Library - Reading Room

Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!

Military Justice? Case Histories - The Presidio Case: Mutiny Or Legitimate Protest

On October 11 Pvt. Richard Bunch, 19 years old, was killed by a guaard at the Presiio Army base of San Francisco. For Bunch the "escape attempt" apppears to have been a deliberate ssuicide by a man who lost all rationality in the Army and in Presidio's stockade. Just before the "escape attempt" he asked the guard, "If I run will you shoot me?" The guard replied, "You'll have to run to find out." Bunch got less than 5 feet before the shotgun pelllets tore into his brain.

For 27 of his fellow inmates in became the final addition to a list of grievances which threatened the lives and sanity of all 140 men in the stockade. The stockade was built for 88 prisoners, yet 115 are consisstently squeezed in. An ex-inmateof that stockade has told of the tension brought on by the verbal abuse of aa few guards who act like tin gods; and by seeing friends aattempt suicide only to be revived and thrown into the hole with no psychiaatric care.

There have been 34 suicide attempts by 24 prisoners in recent months. Through the summer there have been several riots of the window trashing and trash throwing variety. There have beeen scores of escape attempts. The brass was so sure that more trouble was brewing that they read the mutiny regulation to the prioners three times in the week preceding the demonstration. They took no action to remedy the intoleraable conditions, white washed their responsibility for Bunch's death, and ssought to keep the lid on by intimidation. It idn't work.

During roll call the morning of the 14th the 27 prisoners sat down in a group and requested to see the Correction Officer to present and discusss their grievances and tell the public what the witnesses among them knew of the shooting of Bunch. While waiting for the Commanding Officer to arrive, they sang songs of protest.

When the Company Officer arrived, he refused to even taalk to the men. Instead he had the mutiny article read to them again.Witnesses testified that it was inaudible due to feedback in the PA system. IN ANY CASE THE 27 WERE TOTALLY NONVIOLENT AND MADE NO ATTEMPT TO TAKE OVER THE STOCKADE, ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS TO ANY JUST MUTINY CONVICTIONS. On January 16 1969, the Army announced it would press mutiny charges against six of the 27 inmates of the stockade. The maximumsentence for mutiny is death.

Cruel and inhuman sentences have alreaady been meted out to 3 of the 27 men who participated in the non-violent sit-down at the Presidio stockade. One has been sentenced to 14 years hard labor, one to 15 years and one to 16 years. 24 of the trials remaining - 6 are scheduled for March 5- the remaing 10 for March 18.

The Army should free the sentenced men, drop all charges against the remaining 24 and order an investigation of the murder of PVT. Richard Bunch and of conditions at the Presidio stockade in olrder to correct this situation for which the military authorities are ssolely responsible.

Top Secret , no. 2

 

© 2005 Displaced Films. All Rights Reserved