For those of you who are unaware, while Flash Thompson was in Vietnam, he was injured and a Vietnamese family took him in. He stayed until--or likely past--the time he was healed. I'm guessing a minimum seven days.

My question--would that have been enough time to have him listed as MIA? Would there have been communications with his family? Did Flash have any 'splainin' to do?

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I was hoping to comment directly on the question of his MIA status or lack thereof. I tried to do some research on this as to procedures but couldn't find anything. Unfortunately I no longer have access to any Amazing Spider-Man past #99, the last one in my Masterworks collection. I gather from looking at GCD that his return occurred between #105 and #109. I did read these when they were published but not since. As for notifying his family, did they ever show that he had one? At some early point they would have carried him as missing and told his next of kin. When he turned up he would have had to explain to his unit what happened. Presumably he was convincing and then his next of kin would once again be informed, probably by him.

Flash left for the Army in ASM #47 (APR67) and returned in (I think) ASM #105 (FEB72). By ASM #52 he was already in Vietnam and home on "furlough." When I was "in" it was called "leave." I think furlough is a word Stan recalled from his WWII service. Also, the only way to get a leave once you were in Vietnam was either to have an emergency at home or as a bonus for extending your Vietnam tour by at least six months. This was probably only for seven days. R & R was not leave. It was a "temporary duty assignment" and could not be taken in the Continental United States (affectionately called CONUS). Hawaii was an option only for the married. Everybody else could only go to Sydney (Australia), Bangkok (Thailand), Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Manila, Singapore, Taipei (Taiwan), or Tokyo. This was only from five to seven days. Flash spent a heckava lot of time bopping around in NYC with the gang in quite a few issues after #52, always in uniform when wearing a uniform in the USA was an invitation to trouble.

My understanding (from refreshing my memory on the Internet) is that he was healed by a monk at a temple in the jungle and his pretty daughter. Without seeing the panels again, I assume this was your standard ancient temple. Those are pre-Buddhist and are mainly in Cambodia, not Vietnam. Also, parts of Vietnam are jungle, not all of it. Sha Shan doesn't sound like a Vietnamese name. Of course, in Iron Man's origin story bad guy Wong-Chu and good guy Professor Yinsen also don't have Vietnamese names.

Hmm.

Regarding Flash's family, I'm not aware if such was ever established.  However, if he were intended to be an orphan I can't imagine Stan not doing a story about that.

I'm not well versed in the difference between Cambodia and Vietnam, so I can't really answer to that.  I do know that, yes, Flash was rescued by a monk and his daughter, Sha-Shan.  I'm guessing from what I remember that he was likely there for a week.

Seems Stan Lee got quite a few things wrong about the typical experience of a Vietnam vet in the 1960s.  One confusing aspect is that I thought college students got a deferment from the draft but in my recall of those stories it appears college student Flash was drafted, but I could be wrong on either or both accounts.  And I'm fairly sure Flash showed up at least a couple of more times between issues 52 and 105, which didn't make a whole lot of sense.  Not even being aware of the rules as described by Richard, it struck me as curious that Flash could get so much time off to come back to the U.S. during the war.  Still, I think the development of Flash Thompson as a character over the first 12 years of the series, from a bullying. seemingly dimwitted antagonist to Pete to a good friend who seemed to be growing increasingly suspicious that Pete might really be Spider-Man.  By the time I stopped collecting, circa 1985, I don't recall ever seeing any mention of Flash's family.

In more recent times, Flash was revealed to have an abusive father.  As far as I know, that father had never been seen or mentioned before, much like MaryJane's parents were a blank space (neither dead nor mentioned) for decades until she suddenly needed more of a backstory than just being her Aunt's niece.

I said:

I no longer have access to any Amazing Spider-Man past #99, the last one in my Masterworks collection.

I now realize that I have the Spider-Man CD set containing the first 500 issues of ASM. I will call up the issues involving Flash's experiences in Vietnam I'll probably have something to say about them.

Fred W. Hill said:

One confusing aspect is that I thought college students got a deferment from the draft but in my recall of those stories it appears college student Flash was drafted, but I could be wrong on either or both accounts.

In my case the Selective Service System (AKA the Draft) decided that working hard and helping to keep a roof over my mother's head were inferior things to college. Stan's story makes it unclear about Flash. When he has his going away party it is implied that he joined up. In a later confrontation with Peter, Peter says Flash was drafted.

Stephen King's story Hearts in Atlantis recently made me aware that students had to maintain a decent grade point average or they would become eligible for the draft. Maybe that's what happened to Flash.

