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August 31, 1967 - Image 124

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1967-08-31

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

t SIX

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

TUTRR.nA

ii

K Ui4L7~LV' a '. iuMa. U i

TFUTE CRITICISM:
Guardsmen Defend Detroit Riot Tactics

(Oontinued from Page 1)
w Guardsmen that each time
ey would clear a street, a mob
ould reappear behind them.
the problem wasn't that we
uldn't clear the mobs," said one
ooper, "but that there weren't
ay mobs to clear. When we found
ie, we cleared it, but we didn't
ave enough people there to keep
clear."
Looters provided much of the
umor of the riot, too. "We stop-
d a looter who had eight wrist-
atches on his arm," chuckled a
uardsman. "He told us 'someone
ust have stashed them there.'"
nother Guardsman told of burst-
g into a liquor store, finding
free men in it, and being told
at "they'd just come down to
can it up for the owner."
No Joke
But humor was rare during the
ot, and most of the Guard troops
ld only of hour upon hour of
ork in the littered streets and
noldering buildings. By midnight
mnday, snipers began to appear,
iding another problem to what
Ad already become a weary
utine.
By Monday, the looting was
most over and police and
uardsmen settled into a routine
patrolling, halting curfew vio-
tors and seeking out snipers. A
lice officer said: "On Sunday
.ey went shopping. Now they're
nna use what they got then."
Stationary guards on each block,
icked by roving two-jedp patrols
ere the Guard's primary answer
these problems. The, guards
ere armed with rifles, but the
cond jeep of each patrol had
caliber .30 machine gun. Squads
infantrymen mounted on arm-
ed personnel carriers (APC's)
id tanks were available if
eded.
Guardsmen Target
During the first few days of the
ot, Guardsmen felt they were at
veral disadvantages. A lieuten-
it explained that "having men
ounted on jeeps cruising slowly
> and down the streets was a
cessary tactic, and quite help-
l, but it put the men at a psy-
ological disadvantage by mak-
g them feel that they were tar-
ts to draw fire."
The men on the stationary
lard also complained. "Why is
" asked one "that all our train-
g tells us to avoid showing lights
tnight, and not to expose our-
lves to light, but then we get'
at down here and all night long'

the streetlights shine down on'
us?"
Others felt too much emphasis
had been put on "restoring a feel-
ing of normality to the neighbor-
hood." Maj. James McNally, op-
erations officer of a battalion of
airborne Guardsmen, explained:
"The whole idea of having the
lights on was a part of the cam-
paign to convince the neighbor-
hood people that the riot was over.
We didn't feel that our men were
in jeopardy, or we wouldn't have
allowed the lights to stay on."
The Guardsmen told of con-
frontations with some snipers and
curfew violators. "We were cruis-
ing down this street on the East
Side," said a corporal, "when a
car comes rolling up and almost
rams us. So we jump out of the
jeep and search the car. Nothing!
They were sightseers from one of
the suburbs. What kind of a fool
would come into that area at 2
o'clock Tuesday morning? Some
people don't have a brain in their
head."
Bottles and Bullets
A jeep driver told a different
story. "We'd stopped to check out
an alley. This car-it was a sta-
tion wagon - comes down the
street, so we halt it. Then it sped
up and someone inside shot my
leg. So we opened fire on it. At
the same time, someone tossed a
pop bottle from a second-floor
window. It shattered on the jeep
and cut up a corporal's neck. But
it could have been worse-it might
have been a fire bomb."
Other Guardsmen told of being
pinned down by sniper fire. "Mon-
day night in the fifth precinct,"
a Negro pfc said, "we were getting
some damned heavy fire. Took us
almost an hour to spot where they
were shootin' from, and then we
could move in and clean them
out." A few hours after the inci-
dent there was another. "I was
right inside the plate glass front
window," a trooper related, "and
a car pulled up out front. The
guy rolled down his window and
started firing a pistol into the
station. So we opened up, with a
machine gun. After that, we had
machine guns mounted on the
roof."
Even in the sniping, there was
some humor. "In the middle of
the first week, I was driving the
lead jeep of a patrol," said one
man. "We stopped for a snort
break, so I thought I'd duck inside
a phone booth and call my par-
ents to let 'em know I was ok. No

sooner had I said 'don't worry,
Mom, I'm safer down here than
I am on the expressway' than all
hell broke loose less than a block
away. I guess they were pretty
worried after that."
By Monday morning, all the
Guardsmen had arrived in Detroit,
and on Tuesday morning elements
of the 101st and 82nd Airborne
divisions had taken up patrolling
the quieted East Side, releasing
the Guard for a few hours rest
and then recommitment to the
fighting on the West Side.
Many Guardsmen said that they
were happy to see the federal
troops arrive, but that they felt
that their performance was over-
rated. One man complained: "We
held the East and West Sidi for
two days, working without sleep
and spread so thin that you Just'
wouldn't believe it. Then the fed-
eral troopers pulled in - to an
area that we had quieted-and
they get all the credit for calm-
ing down the fighting."
After pulling back to their
armories or to their headquarters
in various schools, Guardsmen
settled, down for a few hours
sleep on the floor, their first shave
in two days, a shower and a
change of clothes. But by that
evening or early the next day,
most of them were back on the
street again.
Guardsmen said that the rest
of the first week was house-to-
house fighting, an attempt to root
out snipers. They said that the
proper tactics were "to locate the
sniper, pin him down, and send in
a squad to get him." However,
many complained that they could
not pin a man down for fear of
hitting innocent people. Officers
said that in some cases, they
could not send people in to search
for a man "because of the prob-
lems of illegal search and seizure."
Guardsmen told of returning
after long hours on the street to
read "biased and inaccurate news
stories." One man said, "Hell yes
I was scared, but because I was
scared doesn't mean I was pan-
icky. But you get these news
stories which are ostensibly ob-
jective but semantically biased
and loaded with condemnation by
innuendo - things like that cut
into morale badly."
Others bitterly denounced Lt.
Gen. John Throckmorton's order
to unload their weapons. Trock-
morton, who was the commander
of the federal troops in Detroit,
has been criticized recently for

the order. One man, a sergeant
who fought in Vietnam, said: "On
Wednesday night I had a sniper
in my sights. I saw his muzzle
flash when he fired, and I was
lined up on his silhouette--but I
couldn't fire. Know why? No offi-
cer around to tell me I could load
my gun."
Unfair Journalism
Although officers and men alike
agreed that morale had been hurt
by what they described as "un-
fair Journalism and politicking on
the part of the news media," most
said that they felt that if the
Guard were mobilized for another
emergency, the men would per-
form well.
Guardsmen felt that while in
some cases newer equipment would
have been a help, they were ac-
tualy better equipped for riot duty
than the federal troops. "We could
have used some tear gas, newer
radios," said an officer, "but as
far as weapons go, our M-1's were
better for this sort of thing than
the ederal troops and their M-16's.
The M-1 is longer, so the bayonet
is more effective, and as a result

we could sort of prod people along,
rather than having to fire over
their heads to get them to move."
Another officer pointed out that
the M-1 is more accurate than
the M-16, and so better suited to
counter-sniper fire. Most did
agree, however, that a full issue
of trucks and radios would have
helped. The units which were in
Detroit had loaned some of their
trucks out to other units which
were attending summer camp.
The officers and men of the
National Guard feel that their
units served honorably and ef-
fectively during the Detroit riot.
Police officers seem to agree with
them. However, most also feel that
after the upcoming special train-
ing combined with lessons learned
during the riot, they will be more
effective in the event of a future
outbreak.

<}
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