GI SPECIAL 2#C14
LOOK SAYS IT ALL:
BRING THEM HOME NOW!
Navy hospital corpsman
3rd class Dennis Astor, 22, of Escondido, CA. at
combat hospital near Fallujah. Astor suffered burns
and other injuries in Saturday's car bombing near
here that killed 8 marines and wounded nine. (AP
“The Army Does Not Like To Pay”
Hurt Part-Time Soldiers Treated Like Shit
October 23, 2004 By
MONICA DAVEY, NY Times
Specialist Keith Bond, another guardsman waiting
at Fort Lewis, whose family lives near Sergeant
Elliott's in Moses Lake, said he had considered
going home. "I did the war," he said. "I got
the T-shirt, you know? I've had enough. My
family's had enough."
Wash. - Staff
Sgt. Jeffrey A. Elliott returned to this country
with a back injury after his unarmored truck hit a
roadside bomb in Iraq. Yet 15 months later, he
still has not made it home for good.
A member of the
Washington National Guard, Sergeant Elliott is
hoping to finish whatever treatments may soothe the
degenerating disk in his back and for the military
to complete the paperwork for his case, now promised
within weeks. He
is living out of a suitcase in a barracks while his
wife and children wait, 220 miles away.
Under a web of Army rules, Sergeant Elliott and
thousands of other part-timers injured on duty are
navigating a system suited to full-time soldiers.
Most are required to stay on a military base to get
government medical treatment, to collect their
active-duty salaries and to finish military
evaluations that will decide whether they return to
duty or leave with severance or disability payments.
Recently, after The
New York Times made inquiries about him, he learned
that his discharge paperwork from the military had
been completed and that he would be able to go home
within weeks. He
said he feared that if he left before then, his
family could not survive without his active-duty
Still, he said, the
idea was oddly tempting, especially as strains at
home mounted. He feels detached from decisions made
in his own house, he said. His wife has come to
rely on a girlfriend as her closest confidante.
"It feels not too much
different than being deployed all over again,"
Sergeant Elliott said.
Many of the injured
say they have grown embittered from being away from
home so long.
Some see the extended separations as one more
indication that military leaders consider the needs
of part-time soldiers - once taunted as weekend
warriors - as less important than those of the
They view themselves as casualties not just of bombs
and heart attacks and ankle twists, but also of poor
planning for a war that is increasingly being fought
by the nation's part-time military.
wife, Penny, is
raising their three children, the youngest of whom
thinks anyone on the other end of a telephone line
must be her father, because Sergeant Elliott has
been calling home for most of her two years of life.
"Having him in Iraq
was hard enough," said Ms. Elliott, home in Moses
Lake, Wash. "When he got hurt, I said, 'Well, at
least he can come home now, and get better here with
us.' But it's this strange thing.
He came home, but
he's not home at all."
Officials at Fort
Lewis say many of their injured part-time soldiers
live near the base, which is 45 miles from Seattle.
data from the office of the Army's surgeon general
show that some Oregon guardsmen, for example, are
recovering in Fort Bliss, Tex.; some part-time
soldiers from Wyoming and Florida are on medical
holdover in Fort Dix, N.J.; and a handful of New
Jersey troops are at Fort Riley, Kan.
loneliest and the impatient can elect to go home,
even if they still need medical attention. But that
can be an expensive trade-off; military rules
dictate that they lose their active-duty salaries
even though they may still be too injured or ill to
return to their civilian jobs.
Someone who leaves
active duty and seeks treatment from his own doctors
qualifies for military medical insurance, known as
Tricare, for only six months.
Advocates for the
National Guard say one in five guardsmen lacks
medical insurance from his regular job, leaving no
room for health problems that may linger.
Specialist Keith Bond, another guardsman waiting
at Fort Lewis, whose family lives near Sergeant
Elliott's in Moses Lake, said he had considered
going home. "I did the war," he said. "I got
the T-shirt, you know? I've had enough. My
family's had enough."
Specialist Bond, 31,
spent almost a year in Iraq before he came back to
this country with pains in his foot and uncertainty
about what they meant. Eventually, he said, military
doctors found an unusual break in a bone at the top
of his foot, a spot that had broken years ago.
Much as he wants to go
home, Specialist Bond said he felt the Army was
responsible for repairing his foot and worried that
he could not handle his job mixing chemicals at
General Dynamics while walking with a large medical
boot that encases his leg.
He said he went home
as often as he could slip away from Fort Lewis, but
described the complications of cramming fatherhood
into scattered weekend visits. His son, Dylan, 2,
does not seem to recognize him. Specialist Bond's
wife, Angelicque, described the look Dylan sometimes
gives when seeing his father: "Who is this person?
Why is he in my home?"
And their daughter,
Alexa, 4, stopped eating after her father came home
from Iraq but moved to Fort Lewis. "There was no
explaining it to her why Dad was back, but living
over there," Ms. Bond said. "She kept saying, 'No,
the Army is going to keep him.' " Alexa had lost
nine pounds by the time Ms. Bond took her to a
"There are the few
people out there who aren't injured, but who are
just trying to get out of the service and get into
the disability system," Ms. Bond said. That may make
doctors doubt the legitimate cases, she continued,
adding: "But there's another factor, too, that makes
them want to doubt, and that's this:
The Army does not
like to pay."
