Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Cleveland Draft Resistance Union


Issued: n.d. [1968]
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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EROL Note: Steve Gilbert was a member of the Cleveland Draft Resistence Union (CDRU) sent into the Army to organize soldiers against the war. The following is a letter from him that was issued as a leaflet by the CDRU.

Steve Gilbert, CDRU member, was inductee Jan. 17, 1868. He announced his intent to organize in the Army at a demonstration at the Induction Center. The letter below describes some of his experiences at Ft. Knox. He recently finished basic training and is being kept at Ft. Knox to be trained as a clerk, where he will continue to organize along with Tom Tuck and other active GI’s.

Feb. 27, 1968

Tim & Sally,

Wish I had some really good things to say but I’ve never been too good at writing my own P.R. Reading the “Bond” makes it seem that things in the Army are really moving but just between you and me, they ain’t. Best equated to a tank, this place just keeps grinding forward. And, by the way, nobody seems to have any grenades. What’s happening here and to me is real simple – frustration. It crept in nice and slow, hardly even noticed it. Makes it hard for me to v/rite. I feel like there ain’t much for me to say. Can’t put my fingers on some, just one real concrete sign of progress that I’ve promoted. Lots of little ripples. It’s really a bitch trying to determine if what you’re doing is having any influence. What makes it worse is that I haven’t pushed anything enough yet to get a confrontation. Man I could really use a good fight. If for no other reason it would give me a chance to stop being so rational and reasonable. Use my body a little bit instead of my mind.

That’s exactly the meat of the problem. I’m coming on more like a liberal than a radical – not so much in what I’m saying but in the action (or rather lack of it) that I’m generating. It’s true here as it is outside that if there is nothing political happening there is no use in trying to talk politically. People get turned off (bored) quickly. I’m stymied on the level of generating discussion, It isn’t easy to keep people talking and thinking about the war and our society. And it’s even more frustrating because you realize talking and thinking isn’t enough.

I’ve developed some involvement in several people who are now working with me (3 people) (1 or 2 more on the way). The idea of a demonstration is right now out of the question, as is r y open action specifically confronting the war. Briefly what I’ve done so far is (1) Talked my head off – people were a lot more curious in the beginning. At the reception center we had frequent group discussions – there is no way of telling whether I influenced anyone but a number of anti-war feelings did surface. No one argues for the war, at best they say we have to finish it now that it’s started. The notion that we’re fighting communism is present but seems very vulnerable. I’ve talked unionization but am having trouble developing a feasible picture of how an Army Union could come about. It’s difficult convincing people they can change things.

(2) Tried to get involvement and show that we as soldiers could do things for ourselves. A sick call procedure that I described in Dave’s letter provided an issue. (In Dave’s letter, Steve described how his company had so many guys going on sick call that the C O ordered all men going on sick call to pack their field packs – 100 lbs. or so – and carry them down to the infirmary before 7:15 a.m. Some soldiers were too sick to do this; one guy was coming down with pneumonia.) I talked this around (perhaps this was a mistake since I did it by myself) and then filed a complaint. A major in the Inspector General’s office assured me the regulation would change. This excited the guys but so far nothing has happened. (Trying to get in touch with the Bastard again.)

Then I worked on the food problem – we weren’t getting enough. I talked this around a lot. Brought up the idea of circulating a petition. Many people were interested. Word got out to the Mess Sergeant so he came running over to my barracks drunk one night. He pretended that it was just a routine visit to see if people were satisfied with his food. He asked my platoon what they thought. And everyone said too little food. He tried to tell us we were wrong, wh3n this didn’t work he got belligerent. Singled me out as an instigator and tried to argue with me about the war. He did very badly. Finally, totally enraged, he said he was going to hit me. He was stopped before he had a chance, unfortunately. There were about 30 guys around us each of whom was just waiting to jump his ass. The incident got a lot of attention from the guys in other barracks – some headway. The results have been twofold. One, there has been a stepped up campaign to discredit me as an agitator. And two, the food improved immeasurably. Some of the guys see the connection between the improvement and the threat to petition. More headway.

(3) Next. I’m planning to hold a discussion on the war if I can get the chapel. As common as discussions are on the outside if I pull this off it would really be an accomplishment. It would do some good. If the Chaplin won’t go along with us I’m going to try to make a free speech fight out of it. Either way it works out I think I’ve hit on something to start a fight about. Notice that the beginning of this letter is gloomy. Well #3 was conceived while writing this letter – tallied it over with several friends – they are enthusiastic. Will call Gorman tonight – he knows another Chaplin on base who might help us. Date will be a week from this Saturday. Wish me luck.

* * *

Gorman is very active from what I can gather. Haven’t had a chance to spend much time with him so don’t know where he’s at politically. Did someone tell me you are taking Karate. I’m a trained killer with an M-14, a bayonette and my hands. I’m also in much better physical shape. Stopped smoking, (well almost stopped). I got new Bond and 2 Viet Nam Vets need more of both, 5 or 10 each. Also can use any literature. There is no problem in sending it directly to me. Just if you don’t want things read seal them carefully. Get people to write me tell them it is difficult finding time to write but I’ll try...


P.S. we’re taught songs to sing while marching, four of us sing Hey hey LBJ how many boys did you kill today.

For more copies write: Cleveland Draft Resistance Union #310, 10616 Euclid Ave. Cleveland, Ohio. 721-1869