All the talk of San Francisco and Treasure Island brought back memories of my time in Casual Company prior to being sent overseas. I had been stationed at Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Paris Island, South Carolina when orders came ordering me to report to Treasure Island for transportation to Fleet Marine Force Pacific. This was an enigmatic order to me, where was I being sent? The Marine Corps was engaged in the Korean War, maybe I was being sent there. The First Sergeant cleared it up for me. He told me that Fleet Marine Force Pacific was billeted at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. He said my orders were giving me a fifteen day leave, and five days travel time to get from South Carolina to Treasure Island in San Francesco harbor.
I got to Treasure Island late in the afternoon of my last day of travel time. After breakfast the next morning we, the marines staying In Casual Company, formed up in front of the barracks, we were all dressed in our fatigue uniforms ready to work. Marine sergeants who needed work details came to the front of our formation and told the sergeant in charge how many men he needed for a work detail. The sergeant would separate out that many men, put them in a formation, and the sergeant needing them would march the detail off to where he needed them. After about two groups had left the sergeant motioned me over and told me to go back into the barracks and get into a Class A Uniform and report back when I was dressed. A Class A Uniform was dress shoes, khaki trousers and shirt, tie, and a piss cutter khaki overseas cap shaped like an envelope. I was back in about five minutes and the sergeant told me to go over to a Jeep parked nearby. A Tech Sergeant in the Jeep told me to get in, which I did. We drove about two blocks to a building that said Military Police.
Inside I was given a black brassard that had the letters MP in the middle; I was given a web belt, leather holster, a forty five automatic pistol, and a clip of forty five caliber ammunition holding seven shells. I was given a set of orders, which the sergeant said were orders for me to pick up a General Court Marshall prisoner who had killed someone on Guam, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. “Where is he,” I asked?
“On a ship that just docked in the harbor,” he answered.
“How do I get there/”
“Outside there is a four door staff car with a driver that will take you to the ship,” he replied.
Sure enough the car was parked across the street so I walked over to the driver’s side and told the driver, a civilian, that I was ready to go get the prisoner. He told me to get in so I walked around the front of the car and got in the seat next to the driver. It wasn’t far to the ship and the driver parked as close to it as he could. People, mostly men but a few women, and even some children were coming down the gangplank. I stayed over to the right side and slowly worked my way up to the ship. I saluted the Officer of the Deck, the colors, and gave the O.D. my orders. He directed me to the Master Sergeant in charge of the prisoners. He had a corporal bring the prisoner to me. The prisoner was a fairly young man wearing a set of dungarees with the letter P stenciled on each leg of his trousers, and on the front and back of his jacket. I signed for the prisoner, making him my responsibility. When we got to the gangplank with the crowd of people leaving the ship I put my left hand on the prisoners collar, and guided him down the gangplank and to the waiting car that would return us to the Military Police Building.
At the car I opened the right rear passenger door and nudged the prisoner into the seat, I made him slide over so I could enter the same door. I wanted my right hand and the pistol on the side away from the prisoner. As I sat down in the back seat he asked me, “What would you do if I ran?”
“In this crowd you would probably hit someone else.”
“Maybe,” I said, “but with seven rounds at least one would hit you.”
Would I have shot him if he tried to escape? I was not all the sure of the old Marine Corps bromide that the prisoner chaser would serve the time of the prisoner if the prisoner escaped, but I was not about to test its accuracy. When we got back into the Marine Barracks the T/Sgt. wanted to know, “How did you get him back so quickly?”
“It didn’t take all that long,” I said.
“You waited until all the civilians cleared the gangplank before you brought him down, didn’t you?”
“My God, man, don’t you know you endangered all those lives?” The T/Sgt. Was definitely unhappy with me.
“If you wanted me to wait until the gangplank was clear you should have told me that before I left here,” I answered.
“I will not use you again.”
“That is all right,” I muttered as I began the walk back to Casual Company.