I left the Korean Conflict and was stationed at Indiantown Gap military reservation. It was good to be stationed close to home, but it didn't last long. I was transferred to Fort George G. Meade, Md to a Reserve MP Company. This company had been called to active duty to fill the void left by regular army MPs being sent to Korea. Rumor had it that this company served the purpose of providing a stateside slot for some VIP civilian kids. Eg: Their children would have served during the Korean Conflict, but they wouldn't have to worry about them being killed in battle as they would never leave the states.
I arrived orders in hand, but stopped at the bulletin board to see what kind of duty the unit did. I was stopped short by an officer who asked who I was and when I told him he said, "Check in and then read our bulletin board." At that point I was beginning to wonder about the unit. I checked in and went to the barracks to get a bunk. I was told to go to classes as the company seemed to have a heavy training schedule. I waited in the barracks for the classes to change and I was jumped by a Lt, who wanted to know why I wasn't in class. I explained and joined the training when the others returned.
Next, they were very upset because my records showed I hadn't fired my .45 cal pistol in over a year. I explained that I had just returned from Korea and had fired it many times, but they didn't do any record firing there. I was scheduled for the range. The Lieutenant took me to the range. I had entered and left Korea as a corporal (I explained this before). At this point I was very unhappy being treated like a dog, and since we were alone, I informed him that I had a reserve higher rank in the Military Police Corps than he had. I don't think he believed me, but he surely checked my records. The company had a platoon at A. P. Hill to provide police coverage for the reservation. The next thing I knew I was headed there. It was a place that I didn't know existed.
The A. P. Hill military reservation was located in Caroline County, Virginia. The assigned troops were housed in old CCC barracks which had new siding and were re-roofed. The plumbing was outside in another building.
I soon learned that it was a troop training area of 77,000 acres. US Route 301 ran through the center, Rt 17 can across the northern boundary, and Rt 2 ran along the west boundary. It was used for firing live ammunition (bombing by jet aircraft, artillery fire, mortars, anti-aircraft, and the usual small arms firing) and field training exercises. It had been a vast rural area and had the usual villages and covered about 2/3 of Caroline County. In 1941 the military needed the area for training purposes, so it was condemned and the people were forced to leave.
I liked the duty. It was fairly isolated, but at that time we weren't making much money, so you could go fishing or hunting without spending much money. The PX was run by an old civilian called "Pop" and it was the only Service PX, where you could buy a case of beer and defer paying until pay day. The area was loaded with deer and there were many lakes and ponds filled with large mouth bass. A. P. Hill was about to become a Camp and as such was authorized its own MP unit. We were given the opportunity to stay and those who wished to return were sent back to Ft Meade. I jumped at the chance and worked my way up, finally becoming the operation sergeant.
The company commander (Capt Kneppley) was a soldier's soldier. Rough as a cob, but fair. He had served in the Infantry in WWII and had been with the special forces at Anzio (new at that time). In the Korean war he had camped on the Yalu River and once again he was an infantry officer. Later in my career I would meet an enlisted man who had served under him (7th Div-Korea) and he agreed that he was one fine officer. He said the captain would come out of a foxhole, days later, and look as if he was ready for the parade ground. He was a line officer and he disliked being an administrator. The rest of the officers were administrators and he was being rated by them. The end result was that his efficiency ratings were not good. It was the time of reduction in force (RIF) for officers and enlisted men. Kneppley had a regular army rank of master sergeant and would have been allowed to continue on in that rank, but he was proud and told them to stick it.
Kneppley and I hunted together and if he needed anything, he knew he could depend on me. He had no car at the time and one Sunday morning he came in the police station and asked me to drive his girlfriend back to Richmond. She had spent the night in the BOQ with him and needed a ride home. Another time he came in the station and told me we were going to the officers' club, at the Dahlgren Naval Base, and the uniform would be sport coat and slacks. We had a good evening.
At this time the enlisted men had to have a high school level education or a medal for bravery, to stay in the Army. I remember an enlisted man who looked after our ten bed hospital. He looked after the hospital as if it was his own. He cleaned bedpans, urinals, mopped and waxed floors, and whatever. He required little supervision and never complained; everything was spic and span. He hadn't met the criteria, so he was released. His replacement was a college student, who complained about everything and wasn't able to accomplish much of anything. What a shame.