Lingering just under the surface of these soldiers'
complaints is a broader issue. They see a bias
against part-timers, one that has seeped through
everything over years of "weekend warrior" status.
Hooley, Democrat of Oregon, has criticized the
military over the past year for
what she found when she visited Oregon guardsmen
training to go overseas: mold-ridden barracks,
faulty weapons and a lack of food, toilet paper,
soap and hand-held radios.
Even among the
injured, some part-time soldiers insist there is a
pecking order. When they go for appointments at the
Fort Lewis medical center, they say, they are always
asked which service they are in, Guard, Reserves or
"Why would they need to know that? I thought we
were an army of one," said Sgt. Jay Hemenway, a
guardsman who went to Fort Lewis in March 2003 and
whose family lives three hours away, in Salem, Ore.
Sergeant Hemenway said he went to the orthopedic
department not long ago, and watched as another
soldier walked in, identified himself as a full-time
soldier and got an appointment right away. "If
you're the National Guard, you're on the back
burner, forgotten," he said.
Sergeant Hemenway is
starting the process of being considered for
discharge from the military. Before he was called
up, he was a maintenance man in the apartment
complex his wife manages, but he doubts he will ever
be able to paint or plaster or move refrigerators
From her office in Salem, his wife, LoAnn D.
Brandenberger-Hemenway, looked out at her gold Ford
Mustang, its window papered with stickers: "Support
Our Troops" and "Freedom Is Not Free." She said
that she was proud of her husband when he was called
to duty, but that was 19 months ago and he has lived
at Fort Lewis ever since.
"This has gotten ridiculous," Ms.
When he visits home,
she said, he sometimes seems impatient, frustrated,
testy. "Don't they say a person heals better when
they are surrounded by love?" she asked. "If
anything, he's getting worse up there. By the time
he comes to visit, we have to walk around on
When her husband left, Ms. Brandenberger-Hemenway
decorated the outside of her office with yellow
ribbons, but they grew dingy and frayed with passing
months. Not long ago, she took them down.
SOME TRUTH? CHECK OUT TRAVELING SOLDIER
Telling the truth - about the occupation, the
cuts to veterans’ benefits, or the dangers of
depleted uranium - is the first reason Traveling
Soldier is necessary. But we want to do more
than tell the truth; we want to report on the
resistance - whether it's in the streets of
Baghdad, New York, or inside the armed forces.
Our goal is for Traveling Soldier to become the
thread that ties working-class people inside the
armed services together. We want this newsletter
to be a weapon to help you organize resistance
within the armed forces. If you like what you've
read, we hope that you'll join with us in
building a network of active duty organizers.
join with Iraq War vets in the call to end the
occupation and bring our troops home now! (www.ivaw.net)
Death Of Two Marines
November 5, 2004 U.S.
Department of Defense News Release No. 1106-04 & By
JIM KRANE, Associated Press Writer
The Department of
Defense announced today the death of two Marines.
Cpl. Jeremiah A. Baro,
21, of Fresno, Calif.
Lance Cpl. Jared P.
Hubbard, 22, of Clovis, Calif.
Both Marines died Nov. 4 from injuries received as a
result of enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
They were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th
Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I
Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Four were wounded.
SOLDIER KILLED, FIVE WOUNDED BY INDIRECT FIRE NEAR
November 5, 2004
HEADQUARTERS UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND Release
LSA ANACONDA, BALAD,
Iraq -- A 13th
Corps Support Command Soldier is dead and five are
injured as the result of an indirect fire attack on
a Multi-National Force military base near Fallujah
at about 1:45 p.m. on Nov. 5.
The injured Soldiers
were evacuated to a military medical facility on
Camp Fallujah, one was returned to duty after
Buchanan High Grads Die;
“They Said Things Over There Were Worse This Time”
November 5, 2004 By
Tim Eberly and Marc Benjamin / The Fresno Bee
High School was stunned Thursday when students,
teachers and coaches learned that two former
students were killed recently while serving in Iraq.
Jared Hubbard, 22, and
Jeremiah Baro, both former Bears wrestlers who
graduated in 2001, became the sixth and seventh
service members from the central San Joaquin Valley
to be killed in the Iraqi war.
According to former
teammates, Hubbard and Baro were close friends who
enlisted in the military together. Darrell
Goodpaster, a 2002 Buchanan grad who wrestled with
Hubbard and Baro, saw his former teammates when they
were home on leave several months ago.
Brandon Sanchez, a
close friend of both Marines, said they enlisted
shortly before Christmas 2001. Baro had been
planning to join the Marines since high school.
Hubbard was working and attending Fresno City
College when he decided to enlist with Baro.
