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Escaped Presidio "Mutineers" Tell Their Story

Two of the 27 GIs charged with "mutiny" at the Presidio in California escaped shortly after their action. Recently I met with the two, Keith Mather and Walter Pawlowski and talked with them at length. They told me of the stockade and the story of their escape. (Recently another of the 27, Lindon Blake, escaped.)

Walter and Keith were among the Presidio GI prisoners, who, sickened by the conditions, the rotten treatment, and finally, the brutal killing of young, mentally disturbed Richard Bunch. On October 14, 27 of them went on strike! They sat down together and chanted. Walter Pawlowski voiced their demands for human rights to the Brass, personified by a Capt. Lamont. The Brass charged "mutiny."

On Xmas Eve, Keith Mather and Walter Pawlowski escaped. Both, working as carpenters, were escorted to a tool house outside the stockade and then to work. As their hammers continued to pound in worklike rhythm, they pried open an unguarded window and disappeared. Because of typical Army bumbling and a change of guards their absence was not discovered until later, and the two made good their escape to freedom.

The heavy sentences given out by the 6th Army Brass in these Presidio "mutiny" show trials so far, brutally testifies to the Pentagon's fear of rank-and-file GIs fighting for rights I had come to know the Law Officer presiding in these cases, one Col. George Robinson, way back in June 1967 when he approved a verdict sentencing me to hard labor at Ft. Sill, Okla. I had refused to surrender to M.I. a quantity of anti-war literature in my footlocker and Robinson singled me out one of his carefully rigged show with guilty verdict and newsmen's flashing cameras.

I spoke at an anti-war rally in Seattle just two days after the first three of the Presidio "mutineers" had been sentenced to 14-16 years in Leavenworth. Among the 3,000 antiwar activists who roared their anger as I described the hideous mistreatment of the Presidio by General Collins and his flunkies, stood 275 servicemen from Ft. Lewis and Fairchild Air Force Base, These 275 defiant GIs and airmen who by this demonstration of solidarity with the 27 blasted the Brass' dream of an army of obedient slaves. An increasing mass of both civilians and GIs are demanding an end to the Vietnam war and freedom for the Pentagon's political prisoners.

The Bond, vol. 3, no. 3

 

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