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Vietnam Spitting.--

There is a flap about whether returning Vietnam veterans were really spat upon (via Instapundit). One commenter at Countercolumn says that Bob Greene, a former Chicago columnist, wrote a column in the 1980s saying that it was a myth. He received so many stories of spitting that he interviewed the purported victims and wrote a book concluding that many such stories were probably true.

Then Jerry Lembcke wrote a book saying it was a myth, that he researched news stories and they started appearing around 1980. I have no independent source of information on this, but having done literally thousands of WESTLAW and LEXIS/NEXIS searches, I can say that when something starts appearing in the press in the early 1980s, that is almost always a function of when these two news services started including the full texts of major newspapers. (I find a clear Feb. 1, 1981 reference in the New York Times.) Although I can't say for certain that Jerry Lembcke made this error in his research, I can say that my students make this error all the time. I haven't yet read either Greene's or Lembke's book, but in my experience when someone says that a word usage or a story starts appearing around 1980 or in the early 1980s, they are almost always reflecting the limitations of their online search database, rather than the origins of the phenomenon they are tracing.

I'm suspicious of the coincidence between Lembke's account and the beginning of full-text coverage in WESTLAW and LEXIS. In other words, did Lembke's research show that such stories began appearing in the early 1980s, or did his research show that by 1981-82, when the major newspapers came online in full text, the story was already well known?

UPDATE: In the comments below are several seemingly credible first-hand accounts of being spat on. In addition, several note a bunch of 1971 published stories (I found one in the June 2, 1971 Chicago Tribune) involving the claims of an anti-John Kerry serviceman that he was spat on.

I was also able to confirm my speculation above that the spitting meme may have been spread long before 1980. Alfred Kitt, after he had resigned as General Counsel to the Army and was working at Yale, wrote a heartfelt Sept. 15, 1971 op-ed in the Washington Post, looking back on working in a situation in which many thought him a war criminal--and even his own family was against him. Kitt also discussed the plight of the ordinary soldier, including this sentence: "You can't be fond of being spat on, either literally or figuratively, just because of the uniform you're wearing."

Toby:
I fear we will see more systematic error of this type in the future. My kids (now in college and high school) have never done research anywhere but on the internet. They understand poster-bias quite well, but seem unwilling to consider that the nature of the media itself as well as its discrete history is a source for error.
2.3.2007 11:38am
AppSocRes (mail):
As of 1967 I can remember hearing stories of soldiers returning from Vietnam being spit upon. It was one of the first things that repelled me from the left. Such stories were widely current in publications of the time.
2.3.2007 11:55am
Roger Sweeny (mail):
For what it's worth, Greene's book was called Homecoming and is still available at places like amazon. It does indeed say what the commenter at Countercolumn says it does.
2.3.2007 12:04pm
Spectral Disorder:

It was one of the first things that repelled me from the left.

yes, because as we know, all people who hold similar viewpoints have the same behavior. Thus we know that all on the right are valiant defenders of america, and all of those on the left are disrespectful of the military. Sheer genius.
2.3.2007 12:06pm
Swede:
These stories have always puzzled me. I don't doubt that many of them are true. One has only to read some of the more batty websites to hear what a certain class of citizen thinks of the Armed Forces. The puzzling part for me has been how anybody could see me, in uniform, and think it was a healthy idea to voice their opinion by soiling it with their sputum.

Stupid, broken, and drinking your meals through a straw are no way to go through life, son.
2.3.2007 12:30pm
James Grimmelmann (mail) (www):
Jim Lindgren says that a commenter at Countercolumn says that Bob Greene says that veterans say they were spit on. The beauty of blogging is that because bloggers link their sources, we can get down from quadruple hearsay to "only" double.

I just looked up the Lembcke book on Google Boock Search. He cites a 1995 study by Beamish, Molotch, and Flacks, available on JSTOR. They, in turn, looked at a sample of contemporary newspaper reporting on Vietnam protests, examining the specific articles to see whether they described "anti-protester" words or actions. Their conclusion was generally "no," and they found no accounts of protesters spitting on troops in their sample.
2.3.2007 12:34pm
DaSarge (mail):
Did y'all ever think that even contemporary press reports may have a bit of selection bias? E.g., the Seattle Times seemed utterly uninterested in the issue, hence never reported it. Therefore, a retrospective look at newspaper articles strikes me as a most unreliable method that is guaranteed to find the result Greene wanted, not the truth of the matter. Geez, how about a scientifically valid survey of Vietnam vets? You know, the guys with personal knowledge? (Sorry for the sneer; I gotta admit in rankles even 30 years on.)

I first saw this in Shafer's column in Slate. Here is part of what I wrote him:

It is no myth. I was spat upon at LAX when I was coming home on leave after 13 months in RVN. Happened again at SeaTac. With my own eyes I saw happen to others several more times. One time I saw two college kids spit on a paratrooper hobbling with a cane, a cast on one arm showing blood stains, and a blood-soaked bandage on his neck. I wonder how Lembcke missed all this?

Later, when in college (U. Wash.) if I were to admit I was a veteran I was commonly sneered at, along the lines of "And how many babies have you killed?" [Preferred response: "I lost count, but it'll be one more if you don't shut up." Never actually said, of course, me being the only grown-up in the conversation.]

Every Vietnam vet I know has similar stories, Lembcke's puerile, tendentious propaganda notwithstanding.
2.3.2007 12:54pm
Loki13 (mail):
DaSarge,

One criticism I have heard of post-dated accounts was directed specifically at the LAX account. According to the 'spittle-deniers', when the soldiers came home on leave, they almost were uniformly flown into the airbases, and not LAX. I am not denying the validity of your story, but I was wondering if you could comment as to the prevalence of direct flights back to American airports. As Mr. Shaffer remarked:


The protester almost always ambushes the soldier in an airport (not uncommonly the San Francisco airport), after he's just flown back to the states from Asia. The soiled soldier either slinks away or does nothing.

Now, it's possible that a Vietnam veteran was spat upon during the war years. Lembcke concedes as much because nobody can prove something never happened. Indeed, each time I write about the spit myth, my inbox overflows with e-mail from readers who claim that a spitting protester targeted them while they were in uniform. Or the e-mail writer claims it happened to a brother or a friend at the airport or bus station.
I expect similar e-mails this time, and I will share with readers any account that comes with some sort of evidence—such as a contemporaneous newspaper story or an arrest report—that documents the sordid event.
2.3.2007 1:15pm
breen (mail):
My vietnam vet father has no such stories and thinks most, if not all, of the ones he hears are utter crap. Without having read the books/studies in question, I would think the logical place to research the claim would be in court documents. What I am really curious at is how thousands of soldiers could be spat upon by a bunch of hippies and not one prominent assault case could be cited. I've known countless soldiers in my lifetime, and I hesitate to think of one that wouldn't put someone in the hospital for getting spat upon.
2.3.2007 1:19pm
John (mail):
"Thus we know that all on the right are valiant defenders of america, and all of those on the left are disrespectful of the military. Sheer genius."

