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bforkush
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Embedded within a couple of entries on snopes is the commonly accepted belief that Vietnam Veterans were spat upon by anti-war demonstrators.

If one of our returning heroes, trained in combat, were spat upon, what do you think would have happened next? It would have made the headlines the next day!

Their are no verifiable instances of the spitting actually happening. So while it is impossible to prove that it never took place, certainly the belief that it was a common occurence is an urban legend.

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Publius
Happy Holly Days


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quote:
Originally posted by bforkush:
If one of our returning heroes, trained in combat, were spat upon, what do you think would have happened next? It would have made the headlines the next day!

Soldiers are trained in discipline and restraint, too.
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matchpoint
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the movie "Born on the Fourth of July" has a couple of scenes on this point. The returning disabled veteran played by Tom Cruise gets pity and sympathy from anti-war and anti-establishment types. He leads an anti-war protest at the Republican convention and gets heckled and assaulted. I can't say how close this was to the facts of the life of the actual veteran he portrayed.

My high school history teacher was a Vietnam vet. He told us that anti-war folks were generally supportive of him after his return, even when he was in uniform. The worst treatment he received was a cold-shoulder, but never spitting or the famous "baby-killer" slur (of course, this doesn't rule out such insults sfter he left the room). His parents' conservative, pro-war friends weren't so kind: they accused him of almost singlehandedly losing the war due to his (assumed) drug-using, undisciplined, slacker ways.

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Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Welcome to the board, bforkush. You may be interested to read an earlier discussion we've had about this belief,

http://www.snopes.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?/ubb/get_topic/f/48/t/000268.html

quote:
Embedded within a couple of entries on snopes is the commonly accepted belief that Vietnam Veterans were spat upon by anti-war demonstrators.
Now you've got me curious. Other than snopes's Colonel of Truth page, in which he quotes a retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel's belief that "American soldiers who marched to war cheered on by flag waving Americans in 1965 were reviled and spat upon less than three years later when they returned," which ULRPs refer to spat-upon Vietnam vets?

-- Bonnie

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bforkush
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Thanks for the welcome, Bonnie.

The other half of the "couple" of reference can be found at Ann of a Thousand Knights.

Reading through the earlier discussion, none of those who believed the spitting instances actually witnessed them personally. And one post aptly compared it to the alleged bra burnings by women's libbers.

Fortunately, political urban legends are now being debunked in real time by bloggers, especially Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk. Lazy journalists are much less likely to repeat ULs these days.

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bforkush
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Soldiers are trained in discipline and restraint, too.
Of course you are correct, and I apologize for insulting anyone.

Still, it's hard to imagine a demonstrator spitting on a returning veteran. Some protestors may have lacked discipline and restraint, but typically, they weren't stupid.

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Nightfall
The First USA Noel


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quote:
Originally posted by bforkush:
quote:
Soldiers are trained in discipline and restraint, too.
Of course you are correct, and I apologize for insulting anyone.

Still, it's hard to imagine a demonstrator spitting on a returning veteran. Some protestors may have lacked discipline and restraint, but typically, they weren't stupid.

Perhaps the protesters weren't stupid in everyday life, but perhaps once in a group of other protesters mob mentality set in. Thus, making a protesters competing to out do each to prove their devotion to their cause. In that situation, I have no problem believing that an otherwise average person would spit on a veteran.

--------------------
Darkness comes where Nightfall goes. -- from The Legend of Nightfall

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Publius
Happy Holly Days


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quote:
Originally posted by bforkush:
quote:
Soldiers are trained in discipline and restraint, too.
Of course you are correct, and I apologize for insulting anyone.

Still, it's hard to imagine a demonstrator spitting on a returning veteran. Some protestors may have lacked discipline and restraint, but typically, they weren't stupid.

Oh, no offense taken on my part. Sorry for the terse reply; I was kind of dashing out the door.

I suspect the spitting-protestors thing is largely myth, but I just wasn't sure we could use that particular line of reasoning to debunk it.