Ah, that would work.  In modern continuity, of course, Flash would have had to have volunteered and fought in Iraq or Afghanistan.  If Flash was a real person, and about 15 in 1962, if he'd become a father by the age of 20 or so, by now he might have grandkids of adult age serving in the military. My mother turned 19 in 1962, and two of her grandchildren are Air Force veterans of the recent wars.

 
Richard Willis said:

I said:

I no longer have access to any Amazing Spider-Man past #99, the last one in my Masterworks collection.

I now realize that I have the Spider-Man CD set containing the first 500 issues of ASM. I will call up the issues involving Flash's experiences in Vietnam I'll probably have something to say about them.

Fred W. Hill said:

One confusing aspect is that I thought college students got a deferment from the draft but in my recall of those stories it appears college student Flash was drafted, but I could be wrong on either or both accounts.

In my case the Selective Service System (AKA the Draft) decided that working hard and helping to keep a roof over my mother's head were inferior things to college. Stan's story makes it unclear about Flash. When he has his going away party it is implied that he joined up. In a later confrontation with Peter, Peter says Flash was drafted.

Stephen King's story Hearts in Atlantis recently made me aware that students had to maintain a decent grade point average or they would become eligible for the draft. Maybe that's what happened to Flash.

Well, I read the issues involving Flash's return from Vietnam and his abduction, etc. It wasn't as bad as I thought. The couple of things that jumped out at me:

(1) The usual mistake of faux-Chinese writing early on when Spidey first intercedes. Vietnam uses the same Roman alphabet as North and South America and Western Europe. They even made the same mistake in the big-budget James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, where they draped huge banners with Chinese writing over buildings meant to be in Vietnam.

(2) Referring to the local people as "natives" also smacks of 1940s language. I never heard anyone refer to the Vietnamese as "natives." It's sort of a demeaning word.

I took the time to do some research on the matter of Flash Thompson's military service, starting with his draft eligibility.  I thought that one would be the easiest to resolve, since I had discussed student deferments in one of my earliest Deck Log entries, some six years ago.  However, I discovered that the information I had put out then was erroneous, and in trying to peel the onion on the Selective Service System and student deferments, I found that I had stumbled into a Byzantine maze of regulations and provisions.  It didn't make it any easier that I was researching information as it applied some 35-to-40 years ago.

(The entire issue of the draft was off my radar then; college deferment took me past the start of the all-volunteer armed forces, and then, of course, I entered the Navy after graduation.)

As it would pertain to Flash Thompson's eligibility to be drafted, the only pertinent legistlation to be enacted in that time frame was the Military Selective Service Act of 1967.  The changes enacted by that legislation would have had no practical impact on Thompson's eligibility, if he had been a undergrad student at the time.  (Frankly, I was never that big a follower of Spider-Man, so I don't remember if Flash entered college or not.)

The changes wrought on the 2-S classification (student deferment) by the Military Selective Service Act of 1967 were as follows:  Undergraduate students were defered from being conscipted until: (1) they earned their baccalaureate degree; (2) failed to satisfactorily pursue a full-time course of instruction (i.e., failed a class or dropped out of college); or (3) reached the age of twenty-four---whichever happened soonest.  Deferments for graduate students were eliminated completely, except for those pursuing graduate degrees in medical, dental, or veteranary fields.

The upper age limit for undergrad students (once they turned twenty-four, they were eligible to be drafted, regardless of collegiate standing) and the elimination of deferment for grad students was a response to the tactic of avoiding the draft by "stacking".  Stacking was perpetuating one's student deferment by continually taking undergrad courses but avoiding meeting the requisite courses for a degree, or by moving directly to graduate school from college.  The 1967 Act closed that loophole.

With regards to Thompson's MIA status and the reporting requirements, my experience was that of Mr. Willis'; I was unable to find any specific contemporaneous regulation with regards to the protocols in effect.  However, I can draw upon my experience as a Casualty Affairs Calls Officer (CACO), which was an unpleasant collateral duty I performed several times.

The thing to remember is that the primary consideration with regards to the reporting procedures for a military casualty (killed in action [KIA], wounded in action [WIA], missing in action [MIA]) is that notifying the primary next-of-kin takes priority over all other duties and must be accomplished with no undue delay; however---and this is a big "however"---accuracy of information is not to be sacrificed for the sake of speedy notification.  In other words, all information must be confirmed before making notification.

What that means is, before the CACO will make any notifications to next-of-kin, the serviceman's status as a casualty must be confirmed by official channels.  In the case of Flash Thompson and his MIA status, the first official channel would be a determination by his immediate senior in command---in this case, Thompson's company officer---as to Thompson's status.  It would be up to that officer, based upon the information available to him, to evaluate Thompson's status.