Well, yes. Sounds like a definition!
2.3.2007 1:24pm
KevinQ (mail) (www):
Why is the story always "protester spits on returning vet," and not "returning vet assaults protester who spit on him?" Of all of these stories of protesters and veterans, how come none include the expected (and possibly correct) outcome of "after getting spit upon, the vet grabbed his cane and beat seven kinds of hell out of the dumb college kid?"

I mean, if one vet got spit on, and refrained from reacting, we could applaud him for exercising reason and self-control when nobody else did.

But of all of the countless stories of vets getting spit on, not one includes retaliatory violence? I'm curious about that.

K
2.3.2007 1:28pm
LTEC (mail) (www):
If I scream at you and foam at the mouth, am I spitting on you? If I curse you and spit on the ground, am I spitting on you? If I call you a war criminal and refuse to hire you, am I spitting on you?

Although I never thought about it consciously, I think I always viewed the "spitting on our veterans" meme as being principally metaphorical, and in that sense certainly true. Why is it important to determine exactly how much literal spitting occurred, when it is universally acknowledged that much worse things took place?
2.3.2007 1:32pm
DaSarge (mail):
Loki13:

You betray your lack of knowledge of military affairs. And, yes, you are denying the validity of my story.

It is indeed true that Vietnam vets were flown from the RVN (with a stop on Okinawa for the naval service) via charter aircraft to various Air Force bases. On arrival, the vets were then processed either for separation (largely Army draftees) or, like me, for leave. Either way, we vets had to get home from the Air Force Base of arrival.

Here is how it happened: after processing, we were taken from the AFB via bus to the appropriate civilian airport (LAX for me) to fly home on regularly scheduled airlines. (Except for the lucky guys who lived in southern California and were picked up by their families) I spent several hours in LAX waiting for my flight. LAX was crawling with uniformed military personnel.

The Air Force may have done things differently, but that is how the Army &Marine Corps did it.
2.3.2007 1:34pm
DaSarge (mail):

But of all of the countless stories of vets getting spit on, not one includes retaliatory violence? I'm curious about that.


KevinQ:

There are few stories of vets retaliating with an assault because it rarely happened. Most vets were adults and used to being disciplined in the face of adversity. And, if still on active duty, they would be court-martialed for various offences.

It never occured to me to retaliate, let alone with force, or even say anything. I just went home and sent my uniform out for cleaning. It astonishes me that you would think otherwise.
2.3.2007 1:41pm
KevinQ (mail) (www):
DaSarge said,
It never occured to me to retaliate, let alone with force, or even say anything.

Well, then, as I said above, congratulations for exercising reason and self-control when the other person failed to.

However, I still maintain my incredulity that there are no stories of vets, friends of vets, or people around vets, who did respond with violence.

K
2.3.2007 2:03pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
However, I still maintain my incredulity that there are no stories of vets, friends of vets, or people around vets, who did respond with violence.


Perhaps because the anti-war protesters who worked up the "courage" to spit usually were part of larger groups?
2.3.2007 2:21pm
liberty (mail) (www):
What astonishes me is the incredibly low academic standards which must exist if the presumption of the start of something is based on the limitations of the database used - where was the editor? Where was his scientific method? Where were his footnotes delineating the applicability of his sources?
2.3.2007 2:41pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Jim: "when something starts appearing in the press in the early 1980s, that is almost always a function of when these two news services started including the full texts of major newspapers"

You're barking up the wrong tree. It is possible to do computerized searching of newpapers much older than 1980.

In fact, you can do such a search right now very easily, and it documents a spitting incident involving a Vietnam vet in 1971 (this is not the CBS TV report that some folks have mentioned).

More details here.
2.3.2007 2:51pm
Toby:
I spent a lot of time with my sister and her husband in those years. He spent quite a bit of time as a marine recruiter between his second and third trips to viet Nam. As such he was expected to show up in public in his dress blues regularly, at public events where he was not explicitly recruiting. Ho would, for example, wear his Blues to mass.

As someone who would walk from Mass to sunday school with someone in dress blues in the late 60's (Im putting this 68 by memory) I'd say that any presumption that if it was not in the papers, there was no spitting going on is credulous in the extreme. I remember asking him why they did this. I also remmeber thinking that my uncle was a man of extreme self control.
2.3.2007 3:44pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
One time I saw two college kids spit on a paratrooper hobbling with a cane, a cast on one arm showing blood stains, and a blood-soaked bandage on his neck.

Oh come on, we're supposed to believe the Army was letting a barely ambulatory soldier whose bleeding is not even under control (apparently from more than one wound) fly on a commercial flight? From your description the guy should have still been in the hospital, not wandering around an airport.

It makes us question the veracity of your whole story.
2.3.2007 4:20pm
Ali (mail):
2.3.2007 4:22pm
Loki13 (mail):
Here's the reason I have a slight problem with this. Various researchers have tried to find archival evidence...anything... to back up the spit claim. It seems to keep dead ending. There is a certain uniformity to the stories. And while we now seem to have (perhaps) thousands who claim to have been spit on or witnessed the spitting, not a single spitter has come forward in contrition. So, various groups with a vested interest in this story now speak not about how factual these accounts are, but how they convey the 'essential truth' of the American mood back then.

No real, actual facts, but because it conveys an 'essential truth', it must be an 'actual truth'. Hmmm... this seems like something those vested interests would normally deplore.

Again, go to the deeper question of why... why is it important for the left to debunk the individual 'fact' of the spitting incidents (a tactic the right normally uses... discredit a small part of the narrative in order to dismiss the entirety of the narrative). Meanwhile, why does the right cling just as tenaciously to the idea of this 'essential truth', which is normally something you would see in Mother Jones?

Finally, what does this say about the actual narrative of memory, as experience (something the left often uses and the right dismisses). If a soldier, because the story has repeated so often, and because it represents his feeling, internalizes this story and repeates it, does it then become the truth?
2.3.2007 4:32pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Jack Shafer should never be allowed anywhere near a jury. To him, "it happened to me" is not evidence, while a newspaper reporter saying it happened to someone else is.

Nick
2.3.2007 4:35pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
Jim, I understand this is a blog and all but your leveling some specific accusations with as far as I can tell no backing. I think this is a bit unseemly. just looking at the comments liberty has taken you what you suggest with no factual evidence backing you as truth. Perhaps you should have tried contacting Jerry Lembcke and asking him about it before besmirching his name.

