The NY Times is wrong again. I was spat upon.


"The reporter was asking about accounts that soldiers returning from Vietnam had been spat on by antiwar activists. I had told her the stories were not true. I told her that, on the contrary, opponents of the war had actually tried to recruit returning veterans. I told her about a 1971 Harris Poll survey that found that 99 percent of veterans said their reception from friends and family had been friendly, and 94 percent said their reception from age-group peers, the population most likely to have included the spitters, was friendly.

A follow-up poll, conducted in 1979 for the Veterans Administration (now the Department of Veterans Affairs), reported that former antiwar activists had warmer feelings toward Vietnam veterans than toward congressional leaders or even their erstwhile fellow travelers in the movement."   NY Times opinion piece


Someone wrote to tell me that the NY times had published this piece.  The author attempts to make the case that the pro-communist anti-war movement was warmly welcoming to soldiers coming back from the war in VN and that the stories of anti-war people spitting on soldiers and otherwise treating soldiers poorly are  "urban myths."

From my point of view this revised narrative of that period has a basic flaw.  I WAS SPAT UPON in March, 1968 while transiting San Francisco International Airport en route to Travis AFB to board the trans-Pacific airlift en route to Vietnam.  I was in uniform and waiting for the bus when a woman got out of her car and walked across the parking lot.  She chose to spit on my chest rather than on a sergeant standing next to me so perhaps she had a thing for officers.  I asked if the people at her house had a roster to schedule spitting on soldiers.  She said they did.  Perhaps they sent only women to do this.

I wrote to the NY Times yesterday to tell this story in comment on their article.  They did not publish my comment.  There are 217 comments on the article.

IMO the left is engaged in editing the narrative of that time so as to absolve itself of the ugliness of its own actions.  pl

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105 Responses to The NY Times is wrong again. I was spat upon.

  1. LG says:

    Dear sir, I am sorry this happened to you. We live in a terrible world. Our only hope is in God’s justice.

  2. LeaNder says:

    I believe you, Pat.
    But then, while no doubt vaguely a hippy at the time, I would have never spat on anyone. Including US soldiers. Strictly my curiosity might have prevented that.
    But yes, concerning the larger context of some specific encounters with US soldiers in Berlin in the early 70s no doubt raise a lot of questions on my mind. Unfortunately the Omniscient Narrator, who no doubt given his superior knowledge might be able to answer my questions, is not available in this context.
    But yes, I was reminded of our exchanges on the topic while watching the Vietnam series. …

  3. Bill H says:

    In the Ken Burns documentary there is a bit near the end where a woman, after telling of her anti-war experiences, reflects on “the things we said back then, and the things we did.” She has a very bleak look on her face as she stands silent for a moment and the she says, very simply, “I’m sorry.”
    I hope you saw that. It wasn’t much, but every little bit helps.

  4. turcopolier says:

    There were many other ways that soldiers were treated poorly. A classic was for a ticket agent to simply deny you a seat on commercial aircraft when they were available. For me thespitting experience was incredible. I had just left my wife in Maine with her mother and flown to San Francisco. I walked through the terminal and stood on the curb waiting for the shuttle bus to Travis AFB and this happened within seconds. It was a great surprise. I was in heavy combat within three or four days after this because the second phase of the 1968 communist Tet offensive was in full bloom when I arrived. But, no matter, I survived. No, the worst thing about my story is that the NY Times suppressed my comment. The comments they did publish are about how much the ant-war people loved and treasured the soldiers and how little girls met them at the very same airport with chocolate chip cookies. pl

  5. Lars says:

    I know that in Lee County, FL at that time, I never heard of anyone disrespecting soldiers. The biggest problem we had was that so many who came back from service in Viet Nam had serious drug problems. The overdosing on heroin was close to epidemic at the time.
    I am not claiming that it did not happen elsewhere. I just know it did not happen where I lived.

  6. JamesT says:

    I am a lefty. I am anti-war. That said, the people who I have the most respect for are the veterans here at SST.
    Those bozos at the NYT are not lefties. They cheerlead for endless war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria – and then they have the temerity to disrespect the men and women who fight and die on behalf of their country. Unbelievable. They are despicable.
    Perhaps I should apportion more of the blame to the woman. Her conduct was disgraceful. But the hypocrisy of the supposedly “leftist” news media enrages me.

  7. yt kealoha says:

    better than being pissed on i guess.

  8. jld says:

    IMO the left is engaged in editing the narrative of that time so as to absolve itself of the ugliness of its own actions.

    The left is engaged in editing the narrative. period.
    ANY narrative, worldwide, not just in the US.
    This of course will pass but only after bitter and ugly struggles and will never completely disappear because it’s a godless religious creed.

  9. turcopolier says:

    Just do you understand – It was the policy and program of the communists in VN to sell American draftees very strong heroin at very low prices, practically nothing. pl

  10. LeaNder says:

    Pat, strictly I am missing the VW bus. 😉 Not that it matters.
    On the other hand I stopped to read here:
    Trash cans at the Los Angeles airport were piled high with abandoned uniforms, according to one eyewitness, a sight that would surely have been documented by news photographers — if it had existed.
    Let us agree. Your favorite in my stories in Berlin, maybe yours too, in hindsight is the soldier that visited me in full army gear. Although, I completely forget what made him show up. I vaguely recall, he might have asked me, if he could come see me. And as is my default, I surely responded: why not?

