Who Supported the US Troops in Vietnam, and Who Attacked Them
Alan Spector

In the mid-1960's I was active at the University of Wisconsin in the main anti-war group and in the Draft Resistance Union. From late 1967 until mid-1970 I worked as a travelling organizer for SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). (I didn't get paid--lived off of free meals and couch space in various dorms or houses, passed the hat for gasoline money, etc.--not as romantic as it sounds but a good three years, in my opinion).  My focus then was to meet with various local campus anti-war organizations and try to convince them to become SDS chapters as well as just discussing with them various political questions (anti-racism, taking a pro-community, pro-working class approach) and also carrying news and discussing tactics, whether or not they were willing to affiliate with SDS. 
My main "route" was Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Western Massachusetts, and a bit of Connecticut--probably twenty or more campuses. I lived in Boston and had contact with campus activists from another ten or fifteen Boston-area schools. (This isn't about me--I'm just using the word "I" because "I'm" the reference-footnote....) I then started travelling, with the same purpose, through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and then for about six months, Tennessee, Louisiana, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. I also attended numerous anti-war conferences, including SDS conferences, and probably came to know many of the more active anti-war leaders from a total of perhaps one hundred or more campuses.
The point?
There was virtually NO negative, abusive, hostile, anti-troop sentiment among the main activists. None that I ever saw or was aware of. What about the occasional protest signs that said "Baby Killers"? They were directed at Presidents Johnson and Nixon and the other politicians and generals. I never saw any such sign directed at any troops. Keep in mind that the movement probably encompassed ten million people (who knows?) --perhaps a third of that actually marched at one time or another, and the other two thirds were actively sympathetic to some degree. In any loose movement that large, it is quite likely that there could have been some people that were actively hostile to the returning troops. There are egotists and emotionally imbalanced people in any group of that size. Not to mention some fringe folks who altered their brain chemistry with combustible herbal matter before going to demonstrations. So I cannot vouch for the behavior of all those millions of people. But there was certainly no organized anti-troop activity, except for one *report* of an anti-troop action at a dock which, if I remember correctly, turned out to have been organized by Nixon's police agents. Besides, who would want to insult some guy who just got back from a war, where he was trained in using an M-16 rifle and in hand to hand combat? Seriously. I had close personal contact with hundreds and hundreds of activists and saw virtually no hostile attitudes and no hostile behavior towards the returning troops.
The only relatively well-known group that verbally attacked the troops was the Weathermen/ also known as "The Weather Underground". They were led by Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, who spent a lot of time posturing as being the true revolutionaries, making "cute" comments about Charles Manson and some little kid who derailed a train in Italy killing many innocent passengers, and attacking everyone else as not being revolutionary enough. They have both made peace with the system and are now making lots of dough on the "radical chic" lecture tour and pushing Ayer's self-promoting book which has some superficial, faux, self-criticism, but nothing significant. But actually, the Weather Underground actually attacked *everyone* who wasn't in their group -- all whites were considered active supporters of the "White Racist Mother-Country Oppressor", not just U.S. troops.  
In any case, to summarize the main point:
The assertion that there was a strong anti-troop current in the anti-war movement is a myth, a lie.
However, just to be provocative, I would suggest that there probably were some troops who should have been tried as war criminals -- some who did commit rape, or spray an area with machine gun fire while children were running in the vicinity. And as to the pilots who dropped bombs on civilians -- well, that is a more complicated question -- did they believe that they were mainly protecting the ground troops and killing "enemy" soldiers or did they know that they were killing hundreds of civilians?  They were, after all, part of the invading, oppressor military, just as U.S. troops are today in Iraq. But I can't presume to answer that question. I suspect it varies from individual to individual, but that the "average" soldier was not supportive of the idea of killing innocent civilians.
I cannot and would not presume to be able to answer that question about the troops. What I can offer information about is the anti-war movement. Based on my not-so-limited experience and the contact I had with many hundreds of others, there is no question in my mind that the myth of a significant anti-troop sentiment among the anti-war protestors is just that---a myth, but a powerful myth that needs debunking.


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