Library - Reading Room

Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!

We Are Everywhere: The Movement Grows In The Fleet

A new wave of protest, triggered by Nixon's all-out air war against the people of Indochina, is sweeping through the Navy. While one CO after another is claiming that morale is high and SOS is non-existent, groups of sailors throughout the fleet are raising the SOS [Stop Our Ship] cry, "We are everywhere!" The idea of SOS was inspired by nine brothers from the attack carrier CONSTELLATION, and then was boosted on by men on the CORAL SEA, who organized on board to oppose deployment to Vietnam. Since the sailing of the CORAL SEA in November 1971, the movement has been given new life by sailors, Marines, their loved ones, and their civilian supporters. Attack aircraft carriers, the backbone of Nixon's air war strategy, are seeing the most militant action.

Groups of sailors on the attack carriers USS ORISKANY and USS AMERICA and the destroyer USS DENNIS J. BUCKLEY have refused to sail to Vietnam recently. In the narrow Hood River Canal which runs to the Bangor Ammunition Depot at Bangor, Washington, a small fleet of kayaks and canoes have launched a summer-long campaign to stop ammo ships headed for Southeast Asia.


A few dramatic acts of sabotage have made the news despite the Navy's attempt to cover up the increasing number of incidents which daily plague the US fleet. On

August 5, Navy officials in Norfolk, Virginia, charged seaman apprentice Jeffery Grant Allison, 19, with, setting a fire or, the nuclear carrier FORRESTAL which did between $7.2 and $25 million (!) damage. Allison, who was attached to an admiral's staff, has been charged with 25 counts, one of which carries the death penalty.

In June, the Navy arrested Patrick K. Chenoweth, 21,a fireman on the attack carrier RANGER for allegedly dropping a paint scraper and bolts into the reduction gears. Estimated damage: $550,000. Seventeen other sailors on the Ranger are also under investigation. The RANGER has a long history of "incidents." During the summer of 1970, one-third of the engineering division walked off the ship, delaying it in San Diego harbor for a couple of days. This little known mutiny was followed by another "incident" which crippled an engine.


When the USS ORISKANY left for Vietnam in early June, a lot of its crew stayed home. On July 14, 1972, ten of those men, surrounded by dozens of civilian suppprters, faced the press in a parking lot across from Alameda Naval Air Station, California. "Each one of us has voluntarily decided to lay our ass on the Navy's line," read their spokesman nervously, "by saying that the only way to end the genocide being perpetrated now in Southeast Asia is for us, the actual pawns in this political game, to quit playing." The ten were Michael E. Wood, James K. Frazier, Douglas D. Counard, Denton Dixie, Jr., Ronald K. Smith, Anthony A. Koopman, Michael D. Koch, Jerry T. Ford, Terry D. Hanson, and Edward Richards.

After being transferred to Treasure Island, the ten began a fight for either administrative or conscientious objector discharges. While stuck at Treasure Island, "home" for 2200 sailors in technical schools, the ten took advantage of the situation and rapped to as many guys as possible about their action.

On the destroyer USS DENNIS J. BUCKLEY, three sailors - Daniel Harris, Marc Hornstein, and John Murphy - left the ship in the Philippines after returning from the gun line off North Vietnam. Harris explained his experience: "One day in June, I was standing a watch on the bridge and we were called to general quarters. I just stayed where I was on the bridge, looking out with my binoculars while we started firing. I saw these people running out of their huts that live on the beach and use the beach and water for their life. They're running around everywhere, and the shells were hitting and just slaughtering them. Immediately I just said NO! This just can't be happening. I'd never seen war like this before and that is what made me realize . . ." When the BUCKLEY left June 20, the three stayed in the Philippines.

