Vietnam Veterans Spit On, part 2

(This is a continuation of Real Facts About Vietnam Veterans.)

Among some of the specific stories of Vietnam veterans being spit upon that are excerpted from Chicago syndicated columnist Bob Greene's book, Homecoming: When the Soldiers Returned from Vietnam:

  • "Yes, I am a Vietnam veteran who was spat upon -- literally and figuratively. By hippies? I don't know. In the airport? Yes. San Francisco International Airport on October 11, 1971 at 3:15 p.m., and yes, I was still in uniform. To be exact, it was the same uniform that I wore during the last Fire Support Mission I was involved in, just 36 hours before landing in San Francisco Airport. No, I didn't have mud, dirt, or gunpowder on my uniform. A very kind Vietnamese woman at the Transit Company washed and ironed it for me so that I could come home to the country I love looking nice. This was one hell of a lot more than I received upon arrival.

    If I were the only one to be spat upon, the score would be: not spat upon, 1,999,999, spat upon, 1. Of course, I know this score to be wrong. Literally because I saw others spat upon, and figuratively because to spit on one Vietnam veteran is to spit on them all.

    The person who spat on me was wearing a shirt that said 'Welcome Home Baby-Killer.' ...

    About that image of a burly Green Beret walking through the airport and being spat upon by a war protester -- let's also remember that most war protesters or hippies or whatever name you want to attach to them were also becoming very aware of their rights as U.S. citizens, and they knew that if this burly Green Beret did nothing they (protesters) had won, and if the burly Green Beret retaliated, they (protesters) still won. How could they lose?"

    -- Robert E. McClelland, Massillon, Ohio

  • "I think the date was March 7, 1972. I was in the San Francisco airport. I had just showered and put a fresh uniform (Air Force) on for my first leg home. Walking out to my gate I passed a 'hippie' who spat upon me and continued walking in the opposite direction, without a word.

    I made nothing of the incident for two reasons:
    (1) I was happy to be going home after 367 days in Thailand, and didn't want anything to screw it up, and
    (2) Officers who get in public fights, while in uniform, are dealt with in a fairly severe fashion."

    -- Chris Ramel, Denver, Colorado

  • "I am a retired Catholic chaplain who served the Air Force community for twenty years. I had two tours in Vietnam (Phan Rang and Bien Hoa). I left Bien Hoa on November 18, 1968, flew military contract aircraft to Philadelphia, and then on to New York for two weeks' leave.

    While I was leaving the JFK airport to catch a bus to the city, a lady (around 43 years old) told me that 'I napalm babies' and she spit on me. I didn't take her for a 'hippie' though.

    Needless to say she ruined my two weeks' leave."

    -- Father Guy Morgan, Fort Collins, Colorado

  • "I am a female veteran of the U.S. Air Force -- 1967, 1968, 1969, and 1970. I was in Southeast Asia though not actually in Vietnam.

    I returned to the States in 1970 through Travis Air Force Base, and from there I visited a friend for a week and then flew back to the Midwest through O'Hare. I worked at a vegetable canning factory and at a local ski resort before returning to college at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in the fall of 1971. This is where my spitting story takes place.

    I had joined a veteran's group called Vets for Peace. We were active in anti-war protest marches in Milwaukee, Madison, and Chicago. We usually marched with a group of veterans from Chicago called Vietnam Veterans Against the War. It was in Madison, on Veterans Day, 1971, as I was walking to the Capitol building from campus (all alone). I was wearing my Air Force overcoat and my Vets for Peace hat when a man about 19 or 20 years old looked me in the face and spit right into my face. He was a normal looking man, nothing to distinguish him from a thousand other people. But I will never forget what he did to me."

    -- Rose Marie McDonough, Green Bay, Wisconsin

  • "Late at night in mid-August 1969, I was spat upon in the San Francisco airport by a man in his early twenties. I had just returned from my tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam, processed through the mess at the Oakland Army Depot, and was waiting at the airport for an early morning flight to my Denver home. The man who spat on me ran up to me from my left rear, spat, and turned to face me. The spittle hit me on the left shoulder and on my few military decorations about my left breast pockets. He then shouted at me that I was a
    'mother-f*ing murderer.' I was quite shocked and just stared at him, probably with a stupid look on my face. The spitter then called me a 'mother-f*ing chicken-sh*t.' He was balling up his fists when he yelled this.

    A cop or security guard then showed up and grabbed the man from behind. I did not see where he came from, nor do I have any notion of how much time went by between the spitting and the cop's arrival, though it could not have been too long. A pretty good struggle went on between them for a few seconds, and then two more cops showed up. All the time the man who spat on me was calling me (and, I suppose, the cops) names, indicating we lacked bravery.