Oddly enough for most blogs I would be ok with this type of thing, but Volokh seems to run itself by much higher standards.
2.3.2007 4:41pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
Hey! I was there and I don't believe the stories because we would have heard about them then (as there was a great deal of hostility from pro-war Nixon supporters towards antiwar hippy students and that would have been great propoaganda.)

Did it ever happen? Probably. Just about everything bad has happened once.

But was it even remotely widespread?
No way.

It's a lie. Period. End of story.

And probably the most convincing argument (mentioned above) is what pot-dazed hippy is going to be stupid-enough to take on a battle-tested soldier?
2.3.2007 4:42pm
CaDan (mail):
Toby writes:

I spent a lot of time with my sister and her husband in those years. He spent quite a bit of time as a marine recruiter between his second and third trips to viet Nam. As such he was expected to show up in public in his dress blues regularly, at public events where he was not explicitly recruiting. Ho would, for example, wear his Blues to mass.

As someone who would walk from Mass to sunday school with someone in dress blues in the late 60's (Im putting this 68 by memory) I'd say that any presumption that if it was not in the papers, there was no spitting going on is credulous in the extreme. I remember asking him why they did this. I also remmeber thinking that my uncle was a man of extreme self control.



Amazing example here. The relationship between the poster and the person the story is about changed over the course of two paragraphs.
2.3.2007 4:52pm
Elliot Reed:
Jack Shafer should never be allowed anywhere near a jury. To him, "it happened to me" is not evidence, while a newspaper reporter saying it happened to someone else is.
Some random person on the Internet writing an email that says "it happened to me 30 years ago in a way that closely hews to a story that's commonly told for partisan political purposes and has no contemporary documentary evidence" isn't very good evidence at all. It might be good evidence if the person is testifying under oath in court and can be cross-examined, the veracity of the other details in their story can be examined (do military records show that they were enlisted and came back from Vietnam the way they say they did?) and so forth and so on. But "somebody on the Internet said it happened to them" is not much by way of evidence.
2.3.2007 5:14pm
Elliot123 (mail):
During the 1968 Democratic Convention protests in Chicago I did witness a uniformed Army Paratrooper beating the hell out of a hippie on the sidewalk. I didn't see what started the incident, but it was a bit strange. The soldier was all alone, surrounded by protesters, whacking one of them all over the sidewalk, and nobody did anything. Spitting? Who knows?
2.3.2007 5:34pm
Gaius Obvious (mail):
It does seem to have been a tactic that was in use at the time:

ATLANTA, Dec. 28 (AP)-- As a tactic of protest against the Vietnam war, a student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) official advocates spitting on President Johnson, smashing the windows of his limousine and overturning the car.

Source: Washington Post, Dec 29, 1967

It wouldn't take much to turn that request from being directed at the President, whom it is difficult to approach, to the instruments of his policy, the soldiers returning from Vietnam, as they were much more numerous and accessible.
2.3.2007 5:46pm
Gaius Obvious (mail):
Here's another (Google News Archive is great!) from June 9, 1971:

"Jim Minarik, another infantry veteran of that war walked out of doors in his uniform and was twice spat upon, was denied restaurant service, and called a "war criminal," all before he had time to buy a civilian suit."

Link to an image of the article.
2.3.2007 5:58pm
PersonFromPorlock:
As someone who came back from Vietnam three times (Air Force, so not claiming anything hairy), may I suggest that one reason why returning soldiers didn't commit mayhem on putative spitters was simply that they were flat-out exhausted? Coming off combat, all you want to do is sleep for a week... and flying across the Pacific is grueling all by itself, especially on military or contract aircraft.
2.3.2007 6:40pm
Steve in CA (mail):
Wait, DaSarge just said he was actually spit on. He could settle the whole thing once and for all. DaSarge, would you mind posting your name, rank, when you served, when and where you were spit on, etc? I know that's asking a lot, since I'm anonymous here, but I think you could really help settle this thing if you can give some info to help corroborate your story.
2.3.2007 6:56pm
Tuna (mail):
Um... Didn't a Vietnam Vet just spit on Jane Fonda two years ago at a book-signing (and then run away as fast as he could)? Yeah, the story's here on Fox News. He did it because she "spit in our face for 37 years". Now, does he mean that literally? I seriously doubt it. Does this imply that the majority of Vietnam War Supporters (or citizens of Missouri) subscribe to an agenda of spitting on (or assaulting) war protestors? I seriously doubt it. I suspect that there are several isolated incidents of spit trading on both sides, and these have become urban legends that distort the views and objectives of war supporters and protestors.

In other words, I agree with LTEC's assertion that this meme is mostly a metaphor with regard to the treatment of returning Vietnam veterans. I applaud any Veteran that withstood a barrage of spit without losing his control and attacking the spitter. I applaud Jane Fonda for not wanting to press charges against her spitter. I would applaud her spitter if he had spit on her AND stood his ground in defiance instead of running away from his actions.
2.3.2007 7:15pm
DaSarge (mail):

Various researchers have tried to find archival evidence...anything... to back up the spit claim. It seems to keep dead ending.


Please. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The "researchers" are looking only to secondary &tertiary sources. There is lots of primary source material they seem to ignore.

I know what happened to me and what I saw. If one is so immature and ignorant of military culture as to assume that soldiers retaliated with violence, then there is no hope for you.
2.3.2007 7:44pm
htom (mail):
Happened to me. Returning home, in civies, October 1969. Changing planes in St Louis, a man came up to me, asked if I was in the Army. "No, sir", I replied, "the Marines!" "Babykiller!" he hissed, and spat at my shoes. I looked down, noticed that he had missed, and looked up to invite him to try again. But he was already thirty feet away, waddling as fast as he could.

I didn't call the cops or the media. A jerk being a jerk is not a crime and is not newsworthy. (Well, it was neither then!) A Marine striking a citizen would be a crime, newsworthy, and get me in a pile of trouble. Since I'd been taught self-control, it was easy to continue on to my plane and fly away. Left a bad taste in my mouth, as I'd been warned that it might happen, and I hadn't believed the warning.

I think that there were probably far more non-spitters than spitters, and some who are ashamed of the spitting are trying to make it look to history that there was no spitting at all.

The myth is that there was no spitting; there was.
2.3.2007 7:48pm
DaSarge (mail):

Oh come on, we're supposed to believe the Army was letting a barely ambulatory soldier whose bleeding is not even under control (apparently from more than one wound) fly on a commercial flight? From your description the guy should have still been in the hospital, not wandering around an airport


Oh, dear. Just maybe the soldier preferred to recuperate near home &family? There were two Navy corpsmen, one Army medic, and one Navy doctor close by. If he needed to go to a hospital, they would have intervened. Soldiers take care of each other.

Some years later I was in an accident. I had a cast with blood stains for a while. And my dressings sometimes oozed. I did not have to go to the hospital. In fact, I went to work.
2.3.2007 7:54pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I was not spat upon, nor did I witness any such thing.