There would have been an investigation of the conditions surrounding Thompson's absence, the thrust of which being to determine whether his absence was involuntary (he was separated from his unit and lost, or lying wounded or dead someplace and had not been found, or trapped under rubble or some other confinement, or a prisoner-of-war) or voluntary (desertion).  Under wartime conditions, the most likely intelligence to determine the cause of Thompson's absence will be accounts provided by the soldiers who saw him last.

The fog of war comes into play here.  Especially if Thompson's disappearance occured during a battle.  The attentions of men fighting for their lives become sharply focused and it's easy to miss things that even happen close by.  Even things that are seen can be misconstrued.  Is that man charging off to the left to confront some enemy soldiers advancing from that direction or is he just running away from the fight?

So even first-hand accounts can have a margin of inexactitude.  Sometimes---perhaps I should say "often"---under such conditions, determining a missing soldier's status is a judgement call at best. Thompson's company officer, if conscientious, will make every effort to nail down the circumstances as best he can.  But still, the reporting clock is ticking, so it's a tricky balancing job of accuracy-versus-time.

If Thompson was missing for a week, then in my semi-experienced opinion, it would be pushing the envelope for reporting his absence, but it's not unbelievable that his absence was still being investigated.  So it's possible that Thompson had not been officially reported MIA, yet.  Or perhaps he had been, but returned in time to stop the Stateside CACO from making the notification.

And, naturally, Thompson's return to his unit opens up a whole new kettle of fish, as there would be an investigation into his actions, to determine if his absence was legitimate or not.

As I was told as a young ensign, the charge of "unauthorised absence" (UA), or what the Army calls "AWOL", is the easiest one to levy:  "Where was Seaman Lobsterman supposed to be?"  "At morning quarters."  "Was he there?" "No."  "Then he's UA."  The only consideration is were the circumstances of his absence mitigating or exonerating.

Obviously, the circumstances of Thompson's absence was sufficiently exonerating that any charge of UA wasn't pursued by the chain-of-command.

I find the change to the age of 24 interesting. Perhaps this only applies to student deferments. When I was drafted shortly before my 20th birthday in 1968, the upward limit for draftees was 26. There was actually a 26-year-old in my basic training unit. The only other changed of which I am aware from the late 60s was to establish the draft lottery. The draft lottery consisted of drawing the Julian dates (1 through 366) and the letters of the alphabet to determine which birth dates and names would be drafted first and last. This created a certainly that didn't previously exist. Prior to this anyone between 19 and 26 could be drafted without significant warning at any time. The first lottery was held shortly after I separated from active service.

Today's draft law (yes there is one) has the student deferment apply to completing the current semester, upon which one is eligible for induction. In theory this would spread the burden of national defense more equitably, instead of it being the job of others who we "thank for their service." In lieu of implementing a draft for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq the powers-that-be chose to dump the burden on the volunteer military and National Guard units, resulting in 4 or 5 tours in combat zones for many of them. This was followed by a smear campaign against former draftees who were said to be inferior troops. If everyone had to go to war everyone would have a connection to a service member. Maybe then we wouldn't have 10-year-long wars like Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

“Frankly, I was never that big a follower of Spider-Man, so I don't remember if Flash entered college or not.”

I was hoping you’d weigh in, Commander. It’s always a pleasure to read your responses to questions concerning military matters. I can clear up the question of whether or not Flash went to college. He was awarded an athletic scholarship to ESU at the same time it was announced that Peter Parker would receive an academic one.

Thanks Commander. As I recall, Flash attended Empire State University on a football scholarship. While it's in question as to whether he was drafted or volunteered, I would hazard a guess that he was a volunteer. I can't recall anything being said in the comics about his academic accomplishments--or lack thereof--so I presume he didn't flunk out.


Richard Willis said:

I find the change to the age of 24 interesting. Perhaps this only applies to student deferments. When I was drafted shortly before my 20th birthday in 1968, the upward limit for draftees was 26. There was actually a 26-year-old in my basic training unit.

 

You aren't wrong about the upward age limit for being draft eligible. The Selective Service Act of 1948 set the upward age-limit at twenty-six years of age and that never changed.  The age of twenty-four---as you guessed---applied only to those who had received college deferments.  The Military Selective Service Act of 1967 essentially said "You can avoid the draft by being in college, but if you're still there when you turn twenty-four, then Uncle Sam can grab you."  The 1967 Act didn't change the overall upper age limit of twenty-six.

 

 

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