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Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!

The Story Of GIs United

On Tuesday, January 21, 1969 a group of 10 to 15 black GI's from B-14-4, met in their barracks in what constituted the first meeting of a group that has evolved into an effective organization of GIs, who through their outspoken tactics have made national news across the country. The organization, which has taken the name GIs United Against the War in Vietnam, has quickly spread and gained recognition and support all over Fort Jackson. In a formal statement to the press on February 15, they said, "...GIs United is a group of soldiers, opposed to the war in Vietnam. We have no formal membership and welcome the participation of any and all Fort Jackson GIs. Our purpose is to discuss the war in Vietnam and ways in which it can be ended. It is our duty as citizens of the United States to exercise our constitutional rights of free speech and assembly to find a means to stop the war, which is not in the best interest of the American people."

After, the first meeting on January, 21, the group began to hold meetings almost nightly and then on February 1 they started circulating a petition addressed to the Commanding General of Fort Jacksn asking permission to hold a meeting on Post, in order that GIs could get together and discuss openly their views on the Vietnam war. The petitioning was not an easy task. Many GIs worked many extra hours at night circulating petitions at PXs, theatres, barber shops, in the barracks, and anywhere else groups of-dff duty soldiers gathered. The men of GIs United suffered much under harrassment from the brass--many of them were restricted, put on extra duty and even court martialed. Some examples of this harrassment: Individuals were given direct orders to take their names off petitions, Pvt Joe Cole was notified that the Army is initiating special discharge proceedings against him and he has since been placed under maximum security in the Post stockade; Pvt Lawrence Hart, one of the founders of GIs United, was court martialed and convicted of assault charges in which witnesses said he was Innocent of; Pvt Tommie Woodfin was court martialed and then later acquitted for circulating petitions; Pvt Joe Miles was given a punitive reassignment for his role in starting the organization.

Meanwhile letters of support from peace organizations and concerned individuals have been pouring in from all across the country. Articles have appeared in almost all widely circulated newspapers, including, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the AP and UPI news service as well as national TV coverage by the NBC's Huntley-Brinkly Report.

While the Army brass refuses to accept the petition and also recognizing GI's United as an organization, the movement at Fort Jackson goes on. Other GIs are standing up and taking their place of those that have been confined and imprisoned. Members of the press have taken part in recent conferences concerning the movement. Where it stands now, and where it is going, as well as the recent imprisonments of several of its members. Leonard Boudin, a noted New York lawyer, is filing suit aainst the Secretary Of the Army and the Commanding General of Fort Jackson. On behalf of GIs at Fort Jackson the attorneys seek a declaratory judgemont that men in the Army have a right under the constitution to hold a public meeting to discuss the war and their own rights. They also contend that GIs have the right under the constitution to file petitions with the Army for redress of grievances. Both these rights have been violated by the Commanding Officer of Fort Jackson with regard to the activities of GIs United Against the War in Vietnam, a GI antiwar group on base. The suit is therefore being filed against the Commanding General of Fort Jackson and the Secretary of the Army for violation of First Amendment rights of petition and assembly.

But going one step further, it can be seen that the Fort Jckson movement is more than a collection of gripes against the army. It is a question of humanity and the right of self determination. It is a question of whether or not a man has the power to reason for himself and determine what is right and what is wrong and a question of who is to decide to fight a war and who is to actually fight it. GIs United are young men forced to fight a war, which to them is unjust and immoral. They are young men who are faced with the possibility of losing their lives because of somebody else's ignorance and false judgement. Their only crime is trying to prove to the world that they are not merely a collection of chess pieces, whose only choice is to do their masters bidding

Rough Draft, no.1

 

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