My guest blogger today is John R, Schembra, who spent his time in Vietnam as an MP (Military Police) in 1970. He is a published author of ‘M.P. – A Novel of Vietnam’, and a three-book series featuring a character named, ‘Vince Torelli’ ; a forth installment is coming soon. The following story tells about one of those nights during his year-long tour.
Author preparing for convoy escort
I was drafted in 1969 and after basic training at Ft. Lewis, WA and then MP school at Ft. Gorden, GA, a full fledged 95B. I was stationed with the 557th MP Co., 18th MP Bde, out of Long Binh, next to the town of Bien Hoa. Our duties were varied, some of which, but not all, were law enforcement related. We were responsible for patrols in Bien Hoa 24 hours a day, traffic control, accident investigation, American vehicle/personnel checkpoints, convoy escort, special details such as protection and escort of high ranking civilians and military, security for the doctors and nurses who provided free medical treatments for the orphans at the nearby orphanages, working combined police patrols, security searches of vehicles and checking VN civilian’s id’s, plus we were responsible for an 8 square mile area around Long Binh which was designated our TAO (Tactical Area of Operations), manning OP’s (Observation posts) on a nearby hill, setting up ambushes, general patrol, and acting as a quick response force when needed.
Author standing atop his V-100 armored escort vehicle
One of the many duties of the Military Police at Bien Hoa was town patrol during the night as a two man jeep patrol, as a curfew was enforced from nine p.m. to six a.m. Mostly we checked the local bars and brothels for off-limit G.I.s. If we found any, we would note their info and units and, absent any other violations like drug possession, intoxication, black marketing, or being AWOL, we would just take them back to their company, let their CQ (Charge of Quarters) officer know, and release them. We were tasked to investigate any gunfire or explosions reported to the PMO or that we heard while on patrol.
Other MP units were three man units, two American MPs and one Vietnamese MP (Quanh Canh) as we were not allowed to enter private Vietnamese dwellings unless we accompanied a Vietnamese MP or National Policeman (Cahn Sat).
One night my partner, Mike Leon and I were on patrol in the city, on a particularly quiet night. Hot and muggy, not much to do, I can say it was pretty boring. Our greatest concern was keeping an eye of the PF’s (popular forces) as we drove by to keep them from taking potshots at us. They were groups of five or six men who were either former ARVNS, or were unfit for military service, that were armed by the ARVN and the U.S. army to provide static control points in the city to watch for infiltration or other enemy movements.
The actual entrance to Death Alley
As we approached the entrance to the city, a figure stepped from the mouth of a narrow alley nicknamed Death Alley, just inside the city entrance. According to rumor, it was appropriately named, as it was well known that you didn’t go in there unless it was in force and for a specific purpose. Routine patrols there did not exist. The person was waving his arms, calling out to us, “đến đây, đến đây MP, đến đây“, which meant “come here.”
Mike slammed on the brakes, skidding to a stop. I had my M-16 pointed at the figure as Mike grabbed his rifle and got out of the jeep.
“Hands up, keep your hands up!” we yelled, suspecting a possible ambush.
We could see the person was a boy around 12 years old. He, in turn, could see two MPs with their rifles pointed at him, and stopped where he was, his hands above his head.
“GI, there,” he said, excitedly, pointing down the alley. “He hurt beaucoup bad.”
“Come here, đến đây,” I called, keeping him covered with my rifle.
The boy began walking toward me, saying, “You hurry, MP. Maybe he die soon.”
“Stop there,” I told him, as the boy got to the front of the jeep. I was thankful he had a decent command of the English language! I covered him while Mike watched the mouth of the alley.
“GI inside. You come quick. He maybe die, come quick.” The boy gestured toward the alley, taking a couple of steps in that direction.
“Call it in, Mike and get us some help. I’m gonna check it out.”
“Better wait for some help, John,” Mike said, “That ain’t a good idea!”
“I know, Mike, but we got to do something. I’d hate to think there’s an American in there needing help, and we waited too long. Besides, I got a feeling the kid’s on the level. I’ll take him with me. You come after us, partner, just as soon as you can.”
Mike wanted to go with me, but couldn’t. Someone had to stay and secure the jeep until help arrived. “No, man,” I said. “You know the rules. We can’t leave the jeep. I’ll be OK. Call for help, then come give me a hand when it gets here.”
I grabbed my flashlight and walked up to the boy, and pointed at the alley. I then grabbed a handful of the back of his shirt, and walked him to the entrance. I put my arm around the boy’s neck from behind, and pulled him back tight against my chest. His head came up to about my chin, so using him as a shield most likely wasn’t going to help if there were enemies waiting for us. Still, using him as a shield made me feel better. The alley was nearly pitch black and as we stood there I listened carefully to the silence.
After a minute or two I backed up against the near wall, and slowly worked my way into the alley, sweeping the opposite side with my M-16, ready to fire at the first sign of trouble. I could feel my heart racing, feeling like it would burst out of my chest, sweat running down my face.
