Connecting the Troopers of Today with the Veterans of Yesterday.
I am reaching out to anyone that can help me provide evidence to the VA there were racial tensions in West Germany during 1970-1972.
I was assigned to Troop I, 3/2 ACR at the Pond Barracks Boarder Camp. In early January of 1971, on the evening I initially arrived at the squadron headquarters, I witnessed burning crosses and heard explosions in the main parade field. I checked in with the CQ of Troop I and was issued a room. My troop was participating in a firing exercise at the Grafenwoehr Army base.
Shortly after settling into my new home I heard 2-gun shots from down the hall. I went to the CQ's office and found him with his service pistol drawn. He explained to me that two African American Soldiers attempted to do bodily harm to him and he fired his weapon into the ceiling to protect himself and convince the soldiers to leave.
The MP's were soon there and interviewed me on what I had witnessed. I returned to my room and throughout the night there were several incidents of individuals yelling racial slurs inside and outside the barracks. It was though a riot was in progress.
Racial tensions were common in our squadron the entire time I was assigned there. The only African American who would associate with me was a fellow E-5 in my troop. I respected him and consider him a friend. I felt that my positive relationship with him was the only reason I wasn't personally targeted and physically attacked during my assignment. It was a tough neighborhood. Morale and discipline at that time was very poor.
I have contacted the VA Claims Unit and they deny there were any racial tensions and/or riots during that period of time in my squadron. VA denied my initial PTSD and supplemental claims as non-service-related due to Insufficient evidence. I submitted several stressors as part of my claim and the racial tensions I was exposed to is one of them. Currently I have a Higher-Level Review pending.
I am hoping someone lived through this nightmare as well and can offer any information I can use to convince the VA this activity and condition was real. Attached are two New York Times articles that were written during that period. I believe these articles confirm there were serious issues ongoing within the army rank and file in West Germany during 1970-1972. Please reply if you have any information or advise that can assist me.
Thank you for your service!
G.I.'s in Germany: Black Is Bitter
By Thomas A. Johnson; Special to The New York Times
About the Archive
This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996. To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them.
Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions.
SCHWEINFURT, West Ger many — “They keep asking, What's the problem, what's the problem?’ “Sgt. James Anthony, a 20‐year‐old black, ex claimed bitterly at the mention of a Pentagon team investigating racial disorders among American soldiers in West Ger many.
“Hell,” he said, referring to the white man in general, “he knows the problem! He is the problem!”
The sergeant, a native of East St. Louis, Ill., is a squad leader. He wears granny glasses perched on his nose and an Afro hairstyle — “packed down during the day and combed out at night.” He went on, his anger rising:
“The black man's got no business being in the Army if this mess keeps up. They keep killing our people back home and we're still being sent out to the Nam! We fight there and then we're shipped to Germany and we fill the jails here.”
Sergeant Anthony touched on the core of widespread hostility and bitterness among black G.I.'s in Germany—attitudes. that have seriously affected morale and discipline and threaten, as senior officers and non-commissioned officers con ceded during a month of inter views, to undermine the combat efficiency of the 165,000‐man Seventh Army.
“There is no doubt,” a senior infantry officer said, “that race is our most serious internal problem. We'd better solve it fast if we are going to run an Army.”
A black sergeant first class with 18 years' service said his infantry outfit “no longer functions like an Army platoon but like two street gangs.” And a white junior officer complained: “Racial problems take all my time—now and then I get around to running a company.”
In addition, the Pentagon team, headed by a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Frank W. Render 2d, a 34‐year‐ old black, has reported “great frustrations” and “highly volatile anger” during a three‐week investigation in Europe.
Military spokesmen are quick to contend that, in the main, black and white soldiers get along without fighting—that they keep the military machine functioning with a good deal more integration and equal opportunity than most American civilian institutions.
That is true, in large, for across West Germany black and white soldiers can be observed working together, playing in organized athletics and pushing truck convoys along the autobahns.