    Having talked to other servicemen during the remainder of my service, I found two other young men who told me that they had similar experiences, one in an airport, the other in a bus station. I have no reason to doubt them.

    I also related my experience that same night to the man at the San Francisco airport who was running the USO center there. He confirmed what the police had told me: that a number of similar confrontations had occurred there recently."

    -- Douglas D. Detmer, Farmington, New Mexico

  • "After a year of unbelievable hell in Vietnam, I was at the "repo depo" in Long Binh awaiting my flight out. The last thing I was told by the sergeant in charge as we boarded the aircraft was not to expect any welcome home committees when we got off the plane.

    I arrived at Oakland Air Force Base {sic, more likely it was the military terminal of the Oakland airport} on April 14 (my mother's birthday), 1970. I had sat near the front of the plane, and therefore was one of the first to get off. As I looked out toward the terminal, I noticed a large crowd, maybe 200 or so people, on the far side of a cyclone wire fence. In front of them, on our side of the fence, were MPs, wearing ponchos. As we started to file out of the plane, the MPs shouted to us to move quickly, and began holding up their ponchos.

    We were in khaki short-sleeved uniforms, and I was surprised that it would be raining in California. As I got closer to the MPs and the crowd, I still could not make out what they were yelling. Then the first egg landed near my foot. At first, like a fool, I looked up in the air, still not putting together what was going on. As my ears popped, adjusting to the change in pressure, I began to hear for the first time the chant: 'How many babies did you kill today?'

    Several of them were leaning against the fence, spitting at us and at the MPs blocking their view. Others were heaving eggs over the fence and into our midst. The MPs were covered with spittle and eggs, which explained the ponchos. They were obviously used to this ritual. The fellow behind me said, 'Jesus, I wish I had brought my M-16!,' and my stomach dropped as I realized for the first time what was going on.

    I stopped to ask one of the MPs who these people were, and as I did so a woman about forty years old, not a teenager by any stretch of the imagination, leaned back and spit on me with all her strength. It landed on my shirt pocket, near the ribbons that I was wearing for the first time. 'Bull's-eye!' she yelled. An MP lieutenant took my arm and said, 'Go inside, son, and ignore them.'"

    -- David McTamaney, Newburgh, New York

  • "It happened to me, and it was no joke. In September of 1967, I was called to active duty with the U.S. Army Medical Corps. I was a neurosurgeon then (as I am now), and had recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California at Berkeley. I was fortunate during my military service (two years of active duty) to be stationed at a large hospital facility stateside -- although I did not actually go to Vietnam, I was responsible for the treatment of a large number of wounded Vietnam soldiers.

    I was stationed at Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco, and I commuted between the hospital and my home in Berkeley. ... In any case, when I would come home from the hospital (of course wearing my uniform, which was required), I would receive many negative comments from other residents of Berkeley. One afternoon a youngster, approximately twelve years old, who lived across the street from us, literally spat on me as I got out of my car. He shouted, 'How many did you kill today?'

    You can imagine how I felt -- especially since I had spent that day trying to reconstruct the skull of a Vietnam soldier who had suffered severe shrapnel wounds, and who had recently been transferred back to the United States for surgery."

    -- Dr. Robert A. Fink, Berkeley, California

(Continued in Vietnam Veterans Spit On, part 3.)

Comments for Vietnam Veterans Spit On, part 2

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I am Dumbfounded
by: J. Kennedy

I was directed here from a gaming site, of all places. I am a 38 year old male.

My father served in the Republic of Vietnam and has related similar stories on his return to my mother and her daughter. I felt rage hearing this man take that abuse at the hands of such cowards. He related the same sentiment with damned if he did and damned if he didn't do something.

As I read these stories here, I now feel sadness, rage and disappointment in my fellow man.

No matter what our thoughts are, to treat these men and women with such disrespect after they have served their country is unexcusable.

I know some may say that my response is a lame horse out of the gate on such a bygone war. It's my opinion, respect it. For the same reason 'trolls' are allowed to post garbage, I am allowed to share my thoughts with you at this given time. (Just so you know, J, we don't have many trolls here. If they get out of line, we delete their comments. You should know that our Vietnam veterans will appreciate your remarks, even though it's been almost 40 years since they came home.)

I thank every man and woman regardless of background, race, creed or color who has served and is serving. They have/had something within their core that I evidently do not that compels/compelled them to serve.


