Library - Reading Room
Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
No Praying on the Chapel Steps
On Feb. 13, about 30 GIs at Ft. Jackson attempted to hold the first anti-war protest on a U.S., military base. Sp/4 Martin Blumsack of Chicago and several of his buddies had received permission the previous Saturday morning from the Post Chaplain Lt. Col. Ogilvie to usw Chapel No. 1 for an "hour of meditation" on the next Tuesday at 7:30 pm to express their "grave coticerns" about the war.
During that afternoon and Sunday, the group distributed leaflets to their fellow GIs as they entered Columbia. S.C., for weekend passes. The leaflet asked GIs to come to the chapel to make their 'doubts' about the war known. By Monday morning, the Brass at Jackson were up tight. Col. Ogilvie called in Blumsack to tell him that permission had been withdrawn because the leaflets had used the word 'doubts" instead of "grave concern." Blumsack then had to report to his Exec.. Lt. Col. Davis, who ordered him to cancel the meeting.
At 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Blumsack, flanked by MPs, told the GIs who had assembled in front of the chapel that the meeting was officially cancelled. Several of the organizers refused to move on, kneeled to pray, and were carried away by MPs. The Brass threatened them with punishment, interrogated them for several hours, and released them.
Later that week, the same group planned to attempt to hold a legal meeting in the chapel on the next Tuesday. But the Brass changed the shift or job of every GI at the original demonstration so that they were all on duty at 7:30 pm the next Tuesday. In fact, for the next 2 or 3 weeks, the Brass at Jackson were really up-tight; by 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday, all cars were being stopped at the Main Gate, armed MPs guarded every chapel on post, and each chapel had its lights turned oil and was locked.
Since then the Brass has fucked with all the organizers: Two GIs, who were permanent party at Jackson, have received orders far the Nam,. Pvt. Michael Tipton, a clerk, made a typographical error on a date, was transferred to a casual company, and shipped to Korea. One other GI is under a direct order until his ETS to never express doubt or criticism about the operations of the American Military in Vietnam. Blumsack, who is too short to be shipped over, was reached in another way. About 2 weeks after the cancelled meeting, he lost his wallet and reported it at the PMO. While driving back to his company from the PMO, he was stopped by an MP, brought back to the PMO, anti charged with speeding, driving without a license and driving an unregistered vehicle. For this, he received at, Article 15, was busted to E-3 after a year in grade, and restricted to his company area for 2 weeks.
The upshot 0f this whole affair has been that the grapevine has passed the word on the chapel meeting idea to other stateside bases. Since the Jackson attempt, successful anti war meetings have been held with even larger groups of CIs at both Ord and Dix.
Vietnam GI, April 1968