Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On May 16, as part of co-ordinated demonstrations at 19 marine, army, navy and air force bases, 900 active-duty GIs marched in the streets of Killeen protesting the war in SE Asia and the heightening of domestic repression. Ft. Hood soldiers attended the march in unprecedented numbers, but this display of massive opposition represented only the most recent expression of dissent.
Ft. Hood, with over 45,000 men, is the largest armored installation in the “free world.” No basic of A.I.T. training goes on at Hood, and most of the GIs stationed there are veterans of SE Asia. Many of the soldiers are intensely opposed to the war they fought in, and anti-war organizing is at a high leval [sic]. The main function of the fort is as a center for riot control training (codename: Operation Gardenplot), and it is around this issue that the GI movement has waged several struggles.
GIs vs. The Army
Ft. Hood, assigned responsibility for quelling “civil disturbances” throughout the middle third of the country, sent troops to Chicago after the Martin Luther King assassination in April, l968; in August, it again was preparing to send soldiers to Chicago, this time for duty around the Democratic convention demonstrations. GIs on post began angry discussions, and the fort's E.M. paper, The Fatigue Press, came out with a special edition. Frightened by this organized opposition, the brass had the Press' editor, “Gypsy” Peterson, arrested on trumped-up drug charges (the traces of marijuana he was accused of possessing mysteriously disappeared during microscopic analysis). On the same day, 43 Black GIs openly refused to be used in Chicago. Because of this rampant dissent, troops which did eventually get sent were never deployed, and the threat of post-wide rebellion forced the army to reduce the sentences of the 43 Black GIs. Peterson's original eight year sentence was reduced to six, and a year and a half later, his case came up for appeal. The army was made to admit that Peterson was innocent, and he was released from Leavenworth.
Another important chapter in the history of GI dissent at Ft. Hood involves Richard Chase. Chase, after arriving at Hood in January of l969, immediately told his Commanding Officer he would not train for riot control, and was given an unofficial Conscientious Objector status. By June, he had begun working on The Fatigue Press; on September 11, he was given a direct order to participate in riot control training. He refused, and after a two month pre-trial confinement, he was given a General Court Martial, A Dishonorable Discharge, and a two year sentence in Leavenworth. Ft. Hood GIs, rallying in solidarity behind Chase and his cause, circulated a petition and held meetings.
The army continues its reprisals against GIs who oppose the war, repression, and racism. A Vietnam veteran and organizer, Richard Cavendish, acted as plaintiff against the city of Killeen when it refused to grant a parade permit for May l6. As he accompanied a lawyer who was filing a suit against the city Cavendish was picked up in front of the court-house by two MPs and charged with being AWOL. He now faces a court martial.
Despite the army's attempts to crush the GI movement, dissent within the ranks is growing, and will continue to grow as Nixon escalates the war in SE Asia and intensifies his crack-down here at home. But though expanding rapidly, the GI movement can't reach its full potential without active civilian support.
The Oleo Strut
The Oleo Strut opened in June of l968. Since then, it has served the needs of GIs at Ft. Hood. Not only does it provide a place where soldiers can meet to discuss issues, without fear of harassment, but it also serves as the offices for The Fatigue Press, the EM's voice on post. The Strut offers educational programs; in addition to weekly events, it recently concluded a series of nine nights of movies and speakers, on topics ranging from womens' liberation to Chicanos. It is starting a bookstore to help get into the hands of GIs literature the army is afraid of. This summer, a Harvard Law School student will work full-time at the Strut, giving free counseling to soldiers, setting up a military law library, and helping prepare a booklet for mass distribution informing GIs of their rights under the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) and how to defend them.
The Oleo Strut desperately needs money to continue its work. Constant legal help for GIs and the Strut itself, rent for the building and for assorted machinery (movie projector, typewriter, etc.), cost for literature-all these are expensive. And as the GI movement gains greater strength, the Strut must keep pace and offer even more services. Each of us has a responsiblity to help those in the front lines of the battle, GIs like Peterson, Chase and Cavendish, and all the other activist soldiers who are building a movement to fight war and racism and repression.
Join the GI Movement
The most valuable support for the Oleo Strut is contributions of at least $5 every month to assure our's and the GI movement's survival and growth. Oleo Strut Sustainers, as we call people who contribute this regular amount, receive in turn a subscription to the Ft. GI paper, The Fatigue Press, and copies of all Oleo Strut posters, pamphlets and leaflets.
Fatigue Press, Pamphlet 1970