During Oktoberfest this year, blacks and whites were seen in several German cities eating bratwurst and drinking and singing along with the Ger mans. In some instances, blacks and whites could be seen drinking in the same bars.
Some Loss of Life
Nonetheless, blacks and whites have clashed here with increasing frequency, with some loss of life and with numerous injuries. Blacks and whites tend to go their separate ways when they relax and, for the most part, activist organizations formed in recent months have been racially exclusive.
The problem in Germany Is deeply rooted in American racial patterns and there seem to be several reasons that the dis orders are occurring at this time.
The young black soldier is displaying a far more consistent militance in reaction to incidents of discrimination — whether real or imagined — than did his predecessors, who could be expected to swallow hard at what they considered part of the national fabric. His immediate reactions to discrimination now in the United States, in the military and among German tavern owners and landlords’ function as the trigger for numerous — almost daily—racial disorders.
The traditional regimentation and “chain of command” have often exacerbated the situation.
“When my battalion commander tells me there is no discrimination in this outfit,” a young white officer in Mannheim remarked, “I say there is no discrimination in this outfit—whether there is discrimination or not.”
Lower‐ranking officers and noncoms will often hide problems from their superiors rather than draw unwanted attention to themselves. In addition, many younger officers have failed to respond quickly enough to relatively simple administrative matters that eventually got out of hand and where blacks were concerned, took on racial over tones.
Turnabout in Attitudes
Among the younger black soldiers—blacks make up some 13 per cent of the Army in West Germany — there has been a fairly recent turnabout in attitudes.
Three years ago black troops in Vietnam, where they have suffered 16 per cent of the com bat fatalities and have won 20 per cent of the Medals of Honor, told newsmen, “We're proving ourselves.”
Many thought they were the first of their race to fight for the United States.
In Germany today the better informed young black soldier can cite dates and places to prove that his antecedents fought — most often in numbers disproportionate to the black population—in all American wars.
“And still not a damn thing has changed for black people,” said S. Sgt. Wesley Smith, a 21‐ year‐old combat‐engineer supervisor in Bad Herzfeld, giving voice to the current attitude.
Like many of the younger black soldiers, the sergeant, a native of Atlanta, is no longer content with the visible and highly publicized racial success stories, both at home and in the military. Rather, he sees a growing list of racial failures.
A young black veteran of Vietnam serving at Fulda, a base some 10 miles across cabbage fields from East Germany, said, “America should deserve my life if I'm going to give it.”
Another young veteran of Vietnam, stationed in the racially tense rear‐area troop concentration at Karlsruhe, said: “Nixon and Agnew are strictly for white folks only. Repression seems like the only thing they got for black folks—how am I going to fight for them?”
Sgt. Larry Tyler, a 20‐year‐ old squad leader from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., asked: “How can you fight for America when every morning you read about black people being killed?”
Sitting with Sergeant Anthony in a Third Infantry Di vision dining hall here, Sergeant Tyler added coldly: “You see pictures of them holding guns on black kids. The kids stripped naked on the streets. You read about killings at Kent State, in Augusta, at Jackson State — my sister was in the dormitory at Jackson State when it was shot up.”
He paused, a deep frown on his face, and absently fingered the black‐unity bracelet on his arm. “You get tired of this mess,” he continued. “You get damned tired of it. You get fed up with it.”
Sergeant Anthony, again referring to whites, interrupted: “I just get so damn tired of talking to him because he just wants to talk about it and do nothing. Him and his ‘no knock law,’ his ‘stop and frisk law.’ He tells us, ‘Be patient, it can't be done overnight.’ He tells us, ‘Wait till we pass another law’ before we can help black people. Ain’t we got the Constitution? What in the hell do we need with more laws?”
More Black Than Military
In addition to speaking up, the demeanor of many younger black soldiers is far more black than it is military. They risk punishments with displays of varied and ever‐changing symbols of dissent.
The Afro hairstyle, on which the military has long equivocated, is invariably worn by the younger men. Black‐unity bracelets and rings, which are woven from boot laces, and peace symbols are more the rule than the exception in many heavily black units. Clenched fists are enthusiastically raised and intricate “pass the power” handshakes precede conversation.
