Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon May 24 00:35:33 UTC 2010

At 8:19 PM -0400 5/23/10, Dan Goncharoff wrote:
>Just to put numbers in perspective:
>There are about 8 million Vietnam veterans.
>If 800 veterans were spat on, that means only 1 in every 10,000 were.
>Do we know how many hundreds of thousands of veterans were spoken to by
>Lembke? If he only spoke to 20,000 or 30,000, it wouldn't be
>statistically surprising he didn't find any.

Again, it's not really a matter of numbers (as I mentioned in my
previous post about ).  Lembcke  didn't do a random, statistically
controlled survey; what he did was track down the reports of vets
being spat at in airports and ascertaining that none of the reports
were based on first-hand testimony or had other evidence (beyond the
friend-of-a-friend) to support them.  And further, that very similar
stories have popped up at other times, always purveyed by those with
a specific agenda (see his comments on the stab-in-the-back legend in
his remarks at
but in much more detail in the book itself).  And that in the Vietnam
case the spitting-at-the-airport stories didn't begin popping up
until 1980, five years after the fall of Saigon.


>On 5/22/2010 8:38 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>Sender:       American Dialect Society<ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>Poster:       Laurence Horn<laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>Subject:      Re: Vietnam
>>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.
>>The American Dialect Society -
>The American Dialect Society -

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