Racial Tensions in the Military

Billy Dean Smith

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Up from the Bottom. San Diego, CA, 2(1), January 17, 1972.

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Source: Up from the Bottom. San Diego, CA, 2(1), January 17, 1972.

Join the Billy Dean Smith Defense Committee


The newly organized local chapter of the Billy Dean Smith Defense Committee will hold a car wash on Sunday, January 30, to raise funds for Billy's defense.

The committee will wash cars from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the corner of 32nd Street and National Avenue in the parking lot next to the Center for Servicemen's Rights.

Other events are being planned by the committee to get the word out about Billy and raise money for the trial. Things being talked about include People's Dances and movie benefits.

Meetings are held each Wednesday night at 7:30 at the Enlisted People's Place, 4844 Voltaire St. in Ocean Beach. Everyone who can contribute time and energy to the case is urged to attend. Anyone who needs a ride can call 225-8349 or 239-2119.

The case should come to trial some time in March or April so it is crucial that education and fundraising be done now. Billy has said only the efforts of masses of people will set him free.

Tickets for the car wash are $1 and can be picked up at the Center or EPP, or bought at the car wash.


Source: Up from the Bottom. San Diego, CA, 2(1), January 17, 1972.

Source: Up from the Bottom. San Diego, CA, 2(1), January 17, 1972.


Billy Dean Smith, a Black Army Private from Watts, California, has been in the stockade at Ft. Ord for over 10 months now awaiting trial for a fragging incident that occurred in Vietnam last March. Two lieutenants were killed and a third was injured.

The concrete evidence that the Army has against Billy is a grenade pin and a pair of "suspicious" looking black gloves that were found in the pocket of his field jacket when he was busted. Grenade pins are so common in Vietnam that a lot of grunts make hat bands out of them. The one found in Billy's jacket was analyzed by CID labs in Japan and found to have no connection with the frag that killed the officers.

It's the circumstantial evidence that the Army wants to convict Billy on. He's poor, Black, hates the Army, opposes the Vietnam War and thinks fragging is a good way to deal with uncontrollable racist officers. It is for these reasons that the Army has kept Billy in solitary confinement for the past ten months and hopes to put him before a firing squad.

Billy was busted for a curfew violation during the 1965 Watts insurrection, in which the California National Guard occupied and "pacified" south-central Los Angeles; so he knew what the military and the Vietnam War was about before he even went in.

He tried to flunk his induction tests but didn't succeed. He wanted to fight his induction orders bt decided against it because his family didn't want him to go to jail.

So after basic at Ord and artillery training at Ft. Sill, Billy ended up in Vietnam in October of 1970. Because he refused to take racist abuse and act like a slave for his C.O. and first sargeant, Billy quickly developed a reputation for having a "bad attitude." He picked up three Article 15's (NJP) for minor infractions and was put in for an undesirable discharge.

Billy's first shirt, Willey, and C.O. Rigby weren't even in the barracks when the grenade was tossed in. When they heard about it they decided that Billy must have done it, and even if he didn't, a court martial would serve him right for not knowing "his place."

These two racist dogs contacted CID and then called a battalion formation. Without a single scrap of evidence, Billy Dean Smith was called to the front of the formation, a heavy CID hand was slapped on his shoulder, and he was told he was under arrest for murder. To this was added the charge of resisting arrest for pushing the CID pig's hand off his shoulder, and two counts of attempted murder against the first shirt and C.O., if you can believe it.

It is clear that Billy is being held by the Army in an effort to deal with the spreading use of fragmentation grenades against uncontrollable officers and lifers in Vietnam. The Pentagon admitted to 209 fraggings last year and most brothers coming back from ‘Nam say that is just the top of the iceberg.

But the Army hasn't had any luck getting G.I.'s to rat on their brothers, and frags don't leave any physical evidence to build a case on. So just about every fragging has gone unsolved.

Pentagon officials hope that the use of Billy Dean Smith, sitting in his isolation cell at Ft. Ord, will intimidate other brothers who are trying to get things together to take control of the military out of the hands of the military-industrial stooges and put it in the hands of the people.

But it isn't going to work. The G.I. struggle is intensifying, and will continue to intensify. The following message was issued by a group called the "G.I. Guerrillas" at Ft. Ord:

"We are a group of dissident G.I.'s at Ft. Ord. We firebombed Billy Smith's new courtroom, which burned an outer wall before it was put out. We destroyed a trainee indoctrination theatre to give Gen. Westmoreland a warm welcome at Ft. Ord, as well as create distraction for another group of us to rip off an arms room. We destroyed the headquarters of the 91st Infantry. Our actions are a result of the oppression all G.I.'s live under. We were sparked by the case of Billy Smith and fueled by the military and police oppression of all poor, working and non-white peoples. We are fighting against U.S. imperialism and its rotten capitalist society, and for a people's revolution."


Another group, the Billy Dean Smith Defense Committee, is working on Billy's courtroom fight. They are in desperate need of funds to send a lawyer to Vietnam to gather testimony and other evidence. Donations are needed. Send what you can to: Billy Dean Smith Defense Committee, Suite 60J, 6430 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, California 90028.

In the coming months we will be holding educational programs and demonstrations demanding that Billy be set free. We'd also like to send a contingent to the court martial if enough people want to go. Keep in touch with the Enlisted Peoples Place and Center for Servicemen's rights to find out what's happening.


Source: Up from the Bottom. San Diego, CA, 2(1), January 17, 1972.

When one of Billy Dean Smith's lawyers mentioned Lt. William Calley's name during one of Billy's pretrial hearings last summer the military prosecutor objected on the grounds that Lt. Calley and Pvt. Smith had "nothing in common."

With that statement, which was quickly sustained by the chump military judge, the prosecutor exposed the Uniform Code of Military Injustice and the entire military for what it is - a fascist, racist institution that doesn't give a damn about poor and working people, especially non-white people.

It's true that Lt. Calley and Billy Smith have nothing in common. Calley is white; Billy is black. Calley is an officer; Billy's an enlisted man. Calley was convicted of murdering 22 Vietnamese men, women and children; Billy is being held on suspicion of killing two white Army officers.

Because of their different places on the military's (and America's) social order, Billy has been locked in an isolation cell for the past 10 months awaiting trial, while Calley wasn't even confined before his trial, and spent less than half a day in the stockade after the verdict came down before Nixon had him transferred to a bachelor apartment on post.

Billy says he's willing to stay in his cell for as long as it takes to expose the military for the racist institution it is.

We who are aware of the plans the military has for Billy Dean Smith have got to do all we can to get the word out to the rest of our brothers in the service.

Every attack against a brother in the service just intensifies our struggle against military injustice and our commitment to building a new society.

One way or another, Billy Dean Smith will be set free.

Read more from this issue in G.I. Publications.

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Kief Schladweiler
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