On several bases young whites have picked up the symbols, leaving the Afro hairstyle as the only exclusively black symbol of dissent.
While some of the disorders have pitted young black soldiers against the Army, others have seen them clash with white soldiers. Many soldiers interviewed said that many whites had been speaking more freely of their dislike for blacks. This has been the case among career officers and noncoms as well as among new white troops.
Confederate flags, a “white power” symbol in the military, are banned at some bases but freely displayed at others. At Kelly Barracks, Heidelberg, a center of black protest and the housing area for many men who staff Seventh Army headquarters, the Confederate flag is prominently displayed in the window of the Military Police headquarters.
Ku Klux Klan’s, Crosses
White soldiers at several lo cations acknowledged that they had been approached by other whites to set up Ku Klux Klan units in Germany. The burning of crosses on military bases has goaded the young blacks.
In recent months racial dis orders have occurred at bases in the United States and around the world, but the large garrison force in Germany has seen the greatest number and the most serious ones. Disorders have occurred not only in the numerous rear‐area concentrations but also in combat ready units that border East Germany and Czechoslovakia.
In the armored cavalry and infantry concentrations at Bad Herzfeld, for instance, several black soldiers face courts‐martial on charges of attacking a white officer and military policemen who were taking another black to the stockade for pretrial confinement.
A black soldier was killed last month in Ulm by a white noncom while the soldier held a loaded pistol on two white officers. A white officer was killed several months ago when he walked into the Corso Bar in Frankfurt, an establishment frequented by blacks.
Some 15 black soldiers at tacked white military policemen in the McKee Barracks in Griesheim and freed three blacks who were being taken to the stockade, again for pretrial confinement. The three were arrested two days later by the German police as they at tempted to go to Denmark.
In mid‐August a riot by black infantry men shook the McNair Barracks in Berlin following fist fight between black and white soldiers.
Curtis Daniell, former editor of the widely read Overseas Weekly, a civilian publication for servicemen, said during a recent interview that he was discharged three months ago after ignoring warnings by the new owner to “cool it on the racial stories.”
Disputes Over Women
Many of the clashes between black and white soldiers grow out of competition for women.
“Let's face it,” said a white major. “I've got nothing against blacks — I've fought with them, ate with them, lived and soldiered with them. I consider myself a man without real racial prejudices, but it gets under my skin to see a black man walking with a white woman.”
Asked if he had the same objections to white men and black women, he frowned and said: “To be honest, it bothers me a lot less—perhaps not at all—sort of ‘his business.’”
Blacks questioned responded similarly: They would rather not see white men with black women but did not really mind the reverse.
While Navy and Air Force units in Britain, Spain and Italy have experienced far fewer racial clashes than has the Army in West Germany, the problems that have occurred have in many cases been traceable to disputes over women.
Another key element in the dissatisfaction among the blacks is allegations of discrimination in promotions, job as assignments and the dispensation of military justice. Repeated Pentagon investigations tend to bear them out, but the investigators note that black soldiers are inclined to place a racial label on a problem that a white soldier would blame on the military as such.
Close observers in Germany believe that there are many more racial incidents than are being reported. Talks with off duty soldiers tend to support them. Reporters for Stars and Stripes, the principal soldier publication in Germany, say they have been told to avoid racial stories.
Black career men, while un willing to describe the system as perfect, will most often say that the equal‐opportunity concept is more closely followed in the armed forces than in civilian institutions.
The black soldiers here insist that they are the victims of a double standard in military punishment. They number about 50 per cent of stockade populations and receive at least 25 per cent of battalion‐level punishment. Far more blacks are placed in pretrial confinement in stockades than whites and far more receive special discharges allowing them to leave the service under other than honorable conditions and without normal veterans' benefits.
A young white company commander at Fulda, admitted to “running a 212 machine” — that is, he got rid of problem soldiers by convincing them to leave under provisions of the Army regulation providing for such special discharges.
