Copyright 2014, Jules A. Staats; Library of Congress, USA. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. This work may be previewed only.
TALES FROM THE DONUT SHOP BY JULES A. STAATS
When Does a Cop have to Kill a another Cop?
It was the autumn of 1963. It was a cold night south of Seoul Korea. Jay had been inducted into the U.S. Army almost two years ago. He had been drafted while a Deputy Sheriff of Los Angeles County and was on Military Leave pending his release from active duty. His two year hitch would be over in just two months. The Army had spent a lot of time educating him in tactics that would be helpful in future civilian police work. After basic training, he had completed many hours in Advanced Infantry and Military Police functions. When his outfit was in Fort Hood Texas in October of 1962 they were introduced to some Special Forces Training by active Army Rangers. Jay knew a lot about the Army due to high school ROTC but this training for Combat Military Police was very unusual. However these sessions were very interesting as they were comprised of military special operations but did not include the grueling physical tests.
The reason for this additional training became quite evident when he and his platoon were ushered into a room one day and told that they would now be classified as Combat Military Police and will serve as Military Advisors in a place called Vietnam.
Jay took a seat in front of one of the military interviewers. Across the table, a Specialist Five clerk asked a lot of routine questions but one particular statement caused a chilling reaction through his body. He was asked where he would like to be buried. Jay just sat there for a long moment with his mouth open. Then a thought seemed to form in his head: Do I really have to go to where-ever this country is? Jay then reflected; now, that is really a stupid question. Since he could not think of anything else to respond to this question he stated the same words; “Do I really have to go to this, what do you call it, Viet Nam?”
Having been a trained cop, he felt like he was playing poker and had made a huge blunder, and he could not think how to undo his last ridiculous statement, so he just stared in the eyes of the military clerk. The clerk stared back then a strange thing happened. The clerk replied; “No you don’t have to go to Viet Nam, because I have some spots on the Korea levy. OK if you go there instead?”
Jay’s life and death may have swung in the balance of a simple exchange of words as the clerk pulled another ledger out of a stack and entered information for his new service assignment; Headquarters 8th Army, Seoul Area Command.
Others in his M.P. platoon did deploy on this levy to Viet Nam. Sadly, he found out later that of those that served over there that some of the members of his former unit were wounded in action and others did not make it home. Even in 1962 soldiers were bravely dying and suffering terrible injuries in that country.
Jay was transferred to the 7th Army Seoul Area Command after a several week long voyage in a MSTS or Military Sea Transport Service. It was not a pleasant cruise and he was assigned a birth among many others that was significantly below the waterline.
The voyage finally ended and Jay came ashore and was transported to the Seoul Headquarters Army Base. The long months had passed and it was October 15, 1963. His tour in Korea would end in late November and he would expect to take another MSTS voyage. With any luck his release from active duty would hopefully be on December 12.
His previous duties were mainly centered in investigation of traffic accidents that involved a military vehicle owned by the United States Government. The marked Military Police car was staffed with three persons. Since the reporting of crashes could involve Korean civilians or Korean military, he had as partners a ROK (Republic of Korea) Military Policeman and a Korean National Policeman. This ensured that any traffic accident was reported and handled by all interests in this country. Of his team members, all could speak reasonably good English.
The Seoul area topography resembled the Hollywood Hills in California but the winters were more like Milwaukee Wisconsin. Jay looked at the foliage around him. The leaves were off the trees in anticipation of another zero degree winter ahead. The air was cold, but that meant that the human manure on the nearby rice paddies would not issue their constant stench. Jay did not really like cold weather but he preferred to breathe air without that constant fecal odor.
Jay was sitting at the wheel of a Ford Falcon 4 door sedan. It was painted with the usual Olive Drab color paint—albeit a shiny factory finish. The words “Military Police” were painted on the doors with the usual military stencil kit and an ancient Mars rotating red light was bolted to the roof of the car. Another historical mechanical siren was bolted to the left fender. Jay recalled that he had seen this light and siren in the old War of the Worlds movie some years ago. His crew was with him and the sharp odor of their recent meal of Kimchee and Cabbage filled the interior of the sedan while they were watching traffic pass by on MSR-1. (Main Supply Route.)
