to see the forest through the trees. I hope your as equally outraged by this administration's war on truth as you are by some of these other non-issues.
2.8.2007 12:20pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Jim, this is completely unrelated, but what's going on with the SBA president John Roberts thingy?
2.8.2007 12:22pm
Tantor (mail) (www):
Alex R.,

I doubt there is much newspaper documentation of military people being spit upon because it was too trivial to report. After all, only a fraction of homicides in a big city get covered in the newspaper. Why should a spitting story get any ink?

I was never spat upon, but my experience with the lesser forms of abuse from hippie-types was that it was opportunistic. They would come out of a crowd in a public venue, spout their abuse, and then be gone in the crowd before you had time to process what had just happenned. You're just not going to have a lot of arrest records for this kind of ad hoc harassment.

The first couple years it happenned, I thought it was just random craziness. It took a while to realize it was happenning to other people. It was something like being insulted by a crazy street person. You just shrug it off and press on. It didn't occur to me to report hippie abuse to the police back then just as it doesn't occur to me to report crazy street bums to the police now. It took a few years to realize that this was a widespread pattern of harassment.
2.8.2007 12:25pm
A Berman (mail):
As someone with three young daughters, I can say with confidence that girls spit-- at least until their parents break them of the habit.

It's amazing how laughable some claims by 'gender specialists' become when you start raising children.
2.8.2007 12:26pm
DustyR (mail) (www):

"I have not looked at Lembcke's claims in detail, nor do I have access to the sources that Prof. Lindgren cites.

But I'd like to go back to the myth-or-not that Lembcke seems to be debunking: that it was at least somewhat common for anti-war protesters to physically spit on servicemembers returning from Vietnam. "

ALex R 2.8.2007 10:13am


Alex, can't you click on the three links Lindgren provides to at least superficially look at what he claims in those? And while I understand you can't look at his sources, Lembcke's generally arguing there is no evidence, thus little source material (or I suppose, that everything is source material, in which case I retract that last bit.)

Now I don't have his book, but I did look at the three links. The impression I got was the while Lembcke tended to focus on assessing stories of vets as they were returning and to an extent while in airports, he couches those assessments within the more general premise and conclusion that vets weren't spat on. I didn't look fully to see if he made any attempt to extrapolate to not vets, i.e., military personnel not yet vets (ROTC, for example), or those who the supposed spitters had no way of knowing had served in Vietnam.

As for the your construction of his premise "... spit on servicemembers returning ..." as opposed to as opposed to his investigation of assertion of others (vets) that 'I was were spat on when I returned', which is what he seems to be debunking, I think a distinction is important. Many people who use the 'when I returned' to mean both the act of returning as well as a period of time after they returned. I ask you consider this distinction.

I ask you consider this when reading at least the links Lindgren provides and reconsider what you think Lembcke is trying to argue.

And I ask this in light of one of his counter assertions (1st link) "The historical record shows that there was widespread solidarity between the anti-war movement and veterans." Does he mean that in the context of only when the returning vets were in the airport or does he plan a proving spitting at Vietnam vets after they returned is another urban myth?
2.8.2007 12:26pm
WHOI Jacket:
Heh, I greatly appreciate the irony of decrying "the us vs. them" in the first half of the post, then going on to wonder why we're not "outraged" by Bush's war on truth! Truth Itself is under assult!
2.8.2007 12:27pm
MnZ (mail):
Adeez,

I oppose the "us vs. them" approach as well. However, on this issue, some on the Left (such as Lembcke) feel the need to rewrite history. Why? I don't know. Perhaps it is a reactionary stance against the claims of the Right. Perhaps it is a desire to defend the supposed moral superiority of the anti-war movement.

At any rate, ahistorical claims should be exposed.
2.8.2007 12:30pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
I figured I should post congratulating you on a quality post, since I tore into your last one for lacking evidence. I hope you sent a copy of all this to the Slate writer as well.
2.8.2007 12:31pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Paging Michael Bellisles. Paging Michael Bellisles.

Nick
2.8.2007 12:37pm
Adeez (mail):
"Heh, I greatly appreciate the irony of decrying "the us vs. them" in the first half of the post, then going on to wonder why we're not "outraged" by Bush's war on truth! Truth Itself is under assult!"

You're very welcome. I see you're attempting to ridicule my point, so please explain how my above-referenced statement is an "us vs. them" statement. Who's the "us" and who's the "them?" Are you not aware of this administration's attempts to fudge the truth about matters as wide-ranging as Medicare to marijuana prohibition? If not, you're not paying attention. If so, then as the reasonably moral and clear-headed citizen I presume you to be, then you too ought be outraged. The only "us vs. them" would be ALL right-thinking Americans who care about this country's (and the Constitution's) future vs. certain nefarious, very powerful people who's motives are not as pure.
2.8.2007 12:50pm
SerialSkeptic (mail):
Took me about 3 minutes to find this in Vanderbilt's Television News Archive:

CBS Evening News for
Monday, Dec 27, 1971



Headline: Vietnam Veteran
Abstract: (Studio) January, 1971, report on medics in Vietnam recalled; retd. medic featured.
REPORTER: Charles Collingwood
(Manhattan, Kansas) Delmar Pickett, Junior, hero, returns from Vietnam, finds US indifferent to war; vets' unemployment high; returns to school at Kansas State University as better student than before Vietnam experience. [Student Gwyn STEERE - speaks of Pickett's modesty.] [Vietnam film from earlier feature shown.] Pickett home is in Olsburg, Kansas. [PICKETT - tells of being spit on in Seattle, WA.] Disillusioned but not downed by Vietnam experience. [PICKETT - tells of experience as medic in Vietnam.] [Father Delmar PICKETT, Senior - says son more settled.] [MOTHER - says son a much better student than formerly.] Drugs no problem for Pickett. 2 1/2 million Vietnam vets.
REPORTER: Morton Dean


Broadcast Type: Evening News Segment Type: News Content
Header Link 214552
Record Number: 214568
Begin Time: 05:52:20 pm
End Time: 05:58:00 pm
Duration: 05:40
Reporters: Collingwood, Charles; Dean, Morton
2.8.2007 12:50pm
Cold Warrior:
Tantor said:


I doubt there is much newspaper documentation of military people being spit upon because it was too trivial to report. After all, only a fraction of homicides in a big city get covered in the newspaper. Why should a spitting story get any ink?


If this were at all a commonplace occurrence -- and remember, the claim is essentially that "returning Vietnam vets were often spat upon." -- I think it would be very likely that someone, somewhere, would have been arrested (or at least accosted by) the police. It is an assault, although not particularly injurious except to one's feelings. So I stand by my comment that so far no one has produced a contemporaneous account of a spitting-upon incident. And I find that lack of evidence quite compelling.

Tantor also said:


I was never spat upon, but my experience with the lesser forms of abuse from hippie-types was that it was opportunistic. They would come out of a crowd in a public venue, spout their abuse, and then be gone in the crowd before you had time to process what had just happenned. You're just not going to have a lot of arrest records for this kind of ad hoc harassment.

The first couple years it happenned, I thought it was just random craziness. It took a while to realize it was happenning to other people. It was something like being insulted by a crazy street person. You just shrug it off and press on. It didn't occur to me to report hippie abuse to the police back then just as it doesn't occur to me to report crazy street bums to the police now. It took a few years to realize that this was a widespread pattern of harassment.


On the other hand, this strikes me as very likely: Vietnam vets were often made the objects of derision and abuse. And I agree that such behavior was shameful. I am no lefty anti-war nut; after all, my name is Cold Warrior.

But it seems like people can't separate the limited point Lembcke is making -- that there is no evidence that returning vets were spat upon, and that the accounts of such events began appearing around 1980, and that this is consistent with the formation of what we now call an "urban myth" -- from the larger point, that "Vietnam vets were not accorded a hero's welcome on return and were, in fact, often subjected to ridicule and abuse.

I guess you could say (and isn't this what Lindgren is saying?) that they were metaphorically spat upon on many occasions. But that's like saying of an apocryphal story, "Even if it isn't true, well then it ought to be true."

Metaphorical truths are rather different in character than historical truths, wouldn't you say? This is precisely why Ward Churchill, propounder of many historically inaccurate but (to his mind) metaphorically true "histories" got fired. Recognition of historical truth and historical fiction shouldn't be dependent on one's status as pro-war (Vietnam or Iraq) or anti-war.

Or maybe some readers of this blog think that it should??
2.8.2007 12:51pm
Cold Warrior:
Serial Skeptic (of the reference to the 1971 CBS news report):

Sorry, I missed the reference Delmar Pickett being spit upon.

Or are you, like everyone else following Lindgren's lead, confused about the difference between being "spit upon" and high unemployment for returning vets?
2.8.2007 12:55pm
Al (mail):
>>certain nefarious, very powerful people who's motives are not as pure.

And who, specifically, might those people be?
2.8.2007 12:59pm
Sigivald (mail):
Adeez: Me, I don't think "the left" and "people who voted for Democrats in the last election" are the same sets (though I suspect the majority of the Left voted for Democrats, realizing that voting for Greens or Socialists is counterproductive).

But the professional protesters and Extremely Angry Young People are "the left", not "people who voted Democrat".

Further, I see no reason to believe that anti-war-60s-people-spitting-on-soldiers is a myth. Lembcke is very unconvincing contra Lindgren.

Nobody serious believes that everyone who opposes the Iraq "occupation" (though why it's an occupation when we're there on the permission of the freely elected government, and not running the country's political life or really anything more than physical security, is an interesting exercise in word choice, isn't it?) is an un-patriotic soldier-hater, though plenty of said people consistently express such sentiments.

Serious people believe that most of the opposition is in one of a few camps:

A) people seriously (naively) opposed to war reflexively or on over-broad principle

B) people who oppose anything the President or Republicans support either reflexively or cynically to gain political support

The group C) people who want America to fail because America is always wrong and evil are, while very vocal, acknowledged by serious people as being the minority inside the US.

(Why do you assert that it was only .00001% of the "movement" who did such things?

The "anti-war movement" is not the set of people opposed to a war; the "movement" is the much smaller set of people who oppose it actively or even professionally.

Saying "I hate this war!" doesn't make you part of a movement. Even attending a single protest might not suffice. Attending many of them, organizing, distributing literature, and taking an active part in attempting to end it does.

The proportion of actual movement members who did such things must be over .00001%, since to have even one person do so, at that percentage, you'd need a million people. And no anti-war movement in the US has ever had enough active members to produce even the dozens of incidents documents with that percentage. (The US population was around 200 million in 1968. if every man, woman, and child in the US had been a member of the anti-war movement, only 200 would have done such things, by your math.

If we accept a more reasonable (if still undocumentable) number for the "movement" of perhaps half a million people nationwide, the percentage must be MUCH higher than than a few thousandths of a percent to match the widely documented "nastiness" at protests.

I think the root here is that you seem to confuse opposition to war with membership in a movement. The hard-core are much more likely to do "nasty" things to support their position, and the hard-core are the life of a "movement".)
2.8.2007 1:01pm
michael (mail) (www):
I enjoy reading these posts but, to tell you the truth, they would really go well with history air brushing music, an opera perhaps, by Stalin's contemporay Dimitri Shostakovitch.
2.8.2007 1:02pm
rarango (mail):
Cold Warrior: the LIMITED point Lembcke is making? Please relook at Jim's bolding of Lembcke's claims in para [1} above. I dont know what you think is limited about that point! Clearly, Lindgren has found evidence that Lembcke asserts DID NOT EXIST--whether it is "right" or "wrong," is another matter altogether. The fact remains it exists. What part of that are you having trouble with?
2.8.2007 1:13pm
D Anghelone:
FWIW II: In my unit at Fort Belvoir, Virginia ('67 - '68) we were not allowed to wear our 'combat patches' so as to avoid friction with civilians. All wore current unit patches but those having served in a combat zone were normally authorized to wear also the patch of the unit of the combat zone.
2.8.2007 1:14pm
Kevin Bowman:
Regarding the assertion that Vets did not arrive at the San Francisco Airport, check out this essay by anti-war activist Steve Rees from a book published in 1979.
They Should Have Served Coffee See page 159.
He tells of how his group, which published a nespaper called the Bulkhead, staked out the SF Airport to encounter returning GI's because it was "the first civilian ground they's set foot on back in the states."
They're opening was "Hey, soldier. Welcome home. F**k the Army. Read all about it in this paper. No charge."
2.8.2007 1:32pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Al:

Of course I was using hyperbole, but it was to made to back the serious point Justin made, which included the often-interesting issue of why certain questions are asked at certain times. You, of course, are free to disagree with the underlying point.
2.8.2007 1:36pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Sigivald writes:

Serious people believe that most of the opposition is in one of a few camps:

A) people seriously (naively) opposed to war reflexively or on over-broad principle

B) people who oppose anything the President or Republicans support either reflexively or cynically to gain political support

The group C) people who want America to fail because America is always wrong and evil are, while very vocal, acknowledged by serious people as being the minority inside the US.


While I'm glad you think the group (c) is a "minority," I wonder why you don't think "serious people" believe that a good chunk (I personally would say clear majority) of opponents of the war opposed and continue to oppose it because (i) they found most of the rationales for the original invasion (WMDs, e.g.) unconvincing and/or (ii) they believed that the the occupation -- or whatever word you want to use to describe the continuing presence of U.S. troops in a country spiraling into a civil war -- would be a failure.

It's especially odd you don't list that as a possibility, given that a number of war opponents were saying exactly those things (see, e.g., Molly Ivins, RIP), and they turned out to be absolutely right.
2.8.2007 2:03pm
Tom Maguire (mail):
Don't you think we'd be able to find one example of an actual spitter being arrested by airport police? Of one actual spitter getting into an altercation with a returning soldier?

Beats me. Try to find one newspaper account of a black person unable to get a cab, or a Jewish person turned down from a country club during the 1950's.

I actually did the latter test with the NY Times archive - they have a story about Nazi, Jews, and country clubs from about 1937, and then Jews began experiencing discrimination in the States in about 1975. Before that, per the Lembcke Method, any belief in discrimination against Jews vis a vis country clubs was merely an urban legend, I guess.

Well. Lembcke is more than a vet - he is also former member of the Vietnam Veterans Against The War, and was (back in 1991, at least) an anti-war activist (That would have been Gulf !).

SO - how hard do you supose Lembcke looked for evidence that would discredit his own glorious past? It was agenda driven "research", and as he explained here, he had the answer even before he did the research:

In February 1991, I was asked to speak at a teach-in on the Persian Gulf War in the Hogan Campus Center Ballroom. My presentation focused on the image then being popularized in the press of Vietnam-era anti-war activists treating Vietnam veterans abusively. After sending troops to the Gulf region in August, the Bush administration argued that opposition to the war was tantamount to disregard for the well-being of the troops and that such disregard was reminiscent of the treatment given to Vietnam veterans upon their return home. By invoking the image of anti-war activists spitting on veterans, the administration was able to discredit such activism and galvanize support for the war. Drawing on my own experience as a Vietnam veteran who came home from the war and joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), I called the image of spat-upon Vietnam veterans a myth.

After seven years of research and writing, my book, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam was published in August 1998, by New York University Press.


Knowledge, then research, all to support his agenda. Whatever.

