Congress. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration
of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws.
Extent of Subversion in Campus Disorders. Washington, D. C.: GPO, 1969.
Pt. 2: Testimony of Max Phillip Friedman (August 12, 1969).
THE CASE OF GIs UNITED AGAINST THE WAR IN VIETNAM, FORT JACKSON, S.C.
GIS FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTS UNDER THE U.S. CONSTITUTION
On the evening of March 20, 1969, at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, a group of over 100 enlisted
men gathered together after dinner to discuss the war in Vietnam. The meeting was called by
member of GIs United Against the War in Vietnam, a group of antiwar GIs who have been actively
arguing against the war at Ft. Jackson. GIs United is predominantly black and Puerto Rican in
composition, but it includes many white soldiers as well.
The March 20 meeting was one of a series of meetings held by GIs United, dating back to February,
1969. These meetings have been held with the knowledge, and therefore implicit approval, of the
Army officials at Fort Jackson. Officers were present at the March 20 meeting, and aside from
criticizing the dress and haircut of the antiwar GIs, they did not interfere with the meeting.
But the following day Army officials arrested four of the members of GIs United, and charged them
with breach of the peace, disrespect to an officer, disobeying an order, holding an illegal
demonstration, and breaking restriction. Later, five additional GIs were placed under barracks
arrest. All of the charges refer to the evening of March 20. The Army now claims that the
peaceful meeting was in reality a "demonstration" (which would make it a violation of
Army regulations), and that the soldiers refused to disperse after they were ordered to do so.
No orders to disperse were given at any time during the meeting. Moreover, there was no
"breach of the peace" because the meeting was perfectly orderly, and broke up of its
own accord after about an hour.
A Political Frame-Up
Why is the Army trying so hard to imprison these antiwar GIs? The answer lies in the fact that
GIs United has been vigorously fighting for the constitutional rights of GIs as citizens to
discuss the war in Vietnam. As a result, much national publicity has been focused on Ft.
Jackson. The Army, in its own clumsy, authoritarian manner, has responded to this situation by
trying to railroad these GIs into the stockade.
GIs United began last February to circulate a petition addressed to Gen. James Hollingsworth, the
Commanding General at Fort Jackson, asking him to make facilities available for an open meeting
on the base at which the GIs could "hold a peaceful, legal meeting open to any enlisted man
or officer at Fort Jackson. We desire only to exercise the rights guaranteed to us as citizens
and soldiers by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution." Several hundred signatures
were obtained on this petition. But when the GIs tried to present it, Army officials refused to
accept it because, said the official spokesman, it represented "collective bargaining."
In response to this blatant denial of their rights, ten members of GIs United, through their
attorneys Leonard Boudin of New York, David Rein of Washington, Howard Moore of Atlanta, and
Thomas Broadwater of Columbia, S.C., filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of
South Carolina. The suit asks for a declaratory judgment by the court that the plaintiffs and
all other GIs at Fort Jackson have the right to hold meetings on or off post to discuss matters
of concern to them, including the war in Vietnam, and that they have the right to circulate
petitions for redress of grievances. The suit further asks for a court order directing the
Commanding General to grant facilities for a meeting at which GIs could discuss public issues.
It also requests the court to enjoin the Army from harassing and attempting to intimidate the
GIs who are trying to exercise their First Amendment rights. This suit, if victorious, will have
Of the ten plaintiffs who instituted the suit, five are among those facing courts-martial; one
other was given a punitive transfer to Fort Bragg; and one is being threatened with a less than
In short, the Army is responding to the fight by GIs for their constitutional rights with a crude
frame-up in an attempt to silence all antiwar or civil libertarian voices of dissent within its
ranks. That is why the GIs are now facing courts-martial.
The McCarthyite procedures which the Army is following were made even clearer when it was
disclosed that one of the GIs originally arrested was, in fact, operating "in the interest
of the command." In other words, as a spy, and agent-provocateur within the ranks of GIs
United. The fact that this agent, who went by the name of John Huffman, was present at meetings
where defense strategy was discussed by the GIs with their attorneys, severely compromises the
Army's case. Charges against this man were, of course, dropped. The "Fort Jackson
Nine" became the "Fort Jackson Eight."
A Question of Fundamental Rights
The basic issues involved in the case of the Fort Jackson GIs are simple, but they are
fundamental questions of civil liberties that affect all Americans.
Both the lawsuit against the Army and the frame-up directed against the men deal directly with
the same issue: are solders, who are citizens in uniform, protected by the U.S. Constitution,
and in particular the First Amendment to the Constitution? Do GIs have the same right to discuss
and take positions on the war in Vietnam and other issues of public concern as do citizens
fortunate enough not to have been drafted?