  11. turcopolier says:

    Since publication of my post my comment to the NY Times has magically appeared in the comments section of the article. Well, at least they read the blog. pl

  12. turcopolier says:

    Yes, some draftees dumped their uniforms as soon as they could. This was the result of the abominable reaction to them by the general public. pl

  13. Cold War Zoomie says:

    “In the Ken Burns documentary there is a bit near the end where a woman, after telling of her anti-war experiences…”
    I just finished the entire series and think he did a good job showing that both Democratic and Republican administrations were flawed and self-serving. But I think he leaned more towards the anti-war viewpoint than the “Silent Majority” side. Not a ton, since he kept reiterating that the polls showed support for Nixon throughout, but he definitely leaned enough to notice. And I was glad to see some of the anti-war guests admit that the movement had gone way too far, especially the woman you mention. I’m a left-leaning veteran and it still makes me wince when I see footage of Jane Fonda in Hanoi and the anti-war crowd waiving Vietcong flags. What a bunch of morons! Totally counterproductive. It also shows how today’s political polarization is actually pretty tame.

  14. mike says:

    I was lucky enough not to get spat on. A good friend of mine was not only spat on but had feces thrown at him. This was not at the airport. He was in full dress blues out collecting toys for the “Toys-for-Tots” program.
    So even though he was helping the local community, providing Christmas gifts for underprivileged kids, the antiwar crowd went after him. Those dirtbags were not lefties. IMHO they were draft dodgers and hippies, duped by “Uncle” Ho’s agitprop and under the influence of LSD. I’m a lefty. I would have taken a stick to those sleazeballs if they had done it to me. My colleague who was attacked showed great fortitude and dignity in resisting that impulse. He probably understood that they wanted a reaction.

  15. LondonBob says:

    No doubt not helped by McNamara and LBJ meaningfully lowering the standards of draftees to include criminals and the low IQ. I don’t know if you personally saw this as an issue but Westmoreland and many others did.

  16. mike says:

    Colonel –
    I note that the article in the NYT you refer to was an op-ed opinion piece. The author Jerry Lembke is a well-known denier of the spitting incidents. He wrote a book about it as well as a book about Hanoi Jane.
    With this opinion piece, Lembke is only trying to drum up flagging sales of his books. The NYT was played. IMO they should deny space to those who benefit monetarily from their op-ed pieces.
    Lembke is reportedly a veteran himself, but I have not found a bio of him online.

  17. Fred says:

    The general trend on the left is still disrespect of those who serve or at best damning with faint praise. The effort to push PTSD stigma seems very popular at the moment.

  18. ked says:

    I have noted that there is sometimes a lengthy delay between responding to an article & one’s comment actually being posted on major media sites. Not sure if it’s slow pocessing of algorithms that filter out “offensive language” (whatever that is these days), or “curating” (doncha love that suddenly popular concept?) or both, that’s the cause.
    Anyway, I was pretty anti-VN war policy as a high school kid in the ’60’s, but I was already well-aware that national policy was not made by vote of those in uniform. {when your Dad’s in uniform, that became pretty evident} I never personally witnessed such disrespect for uniformed citizens, but even then it was clearly occurring, as it did to you & others. Terrible times all-around… a lot to reflect upon for emotional pure-ends-justify-any-behavior types.

  19. VietnamVet says:

    I never was disrespected. Rather I was a drafted loser. Ignored.
    After returning in 70-71 I was stationed at Fort Lewis. Saturday when duty ended I was so eager to get out I would drive home to Seattle in uniform and change to civilian clothes there. I was an oddball; 27, single, with a college degree. When the Elite discovered that American conscripts wouldn’t fight the Empire’s endless unwinnable colonial wars; the Deplorables were thrown in the trash. Thus, their lowered life expectancy. The NYT article is feel good propaganda to hide this. Kevin Drum is a perfect example of the attitude of the coastal urban elite;
    The last thing corporate media will do is discuss the actual causes of the polarization of America.

  20. Tel says:

    The left/right way of looking at politics doesn’t mean much.
    There’s central power and there decentralized grass roots organization, and NYT are 100% in support of central power… sure they might quibble with the neocons over who gets the spoils or exactly which group of foreigners need a beating this week; but they don’t disagree over anything fundamental.

  21. Dave Schuler says:

    Something that needs to be kept in mind is how many of the protesters weren’t anti-war. They were on the other side.

  22. Bobo says:

    Gee, I guess the authors next story will be about those wonderful young ladies of Haight Asbury and their remarkable training and preparation to become the elected leaders of today’s ideological utopia-California.

  23. FourthAndLong says:

    “They are despicable.”
    Thanks for saving me the trouble.
    People and those who disparage the west in general, the US, Europe and Great Britain would IMHO, do well to contemplate the nobility of this Kurdish woman who left Denmark to fight ISIS in Syria:
    “I was willing to give up my life and freedom to stop ISIS advancing, so that everyone in Europe can be safe. This was my choice. But I am seen as terrorist by my own country.”
    Try to understand that “crooked timber of humanity” we certainly are constructed of ourselves, but people the world over have tremendous appreciation for our achievements.
    ” … so that everyone in Europe can be safe.”

  24. MRW says:

    I can’t see how to view comments for the NYT piece. Anyone have a link?
    I went to Manhattan during a weekend break from school in the 70s. I watched a parade of vets walking down Central Park West to Columbus Circle. I was standing around 63rd St. People were throwing things at them, yelling antiwar things, and, yes, spitting. Never forgot seeing this. So the guy who wrote this article doesn’t have a fucking clue what he’s talking about, and is haughtily claiming an event in Seattle represented the reaction of the rest of the country.

