Myths about Vietnam survive to plague a new generation of young Veterans – Part One.

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mythsheader_400By Robert L. Hanafin, Major, USAF-Retired, and Vietnam Veteran Chuck "Mutt" Winant, La Mesa, CA

The idea for this three part story was sent in by a friend of mine who served in Vietnam, Chuck "Mutt" Winant. Chuck reminds us that "among the many half baked lies about America’s war against Viet Nam is the "they spit on us" myth that has served so usefully to deter any actual examination of the time. In the article "Viet Nam Veterans Now Get Warm Welcome," (Aug 17, 2009 Chicago Tribune), I’m now told I had bottles and eggs thrown at me."

Part Two will be an review of the first in-depth scholarly work a book written by the Vietnam Veteran to rebut this and related myths.

And, Part Three will be digesting a article Stabbed in the Back: The past and future of a right-wing myth” by Kevin Baker that appeared in Harpers Magazine back in June 2006 that ties this myth into the current conservative biased Global War on Terror and Support Our Troops myths promoted by both the Republican and Democratic Parties. Of course the best promoter of myths is the Pentagon; however DOD is supposed to be in the business of myths, it’s called PROPAGANDA.

Robert L. Hanafin
Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired
GS-14, U.S. Civil Service-Retired
Veterans Advocacy Editor
VT News Network &
Our Troops News Ladder
     

Where’s the documented or visual media proof that Vietnam Veterans were spit on, etc?

When readers go to the above link, I’m now told I had bottles and eggs thrown at me," they will see what Chuck is talking about a myth about how the Vietnam War was lost that continues to be spread today to incite fear that if we do not support our government’s war(s) our troops will pay the price. Ironically, this also is half truth. There is a vast difference between saying "I was spit upon” and "We were spit upon" just as there is a vast difference between saying I or a few of us committed atrocities in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else and saying WE ALL committed atrocities.

At a reenactment of a Vietnam Veterans Home Coming at Fort Campbell, KY, the Chicago Tribune bought at face value one 72 year old Vietnam Vets claims that he returned in 1972 amid angry antiwar protests that often placed blame on the individual Soldiers.

Why the Army or Chicago Tribune, whoever decided to call this a reenactment (as in historic reenactment of an significant event like the American Civil War) is beyond me?

"We were treated very shabbily," Mickey Leighton said. "In some cases they would throw eggs at us, they would throw empty beer bottles at us and they would call us baby-killers," a 72-year-old Army veteran from Naples, Fla., who also said listening to the applause and praise, was very emotional.

This sounds more like a scene out of the various Rambo movies that are well known among Veterans as being way beyond myths. Ironically, we’ve allowed the media to take us as Veterans from one extreme the crazed Vietnam Veteran with a gun to the other the Crying Vietnam Vet. Come on Now which is it?

48691827_400According to the Tribune’s National Briefing, “Tears filled the eyes of some Vietnam veterans as they were greeted with cheers from their family and friends in a reenactment of their original homecoming, [there’s that word reenactment again] when they were often met with angry demonstrators and harsh headlines.”

A reenactment of Vietnam Veterans actual home coming IF accurate would have included reenactors doing exactly what Brother Leighton said they did to HIM, the crowd at Fort Campbell would have spit on him and thrown beer bottles. What the Tribune meant by reenactment needs further clarification.

That said, given the overwhelming lack of documented evidence that Vietnam veterans were greeted with angry demonstrators and harsh headlines how can the Chicago Tribune print this as a given fact?

Can the Tribune not produce any archived news stories that prove Vietnam Veterans were in fact not only spit on but as Brother Leighton claims he had eggs, and empty beer bottles, and invective hurled at them?

Frankly, we challenge any mainstream media outlet who promotes this myth plus DOD and Armed Service mass rallies that promote myths of war to provide documented archived news stories or photos that show a significant number of Vietnam Veterans being spit on, beer bottles thrown at us, and so on. Various Universities BTW maintains newspaper and TV archives from the Vietnam War period, and we have yet to have those Vietnam Vets who claim this was a widespread issue provide any such evidence. They may not have the access to media archives that any newspaper reporter worth their salt does.

The only way to expose this myth, and it is a myth- is for either the Veterans, politicians, and military leaders (all collectively CONSERVATIVES) promoting this myth provide research from the sixties that actually show a significant number of events caught on camera or mentioned in the newspapers that prove beyond a doubt that most, if not all, Vietnam Veterans were treated so shamefully by the American people. Hell, provide documentation it happened a FEW times. Note that the root of this myth is directed at those who opposed the Vietnam War. The truth is that if anyone abandoned our troops during Vietnam it was the same folks abandoning us today – the American people- ALL the American people who refused to act in the Citizens role- the ultimate check and balance against Government corruption, lies, and hubris. One need look no further than the Army National Guard of the sixties to note one group of American citizens who abandoned our combat troops in Vietnam by avoiding combat alongside them.

This Veteran’s website, one of many to spring up to challenge and rebut what "conservative" Vets of any war period call Liberal Myths, Ray’s 69th Armor page on Vietnam War Myths (below) says that it is a Myth that Draft Dodgers protested against the Vietnam War, and this is supposed to be a conservative Veteran’s website. Not only that but his 69th Armor website says that by 1972 the anti-war movement was all but over except for a few hard core radical activists mostly Communists. There’s one of many problems with websites like this or at least when it comes to “timing,” saying that the anti-war movement was non-existent is debatable but surely doesn’t jive with the timeframe Mickey Leighton is crying about in the photo above.

This is what Ray’s 69th Armor web page on Vietnam War Myths has to say about the antiwar movement and draft dodgers. He nails it down to one simple formula anyone can understand today. “The fact is they [draft dodgers talking males here ladies] protested because they did not want to be inducted into the military. It is worth noting that when the draft was ended by Congress in 1972, anti-war protests almost ceased entirely. Not only does this bring into question the timing Leighton is talking about, but why separate draft dodgers from all other anti-war activists, especially young women who in most cases are accused of doing the spitting?

Ray in one breath claims that by 1972 the anti-war protests had ceased entirely and yet Leighton tearfully claims that WE were spit on, beer bottles thrown on us, and called baby-killers when he came home in 1972 most who believe this myth will tell you we were treated this way right up until the Fall of Saigon in 1975, well which is it?

Ray’s response would be that anti-war protests after 1972 were conducted mostly by the hard-core anti-war movement that had close ties to the North Vietnamese Communist Party. For these people, protesting was a job. As in those who claim anti Viet war citizens "spit on us", he offers zero evidence. It fails to meet even the simplest requirements of logic- a vast organization, coast to coast, with millions of participants, clandestinely run by North Viet Nam? Shades of Obama’s "Death Panels"! Let me ask YOU, Veteran- if some hippy spit on you, what would your reaction have been? Let me ask YOU, Peacenik- who did you hold accountable for the war- the grunt or the profiteers?

Much of Ray’s and similar such sites are filled with such claptrap. It’s past time we take them on.

Commentary by Robert L. Hanafin, Veterans Advocacy Editor, VT News Network and Vietnam Vet Chuck "Mutt" Winant, La Mesa, CA

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Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I've posted on Veterans Today, I've had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner. My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me. Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000. I've been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I'm now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house. I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.