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Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!

SOS At Charleston

(Charleston, SC) The SOS Movement has spread to Charleston Naval Base. A concerted campaign, culminating with a Peoples Blockade on October 16, has greatly increased GI Movement activity both in Charleston and on several ships that departed for Vietnam in the past few weeks. SOS activities have been started on the USS Bordelon, USS Krauss, and USS Cone.

The Charleston GI Office, in conjunction with the crew of the Bordelon and their dependents, started a campaign in early October to keep the Bordelon from sailing, not only because it was going to Nam (with a load of white phosphorous shells). but becaue the ship is old and anything but seaworthy. The ship had been on 48-hour standby when orders came down on October 3 that it was sailing for Nam on the 16th. Many crew members who had been conducting a study of the ship came up with a long list of deficiencies: faulty air search radar, a poor distillation unit, an extremely weak hull, and undependable electrical systems and engines. Petitions against these and other unsafe features were circulated and crew members attempted to contact press and Congress to prevent the ship's departure. The commanding officer of the Bordelon countered these efforts by declaring ALL information about the Bordelon "Top Secret", thus making it a crime to expose these problems. Various petty officers also threatened future harassment if the protest activities continued.

Several crew members, meanwhile, had started an active SOS movement on board ship to prevent its participation in the war. A public meeting was held Oct. 11 by the crew and GI Office staff to inform the public and press of the strong anti-war feeling on board. A series of leaflets and petitions were distributed both to Charleston area civilians and the Bordelon crew. They foocussed their informational camaign on the fac t that the Bordelon was armed for, and scheduled to participate in antisubmarine warfare, air defense, and shore bombardment (the apparent reason for the phosphorous shells being loaded onto the ship.) Many crew members, for reasons of opposition to the war or fear for their own safety on such a tub, began to talk about refusing orders top board. (It should be noted that the use of phosphorous wwas banned by the 1954 Geneva Convention.)

The morning of October 16, several civilians in kayaks held a Peoples Blockade of the Bordelon. One kayaker kept the police busy chasing him around the harbor for one and a half hours before apprehension. During an attempt by the police to drop a lasso over him as he scooted from under a pier, several crew members yelled to him, "Watch it, they are trying to lasso you. The men were immediately ordered back to duty by an officer on the ship. The Coast Guard took up the chase as two canoes joined the kayak and eventually all the Blockaders were rounded upand put under arrest. As they were led away, they flashed clenched fists to the crew and several sailors returned the salute. They were detained and they are expecting to be prosecuted on several charges. Their boats were impounded. During the blockade crewmen on several other ships in the harbor watched and cheered the demonstrators. At least one kayak was rammed by a policeboat when they couldn't catch them any other way.

Camp News, vol. 3, no. 11

 

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