Library - Reading Room

Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!

The Lost Mutiny

Riddle; When is a mutiny not a mutiny?

Answer: When the army calls it a mutiny.

According to military definition, mutiny means to join together in concert with others with the intent to override lawful military authority.

In the case of 14 of the original "Presidio 27" conducted here at Fort Ord the military five-man court-martial board came in with twelve "mutinys", one man guilty of wilful disobedience, and one man convicted of failure to obey an order.

Due to the brilliant moving case presented by youthful defense attorney Terence Hallinan; and because of the sensitive, expert case studies and diagnoses offered by fourteen psychiatrists and one psychologist testifying for the defense, the two-month long trial concluded with a merciful court-martial board announcing sentences ranging from three months to fifteen months.

Reaction ranging from stunned disbelief to joyful Jubilation spread through the barracks courtroom as the president of the court-martial board, Lt. Col. Richard Potter read the sentences In a shaky voice:

Richard Gentile, 20, bad conduct discharge, forfeit pay, 6 mos at hard labor ("I couldn't take no more of the stockade, sir.")

Ernest Trefethen, 19, dishonorable discharge, FP, one year hard labor. ("The stockade confused me.")

Patrick Wright, 20, DD, FP, one year hard labor. ("Everybody kept yelling it me.")

Francis Schiro, 21, DD FP, one year hard labor. ("Kept hearing about Bunch all over the stockade.")

Larry Sales, 22, BCD, FP, 3 mos hard labor. (Didn't know how to present himself to the courtmartial board. Buddies had to teach him to salute.)

Allan Rupert, 20, DD, FP, one year hard labor. (Turbulent youth crowned by mother's twelve marriages "we felt nobody cared.")

Stephen Rowland, 22, DD, forfeit $50 per mo for 15 mos., 15 mos hard labor. (Father: "Hasn't he shamed us enough?')

Roy Pulley, 19. DD FP, 15 mos. hard labor. ("Hemphill was shot. Bunch was killed. I had a feeling we'd all get killed.")

Michael Marino, 20, DD, FP, 15 mos. hard labor. (When Air Force Sgt. father came home at night, Michael was "treated like a raw recruit.")

Danny Seals, 22, BCD, FP, 6 mos. hard labor. (Scored medium mental retardation on psychological tests.)

Buddy Shaw, 18, DD, forfeit $50 mo for 15 mos., 15 mos. hard labor. ("It wasn't right for a man in the armed forces to shoot someone in the same armed forces just because he wanted to go home.")

Ricky Stevens, 20, DD, forfeit $50 mo. for 12 mos.. ("thought this was our last chance to accomplish something.")

Danny WilkIns, 20, DD, forfeit $50 mo. for 9 mos., 9 mos. hard labor. ("they was talking about burning up the stockade, killing guards, that sort of thing.")

Richard Duncan, 20, DD, FP,one year hard labor. (Said only time he ever had feeling of freedom was when he was walking in the woods.)

It should be noted that the jury maintained allotments for the men with families, and some pay. Rowland, Stevens, and Wilkins are married, Stevens has two children, Wilkins has a boy. Shaw helps to support an ailing father.

While they imposed the severest sentences on the men the prosecution named as leaders (Rowland, Pulley, Marino, and Shaw) they did consider psychiatric testimony exonerating Sales and Seals from any responsibility. And, as recommended by the court, they gave Gentile's Vietnam service special consideration.

To call the actions of the twelve accused "mutiny" and then to lay such light sentences on them, is to say they did not commit mutiny at all.

One can surmise that the army was anticipating a mutiny last October 14 at the San Francisco Presidio stockade. "Top Cop" Lt, Col. John Ford just happened to have had several conversations about mutiny on dates close to October 14 with stockade commander, Capt. Robert Lamont. Lamont just happened to have had the Manual for Courts Martial on hand to read to the 27 GIs who walked away from the 0730 work formation that day to sit on the grass singing "We Shall Overcome". Photographers were ordered to appear. Video tapes were ordered. A firetruck was nearby. A fellow officer was posted opposite Cap. Lamont to make sure the mutiny article could be heard. And when the men continued to chant and sing an MP sedan with loud speaker equipment was made available.

These fourteen men tried at Fort Ord certainly were part of the group of 27 who walked to the grassy area, arms linked together, singing "We Shall overcome", "America the Beautiful", and chanting for Col. Ford, Capt. Lamont, "We want Hallinan", "We want Glass", "We want the press".

One man read list of grievances:

"We want an investigation into the killing of Pvt. Richard Bunch.

We went elimination of all shotgun type work details.

We want complete psychological evaluations of all personnel before they are allowed to work in the stockade.

We want the violation of Army regulations corrected in the stockade.

We want better sanitary conditions.

We want prejudice toward black prisoners ended.

We want to be represented by our own civilian counsel to ensure the protection of our rights."

The youthful, inexperienced Lamont tiled again and again to read the mutiny article. He finally was forced to use the loud-speaker In the MP sedan. Even then, the chanting, singing, outside noises and inner psychological tensions and anxieties probably prevented the men from hearing Lamont's girlish voice.

When the MPs moved in to remove the 27, some of the prisoners repeated over and over "Non-violence" and "Don't resist". Some had to be carried in, some responded the MP's tap on the shoulder and walked in.

In fact, the 45-minute non-violent demonstration on the grass where no one was hurt and there was no property damage staged by the 27 young GIs was a cry, for help.

BuIlding 1213 which was built in 1912 for 43 people, held 81 people on October 14. Overcrowding in the stockade made things that were disadvantages intolerable. During the week-and following the Bunch killing, tension and fear were so rampant according to the prisoners, that the alternatives to a non-violent demonstration were riot, killing of guards, and burning down the. stockade.

Article 138 of the military code allows a soldier who feels wronged to appeal to a higher authority. The men felt they had exhausted all avenues of appeal. As one defense attorney asked "How can you write 'Please investigate the Bunch killing' on a 510 form?"

Again and again in their testimony the prisoners repeated what Lee Gentile said "I couldn't take no more of the stockade, sir" and what Michael Marino said, "This was the only way I knew of to express our grievances."

An equation seemed to work its way out of all the testimony conditions In the stockade plus the killing of Richard Bunch plus a low tolerance to stress equals an intolerable situation.

Attorney Hallinan said they were "operating under an insane delusion that this (the demonstration) was the right thing to do. They felt they would be commended for bringing these conditions to the attention of a higher authority."

But the army called it mutiny for all but two of the fourteen.

At the pre-sentencing hearing to argue extenuating circumstances the soft-drawling military defense attorney, Capt. Emmitt Yeary said, "I'm sure it was, if you say so, a mutiny. But it was, at best, a technical mutiny".

According to the law, said another military defense attorney "Motives are not Important in determining guilt or innocence, but motives are important in determining punishment."

Dejected at the pre-sentencing hearing, Hallinan said, "I have become so close to the 14. I see them as children. I see the problems they have. They are not criminals. Whatever destructive tendencies they have are purely self-destructive.

".... We have lost an opportunity to heal the breach which is splitting our nation asunder. We are another step along on that road Senator McGovern calls the war on our children' "

Hallinan also referred to Gilbert and Sullivan's hope that the "punishment fit the crime". Hallinan said. "The offense doesn't fit the crime, let's hope the punishment fits better."

Even Capt. Dean Flippo argued for the prosecution magnanimously asked for mercy for the prisoners, though he remembered to note that "if you feel two or three had a more active part (in the mutnity) that should be reflected (in the sentence)."

As You Were, no. 4


© 2005 Displaced Films. All Rights Reserved