Library - Reading Room
Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
Ft. Hood Strike
The action of 43 black EMs at FT Hood has set a precedent that may well be followed and improved upon by thousands of GIs in the future. On August 23, the 43 stopped going along with the Brass's game-they refused to be used to put down so-called "civil disturbances" in Chicago during the Democrat Convention.
Now the Brass are trying every trick in the UCMJ, as well as several new ones, to punish the demonstrators. They're afraid millions of other GI's might get the idea they can buck the system and win. But the Army is finding that it's a lot harder to railroad 43 men who hang together than it is to screw them over one at a time, as they usually do.
The demonstrators, many of them decorated Nam returnees, are members of the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions at Hood. When they decided the time had come to make a stand, they issued a statement which said: "We won't go to Chicago or any place in the United States to put down a civil disturbance or riot by our black brothers."
The GIs began assembling on post at the intersection of 65th and Central on the evening of the 23rd. The group was orderly and quiet and expanded as the night wore on.
At 2 a.m. MAJ. GEN John Boles, of the 1st AD, tried to talk the men out of staying. When that failed Boles, fearing the solidarity of the group, told the men they could continue demonstrating without repercussions. When asked to put his promise in writing Boles refused, but he raised his right hand and swore to it with his staff as witnesses.
At 5:45 a.m., however, a Colonel tried to break the General's promise. LT COL Edwin Kulo, 1st AD Provost Marshal, appeared and said, "I want you all to go back to your area." A couple of minutes later he added, "I'm asking you to leave now, otherwise the MPs will take you in." Again no direct order was given, only a request and a threat. The men remained solid and unmoving.
As MPs stood by, some of the men asked to see their lawyers and were refused. Shortly after, an MP Captain yelled 'get 'em" and the MPs attacked, screaming and swinging clubs. Many of the demonstrators were injured as they attempted to protect their heads from the blows. One, a wounded combat vet, demanded medical attention. He had difficulty breathing and his wounds were bothering him seriously. Ten hours later, and only after he began urinating blood, he was finally treated.
The Brass had not covered themselves, even under their own kangaroo code, by issuing any direct orders. But that screwup didn't seem to bother them. They singled out 8 of the 43 as leaders and set up general courtsmartial on charges of disobeying a direct order! The 8 are now attempting to force the Brass to limit their prosecution to special courts-martial. The remaining 34 (one other was not charged) are receiving special courts, many of which have now ended. They are being tried in groups of 6 and 8 at time. The brass are trying to ram through convictions by lying and other tactics. But the heaviest stockade sentence thus far has been 6 months; several have gotten 3 months or acquittals. Of the most recent group, as VGI goes to press, 4 out of 6 were acquitted.
There are several reasons for these "light" sentences (according to the usual standards.) There are the determination and aggressiveness of the GIs, and the fact that they have a civilian lawyer. The publicity about the case also makes it tough for the Brass to be as heavy-handed as they are when they're dealing quietly with isolated individuals. And there's no doubt that they fear the response of thousands of other GIs at Hood if they hand down extreme sentences.
But the Brass's case is too shabby even for convictions, much less extreme sentences. Some examples:
Defense attorney Weldon Berry of Houston had the defendants sit in the spectator section at the beginning of the trials. Prosecution witness SGT Walton of the 501st MP Co stated, "I never forget a face," yet he picked out only one of the accused from among the spectators.
High officers were called in to lie about the events. LT COL John J. Cassidy and LT COL John Saalberg testified that they heard COL Kulo give the 43 a direct order to disperse. But the Brass couldn't produce Kulo as a witness.
Strangely enough, GEN Boles never appeared to testify about his promise.
At one trial the defense called CAPT William R. Robbins, former senior aide to GEN Boles. He turned out to be the one officer involved who told it like it was.
Robbins testified that he heard GEN. Boles tell the men that they could stay where they were gathered without fear of punishment, but that he had "advised" or "suggested" that they disperse. He also said that Boles told the men that if they did not want to go to Chicago, they should not have to go. But Robbins' testimony didn't matter, of course. It didn't fit the official Brass version that the LT COLs had testified to The Army is shook. FT. Hood is one of several recent events which shows that the little brass dictators are facing a new kind of enlisted manand they haven't figured out how to deal with him. The general courts of the 8 men who were singled out are yet to come. But the events thus far are themselves a victory for EMs everywhere.
If the trend continues-and thousands of GIs can make it continuethe Brass will be unable to force GIs to fight in countries and cities, in wars that no one voted for and no one benefits from, except for the hawk corporations and their politicians.
The information for this article has been gathered by the staff of Fatigue Press, an underground sheet put out by GIs at Hood and from the staff of the "Oleo Strut," a coffeehouse run by GIs and sympathetic civilians in Killeen.
Vietnam GI, Sept. 1968