The uniform shop in Santa Ana was located on the main drive passing through the center of the rather over-populated and kind of ragged city. San Clemente was much smaller, tighter and kept its streets, sidewalks and plant life in much better shape. Of course, San Clemente had a huge tourist population to help pay the bills every summer, and most of the winter too. I pulled up in front of the concrete front facing of the shop. It was called Keystone. There were no display windows and only a single double door with a welcome sign cut in half to fit across both doors. Next to the doors was what seemed like a doorbell, and another much smaller sign that read: “push button for entry.” I pushed the button without trying the doors.
A buzzer sounded, and I realized the sound was coming from the door. An electric lock, which seemed strange. How did the store get customers without advertising or being fully open during business hours? I pulled on the door closest to the button and opened it.
A man stood directly in front of me, about twice my size, or maybe more. At 5’8” I wasn’t that big, although many who knew or encountered me thought I was bigger. I looked into the man’s eyes. He spoke before I could say a word.
“This store sells regulation police equipment, but not to the regular public. You a cop?” He went on after only the smallest of delays, not giving me a chance to say anything.
“No, I didn’t think so,” he said, with a twisted smile, moving slightly to close the door.
I was surprised. I pushed back on the closing door.
“I’m from the Western White House,” I said, dropping my voice, as the man was creating an uncomfortable feeling about to come over me. “I work for the President of the United States and if you don’t let me in to get these supplies then you will see plenty of police in only a few minutes.”
“Yeah, you’re a cop all right,” the big man replied, smiling for real this time, and allowing me to push my way in.
I wasn’t a cop because I hadn’t been to the academy, graduated and then been certified to be in service by the San Clemente department, and accepted by the State of California as a Peace Officer. How I could still be a lieutenant in the Marine Corps, the outfit that paid me, running some sort of beach patrol operation for the Western White House, and also be a cop when I wasn’t doing the other stuff continued to mystify me. I was nobody and everybody at the same time. At least I wasn’t under the command of Lightning Bolt…but could well be again if I allowed my buried emotions to rise up out of their black depths, as they almost had in facing the big man at the door.
“You said the magic words,” the big man said, walking to a counter and through a swinging gate.
I didn’t reply, not really caring about what the man was saying. I was stunned by the near shrine-like quantity of the weaponry on display around me. More, by far, than the Marine Armory at Camp Pendleton.
“Here it is, right up on top where it belongs,” the man said, pulling out a few sheets of paper from a thick file. “The only unlimited requisition forms our company gets from anybody it does business with, and these folks pay at speeds approaching that of light. Your wish is my command, sir,” he said as he handed one sheet to me across the counter.
I looked at the man, his expression and comportment having gone through such rapid transformation that I was surprised again. He’d changed from presenting himself as an offensive lout to being a squared away gunnery or first sergeant in the Corps, and he’d done it in only a few seconds.
“The name’s Jake,” he said, sticking out a hand bigger than my head.
I shook his hand, not giving him any name. Until I knew more about what I was doing, and his participation in that, the name ‘sir’ suited me well. He’d come perilously close to meeting Junior, and I never wanted anyone on the planet to meet that creature again, which also meant I had to get better in my judgment of such things and the people back home, especially civilians. They’d never been to the real world and they utterly lacked survival tools, equipment, training, or violent experience.
I looked at the gibberish typed for filling in on the requisition form and then looked back at Jake. I needed help. I’d never requisitioned anything in my life. I put the form on the counter and decided the truth was the best avenue to proceed down. I started talking, telling Jake about my situation and the stuff they’d said I’d need, right down to the .44 Magnum with special ammunition. My speech lasted for about five minutes. To Jake’s credit, he’d started taking notes at the very beginning.
“God, I sometimes really love this business,” he said, with a laugh in the tone of his words. “Nothing going on at all and then some angel comes down, creates this small person, has him walk into my store and let me do what I do best, and at a considerable profit. You need an open requisition because there’s stuff you don’t know yet that you’ll need. I’ll have to take a few measurements for the uniforms. Probably two in long sleeve shirts and long pants, and the sets of summer shorts. I won’t need to measure for those, just get your sizes.”
“The magnum you want I have right on hand,” Jake said. “I have some tungsten penetrators hot loaded out to 70,000 cupric units, tungsten being as dense as the uranium you requested. The government gets its supply of depleted uranium from nuclear power plants but we can’t get it here in California. So, if you want to go with uranium you have to find a special armorer and then get him a government supply of depleted uranium. Also, the 77,000 cupric hot-load would leave no safety margin at all, sort of like taking a submarine down to crush depth to see if it really crushes. So, we don’t sell that either.”
I thought about what Jake said as he used a tape measure to check my inseam and then went to work gathering the stuff I’d told him I’d need from drawers, displays, and counters all over the shop. When he was about done I decided that one subject needed to be covered.
