The Army isn't giving out much information on troop movements for riot control in Chicago, but one thing is certain. When the First Armored Division began rolling into the convention town Sunday, August 25th, to report for duty, forty-three of its black members remained behind at Ft. Hood, Texas. The reason, according to their assistant commanding officer Col. Joseph G. Carrowan, was that 'they felt they were carrying the white man's burden."
The forty-three were what remained of sixty or more black GIs who had begun an all night demonstration around midnight friday, when they learned their unit was possibly destined for Convention riot control duty. Commanding officer Major John K. Boles was able to convince at least seventeen to leave the group before dawn. But when reveille sounded at 6 AM, the remaining forty three refused to go to their duty stations.
All Army reports and establishment press stories have taken great care to stress that this was an "orderly non-violent protest", and officials have tried to obscure both the magnitude of the event and the punitive measures taken with a series of euphamisms and Army double-think officialese, (The men were not "arrested" but "escorted to the Post Stockade by Military Police" when they refused to disband. Boles held "an hour long chat with the men in an effort to disperse them. Court martial has not been mentioned but "appropriate disciplinaryry measures will be taken." Col. Carrowan is quoted in Monday's Chronicle, "most of their grievances are typical of the colored race, they discussed such things as unequal opportunity.")
Unofficial sources in Kilieen and Chicago tell it a little differently. According to Jay Lockard and Tom Cleaner, staff members of the Oleo Strut Coffee House in nearby Killeen, the demonstration wasn't so orderly, nor were the Army's responses confined in persuasion and guidance. The way they hear it, nightsticks were used and at least one demonstrator suffered a broken arm,
Miss Lockard, who is now In Chicago for the Convention, reports that the Oleo Strut was contacted Saturday by representatives of the men who had demonstrated but had not been arrested. They asked the coffee house staff to issue a press release, presumably because they knew the Army would try to hush up the event, and widespread press coverage would both inform the public of the demonstrators' stand and make it harder for Post officials to quietly punish and harass their buddies who were still being held.
Soon after being taken to the Post Stockade early Saturday morning, the forty-three men were transferred to a nearby annex in order to segregate them from the rest of the prisoners. Since that time, twenty-four have been released into the custody of their commanding officer, Boles, and nineteen are null being held. Telephone inquiries thin morning were routed to Post Public Information Officer Col Carpenter, who would only say that no charges have yet been filed and he could offer "no speculation until the outcome of a thorough investigationwhich is being held," When pressed on the exact location and treatment of the prisoners, the reason some had been held and others released, and whether any of those released had been sent to Chicago, he of course offered no comment.
He's in a tough position and this isn't the first time, A recent change In Post Commander was accompanied by rumors that the new man would 'clean up a mess', meaning everything from the rampant drug scene vividly described in syndicated stories by Nicholas von Hoffman of the Washington Post, through a small but militant would-be GI Union, to, of course, the Oleo Strut-which they reason must be the cause of a good part of the trouble.
Judging by precedent, -"no comment" probably means the post brass are waiting for orders from the Pentagon and for the public flurry to pass. It's not an easy dilemma: it will he difficult to punish, the men severely enough that others won't he tempted to follow suit without keeping the whole "ugly" issue before the eyes of other GI's and the public. Suppose they give the men Article 15s or a sumniary court martial and the men refuse, demanding a General Court Martial with potentially more severe punishment but the privilege of civilian counsel and the possibility of major press coverage? Not exactly a rosy prospect for the Army, which of course wants to quarantine all such germs of resistance as quickly and quietly as possible,
The Ally, no. 9