War is Hell but...
by: Anonymous

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

John Stuart Mill
English economist & philosopher (1806 - 1873)

CHU LAI 1970

Soldier returning home from Vietnam to El Paso
by: Sterling In Texas

In March 1972, I returned home from Vietnam to El Paso, but wanted to surprise my parents, show up at the front door and knock.

I was in my Class A uniform with a heavy duffel bag and thought I would hitch-hike the 7 miles from the airport to home. I couldn't afford a cab.

I walked the first 3 miles and in those days, not many people wanted to give a soldier a ride. A convertible full of people my age or a little younger passed me, yelling obscenities, and as they drove by, tossed a soft drink and a partially eaten ice cream cone at me. The soft drink missed me, but the ice cream didn't. I remember it was vanilla because it made a mess on my green Army uniform, melting fast under the hot El Paso sun.

A lady stopped and gave me a lift, the last 4 miles home. Her husband was an officer at Fort Bliss? It seems in those days, the only one who respected a soldier, was someone who was married to a soldier.

See me in Vietnam by a Google search. "Flickr, Southwest USA, 19 year old machine gunner"

San Francisco Airport
by: Sam R.

I left Oakland Depot on Aug 10, 1971, after we had been warned to travel in groups if we were to wear our uniforms.

We could not change into civilian clothes and still fly stand-by (1/2 price). So there I was at San Fran airport after a short bus ride.

I was already very ticked off about the warnings of people abusing returning service people.

Anyway, I was dragging my duffle and other bags thru the airport, when a middle-aged woman saw me and headed for me from a distance. She walked like a tiger moving in for the kill, and moving quickly.

When she got close, and made eye contact, she realized one thing. If she messed with me, her next stop was going to be at the closest emergency room. She moved away from me at a high rated of speed after that.

US Army Medical Center, Okinawa 1970-71

by: John Callahan

In 1971, I was at a gathering on comm ave in Boston. I was approached by a female bu-jew (Jews who seek to incorporate elements of Buddhist practice into their spirituality) who said she wanted to ask me a couple of questions about Vietnam.

I said okay and her second question was "so, how many babies did you kill?"

There were 3 Jewish boys from her school sitting over at the bar with their backs turned to us who appeared to be talking and giggling behind their hands.

I approached them from behind and told them they had 20 seconds to get her out of the building. They got up from their stools and without turning around even to glance at the female they rushed for their coats and ran away.

Years later I read a book called "The 60s: Years of Hate; Days of Rage" or something like that written by Todd Gitlin (I don't recommend it).

He describes the SDS encouraging students to mess with the soldiers or vets by having their cowardly boys encourage the girls to do things like this, under the theory that the vets wouldn't kill the girls.

In my case it worked as I fought off my initial desire to strangle her.

I Was Spit Upon
by: AO2 Richard Dean Self

I served in VAL-4, in Vung Tau, and received a telegram that my father had died. Being a few weeks from the end of my time, my C.O. told me to pack up and get to Birmingham, Al. where we lived.

Came into Travis AFB and by bus to San Francisco International airport. I was flying on "military stand-by" so had my uniform on. A hippie stepped in front of me and ask, "How many innocent women and children has you killed ?"

I asked him to step aside as I was going to my father's funeral and he spit in my face. I dropped my duffle bag and knocked him out.

The rest is a long story, but it happened to me also.

AO2 Richard "Country" Self
VAL-4 Black Ponies

Richard, I'm sorry to hear that happened to you, but Bravo Zulu for your response. I'm sure your dad had a little smile in heaven over that.

Thank you for your service to our country, and Welcome Home!

"Welcome Home Soldier"
by: Cheri M.

"Welcome Home Soldier" is a play depicting the actual experiences, word for word, that some Vietnam vets had at San Francisco Airport, which they explosively share after listening to the organizer of the event they are attending. The event is a 10 years later Welcome Home parade for Vietnam vets.

The organizer is of the protester stripe and has framed the event from her perspective of readiness to finally forgive the soldiers, hence the explosiveness of soldiers in the audience (actors) erupting to set her and the record straight about this "urban myth" of soldiers being spat on.

It has been playing at Playhouse West Studio One in North Hollywood for 23 years (longer than any other play in Los Angeles' history) and is always attended by at least one Vietnam vet, who also shares info at the end of the play about current POWs from all our wars who are still held captive.

After we returned home last night from our 3rd WHS experience, I Googled "Vietnam veterans returning home spit on at San Francisco Airport". That is how I landed on this site and how glad I am to be here.

Ever since doing one of my internships at Sepulveda VA, the "how we treat our soldiers" issue has been one of my hot buttons. How can we possibly thank them enough, and yet, how despicably deficient is their ROI.