While stationed at
Camp Pendleton, Hubbard and Baro routinely drove up
to Clovis together on weekends. They went to sniper
school before heading back to the Middle East in
"They knew when they
first came back that it was inevitable they would go
back," Sanchez said.
second time around, it was different. They had a
harder time determining who their enemies were,
"They said things over there were worse this time
than before," Sanchez said. "They had been in some
pretty bad gunfights."
Buchanan's athletic director and former wrestling
coach, said "It's
always a shock to see all these young people dying,
but it really hits home when you know the kids,"
Hansen said. "It sinks in a lot more."
Soldier Killed, One Wounded In Balad IED Attack
11/05/04 cjtf7 Release
Iraq -- One 1st
Infantry Division Soldier died and one was wounded
when their vehicle was struck with an improvised
explosive device near Balad at about
10:38 p.m. on Nov. 4.
The wounded Soldier
was evacuated to Multi-National Forces treatment
G Prison Worker Killed
SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. -- A
Spotsylvania County resident working in Iraq as a
medic was fatally shot Tuesday, his family said.
Jeffery Serrett had
called home that morning and left a message for his
wife. She then got a call at work that he'd been
shot, and he was dead by 10:50 a.m.
Serrett, 43, was employed by Halliburton and was
working at the Abu Ghraib prison clinic, where he
had been sent after the abuse scandal.
Serrett's family was
told that someone knocked on the door at the clinic,
and when Serrett opened the door, he was shot him in
the stomach. He was flown by helicopter to Baghdad,
but he died in surgery.
Serrett had been overseas before. He spent most of
2002 in Saudi Arabia working for the Vinnell Corp.,
a Fairfax company that provided fire and rescue
services there. He served in
Germany with the U.S. Army, shortly after graduating
from Caroline High School in 1980.
Ex-Cop Mercenary Killed At Baghdad Airport
5 November, 2004 BBC
former police officer from Kent, who was working as
a security contractor near Baghdad, has been killed
in a car bombing in Iraq.
John Barker, from
Leeds, near Maidstone, was working on a project at
Baghdad Airport on Wednesday when he was killed in
Iraqi national also died when a bomber detonated his
car at a busy checkpoint being manned by both men.
Barker was employed by the private security firm,
Global Risk Strategies.
The family of Mr
Barker, who left Kent Police 14 years ago, were
informed of his death on Thursday.
Falluja Already Costing 20 Casualties A Day!
Military Gets Morgue Ready For The Offensive
November 5, 2004
Associated Press, NEAR FALLUJAH, Iraq
Preparations are in place for the dead and wounded
expected from a U-S-led assault on Fallujah, Iraq.
combat hospital on the chief U-S base nearby has set
up a morgue and doubled medical
staff and supplies.
A Navy doctor says there are at least 20
casualties on any given day. The doctor says
the number could double when things get
The hospital daily
work is grim.
Patients arrive with devastating wounds. Common
procedures include amputations or stabilizing broken
bones or torn organs. The
surgeons and staff say they cope, knowing the
soldiers need them to be steady in the face of
The base hospital is a
low concrete building with a sign that says,
"Cheaters of Death."
“Racks Of Body Bags” Arrive For U.S. Troops At
Post, November 5, 2004, Pg. 18
The Bravo Surgical
Company field hospital near Fallujah is preparing
for the Marine invasion. A
few days ago, Marines unloaded racks of body bags,
and the staff has more than doubled so it can handle
one of the few near certainties in any upcoming
operation: There will be casualties.
Rickety Cars Vs. Tanks
(San Diego Union-Tribune, November 5, 2004)
Marines preparing to assault Fallujah in some of the
most powerful tanks ever made are feeling
increasingly helpless in the face of suicide bombers
in rickety cars.
War In Ramadi:
Marine Officer Doubts Win By January Elections
“Hey, let’s get the fuck out of here and head for
(That's about how we feel.)
November 6, 2004 Iraq
Agence France Presse
bomb blast lifted the armoured vehicle into the air
and sent flames licking around it. The US marine
yelled ‘push, push’ and accelerated the Humvee,
named Whiskey Six, down war-torn Ramadi’s main
vehicle raced past a mural of a US flag, emblazoned
with a swastika instead of stars, and a caption
‘This is the true America.’
Ramadi has been torn
by almost daily street battles since April, reducing
parts of the city to rubble.
appears closer to a decisive victory today than they
did seven months ago.
American official in Baghdad said a key indicator
for the US military that they are beating the
insurgency will come when Sunnis finally start to
provide significant intelligence on the resistance.
This clearly is
not happening in Ramadi.
Marine officers are skeptical that they could
deliver a knockout blow to insurgents before the
January elections. One called the poll date
‘stretching it’. ‘It may take a
little longer,’ said another. The
two officers seemed certain the insurgency will rage
on well into 2005 and thought its outright defeat
was not yet in reach.”
LOOK SAYS IT ALL:
BRING THEM HOME NOW!
