After a thread in CS got a bit heated, and not a little derailed, I’ve opened this thread in IMHO (deliberately here, as everything that’s been contributed so far, and most of what is likely to come, relates to first-hand experience, stories from friends and friends of friends, which can be quite subjective) for discussion of whether service personnel, when in the States, having returned from Vietnam on leave were ever insulted or spat upon.
The thread in CS which discusses Jane Fonda’s 2005 autobiography and a humorous review of it may be found at http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=376596
Don’t know about the spat upon part. But insulted - absolutely. The war was very unpopular in some circles, and “supporting our troops” hadn’t been invented yet. Viet Nam vet.s were reviled by many.
Posted this in the other thread before I realized that this discussion moved over here…
I had a teacher in high school who was very proud to tell us that he & his friends took part in insulting & spitting at soldiers during the Viet Nam era.
My dad spent two years in Vietnam; I believe he was there from 1967-69, or maybe 1968-70. I’ll send him an e-mail and see what he says about it.
I regret that I was part of that highjacking. My reason for posting was Excalibur’s post asking why the response to Jane Fonda. I stated (paraphrasing) that many returning vet.'s felt like Ms. Fonda had been a traitor to her country because of ther actions in North Vietnam. They were treated poorly when they returned home and her actions helped to set the stage for this type of reception. This was based on my having talked with many vet.'s over the years and the stories they have related to me.
Many friends have told me that they were heart-broken at the way people treated them after they did what they thought was right and suffered for it. One said “They talk about Peace and Love but they scream obscenities and call us horrible things while turning over police cars and burning ROTC buildings”.
Chefguy states he has many years of service to his credit and and has never heard a serviceman report an incident like this. I respect his service and have no reason to doubt his experience. I can’t explain the vast discrepancy in experiences.
What your high school teacher said and what actually happened may be two very different things. For that matter, what you remember him saying may be a third different thing. Lots of people talk big years later.
Sure, but applies to everyone alike. Pro-war vets, anti-war vets, non-vets, whoever.
The controversy over the war was much more heated and devisive than the present day debate. I do not recall any specific incidents, but we, in the military, mostly tried to ignore it and take the high road. I did however, have to deal w/ my 17 year old, rebelious brother, who insulted me, told me I was a pawn, and that the flag “was just a rag” (never forgot that) when we saw one being burned on the TV news. I was on leave after my 2nd VN tour. I went back a third time about a year later.
If a returning serviceman enrolled in the wrong college, and then attended the wrong party or gathering at that college, he could get insulted. (I did) The closest I ever came to getting spat upon was swapping some spit with one of the protester chicks, and I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about.
The idea that servicemen in general, walking down the street in uniform, were routinely insulted or spit upon by the general public is a myth.
Perhaps some guardsmen were screamed at and spit upon when they were called on to quell riots, but that’s a different deal.
Many of the anti-war demonstrators were pacifists who were opposed to violence of any kind. Still others hoped that returning vets would join in the anti-war movement – and many of them did.
I did not see a single incident (on TV or otherwise) of returning soldiers being attacked or spat upon. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but I don’t think it was common. It always seemed to happen to someone else.
I think I have seen one or two people here who have said that it happened to them, but I’m not even sure of that.
The anger was directed at the government – especially Presidents Johnson and Nixon and at the Department of Defense.
**The troops were our classmates, friends, husbands and brothers. Why wuld we spit on them? Why wouldn’t we welcome them home? The whole point was to bring them home.
The old canard goes:
The WWI vets got MacArthur;
The WWII vets got parades and the GI Bill;
The Korean vets got forgotten;
The Vietnam vets got contempt…
The current events now suggest that Gulf War I vets were treated a bit like WWII vets, and the vets of Afghanistan/Iraq are treated somewhat more like the vets of Korea/Vietnam.
The vets of the various and sundry peacekeeping missions got ribbons, and not much else outside of military circles.
My husband wasn’t spat upon, but he definitely felt the wrath of the times. He was in early (62 - 66) so he didn’t feel it right away. Anti-war sentiment didn’t really heat up for a couple years after he left the Corps. The anger and violence of the Chicago Convention followed shortly after, so we were in the epicenter of general pissed-offedness regarding the war, civil rights, the women’s movement, etc. Turbulent times.
