Vietnam Army Deserters
President Ford's
Amnesty Program - 1974
Camp Atterbury

(NA-3) CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind., Sept. 23 - FIRST OF MANY - Among the more than 100 Vietnam War era deserters that began processing Monday in President Fords week-old amnesty program, at Camp Atterbury, in south, central Indiana, Walter E. Kriner, 31, of Indianapolis and four others granted interviews.  Kriner, with Thomas Oney, 25, of Dayton, Ohio (left) and David E, Thoman, 24, of Columbus, Ohio, were among deserters already in custody when the program was announced.  About 400 deserters are expected through.

(NA-1) CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind., Sept. 24 - DESERTERS INTERVIEWED - Among the more than 100 Vietnam War era deserters arriving at Camp Atterbury Monday were five who consented to photographs and interviews.  The men are : Thomas Clay, 25, Dayton, Ohio (left to right) Walter E. Kriner, 31, of Indianapolis, Eugene Wade, 27, Alliance, Ohio, David E. Thoman, 24, Columbus, Ohio, and James Hatcher, 25, Cleveland.  More than 400 are expected this week. (AP WIREPHOTO) (CAR/30001/tf) 1974

(NA-1) CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind., Sept. 25 - A THOUSAND STORIES - Charley McFarland of Los Angeles and Jim Noble, 24, of Washington Courthouse, Ohio, (left) leave a press interview at Camp Atterbury National Amnesty Center with a military escort.  McFarland spent his 25th birthday at the center with 228 deserters.  He has been working under his own name since leaving six years ago.  Noble left in 1970 and turned himself in when the amnesty program was announced. (AP WIREPHOTO) (CAR/40001/stf7+)

Army Chaplain Major Larry D. Scott at the Camp Atterbury National Amnesty Center said, "I haven't talked to a man yet who deserted for political reasons."  The Chaplain is one of three at the center who have talked to more than 229 Army, Navy and Marine deserters being processed under President Ford's amnesty program.  The center was opened Monday in weathered World War II barracks.  1974. AP Wire

The clemency program would cover offenses that took place between the Senate ratification of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution on Aug. 4, 1964, and the day the last United States combat soldier left Vietnam, March 28, 1973.

Officials said that clemency would not be considered for deserters or evaders who faced other, unrelated charges.

Draft evaders would be required to "execute an agreement" acknowledging allegiance to the United States and pledging to fulfill the period of alternative service. Deserters would be required to take an oath of allegiance to the United States, as well as agreeing to fulfill the term of alternative service.

Officials estimated the cost of the program at about $2-million, most of this for processing and administrative details. The salaries for deserters or evaders would be paid by the employer.  (New York Times, September 16, 1974)

ABC Evening News for
Friday, Aug 30, 1974


Headline: Amnesty / Plans

Abstract: (Studio) Ford to meet with Defense Secretary James Schlesinger and Attorney General William Saxbe with regard to amnesty. Army considers 2 Midwest bases to process deserters.
REPORTER: Harry Reasoner

(DC) Army chooses Fort Benj. Harrison and Camp Atterbury, both in IN, for their central location. 28,000 deserters on military rolls.
REPORTER: Frank Tomlinson

Broadcast Type: Evening News Segment Type: News Content
Header Link 33045
Record Number: 33053
Begin Time: 05:10:40 pm
End Time: 05:11:50 pm
Duration: 01:10
Reporters: Reasoner, Harry; Tomlinson, Frank

NBC Evening News for
Friday, Aug 30, 1974


Headline: Amnesty / Administration / Army

Abstract: (Studio) Ford to decide on extent of leniency soon. Defense Secretary James Schlesinger and Attorney General William Saxbe to present views to Ford Saturday Army recommends 2 IN bases: Fort Benj. Harrison and Camp Atterbury where returning deserters or evaders might be processed. Group demanding total amnesty at White House
REPORTER: John Chancellor

(DC) Group claims petition for total amnesty with 52,000 signatures. President assistant, Dr. Theodore Marrs, meets group. [Gold star mother Mrs. Louise RANSOM - says total amnesty won't dishonor her dead son.] [MARRS - says lost father in World War I. No doubt Ford to search diligently for answer with conscience.] No one in group felt Ford would grant total amnesty.
REPORTER: John Cochran

Broadcast Type: Evening News Segment Type: News Content
Header Link 478586
Record Number: 478593
Begin Time: 05:35:20 pm
End Time: 05:37:30 pm
Duration: 02:10
Reporters: Chancellor, John; Cochran, John

ABC Evening News for
Monday, Sep 02, 1974


Headline: Amnesty / Deserters' Camp

Abstract: (Studio) Ford to meet with veteran's groups on conditional amnesty. Pentagon suggests IN Army center for processing deserters.
REPORTER: Howard K. Smith

(Camp Atterbury, IN) Old facility only used now for summer training. Believed camp could hold 5000 deserters. [Info. ofr. Major Tom KALLUNKI - is against appearance of concentration camp. Depends on how lenient program is to be.] Army has 8000 deserters.
REPORTER: Ron Miller

Broadcast Type: Evening News Segment Type: News Content
Header Link 33347
Record Number: 33351
Begin Time: 05:05:20 pm
End Time: 05:07:20 pm
Duration: 02:00
Reporters: Miller, Ron; Smith, Howard K.