“Would you mind not mentioning the .44 to anyone?” I asked, afraid that just by ordering such a destructive device might be taken by almost anyone in directions that would be bad for both me and the people I was working for and all the people I might be working for.
“That classified information, or something?” Jake replied.
“Not that I know,” I replied, “but I’m really thinking about what might happen if administration officials decided to withdraw their ‘bottomless requisition business’ and place it with another of the three uniform and equipment shops located in this general area of the county.”
“Oh,” Jake said, after a few seconds. He brought up a blue box from under the counter he stood at. “Here is the magnum and two boxes of the ammo,” he said, not mentioning anything further about keeping his mouth shut regarding the special nature of my earlier request.
Jake opened the box and showed me the compact but very powerful weapon. It sat nestled in a form that was made of some soft red cloth material. It glistened in its deep ‘blued’ blackness under the fluorescent lights. In a way, it was truly a deadly work of art and presentation.
I’d already decided that I wasn’t going to go to a special armorer about the .44 Magnum, and I sure as hell wasn’t going back to San Clemente to requisition depleted uranium from the San Onofre nuclear power plant located not more than a mile from the Cotton estate. Why the president’s geographic location, even though he was there only some of the time, so close to such a potentially precarious source of enormous power was a mystery to me, and one that was bothersome and nagging. If I thought such a juxtaposition of placements was risky, then why was no one else even mildly concerned enough to reconsider?
“How long for the trousers?” I asked, thinking and worrying about the immediacy of attending the Rio Hondo Police Academy.
I couldn’t show up there wearing shorts. I’d been through Marine OCS and then the Basic School. Uniforms meant a lot, and I had a feeling that the police academy would not have the ability or desire to dress out candidates as they walked in the door, as the Marine Corps automatically did.
Jake loaded the boxes into the back of the Volks, promising to have the trousers ready in two days. As it was Wednesday, that meant I could possibly be ready to attend the academy by the following week, not that I truly believed that any academy class could have its beginning date at such a convenient date.
I drove home and dropped off all the stuff Jake had loaded. The Magnum I placed inside and under a stack of sweaters on the upper shelf in the back of the master bedroom closet. I’d deal with it the next day when I’d hopefully have some time. I hurried out, trying to avoid going through the stuff and having to answer intelligent but discomforting questions I knew my wife would have. There was a downside to being married to a beautiful but brilliant woman. There were some things I just could not or did not want to discuss. I knew that kind of thinking was as ridiculous as the ‘need to know’ requirement for access to classified information in the military, but sometimes there simply wasn’t the time to go through it all.
Parking in the rear parking lot at the police department was easier than parking on the base. All the spaces were marked and more than half of them were assigned to the chief, lieutenants, sergeants, and even detectives, with seriously printed signs located at the heads of those spaces. I parked as far in the back as I could, having no rank at all when it came to the department. I didn’t want to work on the requisition request I was going to try to give to Ehrlichman at the estate. I also didn’t want to work on writing up that form at home. I had no typewriter there and I had no office or anything else at the Estate. The police department seemed the only place I might be able to sit down, and either use the necessary equipment (I wasn’t turning in a hand-written request to anyone on Nixon’s staff) or find someone capable of transcribing it on such equipment for me.
I walked in through the rear entrance but saw no one. I headed for Pat’s office, the nice woman I’d met just outside the chief’s office. When I knocked and went through the door to her office, nobody answered. I opened the door a crack and saw Pat wasn’t at her desk. The door through to the chief’s office was open, however. We saw each other at the same time.
“Come in,” he yelled across the space, waving me toward the open door to his office.
I walked the distance, preparing to ask the chief himself for the space and equipment I’d need for the report, but never got a chance to say a word.
“Let’s go,” he said, getting up from his desk, getting his hat from a peg on the wall, and then walking around his desk and past me to the door.
I could do nothing but follow him out and see what was going on.
The chief went through the back entrance to the facility and walked quickly and directly to where the Bronco sat. I noted that the vehicle had no license plates.
“Maybe we should put the stickers on the doors,” I said, as the chief stopped, turned, and held out a set of keys to me.
“The stickers?” the chief asked, surprise in his voice. “You got stickers already? How’s that possible?”
I walked quickly to where my Volkswagen sat, a good distance away. I’d left the stickers in my back seat, knowing I’d soon be back at the department.
I headed back to where the chief still stood and handed him the two rolled-up sheets of plastic in exchange for the keys.
“That uniform place had a machine in the back. It took Jake about ten minutes to produce the stickers for fifty bucks apiece,” I said, as the chief unrolled the rubber-banded sheets.
“Wow,” the chief breathed out, crouching down by the driver’s door and beginning to pull the backing from the large multi-colored decal.
