Back in Class

Area Intelligence School was quite an experience, during quite a year in America. I got married while stationed at Fort Holabird, and generally had a great time, in the middle of a maelstrom.

Johnson said he wasn't going to run, Martin Luther King got shot, Robert Kennedy got shot, and the Chicago Police Department dishonored themselves and America right on TV. All this during March to August of one year.

Paddling along on Moonlight Bay....

A requirement of this school was to be launched from a submarine on a rubber raft into Chesapeake Bay and row ourselves to shore. I am here to tell you that this is not as easy as it sounds. We had, if I recall, six to a raft, which seems like a lot of rowing power, especially manned by young men in fairly good physical condition. The instructors suggested black clothing, but we supplied our own. If my memory serves me, we were not allowed to wear our uniforms. So I got dressed up in black jeans, black long sleeved shirt, black hat, with combat boots. And this in the heat of summer, though at night. We were transported down to a dock, where the submarine awaited. FYI, should you ever be invited for a sail under the ocean blue, submarines are small and cramped. Luckily, in those days, I was still skinny. We met the Captain in a little room somewhere down a claustrophobic tunnel they called, if I got this right, a passageway. The Captain told us that he took these exercises seriously and he intended to give us a realistic experience To that end he told us we were going to be launched "decks awash", which meant with the outside deck still slightly under water. After too short a trip, or too long, depending on how a person handled claustrophobia, the Captain brought the submarine to the surface and we exited from the tower in the middle of the deck, inflated our rubber raft, put it outside the railing, got in and watched the submarine slip away and under the water. We then turned our eyes forlornly to the lights of Baltimore, so small in the inky blackness. I remember thinking to myself, "God I love the Army, and God, I'm so glad I volunteered for this school, and God, please, please do not let me drown in this wide ocean".

We rowed and rowed and rowed into the night, grunting, sweating. All the chatter about the possibility of being rammed by a tanker or something passed quickly as the reality of our situation impressed itself on us, and our energies turned to the task at hand. With horror we realized that, no matter how hard we rowed, we were getting further and further from the lights that were our succor. Of course this was only a training mission, and this was a class, so, eventually, we were picked up by a small powered boats crewed by laughing people, including our instructors, who immediately begin questioning us regarding what we had learned.

My friends, I am going to pass that lesson on to you, without the need for you risking death by drowning, or even the sneering superiority of instructors who learned it as I had. The answer seems to lie in the fact that the ocean has tides, and when embarking upon an unpowered ocean voyage, one should always check the tides first. I understand that the same problem vexed Julius Caesar on the occasion of his first invasion of Britain though.

In fact, generally, when one plans to do anything, one should endeavor to bring to bear what limited knowledge one has on all subjects, to give oneself the best chance of surviving likely eventualities and don't take anything for granted. At least I think that's what the lesson was.

If I were the type to list my accomplishments over and over, right here I would point out that I had been a combat pilot, a rock and roll star, an actor, and a submariner by this time.

The Assassination of Martin Luther King....

We were downtown scouting out locations for dead drops the day Martin Luther King got killed, and the area erupted with angry blacks. I went back to the pick up point where the car was supposed to come at a certain time, and was damned glad to see it early. We got back to post and I was told to put on my uniform. I don't remember where Ed (I forgot his last name, but it starts with a "Z") was, but he was the class leader, and I wound up (as the assistant) taking his place in front of our class which consisted of a bunch of guys, for the most part, who had gone directly from college, to basic training, to the Intelligence school. At the school we'd worn civilian clothes, so these guys had forgotten how to wear uniforms, and in some cases didn't even have the parts. We had not, if my memory is correct, even been issued weapons, at the school, though I understood they had M-1 carbines there for us. Of course I think myself and one SP6 were the only ones in the class who had ever seen an M-1 carbine, much less fired one. I can tell you I was stunned when they told us we were going to draw M1 Carbines and go downtown and restore order. Wow. A bunch of college students, armed, (I'm assuming we would have had ammunition, but, with the Army, you never know...) and scared, going into a riot. That was a total disaster waiting to occur. We stood at ease and I asked to speak to the Old Man (Army slang for the Company these Politically Correct days do they call him/her/it the Old Person?), who, luckily, was black. I say that because, though I don't remember his name, I do remember that he didn't bring charges against me for what I did next. I went into his office and told him that, to give him fair warning, I was not going to lead that class of untrained boys downtown, no matter what the circumstance, as I had not joined the Army to fight American citizens. Well, he kept his cool (I'd known a lot of officers who would have sent me directly to jail) and said that he had given me no order, but that if he did, and I did not obey it, I would be charged with mutiny. Whoa. Nevertheless, I told him not to count on me and we left it there. Well, we didn't have to go, someone in Washington got smart and they brought a brigade of the 82d Airborne, (or the 101st Airborne...I get them mixed up, they are all paratroopers to me...) in from Ft. Campbell or Ft. Bragg, and they set up a bivouac in a park right in the heart of the troubled area, and never fired a shot, so far as I know. As lagniappe, they saved me from a courts-martial and the end of a spotted career.

A salute to the Old Man, but I wonder if he would have been so understanding if he had known the reason I would have had nothing to do with confronting American citizens was that I was from Texas and all my life I had heard stories from people who harbored resentment against the Yankee Army's actions toward civilians during and after the War Between the States? Actually, I think he probably would have, he was a fine officer. I wish I could remember his name. I just think my reasoning, and the situation, was kind of ironic.

James Earl Ray....

I read that some jury found that Martin Luther King was not killed by James Earl Ray alone, but by a "vast conspiracy" including the Mafia, the CIA, the FBI and Army Intelligence, and that a unit of "Army Intelligence Snipers" was in Memphis to kill King if the Mafia couldn't do it. What a crock. I was in "Army Intelligence" for seven years, and, while I certainly was not privy to everything, I would have known about a "Sniper Unit". Boy the things some people believe.

Anyway, at the school we discussed James Earl Ray in class since a good part of our training was how to build a cover identity so we could blend in with the rest of society and not draw the attention of the authorities where ever we were, and Ray had been able to do that for quite a while. We speculated that no one must have been trying to find him too hard. We went on to other classes, on other days, and, in one of them, before or after the King assassination, we discussed how we were supposed to come up with a believable cover nationality, other than American, to recruit people to spy for us. It seems that people all over the world were suspicious of the motives of Americans. Anyway, we all thought Canadian was good, but the instructor told us that was impossible as getting a Canadian passport was impossible. It seems they don't want Americans using their passports for intelligence operations. We had quite a bit of fun with the instructors when Ray was picked up with a genuine Canadian passport. We wondered where he had gotten it then, and I wonder now.

It was a hell of a year.

Pick another assignment below, to read more of my memories...

  1. USASATC&S (Radio Traffic Analysis) -
  2. The 3rd RRU -
  3. Vint Hill Farm Station -
  4. Defense Language Institute (French) -
  5. Kagnew Station -
  6. US Army Intelligence School (Area Intelligence) -
  7. Headquarters, US Army Security Agency Europe -

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