However. I wonder why the question is limited to spitting.
What about being flipped off at twenty feet? Mocked with a sneering salute? Those happened, as well, as I know since they happened to me.

One of Greene's stories referred to a vet who, when leaving church, found that the pastor would not shake hands with a killer. Some words like that. I checked it out and heard from his mother, who confirmed it, and a church employee, ditto. The head pastor at the time was elsewhere, but he said the replacement would never have done such a thing. I could not track down the replacement pastor.

I also challenged a SDS leader about such goings-on and he admitted there was a lack of discipline in the organization that resulted in their getting some unnecessarily bad PR.
2.3.2007 8:00pm
Visitor Again:
I was a member of the New Left throughout the last part of the Sixties and the first half of the Seventies. I never knew anyone who advocated spitting on soldiers; I never knew anyone who spit on soldiers; I never witnessed any spitting on soldiers; I never read of anyone spitting on soldiers. We empathized with the plight of U.S. soldiers. We thought they were cannon fodder. We believed most of them didn't want to be in Viet Nam. We did not hold them responsible for the war.

My opinion is that if spitting on soldiers did occur, it was by very misguided individuals acting by themselves in isolated incidents. It certainly was not encouraged or approved by New Left anti-war organizations, and it certainly was not an organizational tactic.
2.3.2007 8:27pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
"Jim Minarik"

Minarik was a cofounder, with John O'Neill, of Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace.

VVJP was set up by Nixon for the purpose of discrediting Kerry. This is documented on a Nixon tape.

I think this calls into question the authenticity of the story Minarik told, which was apparently witnessed by no one.
2.3.2007 10:01pm
Russ (mail):
One of my ROTC instructors in 1991, when I was a freshman, recounted to some of us about how he remembered begin drafted and being on duty in DC. He was being yelled at by an anti-war protestor and being able to relate to everything the protestor was saying since he didn't want to be there at the time. However, his views on the world instantly changed when the guy spit on him.

The instructor's name was SGM Jeffries(never knew his first name), and while I guess he could have made it up, I have no reason to believe that he did.

Are all those from the left "spitters?" Of course not. However, spitters do seem to come exclusively from the left. Just as those on the right have to work doubly hard to overcome certain steroetypes about being bible-thumping fundamentalists, the same is true for the left about disrespect towards soldiers.
2.3.2007 10:17pm
DaSarge (mail):

My opinion is that if spitting on soldiers did occur, it was by very misguided individuals acting by themselves in isolated incidents.


I am sure that is true. While it happened to me, & someone else who commented here, I have no evidence that it was all that common. I went through LAX in uniform a number of times in the late 60's &early 70's. It only happened once to me (& once at SeaTac).

Another reason why looking to press reports would likley tell one nothing about the reality.
2.3.2007 10:46pm
Jim Lindgren (mail):
James Grimmelmann,

Thanks very much for the JSTOR link. I will look at it.

Jim Lindgren
2.3.2007 10:57pm
Jim Lindgren (mail):
Loki13 wrote:

One criticism I have heard of post-dated accounts was directed specifically at the LAX account. According to the 'spittle-deniers', when the soldiers came home on leave, they almost were uniformly flown into the airbases, and not LAX.


I flew about 10-20 times a year as a student in the early 1970s. I saw lots of soldiers in uniform on commercial flights to and from Chicago.
2.3.2007 11:02pm
Eli Rabett (www):
2.3.2007 11:07pm
Jim Lindgren (mail):
llamasex,

I raised a question based on my experience in doing searches. I didn't say that Lembcke made this error; I said that I was suspicious of the coincidence. I ordered the book earlier today.

One commenter (James Grimmelmann) came forward to suggest some of Lembcke's evidence. If you know of more, please fill us in.

Jim Lindgren
2.3.2007 11:27pm
Dave N (mail):
Whether there was spitting or not, I do not know--and there are those who will believe it happened while others will beleive it did not.

That said, there is a documented hostility toward American servicemen (as opposed to the people running the war).

For example, Jackie Cooper recounts in his autobiography that when he asked the cast of M*A*S*H (the TV series) to send Christmas greetings to the troops in 1973, only Wayne Rogers and McLean Stevenson would do so. At least according to Cooper, the rest of the cast refusedto say anything as simple as "Merry Christmas and I hope you come home safely and soon."
2.3.2007 11:39pm
Billy Hank (mail):
I posted this at another site in reponse to the current questioning of the spitting meme:

"I was spit on before I went to SEA. November, 1967. Air Force sent me to a graduate communications course for two months at Boston University. We had to wear our uniforms on Thursday. Walking to class one morning, a coed walked straight into my path and spit at me. She was shorter and couldn't spit very well so I just got a little on my chin and most on my shirt. She turned and ran off, laughing, to a boy standing about 30 feet away and they both ran off together.

Later,at USC grad school for three years, no spitting incidents but lots of worry that I was a narc.

As I recall, we had strict guidance about not responding to provocation."

I didn't think too much about it. There was no demonstration going on. Just seemed isolated to me. In a hindsight, that was probably an early example of the behavior. I don't recall hearing anything about spitting in the media until late '68 and into '69. I recall stories about organized gauntlets at SEATAC, SFO, and LAX, but have no personal knowledge of same. Seems to me there was some written command guidance from the Pentagon about not responding and a truth seeker might do some research in the Pentagon archives rather than LexisNexis. That, however, would require a little work instead of cheerily spouting opinions for or against.
2.4.2007 12:38am
Puds McKenzie:
"I spent a lot of time with my sister and her husband in those years. He spent quite a bit of time as a marine recruiter between his second and third trips to viet Nam. As such he was expected to show up in public in his dress blues regularly, at public events where he was not explicitly recruiting. Ho would, for example, wear his Blues to mass.

"As someone who would walk from Mass to sunday school with someone in dress blues in the late 60's (Im putting this 68 by memory) I'd say that any presumption that if it was not in the papers, there was no spitting going on is credulous in the extreme. I remember asking him why they did this. I also remmeber thinking that my uncle was a man of extreme self control."

Amazing example here. The relationship between the poster and the person the story is about changed over the course of two paragraphs.