And welcome to the boards!

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Starla
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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My dad has been in a wheelchair since age four due to polio. More than once I heard people make snide comments about my dad's condition, suggesting he got what he deserved in Vietnam. He just politely informs them his only regret is that Salk didn't make his vaccine faster. This was in the '80s.
My dad also tells me he had a friend in college who was disabled in Vietnam. This guy's parents got several phone calls saying he got what he deserved and they should be ashamed to have a "baby killer" for a son.

Doesn't back up the spitting, but there is still a lot of anger surrounding that war.

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Christie
The Bills of St. Mary's


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My uncle (Canadian) joined the American army with several buddies and served in Vietnam. He has often talked about the way they were treated when they got back to the US. No parades, no heroes welcome, maybe nobody spat (that I do not know) but he definitely got called a "baby killer" and was treated with contempt by a lot of people.

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If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it's just possible you haven't grasped the situation. - Jean Kerr

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GI Joe
Jingle Bell Hock


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As a "spitee," I just love these attempts to rewrite history. Let's not let these people get away with it. The way returning veterans were treated was disgraceful.

I joined in 70 and was a cadet until commissioning in 74, did not go to Vietnam, yet have a barracks bag full of abuse stories. Marching in a Veterans Day parade in NYC; bags of human feces thrown into the formation. Hometown pastor called me aside after a service while on leave, had me kneel down, and asked God to forgive me for being "a mercenary butcher". Direct quote. Went to West Point's away game at Boston College; same weekend as the "peaceful" anti-war riots (are we pretending they didn't happen, too?); physically attacked in a bar by peace activists." Waiting for a plane at SF Airport; had to come to the aid of a kid fresh back from Vietnam who was being physically attacked by "pacifists." Want more? First time back on leave I called the girl I'd been dating for 2 years in high school; parents wouldn't let me speak to her; said they didn't want their daughter associating with "undesirables."

I know why people want so badly to rewrite history. Many of them have a hell of a lot they want to pretend did not happen. After I got my appointment, one of the peace-loving hippies in my highschool called me a facist and threw a punch. As fate would have it, after retirement I moved back to my hometown and a couple years later the very same guy moved in across the street. He is now a gung-ho, super patriot (now that he isn't facing the draft) and mortified by how he acted when soldier-bashing was fashionable.

I wish spitting was the worst of it. Much prefer that to having to march a mile at rigid attention with some "peace-activist's" shit smeared on me.

But I'm not bitter. No, sir. Not after the electro-shock therapy. In fact I feel much better now. Anybody seen my pills?

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Once a Warrior Prince

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Publius
Happy Holly Days


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GI Joe, I think I owe you an apology. Above I said I suspected the spitting stories were "largely myth"; I said that not because I felt returning Vietnam veterans were well-treated, but because none of the Vietnam vets I know had had welcomes quite that horrible. Until I had a first-hand account of the things you describe, I don't think I could let myself believe that it happened to that many servicemen.

I don't really know what else to say, except that I'm sorry for doubting the stories and I'm sorry you had to put up with that. For whatever little it's worth, thank you so much for serving.

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Wintermute
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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[QUOTE]Originally posted by Publius:
[QB] GI Joe, I think I owe you an apology. Above I said I suspected the spitting stories were "largely myth"; I said that not because I felt returning Vietnam veterans were well-treated, but because none of the Vietnam vets I know had had welcomes quite that horrible. Until I had a first-hand account of the things you describe, I don't think I could let myself believe that it happened to that many servicemen.

[QUOTE]
I come from the generation of vietnam fathers. My father never served, but most of the fathers I grew up with did. Only one ever said he was spit on. Think about this though, if you were treated so horribly by another human being would you talk about it? Now, most the fathers never talked about vietnam at all, unless there was something that just shocked it out of them.

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Grumpy
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by bforkush:
political urban legends are now being debunked in real time by bloggers, especially Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk. Lazy journalists are much less likely to repeat ULs these days.

