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Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
SOS From The Coral Sea
While President Nixon speaks of peace in Vietnam and announces troop withdrawals, intensive bombing by U.S. aircraft continues over all of Southeast Asia. Many of these planes are based on aircraft carriers cruising off the coast of Vietnam. Speaking before the joint Senate-House Armed Forces Committee in April 1970 on the role of these ships in the war, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Moorer stated, ''Almost half of all combat sorties (missions) into Vietnam were flown from carriers,'' thus indicating their indispensable part in the air war.
In view of this, the growing movement against the war among crewmen aboard these attack aircraft carriers takes on real significance.
Protest actions among ship personnel was highlighted last year by a campaign in San Diego to oppose the sailing of the U.S.S. Constellation to Vietnam. 54,000 people, many of them active-duty sailors, participated in a referendum held in the city. The vast majority voted for the ship not to return to Vietnam. When the ship sailed, nine Constellation sailors sought sanctuary in a San Diego Church. Although they were arrested and initially flown back to the ship, eight were subsequently given honorable discharges.
Protest spread to the U.S.S. Coral Sea stationed off the shore in Oakland, California. As the date for her return to Vietnam approached, men on the ship formed the organization Stop Our Ship (SOS) and drew up a petition to members of Congress calling upon them to raise their voices against the Vietnam War and against the return of the Coral Sea to Southeast Asia. This petition was signed by 1500 seamen, 33% of the crew, despite harassment and disciplinary measures already taken against some of the crew by military officials.
The City Council of Berkeley took the unprecedented step of passing a resolution offering shelter for men refusing military service and ordering its policemen not to arrest any of these men. A number of civilian demonstrations were held in support of SOS.
The ship sailed early last November, minus many of its sailors and 3 of its officers, and when the carrier docked in Honolulu on route to Vietnam, 53 more men jumped ship. SOS received messages of support from GI's and civilians all over the world, including anti-war groups on other aircraft carriers.
Upon its return to Vietnam, the Coral Sea resumed its air attacks in Southeast Asia and is heavily involved in the recent intensive bombing of North Vietnam. During this time protest against the war has continued on the ship.
On January 15, Secretary of the Navy John Chaffee visited the Coral Sea off Vietnam. Men of the SOS movement held a demonstration on board and presented the Navy Secretary with a petition which 36 of them had signed. The petition included demands for immediate U.S. withdrawal from Southeast Asia, acceptance of the DRV's 7-point peace plan in order to gain release of American POW's, amnesty for deserters and draft resisters, and freedom for all political prisoners in the U.S. The petition concluded with these words: ''The violence and oppression aimed at the people of Southeast Asia is too often felt by individuals in the military who dare to oppose current policies. Despite this very real hazard, we the undersigned implore proper consideration be given this statement.''
On January 4, 1972, two reporters from the N.Y. Times visited the Coral Sea stationed off the coast of Vietnam. While on board, the two reporters talked both with the crewmen as well as with the officer pilots responsible for the bombing missions. What happened during their visit is described below in a letter written by a man working on the Coral Sea who is a member of the SOS movement, What the New York Times finally printed is something else.
Although the news media claim to be objective and to give ''All the news that's fit to print,'' the article below provides just one more example of why the slogan might better be ''All the news that fits, we print.''
NOTE: We have just received news that approximately 10 GI's who were involved with the Times interview have been sent back to California. It is expected that the men will be discharged.
January 4, 1972
But-I've got to start following my head cause last night while distributing the Bulkheads around zeros country we ran across two reporters from the New York Times. Whoop-Ahl Well they leapt at the chance to rap on some radical enlisted men (I had a row of machine gun bullets a la Mexican revolutionary, peace symbols stenciled on my flight deck jersey-for freaking pilots-and flowered head band.) We set up an interview for eleven the next morning and I proceeded to boogie all over the ship notifying the brothers of the impending trip. Next day at eleven about a hundred anti-war sailors and marines overwhelmed the fantail passageway by the ASE shop, the prescribed meeting spot. The crowd was beautiful! Headbands, POW stencils on their T shirts, peace symbols, clenched fists! Wow, I didn't even know half of the brothers there. What a grapevine! Chicanos, blacks (though not in large numbers) and straights.
The group was militant and quickly acted when suggestions were made, or songs started to be sung. The lifers freaked and the pigs were powerless. The new CMAA, Satchel (a real fascist) blew his first day on the job for sure!
The Times people were delayed almost an hour. In the meantime the pigs began harassing the crowd by handing out speeding tickets for hair, beards, etc. I was escorted up to the MAA shack and written up for desecration of the American flag. Someone ripped up a flag and, though I wasn't in on that aspect of the trip, somehow I got busted for it. Much booing, etc. Five brothers stepped up to defend me and were apprehended also for having ''SOS” and ''POW" on their T shirts. When we returned the crowd cheered. By the chants of "1-2-3-4, We don't want your fucking war!" and ''Free the Press!" were being screamed at full throat.
The tension was building and still no reporters, it was about 12 o'clock. (There were still 40-SO people there-lunch hour being what it is, an hour,) Someone suggested storming the zero's ward room to free the press, we didn't have time to think twice before about twenty people started pouring down the ladder. As soon as we burst into the wardroom we almost collided with the two reporters on their way up. A great cheer! Whoop-AhI! The interview was, of course, chaos but the point was made: the SOS or resistance call it what you may (the press called it SOS), was very much alive on the Coral Sea and quite vocal in their anti-war, anti-rip-off-living conditions sentiments.
The point got across that we didn't want Nixon's war, and were tired of the pig's harassment on board. Everything you can think of was brought up in the interview. (The crowd rose in numbers to about 70, now.) Everyone adding their two cents worth to a chorus of "Right-on.'' . .
About Face! The U.S. Servicemen's Fund Newsletter, vol. 2, no. 2