  25. FourthAndLong says:

    Appreciate the link. Very interesting article. I agree with nearly everything of you say, but not sure I completely follow. I don’t know Drum, he may be as you say, but French fellow he quotes very specifically says he is anything but Coastal elite. He’s in Tennessee. French’s observations are fascinating. Not being near flyover country myself it’s nearly priceless reporting.
    David Stockman can really go on and on about things, but he is brilliant and has vast experience of DC. He really despised what he calls “The Imperial War City” — his version, more or less of the Colonel’s matchless “Borg.” So if you can wade through the screed like rantier segments there are some valuable nuggets. I bring your attention to this one:
    Not so much in its predictive capacity, but because of the split he detects within the GOP. He happens to think DJT is a goner by sometime early next year via the 25th amendment, by the way, but he’s entitled to his opinion. Scroll down past his quadruple witching theory (fascinating as it is), just past the lengthy quote from Bannon grey italics to this:
    “You might say thems is fighting words. And notwithstanding the obvious bluster and megalomania, Bannon does have a very serious angle that’s being thoroughly overlooked.
    To wit, the GOP’s bigger hitter financial base is no longer Wall Street or the Fortune 500. Most of the leadership in those precincts went globalist and pro-establishment long ago.
    By contrast, today’s GOP money bags come from Flyover America’s big winners in the energy patch, real estate, communications and technology. The latter have been taken for granted by the Washington GOP, but they are overwhelmingly hard-core conservatives and seriously doubt that they have gotten much at all for the hundreds of millions they have pumped into the RNC, the Republican congressional campaign committees and the high profile personal PACs of the likes of Karl Rove.
    We have no doubt that Bannon is on to exactly that fissure and will be dramatically more successful in raising big dollars for GOP primary challengers than is now understood. In fact, his plan is to hit the GOP establishment where it really hurts—by raiding its campaign money machine: … ”
    And so on. My point is that he is most likely correct here, and it no longer does justice to what’s transpiring to lump “the elite” together. Too coarse grained by a long shot. He’s very an exceedingly perceptive fellow. I hope at the least you get a good chuckle reading him. His take on recent nixing of the JCPOA last week is a minor masterpiece:
    And many SST contributors will get a kick out of “Brennan, Rice, Power, lock them up!”, his take on the Russian hacking hysteria:
    I really enjoyed “Crazy Time in the Imperial City” recently here:
    — his very funny deconstruction of the utterly idiotic, IMHO, Google and Facebook so called revelations of late:
    “Who are they frickin’ kidding?
    The Wall Street Journal’s left-hand column headline this morning reads, “Google Unearths Russia-Backed Ads Related to U.S. Politics on Its Platforms.”
    “Unearths” is the operative term because apparently it took some heavy-duty Big Data Digging to find these malefactors. Here’s the meat of this ominous new discovery:
    Google found that accounts linked to the Russian government bought $4,700 worth of ads, while accounts with other Russian links spent $53,000 on ads, one of the people said. Google used signs such as Russian IP addresses, Russian language settings or payments in Russian rubles to link customers to Russia, the person said. It isn’t clear how Google tied some accounts to the Russian government.
    We have struck a line through the numbers to emphasize that there is no “k” or “m” “adjoining them in the text. The Russian “government” allegedly bought adds worth the grand sum of 4,700 dollars and no cents during the last election cycle in a dastardly attempt to throw the election to the Donald!
    As for the $53k of Goggle ad purchases by accounts with “other Russian links”, we won’t profess to be stumped.
    After all, there are 144 million Russians with 42,762,784 IP addresses (to be exact) domiciled within the borders of that fair land. But insofar as we can tell, the entire nation has not yet been turned into an army of Putin-zombies trolling the worldwide web in order to subvert American democracy. .. (continues at link)”

  26. paul says:

    id rather have the left spitting on soldiers and being actively antiwar,
    then showing respect for soldiers and tolerating endless war.

  27. turcopolier says:

    Too bad you were not there to explain your position to me personally, too bad. Do you spit on soldiers now? pl

  28. paul says:

    i don’t spit on anyone, but the left spent the past 8 years agitating for gay/trans rights to service in the military while the united states waged several unconstitutional wars of aggression.
    spitting on soldiers does not damage the foundations of our constitutional republic,
    letting the executive branch wage undeclared wars without any resistance is.

  29. turcopolier says:

    So, you think the soldiers are responsible for tese wars, or the VN War, or WW2? Or perhaps you think hat we should be a soldier free zone like Costa Rica? Surely you know that I have actively opposed the post 9/11 wars? pl

  30. paul says:

    So, you think the soldiers are responsible for tese wars
    where did i say that?
    i said my preference was a very strong antiwar movement that also lashed out at people who don’t deserve it, rather than a nice pleasant left that treats everyone with perfect respect and cheers for the wars of progress and liberalism against backwards dictators and instead of protesting wars is agitating for gay/trans rights to server in the military.
    an irony you should look in to a bit more, your options are not “koombaya” your options are a left that despises the military along with those who join it, and a left that will make its main focus to push social justice reforms through the military

  31. Oilman2 says:

    IMHO, all Americans should take each and every opportunity to spit upon our duly elected-but-bought-by-lobbyist congresscritters. They NEVER listen to their constituents, often voting exactly opposite of what their citizens tell them. I have emailed, written, and called – all I have ever received back from both representatives and senators is a canned response that says nothing, AKA nothingburger.
    And FWIW, I have never been in the military, but I was spat on by some french asshole back during the “freedom fries” period, when transiting DeGaulle airport on my way to Frankfurt. It did not have the intended effect, as I dropped my bag next to my buddy, and hopped the escalator after him. He bolted right for the nearest security guy, so I just stood there, motioning with my hand for him to come back. He didn’t, and the security guy just smiled. Did I mention that my attitude towards the French changed some??
    Soldiers obey orders, unless they contradict their oath or similar deep, moral convictions. The extent and nature of that oath is, as most things are, an individual decision. Blaming soldiers for foreign policy is like blaming the McDonalds franchise manager for corporate decisions – misdirected.
    Personally, I rather love the ME way of doing this – the ever entertaining ‘throwing of the shoes’. Packs a bit more inertia than spit, and it has better range. Of course, running away with one shoe is harder to do, so it’s best to hit your target, and hard.

