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Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!

Grunt Power

"When we first got here, they told us their mission and that was to get on defensive. But night ambush is an offensive role. And it's plain suicide going out there in the middle of the night."

"Does anyone back in the world know that Melvin Laird said our combat role has ended? Fact is, we're still out in the bush. Seven people got hit in an ambush, and that was the day it was in the newspaper."

These men spoke to a reporter at Fire Base Pace about two miles from the Cambodian border near the city of Tay Ninh. The night before, 15 mean had been ordered out to set up an ambush In an area dominated by regimented NVA and local forces. They had seen the US-backed ARVN troops go out in groups of 200-300, only to come back really messed up. There wasn't any medevac for hit men, and the only medical aid they had for the ambush was one guy who'd had a one-hour quickie course In first aid. When the higher highers ordered a 15man platoon to do the same job, they used their common sense. They refused to move out.

Fire Base Pace is in the Parrots Beak, where Nixon sent US and ARVN troops in May last year to wipe out those "sanctuaries." It turned out the sanctuaries were never found, and probably never existed. Now the area is controlled by Vietnamese and Cambodians resisting US invasion forces who've been pulled into their own sanctuaries, a string of fire bases. From these bases, GIs support ARVN units in Cambodia with artillery fire and more.

At least that's the official story. But in spite of all the talk about troop withdrawals, there are still grunts forced to carry out insane orders while the top pigs insist the men aren't there at all. GIs are really bitter about military hypocrisy in the campaign to convince Americans that the war is ending. One guy asked, "We're kind of wondering whether anybody back In the world knows that we're out here. Like they say that only two batteries of artillery are supposed to be here, and no grunts are here We don't even exist. We're lust meat." Another man in Bravo Company, 1/12th of 1st Air Cay, pointed out, "People go home on leave and get asked, 'How's things back in the barracks in Vietnam? What barracks, man? We sleep out on the ground."


All of them feel that "nobody knows why we're here. If people don't want you over here, then what's your purpose. We're not just rebelling against going out on that ambush, we're rebelling against this whole situation. How can It be a democracy when you have a one-man election? Everybody knew what that was about." Every day more Vietnamese join to fight against Pres. Thieu, and he used heavy police and US protection to get himself elected. If the US pulled out, his regime would collapse. No one in Bravo Company wanted to be the last man to die defending a corrupt dictator whose only support is the Joint Chiefs of Staff and American war profiteers.

Nixon plans to continue his support of Thieu and win a military victory. One half of his strategy is to deceive the people by saying that no GIs are on offensive duty. And the other half is to cover up GI resistance and rebellion. Bravo Company was told they'd be rescuing some grunts who were cut off, or that they'd be on permieter defense, or some such bullshit. When they found out what was really happening, they told the lifers to shove it. After their first refusal, the Captain picked out six guys as agitators and threatened them with court martial.

That's where he made a mistake. In a period of about an hour, 66 men from Bravo Company signed a petition that supported the men in the 3d Platoon. The whole company refused orders to go on night ambush. So the Captain was In a jam. There wasn't any way to court martial the whole company and keep It out of the press.

Richard Boyle, the reporter who brought the petition and tape out of Pace, picked up on the Captains fears about the press. A dude told him, "The Capt. said not to talk to the press because things were backward. He said the strike wasn't called off because we refused to go. It was because ARVNs were out there. Now he wants us to go out today."


By Tuesday, October 12, the whole company was transferred out to "prevent possible harm to company morale." Delta company replaced Bravo, and also refused night ambush patrols. When Captain Kenneth Smith told everyone in a Delta Co. platoon to step to the other side of the bunker If they refused to go, 20 out of 28 crossed the line. The Alamo in reverse. They agreed to go only after Major Dye, Pace's senior officer, offered to go out with them. Morale is the military's term to describe how well GIs follow orders. But Bravo and Delta companies defined it for themselves. Real morale comes from unity and resistance against fighting in a war we don't want. And the Pentagon can't court martial everyone.

The source for this story is Richard Boyle, now a writer for Ramparts Press and an ex-writer for Overseas Weekly. He was at Pace the whole time, and was asked by the men of Bravo Company to bring back their petition to Senator Edward Kennedy, and to tell their story to the rest of the world. The quotes are from interviews taped with the men of Bravo Company.

Up Against the Bulkhead, vol. 2, no. 10


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