CBS Evening News for
Tuesday, Sep 17, 1974


Headline: Amnesty Plan

Abstract: (Studio) Under terms of President Ford's conditional amnesty plan, many men temporarily freed from jail for serving time for draft dodging. Attorney General William Saxbe orders prisoners' release; Defense Secretary James Schlesinger sets up review system for 700 deserters in military prisons. Clemency board expected to review convictions during furlough period.
REPORTER: Roger Mudd

(Lompoc, California) [Released draft evader Gregg DAVIS - thinks his imprisonment uncalled for.] [Christopher MUSSER - says he wanted to perform alternate service when be was 1st drafted.] Questioned about his activities during days of freedom. [MUSSER - plans to visit friends and relax.]
REPORTER: Terry Drinkwater

(Studio) From evaders and deserters still at large, very few respond to Ford's amnesty plan.
REPORTER: Roger Mudd

(San Francisco, California) John Barry was 1st to surrender. [Evader, BARRY - wants everything straightened out between himself and government] [US attorney James BROWNING - advises other resisters to follow Barry's action.]
REPORTER: Richard Threlkeld

(Studio) Initial response to clemency plan mainly in form of telephone inquiries.
REPORTER: Roger Mudd

(DC) Calls from draft evaders are all similar; details given. Very few of eligible deserters and evaders have called special information ctrs. Deserters and evaders to be sent to Camp Atterbury, IN. Film of camp shown.
REPORTER: John Meyer

Broadcast Type: Evening News Segment Type: News Content
Header Link 236204
Record Number: 236205
Begin Time: 05:30:30 pm
End Time: 05:35:40 pm
Duration: 05:10
Reporters: Drinkwater, Terry; Meyer, John; Mudd, Roger; Threlkeld, Richard

ABC Evening News for
Wednesday, Sep 18, 1974


Headline: Amnesty Plan

Abstract: (Studio) All imprisoned draft evaders released yesterday pending review of cases by clemency board 1 prisoner refuses to leave jail without full pardon. Report follows from military installation set up to receive draft deserters.
REPORTER: Harry Reasoner

(Fort Benjamin Harrison, IN) Very few deserters call installation requesting clemency plan information After January 31, 1975, information received from deserters now may be used by Army to apprehend deserters if clemency plan not taken advantage of during allowed period. Those deserters returning under amnesty plan will be sent to Camp Atterbury, IN.
REPORTER: Ron Miller

Broadcast Type: Evening News Segment Type: News Content
Header Link 33300
Record Number: 33307
Begin Time: 05:07:40 pm
End Time: 05:09:00 pm
Duration: 01:20
Reporters: Miller, Ron; Reasoner, Harry

ABC Evening News for
Thursday, Sep 26, 1974


Headline: Clemency Plan

Abstract: (Studio) Army has processed 132 deserters at Camp Atterbury.
REPORTER: Harry Reasoner

(Camp Atterbury, IN) Most deserters taking advantage of clemency plan already in prison for desertion. [Arthur SENTER - says if alternative service suitable, he'll take it, but if not, he may keep dishonorable discharge.] [Eugene WADE - doesn't plan to take alternative service.] [John McARDLE - explains reason for deserting Army.] [James HATCHER - says petition to make rank refused, so he deserted.] Other deserters voice reasons for desertion.
REPORTER: Greg Dobbs

Broadcast Type: Evening News Segment Type: News Content
Header Link 33452
Record Number: 33463
Begin Time: 05:12:10 pm
End Time: 05:14:20 pm
Duration: 02:10
Reporters: Dobbs, Greg; Reasoner, Harry

CBS Evening News for
Friday, Nov 29, 1974


Headline: Amnesty Program / Draft Deserter Profiled

Abstract: (Studio) President Ford grants full pardons or conditional clemency to 18 former Vietnam draftees.
REPORTER: Walter Cronkite

(White House) [President FORD - says American won't forget those who served and died in Vietnam, but in that same spirit, formal clemency underway.] Amnesty program generally ignored. Clemency board chairperson Charles Goodell says very few men eligible for amnesty program have come forward.
REPORTER: Bob Schieffer

(Studio) Only 118 draft dodgers turn themselves in, but number considerably higher for draft deserters.
REPORTER: Walter Cronkite

(La Jolla, California) Jim Dobbins deserted Army in `69; discusses his decision to return to United States from Canada. [DOBBINS - says decision very hard to make.] Plans to clean up records in United States then resume life in Canada. Dobbins processed at Camp Atterbury, IN; length of Dobbins alternative service depends on several factors. By evening, Dobbins learns he'll serve 21 mos. alternate service. Dobbins flies to San Francisco and visits draft board; must find alternate service job within 30 days. Dobbins visits ocean and family for 1st time in 6 years [DOBBINS - doesn't feel extremely comfortable yet,although it feels good to be on familiar ground.] After processing and orientation back in Army, Dobbins decides to do alternative service and to stay in US.
REPORTER: Steve Young

Broadcast Type: Evening News Segment Type: News Content
Header Link 232142
Record Number: 232155
Begin Time: 05:41:10 pm
End Time: 05:47:20 pm
Duration: 06:10
Reporters: Cronkite, Walter; Schieffer, Bob; Young, Steve

ABC Evening News for
Monday, Mar 31, 1975


Headline: President' Amnesty Plan / In Perspective

Abstract: (Studio) At midnight, President' amnesty program for Vietnam era war deserters and resisters expires.
REPORTER: Harry Reasoner

(DC) [On March 29, 1973, President NIXON - urges American not to dishonor Vietnam war vets by granting amnesty to those who deserted American] [On August 19, 1974, President FORD - believes amnesty justified to give young men 2nd chance.] On September 16, amnesty proclamation signed to help bind up American's wounds. Film of Camp Atterbury, IN, shown. Majority of those eligible for clemency reject or ignore President' offer. Telephone numbers of clemency board shown on television screen.
REPORTER: Frank Reynolds

Broadcast Type: Evening News Segment Type: News Content
Header Link 36489
Record Number: 36503
Begin Time: 05:22:50 pm
End Time: 05:25:50 pm
Duration: 03:00
Reporters: Reasoner, Harry; Reynolds, Frank

What Happened to Vietnam Era War Resisters?