Last puzzle for his apologists - how did spiiters distinguish between returning vets in uniform and regular serviceman? OR how can it be that only one group was spat upon but not the other?

P.S. In his book, Lembcke argues that, logivally, anti-war types could never have spat upon vets becuase the anti-war movement viewed vest as natural allies (as did his organization, the VVAW).

Does anyone care to defend the notion that the anti-war movement was that monolithic and disciplined?

Read the Reston piece from Oct 1972 - moderate anti-war demonstrators were disappointed that a militant faction hijacked the demonstration. Gee, that still happens today.
2.8.2007 2:10pm
john (mail):
Anyone who says women don't spit should meet my wife, and then piss her off.
2.8.2007 2:11pm
Cold Warrior:
rarango questions my reference to Lembcke's "limited point." Well, here's a direct quote from the Boston Globe op-ed Lindgren links to:

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.


Sounds pretty "limited" to me. I haven't read Lembcke's book (has anyone here read it? I doubt it), so I don't know if perhaps his claims go deeper. But right now we're discussing this and only this question:

"Is there any evidence that returning Vietnam vets were spat on upon their return, in uniform, at the airport." After all, that's Lembcke's point.

Lindgren's reference to the Kerry/Minarik stuff is a bit ambiguous. If Minarik himself claimed -- in 1971, not in 2004 -- that he himself was spat upon shortly after he arrived at an airport in the United States -- then I guess we have one contemporaneous account. But I'd like to see the exact reference/link. And remember, the claim Lembcke is rebutting is that it was commonplace for returning Vietnam vets to be subjected to spittle upon their return; not that there were a few such incidents over the years.
2.8.2007 2:12pm
Cold Warrior:
Correction: I re-read Lindgren's reference to Minarik. It seems Minarik was spat upon in 1971, not upon his return from Vietnam, but upon assuming the helm of an anti-Kerry "Vets for the War" type organization, created at the behest of (or at least with the approval of) the White House. In other words, this is a claim that Minarik was spat upon because he was the public face of a pro-White House, pro-war effort.

Kind of different than being spat upon based on one's status as an ordinary uniformed soldier getting off the plane from Vietnam, dontcha think?
2.8.2007 2:17pm
Alexande (mail):
Great little discussion!

The spitting story is a mythology not just a myth. For the American right it has come to symbolize something beyond the physical act of spitting. It has come to be the last defense of their sincere hope, that the left hates soldiers. Lacking any real evidence that the left hates soldiers they must rely on mythology. They can ignore without shame the fact that the Republican Party is cutting veterans health care programs only because they insist the mythology is true. Only then can they claim that the alternative to the Republican party is a soldier hating left.

Lembke points out the obvious in his work: Of the 3 million returning veterans who cycled through Vietnam, not one official report was ever filed with the police or airport authorities that involved "spitting." Of three million drafted veterans not one was ever reported to have beaten the crap out of some hippy for spitting on him, yet there are reports of fights between hippies and vets over other matters. There is no other explanation for this lack of evidence then what Lembke is saying, that leftists spitting on vets is more mythology then fact. As another poster pointed out, it's irrelevant. It only matters to those who can not accept that America can and has been defeated in a war. They NEED to be able to blame failure on the left. They need it because otherwise their personal insecurities come crashing in on them.
2.8.2007 2:19pm
Alexande (mail):
Great little discussion!

The spitting story is a mythology not just a myth. For the American right it has come to symbolize something beyond the physical act of spitting. It has come to be the last defense of their sincere hope, that the left hates soldiers. Lacking any real evidence that the left hates soldiers they must rely on mythology. They can ignore without shame the fact that the Republican Party is cutting veterans health care programs only because they insist the mythology is true. Only then can they claim that the alternative to the Republican party is a soldier hating left.

Lembke points out the obvious in his work: Of the 3 million returning veterans who cycled through Vietnam, not one official report was ever filed with the police or airport authorities that involved "spitting." Of three million drafted veterans not one was ever reported to have beaten the crap out of some hippy for spitting on him, yet there are reports of fights between hippies and vets over other matters. There is no other explanation for this lack of evidence then what Lembke is saying, that leftists spitting on vets is more mythology then fact. As another poster pointed out, it's irrelevant. It only matters to those who can not accept that America can and has been defeated in a war. They NEED to be able to blame failure on the left. They need it because otherwise their personal insecurities come crashing in on them.
2.8.2007 2:19pm
Rocinante (mail):
jukebox_grad seems conspicuously absent from this thread. Has anyone thought to email him and ask what he thinks now?
2.8.2007 2:29pm
SerialSkeptic (mail):

Serial Skeptic (of the reference to the 1971 CBS news report):

Sorry, I missed the reference Delmar Pickett being spit upon.

Or are you, like everyone else following Lindgren's lead, confused about the difference between being "spit upon" and high unemployment for returning vets?


No worries, you were probably typing as I was posting. However, I don't think I'm confusing being "spit upon" with unemployment, nor do I think I'm following Lindren's lead. Several posts have addressed whether there are any pre-1980 news reports about Vietnam vets being spat upon - I found one, so I posted it.

For clarity's sake, I should add that I don't think that finding this, or even 20 more like it, would disprove the "urban myth" aspect of this argument to the extent that, as time passes, increasing amounts of people tend to claim taking part in an event of cultural significance, whether it is being spat upon coming home from war or having attended game 4 of the 2004 ALCS.

The problem here is that there is no way to actually know how many spitters and spittees there were. That there are contemporaneous reports would seem to suggest that these claims are not complete fabrications, but does nothing to prove to what extent they did or did not happen or why some would later claim to be spittle victims when they were not. I merely wanted to point out that at least one contemporaneous account would appear to exist and that it wasn't that difficult to find.
2.8.2007 2:37pm
Rocinante (mail):
tantor said: "In fact, anyone in any kind of a uniform was a target of abuse. Security guards in grocery stores were called pigs. Boy Scouts were called little fascists. The hippie hate for the military was so widespread for the military that it just astounds me that liberals are denying it now and rewriting history."

Tell it, brother. I grew up in a college town during that time. "Babykiller" was so common that I thought it was just another mildly pejorative nickname for a soldier or Marine (like "dogface" or "jarhead")until I was 12 or 13.
2.8.2007 2:40pm
cirby (mail):
The spitting story is a mythology not just a myth. For the American right it has come to symbolize something beyond the physical act of spitting. It has come to be the last defense of their sincere hope, that the left hates soldiers. Lacking any real evidence that the left hates soldiers they must rely on mythology.


So, now that you have your strawman arguments laid out, would you like to try again, with some honest thoughts?

For one thing, that "sincere hope" is really just "honest observation."

If you don't think the Left (the real Left, not the centrists who lean left) hates soldiers, you've never been to any rallies by ANSWER or Code Pink, or had a real discussion with any of them.
2.8.2007 2:48pm
advisory opinion:
Perhaps someone should inform Lembcke that the premise of his 'research' founders on an elementary logical error.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
2.8.2007 2:57pm
Al Maviva (mail) (www):
I don't believe you've presented a single clear example of an anti-war protester spitting on a returning Vietnam veteran. So far, the story "veteran walks off a plane and is spit on by an anti-war protester", unless you've got a better example in the queue, still looks like an urban myth.

Go read Bill Quick (Daily Pundit). He admitted over the weekend that he was one of the spitters back when he fancied himself a marxist revolutionary.

And before you start calling him a right wing toady and mouthing the usual stuff to avoid having to confront the truth he tells, keep in mind he isn't exactly on the conservative or Republican bandwagon - he was urging people to vote Dem this last election cycle.
2.8.2007 3:00pm
An Unpractical Man (www):
It only matters to those who can not accept that America can and has been defeated in a war. They NEED to be able to blame failure on the left. They need it because otherwise their personal insecurities come crashing in on them.

Which war would that be? Because the only one I can think of is Vietnam. And there, the plain fact is that failure can be blamed directly on the Left. (Well, on the Democratic majority in Congress, acting to support the goals of the antiwar Left.) Whatever might have happened, what did happen was that Congress overrode a Presidential veto to ensure a North Vietnamese victory. You really can't get more responsible than that...

So, yes, in the case of Vietnam you can "blame failure on the left". Not indirectly, through the actions of the antiwar movement. Not symbolically, through spitting on soldiers. But directly, through official acts of Congress.
2.8.2007 3:03pm
Ranba Ral (mail):

Students of gender behavior are usually quick to point out that girls do not spit, at least not as a form of communication.


These 'students of gender behavior' never met any of my buddy's ex-girlfriends.
2.8.2007 3:08pm
rarango (mail):
I see the light: "Is there any evidence that returning Vietnam vets were spat on upon their return, in uniform, at the (presumably civilian) airport." If that is the only point that Lembcke sets out to refute, I dont see where his research accomplishes much. So then, that statement in quotes is the only "Mythology He cannot claim then that veterans were not spat upon.

Fantastic--Lembcke has pushed back our frontiers of ignorance. Good thing that wasn't his dissertation; it would never have gotten out of committee and would, I suspect, be impossible to defend.
2.8.2007 3:14pm
Cold Warrior:
I understand that many here are impevious to reason, but I'll try again:

The idea -- and it is really an idea in the form of a mental image, and it is an image I have in my own libertarian (not lefty) mind -- is of a line of soldiers in uniform, coming down the mobile stairs from a 707 onto the tarmac, walking into the airport past an assembled line of angry protesters who hurled invective and spittle their way.

And Lembcke has convinced me that this is a false memory. It never happened that way. Not even once.

Lembcke has not "proved" that no returning Vietnam vet was never spat upon at an airport. He has not proved it because it cannot be proved.

But (regardless of Lembcke's politics; I sense that I don't agree with him on most points) he has raised an interesting point: why do I have this mental image, which I could have sworn was burned into my brain by watching the CBS Evening News or some such thing in when I was in 5th grade? I find it interesting that I -- a perfectly sane person, with no particular axe to grind on this issue -- am the unwitting victim of such a false memory.

That's why the research is interesting, and that's why Lindgren is barking up the wrong tree. If you want to focus on the more ridiculous "theorizing" of Lembcke, feel free to do so.

But his primary point is a good one, and it is an example of solid historical research.

[For similar good histories, check out the "modernity of tradition" scholars, who assure us (among other things) that our notions Scottish clans running about in their tartans c. 1600 are figments of the modern imagination.]
2.8.2007 3:17pm
Chris B (mail):
When Lembcke appears on The Colbert Report, his book will be best described as 'untruthy'.
2.8.2007 3:19pm
rarango (mail):
Pardon a consecutive post, but one more point might be made. How many of you folks think a returning vet, having been in Viet Nam for a year, in the air for 18 to 24 hours back to CONUS, and quite anxious to get back home to family, is going to stop and fill out a police report because some idiot spit on him, or tried to spit on him and then in all likelihood ran away. Do you have any sense of reality? Not obviously. I returned from VN in March, 1970, in khakis, landing at Travis AFB and was bussed to SFO for further flights to my final destination. I dont think I nor anyone else in my group would have wasted our time--we wanted to get home.
2.8.2007 3:22pm
rarango (mail):
Pardon a consecutive post, but one more point might be made. How many of you folks think a returning vet, having been in Viet Nam for a year, in the air for 18 to 24 hours back to CONUS, and quite anxious to get back home to family, is going to stop and fill out a police report because some idiot spit on him, or tried to spit on him and then in all likelihood ran away. Do you have any sense of reality? Not obviously. I returned from VN in March, 1970, in khakis, landing at Travis AFB and was bussed to SFO for further flights to my final destination. I dont think I nor anyone else in my group would have wasted our time--we wanted to get home.
2.8.2007 3:22pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Perhaps the naysayers could explain to those of us who were the objects of various kinds of contempt and mocking, including spitting, what do do about our realities?
Do we need to get our minds right?
This whole discussion, at least on the Lembke side,seems to presume that there is nobody around to whom it happened. That's fine. The problem is, there are people around to whom it happened.
I see a logical problem there, someplace.
2.8.2007 3:57pm
Rocinante (mail):
Cold Warrior: Just so I know we're looking at the same thread, do you not consider the 12/27/71 CBS report from the Vandy TV archive "contemporaneous"? Or do you mean "contemporaneous police report? (It appears that Mr. Pickett was a spit-upon returning vet but that he described the spitting to the CBS reporter sometime - months? - after the fact.)

Alexande said: "Lacking any real evidence that the left hates soldiers they must rely on mythology."

WTF? I don't even know where to begin.

My guess is your splitting a hair here; i.e., the left may hate the military but it doesn't hate the soldiers. (Sort of like "love the sinner, hate the sin"?)

There are a couple of problems with this reasoning.

1. While the former Soviet Union recognized "The Army is the Guardian of the Party" and the People's Republic of China lionizes the People's Liberation Army as a source of national pride, leftist hatred of the military in the West is easily documented. (Maybe in the leftist mind the military is indelibly tainted by the West's colonial past.) Just off the top of my head, the thread runs from the socialist and anarchist movements in the 20's and 30's to driving ROTC out of elite schools in the 60's to the disdain for the military exhibited by White House staff in the first Clinton administration to the harassment of military recruiters by antiwar protesters in recent months. In the pages of leftist publications from The Nation to the New York Times, the contempt is thinly veiled, if at all.

2. The soldier (sailor, airman and Marine) are often quite loyal to, quite attached to and quite identified with the organization to which they belong, so the distinction between "sinner" and "sin" is lost on them. That's why "Support the Troops - Bring them Home Now" has failed to get much traction: "The Troops" consistently say they want to get the job done, want to WIN, and that involves staying there, not coming home.

The alternative, which all too frequently happens, is for the hypothetical leftist to dismiss this loyalty and identification. Canards about the the poverty, ignorance and stupidity of soldiers fit neatly into this leftist worldview: it's not the soldiers' fault - the poor dupes can't help it.

Alexand: "Of three million drafted veterans not one was ever reported to have beaten the crap out of some hippy for spitting on him..."

The cultural, disciplinary, legal and personal reasons why so few (few, not "not one" as you asserted) returning veterans reacted with violence to spitting incidents or reported said incidents to the authorities were more than adequately addressed - by current and former members of the military - in the previous thread on spitting (and, to a lesser extent, in this one). That you would even write such a thing reveals a profound lack of knowledge of the military culture and of soldiers.

There are also a number of other explanations (for the alleged lack of reports) than Lembcke's, which some of the other skeptical but much more thoughtful commenters - like Cold Warrior - pointed out.

Finally, it's not irrelevant. Rather than take the right to task for their alleged misuse of the spit-upon-veteran narrative, Lembcke says that it didn't happen and backs his claim with provably incomplete and shoddy research. He tries to claim that a particulary shameful chapter from the history of the antiwar movement didn't happen.
2.8.2007 4:04pm
MnZ (mail):

The spitting story is a mythology not just a myth. For the American right it has come to symbolize something beyond the physical act of spitting. It has come to be the last defense of their sincere hope, that the left hates soldiers.


Yes, the Left loved
Vietnam Vets
. I guess Iraq vets are not so lucky.
2.8.2007 4:15pm
Cold Warrior:

Cold Warrior: Just so I know we're looking at the same thread, do you not consider the 12/27/71 CBS report from the Vandy TV archive "contemporaneous"? Or do you mean "contemporaneous police report? (It appears that Mr. Pickett was a spit-upon returning vet but that he described the spitting to the CBS reporter sometime - months? - after the fact.)


