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Feb-25-2008 15:56printcomments

Who Really Spat on Veterans During the Vietnam War?

"Nixon used hippies as political footballs. Every time there was a rally, orders were given to bust heads" - Redford Givens, San Francisco War Protester

Veterans Vietnam War
No photographs of veterans being spit on during the Vietnam War exist, but this image of a war protester shot down during a demonstration at Kent State University has always existed. Photo courtesy: Kent State

(SALEM, Ore.) - Americans overwhelmingly believe that U.S. combat veterans returning from Vietnam were spit on by anti-war protesters in airports. Many vets will tell you it happened, and others will tell you that they never saw anything close to it.

I have had vets tell me details about experiencing this and I believe them, but is there more to the story than meets the eye?

A former Vietnam era protester from San Francisco who worked with many of the era's most vocal protesters, Redford Givens, says the people doing the spitting weren't hippies, but government provocateurs.

Traditionally, an agent provocateur which is French for "inciting agent" is a person employed by the police or other law enforcement body who acts undercover and entices or provokes another person to commit an illegal act with the deliberate purpose of inciting wider conflict or harm.

In other words, he says the "hippies" who society largely believes harmed these veterans, were most likely posers, and not authentic. He believes they were government agents.

"Nixon used hippies as political footballs. Every time there was a rally, orders were given to bust heads. What would have stopped him from ordering this?"

Soldiers trudging through the jungle in Vietnam.
Photo courtesy: anselm.edu

The anti-war movement of the 1960's was without a doubt, a thorn in the side of the national military machine. Network and local TV coverage of war violence at demonstrations and nightly reports of combat in Vietnam contributed to the cessation of hostilities there in the 1970's.

It was proven through impeachment proceedings that President Nixon lied to his country. To people like Givens, the notion of agents posing as hippies in order to discredit the movement is not that hard to swallow.

The scene brings to mind a pathetic portrayal of 1970's police in Cheech and Chong's "Up in Smoke" which shows Stacey Keach as "Sergeant Stadanko" and his band of boys normally dressed in blue, parading "undercover" as Hare Krishna's in orange robes with tambourines trying to gain access to a rock show in LA, in order to arrest the movie's main characters who are marijuana smugglers.

Can we really conclude that the government of the late 1960's was beyond such tactics?

Givens says the protesters were trying to end a war and that being violent with returning combat veterans would have been highly contradictory to their overall point of lessening violence and death in the world.

"One of my friends put flowers in the GIs rifles at a demonstration. We NEVER had any hostile interaction with GIs. Peaceful demonstrations ended with police attacks that were characterized as 'hippie violence.'"

He says stories about soldiers being insulted were complete fiction.

"We opposed the WAR, not the poor GIs who were forced into it. Any assault on a GI was probably the work of a pro-war agent provocateur because I never saw any of it and I hung with a VERY anti-war group. You don't win people to your side by insulting them or beating them up."

Self-described as an "unrepentant hippie", Givens says he can also testify to the positive effects marijuana and other illicit drugs had on some extremely burned out, combat shocked returning Viet Nam vets in the 1960s; certainly another taboo subject in some circles, but an undeniable truth in others.

His entire point stands in contrast to what so many perceive as the typical American experience, and yet this individual and many others in San Francisco are the same exact people pictured in images from the 1960's and early 70's protesting the war in Vietnam.

Marines in Vietnam carry one of their own to
safety. Photo courtesy: bias.blogfodder.net

What was your experience? Consider this a fact finding mission, and please don't judge me for suggesting that hippies did not harass war veterans, I concede that it is entirely possible that they did. In fact, there is almost no doubt that some war protesters did spit on veterans if the problems with this specific problem were anywhere close to what they are described as being.

But was it the rampant problem it is remembered for today? That is my question to both veterans and former protesters.

If it happened, there also should be some proof through photographs. If we could see photos of that nature then we could possibly identify who was doing the spitting, and perhaps learn that there were hippies harassing returning vets, or maybe we will learn that the harassment actually came from an organized arm of the United States government or even a state or local agency.

Author Jerry Lembcke is the Viet vet who wrote The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam, in 1998. He argues that the common claim that American soldiers were spat upon and insulted by anti-war protesters upon returning home from the Vietnam War is an urban legend.

Lembcke says he found no evidence to suggest this ever happened and suggests that vets being called "Baby Killer" may have come in part from the common chant by protesters aimed at President Lyndon Baines Johnson, "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"

A Lt. Col who was held captive in the
Vietnam War returns home to his family

On the other hand, Columnist Bob Greene's 1989 book Homecoming summarizes interviews with several dozen Vietnam veterans and focuses on firsthand accounts of mistreatment from anti-war protesters. He claims that protesters did indeed commit these acts.

Unfortunately, Greene fell from grace when his employer of 24 years, the Chicago Tribune newspaper,fired him for sexual misconduct.

While Lembcke served in Vietnam, Greene gained his fame touring with rock star Alice Cooper which led to one of his most popular national hits; Billion Dollar Baby in 1975. I guess it is all up to the individual to learn what the truth is, and it is a good idea, because nothing evokes raw emotion like this subject.

As a present day war reporter and photographer, I have a serious problem with people abusing veterans of war, but I also have a problem with campaigns of lies and deceit intended to create something that wasn't, or didn't.

I hope this article brings some real feedback from those who were there, and please be civil because this is not intended to put people on a warpath, it is about establishing truth in a world where all sides far too often uses propaganda for fuel.


Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Anonymous October 30, 2019 11:27 am (Pacific time)

David: Seriously? Did you know one of the "4 Dead in Ohio" from the Kent State shootings was an outstanding ROTC student who had transferred from another university to be close to home?

David g doran January 4, 2018 10:08 pm (Pacific time)

Kent State students should have stayed in the classroom instead they thought they would have some fine and burn the town and riot. Now they know the guard does have live rounds in their m-1rifles and being out there was no fun....

hardwroc November 5, 2017 11:30 am (Pacific time)

As a Marine Vietnam vet, I that grew up in the Bay Area of SF, I never saw anyone spit on a vet, nor did anyone interact with me with hostility. As for the anti-war movement, look carefully and you'll see the nation finally went the way the protestors desired, YEARS later. I appreciated them, as their goal was to bring the troops home. How is that a bad thing?

