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October Operation Sealord begins the largest combined naval operation of the entire war as over 1200 U.S. Navy and South Vietnamese Navy gunboats and warships target NVA (OR PVAN OR VPA) supply lines extending from Cambodia into the Mekong Delta.
Tacoma’s Shelter Half coffeehouse, the fifth such coffeehouse in the nation, is set up. A shelter half is a 3-by-5-foot piece of sticky canvas, issued to every soldier in the field: one shelter half is useless, but when two are joined together, it creates a comfortable two-person tent. Tacoma’s coffeehouse was conceived to serve the same purpose, of getting people together to construct something useful. The civilian and veteran staff of the coffeehouse worked with active-duty soldiers to produce the next two newspapers to come from Fort Lewis, and in addition, provided movie showings, cheap dinners, and a place where soldiers who were not yet part of the active GI movement could become involved.
Supreme Court Justice Douglas gives Lt. Hugh Smith a stay against the transfer order because of the “serious First Amendment question involved in the transfer”. The stay was granted two hours before Smith was to have left for Seattle on route to Taiwan.
The GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee issues an appeal for telegrams of support on behalf of antiwar GI’s Pfc. Walter Kos (Fort Bragg, NC), and Pfc. Edwin Glover (Fort Benning, Georgia).
Larry Freidberg threatened with “general discharge” for signing petition calling for immediate withdrawal from Vietnam published in The New York Times.
October 1 Fort Dix – Spec/4 Allen Myers is acquitted of charges that he had distributed leaflets and other printed matter that was “in bad taste,” “prejudicial to good order,” or “subversive.”
October 5-9 The Catonsville Nine are tried in federal court. The lead defense attorney William Kunstler. They are found guilty of destruction of U.S. property, destruction of Selective Service files, and interference with the Selective Service Act of 1967. They are also sentenced to a total of 18 years’ jail time and a fine of $22,000. Several of the nine—Mary Moylan, Phil Berrigan, Dan Berrigan and George Mische—go “underground” when it comes time to show up for prison. Father Dan Berrigan causes considerable embarrassment to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover by popping up and giving sermons and then fading back into the “underground”.
October 10 Navy nurse Susan Schnall drops flyers about the upcoming GI and Veterans March for Peace over several military installations in the San Francisco Bay Area: Treasure Island, Yerba Buena Island, Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, the Presidio, and Alameda Naval Air Station on the deck of the USS Ranger-an aircraft carrier; holds a press conference afterwards to take credit for action.
October 12 GI’s for Peace organized and led another march to end the war in Vietnam. Harvey photographed this march led by active duty soldiers in uniform in full defiance of U.S. Army orders not to do that. Navy nurse Schnall wears Navy uniform and gives a speech against the war.
October 14 The Presidio mutiny: a sit-down protest is carried out by 27 prisoners at the Presidio stockade in San Francisco, California. The stiff sentences given out at courts martial for the participants (known as the Presidio 27) attract attention to the extent of sentiment against the Vietnam War in the armed forces. Two events set the stage for the protest. The first was the death of Richard Bunch, a prisoner in the stockade, who was killed on October 11 with a shotgun blast after walking away from a work detail. Other prisoners state that he taunted guards to shoot him. That evening there is a vocal protest against the killing. The stockade is overcrowded, with up to 140 prisoners housed in a space intended for 88, and there are charges of mistreatment by guards.
The protest is set into motion by a group of four AWOL soldiers who turn themselves in the next day at the end of a large anti-war march in San Francisco, where the Presidio is located. The military had made attempts to prevent service members from participating in the march, ordering up mandatory formations and special maneuvers to keep men on base. Nevertheless a large contingent of several hundred active duty and reserve servicemen march at the front of the parade. The four AWOL soldiers (Linden Blake, Keith Mather, Walter Pawlowski, and Randy Rowland), having been put in the stockade, meet with prisoners over the weekend and convince them to participate in a protest over prisoner conditions and against the war.
The protest is carried out during the morning formation on Monday the 14th. 28 prisoners break ranks and sat in the grass, singing “We Shall Overcome“. One of them returned to ranks when challenged, but the remainder continue to sing, with Pawlowski reading a list of demands. After orders to disperse are ignored, the camp commandant reads the articles of mutiny, and eventually the protest is broken up by military police who remove the protesters. See The Unlawful Concert by Fred Gardner for a fuller description of the Presidio mutiny.
Lt. Susan Schnall is charged under Articles 92 and 133 of the UCMJ as result of her participation in the October 12th GI/Vets organized antiwar demonstration in San Francisco. A1/C Michael Locks is charged with wearing his uniform to the same antiwar demonstration in San Francisco.
October 21 The U.S. releases 14 North Vietnamese POWs.
October 25-26 Six of the Fort Hood 43 (see entries for August 23-24 and September 21 and 28) were singled out for harsher punishment because they were said to have played a leading role, although the prosecutors did not try to prove this at their trials. Sp/4 Tolley Royal and Sp/4 Albert Henry received 3 months hard labor. Royal’s sentence did not include confinement. Henry was confined to the stockade. Ernest Fredrick and PFC Guy Smith were given bad conduct discharges. The remaining two, Sgt. Rucker and PFC Bess, were acquitted earlier in the trial.
October 27 In London, 50,000 protest the war.
October 31 Operation Rolling Thunder ends as President Johnson announces a complete halt of U.S. bombing of North Vietnam in the hope of restarting the peace talks.
Throughout the three and a half year bombing campaign, the U.S. dropped a million tons of bombs on North Vietnam, the equivalent of 800 tons per day, with little actual success in halting the flow of soldiers and supplies into the South or in damaging North Vietnamese morale. In fact, the opposite has occurred as the North Vietnamese patriotically rallied around their leaders as a result of the onslaught. By now, many towns south of Hanoi have been leveled with a U.S. estimate of 52,000 civilian deaths.
During Rolling Thunder, North Vietnam’s sophisticated, Soviet-supplied air defense system manage to shoot down 922 U.S. aircraft during 2380 sorties flown by B-52 bombers and over 300,000 sorties by U.S. Navy and Air Force fighter-bombers.
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