Thank you, MMM, for this article and others like it. I'm not a vet and have none in my family. All the more reason for me to be here and listen up.

God grant me a cease to the chaos in my own ADHD life and the wherewithal in the very near future to be of some service to some of the vets who went so this mother didn't have to. Please bless every vet abundantly and the Vietnam vets with a double portion in honor of what they, in good faith, have given.


Thank you for sharing this story with our readers, and for that lovely tribute to Vietnam vets. We try to make it a point to say "Welcome Home" to Vietnam vets whenever we encounter them, and they are very grateful. It's too little, and too late, but it's the least we can do.

by: Tony Savant

I just read Cheri's comment about the play. I am the creator, writer and director of the play "Welcome Home, Soldier", and I want vets to know I am now directing a production of it on the east coast, in West Chester, PA outside Philly. It opens July 18th, 2014.

I hope Veterans from all over the area come to see it. It is a tribute to Vietnam Veterans and tells true stories from real veterans and their families.

Tickets can be gotten at All proceeds from tickets purchased by veterans go to veteran charities. Please pass the word!

Please remember the rest of us...
by: Dee Saddler

I am not a veteran, but almost every boy in my class of 1965 signed up immediately to serve.

While they were away, our hometown wrote letters, called each other, prayed for you all and could not wait for you to get back home. Unfortunately it was a typical case of "the squeaky wheel gets the oil" and the hippies got more publicity with their cruel words and vulgar behavior.

So, please know that there is no fancy memorial, military parade or glowing words that could ever thank you enough for your sacrifice. And I'm convinced if I get to heaven I will see special uniforms for those who gave so much.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Dee, thank you for taking the time to share that heartfelt tribute to our Vietnam vets. I'm sure it will be much appreciated.

A Place for You
by: Anonymous

I'm kind of a loner, but I recently joined a Facebook page for in-country Vietnam Vets:

If you want to be with vets who have walked in your shoes, please consider joining. The conversation has been uplifting every day and hope it's the same for you.

Viet Nam Undeclared Police Action
by: Chief

WE Landed, Bloused Jump Boots on the Ground APO San Francisco CA. Green Beret and Class A's Looking Strac.

As I walked down the Airport Hallway a Girl with a Shaved Head, (Big Breasts)in an Orange Jump Suit, ran up to me, Placing a Flowered Lei around my Neck, said "Welcome Home Baby Killer, and Spat in my Face".

I found out later that THEY were the Hari Krishna Cult and so I Considered the Source. I would never hit a Woman anyway, regardless of my Anger at the Time.

Most people do not Know nor Realize, that when you are in the U S Military, your Information, T.V., Newsprint, etc Is/Or Was then CENSORED in those Days of Late 1968, Chief

Coming Home
by: Russau

Well, I had heard about some of these cheap shot actions of these cowards that didn't join the Armed Services during these troubled times, and thought real hard about what I'd do if I ran into this type of treatment to returning soldiers that DID standup for their commitment to our Country and for the freedom we all enjoy, even those cowards that showed disrespect to our men and women that served our Country.

Well it don't matter now what I thought I'd do because nothing happened to me - no spitting , no disrespectful shouts or chants or protests, that we fought for so they could have that freedom to do this (and it STILL burns me that they do this).

What a disgraceful action on their part! Now today (45 years latter) I'm happy to see our vets returning to ALL the hoopla they deserve!


One of America's dictates
by: Anonymous

This site needs to stay up.

It is very important that America remembers their treatment of Vietnam veterans.

This was not America's shiniest moment.

I never believed the stories ... I apologize
by: Ralph Livingston

I have always thought that the stories were urban legend.

My father was a navigator and flew in WWII, Korea and the very early years in Southeast Asia. I grew up on military bases and I guess it's my naïveté but I couldn't really believe that Americans would do that to their own soldiers!

I thought we understood… Whatever your political affiliation, they are our soldiers.

Obviously I was very naïve and very wrong. I apologize, and at the same time, I'm very ashamed of the Americans who did this.

What is wrong with people?

What is wrong with people, indeed! Thanks for taking the time to post your apology. I'm sure our Vietnam veterans will appreciate it.

Spitting image
by: Anonymous

If these men were really spit at why didn't any of them file a police report of the incident? Were they feeling guilty? Were they too offended or proud to file police reports of the crime(assault) that had been perpetrated against them? Maybe the reason is AT THE TIME they now claimed the incidents occurred there was NO RECORD of them. This casts serious doubt on the claims.

Anon, what rock did you just crawl out from under? Do some research and some reading, and stop embarrassing yourself by showing your ignorance.

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