  32. turcopolier says:

    Yet another doctrinaire leftist. So, you would want the military to become an active political force on your side, the left. Do you know any people like me? Not draftees, they were just citizens doing their civic duty, but, actual soldiers. Do you know any, or are we just abstractions for you?
    Neither you people on the left nor the rightists could ever control us if we took power. pl

  33. AEL says:

    There is an real dilemma. If you oppose a war, how should you treat the poor smucks who are prosecuting it? It seems unlikely that you will be able to get close enough to the real decision makers to spit on them.
    It is a similar problem with how you treat the poor customer service rep when they are enforcing some corporate rule designed to cost you money or waste your time in order for them to increase their margins slightly.
    Clearly the front line staff don’t have a say in the policy, but they are the only agents of that policy within reach. However, abusing them is rude and unproductive (and you set yourself up for even worse counter-abuse).
    What is the correct response?

  34. paul says:

    more of a libertarian these days, but being anything other than doctrinaire is unpractical.
    p.s. hope im not being an ass, i don’t condone their behavior nor do i condone the NYTs whitewashing of history, i just don’t think this kind of behaviour can be separated from a militant antiwar movement.
    good night and peace

  35. Cortes says:

    Disgusting that anyone would spit on another human being no matter the circumstances. Your restraint is admirable.
    Off topic but as I endured a 7 hour layover in Dallas in early 2012 I saw a couple of young people in uniform begin to look a bit frazzled by random strangers approach and shake their hands. Their restraint also struck me as they may well have been in transit homeward bound from some hellhole.

  36. I missed that whole anti-war era. AS ROTC cadets and midshipmen at RPI (Rensselaer Polytech) from 72 to 76 the entire student body was too preoccupied with beer, pot and sliderules to worry about any anti-military feelings. The closest thing to that was the demonstration against Jane Fonda in my freshman year.
    Many years later, I considered a different kind of anti-war statement. I kept an extremely powerful magnet from a very old hard drive just in case I got close to Cheney when he had his pacemaker. Was I serious about assassinating that miserable SOB if I got the opportunity? I doubt it, but I still have that magnet attached to an I beam in the cellar.

  37. Pacifica Advocate says:

    >>> IMO they should deny space to those who benefit monetarily from their op-ed pieces.
    That would eliminate any contributions from half the staff of their columnists and editors. 😉

  38. VietnamVet says:

    Being bi-coastal suburbanite; I read Kevin Drum, Paul Krugman and Josh Marshall blogs until, for whatever reason, they became fervent Hillary Clinton supporters. They are persons who never acknowledged that the Obama Administration was a continuation of the Younger Bush Administration or that he and Eric Holder let Wall Street take a walk. David Stockman brings back memories of the Reagan Administration.
    My take is that rural America fell for right wing radio propaganda; for example, “War on Coal” or the “Mexican paid for Border Wall”. The large companies still left in middle America have spent their money on what they wanted; privatization, consolidation and deregulation. It is the Deplorables who are not getting much of anything from their government. Rather, they are being looted by the connected; for example, the healthcare and private education systems.
    Yes, the Russians are scapegoats for the Establishment’s failings. I have yet to see one of the Facebook ads that supposedly changed the election.

  39. Pacifica Advocate says:

    Neither of those positions are native to “the left.”
    Have you never heard of the Spanish Civil War? The French Revolution?

  40. turcopolier says:

    No. No peace. I and my comrades were grossly insulted and abused. To hell with you and all the other communist sympathizers. pl

  41. mike says:

    Good on ya TTG. Sorry you missed that draft dodging chickenhawk SOB. Five draft deferments! Or was it his two DWI convictions that got him off the hook? But unfortunately you would have had to get well within a meter to fry his defibrillator or even to just knock it out of whack.
    Wonder if Deadeye Dick Cheney’s deferments put Vietnam Vet (above) to the forefront of draft induction? Or the Rove/Limbaugh/O’Reilly deferments? Or Jr Bush and Dan Quayle and others who used family influence to go to the head of the line for service in non-deployable National Guard units?

  42. turcopolier says:

    Too bad you missed the chance to see what miserable bastards the American people could be. pl

  43. Oilman2 says:

    @ AEL…
    I handled the spitting by calling out that french guy as much as I could, considering the security. If you don’t stand up for yourself, then what will you stand for?
    If it is customer service, then the only vote you get is with your wallet – go elsewhere and even pay more – if you do not, then your principles are secondary to you saving a few silver coins or driving a little farther.
    If it is government, then vote for change – it doesn’t matter which side you vote for in America – just vote a new one in and hope they do better. In other places, vote for change as well – it is the status quo who are the issue in most governments.
    Trump is symptomatic of how dissatisfied Americans are with right/left politics and the status quo in DC.
    @ pl…
    I am not so sure that our current military is united enough to even do that anymore. I have heard a lot of things from younger guys who got out recently, and very little of it was good. Apparently, political correctness and privilege have become very important. Conflicting orders common, unclear orders, weird TOE – lots of things.
    I would love to hear from some guys fresh out regarding some of this.

  44. Oilman2 says:

    @ TTG…
    I doubt it will be God sorting out that man…

  45. Fredko says:

    My deceased friend and golf buddy, Deninis, Sgt. NYPD told me he was spat on upon his return and was infuriated of course. He also expressed in his disgust with John Kerry and the medals incident.

