An oddity associated with He graduated from Notre Dame prior to being commissioned, and after his service returned to law school to cash in his educational benefits. He was honorably discharged in 1968. “And instead of getting return peace fingers, I got the middle finger.”. and 'Baby killer!' “The collective emotion of the country was divided,” says Jerry Lembke, a Vietnam veteran, sociologist and author of The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam. For those unfamiliar with the phrase stab-in-the-back in the context of wars, it’s used to describe a conspiracy theory, very popular with the Nazis and usually with anti-Semitic scapegoating, that Germany didn’t lose because of military factors but instead because of sabotage on the home front. Since 9/11, patriotic gestures, like wearing flag pins and saying, “Thank you for your service,” have become common, as more troops are sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. of the Monument to the Vietnam War Dead in Washington, D.C. Some, like Wowwk, say they had invectives hurled their way; others, like naval officer Ford Cole, remember being spit on. Then, as the fatigue-jacketed VVAW contingent marches by, upon obviously pre-arranged signal the lifers turn their backs on VVAW and we see a sea of brightly colored uniformed backs (asses). ", The Myth of the Troubled and Scorned Vietnam Veteran, nearly all quit using heroin upon return to the US, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stab-in-the-back_myth, nakedcapitalism.com/2017/10/case-spitting-legionnaire.html. honoring the Vietvets by declaring a Vietnam Veterans Week. However, he collected just as many letters from Vietnam veterans insisting that such anecdotes were false and created after the fact for reasons that all veterans knew. Some, like Wowwk, say they had invectives hurled their way; others, like naval officer Ford Cole, remember being spit on. ***** Sorry for not keeping up with you guys. 59-74, During the height of American participation in the Vietnam War in the For example, heroin use by soldiers was seen to indicate despair, although nearly all quit using heroin upon return to the US. She spits at these 22-year-old men who were forced to fight through the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam. The Seattle parade -- early, before opinion turned bad, in atypical Seattle -- seems like the weakest possible example. Drooling on the Vietnam Vets. Twice a week we compile our most fascinating features and deliver them straight to you. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, and our Terms of Service. No one. It's mentioned in the movie First Blood ("Rambo"): Then I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport protesting me, spitting. These were the ones who were using their situation as Vietnam era vets to justify every … 2020 Stack Exchange, Inc. user contributions under cc by-sa. As a cohort, Vietnam veterans were met with none of the fanfare and received none of the benefits bestowed upon World War II’s “greatest generation.” No ‘Welcome Home’ parades for Vietnam vets There seems too be a current meme—I see it a lot on facebook— that Vietnam vets were mistreated and spat upon when they returned. presented him as readjusting quite well to civilian life. As far as the spitting goes, most Vietnam vets I knew came home in the middle of the night and knew to go change into civvies ASAP. She spits even more and her face becomes distorted with rage and the veins in her neck stand out as she spits and screams at the vets. Then she spits again. For me—and I think most others returning—we transported in a civilian airplane, that landed on a military base, which would have greatly restricted civilians from being where they could protest against us. Strapped to a gurney in a retrofitted bus, Wowwk and other wounded servicemen felt excitement at being back on American soil. Three or four hundred lifers and colonels, resplendent in their dress uniforms, like brilliantly colored roosters, standing at stiff attention as the flags and little boys in uniform marched by. “Vietnam was a lost war, and it was the first major lost war abroad in American history,” Lembcke says. addition, Veterans' Day on 11 November 1979, was dedicated to the I'd like to hear from a Vietnam Vet's relative or someone that knows one to see whether this is true or not. “For the family whose son is just coming back, you aren’t going to have a public welcoming home ceremony when someone’s son just down the road was just sent off to Vietnam.”, As the war ground on and became increasingly hopeless, the military personnel put through this kind of revolving door of service came to represent something many Americans would rather not accept: defeat. Many vets will tell you it