The June 5th departure of the aircraft carrier AMERICA for Vietnam from Norfolk, Virginia, was blocked by a sea-going protest which turned into a battle between sailors and Coast Guardsmen who tried to break up the protest. Thirty-one people in a motley armada of thirteen kayaks and canoes surrounded the America at its berth. After most of the "People's Navy" was swamped by Coast Guard cutters, several people, cheered on by the sailors on the AMERICA'S bow, swam up and grabbed hold of the ship. When the Coast Guard pulled demonstrators from the water, sailors on the AMERICA pelted the cutters with eggs and garbage. The Coast Guard responded by turning a high pressure hose on the sailors massed on the bow. Inspired by the "battle," two sailors Alfred Stancel and Danny Teer - left the ship ten minutes before the gangplank was pulled up.


At the Bangor Ammunition Depot in Bangor, Washington, water-borne protestors attempted to stop four ammo ships as they moved out through the narrow Hood Canal. In their most successful attempt. George Walker, a 31-year-old Navy vet who once sailed on the CORAL SEA, maneuvered a kayak past three Coast Guard boats and put himself squarely in the path of the USS JOSEPH E. MERRELL. The MERRELL kept coming at 6-8 knots and sailed right over Walker! Walker, who was struck by the MERRELL'S bow, was dunked but uninjured. He and a skindiver who attempted to swim in front of the MERRELL, were arrested for violating a 500-yard security zone established around the MERR.EL L under the 1917 Espionage Act.

"This is just the beginning," said Walker after being released by the Coast Guard. "It's the super technology of the world pitted against people fighting with bare hands." The anti-war group known as the People's Blockade is looking for a -minesweeper to bolster their fleet.

What has made actions like the People's Blockade so effective is the energy it brings to sailors and Marines who are the actual backbone of the fleet. Opposition to the war from within the fleet isn't new, though. What's new is that this opposition has grown from individual resistance to collective action. For example...

The USS HULL is a destroyer which has been shelling areas around the DMZ and QuangTri. Recently guys have written to Congressmen and women and newspapers protesting the use of white phosphorous shells against populated areas. This shelling is in violation of the Geneva Accords.

The USS HUNLEY, asubtender outofGuam, has itsown underground paper, the Hunley Hemorrhoid. It's written, drawn, designed, and financed by crewmen, and printed by friends off the ship. It's stated purpose is to "preserve the pain in your (lifer's and brass) ass."

The USS TICONDEROGA is a carrier which sailed from San Diego in May. Of the many brothers who refused to deploy to Nam, three took public sanctuary - Tony Powers, John Elliott, and Bruce Rumer. They were picked up, sent back to the ship, and busted. After aweek atsea, .more than 75 guys at a time were holding anti-war, anti-Navy meetings. The Tico brothers took on a symbol: a red dot with the letters "S.l.N." on top. It stands for "Stop It Now." And the red is for the blood that's been shed.

In mid-April, the ammo ship USS NITRO sailed out of Leonardo, New Jersey with crewmen jumping into the water and small boats paddling into its path. Seven men jumped off. More tried but were held back by lifers. A letter from the NITRO dated June 8 gives you some idea

of the reputation it enjoys in the fleet: "When passing through the Panama Canal, the USS SAVANNAH passed us and guys were out on the main deck holding fists and peace signs at us and cheering and whistling. The Nitro 7 were in the brig at the time and couldn't see the happening on the SAVANNAH. It was beautiful. I hope the NITRO broke the ice and more Navy follows in its wake."
The only news to reach us from the attack carrier KITTY HAWK is of two officers who have turned in this wings. They refuse to fly because they oppose the war. Because the news is suppressed, we have received confirmation through the Philippines of only one case, Lt. Jg G. Robbins. a bombardier navigator in an A-6 fighter. Since turning in his wings, Robbins has been released from active duty. We know of groups of EMs on the KITTY HAWK who are active in SOS [see letter page 2]. If you have news, let us hear from you.

The attack carrier USS CORAL SEA returned from the line on the 17th of July. The higher-highers of the city of San Francisco sponsored a pro-war demonstration complete with fire boats in the Bay, banners from the Golden Gate Bridge, and a demonstration on the pier. But the Peoples Blockade launched an anti-war armada. And the SOS Civilian Support Group in San Francisco got on base and raised up an SOS banner. Guys on the ship dug it no end, returning the greetings with clenched fists and peace signs. We know of EMs' strong-felt and widespread resistance to the Navy and the war, but have no ews as of press time.

