Right now, the GIs being held inside are (with some exceptions) not anti-war activists, nor are they particularly political. For most, their military offense is going AWOL. The typical age is just 19 years old; their typical background is working class: a former gas station attendant, an auto repairman, a fry cook, mill worker, seasonal fieldworker, plant worker, miner. Not many have finished high school. But everyone in the stockade is suffering the conditions inside.
None of the guards assigned to enforce discipline and order in this stockade have been given the right kind of training for this duty. Some engage in particularly cruel and vindictive behavior: it is well-known that a guard might take you to the basement boiler room and taunt you as you take a heavy beating. Many inmates will attest to hearing the screaming from downstairs.
Maybe you can handle the crowding, the guard brutality, the taunting, cockroaches in the mess hall, the rats, the human waste from the toilets that routinely backs up into the showers, the inadequate portions, and the boredom. But some prisoners are having a deeply hard time. They are heard talking to themselves at night, or telling stories by day of how they can walk through the walls, or how they are going kill themselves.
Moment of crisis
Richard “Rusty” Bunch was one such prisoner. He was a small, skinny GI from Ohio with family roots in the Tennessee hill country. He enlisted at age 17 when his best friend was drafted. By the time Rusty hit the Presidio stockade for being AWOL, he was clearly struggling, dealing with some personal demons and some untreated mental illness. He was not doing too well, and his fellow prisoners thought he was too sick for confinement.
On October 11 while he was out on work detail, he began to skip away from the guard. Watch the video below to find out what happened next.