Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun May 23 00:38:47 UTC 2010

At 2:09 PM -0400 5/22/10, Bill Palmer wrote:
>OK, pure conjecture here, but I'm wondering if the "poisonous atmosphere"
>was more or less confined to university campuses, and the more widespread
>incidence of it maybe more urban legend than anything.  Hazarding a guess
>here, but I'm thinking many/most of the contributors to this list have spent
>a good deal of their lives on campus and might have been students or young
>faculty at the time
>I say this based purely on personal experience and conversations with
>colleagues.  I served in Viet Nam from 1966-67, and again 1968-69, and never
>experienced any kind of harassment, vilification, poisoned atmosphere, or
>anything close to it in any domestic setting, either on the way out, or on
>returning.  I served in the Regular Navy during the entire Vietnam era, and
>even when not serving in or in transit to/from VN did I encounter anything
>like that directed at me, as someone in uniform (although I read about it
>all the time). During the 8 or so years of the Vietnam Era, no one I served
>with ever mentioned to me having had such an experience.  I was stationed in
>San Diego, Pearl Harbor, Newport RI, Norfolk, and Key West during that time
>.  There was a justifiable element of unhappiness with the war within these
>communities, but in actual fact, the major poisonous atmosphere extant at
>that time was the state of race relations in the Navy, and other services,
>There is a great deal of manufactured self-pity which has been emanating
>from some disaffected Vietnam vets for 40 years or so, a lot of "poor me,
>nobody ever said 'welcome home'".  They need to get over it. And no one is
>well served by politicians who ride that horse.
>Bill P
Actually, I was the one who cited the Lembcke book (unless I missed
another mention by Mark), but my direct message to ADS last night
didn't get through (twice); it showed up only in Ron's excerpting it
along with his response.  I found the book useful when I was
researching my "Spitten Image" paper (American Speech, 79.1, 2004)
and it is cited therein (in the section called "Great Expectorations:
Humiliation, Revenge, and the Salivation Army), along with an earlier
even uglier parallel in which the "Freikorps" literature after WWI
blamed leftists, Jews, and women for spitting in the face of,
stabbing in the back (literally), and otherwise humiliating the noble
German veterans returning from that war.  This urban legend was one
of the elements, as detailed by Klaus Theweleit in a masterful 1987
book, justifying the Nazi takeover.

Lembcke was looking specifically at the scenario of "hippies"
spitting in the face of returning Vietnam vets at airports, only his
research showed that no such accounts could ever be verified, they
always involved FOAF transmission.


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