The USS ENTERPRISE, the Navy's first nuclear attack carrier, is now berthed in the San Francisco Bay Area. With deployment only a couple of weeks away, and with the rising popularity of the SOS movement aboard the ship, the ship's command has felt pressure from above to "weed out dissenters" immediately. A letter from a friend on board the ENTERPRISE seems to indicate that the Captain will have to pull up his whole garden once he starts weeding: " --- and I spent some time talking to people about how they felt, and we found where our support was. People in all departments, Engineering, Reactor, Deck Operations, and Air were all interested in helping. . .

The SOS movement first surfaced publicly in mid-May when brothers put out a forgery of the Plan of the Day. It was posted all over the ship before lifers got around to reading it. Stickers soon appeared in heads, berthing compartments, division spaces, bulkheads. Stickers encouraged men to come to an Armed Farces Day picnic on May 20. Men from the ORISKANY and ENTERPRISE came, as well as airmen from Travis AFB GI group, Liberated Hangar. For many crewmen, this was the first

chance they'd had to rap with guys from another ship; another branch of the military, or even another division. Soon another forgery "appeared," this once called "SOS Enterprises Ledger," an SOS forgery of the ship's daily paper, the USS Enteprise Ledger. The same friend writes, "We had a little trouble getting out the paper. The MAA's were on our tail once they discovered the nature of the content. But the paper was received well. The guys were anxious to get copies, and were really bent when the pigs took them away."

The Navy has tried to cut off the SOS movement by using shakedown inspections, courting stool pigeons, and confiscating antiwar literature. Most recently, one brother is being investigated for "sabotage." Twelve others are under suspicion, whatever that means. The "new" Navy is behaving in the old predictable way again - implying "sabotage" to try to undermine a popular movement. It's going to take more than that to shake men from their deep-felt convictions about the war. This is one lesson the Navy's never going to learn.

Many guys joined the Navy because they thought it was a way to avoid seeing war duty. Now with the Navy and Air Force sharing primary responsibility for the war against Indochina, it's a whole new ball game.

Doug Counard and Mike Koch are two sailors who joined theNavy in 1968.TheNavy had them thinking that they'd never see the war up close. In an interview with the Bulkhead, Doug said, "My idea of the Navy was what you saw-on TV. You know... World War II films." Mike told the Bulkhead he saw the Navy as "travel, excitement, education ... not laying in a rice paddy in the mud, not getting shot at."

But that was 1968. Doug and Mike got assigned to the attack aircraft carrier USS ORISKANY a couple of years later. Doug would see planes leave with bombs. "Then the ORISKANY would pull into port and we'd see the same ones [Asian people] you're doing it to." "It was sick," added Mike. "Once the Captain came on and gave the bomb count and the Chaplain would' pray that the bombs would fall on target."

Mike and Doug refused to sail on what would have been their second Asian cruise in June 1972. They said there were two main stepping stones to that decision. One was that "their" ships were responsible for the destruction of many Indochinese people, most of them children and old people too slow to make it to their bomb shelters in time. Even if you couldn't see the mayhem and destruction like the sailor on the bridge of the BUCKLEY, the war was still getting closer.

The second stepping stone was the US ships were coming under attack from shore batteries, NVA gunboats, and MlGs. Three sailors on the destroyer USS BUCHANAN were killed two months ago when MIGs attacked the ship. No longer was Navy duty a guarantee of immunity from combat. When the number of ships on the line off the coast of Vietnam doubled this spring, so did Vietnamese resistance. So the Navy was in combat, all right. And many of its sailors were afloat on some of the worst rust buckets in the entire Navy. These experiences have led to the rapid spread of the SOS movement throughout the Fleet.

Up Against the Bulkhead, vol. 2, no. 12


© 2005 Displaced Films. All Rights Reserved