I'm afraid my snarky comment, above, was misunderstood.

I'll repeat in plain language: the summary of the report on Mr. Pickett DOES NOT mention spitting at all.
2.8.2007 4:19pm
Cold Warrior:
Oops ... I meant to say, "DOES NOT mention being spat on upon as he arrived back from Vietnam." Maybe this is what he meant, but again: the story Lembcke is trying to refute is the "spat on as he disembarked from the plane" (or on his way through the airport), as it has entered into popular consciousness. Not "never spat on/at, ever, while in uniform."
2.8.2007 4:23pm
Adeez (mail):
Rocinante, it appears (please correct me if I'm wrong) that you were in the military and in combat. If so, I respect your service and thank you for it. And I'm one of those nasty liberals that are unpopular on this site. But I mean that wholeheartedly, as does every single "leftist" that I know of.

I was not in the military, but am attentive to what our soldiers have to say. You state "Canards about the the poverty, ignorance and stupidity of soldiers fit neatly into this leftist worldview: it's not the soldiers' fault - the poor dupes can't help it." Although I think it's a cynical phrasing, I concede there probably is some truth to this statement. How can I say such blasphemy? Well, every poll I've ever heard of on the issue demonstrates that an overwhelming majority of our soldiers believes that Saddam had a connection to 9/11. So, yes, the people that believe that are unfortunately naive and in a sense being duped. That's not contempt: that's truth.

And every interview with a soldier that I've heard, where the soldier wants to remain, it's b/c they do not want to leave their brothers and sisters behind. They're letting their people down by abandoning them is how they see it. It's not some other noble desire to bring "freedom" to Iraqis.

I know I'll get skewered for this. But fuckit: I respectfully and sincerely believe that "leftists" get nuance a lot better than "rightists." I immensely respect anyone who puts his or her well-being in danger in order to fight for our country. That's why me and my ilk are so horrified by the fact that a few bad people are exploiting my countrymen by doing whatever they can to convince them that they're fighting for our "freedom" or "way of life" (or whatever other Orwellian excuse) when in fact they're fighting for causes much more sinister.

Are the commentators here actually unable to make a distinction between supporting our troops and hating this occupation? That's hard to believe. If so, please consider Al Franken, who makes regular trips to Iraq and Afghanistan in order to entertain the soldiers, despite his being an American-hating liberal.
2.8.2007 4:24pm
Rocinante (mail):

I understand that many here are impevious to reason,


(Gosh, I hope that's not me...)


The idea -- and it is really an idea in the form of a mental image, and it is an image I have in my own libertarian (not lefty) mind -- is of a line of soldiers in uniform, coming down the mobile stairs from a 707 onto the tarmac, walking into the airport past an assembled line of angry protesters who hurled invective and spittle their way.


That's a very insightful observation. Let's see; two of my most powerful remembered images from the period are the footage of the returning POWs coming down the metal stairs and footage of a line of protesters raining spit, verbal abuse, etc., onto National Guardsmen/police officers. If I splice those together, run it through the mental video editor a couple of times to take the rough edge off, it's very convincing. Add twenty years and an emotionally charged argument and I might forget that it didn't actually happen.

Point well taken.

That covers you and me, impressionable young people at the time, seeing powerful images on TV. What of the guys it actually happened to? Everything I've read says the persistence of experiential memory is directly related to its' emotional content. A person who had something so awful happen to them is unlikely to forget it; how likely is someone to whom it didn't to make up the memory?
2.8.2007 4:29pm
Al Maviva (mail) (www):
The NCOs who restrained us from getting off the bus to kick the bejeezus out of antiwar protestors waving signs with some fairly vile messages (and trying to slow or stop the bus) as tried to enter the local airbase to deploy for Desert Shield/Storm, really did us a disservice. Had they let us off the bus, at least the arrest records and assault charges would have given us some proof to wave around when, in 10 years, somebody like Lembcke tells us *that* never happened, either.

Spit deniers, have you ever asked yourself why it is that Orwell has Winston Smith working in a government job where he throws accounts of what actually happened down the "memory hole" in favor of some revised version that is more politically palatable? Ever thought that maybe Smith's job was some kind of comment in and of itself?

All we are saying is give peace a chance, my @ss...
2.8.2007 4:31pm
Jack Haley (mail):
Re: troop abuse- spitting

Most folks flown back from Vietnam landed at Travis AFB (near San Francisco or McCord AFB near Seattle. Although flights were mosstly commercial the arrival point was an Air Force Base. From that point we would go to a civilian airport - bus or train station for transportation home or to the next posting. Encounters with anti-war folks in the airports were frequent. (we also ran into a large number of folks who were happy to show their support.

About 1970 or 1971 we wre instructed not to travel in uniform when on temporary duty. I can't recall if this was a command or Army policy.
2.8.2007 4:36pm
Rocinante (mail):

Yes, the Left loved
Vietnam Vets. I guess Iraq vets are not so lucky.


Oh, and add CounterPunch to that list. Thanks!
2.8.2007 4:39pm
James Lindgren (mail):
Cold Warrior wrote:

I think it would be very likely that someone, somewhere, would have been arrested (or at least accosted by) the police.


If I understand you correctlym perhaps you might read the post again. I gave you a case where the spitter was arrested, tried, and convicted.

And (although I didn't make it clear in the post) the Northwestern FBI case was one where the woman was denied (at least initially) a civil service job based on specific written formal charges (denominated as such) that she had spit on a mid-shipman.
2.8.2007 4:40pm
Al (mail):
>>I know I'll get skewered for this. But fuckit: I respectfully and sincerely believe that "leftists" get nuance a lot better than "rightists."

Adeez, might I suggest that maybe, just maybe, you are more sensitive to the lack of "nuance" of those that disagree with you than of those that agree with you?
2.8.2007 4:43pm
DaveN (mail):
Cold Warrier: [PICKETT - tells of being spit on in Seattle, WA.]. That is hardly "at all" though it does not provide context of when the spitting might have occurred, if it was at SeaTac or elsewhere, etc.

I have followed this thread and at times feel like I am reading a debate over the meaning of the word "is."

Those supporting Lembke's position either discount spitting occurred at all or limit it specifically to servicemen returning home from Vietnam.

Those supporting Lindgren's position are looking at the broader context of whether spitting at military service members occurred at all.

Some, for their own partisan purposes, are commenting on the Bush Administration, current Iraq policy, etc., which are actually irrelevancies to the issue being discussed.

So will Lindren's supporters agree that there do not appear to be contemporaneous accounts of spitting at service members as they arrived at the airport on their way home? And will Lembke's supporters agree that there appear to be contemporaneous reports of service members spat upon in other contexts during the Vietnam era?

Finally, will all agree that spitting at members of the United States military purely because of their military status is contemptible conduct, regardless of when it occurs?
2.8.2007 4:46pm
Rocinante (mail):
Adeez: Thank you for your civility and reasonableness. I hope you don't get "skewered"; you might be swimming against the current, but you're making sense.

To me, "nasty" and "liberal" are two things that don't necessarily go together. (I know; I went to a Unitarian church for 3 years. Nicest liberals you'll ever meet.)

Too often, "leftist" and "liberal" get lumped together but they mean two different things to me. Like those Venn set diagrams we did in 4th grade math, there is some overlap, but I guess we should agree on a common definition.

For example, I would say that a "liberal" might disagree on *how* best to defend the U.S. but a "leftist" might disagree that with the idea that the U.S. as presently consituted is worth defending. I would say that a "liberal" wants to reform free-market capitalism and mitigate the worst effects of globalization but a "leftist" wants to replace free markets and capitalism with something else and stop/roll back globalization. I would say that a "liberal" wants to make the military more about gender equity, upward mobility, deterrence and humanitarian missions than about killing people and breaking things while a "leftist" wants to unionize the military, place it under UN command or otherwise make it useless for anything other than passive defense of the continental U.S. (if not abolish it completely).

Does any of this make sense to you? If so, which shoe -- if either - fits? Which best describes "every single leftist [you] know of"?
2.8.2007 5:23pm
Rocinante (mail):
Full disclosure: I have never worn our nation's uniform. If you think that totally undermines whatever else I might have to say, stop reading there. If you're willing to give me the benefit of the doubt, read on.

Having said that I am not a veteran, I am the only adult male in my family who didn't serve. So, I grew up around soldiers (and flyboys and Coasties). As I have no male siblings, my male cousins (two Army officers, one Coast Guard enlisted) are the closest thing I have to brothers. My surviving grandfather and two uncles were Air Force. As a Boy Scout, all my Scoutmasters and most of the Assistant Scoutmasters were veterans. Counting friends, friends' spouses and care-package-correspondents, I know seven people who've been to Iraq. Six came back. One of them has since volunteered to go to Afghanistan.

So, I've never been a soldier (Mr. Samuel Johnson, call your office). Maybe I should have been and maybe that colors my opinions, but I do know a thing or two about soldiers and about military culture.

In any case, my opinion is just that and worth what you paid to read it here.
2.8.2007 5:33pm
Cold Warrior:
Jim Lindgren points to the documented case in which a Northwestern student was arrested and tried for spitting at a uniformed midshipman.

Here's Lindgren's summary:


Many newspapers carried a July 21, 1971 AP story about a Northwestern University student, apparently under surveillance by the FBI for many months, who had been observed spitting on a mid-shipman in uniform. She denied that she had done it (presumably she did not deny that some young woman had spat on the mid-shipman).


Again: no indication that this uniformed Navy man was "returning home" from anywhere, much less Vietnam.

Again (again): I don't think anyone is denying that so-called members of the political-military establishment were harassed and sometimes even spat upon. The press accounts of problems faced by recruiters and ROTC students establish that. But "spitting on returning Vietnam veterans?" I still haven't seen it.
2.8.2007 5:51pm
Orman:
I am afraid that I think a good deal of this discussion is a waste of time. Coldwar Warrior and his fellow trolls remind me of an exchange I got into on the History News Network. (I have since learned that is not an accurate description and don't go there anymore.) Some of the groupees were praising Soviet Russia for its sacrifices in World War II. I mentioned that the Soviets were originally accomplices of the NAZIS and had among other things had executed Polish officers in the Katyn forest as well as brutalizing their own soldiers throughout the war. The response was basically, "Well, if the Soviets hadn't executed the Polish officers, the Polish officers might have eventually executed some of their enemies."

It is impossible to reason with people like Coldwar Warrior. If he can't or won't perceive bold face in a quote,
he is not worth disputing with.

Save your Confederate money, boys - sorry, people! The South won't rise again - thank goodness - but civil war is coming. And I don't think the people in favor of gun control will win.
2.8.2007 6:23pm
Well Armed Koward:
DaveN:

All good points, and may I offer this:

It is never a good idea to spit on a Marine.
2.8.2007 6:26pm
Adeez (mail):
"Does any of this make sense to you? If so, which shoe -- if either - fits? Which best describes "every single leftist [you] know of"?"

I hear you Rocinante, and could probably go on forever trying to provide a cogent response to your good questions. I see you basically deem "leftists" more to the left (for lack of a better term) than "liberals." It's a fair distinction, and your examples might help one make such a distinction. However, I'm afraid that if I choose certain answers to your precise examples, that won't really suffice b/c there are so many other issues out there where I might fluctuate. For what it's worth, and to attempt an answer, definitely "liberal" as opposed to leftist according to your examples.

Some people don't mind us being an empire. I do. Some people want to take the childish approach to this country, similar to those who can't criticize their parents. I mean, some say that this country is perfect and that those who criticize it therefore hate it and should leave. I see liberals as those who similarly love this country and the ideals on which it was founded. And think our Constitution was one of the most brilliant documents ever written. I thought that many here would agree with these sentiments, regardless of label. That's why I am so disappointed when I see these Hannity-like accusations that those who hate this occupation hate America or its soldiers on this site, b/c I expect the commenters to be more enlightened than that.

I think, generally, what separates liberals from their opponents is one simple word: humility. ALL humans ought be humble, and the same goes for our country. We have great power, and thus (sorry for the cliche) have great responsibility. We have to understand what it really means to be humble and to act accordingly.

I could go on and on, but I think we may both get blocked if we continue, as some like to complain when the comments go too off-topic. Hopefully our dialogue will serve as an example to others that two can disagree w/o the name-calling or sarcasm that only serves to stifle debate.
2.8.2007 6:40pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Rocinante:
WRT your explanation of why you are not a leftist:

You were doing okay until you suggested you wanted the military to be a version of meals on wheels and lefty wet dream.

You want deterrence? How do you do that if you don't convince potential opponents that you are really, really good at killing people and breaking their stuff? But you want to de-emphasize that. Cool. That means the other side thinks they can get away with something. And if we've followed your prescriptions, they probably can. Unless we have to fight our way out from under the kinder, gentler military you prescribe before trying to defend ourselves.
Worst case, a war starts that we, at great cost, lose. Best case, a war starts that we, at great cost, win.
You were doing okay, there, until your mask slipped.
2.8.2007 6:43pm
Maetenloch (mail):
I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Bob Greene's 1988 book, "Homecoming". He asked in his Chicago Tribune column whether any Vietnam vets had actually been spit on when they returned to the U.S. Hundreds of veterns wrote letters back to him with details of being spit on along with other abuse. He took several hundred of the letters and made them into the book. I read it by chance about 15 years ago and it's was moving as well as enraging.

As I recall about half the letters involved spitting and the rest with other fluids or forms of abuse. Most of the incidents happened while they were travelling in uniform. Some were in a terse, police report style while others went into great deatil about their experiences and feelings afterwards including how other people came to their assistance. One of the surprising parts was that very few of the soldiers responded physically to being spit on (or more commonly spit at). Most said that they were so shocked that by the time they got angry, the culprits were already gone. Another said that he didn't punch out his spitter for the same reason people don't usually get into fights on their wedding or graduation days - he just so happy to be back in the U.S. and heading home that he didn't want anything to ruin the day.

Also most returning soldiers were still under the UCMJ until they went through final processing, so getting into a fight with civilians could get them into real trouble. Even in the letters when there were scuffles, the airport police usually advised the soldier to just forget about the incident and make their next connecting flight, otherwise they would have to make a statement and possibly have to stay for a court appearance. I suspect this is one reason why these incidents weren't documented very often.
2.8.2007 7:06pm
Cold Warrior:
DaveN shows that some people can still discuss the issue rationally:


So will Lindren's supporters agree that there do not appear to be contemporaneous accounts of spitting at service members as they arrived at the airport on their way home? And will Lembke's supporters agree that there appear to be contemporaneous reports of service members spat upon in other contexts during the Vietnam era?


Although I am not one of "Lembcke's supporters" -- I didn't even know about him until today -- I think his argument has, so far, withstood the scrutiny of contributors to this blog, including Jim Lindgren. And yes, I do "agree that there appear to be contemporaneous reports of service members spat upon in other contexts during the Vietnam era."

Now, could Lindgren's supporters please agree with the other part of the equation: that so far nobody has found a contemporaneous account of a returning Vietnam vet being spat upon? If not, why not??

Exactly who is saying "trust me, don't bother me with the evidence" here?
2.8.2007 7:30pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Cold Warrior:

The point about contemporanous evidence may be won or lost, depending on how the partisans decide to dismiss evidence they don't like. IOW, contemporaneous evidence which surfaces will be dismissed. That's a given.