Icorps 1970 November 1, 2017 5:44 am (Pacific time)

This article is BS. Its revisionist history. What of the veterans who were told to put on civilian clothing before leaving the airport? I was verbally assaulted while walking on the street in Seattle in 1970. It was a drive by thing. Young woman screaming "you'll get yours" and shaking her fist at me. I got off easy compared to some other I know. The commie dupes would write and call the families of people serving in VN with fake KIA reports, I still have the letter the Army gave to use warning to not let anything with anyone's return address lay around or become lost since the Communists would then send it to the war protestors and then the calls would start. They gave aid and comfort to the enemy. The Communists in VN used photos and videos of protests in the States to raise morale of their troops. The Communists printed leaflets with photos of the protests to use to erode our morale. I still have some propaganda leaflets I picked up while on patrol. THEN the commie dupes want use to believe gov't agents were doing this. I suggest you watch Jane FOnda's verbal attacks on the statements of returning POWs. Look the the lies of the "winter soldier project". THEN just before I went home on leave we killed and NVA Medic. "Doc" went through his bag to see what he was carrying. He came back to my squad's position and talked about how the drugs he was carrying may have been sent over to the communists by the war protestors. Then this "person" wants me to believe that the war protestors held no animosity. If I wear my VN Veteran cap in the local liberal college town I will STILL get a "look" from people that look like retired or perhaps still "teaching" college professors. I was talking to another vet at Costco and he told me he had seen the same thing. Just remember the left ALWAYS lies. The typically blame others for doing what they are actually doing. Like the current Antifa fascists are doing acting like Nazi Brown Shirts while claiming they are the "anti-fascists".
EDITOR: You sure have a lot of great documentation! If you ever want to share, please send a photo/scan to Newsroom@Salem-News.com. We are very interested in this factual info. Thanks.

rhoff October 7, 2017 2:05 am (Pacific time)

In 68 I was 12. From 68 to 72 with my older brother I attended multiple events and met Vets everywhere. Nobody ever spit at a Vet, I never saw hatred against the kids coming home. I saw damaged people return from Vietnam and I saw anger at Nixon and the war from protesters. But I never ever saw any type of violence against the men returning. I always wondered where this myth came from. Now I understand. I wonder how many of these comments I read below are really true and how many are written by trolls insisting on propagating myths to divide this country.

FMFDOC July 26, 2017 8:31 pm (Pacific time)

It happened to me multiple times at airports, on the street, and public plac es. I stopped wearing my uniform. Why the heck would we take pictures of this stuff?

airforcevet April 1, 2017 3:43 am (Pacific time)

I think for most, these actions were expedited more frequent during the ending of the war time frame. The more TV exposure and the Fonda coverage, lead to more frequent incidents.

airforcevet April 1, 2017 3:20 am (Pacific time)

Welcome Home, Viet-Nam Veterans. Thank you for your service and God Bless. I am a 'ERA' veteran. I volunteered Dec 73, went active Jun 74. (Air Base Group)

airforcevet April 1, 2017 3:15 am (Pacific time)

I have to agree with all the posts saying that it did happen. It happen to me inflight to SF Airport from Tech School(Keesler, Biloxi). And Biloxi is another story, from what the base personnel told us 'Pingers' when first arriving. Anyways, back to the SF Airport. I arrived, (PCS to Travis), 1610hrs 2 Nov 1974 wearing my Military Uniform (flight discount). As I was walking through the port, I saw all sorts of people. The ones the really stick out are the bald, orange draped people. I was approached oncoming and unexpected, with a swift movement and heard 'baby killer', then was spit upon. There was no indication to expect this, no lines of people chanting or any sign of this premeditated action. I am not saying or pointing to any stereo type or group of people, but, this person passing by me did expedite such actions to a Military Dressed Personnel in the air port. So, 'Yes' even months after the 'combat' vets returning.

wayne jevnager March 1, 2017 8:44 am (Pacific time)

pure BS lies it HAPPENED.

Jacob February 1, 2017 4:37 pm (Pacific time)

I know for a fact that protesters met returning Viet-Nam veterans in airport passageways and spit on them. It happened to me and six other veterans, all in a passage way leading into the Honolulu Airport. The six of us, all combat veterans from Oklahoma were met by a number of 'hippies'. They blocked out passage; calling us 'baby killer' and names to vile and profane to post here. One skinny, long haired, nasty smelling creep approached me and yelled 'F***ing baby killer!', then spit in my face. So don't call it an 'urban myth' and say it never happened. We six had came from combat to airplanes taking us to America. My reaction was as automatic as breathing. I hit him, putting all 130 pounds (at the time) into the swing, hitting him in the face. I felt the bones in his face break from my blow. He staggered backwards into the stone wall of the tunnel. His head struck the wall and he slid down, leaving a streak of blood down the wall.The others scattered. As we walked by, I noticed that his eyes had rolled up in his head and a thin string of blood was running from his nose. "Geeze," I heard someone say, "I think you killed him!. I wiped the spit from my face and we went on to our plane and to the mainland. So,spitting on returning Viet-Nam Vets did happen, whether you want to believe it or not.

JD Vietnam Combat Vet October 9, 2016 10:27 am (Pacific time)

It's easy for someone to sit back and give their dogmatic opinions of what happened, generalize and then call it true. Obviously they did not spend time at the repo depot for returning Vietnam veterans. For the Veterans I saw and went through the system with we spent 24 hours that got us through admin and released. We were told it would be to our benefit to wear civilian clothes when we left the base. My flight time would not allow me to make a change and be on time for my flight. ( You had to wear your uniform to get the military discount) I thought they would not let me on the flight because of the condition of my uniform. I will not get into what happened but I will say it is difficult to change in an onboard bathroom. Those that make claims that these were not really issues did not walk in our shoes and shouldn't talk about what they do not know.

Jose Kanusee October 4, 2016 2:07 pm (Pacific time)

I was told not to include I served in Vietnam on any Job Applications. This happened on my 3rd interview in 1970.

Don Manelli September 10, 2016 9:09 pm (Pacific time)

I think what happened was that most veterans of the war--most of which were not battle-hardened grunts--returned from Viet Nam thinking there would be some kind of welcome home. Instead, they found indifference; that "conflict" was not as central to the lives of civilians as it was to those in the military and those who had served in-country. I think some of those veterans felt that this was an affront to their service, and felt as if they had been figuratively spat upon; for some of the more literally inclined this segued into the notion that they were literally spat upon. 97% of college students could not discern the difference between a Viet Nam Veteran in uniform and a Basic Trainee in uniform, so would not have been adept at directing their alleged spit toward the correct victims. In my Army service '68-'71, that never even remotely happened, and I spent a lot of time in airports (Seattle, WA D.C., Balto., Salt Lake, Spokane, etc.) and railroad stations. As with any social phenomenon, it is possible that it happened a few times, but nowhere near as frequently as the self-victimizing veterans would like to have us believe.

Anonymous August 1, 2016 12:48 am (Pacific time)

I was spit on once at the Tacoma Airport and called a baby killer maybe 10 times when I came home.

Scott S. Kloian May 29, 2016 10:36 am (Pacific time)

SHOCKED. I am very surprised at those who doubt these things happened. I was a Medic. I did not know what was going on back in "The World". I arrived at the Oakland California Airport, 1970. A bunch of us got off the plane and I remember how great it felt to walk on good ole USA solid ground-no sand-no sounds of artillery-no everyone carrying weapons-no blistering heat and humidity. Everything seemed so tranquil and inviting. A large group of women approached us wearing U of C Berkeley attire waving small hand held flags as if in support of us. I had not seen a "round eye" in quite some time. I was both mesmerized and overwhelmed with the most wonderful feeling. All the girls approached us. The one who came to me smiling, a very pretty smile. Looked at the medals/ribbons on my uniform and asked if I got any of those for killing any babies. I was stunned like I was just punched in the nose and did not respond. She then punched me, kicked me in the shins, tried to rip my medals off but I leaned backwards, and then spit on me. As we all walked away, they threw rotten tomatoes at us calling us "Baby Killers". None of us responded as if we were all zombies, not feeling anything. None of us got angry or spoke back. I guess we were numb to it all after what we had been through overseas having been far worse. Truth is, I have never felt any anger towards them. Those were young people at a very tumultuous time period. I am guessing most of those women now probably don't even remember what they said and did. That's OK with me.