My first sergeant had been caught in the reduction of forces. He had been a Lt Colonel and was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. He and his wife lived on the post in one of the few homes, which the military retained after they took over. His two vices were smoking and white lightning (bootleg booze). He would buy a case of quarts each week and be ready for another by the end of the week. I couldn't stand it. His wife dissolved candy in it, but I didn't enjoy it. He eventually retired and became an engineer for the city of Richmond, they bought their first house there, and she went to work in the office of J. C. Penny. The cigarettes finally killed him.
We had no enlisted mens club there, so Sgt Ryland and a couple of NCOMS (including me) decided to start one. Camp Pickett was closing, so we were able to get a couple of items from there. I was selected to run it along with my normal duties. It was a place to go in the evenings since there was no real activity close by. Troops in the field enjoyed it in the evenings too.
We decided to ask for the use the Officers' Lodge on Travis Lake, to have a real EM party complete with girls. Permission was granted and I was elected to come up with a busload of girls. The YWCA in Richmond wouldn't talk to me as there would be alcoholic beverages served there, but they did refer me to a business womens' sorority. Bulls eye, they would be glad to come and the date was set. I picked up the girls and they were all dressed in evening gowns. The bus arrived at camp, but we had about five miles of dirt roads to travel through the post to get to the lodge. I looked to the rear of the bus and couldn't see anyone for the dust and everyone was coughing. We finally arrived at the lodge and the sight of that perked them up. There was another problem awaiting me there. They had started drinking about the time I had left for Richmond and were well on their way when we walked through the doors. The guys ignored the girls and they didn't want to dance. I left early and after that there was the usual rough house, one sergeant almost drove his car in the lake. We served venison and one of the sergeants was walking around with the hind leg, eating it and another sergeant took exception to it. The guy eating it got mad and rapped the other guy along side the head with it.
The following day, the committee was called in for an explanation (me included) and to clean out the bus (beer cans and puke). It had been a disaster. I checked with the girl in charge and found out they were preparing a letter to send to the commanding officer. I was able to stop it with a couple boxes of candy and my presence in Richmond. The transportation officer who tried to keep us from having the use of the lodge was in his glory. So was I at a later date when I went to Washington DC, with the provost marshal, to bring him back after he was charged with indecent exposure.
In the club one evening was a soldier (Master Sergeant Montelongo) from Reading, Pennsylvania, the wearer of the Distinguished Service Cross. He was with the 3rd Armored Division and they were doing field training before heading for Germany. He was a likable fellow. It was hard to believe that in an engagement, in Korea, he killed the enemy until he ran out of ammunition, then he picked up his entrenching tool and killed more. He had put eighteen of the enemy out of their misery.
We discussed the new Walker Bulldog tank and I told him that I had never driven a tank. He said he would give me that opportunity. I had forgotten the conversation until I heard a Jeep horn blowing at the police station door the next day. It was Montelongo and he said that I was going to drive a tank. He said the officers were at a meeting and we wouldn't be disturbed. I climbed in the tank and the instructions were easy as it had an automatic shift and a handle bar to steer. He did say that I shouldn't turn off the key as the engine would backfire and the damage would cost $300 to repair. The way to stop it was to turn off the gas and let it stop itself. Off we went. I had an MP hanging on the outside of the turret and I almost lost him with a quick turn. My lesson ended without any problems.
After Capt Kneppley left we received another Captain to look after the 2104th ASU, unmarried, he burned a lot of midnight oil. I did everything, for him, at the MP detachment except sign for his pay. I was going with the post commander's secretary and that petered out after a time. My name had been sent in to 2nd Army Headquarters for a promotion. At that time the name was approved locally and when the stripes became available, at higher hq, the name came back approved for the promotion. The new Captain started dating my ex-girlfriend and he asked me to take an overseas assignment. I only had three months left on my enlistment and had some personal legal problems pending, so it wasn't to my advantage to ship out. My promotion arrived and he sent it back saying I was no longer eligible for it. Next thing he is gone and a Captain Barkovic came in as a replacement. I was giving him a sightseeing trip around the post, when he asked me where my new stripes were. I replied, and he was quick to find out what had happened, and he said the stripes would be mine as soon as it was possible. He was good to his word.
I had no car when I arrived because I had given my relatively new Plymouth club coupe to my parents when I headed to Korea. My brother found a 39 Chevy sedan in excellent shape and that made life much easier. We cut up a piece of grating and added four screw-on legs to it and that was our barbacue grille. It was fastened to the front grille of the car. The frying pans, jungle hammocks, and other camping gear was stored in the trunk.
When we lacked money we headed to one of the post ponds and setup for the weekend. We had our beer (on credit) and caught fish to eat. Sometimes we spent the night.