War Resistance, Amnesty and Exile - Just the Facts

by Harold Jordan

As the Vietnam War fades into the past, the struggle for reinterpretation continues. One area that has received insufficient attention is war resistance. The script offered in public circles often reads like this: the war has ended for resisters; isolated numbers of people resisted military service, most of them "draft dodgers"; all of the legal issues surrounding military resisters were resolved - they eventually "got off"; and people only refuse military service when they face a draft.

These myths, like most others about the war, are designed to influence future generations of potential warriors. The reality of the Vietnam Era is that large numbers of people resisted military service in different ways. Some were facing the draft while others resisted after enlisting in the military. Universal amnesty was never granted to war resisters. Here are the facts:

War Resisters and the Courts

Draft Law Violators - During the entire Vietnam War, 209,517 young men were formally accused of violating draft laws. Government officials estimate that another 360,000 were never formally accused. Of the former group, 25,000 indictments were handed down; 8,750 were convicted; and just under 4,000 served jail time.

Military Resisters - It is difficult to say how many military service members were prosecuted for offenses growing out of opposition to the Southeast Asia War. Most estimates consider the rates at which service members went AWOL (absent without leave) or deserted – commonly referred to as "absence offenses." AWOL and desertion rates hit an all-time high during the Vietnam War, 1971 and 1972 being the peak years. The Pentagon documents 1,500,000 instances of AWOL and desertion during the war. Official estimates of the actual number of service members who went AWOL or deserted run between 500,000 (Pentagon) and 550,000 (officials in the Ford Administration). It is important to remember that not all service members who received bad discharges for offenses related to the war were absentees. Adding other types of anti-war activities for which service members were prosecuted significantly increases these figures. Many went to jail and/or received bad discharges.*

Resisters in Exile

Estimates of the number of draft and military resisters who went into exile during the Vietnam Era vary widely. The best estimate is about 100,000, at least 90% of whom went to Canada. How many are still living abroad is unknown. The New York Times estimates that 25,000 draft resisters still live in Canada, an estimate which seems high by most accounts. (This figure does not include active duty service members who went into exile.) There are no reliable estimates: it is most likely still in the thousands.

Today military resisters who return to the United States may still face the possibility of punishment in the form of criminal prosecution or a bad discharge. GI resisters, including those living in exile, remain in legal jeopardy. No universal amnesty was ever granted them. The two 1970s limited relief programs expired decades ago. Every year a small number are arrested upon returning to the US. For example, Richard Allen Shields, who went AWOL from an Army base in Alaska in 1972, was arrested March 22, 2000 on the US-Canadian border (in Metaline Falls, WA) by U.S. Customs agents as he was attempting to drive a lumber truck across the border. Shields was taken to Fort Sill, Oklahoma and discharged from the Army with an "Other Than Honorable" discharge in April of 2000.

Relief for War Resisters

Two programs providing limited legal relief for draft and military resisters were implemented in the 1970s. Military resisters and draft evaders were treated differently from each other in both Ford and Carter programs.

Ford Clemency Program (1974)

In 1974, President Ford established a program of partial relief for war resisters. This clemency program was considered a complement to President Ford's pardon of President Nixon, who had resigned from office in lieu of likely removal by Congress. The program covered the following categories of persons: convicted draft violators, convicted military deserters and AWOLs, draft violators who had never been tried, and veterans with less than honorable discharges for absence offenses.

The Ford program was widely regarded as a failure, even by people who administered it.  The conditions under which a person could receive relief were onerous and discriminatory. Persons receiving clemency were required to do up to 24 months of alternative service and were required sign broad oath of allegiance to the United States.

In addition to these measures, military deserters automatically received bad discharges ("Undesirable"), although they could later apply to get them changed to "Clemency Discharges" (considered "Other Than Honorable") after performing 24 months of service. Under the plan, GI participants would automatically lose all veterans benefits, unlike many other veterans with less than honorable discharges.

The program was widely regarded as a failure, even by people who administered it. Only 27,000 of the 350,000 eligible persons applied; 21,800 were granted clemency, mostly men living in the U.S., not exiles. Those granted clemency were almost equally divided between "draft offenders" and "military offenders." Most exile groups based in Canada, Sweden, Britain and France endorsed a boycott of the Ford program because of its punitive nature. The "oath of allegiance" requirement was considered especially offensive given the generous treatment of Nixon. Nixon received a pardon, pension, and was not required to swear allegiance to the U.S. despite his role in undermining democracy. Program administrators estimated that about 566,000 military "offenders" were still in need of relief after the Ford program ended, an ultimate indicator of the program's failure.

Carter Program (1977)

In 1977, President Carter established two programs to assist war resisters. In January of 1977 he declared an unconditional amnesty for draft resisters, both accused and those who could face possible prosecution. Later that year, he set up the two stage "pardon" process for military absentees.

Once again, draft evaders and military absentees were treated differently.

Draft evaders were granted unconditional amnesty automatically if there were no other legal charges pending. They would not have a criminal record. Young men who were Unfortunately, universal and unconditional amnesty was never granted to military resisters.considered draft evaders did not have to apply (in any formal sense) to get amnesty. It was a blanket amnesty granted to all draft evaders whether they had been engaged in a legal process or not. This is why no figure exists for the real number of draft evaders who benefited from the Carter program. This includes people who were never prosecuted, people who were investigated and not prosecuted, people who were indicted, people for whom charges had been brought, etc. The only restriction is that the person not have other (non-draft evasion) charges pending against them. So a draft evader who had criminal charges pending for participating in a protest would not have those protest-related charges dropped, only the draft evasion charges.

Similarly, military deserters and AWOLs could apply for a limited pardon if there were no other charges pending. Under the Carter program deserters would automatically receive a less than honorable discharge ("Undesirable"), but could apply for an upgrade later. The upgrade would not be automatic and few veterans received them. They were barred from receiving veterans benefits, unlike many other vets with less than honorable discharges. Military resisters had to apply for relief within a certain time frame, about 5-6 months, during 1977. Only 4,200 of them were considered eligible for the program; less than 25% of them were processed and received the less-than-honorable discharge. The program allowed for a case-by-case review of potentially another 430,000 cases of veterans with bad discharges; yet only 16,277 benefited from this procedure.

