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

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