We always seemed to be short of cash. The car had unusual front seat passengers from time to time and then one day a four star Airforce general. At that time we had about six Airforce officers on post enjoying the hunting. I became close friends with the four star general's aide. They cut short their time as they had been invited to the christening of an aircraft carrier (the Forestal I believe), by the Navy. The aide asked me if I would let him have my car to take the General to the light plane airstrip and of course, I said, "Yes". It must have been a sight to behold. The six planes (one for each general) were on the airstrip and the pilots were taking life easy, because they would be alerted by the approach of the staff cars. I was told later that they ignored the old Chevy and were stunned when the four star popped out of it. After that I had a sign attached to the front passengers sun visor. It read: The following have occupied your seat, A four star general, a monkey, and a deaf mute. What is your claim to fame?
The MP work was of a routine nature, but from time to time that changed and I will give some examples here:
The plans were approved, and work was begun on some known distance rifle ranges. A civilian bulldozer operator arrived to start clearing the area for the ranges. I saw him check in at the MP Desk. He was dead within a half-hour. He started to clear the area when he dug up a bazooka rocket. He dismounted and lifted it away from the bulldozer blade, looked at it and then threw it aside. It exploded and the shaped charge was pointing in his direction when it went off. The explosion severed both legs and he bled to death before help could arrive. The explosives ordnance disposal squad (EOD) was called in for a clean-up of the range area. A great bunch of guys, but full of hell. Barkovic had pestered their CO to let him see how they did their work. They hatched a plot and asked him along. They had a pile of ordnance ready to blow, which they showed him. They stationed a sergeant in a foxhole near by and he was to put off the charge that would destroy the pile of explosives. They moved the captain out of direct sight; removed the sergeant from the hole, and threw in some catsup covered fatigues. Then they fired a charge in the empty fox hole. They said," Oh my God, the sergeant blew himself up."
The captain rushed up, looked into the foxhole and saw the red covered fatigues and screamed for them to call an ambulance. They said an ambulance wouldn't do any good since he was dead. One of the enlisted men was bitching because the supposedly dead sergeant wouldn't be around to sign his pass that evening. At this point the captain was angry at their lack of response and got in a vehicle to go for help himself. He couldn't move the vehicle as there was a sergeant standing in his way. It took him a few seconds to realize it was the sergeant who was supposed to be dead. He didn't take the joke lightly.
Another time I was taking a postman's holiday by riding with a Virginia state trooper (Buchanan) on US Route one south of Fredericksburg. We noticed a huge cloud of black smoke rising in the southeast. His radio soon told us that Bowling Green was on fire. It was a small community located just south of the camp on US Rt 301. I hurried back and found out that the post commander had declared martial law (not a proper move, but under the circumstances no one complained) and I was the law in town. The sheriff and I were great friends and all we did was assist him. The 3rd armored cavalry was in the field and they backed their trucks down the main street loaded personal belongings of houses and businesses in the path of fire. and moved them to a safe area. Army bull dozer operators knocked down buildings in the path of the fire and it was contained, but the business district was a complete loss.
A USAF C-47, transporting school children who had won an essay contest was overhead, when the craft developed mechanical problems. The pilot decided to come in at our small landing strip and it was too short, so the plane smashed into a forest located at the end. There was no one there, but the fire chief's house was there and his wife notified us. By the time we got there the children were out and they had no serious injuries. That was not the case of the pilot and co-pilot. The plane slithered through the forest glancing off of most trees, but it hit one dead center. That tree was now in the plane and had gone between the pilot and co-pilot wrapping them in the aluminum outside wall of the plane. They were both conscious and were in bad need of medical help.
The pilot wasn't confined as bad as the co-pilot was and he was removed, placed on a stretcher and taken away after a short time. Gasoline was everywhere and the co-pilot asked, repeatedly, for us to refrain from smoking. It was unbelievable as to the number of people who approached the plane with lit cigarettes. I didn't know how I would get him free, but I picked up a fire axe and started cutting a vertical line in the fuselage behind the co-pilot. The medics had given him a shot and that was all they could do then. It didn't seem as if I was getting anywhere, but I kept cutting. I apparently cut the proper reinforcement and the side of the plane, which had been under great tension sprung open, away from the co-pilot. Everyone survived and one of the pilots wrote a letter of appreciation to the commanding officer. There were no medals, as it was all part of the job. I'm glad the plane didn't catch fire, because I was determined that he wouldn't die in the fire, as I would have shot him in the head with my .45 pistol. That would have ended my career and I undoubtedly would have been condemned for my action.