  46. The Beaver says:

    Sorry to go OT .
    It is starting to get “hot” in Kirkuk tonight. Ça brasse comme on dit!
    Barzani may be in for a good surprise. First PUK now the Iraqi Govt.

  47. ToivoS says:

    I met a draftee in 1970 or so who was in transit through Oakland on his way to Viet nam. He came from the Bronx and told me he had negotiated a listing in Saigon. He dealt heroin before and was looking forward to scoring some of that good stuff in Saigon to send back to his partners. I was very skeptical of his plans but what did I know about such things.
    This guy came to us in Berkeley through one of the coffee shops some the anti-war activists ran in Oakland that catered to soldiers on their way to Viet nam. The coffee shop activists definitely encouraged insubordination but most certainly treated their customers as victims and not perpetuaters of war crimes. I didn’t start hearing about the spitting incidents until the mid 70s though never witnessed any such things.

  48. Walrus says:

    No spitting, just Six years of social ostracism. Your only friends were the police. They knew what it was like.

  49. lally says:

    I was living in Berkeley in March of ’68. The accounts of idiotic SF hippies spitting on soldiers were rampant as were the blanket condemnations of those acts by anti-war activists. The targets of the ant-war left were never those deployed to Vietnam, the outrage was tightly focused on those who sent them there.
    After all, those at risk, the injured and the dead, were, by and large, our friends, our family, our own.

  50. raven says:

    Your comment was posted. I have responded to several of the Vietnam articles and it usually takes some time before they go up.
    “Walter Patrick Lang Alexandria, Virginia 1 day ago
    I was spat upon at San Francisco International Airport in March, 1968. I was on my way to Vietnam. I was a captain in the US Army, was in uniform and waiting in front of the terminal for a military bus to take me to Travis AFB for the airlift to Vietnam. A young woman gout out of a VW bug in the parking lot. She looked a lot like Momma Cass, fat and and in a mumy. She walked up to me and spat on my chest. I asked if they had a roster at her pad for spitting on soldiers. She said yes and went back to her car.”
    I will say again that the people who “spat on me” metaphorically were right wingers who didn’t like anti-war Vietnam Vets. Nothing is ever going to change the minds of most of us on any of this. “It don’t mean nuthin”.

  51. raven says:

    Don’t forget Newt.

  52. LeaNder says:

    There were many other ways that soldiers were treated poorly. A classic was for a ticket agent to simply deny you a seat on commercial aircraft when they were available.
    On my way to your response in the comment section I must have stumbled across one that gave a bit of info: US soldiers only had to pay half the rate. There must have been some type of similar regulation over here, maybe even free transport home or back to the barracks. Some decades ago one more frequently met German soldiers in uniforms on trains. Haven’t seen that for ages.
    I am not suggesting this could be a reason, or there was some inner economic regulation one or the other that experienced it could misinterpreted. But yes, I was reminded of a return to Chicago trying to the get a cap comment in Burn’s Vietnam series. ….
    Random choice: One of Lembcke’s arguments I found already unconvincing when I looked into him earlier: If spitting at soldiers can’t be found in papers, there is a high probability it didn’t happen. That of course is pretty simplistic. In the comment section someone seems to try to challenge that thesis by suggesting as a member of the press at the time he knew these events were suppressed. But seriously how many people would inform the press if something like that happened to them?
    Here is your comment and one following it:
    Walter Patrick Lang Alexandria, Virginia 1 day ago
    I was spat upon at San Francisco International Airport in March, 1968. I was on my way to Vietnam. I was a captain in the US Army, was in uniform and waiting in front of the terminal for a military bus to take me to Travis AFB for the airlift to Vietnam. A young woman gout out of a VW bug in the parking lot. She looked a lot like Momma Cass, fat and and in a mumy. She walked up to me and spat on my chest. I asked if they had a roster at her pad for spitting on soldiers. She said yes and went back to her car.
    Andrew Durham NC 1 day ago
    “The Myth of the Spitting Antiwar Protester”? I took the use of the word “myth” to imply that this narrative would be disproved by the author’s research. I feel tricked by the headline.

  53. turcopolier says:

    I vaguely remember that some airlines sold enlisted soldiers half price tickets if they were traveling on leave. pl

  54. LeaNder says:

    Sounds odd. Would they have to return them at the end of their ‘term’?
    I am vaguely familiar with anti-draft positions and stories around it, obviously:
    At least one of the soldiers I met in Berlin had opted for a longer time beyond draft. Maybe inside the larger context he needed to state that, he choose it to have a higher chance to avoid Vietnam, was what he told me.
    But yes, once again, the stories of the ones that had returned from Vietnam, especially when they were drunk, and memories surfaced were rather hard to stand. And my job was to serve them beer and liquor. You cannot avoid the ones that are sitting at the counter, and they were a rather complex group.

  55. SR Wood says:

    I can only imagine a woman would try to spit on a returning veteran. Any male would probably end up dead or severely in need of the emergency room. I was in the Air Force not Army, and never transited San Francisco or California, and was never subjected to any derogatory behavior. This is not to say that it didn’t occasionally happen but knowing my high school classmates who were in the Army in VN and returned, any male (and maybe some females) would be taking their life in their hands had they spit on them.

  56. LeaNder says:

    No doubt not helped by McNamara and LBJ meaningfully lowering the standards of draftees to include criminals and the low IQ
    I suppose you have statistics that with the lowering of the IQ standards for draftees addiction went up in the US military.
    Including criminals? Any link that might help me? Bob?