US Marines of the 1st
Division raid the house of a city council chairman
in the Abu Ghraib district of Baghdad. Nov. 2,
2004. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
Dead British Soldier Said Iraq War For “Money And
November 6, 2004 Iraq
think they should just
get them all out of
there now, because if not we are going to
lose a lot more like this,” said Craig Lowe, a
serving soldier and the brother of one of the three
British soldiers killed on Thursday by a suicide
bomber near Baghdad.
added that his brother had blamed Bush for “starting
a war over nothing, trying to get money and oil.
That’s what we all thought.”
British Opposed To Moving Troops Into Resistance
2 November Electronic
ICM survey of 1,001 adults for the Guardian... found
that 61% disapproved of the decision to send the
Black Watch in support of US operations
against 30% who approved, with 55% of
Labour voters opposing the decision.' (Richard
Norton-Taylor, Guardian, 28 October 2004, p. 4)
Army: Burnt Out And Broke Down
Nov 5, 2004 By David
Isenberg Asia Times Online Ltd
1st Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division was sent
to Iraq in January this year, even though it had
returned from Afghanistan only five months before.
Meanwhile, the 3rd Infantry Division, which
liberated Baghdad in early April 2003, has had its
tour in Iraq extended at least five times.
In mid-July 2003,
Lieutenant-General John Abizaid, the head of US
Central Command, announced that all army units would
have to spend a full year in Iraq, double the normal
tour for peacekeeping
Meanwhile, several National Guard and Reserve units
have been mobilized without reasonable notice, kept
on active duty for longer than anticipated and sent
overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan without effective
Members of the Michigan National Guard, for example,
were sent to Iraq with only 48 hours notice.
The Maryland National
Guard's 115th Military Police Battalion, meanwhile,
has been mobilized three times in the past two
years, and by the end of its last tour will have
remained on active duty for 18 months.
This is all despite the fact that a reserve soldier
should be given at least 30 days of notice before
being mobilized and should not be kept on duty for
more than nine to 12 months in a five-to-six-year
According to an
analysis by Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings
Institution published this past June, deployment
demands are likely to remain great.
a result, the typical active-duty US soldier in a
deployable unit could literally spend the majority
of the next three to four years abroad. In 2004
alone, 26 of the army's 33 main combat brigades in
the active force will deploy abroad at some point;
over the course of 2003 and 2004 together, virtually
all of the 33 brigades will be deployed.
typical reservist might be deployed for another 12
months over the next three to four years.
As one example, all 15 of the Army National Guard's
enhanced separate brigades are to be deployed at
some point by 2006.
the greatest problem is with units that have to be
mobilized more than once. To date, somewhat less
than 40,000 reservists have been involuntarily
mobilized more than once since September 11, 2001,
not an enormous number, but one that is continually
According to Larry
Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense in the
administration of president Ronald Reagan, and one
of the speakers at the SPWG forum,
"The Guard and
Reserve missed their recruiting goals, because
people getting out of active service are not joining
up. They know that if they do they will get called
Resistance Blows Up Gas Pipeline
Nov 5 By YAHYA
BARAZANJI, Associated Press Writer & November 6,
2004 Iraq Occupation Focus
Iraq - An explosion Friday damaged a gas pipeline in
northern Iraq, police and oil officials said.
Police Col. Mohammed
Ahmed said the blast hit a pipeline that connects
the Baba Gurgur fields near the northern city of
Kirkuk with 0the North Gas Company, affiliated with
the state-owned North Oil Co.
pipeline's damage is likely to affect several power
stations, including the Beiji power station but it
wasn't immediately clear by how much, the official
The government is
already struggling to build up stocks of refined oil
products before winter.
Shipping sources in Turkey said some crude still
appeared to be flowing to Ceyhan, but at a reduced
oil is probably coming from smaller fields further
north of the blast via the pumping station at Tikrit
but it is unclear how long this can be sustained.
"The pumping has been sort of sporadic in the past
week. It is down to about 140,000 bpd today," one
Nixon Wins In A Landslide;
McGovern And Democrats Crushed;
Moaning Pundits Say Vietnam War Will Go On Forever
My, all the whining
out there. It’s to be expected from posturing
political commentators and over-inflated
intellectuals who thought Kerry was worth spending
time on, but some of the bullshit is even coming
from pundits who spent the last three months talking
about how Kerry and Bush are both Imperial warriors,
and now they're pissing themselves in horror that
Bush got all those votes. I seem to remember Kerry
proudly running as even more bloodthirsty than Bush,
not only about Iraq, but about Iran, North Korea and
Venezuela as well, although you’d never know it
reading the noxious effluvia clogging the world of
Compared to Kerry’s’
foaming at the mouth, Bush was a peace candidate, a
term that in this election lost all meaning. Any
candidate with name recognition opposed to Bush,
regardless of how long he wanted U.S. troops to keep
on killing Iraqis and dying themselves, was
magically transformed into a “peace candidate” by
one of the more remarkable denials of reality
witnessed since the Catholic Church declared the
world was flat. Case in point: Ralph Nader,
implacably opposed to the immediate withdrawal of
U.S. soldiers from Iraq, was so described.