Can the Army really expect that, with the entire country divided about the correctness of
America's policy in Vietnam, with millions of Americans demonstrating against the war, with
Senators and Congressmen daily expressing opinions pro and con, the very men who are asked to
fight that war will not have an opinion though they are members of the armed forces?
Writing in the April 20, 1969, issue of The New York Times, Ben A. Franklin clearly
exposes the Army's frame-up attempt: "A classic case approaches a climax this week at Fort
Jackson, S.C. By harassing, restricting and arresting on dubious charges the leaders of an
interracial militant enlisted group there called GIs United Against the War in Vietnam, Fort
Jackson's brass has produced a cause celebre out of all proportion to the known facts. It has
also brought about two court actions, directed by capable and contentious civilian legal counsel,
which may give a merely fractious episode lasting effect.
"The Fort Jackson lawsuits, if they are upheld, will give the courts a clear opening to
declare that American enlisted men do, indeed, have the same right to oppose by all lawful,
orderly means the course chosen by their Government and military leaders...."
The Fort Jackson GIs both in their lawsuit against the Army and in their courts-martial, is
being handled by the GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee. The GI CLDC was established in the
fall of 1968 to help defend GIs whose constitutional rights are infringed upon by the Armed
Forces. The GI CLDC has organized the support for the Fort Jackson case from the beginning.
It has obtained the legal counsel mentioned above for the suit against the Army; and the same
team of lawyers has agreed to handle the defense of the GIs who have been framed-up. In addition
to arranging legal counsel, the GI CLDC has undertaken an aggressive and successful campaign to
get the word out about the situation at Fort Jackson. As a result of its efforts, national
attention has been directed to the constitutional fight of GIs United at Fort Jackson.
The GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee urges all Americans to come to the support of these GIs
in their fight for their civil liberties.
What You Can Do
- Send a donation to the GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee to help cover the extremely high
expenses involved in this case. Send to: GICLDC, Box 355, Old Chelsea Station, N.Y., N.Y., 10011.
- Send letters of protest to Gen. James Hollingsworth, Commanding General, Fort Jackson, S.C.,
and to Stanley Resor, Secretary of the Army, Washington, D.C. Copies of all messages should be
sent to the GI CLDC. Urge prominent people in your area to send similar messages. Get messages
of support from lawyers, professors, trade unionists, black and Puerto Rican leaders, etc.
- Become a sponsor of the GI CLDC, and urge others to do so also. (Use coupon on this brochure.)
- Organize meetings and conduct demonstrations in support of the Ft. Jackson GIs. Speakers on
the case can be obtained by writing to the GI CLDC.
- Express support to the GIs at Fort Jackson directly. Mail can be sent to The GIs in care of
the GI CLDC office in New York, and it will be forwarded.
STATEMENT OF AIMS OF THE GI CIVIL LIBERTIES DEFENSE COMMITTEE
The purpose of the GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee is to defend the rights of American
citizens in uniform to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and
association, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. It supports
the right of GIs to use those and all other constitutionally guaranteed liberties to express
their opinions on public affairs and political issues, including the war in Vietnam.
It extends this support by obtaining legal counsel for GIs whose rights are violated and by
publicizing their cases.
Toward this end it raises funds and solicits the endorsement and support of all those who uphold
the constitutional rights of American servicemen.
SPONSORS OF THE GI CIVIL LIBERTIES DEFENSE COMMITTEE
Organizations listed for identification purposes only. Sponsorship does not imply agreement with
the political views of any of the defendants.
Prof. Carl Barus, Swarthmore College
Nettie E. Bell
Prof. Fred J. Carrier, Villanova University
William C. Davidson, Resist
Allen Fleishman, National Lawyers Guild
Maurice Geary, Michigan Civil Rights Commission
Prof. Marvin E. Gettleman, author of Vietnam
Rev. David M. Gracie, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Philadelphia
Terence Hallinan, attorney
Chairman Fred Hampton, Illinois Black Panther Party
Prof. George Jones, Jr., Gustavus Adolphus College
Prof. Donald Kalish, UCLA
C. Clark Kissinger, Guardian
Prof. Sue Larson, Barnard College
Prof. Eleanor Leacock, Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn
Sandra Levinson, New York editor of Ramparts
Bob Lucas, Black Liberation Alliance, Chicago
Howard N. Meyer, writer
George Novack, author
Rev. Ed Riddick, SCLC
Irving Sarnoff, Chairman, Peace Action of Southern California
Prof. Ernest A. Smith, Hunter College, CUNY
Dr. Benjamin Spock
Paul M. Sweezy, Monthly Review
Ethel Taylor, Women Strike for Peace
Lyn Wells, SSOC-SDS
Prof. David White, Macalester College
Prof. May Arnold Twining, Georgia State College
Prof. Maurice Zeitlin, University of Wisconsin