  57. turcopolier says:

    At that time enlisted soldiers were provided uniforms at no expense to them. No attempts were made to recover clothing from them at the end of their service. Officers buy their own uniforms often from a tailor specialized in such work. BTW the period of service for a draftee was two years. Training at the front end of that and a year in VN left a few months afterward. People in that situation were generally sent to some unit for the rest of their time. I have a hard time thinking that the military would have sent someone with a few months left to Berlin. These drunks were probably lying to you and hoping for sympathy. pl

  58. mike says:

    How could I forget, thanks Raven. Also our current military CinC had five draft deferments. The first four were educational and are fine with me. Everyone should be able to pursue a university education even in time of war except in the most dire of circumstances. The fifth deferment for heel spurs was patently a fabrication, the man played ball both on the gridiron and the diamond.

  59. LeaNder says:

    Is this shoe throwing a ME’n custom?
    or is it related to Nikita’s famous shoe banging incident? Or maybe even an older shared custom?

  60. FourthAndLong says:

    Yes, I think you’ve pretty much got it there. Important as well is the white backlash that Obama’s presidency triggered and Hilary being a woman. 53 % of white women voted for Trump. That last boggles my mind at the moment. Maybe it deserves more thought. Probably not. Stupidity and low level of education. Something like 20 % or more of the American adult population believe that they will live to see the second coming of Christ in their lifetime. That’s distressing. But is it more distressing than having eight individuals in possession of half the worlds wealth ?
    And I agree with you as to the Reagan era odor associated with Stockman. I’m surprised at myself that I consult him from time to time. That crowd really turned my stomach.

  61. LeaNder says:

    These drunks were probably lying to you and hoping for sympathy. pl
    Well, if that was his intention, he failed. Might have been only one. I vaguely recall quite a bit of a rumor mill around one only. Hard core alcoholic, seems to fit in hindsight.
    But considering the larger setting, no doubt it would make sense that the whole thing was staged. With a bit of collaborative support.
    And there was of course another weekly economic context, beyond selling drinks and Italian spaghetti with meatball sauce, after the ‘boozer’ closed. …

  62. Fred says:

    My brother had a completely different experience at UVA from 72-76.

  63. Oilman2 says:

    It is custom to remove shoes before going into a mosque as it is considered to be the dirtiest part of a person. Makes sense, having walked in open markets all over this planet – crap from animals, entrails, maggots – anything nasty goes on the shoe.
    Here is one link of many you can find googling ‘shoe throwing insult origin’:
    It’s an old insult…

  64. not a vet, but respectful says:

    I’m sorry this happened to you.
    It’s worth noting that the NY Times did publish your comment, under the name Walter Patrick Lang, 2 days ago. The final line is “she said yes and went back to her car.”

  65. turcopolier says:

    not a vet
    Yes, they published it after I wrote about it on SST. pl

  66. Lars says:

    I know of a few instances, at the time, where judges would give petty criminals the choice of enlisting or go to jail.

  67. scott s. says:

    Things were a bit different for me in that era (UW Madison YG 75). We had drill 1 day a week at the old Field House. Most Mids would carry their uniforms and put them on just for drill. Army had it worst as they had been in the old Red Gym since early days (though by early 70’s after fire-bombing moved to kind of a dumpy building but still in the heart of campus which was a target of red paint off and on). Navy unit was on the western edge of campus by the Ag school — the farmers weren’t a big part of the anti-war movement so not such an issue.
    Things were better by 75 and the PNS decided to require us to wear uniform all day on drill day, and I don’t recall any hassle.
    Milwaukee in that era (where I lived) I don’t think was too hostile to the troops overall, and was considered a better liberty town for sailors from Great Lakes than Chicago (may have helped that it was Navy not Army).
    UW is coming up on 50th anniversary of the Dow Chemical protests and take over of the School of Business so there will be some introspection in the coming years. That will culminate on the 50th of the Sterling Hall truck bombing.

  68. turcopolier says:

    It was always the case that minor offenders were sometimes given that choice. It was a good way to get troublemakers out of a community. Some of the best sergeants I ever knew came in the army that way. So far as I know felons were never knowingly enlisted. officers had to have virginal records. The Project 100,000 people did not end up in the infantry very much. In combat you cannot afford o have stupid men. It was easier to make them truck drivers, cooks, supply room workers and the like. the typical VN KIA was a 22 year old white man from a small town or farm . pl

  69. Keith Harbaugh says:

    Just want to point out an earlier SST post on this subject:
    “I was spat upon in 1968.”
    by PL
    SST, 04 January 2011
    One of the comments to that post is (was?):

    Phil Giraldi said…
    Colonel – I too was spat upon in the Spring of 1969 at Union Station in Baltimore, while going home on leave from intelligence training at Ft. Holabird. We were required to travel in uniform to take advantage of reduced fares and it was sometimes an ordeal. In my case, I was heading towards my gate when I was surrounded by five or six young men and women in what in those days might have been described as hippy attire. They danced around me chanting something or other and then one of them spat. Two cops approached and they ran off. I know other Army trainees in Baltimore had similar experiences. There was an extremely active SDS faction at Johns Hopkins and also at the University of Maryland.
    05 January 2011 at 09:12 AM

  70. annamissed says:

    Never got spat upon. Most common response from peer age group was “did you kill anybody?” Or, “don’t know whether to feel sorry for you or be afraid of you”
    Got an evening pass in San Francisco on my way out to VN in 69. Me and another in uniform happen to walk by the Avalon Ballroom where a large clutch of hippies where hang’n and smokin’ on the steps. As we walked by they all stopped what they were doing and stared at us. In that silent moment I spun around and did the “take a picture it last longer” pantomime. It took those stoned heads about 3 seconds to realize what happened and they all went crazy laughing at themselves.