happened, and others will tell you that they never saw anything close to it. Myra MacPherson, in Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation (1984), considered the inability of Vietnam veterans to live up to the heroic story of their fathers' experiences in World War II. The people are restless. "26 Similar parades There was a lot of talk then about how anti-war protesters didn’t want to come off as being against the troops. The first American troops to be withdrawn from Vietnam (in 1969) were greeted by a parade in Seattle at which the crowd It would take nearly 20 years after the end of the war for America to get right with its Vietnam veterans. Literally because I saw others spat upon, and figuratively because to spit on one Vietnam veteran is to spit on them all. The $100 a plate at the Commodore tonight — I wonder how many of the vets on welfare will be there. Many veterans publicly confessed to My Lai-like incidents to provide their assent to a narrative of unwanted war with unwanted veterans. A group of amputee Vietnam veterans talk together at a hospital in San Francisco, California, 1967. Vietnam vets came home from that hell step off a plane so happy to be home and were pelted with garbage spit on called baby killers. By June, Wowwk had been wounded twice—the second time seriously—and was sent back to the United States for treatment at Boston’s Chelsea Naval Hospital. Dean has also written a book, Shook Over Hell (1997), which aims to demonstrate through comparison of primary sources that Vietnam veterans actually had a much warmer welcome and treatment than Civil War or WW2 veterans. According to the Congressional Record, House of Representatives, 5 December 1967: We saw the “hippies” and their “peacenik” pals, male and female, rush in behind the vanguard cadres and advance on the MP's and Federal Marshals, spitting in their faces, reviling them with obscene profanity, and, yes, attacking the militia... Another example is, as reported in 17 July 1971 Lawton Constitution at page 8, and in other newspapers: Another example is described by Norm McDonald as published in the article "Some Vets were Spat Upon", as published in The Daily Utah Chronicle, 14 Feb 1991, page 6: Another specific example was that vets were spat upon in a New York parade as described in Amex-Canada volume 4. ... “they were able to talk about the war. The idea that Vietnam veterans in the United States were spat on when they returned seems to have taken hold. On 3/29/2019 4:01 PM, Byker wrote: I did not experience that. Vietnam veterans hold a silent march down Pennsylvania Avenue past the White House here on April 22, 1971. “They were not necessarily looking for a parade, but they were certainly looking for basic human support and help in readjusting to civilian life after this really brutal war.”. These vets went on to have flash backs be awake for days&a lot of other side effects from having exposure to agent orange (our goverment authorized). I read all this garbage of no proof or photos showing anti-war protesters doing this therefore it … I spent the last 5 years caring for my ill wife at our home. Why were such anecdotes popular, and do they appropriately characterize what happened when Vietnam veterans came home? Only the VVAW article is about veterans. Does any occasion where any Vietnam vet was ever spit on by anyone for any reason count, or are you specifically looking for cases where veterans were spat on in public events by protesters? On the air on Thursday, Mr. Olbermann disparaged the old report of Vietnam veterans being spit upon when they came home: "And, oh, by the way, there is not one confirmed case, not one, of Americans spitting on veterans returning from Vietnam." And as more and more wartime atrocities came to light, there was a national implication of guilt and shame placed on Vietnam veterans as participants in and avatars of a brutal, unsuccessful war. Vietnam veterans, and Congress declared 26 April 1981 to be "Vietnam Veteran Recognition Day. Journal of American Studies, Vol. One gives the clenched fist sign of support as VVAW passes by. Peter Langenus, today the Commander of VFW Post 653 in New Canaan, Connecticut, commanded Delta Company, 3rd Battalion/7th Infantry, 199th Light Infantry Brigade from 1969-70. Unlike conflicts with massive demobilizations, men came back from Vietnam by themselves rather than with their units or companies. Then, up into the 50's. In fact, this article by Karner is one of the earliest uses of the phrase "toxic masculinity". He led his men on operations that lasted 30 days or more in some of Vietnam’s most inhospitable conditions, “without shaving, bathing or changing clothing. All Rights Reserved. If that's the earliest big parade the author could find... . developed