Nightfall was hours ago. Jay lost track of time due to working long hours, as he always worked 24 hour shifts. If the night was quiet he could rest and lay in his cot in the barracks. He had to be immediately ready for dispatch, so he napped with his full uniform and gun belt; the well-worn military .45 automatic was fully loaded with seven rounds in the magazine and the chamber empty. Jay was keenly aware that South Korea was still a war zone and only a Cease Fire was in effect since July 27, 1953. That was just over ten years ago but incursions over the DMZ Demilitarized Zone and even deadly firefights occurred often. The local news in the States just never reported these things.
He had found a place to park about a half mile from the bridge. The old Hann River Bridge, an important survivor of the Korean War tried to show itself in the half moon light. Most of the river bed below was miles of flat sand. There were no homes here, and Jay liked that. It gave him time to think about home, and that the moment of his departure from this country was probably about a month away. For Jay, this would be his second winter. He came here in December of 1962.
Actually, he was now just passing time. His left hand moved out the window of his 1961 Ford Falcon. He chuckled. It was a commissioned Military Police Traffic Accident Investigation Emergency Patrol Vehicle. He mused; Whoop-de-do. The car could not run faster than fifty-five miles per hour. Less, with the electric coffee grinder siren drawing fifty amps from the tiny battery. Add the Mars red light beacon, and four other flashing lights, and you had a real, live 45 M.P.H emergency vehicle, and that was actually a maximum expectation.
His left hand fingered the stencil that said Military Police. Because he was becoming “short” on the term of his duty in Seoul Korea he was becoming more cautious by the day. He felt like those old World War II bomber crews, as they approached their last few bombing missions. That was why Jay was giving an old bridge so much surveillance. Korea was still a dangerous place at night and he was too short on this tour to allow any heavy trouble.
The radio, the old ANGRY-10, as it was called, and like most Government devices of the time seldom worked, surprised everybody when the speaker barked a message from a male Army Dispatcher: "Ten-Two, 10-2, an M.P. or GI in trouble, possible attempt killing of a soldier in progress, by Su-Won Police Box."
Jay had never heard a radio dispatch saying “killing in progress” but he knew that this was an unusual and serious emergency incident. He grabbed the pork chop shaped microphone and shot back, "Young-san traffic rolling, ETA--(how long, Mr. Lee?) Uh--three minutes or less."
Jay had turned to his partner, a Korean National Policeman, who was, of course named Mr. Lee. Half of the people he met in this country were named Mr. Lee.
Officer Lee, who was sitting in the right passenger seat flipped on the red lights and siren switch of the M.P. Patrol vehicle. With the mechanical siren screaming, the little olive drab army Falcon was now responding. Jay ground the manual transmission into second gear, and had the little four cylinder engine screaming almost as loud as the siren. They were gaining speed and due to light traffic may respond in good time, after all.
Officer Lee started giving directions by yelling out orders, like "go right" "go left" and so forth. Jay was lost in this foreign country, as usual, and just followed directions, as they moved into the hootches, which had streets just wide enough for one American compact car.
Jay knew when he was there, as he saw a sobering sight. It was an open area about 100 feet square. In the center of this square was a National Police Box. A single National Policeman would spend an entire shift while standing in this very small building.
His thoughts raced as he sized up the situation. There must be three hundred or more people in that crowd, Jay thought. His problem was way inside that mass of humanity. He needed help, call it backup, and right now. Jay picked up the M.P. patrol radio, and tried to call out for help. As usual, the radio failed to operate. No answer. He threw down the mike in disgust.
The sound he heard from the very center of the crowd turned Jay ice cold. It was a man screaming, but he had never experienced this sound before. his hair on the back of his neck bristled. He reflected; there was something terrible going on there.
Jay drew his military .45 automatic. He pulled back the slide, and let go. The weapon was now loaded and ready to fire. Jay pulled up on the safety catch to guard against an unwanted discharge of this firearm, and ran forward, into the crowd, yelling "M.P.! M.P.!"
He noted—something that he knew already--that the tallest person in the crowd seemed to reach up to his shoulder. No question, he was about the tallest person there. He pushed into the crowd, still hollering "M.P.!" over and over again, as he waded into the mass of men and women, even children.
He was catching these bystanders by surprise, as they were unable to resist in time before he was past them. Shortly, he found himself in a twenty foot diameter clear area in the center. When he sized up this cleared space he felt he was in an arena.