It's the same person. The commenter is from Tennessee.
2.4.2007 12:40am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Amazing example here. The relationship between the poster and the person the story is about changed over the course of two paragraphs.
While that is suspicious, it's not impossible to make that mistake. The kids on my side of the family are my cousins; the kids on my wife's side of the family of the same age are her (my) nieces and nephews. Since I've known my cousins a lot longer than I've known these kids, I often mix it up, and call them my cousins by mistake.
2.4.2007 2:56am
Bob O'Leary (mail):
I was in USMC 1968-1970, Vietneam 1969. Most of us didn't give anyone the opportunity to spit on us. As often as possible we would travel in civilian clothing. I came home from Vietnam in January 1970 and travelled home in civilian clothes. I do remember, though, that the times I did travel in uniform that the stewardes (now called flight attendants) were all very nice, above and beyond what their job called for.
2.4.2007 8:28am
NickM (mail) (www):

Jack Shafer should never be allowed anywhere near a jury. To him, "it happened to me" is not evidence, while a newspaper reporter saying it happened to someone else is.
Some random person on the Internet writing an email that says "it happened to me 30 years ago in a way that closely hews to a story that's commonly told for partisan political purposes and has no contemporary documentary evidence" isn't very good evidence at all. It might be good evidence if the person is testifying under oath in court and can be cross-examined, the veracity of the other details in their story can be examined (do military records show that they were enlisted and came back from Vietnam the way they say they did?) and so forth and so on. But "somebody on the Internet said it happened to them" is not much by way of evidence.


The apologetics for Shafer don't cut it.
Shafer has no interest in examining the claim in depth to see if details are true, to verify everything that can be verified, to evaluate the credibility of the claimant, to ask if the claimant knows of other witnesses, etc.
He instead has figuratively put his fingers in his ears and is chanting "Nyah, nyah, nyah. I can't hear you. You're not real."

Nick
2.4.2007 3:31pm
Visitor Again:
In an earlier message I wrote I was "a member of the New Left." Well, one wasn't a member of the New Left; it was much more amorphous and informal than that, although there were lots of New Left organizations that did have membership lists. It would be more accurate to say I considered myself part of the New Left and people in the New Left considered me part of it.

I saw lots of soldiers on commercial aircraft during the Sixties and Seventies. I had friendly conversations with a few of them, those that sat in the same row as I did.

Part of the New Left tried to recruit soldiers, not by spitting at them but with friendliness and genuine sympathy. The Vietnam Veterans Against the War had close ties with the New Left and actually was part of it. Ron Kovic of Born on the Fourth of July fame was a friend. I used to run in to him occasionally on the Venice Beach.

I defended quite a few soldiers who were in trouble at courts-martial throughout Southern California. I didn't respect military justice as an institution, but I certainly came to respect some of the people who were part of the military justice system.

My only point is that the New Left was not at all hostile to soldiers in the ranks. There may have been a few people who were part of the New Left who were of a different mind, but they must take individual responsibility for that. It was not a New Left thing to spit on soldiers or to show them any personal hostility. In fact, to those of us in the New Left who were political creatures--as opposed to those who were just in it because they were opposed to getting drafted or because of their lifestyle (dope-smoking hippies)--showing personal hostility to soldiers would have been unthinkable.
2.4.2007 6:54pm
Gaius Obvious (mail):
Here's another:
"The fact is, however, that the service and many of the things it stands for are taking a bad beating these days. The uniform of its soldiers is spat upon in the streets and its wearers are denounced in public places as 'war criminals'."
From the N.Y. Times, Nov 30th, 1971, page 45.

If it was common enough in 1971 that the NY Times could without controversy make that statement, then surely it was not invented in the 1980s.
2.4.2007 7:12pm
Gaius Obvious (mail):
jukeboxgrad: I think this calls into question the authenticity of the story Minarik told, which was apparently witnessed by no one.

That is a completely different argument. You are now suggesting that veterans who were documented in the late 60s and early 70s claiming to have been spat upon are lying. That's not the issue. The point of contention is that supposedly no Vietnam veteran reported being spat upon at the time and that it was invented in the 1980s to discredit the left. Now regardless of whether the veteran was lying at the time, finding instances of veterans claiming to have been spat upon in the public press at the time disproves the argument that "veterans being spat upon" was an urban legend invented in the 1980s.
2.4.2007 7:23pm
FredR (mail):
Greene's book Homecoming is still in print and still worth reading. After writing a column questioning whether spitting on vets was a myth, he got over a thousand letters (this was before email, mind you) from former soldiers about it. As a result he went and interviewed a lot them about it.

His book is divided into three sections -- one for soldiers who had positive experiences, ones who were spat on, and one for things "worse than being spit on."

Lembcke, OTOH, simply ignored the first-hand accounts of the veterans as untrustworthy (something no historian would do) and instead took the position that if it wasn't in the Times, it didn't happen. Hard to do, as Mr. L says, if the archives are limited before 1980. You could "prove" that there was no sexual harassment in the 60s and 70s that way, too.

I'm a Vietnam vet and never got spat on, but did get called a baby killer and war criminal a lot. Hard now to describe the sort of visceral hostility to anyone in uniform in those days.

No question that some vets brought this up to show how badly they'd been treated, but it's also true that leftist academics and journalists ignored any evidence that got in the way of debunking this "myth" and selected anything that supported it.
2.4.2007 10:36pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Gaius: "You are now suggesting that veterans who were documented in the late 60s and early 70s claiming to have been spat upon are lying."

Not exactly. Only those like Minarik who seem to have been political operatives for Nixon.

"Now regardless of whether the veteran was lying at the time, finding instances of veterans claiming to have been spat upon in the public press at the time disproves the argument that 'veterans being spat upon' was an urban legend invented in the 1980s."

Sorry, but that's sort of nonsensical. You don't get to say "regardless of whether the veteran was lying at the time." If the veteran was lying at the time, then it wasn't "an urban legend invented in the 1980s," but it was an urban legend invented "at the time."

Anyway, it's helpful to see some instances of contemporaneous evidence pop up. I think that's what's relevant.
2.4.2007 11:25pm
Gaius Obvious (mail):
jukeboxgrad: If the veteran was lying at the time, then it wasn't "an urban legend invented in the 1980s," but it was an urban legend invented "at the time."

Ahh, but the evidence used to justify calling it an urban legend to begin with was that there were no contemporaneous reports -- that they all appeared in the press sometime after 1980 -- which as you can see, is not true.
2.5.2007 12:04am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Gaius: "but the evidence used to justify calling it an urban legend to begin with was that there were no contemporaneous reports -- that they all appeared in the press sometime after 1980 -- which as you can see, is not true."

I guess my point is that there's not much meaningful difference between the following two statements:

A) there were no contemporaneous reports

B) there were no contemporaneous reports other than one or two that have marginal credibility

For that matter, I think there's not much difference between these two statements, either:

A) there were no contemporaneous reports

B) only a very small number, at most, of credible contemporaneous reports have come to light, as of 2/5/07, despite the research tools that are currently available (which definitely encompass pre-1980 newspapers and magazines, notwithstanding Lindgren's statement on that point), and despite an army of righteous righty Davids (including, for example, some portion of Glenn's 150,000 daily readers) presumably eager to prove Lembcke is an ass.