The Carter program was more successful than the Ford program despite its serious limitations. Many of the resisters (especially military absentees) had trouble surviving in other countries. Exile groups urged people to take advantage of the Carter program and work from within the US for a full amnesty.

One factor leading resisters to remain in exile was the poor advertising of the details of the Carter relief program (1977) in the aftermath of what was regarded as a highly discriminatory and defective Ford Clemency program (1974). Congress refused to fund the Carter program fully. Both relief programs had conditions many exiles found hard to accept. Finally, the period of time under which one could apply for relief was sharply limited.

Unfortunately, universal and unconditional amnesty was never granted to military resisters. It is estimated that only 28,420 Vietnam Era military resisters received any form of legal relief – many of them received bad discharges – while another 550,000 never received any form of relief. To place this figure in perspective, the number of ex-GIs who never received legal relief roughly equals the number of soldiers who participated in the Gulf War of 1990 and 1991. This is another way in which our country has yet to fully come to terms with the legacy of the war in Southeast Asia.

Sources

Leonard Baskir and William Strauss, Chance and Circumstance: the Draft, the War and the Vietnam Generation, New York: Random House, 1978.

New York Times (3/5/00)

Seattle Post-Intelligencer (4/10/00)

David Surrey. Choice of Conscience: Vietnam Era Military and Draft Resisters in Canada, New York: Praeger, 1982

About the Author

Harold Jordan founded American Friends Service Committee's National Youth and Militarism Program and acted as its Coordinator from 1986 - 2002. Currently, he is the Executive Director of the National Coalition of Education Activists. He can be reached at hjordan@edactivists.org. The author wishes to thank Jack Colhoun for his insightful comments.

* The term "bad discharges" refers to several categories of discharge from the military (such as "Undesirable," "Other Than Honorable," etc.) that may result in post-service job discrimination, the loss of veteran's benefits, or both.

http://www.afsc.org/youthmil/conscientious-objection/Vietnam-war-resisters.htm

Deserters Come in Slowly for Their Medicine

The war in Vietnam was over a year ago," says the tough, cigar-smoking two-star, "but this is the windup." Army Maj. Gen. Eugene Forrester is overseeing the military's side of President Ford's amnesty program. At ramshackle Camp Atterbury in Indiana, military deserters who have been in jails or who have surrendered come to be "processed" and receive their alternative service assignments. The program has been both disappointing and educational for the 48-year-old general, who commands nearby Fort Benjamin Harrison—a major army records center.

"There's a lesson to be learned from these people," says General Forrester. "Inevitably, these boys [deserted] because of poor leadership. They had problems, maybe with their wives or families, and when the military couldn't respond fast enough, they took off."

Thus far, Camp Atterbury has processed more than 1,100 deserters—admittedly, only about 10 percent of the total. Forrester and the Pentagon had expected many more, and had purposely set up the processing center away from a regular army base to avoid any friction between the deserters and regular soldiers. To staff the camp, Forrester hand-picked a cadre of 450 men, most trained in race relations and psychology. There have been no incidents, but because the flow of deserters has slowed to a trickle, the processing center is being shifted to Fort Benjamin Harrison. There, as at Atterbury, each returning deserter is interviewed and his explanation of why he fled included in a tan file folder along with the military's record of his service. Each case is then presented to the Joint Alternate Service Board—the men call it "Jazbo"—which recommends a term of alternative service of up to 24 months. (The Presidential Clemency Board in Washington rules on convicted draft evaders.)

"I expected to see stereotypes," the general says, "men who harbored real political hatred. But I realized the first day the reservoir of tragedy in each of these young men—in their faces, their bearing, even their dress. They had run, changed jobs, lied—they had to. I think they are glad to get it off their backs."

Forrester, a 26-year career soldier, was a West Point classmate of Alexander Haig and current academy commandant Sid Berry (PEOPLE, Sept. 2, 1974). A veteran of Korea and the Dominican Republic, he served two tours in Vietnam, where he was a brigade commander and later assistant division commander of the 1st Air Cavalry. Married to the widow of a fellow officer who was killed in a helicopter crash (Forrester's own wife was also killed in an air accident), they have six children, three from each marriage. "I have a 19-year-old son, Chip," says Forrester, "and he and I have had extremely volatile dialogue over the war in Vietnam. He isn't a militarist in any sense of the word." The general looks out the window at a newly arrived batch of deserters. "In fact," he says, "I'm not sure that under other circumstances something like this couldn't have happened to him."

Russell Wilson, 20, from Albany, Ga., joined the army in 1971 when he was 17. Six months later he deserted. "I just didn't feel it was right to kill someone," he says now. Assignment to Vietnam was "being sent to a place to shoot a guy who could never threaten you, to some weird place to fight and die." He kept on the run, never staying in one place longer than a couple of months, though he did manage to obtain security clearance for a job at a nuclear power plant in Maryland. Now a teamster, Wilson married a 23-year-old divorcée last year. This August he was stopped for a traffic violation in Michigan while taking one of his two stepchildren to the hospital, and was recognized as a deserter. Wilson was ordered to perform 24 months alternative service.

Harold Cummings, 27, is a machinist from the Baltimore ghetto. He had already honorably completed one tour with the army and decided to join the marines in 1972 because he "wanted something different." But when his mother became ill, he says, the marines wouldn't give him leave and he deserted. He was arrested earlier this year, and when the amnesty program began he was in the brig at Camp Lejeune, N.C. "People should realize we've been through enough," says the natty Cummings. "Most of us are tired of running." Nonetheless, the "ghost board" specified that Cummings devote the full 24 months to alternative service.

