Navy nurse Susan Schnall, active in organizing the San Francisco GI March last Oct. 12, pleaded not guilty to two charges brought against her by the Navy - impairing morale of the troops by dropping leaflets publicizing the GI march... and disobeying a direct order not to wear her uniform in the march.
After a trial lasting a day and a half, she was found guilty of a felony under general court-martial proceedings and sentenced to dismissal, forfeiture of six months pay, and confinement for six months at hard labor.
The only evidence introduced by the navy was films of the flight and of the march. Although the prosecuting attorney tried to pain a picture of Lt. j.g. Schnall's "horrifying activities" one film simply showed her emerging from the tiny plane and openly discussing the reasons for the leafletting. The other films showed her speaking to a crowd of thousands in San Francisco on Oct. 12
The defense introduced arguments reviewing the political nature of the charges, pointing out that they were a violation of Schnall's constitutional rights. She herself testified that she acted not to damage the morale of other military personnel, but in line with legitimately using her right of free speech. The argument was ruled out of order.
The Navy was under government pressure to convict Lt. Schnall on the one hand, and under pressure of strong public sentiment mobilized in favor of Lt. Schnall on the other hand. She was convicted and sentenced, but the Navy refrained from giving her the maximum sentence of five years at hard labor.
In actuality, women officers who receive less than a year's confinement are simply retained at their jobs for the equivalent period of time, and then dismissed. She has been reassigned to the pediatric ward of Oak Knoll Naval Hospital. At this point her case is under review.
Lt. Schnall's own father was killed during WWII when she was little more than a year old. After being sentenced, she reaffirmed her oppossition to the Vietnam war as well as her determination to participaate in the Spring GI Action aagainst the war, scheduled for April 6.
And this courageous nurse was there over Easter. In spite of harrassment and persecution for her political views, she was there. The next time a march comes up, why don't you be there.
Huachuca Hard Times, no. 1