Sure…I have no idea if he was telling the truth or not.
My uncle always said that he was spat upon and insulted (called a baby-killer, specifically) in San Francisco, upon his return from combat in Vietnam.
This was his second combat tour (out of three total) and would have been around 1968 or '69. He was coming home after having been wounded. IIRC, he was carrying a wounded Vietnamese to a helicopter when the two of them were shot at. The other guy was killed outright, and Teddy took a bullet in the abdomen. Teddy received a Bronze Star (I think – he received 2 Bronze Stars and a Silver Star, ad I think this incident got him one of the Bronzes) for attempting the rescue. He always felt bad about it, though, and thought seriously about refusing the award. Teddy thought the guy may have been better off unrescued – of course, that would have meant leaving him to the enemy, which probably would have been bad. And Teddy always suspected (although nobody ever told him for sure) that the guy’s body must have shielded him from bullets that would otherwise have hit him…
So, anyway, he was pretty down coming home that time and the spitting and insults bothered him more acutely than they might have otherwise.
This is just anecdotal evidence, of course. And I can’t clarify anything with Teddy himself because he died in 1981 at age 43.
Even when I was a student in the People’s Republic of Cambridge at the end of our involvement in Vietnam, I don’t recall seeing any incidents of spitting or abuse, and we had returned troops in the city and around us on campus.
There were protests on campus (although not as large as in previous years), but I never saw anyone abusing soldiers.
I believe it to be a myth. If it had happened, surely there would have been a response from the veteran (like smashing someone’s face). That would have led to police reports and lawsuits and the like. There may have been an isolated incident or two, but if it had happened as much as some people like to think it would have left a trail of evidence somewhere.
I came in to post something similar.
My mother was stationed in the Philippines as a nurse and returned from her service in the Air Force (with my father, who was stationed with her) in 1969. Before heading to NJ (actually Dover, DE for a few months I guess) they had a layover in San Francisco.
I’ve heard this story dozens of times from both her and my father, though my mother tells it with much more gusto or fury. She says they were insulted and spat at by war protesters that were waiting at the airport while they changed planes, and she was furious and upset to come home to that after serving her country. She says she spat on the ground and cursed them all, vowing never to step foot in California, and especially not San Francisco, again in her life. She never has.
Personally I think you should have started this secondary thread in the “Barbecue Pit”. Also, your first thread referencing “Hanoi Jane” and then expectng people to hold a literary discussion about her most recent book is not the way to keep people on topic.
One hesitates to demand cites for such emotional things, but really, it would be nice in a case like this to see a photograph of something like this happening. Without that, I’m afraid it’s fair to very seriously doubt it.
People’s memories are remarkably malleable things, and what they remember their own experiences to be can often be heavily coloured by the media and by the retelling of stories. I find it quite reasonable that psycat90’s mother may in fact have simply gotten into a brief verbal joust with someone opposed to the war, which over the years became embellished with details that never actually happened. This is in no way a shot at your Mom, psycat90, it’s something that virtually EVERYONE is prone to doing.
A few years ago the story began to circulate in the Toronto media about how Toronto beaches used to have signs saying “No Dogs or Jews.” (This is a story you’ll hear elsewhere, too.) The idea that such signs adorned Toronto beaches in the 30s and 40s was the subject of many letters to many editors and such, used as a rueful example of our shameful past. But nobody ever managed to produce a single photograph of such a sign - truly an amazing thing, really, when you consider that there are zillions of photos of just about everything else in Toronto. Eventually a few people starting doing some research into the matter and found, not entirely surprisingly, that there is simply no objective evidence of any kind that any such sign existed, and in fact there is considerable evidence it’s pure hokum. But people were very insistent they really did exist, mostly along FOAF lines.
I am similarly inclined to disbelieve the spitting stories. We’ve heard these tales for many years but I have never, not one single time, seen a photo of such a confrontation, nor have I ever see a reliable contemporary account of it happening. If in fact these sorts of things occurred, that should not be the case.