In Hock Signo Vinces


Another treasured piece of Americana bites the dust. Slate's Jack Shafer finds no evidence that any Vietnam veteran was ever actually spat upon by a hippie, or by anybody else. (In making his argument, Shafer claims to have received a lunger himself once upon a time, but tantalizingly declines to elaborate. C'mon, Jack: spit it out!)

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  1. The spit story is an urban (and rural) myth until proved otherwise, and that’s the way it should be treated.

    Irrelevant, liberals are still treasonists and hate america. You can see it by the way they look at our president and dare to criticize him in a time of war.

  2. I remember the stories but, being midwestern, figured it was the loonies on the coast getting out of hand. Those of us lucky enough to get out of the draft loved to see our old buddies come home in one piece. I ran a pizza joint for a while and snuck beer to the guys home on leave.

  3. Slate’s Jack Shafer finds no evidence that any Vietnam veteran was ever actually spat upon by a hippie, or by anybody else.

    Actually, Shafer just says that Jerry Lembcke, a Marxist historian, was unable to find any story that convinced him veterans had ever been spit on. Lembcke has also been unable to find convincing evidence that Marxism isn’t a workable economic theory; I am not surprised at his inability to find proof of something less well-documented. 🙂

    Anyway, I’ve heard from veterans that it happened to them. I’ve seen it done by modern-day protesters to police and counter-demonstrators. I suppose it’s *hypothetically* possible that the veterans are all lying, and that people willing to call veterans “baby killers” and “murderers”, and willing to fling bags of excrement at police, drew the line at spitting. But I think the burden of proof is very much on the “no-spitting” side, here.

  4. Dan put things rather well, but I’ll add this not-very-helpful data: I remember this very issue coming up many years ago (mid-to-late-’80s). The magazine article brought forth several letters from Vietnam vets who said yes, it really had happened to them.

  5. I think that the point here is ‘documented’ proof, anecdotes and friend of a friend regardless of how credible of a friend still remains ‘hear-say’, at least in a court of law. Documented would be something like news reports or police reports filed by complaining veterens.

    While I have not myself conducted a ‘lexus’ search or reviewed thousands of police reports from various cities across the nation myself, I trust Lembcke and other various journalists (from both sides of the argument) who have researched it have. Its my understanding, that noone can find the documented side, nobody is disputing the soldiers who tell the story.

  6. LftB,

    An account by a service member who was spat upon or a witness who saw it (in the form of a sworn statement for legal purposes) would count as evidence. A newspaper article, unless written by one of the above, would be hearsay.

  7. As Tim mentions, Shafer claims he was spat upon.

    “I don’t know about Ms. Young, but as one who has actually been spat upon, I can tell you there is a big difference between feeling you’ve been spat upon and sensing the slithering saliva as it traverses your face.”

    He avoids the trap of giving the details that supposedly trips up all the vets’ claims. Yet I really don’t see why his claim should be given any more credence than the vets’ claims.

  8. How could a vet be spat upon when the crowd was on the sidewalks and they were way out in the middle of the NYC streets in the back of the convertibles moving in the parades? Are they trying to rewrite the history books?

  9. Fresh back from VN, I called the Nashville Tennessean from the San Francisco airport and informed someone there of my arrival time and flight number into Nashville, my hometown. I could sense the Tennessean wasn’t interested, and, sure enough, no media wasn’t present when I landed.

    That’s just as bad as being spat upon isn’t it?

  10. I think that the point here is ‘documented’ proof, anecdotes and friend of a friend regardless of how credible of a friend still remains ‘hear-say’, at least in a court of law.

    First-hand accounts, of which there are plenty, are fully admissible in a court of law. Yes, Lembcke claims he couldn’t find any evidence of spitting. And Fred Leuchter couldn’t find any evidence that anyone was ever executed at Auschwitz.

    One the one hand we have the possibility that thousands of people are lying. On the other hand, we have the possibility that a Marxist historian is incompetent (pretty much a given) or agenda-driven (ditto). Factor in the sociopathic nature of the more extreme anti-war protesters of the Vietnam era, and it’s pretty much a no-brainer to trust the veterans on this one.

