Jerry Lembcke's Response to Jim Lindgren
1. I've never said I knew that spitting did not happen. In the book, I speculate that, given the raucous nature of the war years and the many years that the war and opposition went on, I'd be surprised if some veteran, sometime, someplace, would not have been spat on.
2. At the time I wrote, I did not find any first-person "I was spat on" stories that had been told in the late 1960s or early 1970s and still today I have almost nothing of that sort. I did find some second/third-hand claims of spitting, from that time period, and I recounted some of those on pages 80-82 of the book. Subsequent to the book's publication I wrote some op-ed pieces and gave some public speeches in which I may have rounded off my own work, saying on occasion that the stories were bogus—by which I meant that, as a collection, they were "bogus" for the betrayal narrative for the war's loss that they help construct. I've never said that one or more of the stories could not be true.
3. The first-person stories began to come around 1980. I stand by that, but the existence of early claims wouldn't alter my conclusions substantially.
4. Returnees from Vietnam did not land at civilian airports. We did go and return on civilian planes, but we left from and returned to military airbases like Travis. There may have been exceptions (eg. for bad weather), but in those cases protesters would not have known and been able to make a beeline for San Francisco Airport to greet the one plane from Vietnam landing there that month. On this point, I'm open to correction; there may, for example, have been more exceptions than I'm aware of, but again, this isn't critical to my case.
5. Yes, many of the first-person and eyewitness stories that began to come during the 1980s and continue to today claim the spitters were girls or women.
6. The Geyer/Bowers story: Two sailors getting beat up at a high school football game is a different story-genre altogether with nothing to do with the war or anti-war movement.
NOTE: The December 2006 story of a Fort Drum soldier being spat on at the Syracuse airport ballyhooed by the anti-anti-war crowd as the return of the spittin' sixties appears, at this point, to have been a domestic dispute.
7. Reston's story: In my book I recount a similar story of October 1967 told by Marine Chaplain John J. O'Connor (later Cardinal O'Connor). It's interesting and important, but did Reston see it or even say that he did?
I wrote to O'Connor to ask him if he did see it, and I received an oblique response from an assistant.
NOTE: The Sunday Jan. 28, 2007, New York Times carried a story about a spitting incident at the previous day's anti-war demonstration. I wrote the reporter, Ian Urbina, to ask if he had seen the spitting, and he replied that it had been reported to him by his assistant. I wrote to the assistant to ask if she had seen it, and I've received no response. A report, even by a journalist, isn't always documentation.
8. The May 16, 1970, story from the Pomona paper is interesting to me. I'd like to see it and have it for my files.
9. The July 21, 1971, AP story is pretty vague, but it is something from "the day" that interests me. It could also be a case of an agent provocateur or of the FBI planting false stories with the press. I've seen enough FBI papers obtained under the Freedom of Information Act to know that either is a possibility.
10. General Chapman's story, as you tell it—"a recruiter is invited to campus ..." sounds like a composite illustration he created to make a point—certainly not evidence or even a very serious allegation.
11. The Neil Sheehan story of soldiers being trained by being spat on—I'm skeptical. I went through basic training in 1968 and have heard lots of veteran stories—never heard that one.
12. The Medal of Honor harassing. Were I to write an article (and I might) about spitting claims, I would include this one and let readers judge its plausibility.
13. Hmm. Students spitting on ROTC uniforms with no bodies in them—maybe a weird fraternity ritual? No, wait—a sorority ritual? Spitting girls, get it?
14. "With all this documented spitting going on ..." Oops, what spitting has been documented? What you appear to have is documentation that there were reports and claims of spitting, but that's not the same as "documented spitting." If we used a courtroom standard, you have ALLEGATIONS, but no evidence.
15. Yes, I have the Minarik story. Could be true—can't say it isn't.
16. Birch Bayh spat on by a PRO-war person? What's that have to do with the myth that ANTI-war people spit on Vietnam veterans.?
17. Any polling data I know of supports my case. In the book (p. 76) I cite a 1971 Harris Poll: 90 percent of Vietnam veterans reported friendly homecoming experiences—I rest my case.
18. Oh, the spitting girls in the stories. For you, that suggests that girls DO spit; for me it suggests that the stories are mythical. Read my chapter "Women, Wetness, and Warrior Dreams" and get back to me.