Library - Reading Room
Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
Black And White EM Getting Together In Germany
There has been a whole lot of activity in Germany since the beginning of the summer, most of which we have found out about through a GI paper coming from Heidelberg called The Next Step. Before I talk about the news, I would like to recommend this paper to all projects as one of the best I've seen to date. It contains news of all the bases in Germany plus news of what is happening in the state, which is important to overseas GIs Furthermore, it makes a strong connection between GIs in their temporary military capacity and GIs as members of the working class. What is most important, however, is that the news is analysed and put into political perspective rather than just presented.
A number of things happened in July. At Karlsruhe, a black SP/6 exposed a captain who is a member of the elite branch of the KKK. In response, the military charged the brother with making false allegations against an officer. His hearing, which was supposed to be open, was closed upon the arrival of about 25-30 brothers. The results of the army's brand of closed-door justice is not known, but TNS predicts that we have not heard the last of the action at Karlsruhe Kaserne.
On July 4th several thousand black GIs from all over Germany gathered for a Solidarity Conference in Heidelberg. They proclaimed a list of ten demands:
1. All GIs out of Southeast Asia now.
2, Withdraw all US interests from African countries.
3. Establish an investigating committee to review all cases of GIs, especially black and Puerto Rican, in the Mannheim stockade.
4. Establish a committee of EMs to approve all confinement orders of GIs.
5, Establish a record review board to eliminate discriminatory policies Abolish the present promotion board.
6. Abolish the present IG system, and replace it with a civilian advisory board.
7. Establish an effective committee to advise about-to-be-discharged GIs about what is really available in educational and occupational opportunites.
8. Hire more blacks in civilian jobs connected with the army.
9. Initiate noncredit college preparatory classes to help GIs, regardless of color, to pass college entrance exams.
10. Equal and adequate housing for black GIs with families.
They further agreed that solidarity without action is not enough and that action should be based on local base issues. They saw base papers as central to organizing around issues.
Mannheim stockade has been the site of a number of race riots, the major of which took place on July 27. Actually an interesting incident took place a week before when a white guard threw some milk into the face of a black prisoner. Although the brothers were agitated, violence was circumvented due to the fact that shortly after the incident occurred, all the prisoners became ill with food poisoning.
About a week later, a white guard let a white prisoner who had been harassing a Chicano prisoner out of his cell so that he could continue the harassment. The prisoner went to the Chicano's cell block and tried to provoke a fight. When the attempt was unsuccessful, the guard tried to take the Chicano to solitary. The Chicano refused to go and the MPs arrived, administering 'justice indiscriminately to the blacks in the cell block. The end result was numerous concussions and confinements along with the dismissal of black guards and a black social worker, whose solidarity with prisoners was feared.
This was another clear example of the 'race riots' caused by the guards and the brass. The GI movement press in Germany as well as the GI projects and orgainzations have, in response, devoted much time and space to the issue of black and white GIs uniting together to fight the institution and the system which is oppressing them. It is clear that as GIs in Germany get themselves together they will have to deal with more of this kind of harassment.
An even more interesting "race riot" took place at McNair Air Force Base in Berlin on August 20. A white NCO and EM were a little drunk when they came out of the EM club. Two blacks passing by were loudly labelled 'Nigger' by the NCO. In the fight which followed Sgt. Nichols, the NCO, got the worst of it.
The problem really began however, when 15 MPs arrived and attempted to arrest a 3rd black EM who was not involved in the fight. At the same time, they showed no interest in arresting Sgt. Nichols or his friend. When some black GIs came out of the gym to find out what was going on, they were told only to "get back." This led to the gathering of about 25 brothers still trying to find out what was happening. This group, was then labelled a "Race Riot" and ordered to disperse. A Col. Shell arrived, gave a rap about "We're all in this Army together" and was told to leave. Then Gen. Hayward made an appearance, ordering the crowd to disperse without any further explanation of why SP/5 Francis had been arrested. He was the only person to disperse.