Luther Bliss January 14, 2016 2:35 pm (Pacific time)

As someone with experience in radicalism & the military, my feelings are that: a) *some* people spit on veterans to express their disgust (there is interesting research on the overlap between with biological disgust and social 'pollution' of killing) b) *some* veterans would make-up or exagerate being spit upon to evoke sympathy and to paint the anti-war side as 'dirty' (this would snow-ball as being spit upon became the standard motif as so more would claim it) No angels on either side (but there is a vast difference between the dirtiness of spitting and killing). I would think that many Vietnamese, Lations and Cambodians would considered the half century fervor over this minor point symbolic of a deep Western narcissism. Any reporters want to ask them?

Jesse di October 23, 2015 11:24 am (Pacific time)

Vietnam was the first war where soldiers came and went individually or in small units on both commercial and chartered flights. Really was a morale crusher. The whole unit should go and come back as one entity. Even today with all we know we still don't do things right let alone in a draft situation.

Anonymous May 28, 2015 9:49 am (Pacific time)

Iam 71 years old also a woman never in the military but i have had a issue with the vets that have claimed being spit on and not being received with home coming parades. That period of time was explosive. Protest to end a long drawn out war! Several people assassinated from our president and mlk (king). I have searched from film showing these actions against our servicemen and found nothing. If iam wrong i would like to know!It was a senseless war and the deaths on both side died but that does not belittle the efforts of the humans caught up during that war.my question to this day is (why)

Carolyn December 13, 2014 4:37 pm (Pacific time)

Glad to hear that this book was debunked as false. Unfortunately, the wrong information from this book is still found on sites like Snopes. Contrary to the authors point that returning soldiers didn't go through commercial airports like LAX and SF, they certainly did. Many, like my husband, returned from Vietnam on "chartered" flights like Paper Tiger, and landed in LAX and SF. Vietnam veterans were treated horribly and were spat at and called names. Rewriting history and calling these Vets liars is disgusting.

Yossarian November 10, 2014 7:50 am (Pacific time)

When I returned from a 10-month deployment aboard Constellation on 1 July 1972 for which service we were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, there were demonstrators outside the gates of Oakland where we docked. The XO told us not to wear our uniforms off the ship and to mingle with shipyard workers to avoid being spat upon and to enhance our safety. Nevertheless, demonstrators shouted "baby-killer" at us. It was anything but an acknowledgement of our service. That memory will remain with me forever. The war may or may not have been one the American people thought was worthwhile. However, dishonoring those who risked their lives wearing our country's uniform was despicable.

GI Joe August 13, 2014 3:38 pm (Pacific time)

Unfortunately, this story will become part of history, re written by the liberal press to further discredit the veteran and us young boys who served our country honorably. These miscreints who called themselves protesters against the war, were really cowards and draft evaders. My friends died in Nam so these bastards could protest a war none of us wanted, but we needed everyones support, we didn't get it. This is a historical fact which will be omitted from the conversation. Thanks for aiding and abetting the enemy.

Txantimedia January 17, 2014 11:01 pm (Pacific time)

By now you should know that Lembcke's book has been thoroughly debunked by Jim Lindgren of Volokh Conspiracy. http://www.volokh.com/archives/archive_2007_02_04-2007_02_10.shtml#1170928927
Not only did he find contemporaneous articles of spitting incidents (contra Lembcke's claims) but he also find contemporaneous military regulations proving that returning military personnel did in fact land at San Francisco International Airport (despite Lembcke's claim that this would never have happened.) Furthermore, he proved that Lembcke lied about other things in his book.

It would have been nice if Lembcke had revealed, when he wrote the book, that he was a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the group that lied about what went on in Vietnam.

I also found an admission from an anti-war protestor that he did spit on troops - http://www.dailypundit.com/?p=24230

"Yeah, and although this post doesn’t mention people like me, I was a red-hot leftist (marxist) revolutionary back then, and I did spit on a couple of returning vets. From the safety of a crowd, behind a barricade and a police line.

I was an America-hating asshole and a coward. I’ve learned better, and I’ve learned to feel regret for my shameful actions then. Can’t say the same for the current crowd of shameless, cowardly, America-hating leftist jerks, though."

Through your own admission, it sounds like you have had a hard time with your behavior through and through, I stand by this article.

Anonymous December 31, 2012 10:11 am (Pacific time)

Bob Ingraham is one of those people, like the ones who crowded behind the traitor SOB kerry, who either never went into the military/never went to Vietnam, or are such an insignificant minority that their opinion is only held up by other non-combatants. Now this Tim King kid, a coward will not publish this, but had he been in during the Vietnam War period, he would have been given a Bad Conduct Discharge...he really would have. As far as those of you who left the country, you are also cowards. Come and talk shit to me in person Ingraham...see how things go.

Editor: You're trying to pick a fight over a news story?  Let's try to behave like adults.

briancharlesgra December 26, 2012 6:57 pm (Pacific time)

Gaza: Clinton works for truce 'in the days ahead' Israeli air strikes shook the Gaza Strip and Palestinian rockets struck across the border as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks in Jerusalem in the early hours of Wednesday, seeking a truce that can hold back Israel's ground troops. Hamas, the Islamist movement controllingair max shoes Gaza, and Egypt, whose new, Islamist government is trying to broker a truce, had floated hopes for a ceasefire by late Tuesday; but by the time Clinton met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu it was clear there would be more argument, and more violence, first. Hamas leaders in Cairo accused the Jewish state of failing to respond to proposals and said an announcement on holding fire would not come before daylight on Wednesday. Israel Radio quoted an Israeli official saying a truce was held up due to "a last-minute delay in the understandings between Hamas and Israel". Who is Hamas? 5 questions about the Palestinian militant group. An initial halt to attacks may, however, not see the sides stand their forces down from battle stations immediately; Clinton, who flies to Cairo to see Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi later on Wednesday, spoke of a deal "in the days ahead". As she arrived in Israel after nightfall, Israel was stepping up its bombardment. Artillery shells and missiles fired from naval gunboats offshore slammed into the territory and air strikes came at a frequency of about one every 10 minutes.

your mom November 11, 2010 8:13 am (Pacific time)

i hate sex

Jennifer October 11, 2010 4:47 am (Pacific time)

Ia am both a duaghter of and a wife of a Vietnam vet. First I'll tell you that both of them were spat upon. My father, who never talked about the war, only once when I was a child (around 8 years old) spoke to me about his welcome home. He was coming off his plane when a small group of civilians was gathered and was spat upon and called a baby killer. He told me this when I asked him why in my school textbook the Vietnam War was called The Vietnam Conflict. He said because it was an "unpopular" war. I asked what he meant by that. He said a lot of people were against it, and that some protesters of the war even spit on returning veterans. When I asked him if it happened to him, he got very red in the face and looked at me hard and told the story of his return home. His reaction to my question was proof enough for me that he was telling the truth. My husband (who is obviously quite a bit older than me) had a very similar story. Also at the airport, but in his case he broke the spitters jaw before being pulled off the guy by to other returning vets and being quickly dragged away before the cops arrived...I believe him also. Maybe the reason so few vets are coming forward to say they were is because so few of them are willing to talk about how insult was heaped upon injury.