None of the pundits
moaning about the Bush win discuss the huge number
of people who rejected the election entirely by not
voting, probably because of their customary
condescending elitist sneering at people who think
U.S. elections are for shit. The snotty chattering
class tends to dismiss those millions as
irresponsible stupid trailer-trash.
Those many millions
concluded that this election meant nothing in their
lives important enough to waste time and energy
participating in. They were 500% right about that.
And the left, obsessed with posturing in electoral
fantasies, simply turned its back on them, instead
of confirming as right and true their view about the
uselessness of the election, and offering them an
organized way forward from their conclusion,
grounded in the material reality of their lives.
The non-voters are overwhelmingly working class, but
they can come later: most of the left had other
Fact: 40% of the
eligible population didn't (or, as with most former
prisoners couldn’t) vote.
Bush's vote total
was less than 27 percent of the electorate, even
with the record turnout. (Mark Weisbrot,
Center for Economic Policy Research, 5 Nov. 2004)
It never ceases to
amaze me how somebody can argue vehemently that
elections are a rigged ruling class game, and then,
after one like this, howl about "the nation moving
to the right." Idiocy. Fuck em.
The real tragedy is
the huge amount of time, money and human resources
pissed away uselessly in the 2004 electoral farce on
behalf of this or that candidate --- time, money and
human resources that could have been usefully
employed doing something constructive and productive
that would have lasting consequences in the real
world. For instance, strengthening the movement
against the war, at home among working class people,
who were the backbone of the opposition to Vietnam,
and especially reaching out to offer aid and comfort
to the growing number of anti-war soldiers in the
That’s what stopped
Vietnam. Provided people turn their attention to
the work at hand, Bush and the rest of the
bi-partisan Imperial politicians can be brought to
Time for the real work
to begin. Kerry, Nader or none of the above doesn’t
matter now, only where we go from here.
Which side are you on?
French soldiers sang
”The Soldiers’ International” in June 1871:
No more deluded by
On Tyrants only we’ll
Soldiers too can take
We’ll break our ranks
and fight no more
The rich oppressors
keep on trying
To sacrifice us for
They soon will feel
the bullets flying-
We’ll shoot the
generals on our side
This will be our final battle
Stand together, hold your place
The international working class and soldiers
Will free the human race!
(Thanks to Max Watts
for reminding of this good old song.)
What do you
think? Comments from service men and women, and
veterans, are especially welcome. Send to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Name, I.D.,
withheld on request. Replies confidential.
Collaborator Politicians Slap Bush
Nov 4, 2004 By Khaled
Yacoub Oweis, BAGHDAD (Reuters)
politicians called on re-elected President Bush on
Thursday to rely more on talks and less on the gun
to solve Iraq's problems.
The United States
should stop acting like an occupier, hand more
control to Iraqis and stop backing a security
apparatus that could start resembling that of Saddam
Hussein, they said.
"American use of unchecked force will not work.
Look at the security forces that have multiplied in
the past few months. The result has been less
security, not more," said Haidar al-Ubadi, a senior
official in the Shi'ite Al-Dawa party, which worked
with U.S. and British forces after
last year's Iraq war to peacefully stabilize several
Deputy Foreign Minister Hamid al-Bayati said the
insurgency was partly due to mistakes Bush made
"Using force that kills civilians on a large scale
is a mistake.
"The resistance operations were seen coming as soon
as the United States kept acting as an occupier. The
solution now must include the Americans lessening
their presence on the streets."
OCCUPATION ISN’T LIBERATION
BRING ALL THE TROOPS HOME NOW!
Of Civilian Contractors In War Zones At Record
By DEBORAH HASTINGS,
The Associated Press
(AP) — The war against
terror constitutes the greatest use of civilian
contractors in American history. They do everything
from serving chow to armed combat,
some of them earning
salaries of $200,000 a year or more.
There are an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 in Iraq —
more people than any American ally has in the
country, including Britain. It is
a profitable business for employee and employer.
Many of the former are retired military members from
elite groups including Special Forces and the Green
August, Virginia-based CACI International Inc.
posted a 56 percent increase in fourth-quarter
profits — from $13.3 million to $20.7 million
— a boost the company's chief financial
officer publicly attributed to increased demand for
homeland security and intelligence services.
More than 90
percent of CACI's revenues come from the U.S.
DANGER: POLITICIANS AT WORK
Outrage in Ohio:
Angry Residents Storm State House
November 3 By David
Solnit, Toledo Ohio (From Veterans for Peace list)
Hundreds of angry Ohio residents marched through the
streets of Columbus, Ohio's Capital, this evening
and stormed the Ohio State House, defying orders and
arrest threats from Ohio State Troopers.
democracy has got to go," they chanted.
pushed and scuffled with people, nearly a hundred
people took over the steps and entrance to the
State's giant white column capital building and
refused repeated orders to disperse or face arrest.
People prepared for
arrests, ready to face jail, writing lawyers phone
numbers on their arms, signing jail support lists
and discussing non-cooperation and active resistance
(linking arms, but not fighting back).