  71. different clue says:

    The Twisted Genius,
    I hope Babak Makkinejad read this comment. It is yet-more evidence that beer, pot AND slide rules can go perfectly well together when used in all the right ways by all the right people.

  72. Fred,
    I guess it all depended on the school. We wore our uniforms every Tuesday. That was several hundred cadets and midshipmen wandering around campus. Never heard of an incident. Same was true at Siena and Union Colleges. We were even able to walk around Albany State, Skidmore and Russel Sage without incident.

  73. turcopolier says:

    You were lucky. The crisis had passed. pl

  74. Stumpy says:

    This is a few years later, but I left the service with a duffel bag crammed with uniforms the Army gave me. Wish I still fit into them, haha. Still have the duffel bag and my dress greens hang one brass-polish away from parade-prepared.

  75. LondonBob says:

    ‘McNamara’s Folly: The Use of Low-IQ Troops in the Vietnam War’ by Hamilton Gregory.
    Of course Muhammad Ali was originally passed over but was subsequently accepted. Having low IQ types with heavy guns in their hands in Vietnam was not only a problem for their comrades, but even more so for Vietnamese civilians. I have seen it claimed the Americal Division (My Lai) had a large share of the misfits.
    Of course it is old issue, in WWII the dumb ones were put in the infantry and then in the Pioneer Corps in Britain, I believe the US put them in the Quartermaster Corps. The Air Force always tends to get the brightest, the Germans, not surprisingly, administered a lot of aptitude tests, and found that the average Luftwaffe enlistee was a lot more intelligent, and also better motivated, than his Heer (Army) counterpart. Once the Germans had most of the air force shot out of the sky, they should have transferred most of the now-excess Luftwaffe enlisted men to the Army, where they would have made first-rate infantrymen if integrated into existing Army formations. But that wasn’t good enough for Hermann Goering. He had to insist that they stay in air force uniform, and form Luftwaffe “field divisions” to fight as ground forces under air force command. Plus, they would stay good National Socialists under Nazi commissars, and not come under the old monarchist, reactionary influence of the Army. Needless to say, it all ended in tears: The “field divisions” crumpled under fire like wet newspaper.

  76. b says:

    There is a facsimile of an account of an anti-war Vietnam veteran who claimed to have been spat on by pro-war civilians during a parade protest in New York.
    The Case of the Spitting Legionnaire
    It is plausible but could use some corroboration.
    (Note: I do not endorse the linked piece.)

  77. bernard says:

    dear col. Lang,
    as indicated at a prior time, I respect and accept your report on the matter of the spitting, which is disgraceful.
    There is a recent article by Robert Freeman about the causes of the US defeat in Vietnam:
    Now, I have no particular military or historical expertise, but this would seem to sum up the view of a ‘concerned citizen’ such as myself.
    I wonder whether, sir, you would care to comment on this article, and refute or rebut it or any of its points and arguments?
    sincerely yours,
    bernard from australia

  78. turcopolier says:

    you must be new here. As I have written before we lost the VN War in the US, not in VN. pl

  79. LeaNder says:

    Lars, who would have been a petty criminal at that point in time? What would have been listed as misdemeanor?
    Concerning the mystery of life: do you have information how they did in VN or how they returned, if they returned, that is?
    Was there a more general legal rule? In hindsight I can understand the judges. The army may be a better place then the private training/reeducation camps you seem to have in the States by now.
    Randomly: would that include a young guy that after having a couple of beers with friends made the mistake of riding whatever type of vehicle home and got into a police control? Let’s say someone that additionally tried to show off to his friends, who lived nearby?

  80. LondonBob says:

    Sorry I just watched some of that youtube presentation, incredibly dull so don’t waste your time. The reviews and comments at amazon give you a better sense of the book and its implications.

  81. turcopolier says:

    The Project 100,000 men were almost all in menial logistics jobs where the biggest risk was of venereal disease or being killed by Vietnamese gangsters they were involved with over currency manipulation or blacketmarketing of US supplies. My first year in VN I ran an intelligence detachment in the mountains on the border. All my officers and enlisted soldiers were college graduates. pl

  82. turcopolier says:

    someone will remember that US troops in VN were paid in a special currency designed to inhibit currency manipulation but there was an active three way traffic in Military Payment Certificates, green US dollars and Vietnamese money. pl

  83. LeaNder says:

    Aware of the removal of shoes before entering mosques. …
    Strictly I have to remove my shoes on all the premises of family members with the exception of my brother’s. 😉 They don’t ask me to lower eyes or voice though. Which in turn reminds me of the “soft-spokenness” of islamists, I was curious about shortly after 9/11.
    But interesting to follow the history of the mosaic from Bush senior to Clinton, the dead artist (collateral damage? …) all the way to Kris Kristofferson. 😉
    thanks, oilman.

  84. mike says:

    Colonel –
    MPC it was called – military payment certificates. Commonly referred to as ‘scrip’. It was supposedly only good for the PX (if you had access to a PX, which many did not unless at a major base in the rear. But as you say there was a thriving black market.
    There was something similar in ww2. My father brought home one paper note from Italy as a keepsake. It was a 100 Lira note as I recollect. Issued by the Allies and worth less than two bits he said.

  85. LondonBob says:

    I must admit I haven’t actually read the book so I don’t know how many he or the official recorders think actually ended up in combat.
    Certainly is true poor southern white farm boys exist right at the intersection of lacking the middle class deferments whilst still having the right aptitude that the military sought, of course add in the culture of fighting and patriotism and they make the perfect recruits. As with most of America’s wars they did they did the brunt of the fighting, and good thing too that they generally did.

