Great Expectorations

Friday, August 27, 2010


Controversy over a 2007 news account about a war protester spitting on an Iraq vet at a peace march unearthed a trope that dates back to Vietnam. In the 1990s, sociologist and Vietnam War veteran Jerry Lembcke researched spitting stories in the media during the 1960s and 70s. He told us in 2007 that not a single first-hand account was published.

Comments [5]

neal weintraub from chicago

You guys are wrong.
Dead wrong.
I know a Vietnam Vet who is alive and felt the rage of the American public when he returned from Viet-Nam.
Yes, he was called a baby killer, had a baby thrust in his arms and was spat upon. He as a Medic.
I worked with him for over 6 years at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
I am a former Public Affairs with a direct commission from the President of the United States.
Want to interview him or hide the truth?
It is your call.
But don't write stories from merely one view-point.
Do any of you kids have Journalism degrees or any sort of research skills?
Feel free to contact me and let's set history straight.

Sep. 18 2010 08:50 PM
TJDestry from Albany

"Homecoming" was published in 1989, a long time after the war and, more to the point, well after the Iran hostage crisis had awakened the meme of the neglected Vietnam vet. More to the point, it was well after "Rambo," as noted in the report, had made the spat-upon vet part of the story. I first heard it in late 1986 from someone who told me he had been brought on a stretcher off the plane in California and spat on by a protester, at which point he yanked the IV from his arm and stabbed the hairy fellow. The story assumes that demonstrators would be allowed on the tarmac, and that the military would begin downloading wounded men in the midst of hostile chaos, and that the people carrying the stretcher would allow this to happen with such indifference that a wounded man would have the time to be able to yank out an IV and use it to stab a protester. Spiderman, maybe. This guy? Come on. Hearing his story, I'd start by wondering if he even went. And I feel that way about the rest of the first-person spitting stories. I know they went to "Rambo," but did they go to Vietnam?

Sep. 02 2010 12:04 PM
bk from san diego

the producers failed to note that the book 'spitting image' was written as a response to author bob greene's book 'homecoming',which details first hand accounts by named veterans who were in fact spat upon their return(the book also detailed accounts by veterans who claimed to have been welcomed warmly by strangers on their return).greene includes a letter written by 'vietnam veterans against the war'(vvaw) requesting that he not publish the accounts he collected.however vvaw itself(as part of it's 'winter soldier' project)was caught lying to congress about 'war crimes',using 'witnesses' who were often not even in southeast asia..and some who werent even veterans.lembcke says he cant prove spitting on vets didnt happen..but states in his books title that this was a myth.either it is a myth or it cant be both.

Aug. 29 2010 09:24 PM

I always wondered about the myth of the spat upon veteran in airports, namely, who would have the nerve to do that?! Or I've wondered about at least since I read an article in The Nation some years ago by a researcher who said he looked into this for years and could not corroborate a single incident.

Let us remember, Nixon was elected in 1972. Are we to believe that hippies at the airport would spit upon returning military veterans, (i.e. trained fighters)?! Spitting is beyond fighting words, this would lead to automatic fights. The anti-war movement was probably not even half the population. We know of the construction worker assaults on peace protesters. The point is, am I to believe everyone sat around at the airports while scraggly, "peace-loving" hippies had their way assaulting veterans? It does not make sense.

Aug. 29 2010 05:48 PM
Just a Thought

The following is from On the Media:
"Tea Party Coverage Biased?" (March 26, 2010)
""Protestors opposed to the Health Care Bill gathered around the U.S. Capitol last weekend, as lawmakers filed in to cast their votes. And amidst the protests, a few incidents made headlines. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver was spat on as he passed the crowd"".

The video of this incident showed a male protester with his hands cupped shouting a slogan and the Congressman walked by this protester and reacted.... with a police officer standing between the two men the entire time. No arrests were made or charges filed which absolutely should have happened if this incident took place as described. Is it really accurate to call this "spitting" as most people would imagine it?

As for Vietnam Veterans, considering all the accusations of horrible war atrocities and the radical nature of anti-war protesters of that era, I am not prepared to dismiss all incidents of spitting or other abuse. We did not have YouTube in 1969 but we have it today and it seems to make no difference to some people who, Rashomon-like will see what they want to see. Thanks

Aug. 27 2010 09:23 PM

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