Bob Ingraham February 28, 2010 4:42 pm (Pacific time)

I returned from Vietnam to San Diego Naval Hospital, via Travis AFB, in March, 1966. I was barely conscious on arrival at San Diego, and faced a long recovery from the gunshot wound that had shattered my right femur. (I had been wounded in Operation Utah, on March 5, 1966, when my company of U.S. Marines was ambushed by an NVA unit. I was a Navy hospital corpsman.)

For the next several months, the only contact I had with civilians was with my parents, my (soon-to-be) fiancée, and various friends and even San Diego beauty contestants who came to visit me. During my first leave home, the editor of my home town newspaper interviewed me about my experiences, and the VFW invited me to speak about my experiences in Vietnam, and to show slides I had taken. I was *not* complimentary about the American role in Vietnam. I suppose by that time I had become a war protester.

The only time I was ever directly contronted by someone about my service in Vietnam was when a colleague, a teacher in a Canadian high school, told me that I shouldn't have been in Vietnam. Although I agreed with her, I disagreed that I had much choice. I ended up being invited to give a lecture about Vietnam to her History 12 class.

Otherwise, I was never spat upon or encountered the slightest negative response to my service in Vietnam.

Bob Ingraham
Vancouver, BC

Tim King: Bob, really good to hear from you, thanks for taking the time to drop by and share these thoughts.  You might have noticed on our staff page that we have numerous Vietnam Veterans writing for Salem-News.com.  Some are professors, some went other life directions, but they ended up writing here and we really support one another.  One of our big things for the last two years has been exposing the TCE/PCE/Benzene contamination of both MCAS El Toro and Camp Lejeune.  We also keep a close eye on Israel's military.  If you ever have anything you have written available to publish, then you have found the place.  We have nine former Marines and no Corpsmen, something missing there Doc.  Please send me an email if you have any interest in joining our rag tag band of writers.  tim@salem-news.com is my email, thanks!  

Wayne Michael January 25, 2010 9:28 pm (Pacific time)

I'm sure someone ran into someone who spit at them but from my experience most of what you have heard or read is a urban legend.When I came back through San Francisco nothing happen all the way back to NYC.A friend who I served with and still a close friend today claims he was hit with a orange that came out of nowhere at LAX,but there was no overt anti-war statement.If anything the silence/apathy towards us Vietnam Veterans was more painfull than any protest would be.But most of us are long over it and have moved on.

mf0331 January 21, 2009 11:35 am (Pacific time)

I happened on this quite by accident. I am only 45, a Marine machinegunner combat veteran from much later on. My father was a mustang Marine officer who fought in Vietnam as a combat engineer. No one spit at him. BUT: I distinctly remember one of his closest friends showing us his dress blues, which had been ruined by a female college student who had thrown blood on him when he was at her school recruiting as an "officer selection officer." AND I can clearly remember one of my mother's closest friends, whose husband had been killed in action in the Army in Vietnam, telling us about harassing phone calls in the middle of the night. These things aren't made up by "conservatives," they're what happened during that time. Denying it doesn't make it not so. The idea that "Nixon had it done" is foolishness. The anti-war left had people prone to inexcusable excesses, as did the other side. Everyone ought to own up to what they did and didn't so. Semper Fi.

Gordon Duff May 8, 2008 11:05 am (Pacific time)

Just being a Marine in training in California brought out alot of hate from people, none "hippies" but locals who were sick of Marines. The idea of anyone spitting on me at an airport would be amusing. The newspapers would be filled with hundreds if not thousands of accounts of "hippies" being killed in airports. Has anyone ever seen a hippie in an airport? Could they afford the parking? Imagine the sign: please give me your spare change so I can go to the airport and wait all day so I can spit on a 200 pound Marine and hope to outrun him before he stomps me into the ground. Hell, I would give him anything I had. The real enemy is the 400 corporations that denied Vietnam Veterans jobs out of policy. Burger King still has a "Vietnam Veteran" employment denial box on its applications.

Godsofchaos March 14, 2008 8:08 am (Pacific time)

"I put far more trust in a compilation of law enforcement incident reports than I do in individual opinions, for obvious reasons."Ty Cello Just remember that reports aren't void of opinion.

Ty Cello March 11, 2008 9:25 am (Pacific time)

In the late 1970's a reporter (now deceased) developed a database using law enforcement records compiled by Military Police(MP's), Shore Patrol(SP's) and civilian authorities in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and San Diego that reflected civilian attacks on (in uniform) soldiers, sailors, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard personnel. This was during the Vietnam era and from what I remember, the highest frequency of attacks were in the Bay area, then Seattle, Portland and very few attacks in Sad Diego. I suggest these attacks were something we would now possibly classify as hate attacks. I guess the records this reporter made are lost, but the military never throws away their records, so if someone wanted to review assault incident reports from this time period you could get a more accurate picture of what happened to all of our military not just those returning from Vietnam. Being spit on certainly happened, but it was other criminal behaviors against our military that is the real story. This was a very bad time in our history, and these assaults were and are unforgivable. I put far more trust in a compilation of law enforcement incident reports than I do in individual opinions, for obvious reasons.

Sawyer Johnson March 8, 2008 11:38 am (Pacific time)

As I posted earlier there are literally millions of stories, because millions served during this war. I also mentioned there are things far worse than being spit on, and that location/timing had a lot to do with one's homecoming reception. I will never forget laying on a litter with an IV in both my arms watching a couple of smashed eggs on our bus window streaking as we picked up speed heading towards Travis. Then for the last 40 or so years hearing all the different versions of what happened in Vietnam (almost always unninformed opinions and historically incorrect facts). It was hard to turn on the television and not see a show where some psychopathic Vietnam veteran was acting out. The Vietnam veteran was mischaracterized then and still is today. Those of you who had uneventful homecomings I am glad for you, those who didn't, I understand. FYI, people you would be utterly surprised how many non-veterans out there pass themselves off as war veterans. We exposed many at one time (happening even now in our current conflict), as did many expose a few who testified before congress with John Kerry. Those of you who may be interested, just go look up "Myths about Vietnam" on the internet and see what you learn. Many of you might be quite surprised, and those of you who have an agenda, well we can only hope you also learn about us combat veterans and who we are. We were the best America has ever had during the military draft periods. By the way, many of these Vietnam veterans were also WWII and Korean War veterans. Big age range people.

Dave Curry VVAW, National Coordinat March 8, 2008 10:49 am (Pacific time)

We army guys came in through Travis. (NO CIVILIANS) And yes even being against the war when I returned; anybody spit on me might be hurt.

Steve Crandall VVAW Contact, Califor March 8, 2008 10:48 am (Pacific time)

I was in the Air Force and returned to Norton AFB in San Bernardino, CA. Based on all I've heard from others, I would be willing to bet that all the branches landed at one base or another and not at any commercial airports. I returned in Jan. 1971.