You may argue about contemporaneous evidence in a vacuum if you like. It certainly seems like it.

The question is two fold. One, did it happen in the real world, and, two, what are those who were spit upon or otherwise treated with contempt, sometimes physically manifested, supposed to do with the outcome of the argument?
2.8.2007 8:00pm
advisory opinion:
Not sure about the reason for your pedantry Cold Warrior. If there are so many reported instances of spitting from that time period, surely it's not such a leap to imagine that from the numbers of the unreported instances, at least one was a returnee? Do you disagree that chances of that not being the case is slim?
2.8.2007 8:06pm
DRB (mail):
Cold Warrior,

I'm going to delurk to say that I think it's hard to tell exactly what Lembcke's argument actually is. At some points he seems to be restricting his argument purely to what you are claiming -- that soldiers *returning from Vietnam* were not spit on *in the airport* when they arrived back home. At other times, he seems to be claiming that *all* spitting stories are untrue. It's clear that the second argument is false, as Lindgren has demonstrated. As to the first argument, that's more unclear.

However, if you (and Lembcke) are truly trying to make the first argument rather than the second, I would say that you're both drawing an absolutely useless distinction. It's like trying to defend yourself against a murder charge by saying, "I didn't stab Mr. Jones to death in his driveway. I stabbed him to death in his garage."

Well, that's fine -- you're still a murderer. Similarly, you hate the troops just as much if you spit on them in the grocery store as if you spit on them in the airport. Did Lembcke really waste years of his life (and his university's money) to try to prove that *airports* were spit-free in the Vietnam era?
2.8.2007 8:10pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
DRB. He may well have. He could expect a certain mindset to take that as meaning the entire world was spit-free at least as regards soldiers. Which was, I suspect, his objective.
2.8.2007 8:18pm
Loki13 (mail):
I'm going to wade in here (carefully)...

I posted on this before, and have thought quite a bit about this since. Of the many posts I have seen here, I think Cold Warrior's original thoughts are closest to mine-

There was this thought (this meme) that soldiers were coming back and facing lines of hostile anti-war protestors who proceeded to spit on them. That this was an organized anti-war tactic.

So, what has been exposed are many 'truths'. There is the 'truth' of the time- the distrust between the citizenry (the anti-war, leftist citizenry) and the soldiers, which was part of a larger schism of the time. There is the truth of 'spit' which can be both metaphorical (as a stand-in for how soldiers felt the citizenry treated them) and actual (isolated incidents w/ ROTC, other soldiers). Then there is the 'truth' of this organized 'hate amerika' 'spit on the troops' campaign. This appears to be classic 5th Column-type propoganda to explain the loss of a war, and it is a meme that has stuck deeply within the core of the American people.

At this point, I am agnostic in the spittle debate. I believe in both false memories, and in false revisionist history. I do believe that the debate about the spittle says more about the people debating it and any future revelations, for either side, will do nothing more than fan the flame. Because this is not an exercise to find some unknowable truth about the past- it's simply recasting the same battle we see played out in most posts.

"I Want to Believe"
2.8.2007 8:48pm
VK:
After learning of accounts found by Jim Lindgren, would Lembcke say spitters gave a special dispensation to deplaning Viet Nam returnees but not to other soldiers?
2.8.2007 9:25pm
advisory opinion:
Agnostic? Nonsense. That makes you a spittle-denialist. Please join your global warming compatriots in the asylum.
2.8.2007 9:28pm
Can't find a good name:
Maetenloch: I have read the Bob Greene book, and if I remember correctly Lembcke's book was written partially in response to it. While Greene did indeed receive letters from veterans describing having been spit upon, those reports are not even going to be taken seriously by Lembcke's supporters because the letters were sent to Greene in the mid-1980s. That's why Jim Lindgren went looking for reports from the 1960s and 1970s, which he found and listed in the main post here.

The word games being played by some of the commenters in this thread are getting silly. I'm reminded of Bill Clinton's claim never to have been "alone in a hotel" with Paula Jones, a statement which was literally true given that Jones claimed to have been accosted by Clinton when they were alone in a hotel room -- not that every other room in the hotel was empty at the time.
2.8.2007 9:35pm
Rocinante (mail):
Mr. Aubrey: I was desicribing what, to me, is the difference between a "leftist" and a "liberal". I am neither.

I want our military to break things and kill people and do it better and in greater quantity than anyone (or combination of several ones in the world. That's what it's for.

I don't want it used for social engineering or as a jobs 'n' public works program.

Sorry if I wasn't clear.
2.8.2007 10:08pm
Tantor (mail) (www):
Alexande: "The spitting story is a mythology not just a myth. For the American right it has come to symbolize something beyond the physical act of spitting. It has come to be the last defense of their sincere hope, that the left hates soldiers. Lacking any real evidence that the left hates soldiers they must rely on mythology."

When a lefty crank walked out of the crowd in an LA bus station in 1973 and asked me, wearing an Air Force uniform, how many babies I had killed, that was neither myth nor mythology. Likewise, when a long-haired hippie in Colorado Springs driving down the road spotted me walking on the shoulder and feverishly gave me both fingers like a loon, that was not a mythological event. Likewise, it was no myth that many girls during the Vietnam would not date guys with military-type short hair. They were happy to tell you why: "I don't date short-hairs."

That climate of hate toward the military during Vietnam was impossible to ignore. I suspect that you did not live through it, so you can't imagine it and dismiss it. Nevertheless, it was real. You were very likely to be hassled if you went out in public in uniform. That stigma lasted until Reagan was elected, when it went the other way. Everyone put his uniform back on when he drove out the front gate when Reagan became boss.

That hatred, that contempt for the military from the radical Left continues to this day in diminished form among a small faction of the Left. There are still incidents of harassment, though much fewer than in the 1968-1975 period. Radical lefty protestors at the UFPJ March on Washington on Jan 27 were spitting at a wounded Iraqi vet with an amputated leg. I watched them call him a "m*f*g war lover." Call me crazy, but that looked like unhinged hate to me.

The Code Pink protestors at the gate of Walter Reed AMC carry signs that say, "Support The Troops, Bring Them Home." However, when wounded troops walk out from the hospital to talk to them, they refuse to answer. Their protest monitor barks out an order to the protestors to not talk to them. They actually turn their backs on them. That appears to me to be at least disrespect, if not contempt.

The Marine son of one of my high school classmates was jumped at night in San Diego and beaten up by guys who called him a baby-killer just before he shipped out for Kuwait in 2003. Maybe the lefties will argue that you always hurt the one you love.

A friend told me of a flight she took out of Boston during the run-up to the 2003 invasion in Iraq where a contingent of Marines were harassed by a drunken yuppie couple, yelling at them that if they were smart they'd be in Harvard instead of the Marines. More love for the military.

I invite you to attend any big anti-war demonstration and read the signs and talk to the protestors. You're not gonna feel a lot of love for the military. I only have to tell people I used to fly fighters in the Air Force and watch their reaction to tell where they fall on the political spectrum. Heck, during one job interview in liberal Milwaukee, I was told by the owner that having flown nuclear missions would upset too many employees at his company. Never got that job.

Alexande, your comment is so at odds with reality that I have a hard time understanding how you could hold it. My speculation is that you have been coccooned from it. Maybe you're a nice liberal guy living on a leafy street full of other nice liberal neighbors and just have no experience with how nasty the hard Left has been to the military. The hate the hard Left feels for the military is no myth, no urban legend, no fairy tale concocted to tar the protestors. It is a fact.
2.8.2007 10:11pm
Justin (mail):
Serious people believe that most of the opposition is in one of a few camps:

A) people seriously (naively) opposed to war reflexively or on over-broad principle

B) people who oppose anything the President or Republicans support either reflexively or cynically to gain political support

The group C) people who want America to fail because America is always wrong and evil are, while very vocal, acknowledged by serious people as being the minority inside the US.

A + B + C = 62% of Americans? (Source: LA Times Bloomburg Poll, 1/13-16/2006 (or 64%, Newsweek Poll, 1/17-18 2007) (or 51%, Pew Research, 1/10-15/20070

http://www.pollingreport.com/iraq.htm

Wow. So you think most Americans are either opportunistic and cynical, treasonous, or naive? And given that the war had 20% disapproval on 3/21-23/2003, did the 31-44% of Americans who changed their mind do so because of their reflexive and overbroad principles, their hatred of America, their reflexive hatred of everything Bush, or their opportunistic desire to gain political support and run for Congress?
2.8.2007 10:27pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Justin. I believe that B is considerably larger than you do. It consists of the democratic party and other lefties. C is larger than you think, as well, but some of them manage to cover it.

If you ask the poll question, do you think the US should pull out and be defeated, the answer generally "no".
One reason is that the question about approving of the war includes approving of how it's handled and there are a lot of folks who think Bush is insufficiently aggressive.
Many people disapprove of the fact that we haven't won yet.

To put those together and conclude the mood is for pulling back and getting all passive is false and those who pretend it's true will pay a price.
2.8.2007 10:42pm
RBG (mail):
I spent nearly a decade of my childhood, starting in the early 70s, living on Okinawa, surrounded by about 50,000 Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Army personnel (with, believe it or not, a few Coast Guard folks thrown in for good measure). I grew up hearing stories about folks getting spit on back in the states, and I have to say that my image was very different from that of the commenters above who imagined people lined up in welcome-committee fashion waiting to spit on returning military personnel. My impression was more that military folks were reluctant to appear in their uniform in public because they were likely to be harassed, verbally or physically, and that this harassment not uncommonly included spitting. I offer this view simply to offer a counterpoint to the insinuation that the stories were the product of some sort of propaganda campaign.
2.8.2007 10:48pm
Stu Blu (mail) (www):
Justin,

I just got onto this thread and read some of the early postings, including yours. Maybe you addressed this, but if the anti-war crowd shouldn't be judged by a couple of "bad apples" as you say, then do you agree it's not fair to judge today's military by Haditha and Abu Ghraib incidents...especially when investigations were already underway before the stories hit the media? I'm sick of hearing about those stories proving our brutality or immorality as a country.

And while you're answeringing, please tell me what the Middle East would look like today with the UN sanctions against Iraq falling apart in 2003 due to greed and corruption (surprise! by Europe and Russia, not by the U.S.), and Hussein's likely competition with Iran's nuclear program? What would the world be like today if we had just ignored Saddam's likely past-is-prologue aggression and desire for nuclear weapons?

I'm pretty confident that Bush would be criticised for not doing anything to prevent nuclear escalation in the region.

What do you think?

Stu Blu
2.8.2007 10:48pm
Cold Warrior:
Loki13 said:


I posted on this before, and have thought quite a bit about this since. Of the many posts I have seen here, I think Cold Warrior's original thoughts are closest to mine-

There was this thought (this meme) that soldiers were coming back and facing lines of hostile anti-war protestors who proceeded to spit on them. That this was an organized anti-war tactic.


Well, thanks. I'm glad someone agrees.

I think some of this may be a generational thing. Remember, I said I was a kid (between 5 and 12 years old) when these things were happening.

And I have always assumed that there really was a time (actually, dozens of times) when throngs of protesters were at the airports "greeting" returning Vietnam vets by screaming "baby killer" and, yes, by spitting at them.

And I just don't think that ever happened. Not even once.

And Lembcke's research is interesting for that reason. Why has this image entered into popular consciousness if it never actually happened?

I said, "interesting." Not "ground-breaking" or "pivotal" or "something that proves a wider point about media manipulation of collective consciousness." Just interesting in a way that makes we want to explore what really happened and why the "received wisdom" is in some respects defective.

Similarly "interesting" without standing for any wider point: the NY Times ran an op-ed piece last week about myths surrounding the Underground Railroad. Specifically, the myth that quilts sewn by freed slaves included cryptic "maps" of the way to freedom. That story turns out to be untrue. I thought it was true. That's interesting to me. Why did I think that? What caused me to think that?

Knowing that the Underground Railroad quilt-map story is fiction had no wider impact on me. It didn't make me think, "Gee, I guess it was pretty easy for those slaves to escape .. they didn't even need a map." It didn't make me think they were less clever or inventive or brave.

And the same goes for the Lembcke work. It doesn't make me think that the anti-war left behaved any more honorably because they insulted returning soldiers without respect to how those soldiers may have comported themselves in an unimaginably difficult situation (and many of whom were drafted; even if you thought the ones who signed up were hell-bent on slaughtering innocent Vietnamese children, why ascribe those notions to the draftee who may have gone only because they were forced?). In other words, it does not change my mind one bit about what I think of the Vietnam War and its protesters. But it makes me think about what I think I know, and how I "know" what I think I know.

And I find that interesting.

If you don't, maybe you just don't care to examine your own biases.
2.8.2007 10:56pm
Justin (mail):
just got onto this thread and read some of the early postings, including yours. Maybe you addressed this, but if the anti-war crowd shouldn't be judged by a couple of "bad apples" as you say, then do you agree it's not fair to judge today's military by Haditha and Abu Ghraib incidents...especially when investigations were already underway before the stories hit the media? I'm sick of hearing about those stories proving our brutality or immorality as a country.

The military as a collective? Yes, that would be wrong, which was precisely my point. My friends in the marines did not commit any crimes while in Iraq and are all good people.

The military as its leadership? Depends if they authorized or condoned such behavior.
2.8.2007 10:57pm
Justin (mail):
Stu blu, my guess is Iraq would still be light years away from any sort of nuclear capacity, that any deal to get rid of sanctions would still require inspections, which it turns out were working fine?

Oh wait, you're making a point, not trying to get an answer. Carry on with your fantasy.
2.8.2007 10:59pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Cold. You still haven't addressed the issue of what to do with the folks to whom it actually happened.

The military has investigated and begun--and completed some--legal actions having to do with Haditha and Abu Ghraib. So to suppose they condoned or authorized it is foolish.
2.8.2007 11:06pm
Justin (mail):
Wow, Richard, and if you ask if puppies should die, you'd find out that most people like George Bush.

Maybe if you don't frame a question as leading, you don't get a distorted answer.

Or, ask it straight and:

52% of Americans want to pull out within a year, regardless of results:

"Thinking about the situation in Iraq, do you think the United States should pull out all troops immediately, pull out all troops gradually over the next year, pull out after Iraqi troops are capable of taking over, or send more troops?"

Fox, 1/30-31/07

Even when a gradual withdrawl is not given a choice, you still find less than 50% of Americans supporting staying:

"Which of the following do you think is more important for the United States right now? Withdrawing U.S. troops as soon as possible to minimize the number of Americans casualties. OR, Maintaining U.S. troop levels in Iraq for at least another year or two to give the Iraqis more time to settle their differences and reach a political settlement."

Withdraw: 46
Maintain: 45

Newsweek 1/17-18/07

"In your opinion, should the United States withdraw troops from Iraq right away, or should the U.S. begin bringing troops home within the next year, or should troops stay in Iraq for as long as it takes to win the war?"

Right Away 19
Within a year 46
Stay as long as it takes 30

LA/Bloomburg 1/13-16/07

Assertions are so much more FUN than facts.
2.8.2007 11:06pm
Stu Blu (mail) (www):

The military as its leadership? Depends if they authorized or condoned such behavior.