I swung my rifle back and forth as I moved down the alley. Each time the boy started to talk, I would clamp my hand over his mouth. We had gone about 70 meters into the alley before I saw a blacker lump lying against wall about five meters ahead of us. I tightened my grip on the boy and moved slowly toward the shape.
Once we were next to the shape, I released the boy and got my flashlight out. To his credit, he did not bolt away as I expected him to do. Shining the light on the lump showed a figure in jungle boots and fatigues lying on his side, with his back to me. I could see the back of his shirt was stained with a dark substance, which turned out to be his blood. I bent over him and grabbed his shoulder, at which he moaned softly, rolling onto his back. I could see he was an American, his face battered, swollen, and covered with blood. I told the boy to go get the other MPs. The boy ran back toward the entrance, and when I was sure he was gone, knelt down next to the soldier.
Hey, buddy, how’re you doing?” I asked, shining the light on his face.
I could see several deep cuts, and saw that his eyes were swollen almost shut. His upper lip was split, and he was missing some teeth. None of the injuries looked bad enough to be life threatening. I saw his name tag, and his unit patch revealed he was with the 20th Engineer Battalion.
I carefully rolled him onto his side, and slowly shined the penlight over his back. I could see several holes in his blood-soaked fatigue shirt, probably from a small knife.
“Hang in there, buddy. Help’s on the way.”
I heard footsteps approaching from behind me and quickly snapped off the light, and pointed my M-16 toward the sounds, covering the alley. The footsteps stopped, and a voice called out softly “John? It’s me and Wild Bill. Where are you?”
“Over here, Mike,” I replied standing up. “Give me a hand. This guy’s hurt bad.”
Mike and Wild Bill hurried over and crouched down, facing in opposite directions, their weapons at the ready.
I told Wild Bill to cover us as Mike and I carried him out. When we got back to the jeeps, we put him in our jeep and took off for the 93rd Evacuation Hospital at Long Binh.
Three hours later, I was sitting in a hallway outside a surgery room at the 93rd. I had been assigned to stay there since once we got the soldier’s name had we found out he was listed as AWOL, and a possible deserter, three months earlier.
A doctor came out and approached me and told me the soldier would be OK. He lost his right eye, lost a few teeth, and suffered five stab wounds to his back. Only one was serious, collapsing his lung. The doctor said he would be in the hospital for about a week. I went with him to the soldier’s bed and handcuffed him to the bed rail. I told the doctor to call the PMO when he was well enough to be released. A 24 hour MP guard would be assigned to stay there until that time.
I learned later that he had a pregnant Vietnamese “wife” living in the city, and that he was teaching English at a small school to earn a meager living.
My guess is that he was probably wrapped up with the black market or drugs, and somebody didn’t like the way he was doing business.
After eight days, he was released and transferred to nearby Long Binh Jail. I never knew what happened to him after that, and to this day, still wonder what happened to him. If you are interested in John’s works or want to know more of his stories, then visit his website: http://www.jschembra.com,
John’s books: ‘M.P.- A Novel of Vietnam’, 3-book Vince Torelli Series: ‘Retribution,’ ‘Diplomatic Immunity,’ and ‘Sin Eater’
Coming soon- ‘Blood Debt (Vince Torelli #4).’ All are available at Writers Exchange Epublishing and Amazon.com.
Thank you Brother for allowing me to publish your story here on my website. It is my goal to provide readers with ongoing stories about our Vietnam Warriors so they may learn more about what we did there. Thank you for your service and Welcome Home!
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I was in the 557th from 1971 to 1972. We were under the command of David Wright. Many, many nights just like you experienced.
I Enjoyed reading it.
Thank you for Sharing it.
WELCOME HOME EVERYONE and GOD BLESS YOU ALL!
Hey Brother John,
You and I have a lot in common, the only difference is I was not Drafted! I also was a MP, went to Ft. Gordon, GA for MP School had one hellufa assignment to LaRochelle, France. Was happy to be single while in France, the bad thing was they paid me while there!:O) This was back in 58, did various tours in CO, Texas, MD, Korea, and then in 70 went to Nam as a MACV Advisor to RF/PF troops in the Delta. I often wished that I was with an American Unit! Spent 363 days in Nam, am now 100 % disabled , with the usual garbage of AO, Type2 diabetes, and a helluva case of PTSD!
After several jobs as First Shirt, went to SMAJ Academy, after graduating 6 months later, was a gravy job as an advisor to a NG Tank BN in Paducah, KY after three years with them, I retired.
At the age of 80, I am happy to be able to do my 2 mile walk while using a walker.
Retired in 83 at Ft Campbell, KY as First Shirt, best job I ever had! Concerning Draftees,
I often wished that I had more in my various companies, they did their jobs to the best of their abilities, where outstanding troopers!. My RA’s kept me busy! :O)
That’s it for me my Brother, again Welcome Home!! If you’d like, send me your email address, mine is email@example.com
GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS IN HARMS WAY!