You underestimate the laziness of journalists. Besides, I've found a few lazy examples at the CJR Campaign Desk itself. It's infectious!

On topic, FWIW, my father tells me he was spat on at the airport when he got home in the early '70s (having traveled in uniform). The irony is that he was stationed in Germany; never went to 'Nam. However, I wouldn't put it past Dad to repeat ULs as first-hand experiences, so (at the risk of calling Dad an... exaggerator) I wouldn't take this as solid verification.

--Grump "hock-tooey" y

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Shamrock
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quote:
Originally posted by GI Joe:
As a "spitee," I just love these attempts to rewrite history. Let's not let these people get away with it. The way returning veterans were treated was disgraceful.
.....snip......
But I'm not bitter. No, sir. Not after the electro-shock therapy. In fact I feel much better now. Anybody seen my pills?

Joe, I have no doubt that the events that you list happened. I find it improbable that they all happened to you.

--------------------
Of all the things I've lost,
I miss my mind the most.

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bforkush
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Christie:
No parades, no heroes welcome, maybe nobody spat (that I do not know) but he definitely got called a "baby killer" and was treated with contempt by a lot of people.

Christie:

Many UL's are spread because they fit our pre-existing beliefs. i.e. since vets were mistreated, spitting is accepted as fact.

But debunking a UL is just that - it's not a challenge to verifiable historical facts.

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GI Joe
Jingle Bell Hock


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quote:
Originally posted by Shamrock:
quote:
Originally posted by GI Joe:
As a "spitee," I just love these attempts to rewrite history. Let's not let these people get away with it. The way returning veterans were treated was disgraceful.
.....snip......
But I'm not bitter. No, sir. Not after the electro-shock therapy. In fact I feel much better now. Anybody seen my pills?

Joe, I have no doubt that the events that you list happened. I find it improbable that they all happened to you.
Well, you caught me. I never had electro-shock therapy. [Wink]

Actually, if I wanted to wallow in bitterness and self-pity, I could probably reel off a couple more for you.

Look, most Vietnam vets were draftees nominally in service for a 2 year hitch. Six months in Basic/AIT, 12 months in Vietnam, and then, probably only 1-3 months stateside or even Germany before getting an "early out." (Most did not even complete their full 24 months and were granted early outs.) So the period they were out and about among the US civilian population while in uniform was rather brief, and especially brief if you only look at their return-to-discharge period. So . . . their exposure to hostile sentiment was relatively brief.

By comparison, the Regulars spent year after year exposed to this stuff between tours overseas, so they caught a fair deal of this sort of abuse. And it's not as if it stopped when we ended our ground combat role in '72; this kind of anti-military attitude and the abuse that went with continued throughout the 70s - although tapering off - until the radicals took over the Embassy in Iran. At that point attitudes began to shift noticably.

Sorry you find it hard to believe, but that's the way it was.

Gee I'd "Rather be Spat on Than Shat On" Joe

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Once a Warrior Prince

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Christie
The Bills of St. Mary's


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quote:
Originally posted by bforkush:
quote:
Originally posted by Christie:
No parades, no heroes welcome, maybe nobody spat (that I do not know) but he definitely got called a "baby killer" and was treated with contempt by a lot of people.

Christie:

Many UL's are spread because they fit our pre-existing beliefs. i.e. since vets were mistreated, spitting is accepted as fact.

But debunking a UL is just that - it's not a challenge to verifiable historical facts.

Uh huh, which is why I explicitly stated that I do not know if he was ever spat at. I do know for a fact that he was treated badly by many people and not *just* those who were in the anti-war movement.

Debunking ULs is why we are all here - some of us however are not interested in participating in historical revisionism about a subject that is still part of our own personal history.

It is a scarily short step (in my opinion) from believing returning Vets were not spat on (ever come on ever?) to believing they really were treated like "returning heroes" or alternatively that it was all a myth created by the Big Bad Republicans to make the anti-war movement look like the evil guys in the black hats...