By the way, I think it might be helpful to review what's been found so far, as far as I can tell, with regard to contemporaneous reports:

A) Several stories about Minarik (see here), who seems to have been a Nixon operative

B) a story about how "a student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) official advocates spitting on President Johnson" (referenced here)

C) a report by CBS News, 12/27/71 (see here, here)

D) Alfred Kitt, 9/15/71, WaPo (see Jim's update)

E) L. James Binder, 11/30/71, NYT (see here, here)

As far as I can tell, D and E are generic references; i.e., they don't attempt to name the spittee or describe other details, such as place or date. In my opinion this tends to create the impression that they are possibly echoes of the story that Minarik told. It seems that he started speaking up just a few months before D and E appeared.

C is potentially interesting, but it's only a cryptic summary of a six-minute news report. Perhaps some intrepid person will get their hands on the videotape (which is apparently available) and create a full transcript. And/or put it on Youtube. This could be a credible, relevant report. Then again, it could be a story about how Pickett attended a war protest and was spat upon by Minarik. Or by Schuman, the guy who spat on Sen. Bayh. Or it could be that Pickett was inspired by Minarik, and made up an unwitnessed incident. I think it's intereresting that C, D and E are clustered together in time, and are all shortly after Minarik spoke up. Why are all these stories clustered within a 7-month window?

If C checks out, then we have one credible, specific, personal, contemporaneous report. In this context, I don't think the difference between zero and one is terribly material. Especially because there's a highly credible contemporaneous report of the spit flying in the opposite direction. In other words, the score seems to be 1-1 (unsanitary war supporters vs. unsanitary war protesters).

By the way, I've plowed through many, many comments at many righty blogs, on this subject. I have come across many people who seem to be totally oblivious to the concept of contemporaneous evidence, but I have not come across any contemporaneous evidence, other than what I listed above.
2.5.2007 10:48am
Billy Hank (mail):
Jukebox Grad - "...people who seem to be totally oblivious to the concept of contemporaneous evidence..."

I apologize for not having had the foresight to run after that chiclet and her brave boyfriend, create an inappropriate scene, and get it into the Boston Globe so you could Google it some 40 years later. Personal testimony aside, I have no other first hand knowledge of spitting events.

As I suggested, a more definitive answer to the question could be found by searching Pentagon archives and reviewing a variety of memoirs and letters. I think you will find many contemporaneous accounts there. Recall that we identified the media as an enemy long ago and would have been unlikely to think we would find a sympathetic ear in the nearest Timesman.

The contemporaneous media portrait in newspapers, books, TV shows, and movies of the returning Vietnam veteran was that of a drug crazed psychopath who actually relished killing babies although in only a few instances did he actually descend to cannibalism. He was the standard villain and/or victim and certainly no one wanted to give him a job. Witness the left's own model of probity, John Kerry, with his fantastical tales before a Senate committee and various other Winter Soldier frolics.

You and others who want to deny/minimize contemporaneous demonizing treatment of Vietnam veterans are just shoveling your collective behavior,shameful by my standards, laudable by yours, down the memory hole.

Other than pointing you to potential rich sources of enough evidence to slake an honest observer's thirst for truth, I'll go no further. I doubt any evidence would convince you, so needy are you for validation of your own prejudices.

Well, looks like, having erased the Vietnam eeperience, you are now free to repeat it. Go for it, Juke, but, this time, don't be surprised if I, comfortably retired, spit back.
2.5.2007 12:21pm
Chuck Divine (mail) (www):
I've finally decided to put my two cents in on this discussion. I wasn't your standard soldier by a long ways. When I was drafted, I already had a degree in physics. Army testing put my IQ above 150. It got back to me at Fort Dix that I had the highest IQ there. If the Army had been functioning at all sensibly, they would have been processing me for a discharge as quickly as possible. Trust me -- you don't want really smart physicists who aren't volunteers in your army.


How did I survive Vietnam? I didn't. The closest I got to Vietnam was northern California. Yes, I spent most of my two years working on a screwed up research project in Northern California or doing computer programming.


When I arrived in northern California I had never been politically active. I considered myself an antiwar Republican. I thought nuclear warfare was a really bad idea.


While there I finally did encounter a member of the War Resisters League -- a thoroughly pacifist group that was as pro democracy and freedom as any of my right wing friends are. She was involved in doing informational picketing outside the Presidio. Once the poor woman got over her shock at hearing my story -- it was pretty damned weird -- she recommended that I head on down to the WRL office in San Francisco. That's how I got involved in the New Left, at least that part of it that supported liberty and democracy.


What did I see as someone who was, in some fashion, active in the New Left (at least the pacifistic, democratic, liberty loving part) while being in some fashion a soldier? The people I hung out with could not have been friendlier to any soldier. I don't know about the authoritarian/totalitarian lefties. My friends, I recognize now, deliberately kept me away from those people. Did we ever argue about anything? Well, I firmly expressed the view that the Apollo project (the first landing happened my last couple of months in the Army) was both good and important for the human race. Some people disagreed with me. But even they respected my position.


Did I ever encounter any hostility? Well, when I moved back east, I did run into some of the more authoritarian leftist types. Some of them were pretty hostile. No one every called me a "baby killer" to my face, though. That could be due to the fact that these encounters were a part of the normal life of a physicist now a civilian, not a soldier in uniform.


What do I make of the spitting and other stories reflecting hostility to the troops? There's probably some truth to them. I also suspect that some people are hyping them to advance a political position. I'd take the whole controversy with more than a grain of salt.


I don't know if I'll check back in here to see reactions. I might, but I'm pretty busy these days. I do try to see what kind of reactions I do get when I make a blog posting.
2.5.2007 12:35pm
Houston Lawyer:
As I recall, the Lefties' hostilities to the military didn't end with Vietnam. I recall that White House staffers were quite disrespectful to armed forces members during the early part of the Clinton Administration.
2.5.2007 1:01pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
billy: "I apologize for not having had the foresight to run after that chiclet and her brave boyfriend, create an inappropriate scene, and get it into the Boston Globe so you could Google it some 40 years later."

It's not just that you didn't do that. It's that apparently no one, or almost no one, did that. This tends to create the impression that it didn't happen nearly as often as some people claim.

Also, creating "an inappropriate scene" is far from the only way that something like this gets into the press. Here's another way: you tell someone, and a reporter hears about it, and they call you and get details because they decide it's worth mentioning in a story. It turns out that reporters have a lot of space to fill and are always on the lookout for something, anything, they can put in that space.

By the way, it's not just the absence of newspaper/magazine articles. Contemporaneous evidence potentially comes in many other forms, such as police reports, hospital reports, and personal letters.

"a more definitive answer to the question could be found by searching Pentagon archives and reviewing a variety of memoirs and letters. I think you will find many contemporaneous accounts there."

