Library - Reading Room

Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!

Billy Dean Smith

On March 15, 1971, a fragmentation grenade exploded in an officers' barracks in an Army artillery unit in Vietnam, killing two lieutenants and wounding a third. Capt. Rigby and 1st Sgt. Willie, who were to have slept in those barracks, arrived on the scene and decided they were the real intended victims. Billy Dean Smith, a black private from Watts, Calif., has been charged with the fraggings (murders) and attempted murders of Rigby and Willie, and is being held in solitary confinement at Fort Ord, California.

Pvt. Smith was drafted into the army in 1969. He underwent training at Ft. Ord and Ft. Sill, and was then sent to Vietnam in October, 1970, where he was assigned to the command of Capt. Rigby. Pvt. Smith's lack of enthusiasm for the war, the Army, his C. O. and his 1st Sgt. were obvious to those who knew him. He often talked to those around him about the racism he'd experienced and how much he hated it. This "lack of enthusiasm" caused Pvt. Smith to be given three Article 15's by Capt. Rigby within a few months; in addition, he was being processed for a '"212" discharge for unsuitability and unfitness.

After interviews with scores of witnesses, after hundreds of leading questions and answers, the entire case against Billy Dean Smith rests in the following list of direct and circumstantial evidence:

The only direct evidence the Army has is a single grenade pin found in Pvt. Smith's pocket during an illegal search. Photographs of the pin found in his pocket and the grenade spoon found near the explosion clearly show that the two have no connection. There is nothing unusual about a GI in Vietnam having a grenade pin in his pocket.

The circumstantial ''evidence'' appears even shakier. It shows basically that Billy Dean Smith hated the war, hated the Army, hated his C. O. and First Sgt., that he had stated that they were all racist and that he would ''get even'' with them, that "fragging" was a good way to do it, and that he had access to a fragmentation grenade.

The Army seems to have overlooked the fact that with this kind of evidence, about 90% of the GI's in Vietnam could get convicted of some crime. Nevertheless, Billy Dean Smith faces a firing squad based solely on the above evidence.

Compare Pvt. Smith's treatment with that of Lt. Calley. Lt. Calley, convicted of murdering 22 Vietnamese civilians, has such privileges as a private apartment, frequent visits by his girl friend, full officer's pay, etc. He will probably spend less than 6 years in prison. On the other hand, Billy Smith has been in solitary confinement in the Ft. Ord Stockade without bail since his return to the U.S. What is the difference? Lt. Calley is a white officer while Smith is a black GI. Calley killed Vietnamese villagers, Smith is accused of the murder of two white American officers. Calley went along with the war, Smith defied

Military justice?

About Face! The U.S. Servicemen's Fund Newsletter, vol. 2, no. 2


© 2005 Displaced Films. All Rights Reserved