Phillip Rogers, 22, of Freer, Texas, near Laredo, wore a Stetson and boots to Atterbury. A skinny (6'2", 160-pound) oil field roughneck, Rogers had been in the army more than two years when he deserted in 1971. He was an infantryman in Vietnam, and when his mother took sick Rogers went home to Freer and stayed there. "Everybody knew I was AWOL," he says. "They figured I had a good reason; I'd served two years of good time and my Momma was sick and I needed to help support the family." He says he filed income tax returns every year but was not arrested. "I figured if they had wanted me, they'd have come and got me." He turned himself in and received 11 months of alternative service.

Michael Tooman, 25, from Pontiac, Mich., enlisted in the army in 1969 after he was drafted so he could train as a mechanic. But opposed to the war and worried about family problems, he deserted. He dodged the law for five years, finally settling in Seattle as a mechanic and carpenter. He is married, with a baby due in two months. When the amnesty program was announced he surrendered—and was so upset he couldn't eat for two days. What he really wants to do, he says, is stay in Washington state and start a buffalo herd. He has been told to do 22 months of alternative service.

Anthony Zambas, 24, from Aberdeen, Wash., joined the army in 1970. After basic training and 15 days of artillery instruction at Fort Sill, Okla., he deserted. "I wasn't threatened by the Vietnamese," he says. "Besides, I figured this war was a big moneymaker for some people—but not for me." He returned to Aberdeen and lived with his mother (who lost her first husband in World War II). "If I had gotten orders to Vietnam," Zambas says, "she would have lied and killed to keep me home." He stayed there until Ford's amnesty program was announced, then turned himself in. Zambas compliments the military on the "decency and mercy" with which he and the other deserters have been treated, but he adds, "Society ain't doing us no big favor; they got the word—we were sent by Jerry." Zambas was ordered to do 24 months alternative service.

ABC Evening News for Monday, Sep 02, 1974

Headline: Amnesty / Deserters' Camp

Abstract:

(Studio) Ford to meet with veteran's groups on conditional amnesty. Pentagon suggests IN Army center for processing deserters.
REPORTER: Howard K. Smith

(Camp Atterbury, IN) Old facility only used now for summer training. Believed camp could hold 5000 deserters. [Info. ofr. Major Tom KALLUNKI - is against appearance of concentration camp. Depends on how lenient program is to be.] Army has 8000 deserters.
REPORTER: Ron Miller

Broadcast Type: Evening News Segment Type: News Content
Program Time: 05:05:20 pm - 05:07:20 pm. Duration: 02:00
Record Number: 33351
Link to this page http://tvnews.vanderbilt.edu/program.pl?ID=33351
Context
Reporters: Miller, Ron; Smith, Howard K.

ABC Evening News for Monday, Mar 31, 1975

Headline: President' Amnesty Plan / In Perspective

Abstract:

(Studio) At midnight, President' amnesty program for Vietnam era war deserters and resisters expires.
REPORTER: Harry Reasoner

(DC) [On March 29, 1973, President NIXON - urges American not to dishonor Vietnam war vets by granting amnesty to those who deserted American] [On August 19, 1974, President FORD - believes amnesty justified to give young men 2nd chance.] On September 16, amnesty proclamation signed to help bind up American's wounds. Film of Camp Atterbury, IN, shown. Majority of those eligible for clemency reject or ignore President' offer. Telephone numbers of clemency board shown on television screen.
REPORTER: Frank Reynolds

Broadcast Type: Evening News Segment Type: News Content
Program Time: 05:22:50 pm - 05:25:50 pm. Duration: 03:00
Record Number: 36503
Link to this page http://tvnews.vanderbilt.edu/program.pl?ID=36503
Context
Reporters: Reasoner, Harry; Reynolds, Frank

ABC Evening News for Friday, Aug 30, 1974

Headline: Amnesty / Plans

Abstract:

(Studio) Ford to meet with Defense Secretary James Schlesinger and Attorney General William Saxbe with regard to amnesty. Army considers 2 Midwest bases to process deserters.
REPORTER: Harry Reasoner

(DC) Army chooses Fort Benj. Harrison and Camp Atterbury, both in IN, for their central location. 28,000 deserters on military rolls.
REPORTER: Frank Tomlinson

Broadcast Type: Evening News Segment Type: News Content
Program Time: 05:10:40 pm - 05:11:50 pm. Duration: 01:10
Record Number: 33053
Link to this page http://tvnews.vanderbilt.edu/program.pl?ID=33053
Context
Reporters: Reasoner, Harry; Tomlinson, Frank

NBC Evening News for Friday, Aug 30, 1974

Headline: Amnesty / Administration / Army

Abstract:

(Studio) Ford to decide on extent of leniency soon. Defense Secretary James Schlesinger and Attorney General William Saxbe to present views to Ford Saturday Army recommends 2 IN bases: Fort Benj. Harrison and Camp Atterbury where returning deserters or evaders might be processed. Group demanding total amnesty at White House
REPORTER: John Chancellor

(DC) Group claims petition for total amnesty with 52,000 signatures. President assistant, Dr. Theodore Marrs, meets group. [Gold star mother Mrs. Louise RANSOM - says total amnesty won't dishonor her dead son.] [MARRS - says lost father in World War I. No doubt Ford to search diligently for answer with conscience.] No one in group felt Ford would grant total amnesty.
REPORTER: John Cochran

Broadcast Type: Evening News Segment Type: News Content
Program Time: 05:35:20 pm - 05:37:30 pm. Duration: 02:10
Record Number: 478593
Link to this page http://tvnews.vanderbilt.edu/program.pl?ID=478593
Context
Reporters: Chancellor, John; Cochran, John

ABC Evening News for Wednesday, Sep 18, 1974

Headline: Amnesty Plan

Abstract:

(Studio) All imprisoned draft evaders released yesterday pending review of cases by clemency board 1 prisoner refuses to leave jail without full pardon. Report follows from military installation set up to receive draft deserters.
REPORTER: Harry Reasoner

(Fort Benjamin Harrison, IN) Very few deserters call installation requesting clemency plan information After January 31, 1975, information received from deserters now may be used by Army to apprehend deserters if clemency plan not taken advantage of during allowed period. Those deserters returning under amnesty plan will be sent to Camp Atterbury, IN.
REPORTER: Ron Miller

Broadcast Type: Evening News Segment Type: News Content
Program Time: 05:07:40 pm - 05:09:00 pm. Duration: 01:20
Record Number: 33307
Link to this page http://tvnews.vanderbilt.edu/program.pl?ID=33307
Context
Reporters: Miller, Ron; Reasoner, Harry

CBS Evening News for Tuesday, Sep 17, 1974

Headline: Amnesty Plan

Abstract:

(Studio) Under terms of President Ford's conditional amnesty plan, many men temporarily freed from jail for serving time for draft dodging. Attorney General William Saxbe orders prisoners' release; Defense Secretary James Schlesinger sets up review system for 700 deserters in military prisons. Clemency bd expected to review convictions during furlough period.
REPORTER: Roger Mudd

(Lompoc, California) [Released draft evader Gregg DAVIS - thinks his imprisonment uncalled for.] [Christopher MUSSER - says he wanted to perform alternate service when be was 1st drafted.] Questioned about his activities during days of freedom. [MUSSER - plans to visit friends and relax.]
REPORTER: Terry Drinkwater

(Studio) From evaders and deserters still at large, very few respond to Ford's amnesty plan.
REPORTER: Roger Mudd

(San Francisco, California) John Barry was 1st to surrender. [Evader, BARRY - wants everything straightened out between himself and government] [US attorney James BROWNING - advises other resisters to follow Barry's action.]
REPORTER: Richard Threlkeld

(Studio) Initial response to clemency plan mainly in form of telephone inquiries.
REPORTER: Roger Mudd

(DC) Calls from draft evaders are all similar; details given. Very few of eligible deserters and evaders have called special information ctrs. Deserters and evaders to be sent to Camp Atterbury, IN. Film of camp shown.
REPORTER: John Meyer

Broadcast Type: Evening News Segment Type: News Content
Program Time: 05:30:30 pm - 05:35:40 pm. Duration: 05:10
Record Number: 236205
Link to this page http://tvnews.vanderbilt.edu/program.pl?ID=236205
Context
Reporters: Drinkwater, Terry; Meyer, John; Mudd, Roger; Threlkeld, Richard

CBS Evening News for Friday, Nov 29, 1974

Headline: Amnesty Program / Draft Deserter Profiled

Abstract:

(Studio) President Ford grants full pardons or conditional clemency to 18 former Vietnam draftees.
REPORTER: Walter Cronkite

(White House) [President FORD - says American won't forget those who served and died in Vietnam, but in that same spirit, formal clemency underway.] Amnesty program generally ignored. Clemency board chairperson Charles Goodell says very few men eligible for amnesty program have come forward.
REPORTER: Bob Schieffer

(Studio) Only 118 draft dodgers turn themselves in, but number considerably higher for draft deserters.
REPORTER: Walter Cronkite

(La Jolla, California) Jim Dobbins deserted Army in `69; discusses his decision to return to United States from Canada. [DOBBINS - says decision very hard to make.] Plans to clean up records in United States then resume life in Canada. Dobbins processed at Camp Atterbury, IN; length of Dobbins alternative service depends on several factors. By evening, Dobbins learns he'll serve 21 mos. alternate service. Dobbins flies to San Francisco and visits draft board; must find alternate service job within 30 days. Dobbins visits ocean and family for 1st time in 6 years [DOBBINS - doesn't feel extremely comfortable yet,although it feels good to be on familiar ground.] After processing and orientation back in Army, Dobbins decides to do alternative service and to stay in US.
REPORTER: Steve Young

Broadcast Type: Evening News Segment Type: News Content
Program Time: 05:41:10 pm - 05:47:20 pm. Duration: 06:10
Record Number: 232155
Link to this page http://tvnews.vanderbilt.edu/program.pl?ID=232155
Context
Reporters: Cronkite, Walter; Schieffer, Bob; Young, Steve

 ROBERT K. MUSIL

President Ford’s re-entry program for Vietnamese War resisters is part of a continuing cover-up of the terrible costs and consequences of this nation’s intervention in Indochina. It is designed to discredit resistance to the war and, along with the Presidential pardon of Nixon, bring to an and our long “nightmare” of bickering over
Indochina.  Mr. Ford’s August 19th speech announcing leniency at the VFW Convention in Chicago came as a surprise to many and was widely reported as a courageous step.
It was neither. With substantial numbers of the Nixon entourage in jail or awaiting trial, leniency was on the way in; law and order on the way out. Melvin Laird and Robert Froehlke had run up trial balloons for conditional amnesty and the weather was fine—a little flak from the VFW, but otherwise just fine. Meanwhile, in the wake of Watergate, sentiment for amnesty was growing. In March, a majority of Americans favored conditional amnesty.  Robert Musil, a former Army captain who refused to serve in Vietnam, is associate secretary of the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors and a member of the steering committee of the National Council for Universal and Un-
conditional Amnesty. He testified at the House Judiciary subcommittee hearings.

 International amnesty, and more than a third were for unconditional amnesty. And at the House Judiciary hearings on amnesty, it became clear that at least a conditional
amnesty might soon be in the works in Congress. [See Musil: “Amnesty—What Kind and When?” The Nation, April 20.