A white senior officer denied that it was a practice, but when he learned that company commanders had conceded it, he said: “You're goddamn right they get them out! We're running an Army, not a permissive society high school. You can't run a company looking behind you all the time.”
Blacks Are Still Dubious
The question whether enlisted men—black and white— get justice in the armed forces is a matter of frequent discussion. Many career man insist that they do, but the younger officers of the Judge Advocate General's Corps insist that they do not.
Widely publicized attempts by the military to cope with the racial problem in Germany are considered to have been generally ineffective, primarily because the black soldier is still dubious that the Army is really committed to ending racism.
The Armed Forces Radio stations often carry admonitions to black soldiers to “talk, talk, talk” about the things that bother them and warnings that, “the flying squad” will investigate company records without notice in an effort to find evidence of racial discrimination.
The term “flying squad” was used by Gen. James H. Polk, commander of the United States Army in Europe, to describe his recently initiated Company Review Policy.
Another effort is the new system, in effect throughout the armed forces, of human‐relations councils that keep blacks and whites talking about racial problems.
A recent human‐relations meeting at the Coleman Bar racks in Mannheim showed how such efforts could be frustrated.
Even‐Handed Policy Urged
Discussing discrimination against black soldiers by Ger man landlords and bar owners, the white members of the group said limitations in German law allowed for some discrimination and the Army could do nothing about it.
The blacks contended that if the Army were serious, it would find a way to compel the Ger mans to rent quarters on a first‐come, first‐served basis. They reminded the whites that, the United States Government was urging the Government in Bonn to bring about lower automobile insurance rates for American troops.
S. Sgt. Willie Jenkins, a black soldier from Denver, told the group: “America is the most powerful country in the world and you want me to ‘believe she can't find a way to keep Germans from discriminating— the truth is she does not want to find the way.”
Reflecting doubts about the Army's programs, the black soldiers have been organizing among themselves. About 15 identifiable extralegal groups have been set up, and the Army, perhaps characteristically, has tried to break up some and has pretended that others do not exist.
The groups' potential for social activism was dramatically illustrated last July 4, when more than a thousand black soldiers converged on Heidelberg's centuries‐old university to proclaim their “call for justice.”
Independence and justice, they said, were realities enjoyed by American whites “for just being alive” but neither could be taken for granted by blacks.
They resolved to work toward five main goals: the immediate withdrawal of all troops from Indochina, the appointment Of an enlisted men's review board to rule on pretrial confinement of black soldiers, a civilian inspector general to replace the military inspector general, the end of discrimination in assignments and duties and the employment of more blacks in overseas civilian jobs.
Generally, the organized black groups have focused on fighting the military system, not white soldiers.
Senior Army officers insist that “outside influences” such as the Black Panthers and Ger man student radicals are responsible for the black organizations. “That bad 5 per cent that's in every race” is also blamed.
Some soldiers have had contacts with Panther representatives in Copenhagen and in Paris. German students accept a tenuous relationship with the black organizations for their own reason. The groups are led by blacks, however.
“Whites could never talk for us,” said S. Sgt. Ronald Hassell, political adviser to a group called the Unsatisfied Black Soldier. “You can't tell a hurt man how to holler—you got to holler for yourself.”
“We want change,” he continued. “We are not trying to overthrow anything. We are not Communists, not Black Panthers and certainly not loud mouthed fools—but if it takes these to free ourselves and our people, we just might have to become these things.”
‘Situation Is Desperate’
“The time is late and the situation is desperate,” explained Pfc. Eugene Franklin,’ chairman of the Black United Soldier in Karlsruhe. “We've taken our stand and won't back down. We are saying, ‘America, live up to the Constitution since we have to put our lives on the line every day to possibly die for it.’”
“We've been fooling ourselves and now we want to face reality,” said Specialist 5 Tommie D. Wallace, who leads the Black Action Group in Stuttgart. “I personally just can't relate to being the poorest thing in the richest nation in the world. I can't relate to having my people treated like they crawled out from under a rock.”