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If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it's just possible you haven't grasped the situation. - Jean Kerr

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First of Two
The Bills of St. Mary's


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It's discussions like these that make me wish I could spend more time talking with my uncle. He was in the Army from just before 'Nam until he retired as a Colonel a few years after Desert Storm, and participated in those, as well as Grenada and Panama and probably a few others.

He was in Intel for most of his career, so I assume there's a lot of things he can't talk about (even my dad, his brother, doesn't know for sure), but it'd still be nice to get his p.o.v. on things from back then.. and now.

I never DID get to ask his opinion about Iraqi WMD.

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Wild.Otaku
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My dad is a retired Vietnam Vet, and while he was never spat upon or harassed in any way when he returned, my mother and sister had to deal with the anti-war protestors who felt it was their duty to make their lives hell while he was away. I find it despicable that they could have done that. They did nothing wrong, other than being married to and having a father who felt that defending our country was his right. [flame]

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Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Three questions usually crop up in my mind during these discussions of "spat-upon Veterans." These range from the simple to the more complex.

1. Were returning Vietnam vets ever spat upon? (A side question involves the whether mention of these assaults were at all prevalent in contemporaneous reports in the media, letters, diaries, and the like.)

2. If so, was this a fairly common occurrence or were spitting incidents relatively rare?

3. How well entrenched is the image of the spat-upon Vietnam vet in American culture now? In other words, is the American public's acceptance (or lack thereof) of the spat-upon Vietnam vet out of proportion with how many returning soldiers were actually spat upon?

I don't know how to answer those questions other than to observe that some (many?) veterans claim to have been spat upon (and been similarly mistreated, as GI Joe and others have noted) when they returned to American soil and integrated themselves back into their communities.

I will point out, however, that Jerry Lembcke has put a lot of effort into looking at this issue. (Be sure to read the reviews, both pro and con.) He presented a paper based on this work in 1999.

For balance, Bob Greene presents the other side of the argument.

quote:
Debunking ULs is why we are all here - some of us however are not interested in participating in historical revisionism about a subject that is still part of our own personal history.
I hear what you're saying and respect it, Christie, but I have to point out that, at least for me, the "is this true?" (the debunking of ULs) is not always the be-all and end-all of these discussions. I often find myself being far more interested in how well the truth meshes with popular perception of the truth.

In this case, then, what's intriguing to me is the third question posed above.

Bonnie "mal-de-tête offensive" Taylor

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Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

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Christie
The Bills of St. Mary's


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In my opinion the desire to prove that the "spat upon Vietnam vet is a UL" usually goes hand in hand with the desire to prove that the anti-war movement was composed entirely of sweet natured gentle "good guys". YMMV

I know that had I been old enough during the Vietnam War era I would have been part of the anti-war movement. I also know I would not have been naive enough to believe that *everyone* who was against the Vietnam War was incapable of showing, at best indifference and at worst outright cruelty, to returning soldiers and their families.

As I said I don't know *firsthand* whether Vietnam War Vets were spat upon but I see no reason to disbelieve those *firsthand* accounts that I have read. What I find curious is the level of difficulty some people have in believing that it did happen upon occasion. I find that goes beyond a healthy skepticism but again YMMV.

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If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it's just possible you haven't grasped the situation. - Jean Kerr

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StarlandVocalBand
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I don't think there would be any way to "prove" that no returning Vietnam veterans were ever spat upon (even if GI Joe hadn't added his personal experience from the thread).

We know that people were often rude to returning Vietnam veterans; we know that rude people often spit on others as a gesture of hostility; therefore, it seems completely reasonable that returning Vietnam veterans could have been spat upon by rude people who wanted to communicate hostility.

However, I think that the UL people are anxious to debunk is something more along the lines of "returning Vietnam veterans were routinely spat upon." Certainly, if one reads right-wing newspapers of the era (the Manchester [New Hampshire] Union-Leader, for example), one would have gotten the impression that vets disembarking from their homebound flight were awash in a sea of protesters' spittle.

The thing is, though, that the news outlets that reported this at the time never gave any specific locations or individuals involved.

