By introducing facts gleaned from my personal experience and the documented actions or reactions of others involved I intend to, both in my writings on this forum and in books to be published, acquaint the reader with the harsh reality of lawlessness sponsored, condoned and even ordered by higher command, often in response to the political dictates of the White House. Perhaps as important as revealing criminal acts to the reader is the detailing of why it is that so few acts are reported and, once reported, why little or no action that is taken to investigate them. Few of those responsible for these particular criminal acts are prosecuted and punished, much less evidence secured or corroborated.
In a nonfiction book, now in progress, titled Devious Elite, I will report instances of US military units or individuals intentionally breaking the law, committing crimes against humanity and taking actions prohibited by law or the commonly accepted rules of land warfare. In most cases, these illegal actions, though sometimes of a deadly nature, were directed by those who use military personnel, primarily unconventional warriors, to achieve preconceived objectives with little or no consideration for constitutional prerogatives.
This true account of gun-running by military personnel assigned to Special Forces units in South Vietnam and Thailand in 1967 will be covered in detail in Devious Elite. Portions of this tragic record of illegal trafficking of military weapons will be referred to in Part Eighteen of this series Who Really Killed Martin Luther King, Jr.?inasmuch as it is probable that many of the 100+ military weapons illegally mailed to the United States were involved in government actions tailored to infiltrate and gain intelligence on Black militant organizations while, at the same time, providing “sterile” weapons to those involved in the scenario leading to and including the assassination of Dr. King.
In the summer of 1967 I volunteered to fill an “urgent” requirement within the 46th Special Forces headquarters located in Lop Buri, Thailand where “real trouble” had been reported by a source whose identity was kept confidential, an individual who feared for his life should the “CO” in Thailand learn of his having reported an illegal activity to higher headquarters.
Quotes shown below are taken from a 20 page interrogatory witness statement taken and recorded on 25 November 1968 at Mechanicburg, Pennsylvania and attested to by myself and Special Agent Donald D. Knutson of USAINTC, in accordance with Article 136, UCMJ, and witnessed by B.J. Leonard which related to the investigation I requested. “...I reported to the 46th at about 0100 hours on approximately 19 September 1967. ...Well, Rittenhouse [a sergeant who worked in the logistical support center which I had just assumed command of] came in and sat down in my office , talked to me, and he looked scared and I’m sure he was. He wanted to tell me about an experience he had had that day, or the day before. On this matter, Rittenhouse explained to me that Buttler [Special Forces Captain Ernest Buttler, the officer I had asked to be investigated] had brought in a box of hold baggage to ship back to CONUS, and when Rittenhouse broke it open, removed the top from it to check and see what was in the box and to prepare it for inspection by CWO Gillis [unit customs inspector], he noted that there were some weapons inside the box . Specifically, Rittenhouse indicated that there were two carbines ... an M-1D rifle and a sniper scope.”
He called CWO Gillis, who immediately inspected the contents and informed Captain Buttler that he could not send them home in his hold baggage. Captain Buttler, later that day, brought a vehicle to the location where the guns were, “put them in the back of the vehicle and took off.” Rittenhouse then informed me that, “previous to this incident, Buttler had shipped out approximately eighteen boxes of hold baggage, and that he and a Staff Sergeant Richard Sweatt, who also worked in the Property Book Office, ...felt that a lot of weapons had been shipped out in those eighteen boxes.” I was told that Buttler had visited the 5th Special Forces in Vietnam and “scrounged a lot of extra weapons; carbines, shotguns, M-1 rifles, M-1D rifles with scopes.”
After discussing this activity with CWO Gillis and my assistant, Captain Peter Crummey, and learning that Captain Buttler had already left Thailand enroute to CONUS with a wooden box of the same size and shape as the one that had been opened by Rittenhouse earlier that day, I called our commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bartelt, reported the incident and asked that action be taken. The next morning I went to Bartelt’s office and we discussed this matter, and though he recognized that he was required to notify the CID (Criminal Investigation Division), he decided “that the incident would leave a bad impression on the company itself, and on Bartelt as the Commanding Officer. Bartelt decided not to report the incident to CID.”
Knowing this incident should be investigated, but unaware that LTC Bartelt was a Military Intelligence officer because he wore Infantry brass on all of his uniforms, I asked the local Special Agent from Military Intelligence to investigate this matter as an item of national security. He advised that he would want me to be out of country and back in CONUS before he would formally have me questioned, telling me that both of our lives would be in danger if he did it at that time. Thus I was actually interrogated more than a year after I’d reported the incident.
I immediately, knowing there would be an investigation, spoke with Captain Crummey, CWO Gillis, and the other personnel assigned to my office and was promised they would support the need for an investigation and tell the truth of what they knew.
The exception was CWO Gillis, who would only sign an affidavit with a statement telling of “an incident involving him (Buttler) attempting to send a box to CONUS containing one M1D rifle scope.”
Captain Crummey, on 13 July1968, told CID investigator Larry J. Mentink, that Buttler had “sent a large number of rifles, carbines, and rifle scopes...including some automatic rifles ... to his home in CONUS.” He also told Mentink that Buttler was “a Black Power Advocate.” However, on the 12th day of September 1968, when approached by Special Agent Charles F. Eisman for his signature on an affidavit prepared based on his earlier interview by Mentink, refused to sign, said he had no knowledge of those items he had discussed with Mentink and “further stated that he had been directed not to discuss anything that he was unable to prove.” Crummey refused to identify who it was that issued that directive.
The investigators of the US Army’s Intelligence and Security Command went to a special effort to provide me a complete report of the investigation, to include the actual signed statements of the investigators when first receiving information from the various people questioned in addition to the actual signed affidavits of those same people which did not contain the corroboration initially stated by those same people to the earlier agent.
Portions of the report reflect the agent’s findings. Colonel Franklin J. Bithos writes “... it became evident that LTC Robert Bartelt, commanding officer, 46th SFC had exerted influence over the personnel interviewed. This was reflected in their hesitancy in answering questions concerning the activities of the 46th SFC.” In that same report, Special Agent Donald D. Knutson wrote, “Marvin answered all questions without hesitation and in an apparent honest and straightforward manner.”
The entire report of investigation was provided to the attorney for the King family for use in the trail held in Memphis that held the government to be guilty of complicity in the death of Martin Luther King Jr. You be the judge of what happened, who told the truth and what needs to be done to correct what can happen when unbridled power is given to those who command men, money and weapons.
[Edited by Jeanne Calabretta]