While the vast majority of the members are young enlisted men, some are sergeants with long periods of service, and some members and leaders are career men.
Specialist 4 William Holland, who is chairman of the Unsatisfied Black Soldier, explained that he and other leaders felt that it was “much better to try to change the system from within the system.”
Rallies, like one that attracted some 700 black, white, Mexican and Puerto Rican soldiers, in Kaiserslautern in October have been replete with bitter condemnations of American racism and have warned of possible wide‐scale violence.
‘What Can They Do?’
“What can they do?” a speaker asked. “Call out the National Guard? How can they call out the National Guard on the Army?”
The complaints the soldier activists made and their recommendations—despite the rhetorical flourishes—concerned improvements in conditions in the service and the elimination of racism at home. Many of them are system‐oriented now, but many observers here wonder how long that will be the case.
“If America is really serious about selling democracy around the world,” said Specialist Holland, “just have white America end racism. We put a man on the moon, we can do anything we are committed to doing. The real question in Ger many today is whether America would rather get rid of unsatisfied Black Soldiers or end racism.”
The attitudes of many young black soldiers, and the growing antiwar feelings among soldiers in general, have caused many a grizzled career sergeant a good deal of concern.
Two “lifer” sergeants, one black and one white, were meditating recently in a Heidelberg bar over glasses of white wine about young soldier? willingness to “close with and dispatch an enemy.” They agreed that an armed enemy would probably make any soldier fight, but they were worried.
Their discussion was prompted by younger soldiers, black and white, dancing with young German girls while a popular song, “War,” played on the jukebox.
The lights flashed and the music blared and the recorded voices shouted: “War! Good God! yawl—what is it good for? Absolutely nothing—nothing. Say it again now!”
“The Army's changed,” the black sergeant said, sipping his wine.
Army Is Shaken by Crisis In Morale and Discipline
By B. Drummond Ayres Jr. Special to The New York Times
About the Archive
This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996. To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them.
Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 4—The bitter Vietnam experience has left the United States Army with a crisis in morale and discipline as serious as any it’s oldest and toughest soldiers can remember.
At the fire bases around Saigon, in the guard towers at the Berlin Wall, on the parade ground at Fort Benning, Ga., there is concern that the men in the ranks no longer have the esprit necessary to make first‐class fighters.
The men themselves are fed up with the war and the draft, questioning orders, deserting, subverting, smoking marijuana, shooting heroin, stealing from their buddies, hurling racial epithets and rocks at their brothers.
Their leaders, trained to handle a different sort of crisis, often seem as bewildered as the rawest recruits, compromising, innovating, ordering strategic retreats from tradition, tossing out the training manual — all with uncharacteristic pliability.
The desertion rate soars, so they do away with bed checks and permit psychedelic posters on barracks walls. The troops are bored, so they take them skiing and put beer machines in the day room. The troops refuse to advance, so they talk it over with them and try to find another way.
It is enough to tarnish an old soldier's brass. “I've got 18 in and I've never seen things so bad,” says Sgt. Maj. Jerry Thompson, who plans to quit the Army after finishing a tour in the training command at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. “If you're going to have, an Army, you've got to have discipline. If you've got rules, you've got to enforce them. Nobody is. I'm leaving.”
While a few of the true professionals—the “lifer” noncoms and the “hardcore” colonels, and generals—are quitting like Sergeant Thompson, most are sticking it out, gritting their teeth in frustration and digging in.
There is always a letdown when the worst of a war is past, they say, and as Vietnam is one of the most unpopular wars in the nation's history, it is not surprising that men compelled to take part in it are unhappy and recalcitrant. But the professionals are concerned just the same.
Challenge Is Discerned
“The challenge of putting it all back together again is certainly one of the greatest I've ever faced in 26 years in the service,” said Maj. Gen. Hal Moore, the commanding officer of the basic recruit training facility at Fort Ord, Calif.