  86. turcopolier says:

    There were basically two kinds of people in Army infantry. White Southern boys as you say and Blacks (often from the South.) These Blacks were typically not from the Project 100,000 cohort. pl

  87. Lars says:

    A good friend of mine did 6 years in the US Navy and when he got out, he built a still, got busted and choose the US Army this time. He became a cargo pilot in VN. Unfortunately, he died too young from cancer, possibly from exposure to Agent Orange.

  88. mike says:

    Colonel –
    That may be true. I have no Army stats. But if you look at the ratio of combat deaths in Vietnam to state population it tells a different story. The National Institute of health has some data on those ratios.
    It is true that New York, New Jersey, DC, and southern New England had some of the lowest rates of combat deaths. They were in the bottom ten. So was Louisiana. Alaska was lowest.
    But many states especially in the west had higher ratios than southern states. New Mexico, Montana, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Hawaii, and Arizona all had higher ratios than every southern state save West Virginia (WV had the highest death rate of all at 42 per 100,000 population. BTW I served with several West Virginians and never thought of them as southerners although at least one of them had a Confederate flag tatoo. His ancestors who seceded from Virginia and fought for the Union during the WBS must have been spinning in their graves). My suspicions are that Hawaii rated high because it was a second home to many officers and NCOs.
    Maine’s ratio was comparable to Georgia and Alabama but higher than every other southern state.
    Oregon had higher rates than every southern state except GA and AL.
    New Hampshire and Washington State had higher rates than Arkansas, Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Virginia, and Louisiana.
    Even the midwestern tier of Ohio, Michigan, Iowa Indiana, Missouri, and South Dakota had higher rates than Florida, Mississippi, Virginia, and Louisiana.
    Even California’s rate of 27.91 is comparable to Virginia (28.04).

  89. Larry Kart says:

    Perhaps that was the reason, but I’ve posted comments several times on NYT threads and what I posted didn’t show up until several days had passed.

  90. raven says:

    Just how do you arrive at this conclusion?

  91. raven says:

    What does the makeup of a Special Forces unit have to do with the vast majority of troops in Vietnam?

  92. turcopolier says:

    In this case not SF, intelligence field collection team. I was simply offering an example of a kind of unit that had very different people in it. pl

  93. turcopolier says:

    Not a conclusion, an observation from interacting with them. pl

  94. turcopolier says:

    The likelihood that someone like the man you describe would have become a “cargo pilot” is so small as to be absurd. pl

  95. turcopolier says:

    OK Statistics man, I only know what I saw in the field. pl

  96. turcopolier says:

    Larry Kart
    Comments were closed long before my comment appeated. pl

  97. turcopolier says:

    I suspect that army and marine infantry population demographics were somewhat different. pl

  98. Larry Kart says:

    IIRC that was my experience, too. Perhaps when they say ‘comments are closed,” that means that no further comments will be accepted but that the process of sifting through comments that already have arrived will continue for a while. Can’t say for sure about that of course, but in my case (actually cases) I was annoyed by the long delay, then relieved when my comments finally appeared. They were fairly testy comments, too, BTW.

  99. LondonBob says:

    Looks to me that Florida, Mississippi, Virginia, and Louisiana were very much the exception than the rule though (and even then they are still relatively high, except for Louisiana). Almost all the southern states had very high mortality rates otherwise. I would lump greater Appalachia states like Oklahoma and West Virginia in with the South, could even put Arizona and New Mexico there too.
    Of course I would break it down further by race to get a more accurate picture, the high mortality states basically seem to be southern or rural white states.

  100. turcopolier says:

    If you are using Mike’s table I would once again remind that these ficures are not diagrigated by service. pl

  101. LondonBob says:

    Yes, I assume most deaths were infantry in combat and deaths would be evenly distributed across volunteers, namely West Virginians didn’t just happen to be ambushed a lot. So I expect that is a good approximation.
    I just don’t think it shows what Mike thinks it does. The average is 29.8, sure Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida are below it, but only Louisiana is notably so.
    I am also think defining the south as only those states that attempted to secede is too narrow. Of course that is subjective.

  102. LondonBob says:

    Actually in that link I provide to ‘Maps of American Nations’ he shows a breakdown of enlistment by region and a discussion of it.
    The South and the Far West are over represented.

  103. turcopolier says:

    Yes, the difference between a rural western accident and a Southern accent are often hard to detect. pl

  104. lally says:

    The West is also misrepresented; “El Norte” areas are labeled “Mexican” rather than Conquistdor Spanish>Hispanic which they historically and are from the beginning. In addition, the map notes the Native American population as encompassing in the main, Navajo country with another swath of a completely, unrelated group along Arizona”s southern border. The Pueblo peoples at the core of the region are missing.
    Why does this matter?
    Living and learning that region one is struck by how both groups honor their warrior traditions. The causes have changed but the pride in serving in defense of “the community” weave strong and deep throughout the respective cultures.
    The greater SW is rather a blood-soaked place.

  105. Luther Blissett says:

    I looked into the question a few years ago. Spitting happened.
    One point rarely mention is that throughout history many cultures have consider soldiers returning from battle to be ‘polluted’ by the bloodshed. Often there is some sort of purification ritual to be done before they are allowed back into the agora. Marching an army through the two halves of a bi-sected dog (or POW…) was one method to absorb off their pollution. See Robert Parker’s Miasma (1983).
    Uncleansed blood-shedders are considered disgusting/polluted and spitting is a primal evolutionary reaction to disgust. Spitting is often considered to have magical warding power.
    You can add all the sociological/political dimesions you want onto this basis.

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