I don't get it...are you saying the convictions, jail time and courts-martial are phony or are you saying that those soldiers were somehow led to believe that it was okay to do the things they got in trouble for, but they somehow got caught up in the law anyway? Or are you saying that their respective commanding officers gave them orders?

I think it's more likely you are generalizing about the military leadership in exactly the same way as some do to the soldiers, or worse yet, the antiwar crowd.


SB
2.8.2007 11:06pm
Justin (mail):
Well, stu blu, if you ignore the fairly decent circumstantial evidence that Rumsfeld authorized at least some of the abuses at Abu Gharib, and the fact that there was no public audit of the chain of command, you're right, cut and dry.

But I'm not saying Rumsfeld was or was not to blame, just that I personally lack the information to declare his innocence, just like I lack the information to declare his guilt. You asked a question, and my answer was, I don't know. Sorry if that makes me a bad person.
2.8.2007 11:11pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

The idea -- and it is really an idea in the form of a mental image, and it is an image I have in my own libertarian (not lefty) mind -- is of a line of soldiers in uniform, coming down the mobile stairs from a 707 onto the tarmac, walking into the airport past an assembled line of angry protesters who hurled invective and spittle their way.


So, what you're saying is that you've been convinced that this silly and ---literally!--- childish fantasy image has been debunked.

I'll grant that as some progress. I do kind of wonder how you ever imagined that was a sensible or possible image --- come on, if it were happening on a large-scale organized basis as you suggest, wouldn't someone have caught on, and either gotten police in the way or routed returning soldiers around tthem?

But what's been done otherwise is to refine the definition after the fact to the point where the only evidence acceptable for Lembcke's error would be systematic organized spitting by large numbers of people, done only in the jetway of a returning flight, followed by arrests and prosecutions, and recorded on film by national press.

It's also essentially vacuous: it ignores the real point, that there was real abuse; it ignores the fact that you didn't stop being a "returnee" when you had compelted a plane change in Sea-Tac or SFO; and it ignores --- or more precisely, denies --- anyone needing to feel any guilt or culpability for that real abuse.

(Oh, and just by the way, I'm one of the people who was spit on, called "baby killer", turned away from public events. Do you really think I feel better about it because it never happened in an airport?)
2.8.2007 11:39pm
Stu Blu (mail) (www):
Justin,

There was a lot of circumstantial evidence that Libby outed Plame, but it turns out that it wasn't even close to true. On the other hand, there was plenty of real evidence that former Ambassador Joe Wilson was lying through his teeth on several counts (see the Senate report on 9/11 intelligence manipulation: a good starting point is http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/911rpt/). Yet the media continues to this day to refer to the administration's attempt to discredit him for his op-ed piece, without ever pointing out that he was lying and the adminstration was not. What is their purpose in not stating that fact? Heaven knows they always get a dig in when it comes to Republicans.

For this and related reasons, I can't trust the media's stories that there was much evidence that Rumsfeld condoned the actions (I'm not saying he didn't approve aggressive interrogation techniques--short of torture--which I think are acceptable).

It's not that you are a bad person, but maybe you don't read enough to get the other side of the story.

SB
2.8.2007 11:41pm
Mac (mail):


Alexandre,


They can ignore without shame the fact that the Republican Party is cutting veterans health care programs only because they insist the mythology is true. Only then can they claim that the alternative to the Republican party is a soldier hating left.

This statement you made is why the left is often referred to as "wooley". Is it really too much to ask you to check your facts? Spending on Vets has increased twice as fast under Bush as Clinton. You are falling for the old political game of an increase that is not as much as was requested is a not an increase but a cut. Bush did increase middle class Vets copay from $7.50 to $15.00 with a $250.00 deductable. This does not apply to poorer Vets or to any with a service connected disability. This is not an onerous burden on middle class Vets, no matter what John Kerry and Howard Dean say. Controling the spirling cost of health care does not seem diabolical. esp. given the way it was done. (Source. FactCheck.org)
In addition, Bush has just proposed a landmark (VA's own words) 87 billion (that's a B) budget for 2008. The majority will go to health care and disability payments for Vets. I could go on and on about the dramatic expansion of the VA to include community based clinics, which expands access to care. (Source. Dept. of Veteran's Affairs website.) Yes, hospitals have been deemphasized to some extent, but they are very expensive and restrict access to care by geography, something that more community based clinics addresses. This also reflects what is going on in the private sector as well as health care seeks to reduce costs and expand access.



I have gone at some length off-topic. I do so as this you provided a perfect example of how the left uses bogus and false data to support it's position and to cast perjoratives upon those with whom it disagrees. Just like Lembcke did.


As to the Left not hating soldiers, did you miss Bill Arkin's blog in the Washington Post? He is NBC's military analyst. His far left wing credentials (and he has many) were never disclosed to viewers, nor to Washington Post readers. He said our soldiers are over paid mercenaries who receive "obscene amenities" in Iraq. He did not specify what they were, of course. The truly disturbing thing about this nut job is that he is showcased in the MSM as a "military analyst". He went on. It got even worse. GE, the parent company of NBC has issued an apology. NBC and the Washington Post are mute. If you think the "Right" is demonizing the "Left", I suggest you read his blog. I expect the Post will retain David Duke as their "Diversity expert" next since Arkin is their military analyst and clearly hates and despises the military.

The point of all this is that Humility is indeed in order for all of us. The less one knows the easier it is to be absolutely certain that we are right. Knowledge of facts not fantasy provides a far more complex picture of all issues. Our soldiers our dying over there and they do believe the mission is worth it. I talk with them all the time. They want to give the Iraqi people a chance for a decent life and they know what will happen if we leave without the Iraqi government being secure. They do NOT just want to help their fellow service men as one blogger stated above. They also tell me that it is not easy. It is very hard as we are dealing with a much different culture and a people who were under a dictator for many years, They are not accustomed to thinking for themselves. They do see the Iraqi people as individuals, not as "them". Again, the more you know, the more difficult it is to make sanp judgements. Close to 3 million people were killed in that region after we left Vietnam. The left never mentions them and won't mention masacre that would probably take place if we leave Iraq now. Do I want us to be there. Hell, no. Would I like for us to get the hell out? Yes. But, right or wrong. we broke it. as Colin Powell said, and we have to fix it.
2.8.2007 11:47pm
Stu Blu (mail) (www):
Justin,

I forgot to ask: do you have any links to any reliable writeup on the circumstantial evidence against Rummy?

Thanks,
SB
2.8.2007 11:49pm
kat-missouri (mail) (www):
Funny, what I see are people still trying to debunk the stories of spit as if they were still trying to polish the image of anti-war protesters. As if these were upstanding citizens who did not destroy property, paint grafiti, set fires, assault police or cause riots.

I also find interesting the attempt to separate the spitting from the blatantly ugly signs calling soldiers baby killers and murderers along with profanity and flipping them off. As if, "sure they would do such ugly things, but nothing as ugly as actually spitting".

We are supposed to imagine that, after all the other things that occured, no one would have physically spit on a soldier. And, frankly, trying to parse out whether someone was actually in Vietnam as opposed to simply being in uniform and being spit on is, what did Lembecke call it? a false dichotomy.

My uncle was in Vietnam '70 to '71 as a doorgunner and crew chief for the 101st Airborne, Charlie Company Black Widows stationed in Phu Bien (verifiable). He did return via LA International and, when he got off the plane on the tarmac, protesters were ringing the chain link fence with signs and screaming "baby killer", "murderer", "fascist" and spitting in his and the other soldiers' direction. While it might not have hit him directly, he was definitely spit at.

I have no reason to doubt him. Thus, my belief is not from some anecdotes by strangers, but by an actual Vietnam Vet related to me. In fact, it is one of the reasons why I have taken great pains to support service members and their families, because I know that this was a painful experience for him and I would not have that for other members of the service now or in the future when they serve at our behest.

Frankly, I find Lembecke's piece and many other comments here an insult and further attempts to revise their own dastardly behavior.
2.8.2007 11:58pm
DRB (mail):
Cold Warrior:

...it makes me think about what I think I know, and how I "know" what I think I know.

And I find that interesting.

If you don't, maybe you just don't care to examine your own biases.

If I can rephrase your observation above:

"Gosh, why did I think Mr. Jones got murdered in his driveway? All this time he'd been murdered in his garage. I find it interesting that I thought he'd been murdered in his driveway -- why did I think that? People who don't find that mistake on my part interesting, well, maybe they just don't care to examine their own biases."

Goodness gracious. Even blind tailors don't lose the thread this badly.
2.9.2007 12:11am
advisory opinion:
Charlie (Colorado) being far too sensible and hits nail on head.
2.9.2007 12:38am
PrestoPundit (www):
For what it's worth I know a Vet who was spat on at SeaTac upon his return from Vietman in the early 1970s.
2.9.2007 1:50am
Will D. (mail):
Thank you, Mac, for making a salient (and ridiculously easy to verify) point. One log I would add to your fire: the Combat Related Special Compensation benefits, which were passed into law in 2002 and are designed to provide tax-free compensation for soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen injured in combat (or combat training exercises). Most of those men will take that money and what's left of their bodies, and do more with the rest of their lives than probably 90% of the people who stand back in the States and say they support the troops but bring them home now.

Dubya may suck as a President, but to say he's "cutting Veterans benefits" is just untrue.

Every single day since I graduated from college, every single day, one step further and further from the Left.
2.9.2007 4:04am
Matt L.:
I find it somewhat disturbing that this post uses the least chartiable construction of Mr. Lembcke's position instead of the more defensible and more recent assertion (following the "conference paper" hyperlink above) that:


I cannot, of course, prove to anyone's satisfaction that spitting incidents like these did not happen. Indeed, it seems likely to me that it probably did happen to some veteran, sometime, some place. But while I cannot prove the negative, I can prove the positive: I can show what did happen during those years and that that historical record makes it highly unlikely that the alleged acts of spitting occurred in the number and manner that is now widely believed.


By arguing against the claim that these stories are "bogus" the author does us all a disservice by arguing against a straw man.

Furthermore, Mr. Lembcke plainly believes that he's proven his positive assertion. Because of this he engages in what may seem to many folks like bizarre attempts to explain the psychological reason for some of the pervasive imagery of soldiers being spat upon given how little evidence he can find for it actually happening. Whether one finds his attempts at diagnosing the cause of the cultural acceptance of what he sees as a myth is immaterial to whether or not he has successfully provided evidence for his positive assertion that the "historical record makes it highly unlikely that the alleged acts of spitting occurred in the number and manner that is now widely believed."

If this last part seems weird, consider the following scenario: Mr. Smith comes home to find Mrs. Smith in bed with another man. Perhaps Mr. Smith thinks that Mrs. Smith cheated because she's not attracted to him anymore. Perhaps he thinks it's because she's unconsciously sabotaging a good relationship that she doesn't think she's worthy of. Or perhaps Mr. Smith thinks it's because he broke a mirror, walked under a ladder, and crossed paths with a black cat in one day. Regardless of the diagnosis he ascribes to the problem, the fact remains the Mrs. Smith is in bed with another man. So too, Mr. Lembcke's diagnosis for why what he considers a myth is accepted by society is really tangetial (and posterior) to the question about whether he's demonstrated that what he thinks is a myth, is in fact a myth.

Furthermore, I find it interesting that nobody has yet commented upon the quote from the Zinberg article shows that by 1971 soldiers were engaged in fabulation about soldier's being spat upon. The author of this post readily accepts this implication when he writes (emphasis mine):


Note that by late 1971, the spitting story (in a form much like Minarik's) had become such a cliche that Zinberg probably correctly surmised that more a few tellings of it are not literally true. "


Now the author simply ascribes these fabulations as effects of a well-known cultural cliche. However, this simply begs the question.

If soldiers were making stories up about their compatriots being spat upon, why are we to think that there were no soldiers making up stories about themselves being spat upon? Of course I do not mean that every soldier who claimed to be spat upon was making things up. But we know that some segment of the population was making up stories about other soldiers being spat upon (i.e. the fabricated stories about the letters from the friends Zinberg wrote about) by 1971. Furthermore, we know that one soldier engaged in fabulation could reasonably convince many people that he was or his friend was spat upon. So it would make a lot of sense if the perception about the occurrence of such events was disproportionate to their actual occurrence.

But in any event, you cannot ascribe something to a cultural cliche when part of the matter under investigation is whether or not there was any widespread cultural cliche about soldiers being spat upon by 1971 or whether, instead, the cultural cliche came later.
2.9.2007 6:11am
rarango (mail):
I have been on some bizarre threads; I think this threat surpasses anything I have ever seen. Not to single out cold warrior, but here is a person, confonted with evidence simply denies all the evidence in front of him, and believes an historian who admits he really did no research earlier than 1981. And cold praises that as an example of good scholarship!!! WOW It does take your breath away.

The appropriate methodological approach Lembcke might have taken would go something like this: (1) Regard your literature search as tentative and form an hypotheses that says something about spitting being an urban myth (2) since the N = some 2.5 million men, creat a survey, identify sample size and conduct the survey; conduct follow-on interviews, and after examining the evidence, scrubbing the data, validate the hypothesis. That would have been a credible study; Lembcke's work is, inelegantly stated, a pile of crap and represents terrible scholarship.

Folks like cold warrior help me understand why Nigerian lottery schemes apparently work.
2.9.2007 8:59am
Cold Warrior:
rarango, glad to see you're still exorcising your Vietnam era demons.

And really, isn't that what this is all about?

It tells me something about the appeal of Barack Obama's "I'm not of that generation" take.

I suspect everyone who is fired up about this -- everyone who can't simply take a scholarly paper at face value -- simply has too much emotional investment in the Vietnam War. That probably includes Lembcke himself.

Wild guess: everyone here except a few of us (DaveN, MattL, maybe I've missed a few), including Lindgren and Lembcke, is 55 or older ...

... I read Lembcke's article as a study of popular culture and the creation of what is commonly known today as an "urban myth" or "urban legend." The Vietnam Generation reads it as a latter day Jane Fonda diatribe.
2.9.2007 9:47am
rarango (mail):
Sorry, cold--no demons to exorcise and thats not what its all about. It is about analyzing scholarship; eg, would you accept Bellasile's work on gun ownership as true, or Hernnstein and Murry's work on race as true? Critical thinking, IMO, requires that one not take "scholarly papers" at "face value" as you suggest. One really should analyze them rather than take them as true merely because some academic wrote it. I have no problem at all with your agreeing with Lembkcke's thesis or conclusions; that is strictly your business; however, for those of us who might have problems with the methodology and the resulting conclusions dont cast it as some psycho-sociological issue.
2.9.2007 10:23am
Jim Lindgren (mail):
Matt L,

You are right to mention aspects of Lembcke's argument that I have not yet addressed, such as the studies he cites and the supposed positive feelings between the anti-war movement and the troops. Yet there are some shocking deficiencies in Lembcke's presentations of this research as well.

As I said, more to come . . . .

Jim Lindgren
2.9.2007 10:28am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
In May of 1971, I was in a ward at Valley Forge Army Hospital. From time to time, NPR's All Things Considered runs a tape of their coverage of the Mayday Mobe, which I think was one of their first broadcasts. They have the reporter sobbing that, "Today, in our nations' capital, it is a crime to be young." Speaking of the cops' efforts to clear the streets.