I lost an MP; he was off-duty, at his quarters in town, when his step-son shot him. He was a good MP. He was over six foot tall about 220 pounds. Always did his work without question. Why did it happen? The step-son wanted the keys to the car and he had refused him for some reason or other. In fact, they seemed so close that I didn't know the boy was not his son. It was in the afternoon when it happened. My MP had been at the club, drank an orange soda (the defense tried to prove alcohol was the cause, but the autopsy showed otherwise), went home and was shot three times, with a .22 cal rifle as he entered the house. He staggered backwards, out the door, and collapsed on the lawn. The three bullets had entered the middle breastbone and none was over an inch from the other.
The case was tried in the local court. Chickens were selling at twenty-nine cents a pound at the local grocery store. How do I know? I was reading the ad on the back of the newspaper that the judge was reading as he listened to the testimony. The prosecutor was from the next county and there wouldn't have been any testimony, in favor of the victim if the sheriff and I hadn't obtained it. It was a real travesty of justice, the boy was freed. I learned later that the judge owed the defense attorney a lot, for having gone to bat for him when he was in trouble.
When the 3rd armored cavalry was in the field I was given the task of getting $250,000 from the Federal Reserve, in Richmond, to the paymaster. It was a lot of money and no bills were greater that twenty dollars. It filled an army footlocker and I did arrange for the Virginia State Police assistance along the route. No problems, but that was a heap of money in those days.
We had another bad range accident on 28 July 1955. Members of Company G, 325 AIR had been in the field for training. It was time to leave, but they had some unused 60mm mortar shells left. These could have been turned in, but that required paperwork. They gathered some men together (none from the mortar crews) and decided they would take them to the range and fire them. There was a coke bet as to who would get the rounds off first. No one wore the required helmets. They arrived at the range and without rhyme or reason they set up quickly, but not safely. The rounds were dropped into the mortar tubes, but the firing pin had been retracted on one of the mortars. In the confusion and noise of the others firing, it was assumed that the round had cleared and another one was put on top of the first one. The trigger was pulled and the bottom round pushed the other one free of the tube. As the rounds cleared the arming pins flew free, arming the projectiles. The rear one pushing on the front one caused the fuse to fire the rounds as they cleared the tube. The result; three dead and six injured. I had the unpleasant task of fingerprinting the bodies at the morgue.
One of my MPs (Phil) was coming down Rt 1, one night, in his civilian car. He was forced off the road, because an oncoming car threw a spotlight on him. As soon as the car passed, he went after it. He got the car stopped and asked the driver why he was using the spotlight on cars. The driver said he got a kick out of seeing how many were forced off the road. Phil said it sounded like a great game, and with that moved to the front of the car, picked up a rock and smashed the headlights. The driver said, "What are you doing?" Phil replied, "You get your kicks your way and this is the way I get mine". The diver said he was going to report him to the State Police (the regional trooper was a man named Slater and everyone knew him). Phil yelled back, "You do that, Slater is my uncle". Slater wasn't his uncle and we never heard any more about the incident.
It was rumored that the commanding officers assigned to the Hill were one step from being put out of the Army. Some had been regimental and battalion commanders and now they commanded 120 civilians and about 100 military. Once in a while they would come up with some weird ideas. The one CO set up teams, each composed of an officer and two noncoms. We were given a stream to follow, from its source on post, until it left the boundaries. This could have been done by looking at a map. The place had grown wild since it was acquired in 1941. We found it was easier to walk in the shallow stream than to fight the briar thickets. We crossed US Rt 301 and entered the impact area. We were about halfway through, still walking the stream, when I noticed a metal yellow flag sticking up through the grass along the bank. I knew that it meant mines, but surely not here. I got out of the stream, walked forward a short distance, and found out that I was in a minefield. I cautioned the others and went back to the stream. The location was noted on our map and upon return we notified S-3 (plans & Training). EOD squad came in and confirmed the minefield. Subsequent investigation revealed that it had been laid, by the engineers, to test a new device for detonating minefields, and for some reason or other, it wasn't cleaned up.
Another CO knew a tank unit was coming in for training. His branch was armor and he decided to provide a trail for them. This trail encountered a swamp, which the tanks could not get through. He decided he would bridge it with a corduroy road. He didn't have an engineer unit but he did have the administrative, supply, and military police soldiers. He put them all in the field with axes, chain saws, and you name it. Only a couple of the soldiers knew how to handle the equipment. I was concerned, as I could see that the possibilities for serious injury and/or death was great. I voiced my concern to my CO, but that was as far as I got. Teams were set up and the trees started to fall here and there. I was amazed that no one was hit by the falling trees. There were injuries and blisters, but they were minor. The trees were pulled and pushed into position, but they were laid in line with the travel of the tanks. I called this to their attention, and when they realized their error, they countered by saying it was a base for the others, which would be laid at right angles. More trees were cut and positioned. The swamp was bridged and they had a tank ready for the crossing. It worked, but because of the extra trees it was like a huge springboard when the tank crossed.
