To the Editors:
Pfc. George Daniels and Lance Corporal William L. Harvey, black Marines, were court-martialed at Camp Pendelton, Calif., in the summer of 1967 for the crime of talking in opposition to the Vietnam war in a barracks bull session and got 10 years and 6 years respectively!!! Black Muslims, they had urged racial separation and called Vietnam a white man’s war. Melvin L. Wulf, attorney assigned by the national office of the American Civil Liberties Union to appeal the case, wrote to Maj. Gen. Lewis J. Fields, Camp Pendelton commanding officer, in May, 1968, urging him to reduce the sentences to time already served, if not set the convictions aside altogether. “The central feature of these convictions is that the defendants were convicted not for doing something, but only for saying something… Neither the defendants nor any of their fellow Marines whose loyalty, morale and discipline they were charged with impairing, refused to obey any order or, specifically, refused to obey orders to go to Vietnam,” wrote Wulf, and: “If the statements had any effect, and the causal relationship is ambiguous at best, it was to suggest to a handful of men to request Mast (a session held by an officer to hear complaints or impose discipline) to discuss a number of issues including Vietnam.”
Since what they have done are not criminal offenses, contends Wulf, the sentences raise the question of “whether members of the armed forces are to be severely punished for speaking among themselves about religious and political subjects which may be unorthodox…. They involve not only the First Amendment in general but, in particular, they involve the right of citizens of the United States to discuss and criticize government policy freely without fear that they will consequently be put into prison. The entire history and tradition of our country grows directly from that freedom.”
Perhaps because Daniels and Harvey are black no one bothered to pay much attention to the ACLU plea in the press or electronic media, the good general let the sentences stand, and two men who dared to open their mouths have been in the Portsmouth, New Hampshire Naval Disciplinary Barracks since August, 1967. The ACLU is carrying the appeal to the Military Review Board in the Pentagon in a couple of weeks. We urge everyone reading this factsheet to write immediately to both President Nixon and Secretary of Defense Laird urging their intervention to secure justice for G.I.’s Daniels and Harvey. Send copies of your communications to Melvin L. Wulf, ACLU, 156 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10010. Letters of greetings to Daniels and Harvey can also be sent to Mr. Wulf.
These men must be freed! At their court-martial conducted in secret by an all-officer panel without civilian counsel, prosecutor Capt. Paul R. Constantino said, “…the Government submits to the court that the sentence which the court will impose on the accused will also serve as an example to other Marines.” Decent Americans must make the freeing of Daniels and Harvey an example to the government.
Veterans for Peace in Vietnam
P.O. Box 4598
Chicago, Ill. 60680
Tel. (312) 421-2699
April 24, 1969