Thomas Brinson VVAW Contact, NY March 8, 2008 10:47 am (Pacific time)

As an Army Officer Dude, I flew out of and flew back from sunny southeast Asia into McChord AFB, early in a dark morning -- no civilians. A Captain suggested I change from my very messy summer tans into civilian clothes before I went to Sea-Tac for a flight to the East Coast because of protestors. But I saw none, either at Sea-Tac, or at National Airport in Washington, DC where I landed in the late afternoon of April 4, 1968, about 3 hours after Martin Luther King had been assassinated. Some Welcome home !~!~! Peace Out and In,

Horace Coleman VVAW Contact, Califor March 8, 2008 10:46 am (Pacific time)

I came back in February '68. And still hadn't lost my startle reflex when MLK was killed. It made you think "the world" was as crazy as Nam!! I flew into Travis AFB and then caught a flight out of San Francisco International. Nary a protestor in sight. Not even a Hare Khrisna.

Peace - Gandhi style, Arny Stieber V March 8, 2008 10:44 am (Pacific time)

I was in the Army. Came back in March 1971 via Okinawa? (maybe Japan, I can't recall), then to Alaska, then to Ft. Dix in NJ. Never saw any peace activists. I brought back an SKS and carried it on the civilian flight from NJ to Mich. Had to put it in the coat closet.

William Branson VVAW National Coordi March 8, 2008 10:43 am (Pacific time)

I came back via Japan and Alaska to Travis and then Oakland Army Terminal. I didn't see anything civilian, except the stewardess until I hit the Frisco airport. They specifically warned us against getting into fights at the airport. ( Yall never take me alive, coppers!) Supposedly we were still under Army discipline for a few hours. I got home, loaded my magnum and figured the few hours were up. I was yelled at once, while in uniform, in Boston. Big deal. When I went to Jr. college in San Bernardino, the nicest people I met were in the on-campus peace movement. They turned me on to VVAW.

Gerald R. Gioglio VVAW Contact, New March 8, 2008 10:41 am (Pacific time)

Ok, most of you guys know I was not in VN, so I don't have the experience of transferring from military hop to a commercial airline. However, I was in uniform at Sea-Tac heading home on leave at Christmas 1968 -- to bring my wife back to the Ft Lewis area to await the outcome of my Conscientious Objector application and what we felt would be my eventual imprisonment. Anyway, I had purchased a "military rate" ticket for the trip home; but when I got to the airport the airline refused to accept it insisting that rate was not valid during the holidays. They wanted $40 to board me on the flight. I had only a few dollars. The plane is booked and lots of folks are in line waiting for tickets to materialize. The airline held my ticket while I scrambled for the money. I'm going place to place, no spitting protesters anywhere, but also no Travelers Aide--it was either closed or couldn't help, I can't remember. So, back to the counter I go ready to lose my committment to nonviolence. The same civilian who was standing behind me when I first got there was still there. If I don't get the ticket, he does. He taps me on the shoulder and hands me $40! I get to go home, God is good and the good samaritan also gets a seat. The wife shows up with the cash and it's a merry christmas, indeed. How's that for a classic anti-spit story, so there you go. peace, now...again. PS: no spitters sighted at Newark airport either, who woulda' thunk it?

Dave Collins VVAW Contact, Texas Hil March 8, 2008 10:38 am (Pacific time)

We went through Okinawa going and coming. We stowed all our stateside stuff, taking only utilities (aka fatigues), boots and personal gear. On return we collected the sea bag full of uniforms and the flew out of Kadena, AFB, through Alaska and into LAX. As we had also processed all the paper work, we could then get a commercial flight directly from LAX to head off on leave - except for the lucky ones who were getting "early out" packages. This was spring 70. 3rd Mar Div was starting to pull back and some of those guys had to go back with their gear on ships. I assume they steamed into S. Diego, but don't know for sure, guess it might have been Long Beach or San Fran. There were no peace demonstrators that I recall. I do remember some "save the whales" signs and some of the guys I was with gave them some mild harassment.

Ken Dalton, EN 2, U.S.N. 1970-74 March 8, 2008 10:37 am (Pacific time)

Recollections: Lately there's been a lot of "chatter" about G.I.'s being spit on during the Vietnam war era so I just thought I'd get into this spitting controversy. The closest thing I ever got to being spit on was when I took the Sante Fe from San Diego to L.A. to visit a friend in Pasadena in October 1970. While walking down a dark street in Downtown L.A. in my navy dress blues, a car with a few black guys drove by when the guy in the front passenger seat yelled and called me a honky mothetf^%$#r. I honestly believe it had more to do with the racial problems in the country rather then feelings about people in the military service or the war in Vietnam. Nevertheless, being alone on a dark street in a bad section of town and being called a racial slur by a car load of guys kind of shook me up. Shortly after that incident, I went up to a couple of white L.A. cops while trying to get directions to Pasadena. I overheard one cop say to the other," lets beat up some niggers tonight" ( his exact words). After that, I kind of understood where those brothers were coming from. Also, many years later when the Rodney King story broke, I wasn't the least bit surprised. About an hour later that same evening I was walking down Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena when some young girls in a mustang yelled to me. This time, it was the kind of yelling an eighteen year old sailor, or for that fact, a fifty six year old retired firefighter would like. Another spitting story I would like to share is the one a gung ho navy reserve lifer and hard core republican told me. As he was quoted in a recent article which was published in a local North Jersey newspaper, Frank was at a bar in Haledon, New Jersey in 1975 where he was spat on for being in the navy. He forgot that when he first told that story to me, he said it happened in a diner in Wayne , New Jersey. Nice going Rambo! Peace and Solidarity

John Ketwig VVAW March 8, 2008 10:35 am (Pacific time)

I came home from Thailand via Oakland AF Base, processed out, then caught a civilian flight from San Francisco. There were hippies in the terminal, but they certainly didn't hassle me. I was disappointed that I had FINALLY gotten to California and I didn't see a hot rod. On the plane a couple people asked to not sit next to me, but there was no scene, and certainly no spitting. I was surprised that my neighbors didn't come over to welcome me home. I just think it was a time of very heated emotions (September 1969) and no one really knew what to say to a Vietnam vet. It was better to say nothing, and thereby avoid saying the wrong thing. Some of that exists to this day.

Sawyer Johnson March 3, 2008 8:34 am (Pacific time)

Tim King as I posted below there are things far worse than being spit on. May I invite you to go to meet with some Vietnam veterans at the various organizations we have. Sure you will meet many who say nothing negative happened to them, but that would be the minority. Also another minority are the ones who used illegal drugs while in Vietnam and continued that behavior when they returned to the world. What you sound like is what I had to hear from different professors all the way through college and many other uninformed people in different business and social situations. The real reason PTSD had such a negative impact on Vietnam veterans was because the negative homecoming was a total "negative environment" that continues even today. You took one individual in your above article and his credibility simply does not exist for the majority of combat veterans. Possibly many of the veterans you have talked to were sitting on a ship in the Gulf of Tonkin where you do not even need one finger to count how many ships were sunk (or in some rear area that provided a place where they could get involved with drug usuage. It did not happen in line units, at least not on a significant level. We were not suicidal!). But what the majority of us do share is the incredibly rotten homecoming we had which caused so many veterans to suppress their feelings until they have become pretty difficult to help (that is what the "Post" in PTSD means). Tim go to the Salem Vet Center and ask if you can participate through a full group cycle (many weeks) with some Vietnam vets? You may gain some insight, but probably not a lot, but some, it's an experience thing. What many of us worry about is if our returning veterans start suppressing as we did (because of false and misleading info about them), then we have failed to learn from our past. There will be no healing until those who treated all veterans (including the current ones) acknowledge their bad behavior, apologize, then pursue positive actions to give substance to their apologies. Tim, this will not happen, it just won't. By the way around 2/3's of those who went to Vietnam were volunteers, and I am hardly considered a far right ideologue, a pro-veteran, yes, most definitely. As soon as I click this message I will be driving 3 veterans to the Portland VA in my SUV, one has a wheel chair so I need the storage room. I do this without payment, I do it because they need my help. That's what veterans do for one another when they understand what they went and are going through.