The wounded in our ward were cheering the cops when the television news was on. Once a large number of the hippies were rounded up and put in a stadium, one kid said, "Bring a gunship in on their ass."

I think the troops weren't feeling supported.
2.9.2007 10:39am
esmense (mail):
I am from the San Francisco Bay area, lived in San Francisco in the late 60s and early 70s, am the sister and wife of Vietnam combat veterans, and count many Vietnam veterans, most especially ex members of Special Forces like my husband, among my friends. I don't know anyone who was spit on. Which is not to say I don't know any veterans who didn't at one time or another engage in heated arguments with people who opposed the war. But I don't see these vets, and don't know any who saw themselves, as having been victims in, or victimized by, such discussions.

Many of the examples given in this post appear to be little more than the kind of challenging male behavior that is not uncommonly associated with alcohol consumption, large sporting events and other testosterone fueled group behaviors. "Lets get some sailors" is not a political statement. And it has nothing to do with peace. Its just a bunch of guys challenging another bunch of guys to rumble.

As for young women commonly indulging in challenging physical behavior and spitting on powerful male strangers? Give me a break.

It was common in that era to see men in uniform -- sailors especially by also many young men from other branches of the service -- on the streets of San Francisco. It was a beautiful, fun city and a popular place to spend some leave time. I'm sure, as men have been doing in port cities for millenium, those young men from time to time found themselves involved in, even invited, altercations.

But only the extremely sheltered and naive would presume such behavior had anything to do with politics.
2.9.2007 11:16am
Rocinante (mail):

Assertions are so much more FUN than facts.


Yeah. For example, assertions like:


..inspections, which it turns out were working fine?


The sanctions were crumbling and for many reasons. They'd been in place for twelve years and as many new UNSC resolutions without achieving reliably documented Iraqi compliance. Many people had concluded that the human cost of the sanctions to the Iraqi people had become too high. (Though I'd argue that if the Hussein regime had spent their limited money on people and infrastructure instead of weapons and palaces
the human cost would not have been quite so high.) The other UNSC nations (except Britain, maybe) were more eager to resume doing business with Iraq than they were to keep a lid on Hussein. Then there's the enormous debts the Iraqi regime owed France and Russia left over from the Iran-Iraq war; debts Iraq could not repay under the sanctions regime, debts the French and Russians were afraid that a post-Hussein government might repudiate.

The Iraqi regime never fulfilled their cease-fire obligations, used helicopters we allowed them for humanitarian and communications purposes to butcher Shi'ite rebels and continued to fire at Coalition aircraft patrolling the UN-established "no-fly" zones. Finally, though Iraq turned out to have a lot less WMD than we thought (less, not "none") they went to extraordinary lengths to prevent the inspectors from finding out what they did or didn't have. Given Hussein's proven willingness to use chemical weapons, perhaps an error in assuming he had them was an error on the side of caution?
2.9.2007 11:29am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Without sanctions, what good are inspections? How does anybody know that Iraq would be lightyears from having nukes?
You will note the IAEA is supposedly involved in Iran with the express purpose of stopping them from getting nukes.

Among other things, el Baradei's in-laws are Iranian, living in Iran. Were I el Baradei, I'd be cautious. But, in any event, the IAEA does only what Iran allows them to.
So why would things have been different with Saddaam in power, boatloads of unrestricted oil money flowing, and inspectors only seeing what they are allowed to see, if they're allowed in the country at all? How would we have made Saddaam accept inspectors?

Wishful thinking.
2.9.2007 11:44am
Cold Warrior:
rarango says:


It is about analyzing scholarship; eg, would you accept Bellasile's work on gun ownership as true, or Hernnstein and Murry's work on race as true?


Bellisle's work? It seems quite obvious to me that he manufactured data, and then claimed (very unpersuasively) that his raw data were destroyed in a flood or some such thing.

Murray? An error of a different sort: drawing unfounded conclusions from data available in the public record.

Lembcke? He may be guilty of drawing unfounded inferences about the collective American psyche; I dismiss his "sociologizing" as claptrap. But (here we go again) what exactly is erroneous about his primary points: (1) that there were no contemporaneous reports of protesters assembled at airports spitting at returning Vietnam vets; (2) that reports of of such "events" started appearing in large numbers around 1980?

So we have:

Academic fraud in a study in which the raw data are the very point(Bellisle); his "contribution" to historical research was supposedly his compilation of gun ownership statistics in the colonies. No one really cared about "why" the colonials decided that they didn't really need that many guns.

vs.

Poorly theorized research (Murray), in which there was no fiddling with the data, but in which the researcher drew sweeping and unfounded conclusions from that data.

vs.

Perfectly decent journalistic scholarship (Lembcke) in which the scholar demonstrates the lack of journalistic accounts of a phenomenon (spitting protests of returning vets at airports) that many Americans thought actually occurred, combined with an analysis of how such "reports" inceased greatly in frequency after the passage of about a decade, combined with some silly psychologizing about what it all means. The chief criticism of Lembcke seems to be: "I don't care about his question." "Why should I care if big spitting protests never occurred at airports as vets returned from Vietnam, when it is so readily apparent that men in uniform were spat at in so many different contexts in the same time period?" To which the answer is: "Go ahead, dismiss Lembcke's book as trivial." You're really saying, "His question is wrong." Which is a valid criticism, but isn't a criticism on the order of "It's academic fraud," or "It's sloppy social science research."

I have a feeling that most everyone who's fired up about Lembcke (not Lindgren, who has advanced social science training I gather) is simply unfamiliar with social science research. Lembcke's work (and it sure looks like a published dissertation to me) includes a fairly minor (but interesting, at least to me) study of a popular belief that establishes that there was an intriguing time lag between the alleged occurrences of the "spitting at disembarking vets" and the detailed reports thereof. Because it was probably a dissertation, Lembcke strived (and it looks to me like he failed badly here) to put this in a theoretical context -- you're not going to get a fairly trivial study like this one past a dissertation committee without a lot of theoretical claptrap.

So it is what it is.

Why must so many make so much of so little?
2.9.2007 12:45pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Cold. You may be right. The clear implication--implicit in his psychobabble--is that it didn't happen. But if all you're interested in is the time lag; right. What's the big deal.

If, on the other hand, you take this as it is clearly written, to mean that airport spitting didn't happen and, by extension, neither did any of the other stuff, then he's wrong, clearly wrong and your clinging to this is obviously a way of whitewashing what was loosely called The Movement.
2.9.2007 1:53pm
Justin (mail):
Yes, Mr. Aubrey, its the anti-war people here who were guilty of wishful thinking.

Paul Wolfowitz, realist:

"There's a lot of money to pay for this that doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people…and on a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years…We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon."

"It's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam's security forces and his army. Hard to imagine."

Donald Rumsfeld, realist:

"I don't know that there is much reconstruction to do."

There's obviously the Shia population in Iraq and the
Kurdish population in Iraq have been treated very badly by Saddam Hussein's regime, they represent a large fraction of the total. There is no question but that they would be welcomed."

Bill Kristol, realist:

"There's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's been almost no evidence of that at all. "Iraq's always been very secular."

Dick Cheney, realist:

"I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."

"My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators."

"We know he's been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."


George W. Bush, realist:

"Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

"Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties."

"Had we to do it over again, we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success,"

F**k Saddam, we're taking him out." (This one is my favorite. Foreign policy, playground style!)
2.9.2007 1:57pm
James Lindgren (mail):
BTW, some comments seem to be a bit confused on what kinds of stories Lembcke doesn't believe.

He specifically rejects as implausible the stories in Bob Greene's book Homecoming, which includes stories of people on the street (not in airports) spitting on soldiers on leave, or before going to Vietnam, stories of recruiters being spit on at campuses, etc. Lembcke most definitely does not say that the West Coast airport stories of miltary coming home on final separation from the service are false, but Greene's many other spitting stories are probably true. This stems in part because of Lembcke's belief that relations were warm between vets and anti-war demonstrators.

Jim Lindgren
2.9.2007 1:58pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Justin. To point out that everybody knows better than what you said, as well as you knowing better but hoping we don't, I'll waste my time on only one of your nonsensical comments.
We were greeted as liberators. I've talked to soldiers who said so. John Burns, of the NYT, said so, as well, although it faded due to looting (he says).
The rest of your stuff is either a direct quote but presuming there is something wrong with it, when there isn't, or basically nonsense.


However, the distraction didn't work. Cold and his buddies are trying to whitewash The Movement when they know better. As I keep saying, to Cold and Lembke and Shafer, what are you gonna do with those who were the subject of hostile acivities at the hands of US sillyvilians?
2.9.2007 2:21pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Justin wasn't trying to "distract" from anything. He was responding to absurdly inaccurate claims about what current folks who oppose the Iraq war think.

And whatever the merits of the "there was no documented spitting of this kind" piece vs. the "oh yes there was too spitting" retorts, it's painfully obvious at this point that what seems to be at stake here, especially for the "oh yes there was too spitting" folks, is the desire to cast some indirect aspersions against folks that oppose the current Iraq war.
2.9.2007 2:40pm
ibfamous (mail):
Has no one ever thought about the spitting story and how many holes there are in it? As it usually goes, a returning vet is spat upon in an airport, usually west coast, by an anti-war protester (read "hippie"), he is degraded, limps off in shame and is scarred for life by the incident.

I'm a vet and I can tell you if I had just done a tour and someone spat on me in the airport they would be bleeding soon afterwards. Don't you think that if it were as widespread as claimed some vet would have jacked up a hippie in the airport, and wouldn't that be news worthy? Isn't it convenient that all the stories seem to involve girls, so the vet has no possible physical recourse? All the edges to the story are too rounded to sound real.

Rumors and legends get reported in the news all the type -- anyone remember Saddam's WMD's -- its verifiable fact that passes the truth test.
2.9.2007 3:09pm
Aaron:
I think that we are conflating two different things here. ColdWarrior points out that there is a theme, in the collective memories of the war, of the ORGANIZED anti-war movement protesting, in an organized way, at the location of troops returning, and that at these protests, the troops were spit on. I believe that that is not true.

At the same time, were troops who had been overseas, who were now at home, abused verbally and, probably, spit on by individuals who we associate with the anti-war movement? Yes.

However, there is a distinct lack of documented proof regarding the first scenario (because it didn't happen), and the proof of the second scenario lies mostly in the anecdote of soldiers. That's it.

That is not to minimize the pain caused to our soldiers (OUR soldiers) by the actions of individuals. Rather, it is the collective lumping, by the right, of those sick individual acts into a tactic of the organized anti-war left that is being argued against by COldWarrior and Justin. By attributing the acts of the individuals to the anti-Vietnam war movement, some seek to tarnish by extension, the current anti-war movement. That is Justin's point.

Richard, you are raising a straw-man argument. No one is saying that not one soldier was spit on--just that there was no contemporary evidence documenting those events. I personally believe that soldiers were spit on -just not by an organized protest group, demostrating during the re-entry of vets into the country.
2.9.2007 3:44pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
ibfamous.

The holes in the story are solely that Lembke can't find contemporaneous news accounts. The implication is that anybody who, then or later, said it happened to them made it up. No news accounts to back them up.

That leaves the people to whom it happened in a kind of limbo.

Others have addressed the reasons for the rarity of violent responses, which seem reasonable.

However, the implication of the Lembke paper is that, since we don't have contemporaneous accounts in the news, it didn't happen. And that, since the restrictive case (namvets in airports on the west coast) didn't happen, none of the other stuff happened, either.

That runs into the problem, as I have said, of all the folks, including me and my family, to whom it happened.
2.9.2007 3:46pm
Justin (mail):
Richard Aubrey,

Let me tell you how much your unbacked assertion of anonymous third person hearsay means to me ::rolls eyes::
2.9.2007 3:59pm
Cold Warrior:

However, the implication of the Lembke paper is that, since we don't have contemporaneous accounts in the news, it didn't happen. And that, since the restrictive case (namvets in airports on the west coast) didn't happen, none of the other stuff happened, either.


Wow. This really will never end. Can't wait for Lindgren's follow-up post so we can start on the bottom end of the doubleheader.

The quoted statement, above, is the kind of misunderstanding of the point of Lembcke's article that I've been going on about.

The point of Lembcke's article is this: What explains the fact -- and it seems clear that it is a fact -- that there were far more reports in the popular press of spitting incidents 10 years after the fact than there were at the time of the alleged incidents?

And even if there were spitting incidents involving returning soldiers from 1967-74, it is still rather interesting that the volume (and reported intensity) of such reported incidents increased many years after the fact.

Again: a simple point. Were there more news stories about 9/11 in October 2001 than there are today? Of course; that's to be expected. But a reverse phenomenon occurred here. It's unusual, and it's worth trying to quantify and explain it ... regardless of whether we can draw any sweeping Lembckesque conclusions from it.
2.9.2007 4:24pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Justin. Let me ask you why your opinion is supposed to be of interest to me.

In addition, what is third-person about relating what happened to me?

I don't believe it's a strawman argument that it was said nothing bad happened. There is no other reason for Lembke's speculation as to the psychological causes of fabulation if we were allowing that it happened.

I was on campus until 1968. What constituted "organized" is pretty vague. If a couple of members of an organized group decide to go off and harass soldiers on their own, is this "organized"? Okay, say it isn't. Does that mean it does not reflect badly on the group? After all, the group attracted the kinds of people who did this and probably did not throw them out when they found out what had happened.

If a small group decides to go as an organization and harass soldiers, does that mean nothing organized happened because there weren't many?

How can you get a bunch of people to a place where soldiers could be expected if you didn't organize some kind of transport and timing?

One of the things the neo-nazis do is preach hatred and violence and hope somebody will act on his own. The "lone wolf" thus has no trail back to the Grand Poobah of the Aryan Nation. Does the Aryan Nation or a similar group have responsibility? Most people would say yes. If a bunch of unaffiliated people decided, based on the rhetoric of the anti-war groups, to act on their own, does the anti-war movement bear any responsibilty?

The fact is, the antiwar movement did some despicable things back then, and many of them are back in it. They don't call the bereaved families and harass them any longer. I presume their ethics have been modified by the existence of caller ID.

Nevertheless, the idea that it didn't happen is nonsense, and that it wasn't "orgainized" is not proven, and wouldn't be much of a point if it were.
2.9.2007 4:30pm
Justin (mail):
Ignoring the off-point and Godwin's law commentary, I don't care if its of interest to you, but I assume you were attempting to rebut an argument in a public sphere with what amounts to an assertion of personal authority. If so, I don't credit it - sorry.
2.9.2007 5:00pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Aaron:

I give you credit for trying to introduce sanity at this late point.

Beyond that. . . . Gosh, people in the anti-choice "movement" have done some really awful things (much worse than spitting). Can I start extrapolating?
2.9.2007 5:15pm
Kevin Bowman:
Lembcke's claim that stories started appearing around 1980 is complete and utter nonsense and cannot possibly be ascribed to anything other than very shoddy scholarship and poor research.

Here is a link to a 1971 Congressional subcommittee book, and the relevant quote:

Drug Abuse

"In one sense one could argue that it would not be vastly different from another war. In World War II people suffered incalculable hardships, however they had one sustaining hope. The war was only one slice out of the pie of their lives, it would be over at a certain point and they would return to a different sort of world where what they had done would be appreciated and rewarded. 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. Rather than coming home and being rewarded for their participation, they are going to be hated, despised almost as thoroughly as they are by the people they are now forced to live among in Vietnam."

