Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Signing the Military Justice Act of 1968

October 24, 1968

Secretary Nitze, Secretary Brown, Secretary Ignatius, Members of Congress, distinguished guests:

The soldier who fought at Valley Forge could expect only "drumhead justice" if he ran afoul of military law.

The trooper at Gettysburg could expect little more.

Even the doughboy who went ashore with Pershing had nothing like the legal protection of the civilian at home.

That all has changed now. The man who wears the uniform of his country today does not discard his right to fair treatment under our laws.

The first great step came in 1950. It was then that our servicemen and women were given the Uniform Code of Military Justice-the most sweeping development in military law in all of American history.

When President Harry Truman signed it into life, he was able to say that "the democratic ideal of equality is further advanced."

Today we believe we advance it again. The Military Justice Act of 1968, which we will sign shortly, will stand proudly beside the 1950 law.

It expands the concept of fairness. It creates an independent court system within the military, free from command pressures and control.

It enlarges the right of the individual soldier by giving him trained legal defense when he is tried by a special court-martial.

It makes some other changes to streamline the system, and to safeguard, always, the serviceman.

We in America have always prided ourselves on giving our men and our women in uniform excellent medical service, superb training, the best equipment that money can buy.

Now, with this bill, we believe we are going to give them first-class legal services as well.

As President, I have worked for better pay, for better care, and for better rewards for those who serve their country's flag and who protect and defend us with their lives. This will probably be the last bill that I will sign in their behalf. I am so pleased that it goes to the root of the system, that all of these men and women defend for all of us the right of every citizen to justice and to fairness under the law.

Note: The President spoke at 12:17 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Paul H. Nitze, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Harold Brown, Secretary of the Air Force, and Paul R. Ignatius, Secretary of the Navy.

As enacted, the bill (H.R. 15971) is Public Law 90-632 (82 Stat. 1335).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing the Military Justice Act of 1968 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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