“Press it down the left edge before you pull the backing,” I warned having put on decals about the same size on Marine trucks, while in training. “I put the stuff, all the stuff on a federal government requisition,” I went on, answering his first question.
The decals went on fairly easily, the vehicle having been washed by someone very recently.
“Will there be trouble about the money?” the chief asked as I unlocked my door, got in, and then leaned over to unlock his. I noted that the Bronco was a two-door vehicle. I hadn’t paid much attention to either the Broncos or the competing Chevy Blazers out on the road. Maybe all they made were inconvenient two-door models. I was surprised, as I started the engine, that the chief was asking me such a question. I knew almost nothing about the operations of the White House, the police department, or even about being a rookie cop if I was to become one.
“I’ll write up the request when we get back to the building, with your permission, sir. Where are we going?”
“Down to Del Mar and then the beach at the lifeguard headquarters,” the chief replied. “I want to see how this thing performs. Our current beach patrol operation for the city uses the lifeguard Jeeps. One lifeguard and one officer, but it’s been problematic for some time. This is our chance to have our own beach patrol with two officers, rotating reserve officers, in one unit…this one.”
I drove slowly on the streets down toward the beach. The giant oversize tires made highway speeds on flat surfaces limited to about forty miles per hour, I quickly came to understand. Anything over that created nearly uncontrollable shaking and shuddering. I thought about the chief’s comments for a few seconds before asking my next question.
“Why am I driving you? I asked, “you could have taken this thing down there yourself.”
“Not our vehicle, at least not yet, and we don’t have permission to be anywhere near the Nixon estate area,” the chief replied.
I suddenly realized that the chief was cleverly seeking to extend the police perimeter of operations for his department while also making the patrol an extended structure with much more power than the current ‘blended’ situation and limited geographic travel allowed for.
“This thing has no license plates,” I said, realizing we were illegally driving on California streets without registration or anything else. The vehicle wasn’t a postal truck. Those things didn’t have plates either but didn’t need them because the postal service enjoyed special immunity granted on every street, road, and highway across the whole United States.
“You have a license,” the chief answered, but his tone wasn’t truly supportive.
“Yeah, as a Marine officer, a regular citizen driver, and even as a United States Courier, but not for this vehicle,” I replied, shaking my head.
“What’s a United States Courier?” the chief asked, after a slight delay, and then went on, “you have I.D. for that one?”
“I have no idea what a courier really is,” I answered, as we pulled through the open space in the railroad fences to cross the railroad tracks. The tracks ran up and down the entire stretch along the sand, from the nuclear plant down south all the way to the northern end of San Clemente. I realized, from his I.D. question, that he wanted to see the sand stretch that ran along the water in front of the Western White House, more than likely to take in the entirety of his new domain of extended power. Prior to the president deciding to purchase the Cotton Estate, the beach had been the property of the city, but the feds had shut a long stretch of the sand down because of security concerns.
I played with the Bronco, discovering that the thing was more powerful than I’d first thought. The huge billowy tires dug into the sand, no matter how deep or filled with small hills and valleys, and with the chassis of the Bronco down it was entirely stable. The vehicle ran well on the wet sand, even when I took it out into the wash of incoming waves. The chief held on tightly to the ‘sissy bar’ mounted over the passenger window and the dash bar in front of him, but he said nothing.
I guided the Bronco onto the dry Cotton’s Beach sand, pulled up directly in front of the estate, and turned off the ignition.
“We’ve arrived, sir,” I said, keeping the enthusiasm out of my voice as best I could. I loved driving the machine and I knew I’d love it even more if I could take it well beyond the speeds and difficulty we’d just experienced. I knew, as well, that I couldn’t drive that way with the chief in the vehicle. He was obviously a little bit queasy from the rather tame ride he’d just had.
“Where’s security?” the chief asked.
“Everywhere,” I replied. “We’re under total surveillance. Radar, seismic, infrared, and more. They just don’t come out unless they perceive a threat. In fact, I think that’s why they want a beach patrol. They don’t have equipment on or along the beach for fear of intimidating the citizenry or giving any warning to those who might take advantage. The idea of the beach patrol being a San Clemente Police operation should sit well with them.”
“Okay, I’ve seen enough,” the chief said, getting back inside the Bronco, “is there a way up through the Estate so we can drive back on the regular roads?”
“Just a second, sir,” I responded, leaning inside the driver’s door and pulling a red “T” bar kind of lever. The hood popped open a few inches, with a deep click.
I moved around to look into the engine bay. I wasn’t at all surprised to see that the air cleaners were not stock, which sat atop two carburetors. The engine was obviously a V8, although I didn’t think it had come from the factory with two big carburetors feeding it gas and air. No wonder it had so much power, even if it was so quiet. I slammed the hood down, went back to the driver’s door, and dropped to my knees. I stuck my head under the chassis and wasn’t surprised again. The Bronco had dual exhausts, each pipe running the length of the vehicle with three mufflers each.