Mr. Ford’s speech to the VFW is a classic example of the kind of cynical manipulation that we have come to expect of Presidential speeches. “Unlike my last two
predecessors, I did not enter this office facing the terrible decisions of a foreign war.” This from a man whose first complaint against Defense Secretary Schlesinger was that
he wasn’t effective enough at peddling aid to Indochina to the Congress, and who was heard emerging from his first National Security Council meeting as President singing the praises of a Congressman who stands “firm and tail on the war.”

The speech was vintage Nixon “peace with honor,” rewritten into Jerry Ford’s “straight talk.” It contains the same self-serving analogies to Lincoln and Truman, the same ritualistic invocation of Medal of Honor recipients, the same vilification of war resisters, those “few citizens” who committed the “supreme folly of shirking their duty at the expense of others.” But the worst was yet to come. First came the “full, absolute and unconditional” pardon of Richard Nixon, and then in sharp contrast, on September 16, the detailed White House announcement of the reentry plan.

As Atty. Gen. William Saxbe said earlier, persons returning under the plan would have to show “contrition.” So much, in fact, that the program looks as if it were designed to fail. It provides for clemency for persons convicted, charged, under investigation, or sought for violations for portions of the Selective Service Act or Articles of (desertion), 86 (AWOL), or 87 (missing movement) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Those not yet convicted of an offense must turn themselves in by January 31, 1975, reaffirm their allegiance to the United States, and agree to perform two years of alternate service in the national interest.

Draft violators report directly to the U.S. Attorneys and will be relieved of prosecution upon completion of alternate service. Military absentees return to a central processing point, first located at Camp Atterbury, Ind., and now at Fort Benjamin Harrison, sign their oath, agree to do alternate service and, then receive an undesirable discharge (UD). If and when they complete alternate service they receive a new clemency discharge.

Those already convicted of offenses eligible for amnesty apply to a nine-member Presidential Clemency Board which reviews theft case and may recommend clemency
to the President contingent on up to two years of alternate service. Draft violators may have theft civil rights restored, but their records will not be expunged. Veterans
holding undesirable or punitive discharges for desertion offenses will receive a clemency discharge upon completion of alternate service. That is a simple explanation
of the program, and even on its face, it is insulting and unacceptable to most war resisters. On closer examination, the plan is even worse—conceived in bad faith and
riddled with traps, inconsistencies, illegalities and inequities.


To begin, the plan does not even cover most war resisters. According to official figures, there are eligible about 15,500 draft resisters, 12,500 deserters-at-large (of
whom about 10 to 20 per cent will be ineligible because of other offenses), and about 200,000 veterans who. received undesirable or punitive discharges because of offenses under Articles 85, 86 and 87 of the UCMJ. Apparently ineligible are any draft fugitives who are aliens or who have become citizens of another country. That is ominous, since in the year 1972-73 more than 3,000 American males became Canadian citizens, an increase of 82 percent over the previous year. Also ineligible are eighteen draft resisters not furloughed from prison at the time of the announcement because of other charges, persons charged with a variety of other violations stemming from opposition to the war in Vietnam (destruction of government property, tax refusal, conspiracy, riot, and so on) and more than 300,000 veterans with other than honorable discharges that stem from charges or actions other than desertion (refusal of orders, disrespect, disloyalty, etc.). Ford’s plan, in short, ignores some of the most principled opposition to the war in Indochina and the military. Those not included comprise a roster of well-
known resistance cases: the Berrigan Brothers; the Chicago 15; the Milwaukee 14; the Presidio 27; Capts. Howard Levy and Dale Noyd; Seaman Roger Priest (convicted by the Navy of “disloyalty” for publishing his underground newspaper, OM, from within the Pentagon); Andy Stapp, founder of the American Servicemen’s Union, and many, many more.

As for those who are included, the loyalty oath, with its imputations of guilt and evasion, will prevent the most consientious from using the program. The oath
and pledge required of deserters is so outrageous as to deserve full inclusion here:

On or about, _______ , I voluntarily absented myself from my military unit without being properly authorized in contravention of the oath taken upon entering the nation’s military service. Recognizing that my obligations as a citizen remain unfulfilled, I am
ready to serve in whatever alternate service my country may prescribe for me, and pledge to faithfully complete a period of _____ months service. 

I do hereby solemnly reaffirm my allegiance to the United States of America. I will support, protect and defend the Constitution of ! the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; and will hereafter bear true faith and allegiance to the same.

I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.


Such an oath alone has doomed the program to failure.  An editorial in the Christian Century sums up its implications:

To earn re-entry, a man would have to be contrite, and to accept his country’s forgiveness for an act of moral protest. In order to be contrite, he would have to acknowledge that his moral protest was a mistake.  Ironically, then, a man’s willingness to accept earned reentry will be inversely related to his conviction that the war was immoral.

Draft resisters are required to sign a similar oath with an even more outrageous and ominous addition—they must give up their constitutional rights.



“I also knowingly help to deepen the cynicism of the young in this country.  Apparently, they were not supposed to take Senator Gooddll’s utterances that the war was immoral seriously enough to act on them. And what are they to make of the principles of Father Hesburgh, who resigned from the Nixon administration and came out for unconditional amnesty after Spiro Agnew’s plea bargain? Only a few days before his appointment, Hesburgh joined with other religious leaders in an attempt to visit President Ford and plead for amnesty. They were rebuffed, but their message was, “If leniency excludes certain categories of persons or if conditions are so strict that few take advantage of the leniency offered, our nation would continue to have an exile community and an underground community at home. Consequently, we would not be united, but divided, and the wounds would remain.”

In a final ironic twist, the program places the alternate work program under the direction of the Selective Service System, an agency infamous for its misunderstanding and abuse of objectors and resisters. It is precisely because they were opposed to conscription and the punishment of alternate service for obeying their consciences that many of these men refused to have anything to do with the draft in the first place. The rules for administering alternate service are complex; it is perhaps enough to note that those who will be subjected to it will lack the right of appeal and will be subject to the whims of Selective Service for two years.