If there are indeed "many contemporaneous accounts" in those places, it's interesting to note how many of those accounts have been located so far by the countless righty bloggers and commenters who are excited about this issue: zero.

"Recall that we identified the media as an enemy long ago and would have been unlikely to think we would find a sympathetic ear in the nearest Timesman."

Recall that Nixon was reelected by a landslide in 1972. I think it's fair to guess that the number of newspapers that endorsed him was some integer significantly larger than zero. I realize that righty victimology requires believing that all newspapers are owned by Commies, but it's not actually true.

"You and others who want to deny/minimize contemporaneous demonizing treatment of Vietnam veterans"

I deny nothing which is proven. I am skeptical about things that are not. This has to do with being rational, not with being right or left.
2.5.2007 1:23pm
htom (mail):
jukeboxgrad -- sorry that I didn't call the cops (who would have listened to my complaint and none nothing, spitting and running away was not a crime then!) or the media (jerk spits at discharged Marine, not news.) I was, really, more interested in the blonde going by, but she late to the wrong (as far as I was concerned) flight.

I understand your being skeptical; you're just wrong in your conclusions. Spitting wasn't a crime, assaulting a citizen would have been. We had enough self-control to ignore the former and avoid the latter. The myth is that it did not happen, it did. I suspect that it probably did not happen as much as some say it did, but it definately happened more often than those who deny it will admit.

I see this as a rather noisy attempt to rewrite history by those who've become ashamed of their previous behavior.
2.5.2007 2:19pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Okay, jukebox.

Question: What is a guy to do if it happened to him?
Begin to doubt? Consult you to get his mind right?

As I said earlier, I got some hostile and venomous reactions thrown at me. A friend got a real ration of crap when on a civilian flight within the US, while in uniform.

Of course, in those days, anybody with thick arms, flat belly, short hair and a shower within the previous week was pretty obviously a soldier. There being few others looking the same. Which is probably the reason I got some crap from some girls when I was walking in a park in jeans and pullover. They were going canoeing, and upon seeing me, began doing smart-ass imitations of a manual of arms, and laughing.

But not spit upon.

IMO, the differentiation between spitting and other hostile acts is solely because the deniers think they can make a case that spitting didn't happen, and by means of planted axioms, that the other stuff didn't either.

I call bullshit and deliberate bullshit. In other words, you(all) know better.
2.5.2007 2:28pm
FredR (mail):
You can prove or disprove anything if you select your evidence carefully enough. Just ignore anything that doesn't confirm your thesis.

Really, to say that "if it wasn't in the papers we checked it didn't happen" is a bit much.

Reminds me of another academic exercise some years ago when some dons wanted to disprove the "myth" of indigenous cannibalism. They started by dismissing all European accounts on the grounds that the Europeans had used accusations of cannibalism to justify imperialism, so they were obviously lying. As for the native accounts, they were to be interpreted metaphorically.

Presto! No evidence of cannibalism! All a myth.

Seems like Lembcke is doing the same thing -- selecting a source of information that just happens to confirm *his* beliefs, and ignoring everything else. Not exactly good sociology, but not unusual these days either.
2.5.2007 3:28pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
WRT the media reports: It never occurred to me that I should tell a reporter. My only interactions with reporters in that era about matters military had been unfortunate.
At one base, Rep. Conyers had a conference about how bad it was to be black in the military. One soldier said, it was reported, that he had been refused admission to the base hospital because he was black. The Detroit News reported that. I called them and told them we didn't have a base hospital. I asked them what they planned to do about the story. I don't know what they did, but the person I talked to said that the story was already out and there was nothing they could do about it. So I should go whining to a reporter?

Worse than spitting: My brother was killed overseas and the usual notice appeared in the papers. My folks got some calls saying he deserved it. How about it,Jukebox? Is my father lying?

Or does this not count?
2.5.2007 4:51pm
Kevin Bowman (mail):
Lembcke does not appear to be a very careful researcher, or his bias has led him astray.

Here is further confirmation that the meme was well-established long before 1980. It appears in a Senate sub-committee publication from 1971.

Drug Abuse Prevention and Control:
United States Senate: Committee...
U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1971.
OCLC: 251394

Google Books Page

p. 388

"In one sense one could argue that it would not be vastly different from another war. In World War II people suffered incalculable hardships, however they had one sustaining hope. The war was only one slice out of the pie of their lives, it would be over at a certain point and they would return to a different sort of world where what they had done would be appreciated and rewarded. The Vietnam veterans consistently report an incident that goes something like this:

'Pete received a letter from a guy that used to be in his outfit. He had gotten home and walked down main street in his uniform and had and had either got beaten up or someone had spat on him.'

For the men in Vietnam what incidents like that represent is that the war is not going to be over as far as they're concerned. Rather than coming home and being rewarded for their participation, they are going to be hated, despised almost as thoroughly as they are by the people they are now forced to live among in Vietnam."

Probably not proof that it occurred. But, pretty good proof that Lembcke's study is shoddy work. But, he gets cited as the final authority on this issue with numbing regularity. Just check Google Books.
2.5.2007 5:18pm
Visitor Again:
I don't doubt that isolated incidents of spitting at soldiers occurred. How many there were cannot be determined.

But one thing is beyond dispute. The returning soldiers did not get the same sort of welcome home that soldiers returning from other wars got. I think that was a contributing factor to the large incidence of post traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric illnesses among returning Viet Nam veterans. They got little reinforcement and a lot of negative feelings when they returned home after experiencing the traumas and stresses of war.

In about 1974 I represented a guy who had been sentenced to prison for committing four armed robberies in two weeks. He failed to surrender himself and became a fugitive. I became his lawyer after he was captured. The court gave him probation. I put on evidence that he had won two Silver Stars in combat in Viet Nam and, through a Veterans Hospital counsellor, that he suffered from post-Vietnam stress disorder. In a short period within a year after his return from Viet Nam, he had lost his job, his home, his wife. It was then he committed the four armed robberies. He went on to a productive life.
2.5.2007 5:57pm
Kevin Bowman:
According to Lembcke's worldview, Anti-war radicals may have planned to blow-up soldiers and their sweethearts with bombs, but they would never have spit on one. Such an act, presumably, would have been beyond the pale.

Perhaps Lembcke's worst trangression as a scholar is missing the January, 15, 1979 episode of Lou Grant, entitled "Vet"
from which Rambo's speech in "First Blood" was almost directly stolen.

If, as Lembcke suggsts, the urban legend of anti-war spitting began around 1980, he should probably blame Ed Asner.
2.5.2007 6:25pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
htom: "Spitting wasn't a crime"

Really? I think that probably varies from place to place. In Mountain View, CA, assault is defined as follows: "physical attack on another person. Includes domestic violence. Includes attacks with hands, feet, firearm, knife, or other objects. Includes minor assaults such as spitting or slapping."

