The Myth Of The Spitting Myth Part 2

The archetype of the America hating left-winger, Ted Rall, has spewed forth just the sort of drivel you’d expect to see in a column entitled “Boycott The Military”.

You know, things like “World War II, won six decades ago by a storied generation of draftees and volunteers, was fought to defend American freedom. But we haven’t fought an honorable war since.”

Ah, if only we would have stayed out what Ted Rall views as dishonorable wars! In Ted Rall’s ideal world, South Korea would be as well ruled as the North is today and Saddam would still be in power with Kuwait under his thumb.

Heck, even Vietnam was an honorable war. I only regret that we got into it without being willing to do what it took to win.

But, that wasn’t what I wanted to focus on in Ted’s column. No, I wanted to once again take on “The Spitting Myth”. Here’s what I’m talking about…

“A haunted young man whose face bears too many lines for his years, jetlagged and limping from a wound sustained in the defense of his country half a world away, emerges from a jetway at San Francisco International Airport. A woman about the same age awaits in the terminal. A peace-sign necklace hanging above a loose floral-print dress billowing about her unshaven legs, the hippie chick scornfully scans his uniform, spits in his face and screams: “Baby killer!” The veteran scans the crowd for support, but sees only contempt in the faces of passersby.

It’s a powerful, tragic cliché of the Vietnam era, dramatized in the “Rambo” movies, and a cautionary tale for today’s antiwar left. But according to Holy Cross College professor Jerry Lembcke, a Vietnam vet and author of “The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam,” it never happened.

“If you go back and look at the historical record, like I did–newspaper accounts, police records, and also just things historians have written,” says Lembcke, “you don’t find any record or any evidence that these things happened–or even that they were being claimed as happening–in the late ’60s and early ’70s.” There isn’t even one letter written by a soldier at the time referencing such an incident.

Nevertheless, the myth lives. Opponents of the U.S. war against Iraq worry that the public may look at them as ideological heirs to those who supposedly used demoralized vets as spittoons. Oppose the war, they say, but support the troops!”

Last time I addressed this subject, Slate was peddling “The Spitting Myth” and claiming that there “is no evidence that anybody ever gobbed on a soldier returning from Vietnam”.

Of course, all it took to disprove that was heading over to Google and typing in “I was spit on” & “Vietnam”. At the time, I found three veterans who all said they were spit on, Mike Teter, Kevin Cooper, & Gene Stocks. Here are three more examples I found again today, just by using Google…

Here’s “troubled” Vietnam vet James Alfred

“It made a man out of me but it also made me disrespect the U.S.,” he said of his military experience. “I was spit on at Midway (airport) and called a baby killer. It made me feel like I wasn’t s—!”

Here’s Vietnam hero Steve Ritchie

“Ritchie, 54, is the only Air Force pilot ace since the Korean War, and the only American pilot ever to down five of the Soviet-made MiG-21s. Homecomings have not always been so sweet. Like many who fought in Vietnam, Ritchie was not cheered when he returned from his first tour of combat duty. “I was spit on in San Francisco, in uniform,” Ritchie said, with only the slightest edge entering a voice softened by a North Carolina accent.”

Here’s Ray Anthony with a similar story…

“Ray Anthony was just 19 years old when he returned stateside in a wheelchair from a tour of duty with the U.S. Army in Vietnam.

Despite his injuries, his reception was far from a hero’s welcome.

“I was spit on,” the Connellsville man said Sunday. “I came back in a wheelchair, and I was spit on.”

So we have six people here, all Vietnam vets, all reporting to newspapers that they were personally spit on. Should that, along with all the stories we’ve heard through the years about this sort of thing, not be sufficient to prove that there were Vietnam war protestors spitting on veterans? For reasonable people, sure that’ll suffice. But don’t look for the folks at Slate, Ted Rall, or Jerry Lembcke to be convinced. They’re more interested in sanitizing the deservedly sullied reputations of the Vietnam War protestors than the truth…

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