Big news, you say, it happens every day. Ask any serviceman.
The difference in Bell’s case is that the Army is trying to do a job on him because he refused to go to Chicago during the Democratic Convention last August.
He is one of the black soldiers at Ft. Hood, Texas who were court-martialed for disobeying an order. 300 GIs had gathered on the base to protest being sent to Chicago to do riot duty. 43 were arrested in the protest.
Of the 43 men, 29 were found guilty of refusing an officer’s order to return to their units for reveille. Bell said he heard no such order given.
One of the 43 deserted and some were convicted on ridiculous charges like refusing to get an Afro hairstyle cut.
On Sept. 19 Bell was convicted at the court martial and sentenced to six months in the stockade, six months probation, a pay reduction and reduction in rank to Private.
He was released on Dec. 18 and was reassigned to a Ft. Hood unit. He was told by his commanding officer that he would be assigned to a unit that is scheduled to go to Vietnam.
Bell questioned his Battalion Commander about this since his term of enlistment expires on Feb. 20. He was told that he had actually enlisted for four years and would be out in 1970. This contradicts all of Bell’s pay vouchers which give his discharge date as this year.
The attempt by the brass to extend Bell’s tour of duty for a year and to send him back to Vietnam is clearly an act of harassment and punishment for his role in the Chicago protests.
At this writing civil liberties attorney Rowland Watts of the Workers’ Defense League is helping Bell take legal measures to secure his lawful discharge.
His mother, Mrs. Nettie Bell, has become active in the defense of her son and has spoken at several anti-war rallies in the defense of all GIs’ rights to protest the war and mistreatment of themselves by the military.
See the Fifth Estate’s Vietnam Resource Page.