Library - Reading Room

Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!

G.I.'S And The Right Of Free Speech

Americans, have witnessed an unprecedented development in the history of this country, i.e., the development of a huge protest movement in the midst of a shooting war. Now, a new element has been added to that struggle which puts it on a qualitatively different scale - that is the active participation of servicemen in the demonstrations and activities of the organized movement against the war.

The U.S. military is composed mainly of citizens who have been drafted or who have enlisted under the pressure of the draft. They are citizens who are subject to all the pressures caused by the war on the civilian population only more so. They are citizens who are beginning to see through the lies and distortions perpetrated by the U.S. government to justify its brutal intervention in Vietnam and who are beginning to feel compelled to act and speak out just as the civilians who joined the anti-war movement have done in the past. They are citizens who have a right to think for themselves and who have the right to act in accord with their political beliefs. They do not lose that right once they don a uniform.

However, because of their particular situation in the armed forces and because the military brass realizes fully the implications of anti-war activity in the armed forces they are subject to arbitrary harassment and repression that civilians are not. Even though there is nothing in the Constitution or any other law which gives the military the right to brainwash soldiers, to keep the true facts about the war from them or to restrict their political activities while they are in the service we have seen a conscious effort by the military to harass and discipline GI's who speak out against the war.

It is absolutely essential that the right of free speech for servicemen be firmly established. It is imperative that all attempts by the authorities to deny GI’s their civil liberties be exposed and defeated in order to insure the growth of the anti-war movement among the troops who are in a key position to end this war.

Three anti-war GI's have recently been attacked for exercising their civil liberties. The defense of these three soldiers illustrates how civilians can help GI's win their rights.

Pfc. Walter Kos - Fort Bragg, North Carolina
At Fort Bragg, the Army was trying to silence Pfc. Walter Kos, a socialist and anti-war GI. Ever since Kos was drafted his attempts to exercise his civil liberties were thwarted. In April, while stationed in Germany, Kos tried to organize the "Day of Mourning" for Dr. Martin Luther King, but the Brass denied the soldiers' request. For awhile, Kos spoke freely with his fellow GI's about his feelings about the Vietnam War, and he also shared his anti-war literature with them. However, his literature was seized and in August, he was ordered not to distribute any unauthorized material on the base.

On September 8th, Pfc. Kos was asked by an Army Specialist #5 if he. could have the copy of Vietnam GI that he was reading. Kos gave him the anti-war newspaper, and for that, the Military is trying to courtmartial him for disobeying an order. Many witnesses can testify that the Specialist #5 approached Kos at the instigation of a superior.

Since this incident, Kos has been subjected to many unreasonable restrictions and unfair treatment. His charges and type of court-martial have been changed several times. He has been waiting for his trial for over three months. The defendant's lawyer is Rowland Watts the eminent civil libertarian of the Workers' Defense League. He believes that both the original order given to Kos and the way that the Army has been handling the case consitute a clear violation of the GI's civil liberties. The GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee considers this case a victory. The Military has ceased harassment of Kos, although he was transferred to Fort Hood.

Sp/4 Allen Meyers - Fort Dix, New Jersey
On October 1, 1968, at Fort Dix, the GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee had its first victory. Sp/4 Allen Meyers was facing a summary court-martial. He was accused of violating Fort Dix Regulation 210-27 which prohibits the-distribution of leaflets and other printed material that is "in bad taste", "prejudicial to good order", or "subversive". Charges were brought against him for handing out a leaflet on August 19th which was printed by the Philadelphia Student Mobilization Committee and entitled, "Support Our Men in Vietnam, Not Those Who Send Them There".

The Fort Regulation is an illegitimate denial of civilil liberties. When the GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee launched a nation-wide campaign in defense of Meyers and exposed the Army's most recent attempt to violate civil liberties, the Military Brass at Fort Dix tried to gracefully retreat. They rendered a verdict of "hot guilty" to Allen Meyers due to "lack of evidence".

Pfc. Edwin Glover - Fort Benning, Georgia
The Brass' effort to break Ed Glover was prolonged and determined one. For over seven weeks, with the exception of a single day, they confined him to a restricted area. During this time they twice provoked physical attacks on the socialist soldier, held up and "lost" his mail, assigned him a variety of strenuous and painful extra jobs, threatened him with no fewer than three court-martials on petty, contrived charges, and made a sustained attempt to isolate him from friends and allies on and of base.

The GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee mobilized a campaign on Glover's behalf that was proportional to the Brass' attack on his rights. The Fort Benning Commander began to receive protest telegrams and letters from anti-war groups and supporters of Civil Liberties. The authorities displayed a growing nervousness. Obviously, they did not like the national publicity which their unconstitutional action against Glover was receiving. Finally on Nov. 12th, all charges against Glover were dropped and harassment was ceased.

The Defense Committee reports that the Army is now trying to give Glover a undesirable discharge. Since Glover has had a perfect service record this is obviously a case of political discrimination which is a gross violation o this GI's civil liberties. This means that it will be necessary for the GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee to step up its campaign of activities which led to victory for the other two cases of CI work.

The activities in which the Committee is involved are: publicizing cases to civilians and servicemen; raising funds to pay for the cost of defense; and gaining support for anti-war GIs.

If you wish to help the GI Civil Liberties Defese Committee continue to fight to defend the rights of GIs nationally and locally call 864-4661 or write to Boston GI CLDC, c/o G.I.C.A.P., P.O. Box 513, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139.

Top Secret , no. 1


© 2018 Displaced Films. All Rights Reserved