The Army general commanding the 18th Airborne Corps at Ft. Bragg, N.C., zeroed in on the paratrooper trying to unionize the 82d Airborne in hopes of finding a reason to kick him out of the service, according to an "eyes only" memorandum obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
Lt. Gen. Henry E. Emerson, commander of the 18th Ariborne Corps, which includes the 82d Airborne Division, in a Sept. 30 memo detailed union activity at Ft. Bragg and said his command was looking for "irregularities" in the chief or organizer's background.
The Emerson memo contradicts past Army claims that former 82d Airborne paratrooper Thomas L. Doran Jr. was kicked out of the Army for technical reasons that had nothing to do with his unionizing activity.
Maj. Charles Murray, judge advocate of the 82d Airborne, and Maj. Terry Throckmorton, division press officer, said in an interview with The Washington Post in March that Doran's discharge stemmed strictly from a bureaucratic error in accepting his re-enlistment in 1975, not his union activity.
The American Civil Liberties Union, as part of its suit charging that the Army illegally discharged Doran, obtained the Emerson memo. It details unioning activity at Ft. Bragg and adds that "We are looking into Doran's background and enlistment papers to determine if any irregularities exist. If this is the case, appropriate action will be taken to elimiante him from the service."
Specialist 5 Doran, who was in good standing as a paratrooper in the 82d Airborne at the time, was kicked out of the Army Dec. 13, 1976 - more than two months after Emerson started the search for irregularities in his record.
Another "eyes only" Emerson memo dated Nov. 22 and obtained by the ACLU discloses that the general planned to request the publisher of the civilian-run Paraglide newspaper circulated at Ft. Bragg "to subtly ask Doran to provide some information concerning his organization when answering Doran's request for rate quotes" on an ad promoting unionzation.
"This is an appropriate action on the part of the publisher," Emerson wrote, "who is charged with the responsibility of protecting his readers from items detrimental to their health and welfare."
Doran eventually decided not to place the ad. The documents do not reveal whether the publisher was contacted by the general.
So far, the ACLU has failed in its attempts to persuade the U.S. District Court in Fayetteville to accept jurisdiction in the case, and is currently planning an appeal to the Court of Appeals.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFL-CIO) is polling its member to determine if they wish to try to unionize the armed forces. The results are expected to be announced this fall.
Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) is sponsoring a bill to outlaw unions in the military. Defense Secretary Harold Brown has warned against over-reacting to the threat of military unions.
Emerson, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, outlined in one of his memos his plan to counter unionizing efforts at Ft. Bragg. He called it "imperative" to "take the offensive in this matter."