I liked the hunting season as we had a lot of VIP escort duty. I got to know the 2nd Army and deputy commanders, the Conteniental Army Commander, the asst secretary of Army, and many others. I had met General Harris previously. He was the deputy commander of 2nd army and on this particular day he was returning with the 2nd army commander. My duty was to follow them in a MP sedan. At the airstrip the Colonel greeted them and asked them to accompany him in his staff car. General Harris had noticed me and said he would ride with me. I apologized for not having the stars, to place on the outside of the vehicle, to show his presence in the vehicle. He said no problem as he wanted to talk about hunting and fishing. A day or so later he asked me to go to Berlin with him.
We had patrols in Colonial Beach, for the weekends, during the summer months when troops were in the field. I would go there to check on them from time to time. During one of these trips, I met the Guyer family. They worked in Washington, DC, but had a cottage at the beach where her mother resided. When they found out that I went back to camp each night they offered me a place to stay. They were great people and our friendship remained until they died. I am still in contact with their son, Robert, who still lives in Colonial Beach.
A storm took down a tree at Travis Lake and in doing so dropped a baby squirrel from its nest. I took it back to the station and a civilian woman provided a doll's bottle for it. It would go to sleep in my fatigue jacket pocket. It survived and we let it go, but it came into the police station from time to time. It was sitting on the inside railing one day when the first sergeant came in. He liked to rub its head, but it didn't care for the treatment, so it went out side and went up the light pole. I went about my duties until a soldier entered and asked me if that was my squirrel. I told him yes and he said a cat chased it under the building and killed it. I checked and there it lay. The cat had taken its head off. We posted a description of the cat in the club and offered a case of beer reward for its elimination. Time upon time cats were dispatched, but the culprit remained free. On one occasion we even played the evening bugle call early to muffle the sound of the shot. Wrong cat again. It was finally killed under the PX. at high noon, with a well placed shot. A lesson learned; you should never pamper a wild animal and expect it survive when left go.
Early on when I worked the desk and when you were on the evening shift there was no place to go. That was before the club was organized. It was one of those evenings when the master sergeant, from the dispensary, came by and said lets go to Fredericksburg for a beer. Well under the best of circumstances there was only two places where you could get a beer and at that time of the night, there was only one. It was on the by-pass. We headed north in the old 39 Chevy and got to the place as he was closing the door. He took time to give us a beer and he was gone. No place to go, so we headed back to camp. The sergeant said he'd give anything for another beer and I told him there was a case in the trunk, but it was warm. No matter says he. I found a roadside picnic table and we opened the trunk, took out the beer and a gas lantern (see I told you the trunk contained a lot of equipment) put them on the table, lit the lantern and had our beer. Cars passing by blew their horns and waved. We didn't know why, until we discovered it was against the law to drink in public. Live and learn.
The general kept his promise and I was on my way to Berlin, never thinking that I might return again. I had been here from August 1952 to November 1955.
It was 1955 and I was once again forced out of my position as the MP Non-commissioned officer at Camp A P Hill, Virginia. I was qualified, did the job, but didn't have the necessary stripes to hold it. There was no chance of promotion and the other branches of the Army were top heavy. These were the ones who usually bumped me. Some had no military police experience and I had to give them on-the-job training. I wasn't left out and usually wound up as the Provost Marshal investigator. A nice job, but then I was totally locked away from any promotions. And so it was, early in 1955. I found out we had secret mission to Viet Nam and knew a colonel who had gone there. I went to the Pentagon and tried to get an assignment in Viet Nam. I finally got to see a Chief Warrant officer and he was more interested in finding out how I knew about the secret mission. He sent me packing and told me to return to my unit and submit the request through normal channels. Summer came and I was assigned to escort BG Hugh P Harris. I told him that I had tried to get to Viet Nam and the reason for wanting the transfer. He told me that he was being sent to Germany as the Berlin Commander and would take me with him if I so desired. I accepted his offer, but no one in camp would believe me. Fall arrived and no orders, so I too thought he had forgotten, but the orders finally arrived by TWX and I was on my way within a few days.
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