Incitement to mutiny: Sir! No Sir! ***

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on November 18, 2006)

There have been numerous  documentaries examining various aspects of the Sixties protest movement (The War At Home, Berkeley In The Sixties and the more recent Weather Underground), but none focusing on members of the armed forces who openly opposed the Vietnam war-until now.

Sir! No Sir! is a fascinating look at the GI anti-war movement during the era. Director David Zeigler combines present-day interviews with archival footage to good effect in his well-paced film. I’d wager most people who have seen Oliver Stone’s Born On The Fourth Of July were left with the impression that paralyzed Vietnam vet and activist Ron Kovic was the main impetus and focus of the GI movement, however his story was but one of thousands (although interestingly, Kovic is never mentioned in Ziegler’s film).

While the aforementioned Kovic received  media attention at the time, the full extent and significance of the involvement by military personnel has been suppressed from public knowledge for a number of years, and that is the focus of Sir! No Sir!.

In an astutely chosen archival clip, a CBS news anchor somberly intones about problems with “troop morale” in Vietnam. Unbeknownst to the public, the military was apparently imprisoning dissenting GIs under the umbrella of “incitement to mutiny” charges; more often than not for relatively minor transgressions (e.g. merely for being overheard expressing anti-war sentiments).

All the present-day interviewees (military vets) give interesting (and at times emotionally wrenching) recollections. Jane Fonda speaks candidly about her infamous “FTA” (“Fuck the Army”) shows she organized for troops as antithesis to the traditional rah-rah Bob Hope USO tours. Well worth your time. The film would make an excellent double bill with the classic documentary Hearts and Minds (available from Criterion).

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