Hi Jerry, I didn’t care much for the army but I was a good soldier. First Shirts were the best ! I was Infantry 11B40 1st Air Cavalry Vietnam 68-69 Then stateside in the 3/3rd Armored Cav. at Ft. Lewis Wa. I knew nothing about tanks but I learned..You sound like you and I would have got along great. Welcome home Jerry. 😎
Hi Brother Bob,
Typical of the Army like you, have never been on the inside of a TANK, after graduating from the Sergeants Major Academy, my next assignment was as an advisor to the 1st BN, 123 National Guard Armor!:O) Did one helluva job on reading FM’s and TM’s!!
No sweat with working with the enlisted troops and young officers concerning leadership principles!
When it came to their two weeks active duty training at Ft. Knox, KY my first two weeker at Knox, troops off loading their gear, took a walk amongst them, when to my “horror” I noticed several of them were knocking down some Budweiser’s, talked to a noncom and asked him if the CO knew what they were doing, he tells me he’s doing the same! :O) When it came to the Tank Gunnery Range, they did an outdamnstanding job!
Their CSM and I got along great, after spending a year and a half with them, received word that I and my family were going to get orders for Germany, been there done that before, put in for my retirement and retired February of 83.
Take care my Friend and Brother,
Thanks Jerry, I am most comfortable around other Vets like you.
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Thanks for the comment Jerry. It doesn’t matter what branch of the service you were in or your MOS. Anyone who was in Vietnam deserves our country’s thanks.
I remember upon reporting to the 557th MP Co. the first day, my First Sgt. saying “ther’s no swuch thing as a safe place in Vietnam. There’s just some that are a whole lot shittier that others.” Truer words never spoken!
Welcome home, Brother.
Always interesting to read about what all the other guys were doing.
LOL Bob Q. I didn’t envy you infantry guys humping the boonies. You were the ones that had a horrible job. Thanks for the response, and welcome home, brother. 🙂
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I was a MP in Saigon during the same period, 716th. His story rings true, and I have several very similar stories.
I was also with the 716th in Saigon. First with A Co. in Cholon, then with B Co. uptown. Was lucky enough work at the embassy and later with a detail called the Commanders Guard, providing security for Gen. Abrams.
I hear all these stories about individuals who were drafted in the Army and their experiences in Vietnam. I’m glad now I enlisted in the Air Force. I spent four years, but was never treated the way draftees were. The Army had no regard for the draftees, they were literally grunts to be used. Thanks for sharing another post of our good men that served their country. As you like to say, Welcome Home John.
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Thanks for sharing this story with us, John.
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Man, I don’t think I would have made a good MP. sounds like a horrible job. I was in the 1st. Air Cav. 1/12th Infantry 11B40 10 months humping the boonies. Listening to the kind of job you had now I don’t think I feel so bad. Spent my last 45 days as a door gunner with the 229th AHB I had a bed finally…
Thanks John for you service in Vietnam I’m sure you did a good job and welcome home.🇺🇸🇺🇸
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I will always say, true an MP is like a Cop however, the duty posts I had was like being a Guard. Now let me say thanks for, the recognition of, my report. Have A Good One OK
Also, while I was in P.R. in 1959. I did manage to, change MOS. To transportation. Why because as an MP. For rank, I was going nowhere. I got my first ever drivers licence in Ft. Buchanan. My 1st. vehicle to ever drive was, a 44PAX Bus. These were some good years. I returned to the USA, discharged. 7 mos later, I went to, go back in to service. The re-enlistment NCO told me I could return to P.R. after, my re-fresher basic Tng. That was, a lie. I had nothing, on paper. When I finished the refresher tng. in Ft. Hood, I was shipped to West Germany.. Blah B.S. 31May 1978, I retired w/credit for 22 years of service. Then shortly, I went O.T.R. trucking in the U.S.A. for 19+ years. Now i’m completly, retired. There is times, I really wish I was still trucking.
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Like I’ve written before. I went to Ft. Gordon GA. MP school. Left Ft. Chaffee basic tng. Then to Gordon. 2 mos. later sent to Ft Harrison, IND. 2 plus months later. I get orders for PANAMA. The troop ship I was on, stopped in Puerto Rico. They told me, my destination orders had, been changed. No complaint, here. I stayed in Puerto Rico 2yrs & 2 months. The month I arrived there was my 18th birthday. What a, party I had. LoL
On Tue, Aug 15, 2017 at 3:18 PM, Cherries – A Vietnam War Novel wrote:
> pdoggbiker posted: “My guest blogger today is John R, Schembra, who spent > his time in Vietnam as an MP (Military Police) in 1970. He is a published > author of ‘M.P. – A Novel of Vietnam’, and a three-book series featuring a > character named, ‘Vince Torelli’ ; a forth install” >
LikeLiked by 1 person