Do you have a friend or relative in the
service? Forward this E-MAIL along, or send us
the address if you wish and we’ll send it
Whether in Iraq or stuck on a base in the USA,
this is extra important for your service friend,
too often cut off from access to encouraging
news of growing resistance to the war, at home
and in Iraq.
Send requests to address up top.
Bloods Of The Nam
By Martin Smith (USMC
“Why should I come over here when some of the South
Vietnamese live better than my people in ‘the
world’? We have enough problems fighting white
people back home.”
interviewed by Wallace Terry
The Vietnam War was
the first fully integrated war fought by the United
States. Though some integrated units fought in
Korea, Vietnam was the first time Blacks fought side
by side extensively with Whites since the
Chinese, Guamian, Filipino, Hawaiian, Puerto Rican,
Japanese, Native American, and “White” ethnicities
all fought and served together. Thus, the story of
the soldiers’ experience could be told from many
different perspectives. Soldados by Charley
Trujllo, for example, is an oral history of Chicanos
whose perspective is rarely acknowledged as unique
and is a welcome addition to the complex story of
how race impacted the lives of soldiers.
In this chapter, I
will focus on the African American experience, not
because the vantage of other ethnicities or
discussions of other manifestations of racism in the
war are less important, but due to the unique
resistance that was present amongst the Black troops
who served during the war. Calling themselves
“Bloods,” African Americans soldiers fought back and
resisted the war, exposing the intersectional of
race and class.
At home, racial
tensions were exploding, and the civil rights
movement pushed northward as the demand for black
power came to the fore. Ghetto uprisings shook the
U.S from Newark to Watts.
Black Nationalism spilled over into the labor
movement as the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement
(DRUM) threatened corporate America at its Achilles
Heel, the auto industry.
DRUM pitted black militants against both the
bureaucratized white United Auto Workers (UAW) and
Dodge Main, where “niggermation”
had relegated blacks to the dangerous and unhealthy
work in the foundries and paint shops since the
Overseas, Blacks were
in a similar location of inequality in the
military. Mimicking civilian life, African
Americans were given the most degrading and
hazardous work as soldiers.
From Boot Camp, where black’s swept the barracks
while whites got easier chores, to Vietnam, where
Blacks disproportionately served in combat roles
while whites were often assigned to the rear, race
was a factor in promoting the segmentation of
Blacks assigned as
cooks or supply clerks often served in the field
instead and when they came out “got the jobs burning
shit in these 50-gallon drums.
Most of the white dudes got jobs as supply clerks or
in the mess hall,” Specialist 4 (Sp/4) Haywood T.
Kirkland points out.
And according to Sp/4 Robert E. Holcomb, “[Blacks]
were put in the jobs that were the most dangerous,
the hardest, or just the most undesirable. A white
soldier would probably get a better position. And
Hispanic soldiers and Jewish soldiers and Polish
soldiers would catch some flack, too. But not as
much as a Blood.”
The most perilous
assignment in Vietnam was the job of a grunt, and as
one advanced closer to the front, the color of the
troops often changed. In Guillermo Alvidrez’s Third
Marine unit, “60 per cent of the troops were either
black, Puerto Rican or Mexican/Chicano.”
Similarly both Mike Soliz recounts, “It seemed like
it was the minorities who were always the infantry
and Private James Barnes felt that “it’s always the
negro who’s waling [sic] point (up front). That
means he’s the first to get [hit].”
The government’s own
statistics expose the reality of racism. According
to David Cortright’s research, in 1971, Blacks, who
made of 12.1 percent of all enlisted, engaged in
16.3 of all combat job assignments and in some
infantry units were 20 percent and even 50 percent
In fact, there were so many Blacks assigned to the
field that it was often called, “Soulsville.”
Beyond the racialized
division of job assignments, other forms of racism
were a common experience as well. After Martin
Luther King’s assassination, whites burned crosses
at Da Nang and Cam Ran Bay, and confederate flags
were rampant, worn on patches by white troops and
hung from barracks.
Such overt expressions
of discrimination only mimicked the
institutionalized racism that denied Blacks
promotions and advancement.
In the Marine Corps in March 1972, for example,
Blacks represented 13 percent of enlisted personnel
but made up a staggering 17.9 percent of privates,
E1, the lowest rate for enlisted personnel.
And in 1974, Blacks made up only 4.2 percent and 2.0
percent of the officer class in the Army and Marine
As one black Marine put it, “Just like civilian
life, the white doesn’t want to see the black get
Fierce debates have
raged about the death rates of African Americans and
whether they were used as “cannon fodder,” as Sp/4
While it is true that Blacks did not die at
disproportionate rates when examining the entire
period of the Vietnam war. However during the
beginning years of the war, African Americans deaths
approached 21% of the total in both 1965-66 and died
at 25% in many front-line units in 1968.
These rates expose how Blacks died at stark rates of
disproportion through periods of the war and
depending on which units they served in. But
there’s more to the narrative than these statistic
at first suggest.
