A Marine ordered to DC During the 1968 Race Riots tells his story

A Marine ordered to DC During the 1968 Race Riots tells his story

- in Grumpy Daily Headlines
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The Washington, D.C. riots of April 4–8, 1968, resulted in Washington, along with Chicago and Baltimore, receiving the heaviest impact of the 110 cities to see unrest following the King assassination. Crowds of as many as 20,000 overwhelmed the District’s 3,100-member police force, and President Lyndon B. Johnson dispatched some 13,600 federal troops, including 1,750 federalized D.C. National Guard troops, to assist them. Marines mounted machine guns on the steps of the Capitol and Army troops from the 3rd Infantry guarded the White House. At one point, on April 5, rioting reached within two blocks of the White House before rioters retreated. The occupation of Washington was the largest of any American city since the Civil War. Mayor Washington imposed a curfew and banned the sale of alcohol and guns in the city. By the time the city was considered pacified on Sunday, April 8, some 1,200 buildings had been burned, including over 900 stores. Wikipedia

 

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As a young Marine and a Vietnam veteran, my unit was mobilized for the D.C. Race riots. I recall I didn’t believe we would ever go, then we loaded up and proceeded to the flight line at Cherry Point, Marine Corps Air Station. A couple of C-130s were sitting on the tarmac.
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Again, I doubted we would go, as did my brethren. We lolled around on the side of the Tarmac for a few hours. Then our senior NCO’s noted that they saw our units gear being loaded on the cargo planes.
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Within a short time after they loaded our gear, they formed us up to march into the belly of the huge aircraft. This was the moment where I began to feel a foreboding, even worse than the feeling that I had before embarking for Nam. This was America?
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We arrived at Andrews AFB and unloaded with a frenzy. It felt like preparation for engaging a formidable force, like the NVA, but it was fellow Americans.
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Many among our ranks were black Marines, including a few senior NCOs and junior officers. Most of us were combat veterans, with a very real and recent experience of danger and loss.
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The most poignant moment was when they delivered the ammo and we were instructed to load our magazines. As we loaded, we felt awkward and reduced eye contact, thinking of the immensity of the moment. We were mostly kids, but too soon hardened to armed conflict. Personally, I felt my country was asking too much from me and my brothers.
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One of the guys asked a gunnery sergeant if he could pull the trigger on a fellow American. This gave pause to  what we were doing. The gunny couldn’t answer and we all looked to our officers that were standing apart from the enlisted men, but only by several yards.
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It was obvious they were as perplexed as we were and not prepared for the question.
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Thank God we never deployed, the local police and National Guard quelled the riot. When they told us it was over and before we reloaded on the aircraft, we embraced each other, officers, NCOs and enlisted. We felt like we survived a battle, dodged a bullet, whatever.
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American history, rich, valuable and true.
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Semper Fi
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A friend, who was one of the Marines sent to the DC Area during the emailed me the story you just read, with this with this request:
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A sad story for me, but I was very proud of my brothers in arms. I’m so glad they didn’t deploy us. Marines are not really well trained to quell civil disturbance. I believe if the rioters tried to challenge us, it would have lethal for them and it would have left a stain on the Corps.
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Please don’t attribute the story to me, I have never, ever spoken about it. I have never even told my family. It is something I seldom think about anymore, until all of this stuff in Ferguson and NYC started. I feel bad for the locals who are obviously easily manipulated by Obama, Holder and Sharpton. Obviously, what happened in Ferguson and Berkley was well orchestrated. What I would call a professional riot.

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8 Comments

  1. Anyone who participates in rioting, looting, and arson is no American. The orders should have been “shoot to kill” in all cases.

    1. Hi 1389.. haven’t heard from you in a while.. How are things going?

      1. I have a lot on my plate right now. I’ve scaled down my involvement with 1389 Blog on account of some real-world responsibilities. For some years I worked part-time retail. Last July, I quit to take a full-time job at a car dealership. The business development center was downsized at the end of October, so I found myself without a job. Since then, I’ve been looking for another sales job and also have been looking after some family responsibilities.

        Are you still using the “PTG” tag for your aggregator?

        1. no on the PTG.. I don’t have the time to maintain it.. the original idea was that it would almost auto post.. The plugins worked on a small scale.. but when I started expanding it.. even on a dedicated server, it bogged down. Load times were horrendous. 2-3 minutes and more.

          You’ve got my email.. shoot me a line when you want me to link or post something on Grumpy..

          Family Responsibilities is a scary term.. hoping everything’s okay..

          1. Nothing that scary…husband is partly disabled and needs considerable help from me; in addition, there is a complex estate settlement issue that needs to be sorted out on behalf of my stepdaughter & son-in-law.

  2. I was in the 82 nd airborn in 1968 and was deploid to dc. We spent many hours training in croud control and civil disobedience. I was17 years old and Spec.4 we did not have live amo only trained snipers had amo we did CS Gas and bayonets. The 618th Engr. Co. bivouaced on the gim floor at Gaudet Collage for 5 nights. I just received my complete military record and there is not a word about it.
    David Kolbe a 1969 Vietnam Combat Vet.

    1. Whoa.. Spec 4 at seventeen? Went in at 17 myself..took well over a year to make 4.. then too you were airborne, I was a clerk…

      Hi Dave..glad you dropped by..

      In 68′ I was in Germany.. Stars and Stripes was giving us a sorta white washed version.. Didn’t find out how bad it was until I came back stateside.

      My father was a DC Fireman.. he decided to retire after the riots.. In his words, ” I could handle them throwing bricks and bottles, but now they’re shooting at me”. From conversations after I got home, I know he was glad to see ya…

      Before I published this I spoke to my brother.. He was still living at home in 68. He mentioned the fact neither the 82nd or the National Guard forces deployed inside the city had ammo.. Had the Marine unit the letter writer was a member of, it sounds like that would have changed–at least for them had they been sent into the city.

      Not a surprise that the deployment wasn’t mentioned.. There are things the government doesn’t want remembered

    2. Those who engage in rioting, looting, and arson are no Americans. The order should have been “shoot to kill” across the board, and that’s that.

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