Given all this—the VFW speech, the Nixon pardon, the oaths, a Clemency Board that can offer no real relief dressed up in liberal clothes, the legal traps, the imputations of guilt—it is no wonder that the Ford announcements were met with outrage and disdain on the part of war resisters. At a conference in Toronto on September 22, exiles denounced the plan, demanded universal and unconditional amnesty, an end to the war in Indochina, and called for a boycott. At home, the National Council for Universal and Unconditional Amnesty opened new offices in New York City, Atlanta, Denver and San Francisco to warn resisters of the pitfalls and get them involved in the total amnesty drive. The ACLU denounced the program as “offensive in its assumptions
and outrageous in its implementation,” and promised legal challenges as well as free legal counsel to those covered by the program. It is their opinion and that of other draft and military law experts that most men will be better off avoiding the program entirely, seeking legal redress outside it if they return at all.

The rejection of the plan also took dramatic personal forms. Draft resister Bill Meis, 29, originally of Decatur, Ill., became the first exile to return in order to protest and reject the plan. Meis, who had been in Canada for six years, is married and has two small children. He came back with the help of the Safe Return Amnesty Committee, an effective group that had previously arranged the dramatic returns of deserters John David Hemdon, Ed Sowders, Lew Simon and others. Meis’s return was just as effective, with the media carefully recording his joyful reunion with his parents in Chicago, and his equally painful failure to gain admission to the Presidential Clemency Board to protest his case. Meis demanded amnesty for all war resisters before turning himself in
to U.S. Attorneys to face trial. “I am home, but my exile has not ended.”

Equally dramatic was the refusal of draft resister Steve Bezich, imprisoned at El Reno, Okla., to accept the furlough granted those in prison while they await action of the Clemency Board. Others of the eighty-three prisoners released have also stated that they will return to prison rather than submit to the clemency plan. The entire plan, in fact, seems to have stirred up further resistance and demands for amnesty, rather than put an end to the problem. The widely publicized first customer of the pro-
gram, John Barry, 22, of San Francisco, turned himself in to U.S. Attorneys, admitting that he had never registered for the draft. However, it was little reported that, after weighing the implications of clemency, Barry is now in exile in Canada. Also little reported were acts like that of James A. Degal, director of the Spokane Center for World Justice and Peace who, hearing of the plan, mailed back his draft card and declared, “I stand in solidarity of conscience with all the peoples of the world who are oppressed, imprisoned, exiled and tortured for their moral and political beliefs.”

By October 24, after more than a month of operation, the clemency program was already clearly a failure. The Presidential Clemency Board still had only a few hundred cases of those released from stockades and prisons to consider. Few of the more than 200,000 others eligible to apply to the board appear even vaguely interested.
 
President Ford’s re-entry program for Vietnamese War resisters is part of a continuing cover-up of the terrible costs and consequences of this nation’s intervention in Indochina. It is designed to discredit resistance to the war and, along with the Presidential pardon of Nixon, bring to an end our long “nightmare” of bickering over
Indochina.  Mr. Ford’s August 19th speech announcing leniency at the VFW Convention in Chicago came as a surprise to many and was widely reported as a courageous step.

It was neither.

And in Indiana, the Department of Defense closed down its processing center at Camp Atterbury and moved it to smaller quarters at Port Benjamin Harrison. They had discharged 1,419 absentees, only 964 of whom had surrendered voluntarily. The Pentagon tried as usual to make it look as if these men were merely immature or
suffering from personal problems. [See Musil: “The Truth About Deserters,” The Nation, April 16, 1973.1 However, lawyers and counselors familiar with procedures at Atterbury and Harrison report that alternative service sentences are lightest for those least opposed to the war or the military, stiffest for those who take strong anti-war stands.

Whatever a man’s reasons for quitting the Army, the .Joint Alternate Service Board perceives few mitigating circumstances other than wounds and decorations. To date, 1,140 of the 1,419 discharged have received 19-to-24-months alternate service. And not all have been happy about the opportunity. Thomas King, 27, a sheet-metal worker who left the service after basic training in 1967, was turned in by his wife. “I was op-
posed to the Vietnam war, but I was not a pacifist. I deserted because it was an illegal war. I don’t believe in any limited amnesty, but you have no choice.”

There has been one happy outcome of the plan so far—a list of indicted draft violators has finally been obtained from the Justice Department at the prodding of the Center for Social ,Action, United Church of Christ.  The existence of such a list had been denied for years, but was revealed inadvertently by Justice in a conversation with UCC’s amnesty coordinator, the Rev. Barry Lynn. Lynn and the United Church threatened a suit under the Freedom of Information Act and the list was finally handed over on October 24. The United Church, ACLU. the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors and other groups hope to use the list to help fugitives determine whether they have in fact violated the law.

Amnesty groups are gearing up for more action toward a universal unconditional amnesty, even before the January 31st deadline. They will huddle at a National Amnesty Conference in Louisville on November 16-17 to plot strategy. They believe that Ford’s action has simultaneously appeased those who opposed any clemency at
all, and exposed the inequities and the administrative and legal hopelessness of any conditional amnesty plan. Once the dust settles after January 31, amnesty advocates are convinced that the public will realize that the Ford program was a failure and that total amnesty is the only feasible and fair solution.

As for President Ford, his attempts to pretend that the war in Indochina was just’ and is over, that resisters committed the “supreme folly,” that the draft and military were free of discrimination, illegality and inequity, and that our long national “nightmare” has ended, has clearly misfired. As ‘with the Nixon pardon, President Ford underestimated the depth and the seriousness, of the amnesty question and hoped it could be quickly and quietly laid to rest. He is wrong. But like his “last two predecessors,” it may take some time, and much effort, to convince him of the fact.

Page last revised 01/31/2013
James D. West
www.IndianaMilitary.org