Two Myths About the United States and Vietnam

Setting the Record Straight

Antiwar protesters, January 1965. Wikimedia Commons

Two big myths persist about the United States and Vietnam. The first is that when U.S. soldiers returned from the war there, protesters spat upon them in disdain. The second is that no one vilified the Americans more than the Vietnamese, who continue to despise the United States for its behavior a half-century ago.

As U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to visit Vietnam on Sunday, the frequency with which observers have repeated both myths has risen. Conservatives are more likely to embrace the first and liberals more commonly invoke the second, but they’re both wrong. 

Consider the idea that U.S. soldiers faced hostility and scorn upon their return, which Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) repeated last week. “That lack of welcome home is still a national shame,” McCain said. “You had 18- or 19-year-old draftees who did their duties and were literally spat upon by their fellow

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