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Page 13
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<< 12. 1945, Vets' History: The Back Home Movement14. Legion Holds A Party >>

Klan At Camp Pendleton: Interview With A Black Marine


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In 1976, 14 Black Marines attempted to attack the Ku Klux Klan and all it stands for at Camp Pendleton, California. The Marines going up for trial have the full support of VVAW.

The Marine Corps brass has taken the position that this action of the Black marines is totally divorced from the Klan activities preceding it. Some of the Klansmen on the base have been transferred. None of the Klan have been punished.

The following are excerpts form an interview with Lance Corporal Anthony Mathews, one of the Camp Pendleton 14.

Q. - What led up to the situation of the 13 and the climate?

A. - They say that everybody is equal in the Marine Corps--there is no prejudice. But for a person who has experienced the Marine Corps (they) say this is definitely not true. There is a considerable amount of prejudice in the Marine Corps toward Blacks, Chicanos, Indians, Samoans...and other ethnic groups.

Q.- Did the Brass know about the existence of the Klan before the incident happened?

A.- That's kind of hard to answer because they were made aware of the amount of prejudice that was going on and some of the things that were happening and things they were doing was out in the open. So it was very had for them not to be aware of them even though they might not have been told face to face. It still would be kind of hard for them not to be aware of something that was happening in their particular area...especially with a lot of things happening that could be considered.. you know, racial disturbances.

Q.- What did the other GIs, like the white GIs think about the Klan activity?

A.- You can't say all the whites in the Marine Corps are like that, (there's) a lot of whites in the Marine corps that are against it and are trying to get this thing out of the Marine Corps. There opinion is..(it) was not doing them no good. It's not really doing anybody any good. This is 1977 and this stuff should be dead.

Q.- Do you think the Klan has a right to be on the base or organizing anywhere?

A.- Well, when I signed up for the Marines they asked me a lot of questions about belonging to this or that radical group or extremist organization.. I think it was wrong for them to be in the Marine Corps to organize, and I think it's wrong anyway to have such an organization as the Ku Klux Klan which is mainly built on holding down people.

Q.- Do you think that all the evidence pertaining to the Klan was brought out in the Article 32 hearings? Were they allowing all the information?

A.- No. Because everytime evidence pertaining to the Klan was brought in it was pushed aside as being either irrelevant to the case..."It had nothing to do with what happened." "You're going far afield"...these were the words they were using.

Q.- So they were limiting it to the night of the incident?

A.- That's all they were concerned with.

Q.- Why do you think the corps hasn't come out with a statement against the Klan yet?

A.- That's a question I can't answer. I'd like to know myself.

Q.- Do you think the Klan has been rooted out of Pendleton?

A.- Definitely not. Definitely no. It's still here and they're still organizing here. They might have calmed down a little bit; kept their stuff under cover a little bit more, but as far as being rooted out--no.

Q.- This is a question about South Africa. What do you think about the system of Apartheid?

A.- How can one small group of people tell the majority how to run the country? It's a majority of Black. The Blacks are the ones working in the mines, working the fields. They're the ones bringing in most of the income, if not all the income, and enjoying none of the benefits...So, as far as this Apartheid, it's completely wrong, completely backwards. The system shouldn't be there. I think something is going to happen to destroy that whole system. Definitely people over here should take an interest in it. Like they said, you know, The Us has a lot of interests over there in Africa and they're trying to push it off on us like,"Well, we really don't have nothing going on over there," but they're making plenty of money--the people over there--which I think is wrong..they're condoning it. So I think people in the Us should take a definite interest in trying to stop what is going on over there and try to help the Blacks get control of what is rightfully theirs.

Nearly 20% of the military is made up of Blacks. Because of the superhigh unemployment and oppressive conditions of many of the inner cities Blacks are forced into the military. And while they say that once you enter the military you aren't Black or white, just green, national discrimination is a fact of life. In Vietnam a disproportionate number of Blacks were killed. Less then honorable discharges are given to a disproportionate number of Blacks. And they say there is no prejudice in the military! The case of the Pendleton marines is another clear example of how this is an outrageous lie. There is no justice in national discrimination and it's right for Blacks and whites to stand up and fight against the attacks like the case of the Pendelton 14.

A march and rally in support of the Pendelton marines will be held on Saturday, June 4 at 1PM in Balderama Park in Oceanside, California. For information contact the San Diego Chapter of VVAW. P.O. Box 8054 San Diego, CA 92102. Telephone (714) 232-9846


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