Here's a quote from a 1975 article by Victor De Fazio, one of the early proponents of "Vietnam syndrome" in the Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy


The Vietnam Era Veteran: Psychological problems

"The classic tale told by vets, one which can almost be categorized as a myth, is that in which a returning combat vet stepped off a plane was greeted by a hip-beautiful honey blond who proceeded to spit in his face and call him a 'baby killer.' It is a story in which the sweet promise of the 'real world' turns sour."

Saying that Lembcke's book is all about debunking the "airport" myth rather than the spitting myth is either wildly dishonest or grossly misinformed. It is not. Go look at it yourself.

If anyone claims that there "are no police reports" I will believe it only if a diligent effort was made to find them. Lembke claims he went looking for references to spitting on vets from the late 60's and early 70's. He obviously didn't look either that well or that hard.
2.9.2007 5:18pm
Aaron:
Richard, reasoning by anecdote is not a relaible way of demonstrating historical fact. That is Lambke's point. So he went back, looked, and found that there wasn't any documentation supporting the meme "organized protests took place where the protested spit on the returning soldiers". That's it.

Then he noticed that a rash of such stories occurred later on, in a way that is counter-intuitive to how memory works (I don't know about you, but for most people that I know, memories tend to fade with time), but IS consistent with how urban legends become fixed in our consciousness. His conclusion; there are no documented reports of the spitting meme; his speculation; other times and occurrence of spitting became collectived into the collective memory of protesters spitting on returning vets.

The post was written, and a certain segment of the commenters then linked the reprehensible behavior of the individual Vietnam anti-war protesters to a general culpability of modern anti-war protesters. Justin called you on it. You got defensive, and accused us of denying your recollection of events, even though your events a) did not occur as you return from active duty overseas (the subject of Lambke's study) and b)were not documented (as Lambke said they were not).

Again, I don't doubt that what you say happened, happened. I DO know that there is no evidence, OTHER THAN YOUR SAY-SO that it happened. Anecdote is not documentary evidence. That is the sum total.

On behalf of most of the liberals commenting, and the majority of anti-war protesters; thanks for your service. The people who assaulted you suck, and I disavow them. I hope that you can come to some peace with the horrible injustice that was done to you, and STOP ATTRIBUTING THE ACTS OF A FEW DEMENTED ASSHOLES TO AN ENTIRE MOVEMENT!
2.9.2007 5:27pm
Kevin Bowman:
Cold Warrior:

Let's stop arguing about what Lembcke's point is: Here is what Lembcke says himself in his book (look it up yourself on Google books) pp. 73-74.
"Slightly less but still compelling evidence might be found in news reports from the late 1960's and early 1970's" ... "The fact that there are no news reports of spitting on veterans raises doubts about whether such incidents ever occurred...If spitting on veterans had occurred all that frequently, surely some veteran or soldier would have called it to the attention of the press at the time."

It doesn't take much research to find "news reports of spitting on veterans" from "the late 1960's and early 1970's." So, the premise of Lembcke's argument is false. It requires that we trust him as a researcher, and he has proven himself to be a very poor one.

I have seen no evidence that the frequency of such stories increased ten years after the war. They seem to have been common enough before 1975. Even if it were true, there are many and better explanations than "it's all bogus" and "everybody but me is lying." Maybe it's because, in the ordinary publishing cycle, Vietnam Vets didn't begin publishing their stories until a few years after the war was over.
2.9.2007 5:39pm
Matt L.:
Mr. Lingren, I think you missed my two main points.

1) I think you are failing to deal with the contention of Lembcke's that is most defensible. This is poor methodologically because it is essentially predicated upon a straw man fallacy. You are trying to deal with what follows from the most defensible contention by attacking the least defensible one (and one that is clearly not Lembcke's considered opinion given he explicitly grants that it probably happened on some small scale).

You can certainly show that some soldiers were spat upon by some people. But Lembcke's positive assertion (if true) show that the historical record provides evidence that there has been a pervasive and ahistorical mythologizing about the frequency and type of these incidents.

It's clear that today many people, include many on this thread, think that stuff like this happened regularly and that (and I think this is important) the incidents were perpetrated by explicitly anti-war figures who did this because of their political views regarding Vietnam and/or the military.

The historical record does show evidence that at least once pro-war protesters spat upon an anti-war protesters. And you seem to grant that there is actually considerable evidence of this. But nobody today talks about how the veterans or the hawks spat upon the hippies. Why the discrepancy? Why don't people think "both sides spat upon one another?"

I would submit that the image of a returning veteran being spat upon by someone for explicitly political disagreements strikes a chord in most Americans. In a nutshell and as an image or metaphor it encapsulates many of the critiques the pro-war Right had against the anti-war Left.

You have demonstrated that already by 1971 some soldiers were fabricating stories of this type (or at least that in your words "a brilliant behavioral scientist" thought it likely that they were being fabricated). So Lembcke's main point has some prima facie evidence. The Stars and Stripes article you quote shows that it's likely on some level that stories of these types were exaggerated. Indeed, you have demonstrated something that Lembcke wasn't trying to demonstrate, which is that the mythologizing began as early as 1971.

Methodologically, Lembcke would have been on stronger footing had he shown the contemporaneous historical record of some other ideas that have a similar amount of cultural validity and then contrasted it with the stories about spitting. I bet if you look to find newspaper accounts of anti-war protesters calling soldiers "fascists" you would find many, many more examples of it than the scant evidence you've put forth in this post.

But someone (it escapes me who and I can track down the reference if necessary) showed four different accounts of former Sen. George Allen spitting tobacco at the feet of women. So if there are four different accounts of the spiting behavior of one Senator, why so few contemporaneous accounts of something thought now to be done by so many people that is so laden with political meaning?

You can show what Lembcke grants, which is that these things probably did happen to some degree. But the anti-war Left is thought to be responsible for a widespread and explicitly political type of activity. Why can't you come up with more evidence of this? Until and unless you can, it strikes me that the major thrust of Lembcke's point is true.

Namely, the starting point of Lembcke's argument (and we see evidence of this in this thread) is that the anti-war Left is currently associated with an image. Lembcke's point is that this association is in large part ahistorical and in fact somewhat mythological.

When people talk about veterans being spat upon, I suspect most at least implicitly think it was a pervasive phenomenon perpetrated by people who were in some way emblematic of the anti-war movement. To the degree that the phenomenon was a) far less extensive than thought and b) less explicitly political, Lembcke's point seems to hold.

2) Given the fact that Lembcke shows that we now think the phenomenon was more widespread than it was (or more widespread than we have evidence to believe it was) you cannot simply ascribe the fabulations of 1971 to the cultural cliche because it assumes the point you're trying to prove. This is an example of a logical fallacy known as begging the question. Specifically, Lembcke's argument is that it's simply not true that by 1971 there was such a widespread cultural cliche about soldier's being spat upon after coming home. However the fabulations you think result from the cliche can only be thought to result from the cliche if the cliche already existed. So you have introduced your conclusion (or an implication of your conclusion) as a premise of your argument.

Furthermore, as I stated above, the account by Zinberg seems to provide prima facie evidence that there were already some soldiers making stuff up by 1971. So even if you can find contemporaneous account, how can you know whether these account were factual or rather whether they resulted from the fabulations of soldiers? If soldiers told Zinberg apocryphal stories in 1971, why is it so hard to believe that some soldiers told apocryphal stories to others about the same thing later? Furthermore, as these apocryphal stories were accepted as true by well-intentioned listeners who had no reason to suspect they were false, and as those listeners in turn repeated in all earnestness the stories they were told, the phenomenon would be taken to be larger than it actually was.

Finally, you yourself have tried to adduce "We're going to get a couple of sailors" as evidence that Lembcke missed relevant contemporaneous historical examples of the phenomenon under consideration. The problem with that is that you have failed to show that there anything political about the motives of the belligerent students attacking the soldiers or indeed that they were part of the anti-war Left.

Let's consider the quote (emphasis mine):


For example, on October 6, 1967, John F. Geyer and Bill Bowers, two sailors in uniform on a ten-day leave before shipping out, were accosted and taunted by a group of about ten young men while leaving a high-school football game in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Bowers heard one of them say, "We're going to get a couple of sailors." Then one of the band of attackers spat at Geyer, hitting both Geyer and Bowers. Geyer, who was a former high-school football lineman, swung at his attacker. The attacker then stabbed Geyer in the side with a knife. After two hospital stays, Geyer fully recovered. In January and February, 1968, Geyer's 18-year-old attacker was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to a reformatory. All this is laid out in a series of stories in the local newspaper, the Bucks County Courier Times.


How many hippies do you know who carried knives around? Isn't the fact that the one of the attackers had a knife and the fact that they were clearly looking for a fight (given the quote about getting) simply evidence of the belligerence of the attackers? Not to mention the attacker was 18-years-old.

So please explain to me why we ought to take this example as anything other than a young tough coming back from a football game picking a fight to show how macho he is? Or maybe an example of a mentally unstable or anti-social person who simply had a tendency towards violence. And in any event, it's entirely unclear to me why even if these attackers were in fact part of the anti-war movement (hippies or otherwise), why they ought to be taken as any way representative of it?

I mean, assuming that the story provided evidence that soldiers were spit upon by the anti-war Left, doesn't it also ipso facto provide evidence that soldiers were stabbed by the anti-war Left? And if so, why isn't there a cultural image of hippies stabbing soldiers on par with the image of soldiers getting spat upon? (I am leaving to the side the metaphorical "stabbed in the back" meme which is clearly different from literal sticking a sharp object into someone's body).

In sum, I think your whole argument is predicated upon at least two logical fallacies. Moreover, your "evidence" seems to mitigate against the point you made, rather than support it. The big irony for me is that some of your "evidence" that Lembcke missed contemporaneous examples actually supports Lembcke's contention.

You have done a good job of showing that there is some contemporaneous evidence that soldiers were spat upon by some people. But you have done nothing to show that there is a contemporaneous and widespread historical record (perhaps on par with the pro-war hawks spitting on the anti-war protesters) of anti-war people (much less exemplars of the anti-war Left) spitting on soldiers.
2.9.2007 5:43pm
Kevin Bowman (mail):
Aaron:

If Lembcke and his minions represent anti-war protestors and anti-war protestors would like to distance themselves from the "few dememented" folks who spat on vets, maybe there would be better ways of going about that than saying that the Vietnam war vets who reported being spat upon are all a bunch of liars spreading an urban legend? Dyuh think, maybe?

Somehow "thanks for your service" seems a little hollow when it follows, "you and your friends a liars."

Matt L:
What is this widespread historical record of spitting on anti-war protestors. I deny that it ever happened unless I see police reports.
2.9.2007 6:00pm
Kevin Bowman (mail):
Matt L:

You say: "Lembcke's argument is that it's simply not true that by 1971 there was such a widespread cultural cliche about soldier's being spat upon after coming home."

Well, Lembcke's argument is wrong. It simply IS true. See the above quotes from 1971 and 1975. It was very widespread. The fact that Lemcke did not find this only proves he is a poor researcher or that he found only what he intended to find.
2.9.2007 6:13pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Aaron. Hostile acts happened to me and to my family. I really can't see how you can make that a non-happening.

We have a number of fallback positions: Yeah, it happened, but not at an airport, so it doesn't count.
Yeah, it wasn't spitting, so The Movement is pure as the driven snow.
The lack, suppposedly, of contemporaneous news reports, is meaningless unless a larger lesson is to be drawn, which can only be that it didn't happen.

Or, if it did, you can't produce a memo from the SDS honchos on the urgency of spitting on troops, so it didn't happen or if it did, the SDS isn't responsible, or if they are, you can't prove it, and besides, since you have no memo, it didn't happen.

I keep asking how you intend to deal with the people to whom this sort of thing happened. So far, no answer.

I think we're talking past each other. You (all) know it happened but are desperate to distance yourselves. So you pretend. Have you thought about how that makes you look to those to whom this stuff happened?


As to "get a sailor". I think you're not supposed to reason by anecdote.
2.9.2007 6:14pm
Mac (mail):
Will D. You are welcome and I thank you for the web site. If you are a person who values facts and cares about people, you will continue stepping in the direction in which you are going. Been there, done that myself.


I seem to be hearing that the anti-war groups were sweet and pure and innocent children who with the exception of a few bad apples, would never have done anything mean. Does anyone happen to remember the 1968 'Democratic Convention in Chicago? How about the ROTC building being burnt to the ground at Washington University and Mr. Howard Mechanic (current name and unfortunately an obnoxious resident of my city) throwing a cherry bomb at the firefighters? I remember that well as I was there. Also, unfortunate that after being a fugitive lo these many years, he was pardoned by Clinton. I will never forgive Clinton for this as Mr. Mechanic is now free to do what he was undoubtably doing then, calling people names and accusing them of crimes and a lack of integrity if they have the temerity to disagree with him.
I attended a few antiwar demonstrations. After all, it was what one "did". I vividly recall numerous folks screaming at the police and calling them pigs. I will never forget one officer, who reminded me of my father, who just stood there in a Zen demeaner and didn't bat an eyelash. I remember wondering how anyone could yell and scream at a perfect stranger who had done nothing to them? Probably, because I was very active in the very dangerous Civil Rights Movment, I was appalled that my contemporaries were engaging in stereotyping and hate speech. Quite frankly, there were many parallels between the behavior of the antiwar crowd and white racists. To be specific, you identify a group and demonize all of them and justify your behavior because "they" are evil.
The protesters, by and large, really were not nice people. Nor was there anything noble about them. From what I saw with my own eyes, I would be amazed if they didn't spit on soldiers, if they had the chance. Self control was not their thing.

Dennis Praeger says that being on the Left means never having to say you are sorry. I think he is right and this is just another example of it.
2.9.2007 8:32pm
Igor:
A note of appreciation to Cold Warrior; one of the very few sensible voices in this discussion. I strongly recommend reading the book. I am half-way through. I will say that I do not find all of the book as compelling as the debunking of the myth. But find the rationale convincing.