Godsofchaos March 2, 2008 8:02 pm (Pacific time)

Many people on the left want to believe it didn't it happen. Just because it didn't happen in large numbers doesn't mean it that how the vets were treated is justifiable. Check this link out http://msgboard.snopes.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=48;t=000368;p=1 This was a debate on the treatment of vets after Vietnam. An example post:"As a "spitee," I just love these attempts to rewrite history. Let's not let these people get away with it. The way returning veterans were treated was disgraceful. I joined in 70 and was a cadet until commissioning in 74, did not go to Vietnam, yet have a barracks bag full of abuse stories. Marching in a Veterans Day parade in NYC; bags of human feces thrown into the formation. Hometown pastor called me aside after a service while on leave, had me kneel down, and asked God to forgive me for being "a mercenary butcher". Direct quote. Went to West Point's away game at Boston College; same weekend as the "peaceful" anti-war riots (are we pretending they didn't happen, too?); physically attacked in a bar by peace activists." Waiting for a plane at SF Airport; had to come to the aid of a kid fresh back from Vietnam who was being physically attacked by "pacifists." Want more? First time back on leave I called the girl I'd been dating for 2 years in high school; parents wouldn't let me speak to her; said they didn't want their daughter associating with "undesirables." I know why people want so badly to rewrite history. Many of them have a hell of a lot they want to pretend did not happen. After I got my appointment, one of the peace-loving hippies in my highschool called me a facist and threw a punch. As fate would have it, after retirement I moved back to my hometown and a couple years later the very same guy moved in across the street. He is now a gung-ho, super patriot (now that he isn't facing the draft) and mortified by how he acted when soldier-bashing was fashionable. I wish spitting was the worst of it. Much prefer that to having to march a mile at rigid attention with some "peace-activist's" shit smeared on me. But I'm not bitter. No, sir. Not after the electro-shock therapy. In fact I feel much better now. Anybody seen my pills?"GI Joe This was a comment made by a Vietnam Veteran. The claim that Hippies didn't spit on them is equivalent to saying that the Holocaust and 9/11 didn't happen.Essentially you are calling vets ,who said hippies spat on them,liars. Hope this isn't too long "man".

Godsofchaos March 2, 2008 7:56 pm (Pacific time)

"I feel like a broken record having to repeat that this is a business, not a democracy."Tim King So )(and(*^*and off people who visit your site is a smart business plan? Who do you think makes a site? The people do. It is a community. How great would your site be if no one visited it?Do you think advertisers would give you money if no one visited it? Keeping your community alive is important. I have seen many a good site ruined because the owner started thinking he was what made the site and not that people added to it. "No, if you don't already have the answer at hand, they did not operate the factories. I'm not sticking up for hippies, but they are Americans too and I am sick and tired of divisive politics and this site's mission is to unite, not divide."Tim King The only way this nation may heal is for the hippies to get on their hands and knees apologize for the mistreatment of the Vets. I gave quotes of what happened.Yet for someone who claims he is a marine he seems to like forget his fellow marines. Remind me to never have you watch my back. I used to respect you. Now I find that respect misguided. "We have our two resident right wing at-all-cost characters here, Sawyer is the one dude's latest name, and GodsofChaos, is the other."Tim King At least I make a stand against horrible mistreatment of (even if a few) Vets. You are nothing more than an apologist for the hippies.

Tim King March 2, 2008 6:37 pm (Pacific time)

Yeah, I see what is going on here. We have our two resident right wing at-all-cost characters here, Sawyer is the one dude's latest name, and GodsofChaos, is the other. So all these veterans come along and say for the most part, it didn't happen to them. These are guys who are the people I was trying to solicit information from. I think we all agree that this did happen, but it wasn't nearly of the magnitude that some people want to have you believe. Vietnam was an unpopular war, some people like these two mentioned above still have not either figured that out, or admitted it into their pattern of thought. It is a fact that many Americans exhibited poor behavior there and drugs were a major issue as well as a country that didn't respect their sacrifices as they should have. The problems of not being accepted went way WAY beyond the "Left" as these characters say, it is revealed in these very posts that a lot of the flack came from vets of previous wars, and I have talked to a lot of my friends who served in Vietnam about that one. So, were the hippies operating all the businesses that wouldn't give these guys their jobs back? No, if you don't already have the answer at hand, they did not operate the factories. I'm not sticking up for hippies, but they are Americans too and I am sick and tired of divisive politics and this site's mission is to unite, not divide.

Godsofchaos March 2, 2008 3:59 pm (Pacific time)

WTF!! Did you lose my comment or are you trying to suppress me?

Tim King to GodsofChaos: Your post is way too long man, and the system has a problem with it. I will suppress anyone and anything I want incidentally, the comments are not supposed to be longer than the story that they address. We do not have formatting and it becomes one big block of type that is about ten inches tall, if the paragraphs were in it would be twice as long. I know from what I saw of it that you are basically ranting and raving about my small point that this problem is far exaggerated and just a tool of divisiveness used by the far right to keep people bitter over past wrongs. Did you miss all of the veterans who wrote in with their personal experiences? Did you miss that part? Well read it again if you need to, this is not and will not be a right wing propaganda site where people will try to just keep people stirred up. It is time to heal and that is my point, it is time to move forward and quit moaning about people's past mistakes. I can write for days about atrocities that took place in Vietnam, but I typically don't for the same reasons, healing. But to imply that the hippies had some diabolical plot that went beyond ending the war just doesn't apply to what happened in most cases.

By the way, the last thing Neal wrote to me were the words WTF, and I don't know who you think you are to do that here, like you have some kind of a right to have your words. This is something this company provides and it has a mission to help veterans which is OBVIOUS and we are the only group I know of getting ready to send a reporter to Iraq, so hopefully that matters. I feel like a broken record having to repeat that this is a business, not a democracy.

Sawyer Johnson March 2, 2008 1:31 pm (Pacific time)

Another way of viewing this story from a combat veteran perspective: How many veterans from other wars were treated worse than the Vietnam veteran? None! Even today it still is a topic that generates so many different opinions, and most of those are uninformed opinions. Just being in the military, or going over to a war zone does not give one insight to what happened to the Vietnam veterans decades ago or any other special insight into the accumlative effect the mischaracterizations and falsehoods we vets have endured. As I posted earlier there were millions of us who served and each of us have our own story. There are far things worse than being spit on people!