There, in the center of the “arena”, was a US Army Buck Sergeant. His three Sergeant stripes seemed to shine in the half moonlight. The American Soldier was lying on the ground, on his back. Two Koreans were holding his shoulders down against the dirt; his trousers were pulled down to his ankles.
Jay felt himself taking an extra breath; call it a gasp, as he saw what the third man was doing. He had a large knife. This knife welding man was about to castrate the soldier.
Jay hollered again, this time in Korean, saying "Ka-da! Ka-da! (Go, get out of here!)
The man with the knife, had just started to cut, and as he stopped, then turned around to Jay, there was blood dripping off the knife.
Seeing a fellow US Army soldier exposed to a deadly threat the use of lethal force could be necessary. Jay dropped the safety catch of his .45 automatic, and leveled it at the man with the knife. He knew he was about to kill a man if necessary, to save a GI, one of his fellow American Soldiers.
The man with the knife froze his position with the blade up, and was just kneeling there looking past Jay as if waiting for some sort of a sign. That pausing reaction was strange, and this troubled Jay. (What is this guy waiting for, he is about to get blown away, why is he just sitting there looking past me?)
He quickly got his answer, as he heard the familiar sound of another .45 1911 semi-automatic pistol slide racking and chambering a bullet from the magazine. He turned to his rear, and saw a uniformed Korean National Policeman about 40 years old, holding the now cocked and loaded pistol at him.
The National Policeman said in broken English, "Let them do it, it is OK."
Jay was boiling mad, now. "O.K., O.K? Are you crazy? I'm not going to let a fellow GI get cut." Jay aimed his pistol at the head of the ROK National Policemen.
"Then you die, GI”, the National Policeman said very clearly as he pointed his pistol at Jay’s forehead at a distance of four feet. The results of a deadly standoff could now end in one terrible split second.
Jay now was mad enough to do just about anything. His training in Civilian Law Enforcement did not come close to covering this crazy situation. In fact, such a standoff situation was never included in any of his previous experiences or training. The resulting thoughts that entered his mind were therefore terribly conflicting as he faced a foreign law enforcement officer with a gun that would certainly shoot him in the next instant. He thought; is this going to be the time when I have to kill another Cop or do I die right now?
He then remembered, one of his favorite sayings: "Nobody does anything, unless he thinks he can get away with it" As the thought jumped into his head from who knows where---this concept just might work again! He decided in a split second, that he would threaten the cop with death by another cop. To add to the pressure he would act if mentally off, even stark crazy. If that scheme did not work, he would have to really kill a fellow policeman while in a foreign country and subject to the laws of South Korea. (Unless he got killed, first.)
Jay started screaming at the Cop like a crazy madman, still pointing his Army pistol right at the head of the National Cop. He had previously released the safety catch on the weapon, turning it slightly to the right so that his adversary could definitely see he was making the pistol “hot.” Still Jay knew he was experiencing tunnel vision due to extreme stress and he noticed his hands were feeling strange and this was not from the cold air. He hoped that the officer did not notice that his finger was on the trigger frame and his thumb which covered the cocked hammer of his .45 automatic to prevent an accidental discharge due to extreme stress. His frustration evolved into command and purpose. He felt committed and was fully ready to take the shot and end this standoff at once. He even was aware that before firing he had to get his thumb out of the way or risk having it broken by the recoiling slide.
He was not sure, what he said in this brief standoff, some Korean, some English, and some swearing. He felt that he should make an effort to try to overreact, so that the Korean cop would think that he was crazy. He knew that if this armed policeman thought he was a homicidal maniac he might back off. Then again, the National Policeman could just fire first.
Jay ran out of things to say, and just pointed the pistol at the officer’s head unable to see the eyes of his opponent due to the dim moonlight. He waited.
Seconds passed, but the armed standoff felt like several minutes. The huge crowd encircling the incident and now intensely watching the two uniformed men with loaded guns pointed at each other did not make a sound. He could actually hear his own breathing as he waited for something to happen.
His perceived mentally ill demeanor worked. The National Policeman shrugged as if disgusted, turned away and faded into the crowd. Jay knew that his task had just been made easier. Now he only had to kill the Korean with the knife. He turned around to the soldier on the ground. Thankfully, the knife wielding man had also disappeared into the crowd.