Outrage at the
disproportionate death rates in the early years of
the war by civil rights leaders in turn created an
anti-war critique that examined the role of race.
Many, including Stokely Carmichael, charged blacks
were being used as “mercenaries” and exposed to
Adam Clayton Powell spoke up, “First we provide an
inferior education for black students. Next we give
them a series of tests which many will flunk because
of an inferior education. Then, we pack these
academic failures off to Vietnam to be killed.”
In fact, In The Brothers’ Vietnam War, Herman
Graham III suggests a positive correlation between
the civil rights movement’s criticism of the war and
the equalization of African American death rates, as
the Department of Defense began reducing the
commitment of Black troops to the front lines during
the latter years of the war.
While the movement for
civil equality was expressed at home through an
emerging anti-war critique, the struggle for social
justice in the military was also being fought
overseas. In fact, black protest in Vietnam may be
a more likely direct cause for the withdrawal of
Black troops from the front and the proportioning of
Blacks were not simply
victims of a racist system but instead were active
participants in the fight for equality in Vietnam.
Yet, the story of black protest is complicated by
the experience of troops in the rear versus that of
the grunts in the field. There were, in fact, two
broad narratives of black resistance during the
war—one story of black consciousness and identity in
the rear and another of solidarity between troops
that reached beyond the color line “in the bush.”
Emboldened by Muhammad
Ali’s refusal to serve and angered by Martin Luther
Black power infected a significant number of troops,
particularly in the rear, and raised Black
consciousness above military identity.
According to Herman Graham III, “Black consciousness
offered a way for racially ‘brainwashed’ GIs to
deprogram their ingrained attitudes so that they
could experience a sense of personal power through
their own culture and their relationships with their
provided a means to counter military ceremonial
customs. Blacks formed “soul sessions” or rap
groups and discussed their concerns in their tents.
Such informal meetings later grew to become formal
organizations and cultural awareness and political
groups formed, such as the Better Blacks United,
Black Liberation Front of the Armed Forces, Malcolm
X Association, Unsatisfied Black Soldiers, and more.
The dap, a complex
hand-shake of grips and slaps that could last
minutes, was also a form of bonding that was viewed
with hostility by whites and even banned by the
To express solidarity rather than the subservience
associated with the military salute, the dap, also
called “the power,” is Vietnamese for the word
John Harrison described its significance, “It was a
way to piss white people off, and any time we could
do that, we felt good.”
In at least one incident, the dap lead to a fight
with Whites who retaliated to this bold act of Black
Yet the dap was one of
many forms of informal resistance that also included
protest culture, such as the wearing of black
sunglasses, armbands, shirts, and gloves.
In addition, some unfurled the Red, Black, and Green
Flag, popularized by the Marcus Garvey movement, to
counter the rebel flags popular with Southern
At Da Nang, Black power members explained the
significance of the flag: “red for the blood shed by
Negroes in Viet Nam and at home, black for the face
of black culture, and green for youth and new ideas.
Crossed spears and a
shield at the center signify ‘violence if
necessary,’ and a surrounding wreath ‘peace if
possible’ between blacks and whites.”
In the Navy, Blacks also won the right to wear
longer hair out of a demand to keep the Afro
hairstyle, popularized during the period. Thus
Black power in Vietnam encompassed both bonding
rituals and cultural defiance.
Blacks also subverted
language expressions. By claiming the words of the
Black power movement, troops began to express new
forms of solidarity and empowerment with each
other. Raising consciousness through verbal
expressions--“to blackenize”—allowed GIs to turn
hegemony on its head.
As Reginald Edwards recalled:
When I went to
Quantico, my being black, they gave me the black
squad, the squad with most of the blacks, especially
the militant blacks. And they started hippin’
me…[T]hey hipped me to terms like “exploitation” and
“oppression.”…So then one day, I just told them I
was black. I didn’t call them blanco, they didn’t
have to call me Negro. That’s what started to get
me in trouble. I became a target. Somebody to
Other words such as
“bloods,” “brothers,” “togetherness,” and “unity”
were often spoken as affirmations of Black
Thus language became a form of informal resistance.
brought stinging criticism of the war, often on
different terms than that of Whites. Many soldiers
developed a third world analysis and expressed
solidarity with the collective struggle by people of
color against a dominant white power structure,
calling Vietnam a “white man’s war.”
In a Life
magazine article, John Saar notes that half of Alpha
Company’s Black soldiers are in agreement with
Private First Class John Munn who states, “I have
nothing against that little man out there. They’re
fighting for what they believe in, and you can’t
knock that…and I say what am I doing here? I can
imagine a war back in the world that I’d fight and
wouldn’t mind dying in—to keep your people free.”
First Class William C. Lewis explained in a
interview, “Before I went to Vietnam, white dudes
were all right with me…But after Vietnam I didn’t
care too much for them. I still don’t. I have no
respect for the Man. What I’ve seen them do to the
to all people, I don’t like them. I hate them, you
In a shrewd strategic
move, the National Liberation Front, realizing the
tension between blacks and white U.S. troops,
appealed to African American and posted signs urging
them to consider whom the real enemy was. One such
sign read, “U.S. Negro Army Men: You are committing
the same ignominious crimes to South Vietnam [word
unreadable] that the KKK clique is perpetrating
against your family at home.”