Publicly, General Moore's statement is about as far as men on active duty will go when talking about the Army's present troubles. The “system” does not encourage open discussion of problems.
Privately, the talk is much more candid. A brigadier general in the Pentagon waits until an aide has left his office, then leans forward and says:
“Okay, let's face it. We have units today that simply are not fit to go if the balloon goes up. It's going to take another year, at least, to get back in condition.”
Retired officers speak even more bluntly and openly. Gen. Hamilton H. Howze, who retired several years ago after serving as commander of the elite 82d Airborne Division and the Eighth Army in Korea, wrote recently in Army magazine:
“The military forces of the United States face a disciplinary situation which, if not already critical, is at least one of rapidly growing proportions. Should senior commanders not be able to reverse the trend toward indiscipline, this country will, not long from now, lose its status as the world's first power and stand almost helpless against those who would humble it or destroy it.”
Easing Is Expressed
It is not that the professionals have lost hope altogether. There is confidence that as the Vietnam fighting grinds down, as the Army cuts back from a wartime force of over 1.5 million men to a peacetime force of about 900,000, the problems will grind down, too.
This was the Marine Corp's experience when it left Southeast Asia, and there are a few tentative signs that it will be the Army's as well.
For example, the number of “underground” G.I. newspapers has dropped in the last year from a high of about 60 to current low of 30.
These publications specialize in biting, often inflammatory criticism of military life. Their editors frequently slip onto military bases to counsel disgruntled soldiers.
But interest in such efforts seems to be declining. One of the surviving papers, F.T.A., printed in the Louisville area for 30,000 soldiers stationed at Fort Knox, sent the following note with its latest issue: “We are sorry that you have not yet received the June and July issue of F.T.A. We have had and are still having some serious financial problems. . . With only two men working on the project . . . we get on base about four times a week and are currently seeing two new people each week. This is not good.”
While encouraged by the decline in the number of underground papers, the Army is careful not to become overly optimistic. Two of the most important indices of morale and discipline — the desertion rate and the absenteeism rate—continue to climb rather than decline.
Over the last 12 months, 177 of every 1,000 American soldiers have been listed as “absent without leave,” some three or four times. And 74 of every 1,000 men have stayed away a month or more and thus have been classified as deserters.
These rates represent roughly a three‐fold increase over the desertion and absenteeism rates recorded five years or so ago when the Army was just beginning its buildup in Vietnam and the war was less a political issue.
For example, in 1966 only 57 of every 1,000 American soldiers were listed as absent without leave and only 15 of every 1,000 deserted.
Other indices of indiscipline and bad morale present an equally disturbing picture.
Medical tests given men leaving Vietnam indicate that about four of every hundred are drug users and military authorities in Saigon say they are making almost no progress in halting sales of the most troublesome narcotic—heroin.
“The Vietnam drug situation is extremely serious,” says Brig. Gen. Robert G. Gard Jr., a Pentagon specialist in disciplinary problems. “The testing, thus far, has been spotty. And we even have cases of testers—they're mostly soldiers themselves—falsifying the test results for their buddies.”
Drug abuse investigations are climbing rapidly everywhere, In 1969, for the Army as a whole, there were 12,000. Last year, this figure increased to 14,500. And this year the total is expected to approach 20,000.
No comprehensive figures are kept on resulting legal action, since some men are given only reprimands while others go to trial or enter the special “detoxification” clinics.
As for the amnesty program, still less than a year old, it has already attracted more than 15,000 men. “In just the past few weeks, nine of my men have turned themselves in,” says Col. Willard Lapham, commanding officer of the 197th Infantry Brigade, stationed at Fort Benning. “The problem has never actually affected unit performance and I think we're licking it. But if only one man is taking something, it's serious.”
It is within units like the 197th that the problem shows up as something more than cold statistics.
Vehicles Locked Now
Posters plastered on barracks walls warn of the dangers of heroin and marijuana. Men are constantly attending lectures about addiction. Dogs trained to smell out narcotics prowl company areas.