Anyway, reporters (especially in local and regional papers) write about all sorts of things that aren't crimes. And police reports document all sorts of things that aren't crimes. If you go down to your local police station and tell them you're upset because your neighbor looked at you sideways, here's what they're probably going to do: file a report (although if you did it every single day they would stop after a while).

Guess what happens to those reports: they probably never get thrown away. They're not reachable via google, but it's about time someone looked around and found one (especially because there's probably a lot of social overlap between cops and vets).

richard: "What is a guy to do if it happened to him?"

Simply this: tell someone. Anyone. A friend, family member or colleague. People love to talk. Word spreads. Someone from the local paper hears about it and calls you to ask some questions. This is a very simple, non-exotic scenario, and it doesn't require you to slug anyone, or call 911, or call (directly) a reporter.

fredr: "to say that 'if it wasn't in the papers we checked it didn't happen' is a bit much"

The papers "we checked?" That's disingenuous. It's not just absent from the papers Lembcke checked, or I checked. It's also pointedly absent from the papers that lots of righty bloggers are checking, right now. I'm sure Glenn (et al) has lots of eager readers who would like to go down in history as the key player in Lembckegate.

And, as I've said, contemporaneous evidence comes in many forms other than newspaper reports.

"Seems like Lembcke is doing the same thing -- selecting a source of information that just happens to confirm *his* beliefs, and ignoring everything else"

Ignoring "everything else?" What am I "ignoring?" I'm open to any source of information that's contemporaneous. Show me.
2.5.2007 11:07pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
jukebox. Wrong. Do you think my father was talking up the calls after my brother was killed? I didn't hear about it for years. Painful, see. I have no idea, don't even want to think about it, what he felt if it was my mother who answered the phone. I don't think he'd be talking about that with his golfing buddies.
And what would a reporter say, presuming he wasn't the caller? "Mr. Aubrey says, etc, although it cannot be confirmed and the local chapter of the SDS denied doing it, while smirking and chuckling."
The fact was, we talked to each other, and, when we thought nobody was watching, we even talked to [looks both ways] civilians. The knowledge of the spitting and such other crap was so widespread when I was in--1969-1971--that any time you said you'd experienced it, the response was to shake the head, as in, one more, huh?
Perhaps the reason it didn't make the papers was that it was so common as to not be newsworthy. We never figured it was newsworthy. As the man says, we don't report all the airplanes that land safely.

Abuse happened, it happened to me and to my family and my friends and that it's possible to avoid finding it reported, that's meaningless.

I will tell you, this country is fortunate the troops took the abuse personally and not corporately.
2.5.2007 11:31pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
richard: "Perhaps the reason it didn't make the papers was that it was so common as to not be newsworthy"

That would explain why the hundreth incident didn't get reported. It wouldn't explain why the first ten were ignored. Before something becomes commonplace, it's not.

"I didn't hear about it for years. ... I don't think he'd be talking about that with his golfing buddies ... we talked to each other"

Sorry, I'm confused. First you suggest that this was a kind of painful experience that no one would ever talk about. Then you say "we talked to each other." A bit of a mixed message.
2.6.2007 12:34pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Okay, Jukebox.
You know the 'net acronym for "deliberately obtuse"? IT's "DO"

"We" meant soldiers. My father didn't tell me about the calls until years later. Big difference.

It never occurred to me to call a reporter. I trusted them then as much as I do now, which is to say, not at all. I can't speak for others, but the general social view of reporters is down with used car salesmen. So I guess it wouldn't make much sense to expect soldiers to talk to reporters.
In any event, there are numbers of contemporaneous references to the issue that any reporter who was interested and energetic and thought he wouldn't be fired for looking into it would have had all he needed to start. Nobody called me, and nobody I know said they were contacted by hungry journalists.

So. You have a bunch of lame reasons why it should have made the papers. The implication is that, because it didn't make the papers, it didn't happen.

You can push that all you like. Just remember, I am not required to modify my own personal history to mesh with your revisionism. Nobody is. So I suggest you keep it up. You know, holes and sending out for more shovels and so forth. Keep it up.
2.6.2007 12:58pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
"the implication is that, because it didn't make the papers, it didn't happen."

The number of times it made the papers seems to be very close to zero. The implication of this is not that "it didn't happen." The implication of this is that it was far from "common" (your word).
2.6.2007 2:06pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I can think of four examples of hostile and mocking actions toward me, but not spitting. Let's say that I was particularly military-looking and got more than my share. So I make up for three guys who didn't have it happen, plus me. Then there's my family. A training officer at Ft. Jackson on a plane. Several of my fraternity brothers in ROTC wearing their uniforms on campus in the mid-Sixties.
There is no earthly reason to tell a reporter about this sort of thing. Among other things, it would be whining, which is not considered respectable. And you really don't want the hippies to think they hit where it hurt. Not that it did, but they'd certainly take it that way.

Sorry, Juke. You're wrong. But, as I say, it would be great if you kept up trying to convince us we didn't see it and it didn't happen.
2.6.2007 2:17pm
Jason Van Steenwyk (mail) (www):
Jukeboxgrad,

You wrote: First you suggest that this was a kind of painful experience that no one would ever talk about. Then you say "we talked to each other." A bit of a mixed message.

Not a mixed message at all. We talk to each other about a lot of things we wouldn't bother talking to people like you about. Running to a reporter or a cop wouldn't be worth our time.
2.6.2007 11:17pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Jason. Just what I meant to say. Well put.

There's a story about Satchmo Armstrong which, if not true, ought to be.

When asked to define jazz, he replied, "Cat gotta ask, ain' nevah gonna know."

You ever get that feeling on various blogs?
2.6.2007 11:57pm
Gaius Obvious (mail):
jukeboxgrad: The number of times it made the papers seems to be very close to zero.

The number of times it made papers which are now online and readily available to Internet researchers is very low. Can you start from the top of this thread and read it all again? The main point is that most newspapers are not indexed on-line from anytime before 1980. A few are, but most are not. That's the inherent bias in the research. We have shown that even in the very small subset of the ones that are available, there are several incidents listed. I'm sure that if someone were to spend significant time in hundreds of newspaper morgues and go through old microfiches and files by hand, the results would be drastically different. You could research about a week per day of work, maybe two after you got the hang of it. I don't have that kind of resources.
2.7.2007 12:08am
Rich Rostrom (mail):
Last year I was privileged to hear Sgt Sammy L Davis tell how he won the Congressional Medal of Honor. Sgt Davis also told of being assaulted at San Francisco Airport by a band of "protesters" armed with "walking sticks" and bags of feces. Was he making it up?
2.8.2007 3:03am