  11. I don’t know. I still haven’t read any first-hand accounts from veterans who were spit on. Do any of you guys have links for those stories?

    The reason I think it’s an urban myth is simple: if hippies were running around spitting on U.S. Marines, they’d have gotten their asses kicked. There should be some hospital record, police report, something, of a bloody hippie who spit on a veteran. Hell, if it happened 100 times, I’d guess one of those would end in the hippie’s premature death.

    The other reason is that Jack Shafer is one of the most honest reporters I’ve read. When facts prove him wrong, he admits it, and he’s written about this a couple times, so if there are a lot of vets with 1st-hand stories of being spit on, I would think one of them would contact Shafer, who would be glad to publish the story.

  12. There is also no “contemporaneous police report or other documentary evidence” that would prove that professor Jerry Lembcke doesn’t exhume the corpses of infants in order to put them in a blender, pour the slurry into a syringe, and inject it into his penis before raping kittens.

    But that “lack of evidence” doesn’t mean that this ghastly statement is in any way true.

    That is, unless we are to somehow consider Prof. Lembke’s innocence of these acts an “urban myth” until such evidence is discovered.

  13. “One the one hand we have the possibility that thousands of people are lying.”

    Uh, no. One the won hand, we’ve got thousands of people who are repeating an urban myth that they think is real.

    …and when they got home and developed the pictures, one of them showed the Mexican bellhop with the guy’s toothbrush in his ass.

    “Factor in the sociopathic nature of the more extreme anti-war protesters of the Vietnam era, and it’s pretty much a no-brainer to trust the veterans on this one.”

    Factor in the lengths wo which war supporters were willing to go to villify their opposition, and in general tell lies about hippies (like the girl who dropped acid and stared at the sun), and we’re pretty much at a draw.

  14. Grinny, does the phrase “you can’t prove a negative” mean anything to you?

  15. A creepier story (which, if true, likely WOULD have been documented) I have heard, is of families of serviceman killed getting phone-calls– callers say the guy “deserved” it.

    I am old enough to remeber the atmosphere of the period…and, sadly, I CAN believe it.

  16. Yes I am quite familiar with the concept “you can’t prove a negative”.

    So, Joe- you are saying he then actually does rape kittens with an infant slurry filled penis?

    If that is indeed your position, I would have to vehemently disagree with you.

  17. Steve In Ca & Joe:

    Guess you boys didn’t read my first hand account.

    Fortunately I was never shot at and hit but I was spat at and missed.

  18. Sorry TWC, but your first hand account isn’t “contemporaneous police report or other documentary evidence”, so it is now “urban myth” according to these folks.

    Sorry that you had to discover that your memories were actually urban legends this way.

  19. What I’m saying, genius, is that spitting incidents can be proven by first hand accounts, while there cannot be a first hand accounts demonstrating that your bizarre fantasy never happened.

  20. Steve & Joe

    I just did a Google search and found three different accounts of VN Vets who claimed to have been spit on.

    One recounted being spit on and having blood thrown on him and others.

    Each has an email address. If I could find this stuff in five minutes maybe with a little research and a couple of emails you, too, might find the non-existent first hand accounts.

    As I suggested before, those who find this stuff to be the lore of urban myth weren’t on this planet during the VN war.

    Five bucks says that most of you naysayers weren’t born yet or were too young to remember.

  21. Hey, don’t drag me into your boomer grudge matches. I have no idea whether it happened or not; my post was just punching a hole in Dan’s “we have to believe it because veterans are nicer than hippies” argument.

    But still, TWC, it is possible that people make up stories, and I do find it odd that such an outrage wouldn’t make it into a contemporary paper.