in the late 1970s, and manifested itself primarily in various At Times Square there are more spitters and one older man chants while waving two flags, he chants and hoarsely, "Honor America, Honor America, Honor America". declarations, lavish parades for the Vietnam veterans, and the construction "To be spat on" can very well mean they were treated poorly in general, which is well documented (and still often the case with veterans of other conflicts in both the US and other countries). It’s better than them walking away and not even recognizing you. Literally because I saw others spat upon, and figuratively because to spit on one Vietnam veteran is to spit on them all. The dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982 began the process, but many identify the Gulf War of 1990-91—with its national flag-waving, yellow-ribbon cultural mobilization and the grand celebrations of a successful campaign—as ending Vietnam Syndrome. An Associated Press story of April 9 reported stories of spat-upon Vietnam veterans surfacing in several cities including Spicer, Minnesota whose mayor said he was spat upon in the San Francisco airport while coming home from Vietnam in 1971. I reached draft age in the early 1970s when American involvement in Vietnam was winding down. However, when I tried to find examples, real examples, photos, etc, all I could find was urban myth assertions. ticker-tape parade attended by one million people, many of whom held Lies! But what are you doing in addition to saying ‘thank you’?”. A 1985 parade? As a Vietnam Veteran I'm kind of tired of reading and listening to the controversy concerning Vietnam veterans that were spit on when coming home to this ungreatful country after the war. But denial of what we suffered dishonors us again. Twenty-one-year-old Steven A. Wowwk arrived as an infantryman in the Army’s First Cavalry Division in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam in early January 1969 to fight in an escalating and increasingly unwinnable war. Another sees this and gives a command. Calling me baby killer and all that vile crap! Yes, according to Honest Dissent vs. The idea that Vietnam veterans in the United States were spat on when they returned seems to have taken hold. If I were the only one to be spat upon, the score would be : not spat upon, 1,999,999, spat upon, 1. He also seems to whitewash the memorial. I remember how young they looked, and I think of how old these spitters with their fur coats look. But no, it's always a story passed along from your uncle's friend's cousin who lives in the next state, and it always takes place when a … A review published in the Los Angeles Times reads: "The image is ingrained: A Vietnam veteran, arriving home from the war, gets off a plane only to be greeted by an angry mob of antiwar protesters yelling, 'Murderer!' Its genesis was a controversial newspaper column of 20 July 1987 in which Chicago Tribune syndicated columnist Bob Greene asked whether there was any truth to the folklore that Vietnam veterans had been spat upon when they returned from the war zone. Literally because I saw others spat on, and figuratively because to spit on one Vietnam veteran is to spit on them all. The Vietnam War claimed the lives of more than 58,000 American service members and wounded more than 150,000. Anti-war activists had spat on troops returning from Vietnam… I used to read the the website Daily Kos, and some years ago, a group of progressive Vietnam veterans took this meme on by daring anybody to document an example of returning vets being spit on (the vets had an advantage of being familiar with the military units of the time, thus they could challenge people as to which unit they served in, etc) For a decade, as one person was shipped off to fight, another was returning. 26, No. The cannon fodder class is restless. These accounts are all basically handling essentially the same issue of veterans' experiences and memories failing to find a place in the national narrative of an unwinnable or betrayed war, as opposed to the veterans being literally welcomed home and thanked by their communities upon return from Vietnam. No one spit on the troops. veteran would inevitably be quoted as saying that the Vietnam veterans these repeated welcomes and parades was that with each new one, some It makes it sound like no one could find parades in major cities in the early 70's, when the supposed Vet-hatred would have stronger. As a cohort, Vietnam veterans were met with none of the fanfare and received none of the benefits bestowed upon World War II’s “greatest generation.”