I would add 3-points to this discussion. The first would be for everyone to watch Sir, No Sir or visit the excellent website of this film. Going from memory, I believe Lembcke makes an appearance (Along with the scene from First Blood; decrying the hippi-chick spitting). The main point would be to hear the stories of the active-duty resistors and to see the Large and appreciative active-duty audiences the anti-war FTA-Fonda-led shows drew.
The second point would be this, the soldiers returning home were the brothers, boyfriends and sons, the anti-war crowd was primarily made up of people who didn't want these people sent in harms' way (and did not themselves want to be go to that hell-hole). Many of the vets returning in 67 - 68 felt the same way and were a problem for the White House. Not to muddy the waters, but I hate the Iraq War, I am disgusted by Abu Grahib, do I lame the soldiers? Hell no, it is the civilian leadership that bears responsibility. When I watch the News Hour, I am saddened by the loss of life by my countrymen and I worry about the children of friends, etc. Vietnam was very similar. The draft meant that many that were sent to vietnam went unwillingly, whereas today their volunteer status provides cover to war-apologists.
lastly, I think the freudian underpinnings of the gender component of this myth, were precisely what the Nixon psych-ops types that originated it had in mind when they created this little scenario. However, I cannot imagine a veteran baby-killer, etc returning from Vietnam would not annihilate a man spitting on him whereas the honourable warrior spit upon by some "girl" would not retaliate physically. I do not blame current the soldiers fighting this war, though - undoubtedly - some have been war criminals, but even if I did blame them I would not in my wildest dreams contemplate spitting on one of them in a public place, I'd probably get killed. On the other hand I can imagine getting pretty abusive with an aggressive recruiter coming after my kid, or if I was protesting the war and some reactionary 'Daley' cop type got rough I would respond.
I think that most of the people shouting out ought to at least read the book before they blab about the quality of the scholarship. From what I've seen so far it exceeds that presented here in opposition by a great deal. There has been much hand-wringing and emoting about the Left's willingness to 're-write' history. I would submit that a more accurate characterization is that after years of official lies, the truth is uncovered, and some folks don't handle it real well.
2.9.2007 9:32pm
FredR (mail):
Let's go back to Karl Popper's axiom that any valid scientific thesis has to be falsifiable. He used the example of a thesis that all swans are white. To falsify this one has only to come up with a black swan. That's what Lindgren has done here -- found a few black swans.

Lembcke's thesis was that there were *no* spitting incidents against veterans -- that these claims were "bogus" and "urban legends." He made no qualifications, thus his thesis is busted once you can come up with a valid incident. It is no defense to say that black swans or spitting incidents are uncommon.

Lindgren, unlike Lembcke, did not make a formal study but only a quick check and found several incidents, which suggests that an in-depth study would probably find many more. If Lembcke wants to revise his thesis to say that some incidents did occur but were later exaggerated, he needs to start over.

Lembcke also makes a number of questionable assumptions, such as "if spitting on veterans had occurred all that frequently, surely some veteran or soldier would have called it to the attention of the press at the time." Maybe, maybe not. He has no idea what the press of the time considered news. An alternative explanation might be that it was so common no one bothered to write about it. Or just didn't want to. Lots of things don't make it into the press, and there were no bloggers to keep them honest.

The biggest problem, still, is that his conclusions are almost certainly an artifact -- that is, a reflection of the data itself and not a representation of something real. Example: you search for a certain phenomenon in the 60s and find no evidence for it, so you announce it didn't happen. But if your database only goes back to 1980, the lack of evidence is an artifact, a limitation of your data. You don't know whether it happened or not. That seems to be the case here. Someone else mentioned that certain kinds of incidents appear to becoming more common, but this may well be an artifact of the increasing size of the online databases.

In short the whole study reeks of the two big problems that haunt the soft sciences -- expectation bias and failure to consider alternative explanations. If you didn't know better you'd almost think it was designed that way.
2.9.2007 10:30pm
Cold Warrior:
Kevin Bowman: thanks. I'll click through the links this weekend. It strikes me that you might've found the first solid evidence of the "spat on upon return" story. I will note, however, that even as far back as 1975 it seems that the symbolic ("we put our lives on the line in Vietnam and got spat on for it") was starting to blend with the factual.

Igor: thanks. Good to know there's more people out there who are able to separate the argument from the political leanings of the arguer.

FredR: some interesting thoughts. Popper, however, wouldn't really provide the best model for what is by all accounts "soft" social science. This is really cultural criticism, not science.

All in all, I'd say I'm convinced that there were probably incidents of returning vets being spat on at airports as they returned. And I'm still convinced that popular consciousness in the 1980s did give rise to a rather more elaborate scenario in which protesters "greeted" returning vets on the tarmac, hurling spittle and insults at them. And I'm still convinced that that never happened. And I do think the origins of that idea coincide with the Rambo "First Blood" era, so there is still a valid point to Lembcke's study. But he should stop saying there's "no evidence" and that the "spit on returning vets" story is an urban myth.

See ... I can be swayed. Lindgren's examples didn't do it; they weren't on point. Some commenters here did better. That's the power of blogs and internet communities, I guess.

I'll sum up: if you aren't familiar with the whole "urban legend" thing, go poke around snopes.com for a while. Here's how this would show up on that site:

Statement: "Veterans returning from Vietnam were greeted by protesters at the airport who spit at them and yelled things at them including, "baby killer."

It would get a yellow dot, meaning "Identifies statements of undetermined or ambiguous veracity." The comment would explain that there are many reliable reports of veterans being spit on, including some involving returning vets, but no reports of organized protests meeting aircraft returning from Vietnam.

Guess what? I think we may have agreement here.

Isn't the internet great?
2.9.2007 10:53pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The insistence on the airport-spit issue is, I suppose, interesting, and it 's what Lembke discussed, so it's what we discuss.
However, as an earlier poster pointed out, spitting on soldiers was not the only, not the most common, and not the worst thing, the antiwar movement did.
IMO, the reason for concentrating on airport-spitting is to imply, since it cannot be proven by Lembke's artificial standards, that none of the other stuff happened either.
The airport-spitting is chosen, I suspect, for the obvious reason that it is the easiest to dismiss, there being plenty of reports of other despicable behavior too numerous to whitewash.

Cold. You don't actually have a contrast there. Did Lembke require that the airport-spitting be proven as organized in order to count? If it wasn't organized, it didn't happen? If he did, how did he define organized? If he didn't require it be "organized", how does the lack of organized spitting prove anything if the assertion is spitting with no additional component of some ill-defined organization?
I don't recall anybody saying anything about organized in the "myth". So proving it wasn't organized, or proving you can't prove it was organized is meaningless.
Missed again.
2.9.2007 11:15pm
Igor:
Unless or until you read the book, many of the positions you project onto Lembcke's book are just that, your projections. As it happens, Lembcke's thesis is that this myth was constructed to discredit the anti-war movement. This means that it needed to be an organized and coordinated activity. Remember the Gulf War, the soldier who came home &was murdered by his wife? You could hardly discredit any group based on this one incident. If there were four or five such incidents, you might scratch your head &think its a weird coincidence, but if it appeared organized, you could then point the finger of guilt. The supposed animosity of the 'Left' toward the boys fighting for our freedom, isn't quite as compelling if it happens 12 times over ten years. The airport isn't Lembcke's idea, it is where the supposed incidents reportedly occurred. So, the specific black swans (Red Herrings?) cited above do not repudiate Lembcke's thesis.
I have not read every single entry above, so may be repeating something here, but another component to Lembcke's arguement is as follows:

'Most interestingly, we find in the news reports of the March 26 demonstrations some of the first instances of spitting; however, in all such instances it was the protestors being spat upon by war supporters.'

This is '66 he is referring to. These reports were in the Chicago Tribune of 1966. Lembcke suggests that the myth was constructed out of this historical fact, and twisted so that it discredited the anti-war movement. I don't think you can argue about what Lembcke's POV on this is without reading the book with any credibility.
2.10.2007 12:17am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Igor. Your planted axiom is that the only hostile actions by the anti-war movement were spitting at airports.
Wrong.
And even if there were absolutely no spitting at airports, that proves nothing about the other actions, although the implication is that, if airport spitting did not happen--which is not true--nothing else happened either.

The problem with planting an axiom is if somebody catches you.
2.10.2007 7:27am
Igor:
Hi My name is Doktor EVIL. I am a Bolshevik. A few years back, me and my comrades wanted to destroy the American Way of Life, so we decided to make them lose in Vietnam by humiliating the running dog imperialist fighting forces. The question was, How to do this? The war was unpopular, they drafted ordinary citizens that couldn't get deferments or assignments to non-combat forces and their experience was so horrible that "research done by the Veterans' World Project at Southern Illinois University found it "difficult if not impossible to find a 'hawk' among Vietnam veterans. "'Very few, the researchers reported, "finish their servicein Vietnambelieving what the United States has done there has served to forward our nation's purposes". So, they were unlikely to wander around in the uniform (this being the way a crowd of bloshevik protestors could identify these strangers). What to do, what to do (excuse me while I twist my mustachios). It was then that it hit me, airports being great places for civil disturbances, we could all go down to our local commercial airport and wait for planeloads of GIs to land whereupon we could yell at them and if they ever got close enough, spit on them. The soldiers wouldn't retaliate, airport security would't come after us, we could do it so often as to make it commonplace and not newsworthy, even our own promotional literature which celebrated every sit-in as if it were the Freedom March, wouldn't spread this propaganda by the deed victory because it was so ho hum. Also, due to ethical considerations, the FBI would never target us and throw a bunch of us in jail for assault because it would tend to curb political discourse. Then, years later when bitter, angry citizen-soldiers related their stories of how 'When They Returned They Were Spat Upon In The Airport By Anti-War Demonstrators' no one (except the really clever ones) would ever believe them. All due to my really excellent organizational skills. Thank you, Thank You
2.10.2007 11:20am
Igor:
Richard:

That is quite a lovely axiom planted in your forhead (or is it an animus somewhere else), however, since this discussion is not about whether anti-war folk are good or evil, but about whether they specifically Spit on Veterans When They Came Home From The War or not, please start your list of charges in another Thread.

Peace,
Igor
2.10.2007 11:26am
FredR (mail):
Science is science, Cold Warrior. Unlike some other things I can think of, it makes no difference whether it is soft or hard. You come up with a falsifiable thesis and you test it. If it's false you start over again.

If Lembcke wants to write social criticism, he should go to the English Dept. You have, however, put your finger in a major problem in academia today -- social criticism dresed up to look like science.
2.10.2007 12:05pm
Tantor (mail) (www):
Adeez: "Well, every poll I've ever heard of on the issue demonstrates that an overwhelming majority of our soldiers believes that Saddam had a connection to 9/11. So, yes, the people that believe that are unfortunately naive and in a sense being duped. That's not contempt: that's truth."

Mohammed Atta met with one of Saddam's spies in Prague. Two of the Sep 11 skyjackers were conducted to a meeting of Islamic terrorists in Kuala Lumpur by one of Saddam's agents who attended it with them. That constitutes a connection. How deep that connection goes is debatable but its existence is not. Knowing this makes you informed while denying this makes you uninformed. If you accept the Left's denial of these important facts, then you are the one who is naive and being duped. As Reagan said, the problem with the Left is that they know so many things that just aren't so.
2.10.2007 2:49pm
Kevin Bowman (mail):
Cold Warrior:

You're right, we may be in agreement. I am open minded as to whether there were organized protests at airports. We do know that at least one anti-war group did stake out space at airports with the purpose of encountering returning vets. See the Steve Rees article linked above. So, I do not discount the possibility that less friendly greetings may have been organized. A time magazine story from 1979 seems to indicate something like that happened.

Popular culture's sympathetic interest in Vietnam Vets did increase a great deal in the eighties, something I remember better than the war itself. For example, many performers began writing Vietnam vet songs from a perspective unknown in the previous decade (e.g., Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Huey Lewis). Increased interest in spitting stories and other stories of ingratitude or hostility toward vets may have coincided with the somewhat fashionable interest in vets in the 80's.

Anyone serious about tracing the history of the meme should look up a January 1979 Lou Grant episode entitled "Vet." Rambo's speech in First Blood is practically a copyright violation of the Lou Grant script. That's the earliest pop-culture reference I can find, although evidence shows that the meme was well-established among GI's by 1971 at the latest.

Given Lembcke's intense dislike of the message of the movie Coming Home and the Lou Grant episode predating Rambo, there is some irony that we can maybe blame the whole thing on Jane Fonda and Ed Asner.
2.11.2007 2:24am
Justin (mail):
Dude, for the last of 8 zillion times:

"Mohammed Atta met with one of Saddam's spies in Prague"

is a FALSE STATEMENT

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atta_in_Prague
2.11.2007 12:32pm
Cold Warrior:
Kevin Bowman:

I'm glad I checked back one last time You've done some nice digging here.

The TIME article you link to starts:

In wars past, when Johnny came marching home, he could expect cheers and bands. He could also look forward to a gratitude that helped him come to terms with the horrors he had endured and gave him a feeling that his sacrifices meant something. For the Viet Nam veteran, coming home was far less glorious. "You know about the class of '46, the guys who came back after World War II, greeted with parades and jobs," says Alan Fitzgerald, 30, a drafted infantryman who fought near the Cambodian border in 1970. "When I came back and landed at San Francisco airport with 200 others, we were spit on and kicked at."

And I trust you're correct, too, about the "Lou Grant" thing.

So there we have it. Spitting incidents involving men in uniform were fairly commonplace in the 1970s; these incidents gave rise, quite unexpectedly, to a stock story just like the one "Alan Fitgerald" related to TIME in 1979: 200 vets come home to SFO and are greeted by protesters spitting and kicking at them. And we know that never happened, at least not in any organized way.

Although the TIME article picks up on the emerging meme, it also sees the other side of the coin: linked to these tales of systematic abuse of returning vets is the emerging stereotype of the maladjusted, seriously mentally and emotionally disturbed Vietnam vet. It bears remembering that the "urban legend" of the spit-upon returning vet goes hand-in-hand with this other untrue and damaging stereotype.
2.12.2007 12:16am
Mac (mail):
Cold Warrier

"Although the TIME article picks up on the emerging meme, it also sees the other side of the coin: linked to these tales of systematic abuse of returning vets is the emerging stereotype of the maladjusted, seriously mentally and emotionally disturbed Vietnam vet. It bears remembering that the "urban legend" of the spit-upon returning vet goes hand-in-hand with this other untrue and damaging stereotype."

The fact that the later is untrue and has been so proven, does not, by definition, make the former untrue as well. Either facts bear them out or they don't. It is not a quid pro quo.
2.12.2007 3:50pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
1) Lembcke asserted that he "found nothing. No news reports or even claims that someone was being spat on" from the period 1965-75. Not 'only a handful', or 'very few', or 'only in supermarket tabloids', "nothing". Not "even claims". Lembcke wrote an entire book on the subject, so presumably he spent weeks or months looking.

Professor Lindgren, in the limited spare time available to him as a full-time instructor of law and an active legal scholar, quickly found several contemporary news reports of such incidents, and of related actions (such as Army directives to returning soldiers), from very reputable sources.

Lembcke's credibility is zero, in my view.

2) Some commenters insist such events never happened. On March 2, 2005, I was privileged to attend an interview with Sergeant Sammy L. Davis (U.S. Army-ret) at the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago. Sgt. Davis received the Medal of Honor for his actions west of Cai Lay, Vietnam, November 18, 1967. (Read the citation here.)

Sgt. Davis told the story of his actions. He also told of returning to the U.S., and being attacked at San Francisco Airport by a band of 'protesters' with 'walking sticks' and bags of feces. The archived webcast can be viewed here.
The segment where he discusses this incident is at about 5 minutes from the end.

(Sgt. Davis also recounts the day he spoke at UC Berkeley as a representative of the Army. The audience was extremely hostile, pelting the stage with garbage. But when he came down the stairs at the back, he was met by four girls who told him "We want you to know that we are here to protest the war, not the warrior.")

3) The war protesters believed American soldiers routinely committed atrocities. One very prominent war protester told the U.S. Senate that our soldiers had "raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country." If that was what protesters truly believed, then their visiting personal abuse on soldiers was entirely predictable.
2.12.2007 4:15pm
just wandered in (mail):
Man, do any of you people have jobs?
2.13.2007 12:05am