  22. Joe- please, I am hardly a genius.

  23. Time to wipe the Slate clean. An incredibly unimpressive web site.

  24. When Lembke’s book was brand new (1998) he visited the bookstore I worked at to talk and sign copies. In his remarks he mentioned a variation of the “myth” where the returned GI was spat on by a woman. Lembke said this was evidence that the tales were phony, because women don’t spit. I told him that, as a brother of five sisters, I had personal experience that, yes, females can and do spit on occasion.

    I remain agnostic on the spitting incidents. You can say that the anecdotes are uncorroborated, but some may yet be true.


  25. Joe,

    ….didn’t intend to frame this as a boomer grudge match. Just pointing out that living thru it sometimes gives a different perspective than a history lesson does.

    And, yes, people do make up stories, and yes, I’m sure that there is a certain use of the “spit” story as a euphemism to describe the general lack of respect afforded the VN vets at the time.

    As far as “contemporary paper” is concerned, if you mean news coverage, there were media stories at the time–no vast left wing conspiracy to hide the disdain that some had for the military (heck, they were throwing ROTC off campus on a regular basis who cared about a little saliva)

  26. That’s not true, I spit on a couple of those murderous, genocidal, war criminals myself.

  27. Police accounts? Who the hell calls the cops when someone spits on you?

  28. The people who see you stomping the shit out of the hippie who spit on you. You’ve gotta figure that the just-back-from-the-warzone vets would react poorly to being spit on by protestors, at least once.

  29. Urban Myth?

    Anyone making such a claim obviously wasn’t on this planet during the Viet Nam war.

    I?m not even a Viet Nam vet yet I have been spit at (not on), flipped off, and called a “mother fucking baby killer” a few times by those who opposed the war and made it clear that my grievous error of the day was appearing in public in a USMC uniform.

    It wasn’t like now where a Marine Corps uniform will likely get you laid, back then it had the opposite effect.

    Then there was a friend of mine who spit when she had a chance and years later confessed that when she was hot little honey, clerking at the gift shop at Disneyland she would slip nasty handwritten notes along with the sales receipt into the bags of trinkets purchased by Marines on liberty from Camp Pendleton and El Toro.

    These were simple little fortune-cookie-like greetings that I’m certain delighted the guys when the goodie bag was opened back at the barracks and they learned that the blond chick with the big blue eyes wished their families were dead. To her credit she wasn?t bragging and held deep regrets about the pain she had caused so many military guys.

    Oh, and like Kevin, I can vouch for the fact that girls spit. If her brother makes her angry enough my little house blond does her level best to spit on him……..

    Lastly, I never actually killed any babies although I almost got arrested at a McGovern for President rally in LA once.

  30. following on TWC’s comment, you’ve got to appear to be homeless if you want to claim to be a VN vet. Otherwise you get no R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

    Speaking of urban myths, maybe we should research the number of VN babies barbecued.

  31. Best. H&R. Headline. Ever.

  32. I attended numerous anti-war demonstrations in the 60’s and had many friends who did also. This was in So Cal, a real hotbed of anti-war ferver.

    I never knew anyone who spit on a GI. But if it did happen in a few isolated instances – it could not have been common. That’s because we all had friends who had been drafted. Some never came back and many came back wounded. We didn’t hate them for going. We felt sorry for them. I remember staying up all night with one particular friend who returned from Khe San and was distraught and suicidal.

    If anyone did actually spit on a GI in those days they were just a brainless jerk and certainly not representitive of the vast majority of war protesters I knew. Also, even if some misguided fools blamed the GI’s for the war, I doubt many of them would have been stupid enough to spit on someone who was highly trained to kill others in hand-to-hand combat and could have been well-practiced at it.

    But, people generally believe what feels good to them and only use their brains to justify it. If you supported that war it probably makes you feel good to imagine long-haired hippies spitting on the brave, silent GI’s, who merely hung their heads in shame.

    Enjoy your fantasy.

  33. If I could find this stuff in five minutes maybe with a little research and a couple of emails you, too, might find the non-existent first hand accounts.

    I regret to inform you that your application for the position of Marxist Historian is declined due to your being overqualified for the position.


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