Tim King February 29, 2008 3:52 pm (Pacific time)

I'm not exactly sure how to reply to the Godsofchaos post because this is a story that was an attempt to learn more about a specific subject. I think it frustrates latecomers to the story to learn that one Vietnam vet after another came here and said it really didn't happen. Then a trend developed and now the posts are different. But let's remember that the Viet Vets have come and gone for the most part.

All I can say is that our country's war choices and 'right and wrong' are not aligned just because somebody like George Bush says they are. Life is a precious commodity in my opinion and the very gift we have to just be standing here. It is very temporary and we all die, so why should we spend our time as a country raising the ante? Don't you think the Americans who have died in Iraq and all of the innocent Iraqi people who have died deserved better than that?

That is all I can say to you over this, and yes you are a person I have only had the most cordial exchanges with, regardless of our disagreements.

I suspect that is because I am a person who knows many things about the military and war for a number of reasons that are all valid. I am pro military all the way but I do not agree with my government unless it makes sense to me as a human being. This article's biggest point is to reduce polarity in one particular area, and show people that something stated continuously at times by the right; "veterans were spit on by hippies coming home from Vietnam" while true in some cases, was not a daily or even common occurrence.

The whole idea goes against what the hippies stood for overall; they wanted to end violence, not perpetuate it. I'm not sticking up for the movement or putting it down, but with a few exceptions that is how it is/was. And the biggest insult the story brings, is portraying the Viet Vets as people who could be assaulted by a bunch longhairs in tie-dyes. The Vietnam Vets I have known would put up with that for about two seconds, as I would.

Godsofchaos February 29, 2008 2:55 pm (Pacific time)

"They still are quite prevalent today."Sawyer Johnson Sadly you are correct. Already the current war in Iraq is being called the seconded Nam.Here is an idea ,media types, why don't you stop presenting every thing in an negative tone for once and giving the enemy hope.For example one show on Iraq stated."With one casualty a day morale is at an all time low." Wonder what US Grant,Douglas MacArthur,and all the world war one generals would say to that statistic.Compared to Korea,WWII, WWI and yes even Vietnam the war in Iraq is going quite well. One of the reasons the Army's medical corps (hope I spell that right) is struggling is more people are surviving what used to be an fatal injury. The opportunistic media types prefer to aid and abed the enemy instead of stating these facts.

Sawyer Johnson February 29, 2008 8:44 am (Pacific time)

Godofchaos that is well put. I have always felt the so-called hippies were being financed by some outside sources. The group known as Vietnam Veterans against the War had some well-meaning people on board, but they were heavily populated with people who had never been in the military, I knew several, and they simpy were the type who would best be descibed as the easily manipulated types. They still are quite prevalent today.

Godsofchaos February 29, 2008 7:20 am (Pacific time)

"Lembcke says he found no evidence to suggest this ever happened and suggests that vets being called "Baby Killer" may have come in part from the common chant by protesters aimed at President Lyndon Baines Johnson, "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?""Tim King Then we left Nam. The hippies cheered for a job well done. The Communists rolled in and killed thousands of people. Heck if they didn't spit on Vets they already are void of respect in my book. Especially since they prolong the war in the first place by giving the VC hope for a pull out. Their hope was not misplaced.Sadly The Tet offensive was a disaster for the VC they took (90%) casualties and South Vietnam may have been a more free society in the likes of South Korea today. "Especially the way hollywood always had a television show or movie where some psycho was acting out."Sayer Johnson Sadly this is true. Most Vietnam movies I have seen portray America as evil. The reason unlike WWII the movie producers,directors, actors,etc. didn't fight in the war. The result Monday morning quarter backs making are movies.

Sayer Johnson February 27, 2008 6:07 pm (Pacific time)

Glen I'm pretty sure that all the problems veterans had coming home was a matter of timing and location. Your homecoming in mid-America like in someplace like Iowa would be a lot different than other areas like Berkeley California, or many other urban locations. But it was not just the homecoming, it was the relentless process of making false statements about us. Especially the way hollywood always had a television show or movie where some psycho was acting out. This still goes on today. No doubt there are countless stories from millions of experiences and they will be with us till we're gone.

Glen Saunders February 27, 2008 1:46 pm (Pacific time)

Three trips over and back and never witnessed any spitting. The closest I came to what I believed was a "Hippie" attack was a young girl offering me some fresh fruit in the Salt Lake City, Ut. airport. Of course I was really young then and the Marine uniform probably blinded her. Semper Fi

Sawyer Johnson February 27, 2008 7:57 am (Pacific time)

Ron Samson I was in the service then also, that's one I never heard of. That's a long train ride in black-out conditions. Did you take the three plus week cruise to Nam? Where did you land? I sure remember going over by transport ship, I just could not believe how long and at the same time, how brief that trip was. Remember what your first smells were? They are still vapor-locked in my memory.

Ron Samson February 26, 2008 8:03 pm (Pacific time)

What festered this Old Soldiers wounds was that his Government was so afraid of a riot by Ill equipped civvies(civilians) in Sept of 1965 that they transported us from Ft Bliss to the San Francisco Docks in Blacked out trains. No windows no contact with civvies of any kind.Talk about military confinement that was depressing.

Sawyer Johnson February 26, 2008 6:13 pm (Pacific time)

I was med-e-vaced from Vietnam to Japan and after a few months, flown to the states. Instead of landing at Travis AFB, which was fogged in, they landed us at Oakland Naval Air Station. We were all on litters and hung up in a bus, two high. Three of the wounded on our flight from Japan (Camp Zama Hospital) died during the trip back to the world. They drove us up to Travis AFB to catch connecting hospital charter flights throughout the states, and during that drive our bus was repeatedly hit with eggs. Our bus had several large red crosses on the outside. I never cried the whole time I was in Vietnam (maybe I did, but I try to forget things like that), but this really got to me, even now I get pretty upset. I was never spit on nor even given a bad time from anyone, I'm a pretty good sized guy, so maybe that's part of it. I remember during my first summer home in 1968 near Portland State in the south park blocks a couple of real young privates in Class A's, probably just out of basic training, were walking in the area when probably a dozen scuzzy wimps surrounded them and started cursing, spitting and pushing on them, yes spitting. These kids had not been to Vietnam, but anyone was fair game to these jerks. The short of it, I, and no else came to their aid, so I tuned a couple of them up. The other cowards walked away. This was not a rare event back in those days. I am more inclined to believe a veteran's story than someone who claims something else. No doubt people embellish, but this was a violent time and much violence was directed at the military, and our guys. By the way, Lyndon Johnson was President, so if he had agents of his doing that, then I guess Nixon kept them on the payroll. I believe the real urban legend is that the government hired agents to specifically pick on returning veterans. John Zutz you are 100% right regarding the American Legion and the VFW giving us the cold shoulder. I will tell you this, most of those people who did that did eventually come around and apologize. Give them another chance John, most have learned the truth about us.

John Zutz Milwaukee Vietnam Veterans February 26, 2008 3:38 pm (Pacific time)


I read your spitting article and I believe you have the correct take on the subject. I don't believe many vets received any expectorant.