Finally, however, IRF troops arrived and 15-20 blacks were backed against the snack bar wall with bayonets at their throats. They were told that if they dropped their weapons (a few sticks, pipes and knives which had been hastily gathered) they would be allowed to go. They dropped the weapons and were busted one by one. Fifteen blacks were held in connection with the events on August 20 and about another 100 were held for questioning
The army, meanwhile, has done a lot to create the myth that it is dealing with its racism. Lt Williams, a black officer, was appointed to listen to complaints about racist treatment, but has no official power and ignores the unit level day-to-day racism. Blacks were given the "right" to wear Afro haircuts, but they still tend to get the worst details, so they have made no real gains. At the some time many white EMs feel that blacks are getting preferential treatment, which is precisely what the army wants them to think, just as they want white EMs to think that a crowd of curious GIs is a race riot. The situation, of course, is no different in the states---the army is using racism to keep black and white EMs from getting together. So far, the German GI underground has responded well, with a strong emphasis on class struggle against the real enemy.
Bad Hersfeld, an isolated base on the East German border, has been the scene of the most positive actions against racism ever since last winter when a racist Sgt. was thrown out of a window by irritated EMs.
In late Sept., a Pfc. Brown, who had been transfered to another base, and put on restriction there, took a day off and came back to Bad H'feld to visit some friends. Unfortunately, a Lt. recognized him in the messhall. Since there was no way out, Brown followed along, obedient to orders. However, a few SP/5s and a Sgt. were feeling their authoritarian roles and grabbed Pfc Brown as though he were resisting. A scuffle ensued in which the Lt. got thrown onto a table. When a few other blacks stepped to stop the fight (which they managed to do), they were thanked by having charges of assaulting an officer written against one of them, one, oddly enough, who had only been an observer. Nothing came of it but news of the conduct of the SP5s and Sgt. spread rapidly.
Later that evening, Sp/4 Clark returned from an AWOL to find that his lockers and tape recorder were missing. A man in civilian clothes walked in while Clark was in his room complaining and said, What are you bitching about??! Clark responded with a few choice words and a swing. The civilian, however, turned out to be a Lt. new to the battery who was working after hours in civilian clothes. He pinned Clark to the floor, but alarm had already spread among EMs, who, upset with the earlier action, rallied to Clarke's defence. A few EMs explained the situation and Clark and the Lt. straightened it out with little difficulty. But Meantime more EMs had gone to complain to the Battery Commander, whose response was to tell them to go through the chain of command-which, incidentally, meant the Lt. who was sitting on Clark. The BC'd other response was to call the MPs and Lt. Allen. The MPs had the sense to leave when they saw a large group of angry EMs. Lt. Allen, however, insisted upon pulling his gun and screaming "I can stop YOU The GIs sensibly disarmed him and subdued him just in time for the arrival of the Sgt. of the guard, who came in shooting at the ceiling. He was also subdued. The post Commander finally arrived, everybody split, and Lt Allen was taken to headquarters.
At this point, the blacks were joined by whites, Puerto Ricans, and Mexicans, all demanding that Lt. Allen be put in stockade. They took over the chain of command; junior officers made preparations for Allen to be sent to the Frankfurt stockade and EMs escorted him there, saw him locked up, and returned to base.
The EMs had broken through the authority of the chain of command but they recognized that the actions were isolated and could bring down heavy repression if they were not followed up with a mass showing of EM power.
About that time, word got out that the SP/5 who had observed the messhall action had actually been arrested for assaulting an NCO. In response, about 30 blacks, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans went in groups to different orderly rooms to ask questions about separate instances of racial discrimination. The result was the usual runaround coupled with a healthy fear of EMs which caused one 1st Sgt. to flee in his car and one Battery Commander to lock himself in an upstairs room, leaving the orderly room empty.
The next day, about 50 EMs went on a sitdown no-work strike until the issues of the past few days were resolved.. One day later (Saturday), Col. Howe, from V corp Fulda, came to hear a black grievance committee and promised to send an IG to deal with the problems. On Sunday, rumor spread that Lt. Allen was being transfered to the states instead of facing charges and 40 EMs gathered at the MP station demanding to know what was happening with Allen--they received no answer. Monday, whites and blacks got together for another sitdown strike.
The army stalled, took pictures, and tried to break the EMs racially, The strike dissipated out of fear and confusion. Since then, many people have been nailed with Art. 15s, transferes, and four court martials. The EM tried, unsuccessfully, to press charges against the pistol packing Lt and Sgt,; the IG investigation is useless. Although it sounds like a total failure, it was note The EMs learned something about their potential power; they also learned that good mass actions do not arise out of confusion and rumors--that they need a solid organization from which they can respond to any situation with a collective trust and an ability to mobilize resources for communication about what they are doing. The brass, on the other hand, has no reason to believe that they have and will always be able to break the power of the EMs.
Camp News, vol. 1, no. 7