On pay day, men are urged to be especially careful. The drug habit is expensive and addicts resort to crime to get cash.
Thus far this year, more than $5,500 in personal property has been stolen from the men of the 197th, $1,000 more than was taken in all of 1970. In July alone, there was almost one theft a day.
“Every one of my military vehicles now has a chain and lock attached to its steering wheel whenever it's parked,” says Lieut. Col. Robert Faulkender, one of Colonel Lapham's battalion commanders.
At Fort Carson, Colo., home of the Fourth Mechanized Infantry Division, more than $22,000 in cash and goods was stolen last month in 173 thefts.
At Fort Leonard Wood, the picture is little changed. Men are warned repeatedly to lock up their personal possessions and urged not to venture into unlighted areas, where there have been some muggings. And at Fort Ord, each unit has a special anti‐crime guard team that patrols after hours. Members wear white helmets and carry heavy night sticks.
A brigade executive officer, Lieut. Col. James Gabriel, says: “I can remember when a military post was the safest place a man could be. Once inside the gates, you never had to worry about a thing. Not anymore.”
In fact, not even barracks rooms themselves are safe any longer in the United States Army.
Racial tensions have so polarized whites and blacks in many units that fights break out periodically in bunk areas and latrines. In mess halls, blacks and whites frequently sit down at separate tables, the blacks greeting each other with up thrust black power salutes and elaborate “dap” handshakes.
“It's hard to believe, but what we've done is export our racism,” says L. Howard Bennett, a Pentagon civil rights specialist. “That exporting includes ‘black aggression,’ too. There are far too many incidents overseas these days of four or five blacks ganging up one or two whites.”
The Army keeps no statistics on minor racial incidents, such as verbal abuse and small fights. However, these almost certainly are increasing since major incidents, for which there are statistics, are increasing.
For example, between September, 1970, and August, 1971, the Army recorded 18 racial incidents gang fights, protests, riots—that required “significant” police action. Only 10 such incidents occurred in the 12 months leading up to September, 1970.
To reduce tensions, the Pentagon has ordered four hours of instructions in race relations for every American soldier. Furthermore, many units have established racial harmony councils, which draw members from all ranks and all races.
“Our council really talks things out—very frankly—and I think we're beginning to take the steam out,” says Maj. Gen. John Bennett, the commanding officer of the Fourth Division.
“At least we're communicating,” says Specialist 5 William Manning, a black member of the Fort Carson council. “When I go back and tell the brothers that somebody is listening, that somebody is willing to talk about discrimination and harassing and fights and things like that, it seems to help.”
General Bennett, who has tried many other morale building innovations, such as reducing the number of inspections, is optimistic about the Army's future. He says: “I have to admit that some of the indicators still look bad, but I also have this feeling that we've touched bottom with the troublemakers and are heading up.”
The troublemakers are primarily draftees, who must serve for two years, and draft‐motivated volunteers, who must serve for three years but can choose their first duty station or their military occupation. Together, these two types of soldiers account for about half of the Army's over‐all strength and perhaps four‐fifths of its actual front‐line strength.
To increase the number of true volunteers in its ranks and thus eliminate many of its troubles, the Army has begun implementing an ambitious program that includes not only the beer machines in the day rooms but also pay increases, a five-day work week, multi‐million dollar recruiting campaigns and a renovation of the once hidebound basic training course.
‘Short Timers’ Troublesome
But these steps take time. And meanwhile the rank and file at bases in this country and around the world continue to pose problems.
Perhaps the most serious of all the problems is the man just back in the states from Vietnam, the “short timer” with only a few months of service remaining, the combat veteran suddenly transferred from a world of misery‐loves‐company camaraderie and no saluting to a world of strangers and “lifer” discipline.
The Vietnam returnee is seldom in the mood for what he calls “Mickey Mouse.” Training exercises do little to inspire him once he has experienced the real thing.
At Fort Riley, Kan., Specialist 5 John Ambrose waves his hand out toward the horizon, where men are going through various garrison drills, and says:
“Man, this is just so much hassling for us fellows who've been up against Charlie. We're just barely going through the motions until we can go home.”