I've talked to thousands of Vietnam vets, and a good percentage of them have told me they were spat on. I ask them all what they did.

Did they report the assault to the cops? Did they stomp the hippie to till he couldn't walk?

NONE of the guys I talked to reacted in any of those ways.

These were veterans who had been in firefights 48 hours earlier, who were used to reacting to the slightest provocation. How many hippies does it take to face down a returning combat vet?

For contrast I have my own story. About 2 months after I got out of the Army I wandered into the local veterans clubhouse (I can't remember whether it was Legion or VFW) and asked the bartender how I could join the organization. There were 5 - 6 older guys drinking beer and they asked me where I had served. I told them I had just returned from Vietnam.

They began telling me that they were in the "good war" and that I was a loser. I answered back and things became pretty heated. The bartender escorted me out because he was afraid someone would get hurt.

Later I participated in anti-war protests. I was never treated disrespectfully by any protesters. But even though no saliva struck me, I was spit on by those veterans.

Dave Collins, Texas Hill Country VVA February 26, 2008 2:18 pm (Pacific time)


Thank you for the article on Viet Nam era protests and the mythology of veteran abuse that was published on the Salem-News site. As a member and local contact for Vietnam Veterans Against the War I still see a lot of the claims and assertions about this matter. I would like to offer you my experiences and thoughts on the subject from the perspective of a Marine veteran of 19 months service in Viet Nam who returned to fight against that war.

First let me be clear, I was never in any way "mistreated" by civilian anti-war protestors. If anything, they seemed not to know exactly how to take me or the others in VVAW. But even prior to my affiliation with those fellow anti-war vets, like most returning combat veterans, I simply had little interaction with civilians whose life experience at that point was so different from mine.

I have spoken to numerous veterans about their experiences. Let me offer one from a local vet that gets to the substance of my view that Jerry Lembcke has come as close to objective truth as will be possible. This local vet pulled three back-to-back tours on Swift Boats. He sailed back to the US when his unit rotated out. The troop ship steamed into San Francisco harbor. Dockside were anti-war protestors. They were carrying the usual signs and shouting the usual slogans; "B" does not report that any slurs were directed at the sailors on the ship. But the mere presence of the protestors sent "B" into a rage. His CO literally had to restrain "B" from going over the side to attack the protestors. By the way, "B" ultimatly got treatment for his near fatal PTSD and is doing very well today.

But the point is plainly this, even though by the time I returned from Viet Nam I had come to strongly oppose the war, had I been greeted at LAX by a spitting protestor, I am confident that the protestor would have needed prompt medical attention. It is simply inconceivable to me to imagine more than a rare instance that would have played out differently. But the typical claims of such disrespect are not accompanied by the expected, "and then I kicked the living shit out of the SOB." Really - we were just back from a place where death was a daily potential if not reality and most were at least somewhat trained and conditioned to react to violence with greater violence. So, the claims simply lack credibility from that perspective, alone.

Semper fi

Bob Broedel - Tallahassee February 26, 2008 1:29 pm (Pacific time)

I was kind of an "alternative" military veteran in that I was in the USAF, and served a "combat support" function rather than real combat. But I came to Florida State University on the GI Bill and joined the anti-war movement, VVAW, Vets for Peace, etc. I looked pretty much like a "real" returning vet, wearing fatigues, etc. There were super 8 film cameras and the cops even had video cameras. Almost everyone had a 35 mm camera. Our protests were fairly well (video) documented as were other protests around the country. There were photos of cops beating protesters, cops giving the finger to photographers, cops grabbing their crotches, etc. Seems to me if protesters were spitting on vets in a significant way then there would be pictures. No protester ever spit on me. I never saw a protester spit on a returning vet. But I have heard a few of the more conservative returning vets "claim" they were spit on by protesters. Probably they simply made up the story.

Al Ruigrok, Willow Grove, PA. February 26, 2008 11:12 am (Pacific time)

Mr. King; I read with interest your article on the web today. My son is currently deployed with the 3/2 Marines in Rawah, Iraq. I am 50 years old, so I was just in my early teens during the end of Vietnam. I cannot remember witnessing any outright harassment of veterans but was aware of the anti-war feelings aimed at them. I don't remember ever voicing any crap myself at a veteran but if I did, I pray that God will forgive me, and if I did, that that man may one day forgive me to. I have up until recently gotten nothing but good words and encouragement from folks when they find out my son is a Marine. But now and again, when I wear my son the Marine sweat shirt, I get dirty looks. I never say anything, but feel some small bit of empathy for the parents of our past veterans Anyway, sorry to ramble, thought your article brings up a good issue and thank you for that. Also, thank you for your service.

Kevin February 26, 2008 7:22 am (Pacific time)

I read where there was a lot of violence directed at military armories, and blowing up buildings that housed groups like the ROTC. There seems to be a lot of violence directed towards military recruiters in Berkely and other places. I guess there will always be different stories going around. Millions serveved so I imagine there are millions of stories. All seems sad to me.

Tom Baxter February 26, 2008 8:04 am (Pacific time)

When I was wearing my Army uniform coming and going to Vietnam, I was never spit on. But I won’t deny it happened there were millions of US veterans of the Vietnam war and almost everything happened with those kind of numbers. Also, I was raised in Jacksonville, Florida, a Navy town. Some of my high school classmates used to roll sailors for fun and profit. I’m certain they spit once in a while, if words couldn’t provoke. They weren’t against the war. They were just thugs. I will say I never heard of any veteran ever charged with murder, manslaughter, battery or even assault after being spit on. If someone had spit on me forty years ago, I might have tried to kill them, but I would probably have stopped by the forth or fifth kick. My rages back then were intense, but short. Meds have mellowed me out some and I’m not going back to jail, so I’ll give you a non-escalating response to aggression. But you strike one of the disabled vets or kids I’m with, I’ll stop you with your pain.

Jim Fallon February 26, 2008 6:53 am (Pacific time)

If anyone spit on me when I came home,I`d still be in jail for what I did in return.

John February 26, 2008 6:37 am (Pacific time)

First, an active part of protesting is to set up senarios and then film the reactions to gain media material. Anyone who would spit on a person would not ever publicize their act. Second, there was a reason why from Vietnam until after 9-11, soldiers were required to either travel in Class A uniform, or to not wear any uniform. Maybe you should do a freedom of information act request to find if there is evidence... or if your conjecture is on target.

Jeffrey Smith February 25, 2008 4:39 pm (Pacific time)

I was a grunt with the 101st Airborne Division in Phan Thiet, RNV in 1968-1969. I never experienced or witnessed any one spitting on us when we returned. I also never heard from any other returning vet that they had experienced this either. Further, from my own perspective and what I believe would have been the perspective of the people I served with, none of us would have taken that kind of abuse without a proportionate and likely more aggressive response that I think would have made such an event a much larger altercation likely to attract media and police coverage. While we never received a "homecoming from a grateful nation" accorded to veterans of previous wars, and too many of us experienced discrimination because of our service, this was a more subtle "condemnation" that we had to endure. While this spitting may have happened, I doubt it was a wide-spread phenomenon, if for no other reason than I don't see combat-hardened vets taking that kind of crap from anyone.

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