Library - Reading Room
Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
Every GI knows the old saying about how the military works; "If it moves, salute it; if it doesn't move, paint it!" A third part can now he added: "if it organizes other GIs hit the panic button!" This sums up the Army's reaction to Pvt. Andy Stapp, stationed at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.
Stapp, a 24-year-old draftee from Merion Station, Pennsylvania, is an avowed socialist. Even alter being inducted Stapp continued to distribute radical literature around his base, and attempted to convince other troops of his beliefs. In Sept. 1966 MPs took away the pamphlets and magazines Stapp had stored in his footlocker, with the promise to return them after inspection. Of course, they were never returned. So the next time he was ordered to open his footlocker and surrender his literature, Stapp refused, The locker was then broken into and the literature taken, on order of the battery commander, Lt. Urquhart. This was in May, 1967. On 1 June, 1967 Pvt. Stapp was convicted by a summary court martial of 1) having a broken footlocker, and 2) refusing to obey a direct order. He was sentenced to 45 days unconfined hard labor, forfeiture of pay, and reduction of rank.
Since then Stapp has refused to be intimidated, and has continued his activities. In his own words: "I refused to let them take my literature because the First Amendment of the .Constitution of the United States guarantees the right of all Americans to free speech. This guarantee certainly includes the right of revolutionary socialists to organize within the Army against America's imperialist war of aggression on Vietnam." Others at Ft. Sill, such as Pvt. Richard Perrin, Sp/4 Richard Wheaton, and Sp/5 Paul Gaedtke have publicly agreed with Andy Stapp. These men and others from several bases have met and formed the American Servicemen's Union. This group seeks to organize soldiers to win !demands such as:
* Recognition of the right of all soldiers to advocate their political views, as well as to read anything they want.
* Election of all officers by the troops, in the same way as the Peoples Liberation Army of China.
* Seats on court-martial boards for enlisted men.
Since then the Army has pushed the panic button. Several members of the Ft. Sill group have been court-martialed on minor technicalities, and Andy Stapp himself was tried on the charge that he violated a restriction to barracks. Since his Sgt. admitted in court he'd told Stapp the wrong thing this charge had to be dropped. Now the Army has decided to just get rid of Pvt, Stapp, and is trying to give him a dishonorable discharge because of his political activities. Stapp is fighting to stay in the Army.
Vietnam GI, January 1968