An increasing number of returnees refuse even to go through the motions. Court martial convictions for insubordination, mutiny and refusals to obey orders climbed from 230 in 1968 to 294 in 1969 to 331 last year. This year, convictions may exceed 450.
These figures represent only the extreme cases. No statistics are kept on the less serious incidents, which occur almost daily in many units. “You hear guys giving the sergeants and lieutenants a hard time two or three times a week,” says Specialist Ambrose. “Mostly they manage to work it out or maybe a man gets some extra duty or loses a stripe.”
“Working it out” first started in Vietnam, where the practice continues. The procedure is simple and has even been filmed by television news crews.
A unit or man refuses to advance or take an order. Everybody—including officers and sergeants—sits down and talks. A safer route or alternative job is agreed upon.
Officers and sergeants in Vietnam who refuse to participate in these discussions run the risk of being “fragged” by a hand grenade tossed into their bunk by one of their own men.
In 1969, there were 126 “actual” or “possible” fragging’s. The count rose to 271 last year, and this year it probably will exceed 425. Seventy-eight men have been killed and more than 600 wounded.
Often, the lieutenants or sergeants sympathize with the men who do not want to advance or take part in training exercises. Many young officers are draft‐motivated, one‐tour reservists and many sergeants are draftees who have been promoted.
Though the Army Is holding onto most of its professionals despite its many problems, the retention of young career officers and enlisted men has reached a critical point. The squeeze comes not so much in loss of numbers — the Army can always induct more men or cut back its strength — as in loss of experience, attained at considerable training cost.
In the early nineteen‐sixties, before anti-military sentiment swept the nation's youth, one of every four volunteers were reenlisting at the end of his first tour. Today, only one of every five is signing on for a second tour.
re‐enlistment figure for draftees, never very high, has fallen in 10 years from about 10 per cent to less than 5 per cent. Among blacks, volunteers as well as draftees, re‐enlistment has fallen in the last five years from three times the white rate to two times the white rate.
in the Reserve Officers Training Corps, the college program that provides the Army with the majority of its commanders, has also declined sharply, from 165,000 men in 1961 to 74,000 this year. Some of the country's best schools, such as Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth, have dropped the course or made it an elective.
There has also been a decline in the number of R.O.T.C. graduates choosing to stay on in the service after their first tour. For example, in 1961 about one of every three reenlisted. This year, only one in every five is staying on.
At the United States Military Academy, there are still more problems. Applications for appointments remain high, but the number of qualified applicants is falling.
And the number of academy alumni leaving the Army after five years of service—the minimum now required—is increasing. Only 15 per cent of the class of 1956 had resigned from active duty by the end of 1961. But with 1971 little more than, half over, the class of 1966 already has lost 28 per cent of its members to civilian life.
There is, however, one bright spot in this rather gloomy picture.
On Army posts such as Fort Carson, where the “New Army” concepts are being tried—the beer machines, the five‐day week, improved barracks and reduced inspections—re‐enlistment rates are spurting.
In fact, they are already double the rates being achieved by posts still operating on the story that the only kind of discipline is “lifer” discipline.
Graig - I also experience this same problem, stationed in Schwelnfurt with the 3rd Bn. 64th Armor. I did save some newspaper clipping of the riots, May be this would be helpful. --- Chief
It was the same at Bamburg...was hit. pushed kicked and was told that he(black NCO) was going to kill me, when we wnet on border patrol. All because I was white. Told the CO. about it and he (the CO) said he didn't want any of that KKK shit in his troop. He was also black, and sent me on the long ride to Hof with this mad man.
This was still going on in 75 and 76, we had a NCO that openly wore a KKK belt buckle. Seems a lot of people in at that time went in the Army to avoid jail sentences. Racial tensions had not let up much, maybe there was not the blatent racism , but it was still there. this was NOT limited to the early 70s it was still going on in 1976 , 77 even...
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