Other troops simply
felt it was the wrong war due to the plight of Black
America at home. In a survey of 400 Black enlisted
troops in Vietnam by Wallace Terry, “60% agreed that
black people should not fight in Viet Nam because
they have problems back home.”
The growth of a
conscious militant Black voice of the soldiers in
Vietnam brought reaction.
As Emmett T. Doe, Jr.,
a black combat veteran interviewed in
explained: “Little by little, my black brothers in
the center began to unite. But when this growing
sense of unity became visible to the white officers,
they sought to destroy it.”
Troops of color were
locked up and imprisoned in the stockades at
In a 1971 study by the
Justice Department given to the House Armed Services
Committee, Blacks were 30 percent of the Army and 53
percent of the Air Force prison populations.
Revealing the positive correlation between
dissidence and military repression, the Army’s
prison population tripled during the war, and the
Army’s 1970 MacCormick Commission revealed that all
its stockades were rife with “antiwar, anti-army
prisoners” and “determined dissidents.”
But the combination of
Black resistance, overcrowded and dilapidated
facilities, and poor training of staff guards
exacerbated the situation; it was a tinderbox
waiting to explode. In August of 1968, major prison
rebellions rocked Da Nang and Long Binh, led by
Vietnam GI, 150 prisoners stated a
demonstration on August 16, 1968 and took “virtual
control of the brig,” protesting overcrowded cells,
cold food, standing at attention for excessive
periods, and “the insulting ‘lick-ass-or-else’
attitude of the guards.”
After four days, eight
Marines where shot for participating in the
rebellion in an attempt to quell future dissidence.
A similar but bloodier uprising occurred at Long
Binh Jail. According to David Cortright,
overcrowded cells, no plumbing, and inexperienced
guards led to a riot of over a hundred prisoners.
From the clash, twenty-three soldiers were
hospitalized and one Private killed. In response,
over 200 blacks organized a no-work strike and a
small group barricaded a part of the prison for over
a month, reinventing the space as a free “liberated
African state” which prided itself with “African
dress and customs.”
These two stockade
rebellions are only examples of many similar
uprising that occurred in the military prisons
stateside. These rebellions may be linked to the
civilian movement to free political prisoners, the
Attica Correctional Facility rebellion on September
13, 1971 and the case of Angela Davis being the most
famous. Therefore even when faced with extreme
repression, Black troops found a means to resist and
subvert the dominant power structure.
Nationalism influenced a significant layer of Black
troops, it is not the only story of the experience
of the “bloods.” In fact in the front, in combat,
multi-ethnic solidarity began to unite across the
color line. One veteran explained in a
expose how troops overcame the divide of race:
“There was an amount
of prejudice in Vietnam, but when you got out in the
jungle there was no room for prejudice, because you
would want your enemy to see that other silhouette
that’s standing beside [you] regardless of his color
because he[‘s] got more targets to shoot at.
“So, this is what
taught me that this is just a tradition that was
just passed down to us to be prejudice, to look upon
people differently, because when your life is at
stake, it doesn’t make any difference that the man
to the left or the right of you is black, yellow,
red, orange, it makes no difference as long as he
perform[s] his duty and protects your back. Now
this is what caused me to throw away to sit down and
reanalyze a lot of concepts that I had, thoughts
that I had…especially when I was in Vietnam I
got…very militant--black power, brother and
everything, but when I thought over my experience I
came to [another]…conclusion.”
For this veteran, the
hold of Black Nationalism fragmented when the
struggle for daily survival came to the fore. A
similar pattern of unity is told in the oral history
collection Soldados. Miguel Lemus, who
served in the 11th Cavalry, for example,
explains, “As for the races bit, we had to learn to
get along because in time of action there was no
color. In action everybody works together as a
Gastelo of the Americal Division, points out the
sense of unity in the field, “At times the Puerto
Ricans had some hassles with the negroes, and the
Chicanos would back the Puerto Ricans. But I should
make it clear that these types of problems usually
occurred in the rear, in the bush everyone was much
Just as the working
class back in the world during struggle, through
strikes and grassroots organizing, often overcomes
the division of racism, understanding their
solidarities of sameness—so too did the troops in
Vietnam realize that in combat—the divide of race
had no place in their daily struggle for survival.
The bloods of Nam were
not passive victims but fought back and resisted
attempts to control their lives through the divide
of race. In the rear, troops formed “rap groups”
that grew into formal organizations.
brought unique clothing, symbols, and language that
turned hegemony on its head, which in term often
brought reaction by the military brass. The
military stockades were disproportionately made up
of people of color; however, these conditions often
fueled rebellion, including riots at Long Binh and
Da Nang. However, it was in the field that Black
Nationalism had less weight and that troops began to
see beyond the color line, and it was a unity of
survival that would bring more threatening forms of
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