. They know vets got spat on because it happened to them, they wrote. (SALEM, Ore.) - Americans overwhelmingly believe that U.S. combat veterans returning from Vietnam were spit on by anti-war protesters in airports. Did Americans really spit on Vietnam Vets at airports? https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/45910/were-vietnam-veterans-spat-on/45911#45911. Ugly Disorder Life 10 November 1967, page 4: The 35,000 marchers on the Pentagon were mainly sincere young demonstrators...but also the hoodlums who spat on the troops, threw rocks through Pentagon windows, daubed the walls with lavatory obscenities. And for the men who served in Vietnam and survived unspeakable horrors, coming home offered its own kind of trauma. Dean links the idea of the forgotten, unwanted veteran in need to larger national narratives in which the war itself was seen as unwanted. It is instead, says Lembcke, a kind of urban myth that reflects our lingering national confusion over the war." I came home twice from over seas between 1969 and 1975 and not one person spit on me. A lot of people apparently believe this … Simple explanation, that was one awesome spitter, she spit about thirty miles,(to the military base where they came in)and she spat on many many people. The vets are restless. Tracy Karner, in her article "Fathers, Sons, and Vietnam" (American Studies 37.1, 1996), analyzes this from a slightly different angle, proposing that the veterans' own self-identity as men was wounded by this inability to live up to the heroic WW2 narrative, and that this often manifested itself in a new narrative of loneliness, meaninglessness, and attempts to prove oneself with dangerous activities and drinking. The person who spat on me was wearing a shirt that said 'Welcome Home Baby-Killer In his book The Spitting Image Jerry Lembcke claims that it's a myth and never happened, or at least not in any confirmed incident. https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/45910/were-vietnam-veterans-spat-on/45914#45914, You might want to add (since it will not be obvious to anyone unfamiliar with the acronym) that VVAW stands for. hands.". The only ones who didn't turn were the one in wheel chairs and none of the lifers remembered to turn their wheel chairs. Part of the reason was economic. Who are they to protest me? Here is how one historian characterizes the real situation in 1969-73: Eric T. Dean Jr. "The Myth of the Troubled and Scorned Vietnam Veteran." None of that,” he says, “prepared me for the reception at home upon our return.”. American soldiers returning home from Vietnam often faced scorn as the war they had fought in became increasingly unpopular. Jerry Engel/New York Post Archives/NYP Holdings, Inc./Getty Images, “The society really was ill-prepared to give these guys what they deserved,” says Christian Appy, professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and author of three books on Vietnam. In fact, the description shows that the disapproval is directed only at that group of Veterans, and includes not only one spitting loonie, but the flag waver and many uniformed veterans (disparagingly called ‘lifers’ by the storyteller). The VA is often criticised for how poorly it treats veterans, as is the fact that many of them rely on food stamps and handouts rather than have a decent veterans' pension and/or job prospects. In 1982 Vietnam veterans march down Constitution Avenue toward the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which would be dedicated later that day. Despite these warm welcomes, Dean describes that a story of Vietnam veterans as "forgotten" set in very quickly around 1971-73. However, most accounts of spitting emerged in the mid-1980s only after a newspaper columnist asked his readers who were Vietnam vets if they had been spit upon after the war (an odd and leading question to ask a decade after the war's end). “You couldn’t believe that people were cheering you.”. Bob Greene, in his book Homecoming (1989), collected many anecdotes of supposed spitting incidents, solicited through a national newspaper column. She spits at us. And it's hard to believe that such an outrage would be covered up, no matter how anti-war the media were (and the media were actually pro-war until after the Tet Offensive). HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! It's mentioned in the movie First Blood ("Rambo"): Then I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport protesting me, spitting. So, VVAW surges and flows into the parade, onto Broadway, north toward... Then we saw the first spitter. The grunts are restless. had never received such recognition before and were "finally being One version is hippies hated the war, and also the troops. Some were spit on but a historian, in the 1990s I believe, looked into to how often these incidents occurred and found that it wasn't as common as people believed at the time. 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