The crowd became angry and noisy showing that these spectators were not happy about what had just happened. Mob rule was definitely taking effect and he could see the circle of humanity slowly close in the circle as they moved toward him.
Jay could both see and feel the arena become quickly smaller, as the crowd started to approach him and the prone Army Sergeant at his feet. The odds of assault were more than one against, maybe three hundred to one. He had seven rounds in the pistol and two fully loaded magazines in his duty belt. The actual odds of survival were dismal and he knew he could not survive the pending attack of this mob.
This incident as it played out was so unreal that it could never be made up or ever prepared for. His stand against hundreds of angry civilians was an impossible situation. Therefore the next thought to enter Jay’s mind seemed to make good sense at the time.
He made a decision that there was only one possible way to continue this. He could not injure nor kill these people under any circumstances. He relocked the hammer safety of his duty pistol so it could not fire. Jay decided he would try one more act of role playing in the hope of deceiving the mob that he actually would fire into the crowd in a reckless state of rage. If that did not work, he was prepared to fight these people hand to hand and accept what may result.
He then pointed his pistol at the crowd, and started yelling again. He started turning like a clock, his .45 autoloader at the ready. Again he yelled and screamed as if he were crazy and really was a maniac. He was trying to convince the crowd that he would attempt to shoot them all if he could; that he would actually fire into the crowd of men, women and children with complete reckless abandon. For a moment the crowd retreated and then advanced as the weapon was once again pointed at their faces. Jay turned away to face others in the crowd. It was working for the moment. He continued to turn around and around while threatening the crowd with his Army pistol.
That last rotating standoff was successful of keeping the mob back just long enough. Jay heard the blowing of U.S. Army M.P. police whistles, as about twenty M.P. enlisted men, along with another twenty National Police and R.O.K. Korean M.P. personnel arrived in vehicles and on foot. They were all carrying nightsticks and appeared to be ready to do some serious thumping.
The crowd dispersed at once, with everybody gone from the area in a little less than a minute.
Jay was approached by a US Army Military Policeman, wearing First Sergeant Chevrons. Jay was glad to see him, but that feeling lasted only for a moment.
"Sergeant," Jay blurted out, with relief, "Let me tell you what's going on."
The Sergeant had absolutely no time for Jay. "Specialist, just leave the area. We are now in command of the situation. You are done, here.”
"But Sarge let--"
"Specialist, I am giving you a direct order. If you want a Court Martial, you just try to disobey me, now get the hell out of here, and I said now, soldier!"
The next day, Jay was called before his Captain/Company Commander who also was the Provost Marshal. The P.M. is the equivalent of the Chief of Police for the local Military Police companies and detachments. It seems that the First Sergeant who was in command of the rescue response and his Military Police did not have any facts about what happened that night. All they had was a slightly wounded Buck Sergeant with a shallow two inch cut in his scrotum. The victim had reacted very badly to the trauma inflicted by the mob. The sad result was that the soldier temporarily lost his mind, and could not give any information. There apparently were no other witnesses that could be found.
Jay filled in his Captain, as to the rescue leaving out a few facts but decided to give full disclosure if asked for details. His threatening to kill a National Policeman and an entire crowd would be provided only on request. He felt that less is more.
The Provost Marshall was a very experienced Army Officer, and wanted to know just exactly how Jay managed to save this attacked soldier from an armed National Policeman and a blood thirsty crowd. Jay then revealed the rest of the details and watched the look of amazement grow on the Captain’s face as the story of almost killing a National Policeman and threatening a mob was told. He explained his weapon use and how he used role playing along with his training to fool the National Policeman and the gathered mob.
The Captain sat quietly in his office chair for several minutes thinking about the strange incident that occurred and the very unconventional way it was handled by a single M.P. armed only with a pistol. He finally replied; “Specialist, if this situation were not so screwed up, you would be getting a medal for this. Sadly, the crazy circumstances, along with a very frustrated--no he is an actually embarrassed M.P. First Sergeant, say otherwise.
Jay, this never happened, understand?" The Captain waited a moment for Jay to acknowledge, then stated; “Dismissed.”
He saluted and turned, and as he walked through the office door he heard the Captain say; “Good Job, Specialist.”
He could live with that. After all, he had saved a fellow American soldier’s life and did not actually have to kill that Cop.