On Nov. 19 I read a great story by Carmen George in the Fresno Bee of Mr. Manuel Blunt getting his high school diploma after almost 50 years. Mr. Blount dropped out of high school in 1967 to enlist in the Army. Mr. Blount returned from Vietnam, and after some adjustment to society he made an excellent life for himself. I admire him and congratulate him.
However there was one part of the article that I have always wondered about. Here it is:
“There wasn’t any positive recognition for his service when he flew into San Francisco in 1969, returning from an 18-month deployment in Vietnam. Getting off the plane, he was met by a line of protesters who spit in his face and called him a baby killer. A military police officer in the airport told him he might want to take off his uniform and put on civilian clothes so he wouldn’t be harassed.”
When Mr. Blunt enlisted, I was a junior in high school. When he returned in 1969, I was a senior. I simply don’t remember people spitting on soldiers. You and I have memories that we will swear to. I remember some things like they were yesterday, and some things you simply can’t forget. As with memory over 50 years old it can be questioned. So I decided to check the spitting story out. This is what I was able to research.
On Oct. 13, 2017, the New York Times ran a story titled “The Myth of the Spitting Antiwar Protester”. On April 30, 2005, the Boston Globe ran a story by Jerry Lembcke a Vietnam veteran, titled “On debunking a spitting image”. On June 9, 2013, Cracked magazine ran a story by Alex Hanton called “5 Lies About the Vietnam War You Probably Believe”. Finally there is an excellent book by Christian G. Appy, “Working-class war: American combat soldiers and Vietnam.” All questioned the spitting reports.
The conclusion of all of these articles and books is that it may have happened but the story was usually someone was told it by a friend of a friend or a cousin of a friend or so on and so forth. If there were incidents on a large scale it never became large enough to be reported by the media. Plus you cannot prove something did not happen.
This fits into my memory, and if spitting on soldiers was common, my father, a WWII veteran and conservative Republican, would have lost it, which he never did. In fact, when President Nixon failed to honor his secret pledge to end the Vietnam war, my father no longer supported the war.
From the archives I have searched, it appears that the first story of returning soldiers getting spit on comes from the 1982 movie “Rambo: First Blood,” the first installment of the series. John Rambo, played by Sylvester Stallone, gives a speech about getting spat upon.
Rambo says: “It wasn’t my war. You asked me, I didn’t ask you. And I did what I had to do to win. But somebody wouldn’t let us win. Then I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport. Protesting me. Spitting. Calling me baby killer. ... Who are they to protest me? Huh? “
I think we can stop here. The point is simple. If you read enough you find out that the problems of the Vietnam Era and all war veterans is that in many respects, if spitting happened, it was the least of their problems; drugs, alcohol, isolation from society, Agent Orange and the like claimed many more lives and careers than spitting did.
Advent starts tomorrow. As we enter the season of charity and good will, perhaps instead of concentrating on the past and things we can’t overcome we should concentrate on the present. Here is a list of armed forces charities that can use your help and their ratings:
- Army Emergency Relief Fund (A+)
- Air Force Aid Society (A+)
- Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (A+)
- Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (A+)
- Fisher House Foundation (A+)
Have a great week and remember to contribute to the charity of your choice this holiday season.