So, my thoughts on it: Did it ever happen? Obviously, yes, because some people experienced it. Did it happen often? Probably not, because there were a number of news outlets which would have loved to document it in words and/or pictures at the time, yet none of them were able to do so.

Was it a deplorably rude action? Absolutely. Spitting on Nixon or Robert MacNamara might have been an effective protest of war policy; spitting on random soldiers just adds insult to injury for people who are doing their duty as best they can.

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Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Let's look at it on two fronts, with the note that in the absence of some stringently collected data on the matter, it's impossible to form answers to the following thoughts.

First, let's assume that returning military personnel were spat upon (and I've got no reason to believe that there weren't a few such cases, either). I wonder, then, how common this practice was. Could it be that one in one hundred were assaulted in this manner? Maybe one in ten? A greater or lesser number?

Second, is it fair to say that the belief (or knowledge) that returning vets were spat upon is commonly held in the United States? If it's a popular thought, I'd be curious to know how believers would respond when asked to estimate how frequently this took place and what percentage of military personnel encountered this reaction.

If there were a mismatch between the frequency of incidents and how believers assessed the frequency of incidents, which way would it go?

Do Americans feel that spitting incidents took place more frequently than they actually did?

Or are we simply ignorant of or blissfully uneducated about hostility that greeted returning members of the armed forces involved in the Vietnam War?

What would such mismatches say about current American culture, a society that's now thirtysome-odd years beyond the spitting incidents themselves?

-- Bonnie

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Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

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StarlandVocalBand
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My uncle, a Regular Army veteran of both Korea and Vietnam, has never met anyone personally who told him that they were spat upon.

His post-Vietnam assignments included some post commands, teaching duties at the War College, and setting up substance abuse counseling programs for military personnel. After leaving the Army, he ran substance abuse counseling programs for veterans.

So if it was extremely common, my guess is that someone might have mentioned it in one of those contexts. He believes it probably happened infrequently.

(Of course, the interesting thing is that once newspapers started reporting it as fact, some protesters [rude, stupid ones, of course] might have started doing it as a result of that reportage.)

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Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
(Of course, the interesting thing is that once newspapers started reporting it as fact, some protesters [rude, stupid ones, of course] might have started doing it as a result of that reportage.)
Similarly, those who look at this aspect of Vietnam War "legendry" sometimes assert that published memoirs, written by veterans, that feature spitting tend to reinforce or ingrain in other veterans the sense that the same happened to them. For what that's worth, of course.

-- Bonnie

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Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

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snopes
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quote:
Still, it's hard to imagine a demonstrator spitting on a returning veteran. Some protestors may have lacked discipline and restraint, but typically, they weren't stupid.
Maybe not "protesters" in the sense of people who belonged to well-established, organized anti-war groups, but I can certainly believe that some high school or college kids (an unwavering black-and-white view of the world and a frequent disregard for the consequences of their actions being hallmarks of youth) might have had the audacity to do it.

My question would be how the allegedly expectorating protesters knew which soldiers were "Vietnam vets." It's not like groups of thousands of soldiers who did tours in Vietnam all arrived stateside simultaneously on regular schedules, or dischargees took commercial flights home directly from Vietnam. If a soldier in uniform stepped off an airliner or a bus in Los Angeles, say, how would one know he hadn't just returned from Germany or Korea or Fort Hood?

- snopes

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Southern Air Pirate
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Profiling!

Said person is dressed in a military uniform. So they must belong to the military. The military is fighting a war in Vietnam. So this person must of been to Vietnam. The military has committed atrocities in Vietnam. So this person who is in the military has obvisouly committed atrocities in Vietnam.

Just like any sort of other bigioted faulty logic going on that is how some of it was applied to members of the military

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zelda
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I remember vaguely, when i was little, my father saying he was spat on when he got back from Nam. But there is always the chance I picked this up elsewhere and associated it with my dad, or that my dad was talking about Vietnam Vets in general, or just being dramatic.

Hmmm.

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