The following is a report on actions held during the Armed Forces Day weekend. The actions varied in just about all the respects from each other. Most were rated as successes, some were not. At any rate, the regularly scheduled Armed Forces Day "celebrations" at the following bases WERE closed down:
Fort Ord, California; Grissom Air Force Base, Indiana; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Jackson, South Carolina; Fort Meade, Maryland; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota; Key West, Florida; Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md.; Fort Rucker, Alabama; Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma; Sacramento, California; Goldsboro, North Carolina; Fort Polk, Louisiana; Quantico, Virginia; Andrews Air Base, Virginia; McDill AFB, Florida; Phoenix City, Alabama; Great Lakes Naval Trng. Center, Illinois; Pickitanny Army Base, N. J.; U. S. Army Aviation Systems Center, St. Louis, Missouri; U. S. Army Tank Center, Detroit, Michigan; Charleston Naval Base, South Carolina (plus air, army and marine bases there); Fort Dix, New Jersey.
The objective was not simply to shut down these bases, but rather to shut down the war machine. Here are some capsule reports of what came about on M-16 Day:
Fort Devens, Massachusetts: Good local support for the first action ever attempted there. ';Is and civilians held a picnic/rap session and some 70-80 civilians leafletted and distributed the first issue of Morning Report a bi-weekly newspaper, on post. About 20 GIs attended the picnic with little repressions or restrictions.
Fort Bragg, North Carolina: 750-1000 GIs and 2500-3000 people held a rally with speeches by Mark Lane, Jane Fonda, Rennie Davis, some local GIs and a few rightists who were given a chance to speak their peace. Davis was arrested for using a common obsenity beginning with "mother! The judge threw the case out. Fonda and Lane were thrown off the base. Early passes were given out Friday to get GIs out of the area. There were some restrictions and rumors of violence.
Fort Dix, New Jersey: With most of the GIs restricted to the base, 3-4000 people and a few soldiers held a rally, attempted a march on the post aid were gassed in the process. The order of the rally was continually disrupted by outside groups as well as intimidated by the large numbers of MPs called in from both Dix and Meade.
Fort Meade, Maryland: Abbie Hoffman, Susan Schnall, a black panther, GIs and revolutionaries from Spain addressed a crowd of 500-600 people/l00 GIs which later marched to the fort. GIs were restricted and put on alert; the Military expected violence. They didn't get any.
Fort Benning, Georgia: 500 people, including 150 GIs held a mock trial of the army to expose the Green Machine's attempt to treat the Mylai massacre as if it were an exceptional tragic incident attributable to a single man, Lt. Calley. The General at the base offered a three day week-day pass to anyone who turned in a person who distributed their paper RAP!.
Fort McClellan, Alabama: GIs held the first anti-war demonstration in the local community's history. It was held in the city auditorium with speakers and rock groups. Many units received extra duty that day. Count: 50 GIs/250 people.
Grissom Air Force Base, Ind: Post was leafletted by GIs on the 16th. A rally planned for the 17th was completely disrupted by right wingers. GIs were on restriction, the RW were armed with clubs and the press was making public service announcements telling people to come and break up the commie rally. A bad scene.
Camp Pendleton, California: GIs put on restriction, extra duty missed a march and rally put on by 200 GIs and 5000 people. They were addressed by Tom Hayden, a panther and some GIs.
Charleston Naval Base, S.C.: Rennie Davis, Isadore Buff, Ex-GIs and GIs spoke at the first rally ever held in this part of the country attented by about 200 GIs and 1000 people. Some were told not to go and others were chased by shore patrol for attending in uniform.
Fort Riley, Kansas: Another first rally by 400 GIs/1300 civilians came about with speakers John Froines and the editor of AWOL Press the local paper. There,the usual. harrassing included restrictions and riot control.
Fort Lewis, Washington: There was poor response at an all-day festival/picnic due to a poor promotion program. 200 civilians and 50-60 GIs showed up. The only repression was riot-control duty.
Grand Forks AFB, N D: GIs and GI Wives for Peace held a coffeehouse on May 15th with David Dellinger, John Froines and Phil Ochs. About 50 GIs attended. May 16th saw about 1000 people attend an anti-ABM rally at Nekoma, N.D. GIs attended both these functions after being told not to and being given extra duty.
Fort Hood, Texas: Still another first demonstration came about here in Killeen. An estimated 800-900 GIs marched down the street and 500-600 more followed on the sidewalks. Police surrounded the following rally making it hard for people to get into it. They also gained some more rapport with the townspeople after they saw the size of the rally. As with most places, the brass had a few tricks to pull: the usual alerts, threats and extra duty.
Fort Jackson, South Carolina: GI action cancelled itself out after the local Armed Forces Day mishmash was cancelled. Mike Cole, a civilian and one of the chief organizers there, was jailed on trumped-up charges of larceny and trespassing. Bond was set at $4000.
Fort Carson, Colorado: 500 people and 30 GIs had a festival of life in Colorado Springs with speakers from the local area as well as Paul Krassner and a speaker from Movement for a Democratic Military. Problems came from a recent turn-over in staff , bomb threats and bust threats.
Chanute AFB, Illinois: Andy Stapp and University of Illinois professors spoke at a mock trial of the army. There were about 800 at the trial, many of whom came from Grissom AFB and Fort Knox. No repression came down, but they expect some soon.
Fort Ord, California: 4000 marched to the main gate chanting "Free the Fort Ord 40,000." About 100 GIs were with them. They will contest in court the regulation on post banning the use of the use of the fist and the "V" sign whether in or out of uniform and whether on or off duty. The base was put on a normal workday routine which also has inspired another contestment in court. There was a bomb threat and the troops were put on riot control alert.
Barksdale AFB, Louisiana: GIs held a festival of life and workshop at which there were about 600-700 people and 150-175 GIs. Speakers included Walter Collins (SCEF), and Walter Rgers (WWI vet). A key organizer was arrested on a so-called pre-dated warrant from March.
A few interesting conclusions have been drawn by a variety of the people involved in these actions. First, the actions were generally very successful, though a number of them were smaller than expected. Certainly the cut in the size can be blamed partially on the fact that so many bases closed down their Armed Forces Day "celebrations" (a victory in itself), thus giving the idea that either the goal had been accomplished or the anti-war actions were also called off. Partial blame can also be laid upon the heavy restrictions and repression that GIs were under. Could the possible answer be that the military is afraid of GI support in overwhelming numbers for the anti-war movement? We probably all know the answer to that one.
Secondly, press coverage of local actions was generally much better than anyone had been led to expect. Here,in Wonderful El Paso AllAmericaCity, the coverage was its usual rightwing self. A story that covered the rally started out with the statement, "Not all the students at UTEP are against the war..," a steal-the-thunder device to calm the military and local conservatives. But it was quite good in other places, if not for good copy, for good publicity that is, the press coverage of GI actions across the country). We can probably feel pretty safe in assuming that what went on this past weekend has really brought the strength of and the universality of the GI movement to the fore as far as the press and millions of Americans are concerned.
Thirdly, the civilians that participated in the actions have probably gotten a better understanding of the CI movement as well as of the GI himself. A comment made by Abbie Hoffman seems particularly good: "behind every GI haircut lies a Samson'. Right on.
The Cliche: Where do we go from here?
Gigline, vol. 2, no. 5