“What are you doing?” the chief asked, obviously anxious to get off the beach and back to the comfort of driving on his city streets or maybe sitting in his comfortable administration building office.
“Seeing what she’s made of,” I replied, getting in and heading the Bronco up toward the north side of the river running under Trestles Bridge. The vehicle bounced right across the high tracks and steep berms on each side, almost like they weren’t even there. As I’d assumed, from staring down inside the windowed main room of the mansion, there was a dirt road paralleling the river on the estate side.
I eased the Bronco up the badly maintained road, finally reaching the top, which came out almost right on the grounds of the Coast Guard Station parking lot. From there it was simply a matter of staying off the freeway and driving the chief back to the police station. We drove in silence until nearly there.
“That financial request you’re submitting,” the chief began.
I waited, while he lit a cigarette after turning down his window.
“You might think about running that by Lieutenant Ehlow before submitting it, as he’s the official police contact with them, but I can’t order you, at least not yet.”
“Yes, sir,” I replied, having no intention of showing the lieutenant anything. I was submitting to someone in an attempt to get approval from my real boss who I firmly believed would never approve it. I wanted to work for the chief, as he was a truly intelligent, experienced, and nice man, and I hoped that would happen one day, but I had to work with what I had, in order to keep from being sent back to Pendleton and Lightning Bolt’s not so loving arms.
Once back at the department, the chief told me that I should keep the keys, at least until the ownership and registration of the Bronco were established.
“Drive it as much as you want to get used to it since that might improve your driving. The municipal lot down near Pico has fuel, ask Pat for the code to get in.”
With that, he walked away. I knew I was dismissed. Everything that was happening to me, I realized was mixed. I had another car to drive, as well as the Volks, but it was labeled a police vehicle, yet owned by the U.S. government, and insured by whom? I was getting a whole set of new uniforms but I wasn’t qualified to wear them. I had a new weapon but using it was about as hazardous as using a hand-held nuclear weapon. I followed the chief but stopped at Pat’s desk.
She was there.
“Hi Pat,” I began, “I need the code to the city lot for fuel, and I need a typewriter to fill out a requisition plan that I have to submit to the Western White House for equipment.”
Pat smiled, and then wrote a few numbers on a card, before handing it to me.
“You want to write the report or transcribe it to me?’ she asked.
I continued to be very happy that I’d chosen to spend two years of my high school education taking typing instead of shop, and because of that I could type over a hundred words a minute, but in looking at Pat I knew she wanted to help and I didn’t feel right in turning her offer down.
“Oh, transcribing it would be so much better,” I said. “I can’t thank you enough.”
Pat turned to orient herself with the typewriter mounted on a table behind her.
“Ah, Pat,” I said, hesitantly. “Do we have somewhere we could do this that’s not quite so public?”
“Oh, we need secrecy,” she replied, turning back, a bit of a smile on her face. “Come on, we’ll work in the report writing office.”
We worked in the office she took me to for an hour. Pat was a faster typist than I, she proved in moments. She also knew what a requisition was, how to list the items I was claiming to need, instead of already having purchased. I added an addendum about how the beach patrol had to be amalgamated with the local police department for security, manpower, and management purposes. The Bronco would have to be somehow gifted to the department, as well, and I needed extra compensation of ten thousand dollars a year to accomplish the mission. I had her list the .44 Magnum but didn’t mention either the tungsten or the uranium ammunition. I did mention money for an armorer since, at some point, Haldeman would see the report, or request, or requisition I was submitting. Pat knew the proper title and address for Ehrlichman, and that was a big help, as men in his position didn’t take kindly to not being addressed formally and properly.
I got directions from Bobby Scruggs on how to find the police firing range, surprised to discover it was pretty close to the southern edge of a civilian housing project. Before heading there, I had to stop at the Estate and drop off the report. I drove the Volks because I knew the guards knew it, and I didn’t need any controversy. I thought about the good, bad, or dumb luck about getting into Rio Hondo, as the next class started the following Monday. I’d get two weeks of the course, half the length of the usual one-month exercise. Pat was impressed that I was allowed to instantly enter without having to take any of the normally required physical, mental, or medical tests. I wasn’t so sure about the last one. I was being discharged for being unsatisfactory for continued Marine service, and in truth, although running daily, I wasn’t back to my former Marine training shape.
The visit to the Estate went smoothly and quickly. Ehrlichman’s secretary accepted the report I handed her. Neither Haldeman, nor Ehrlichman, were anywhere to be seen. I didn’t ask where they were. I was relieved. I also presumed the president was not at the estate, since security had been so rapid and so casual.
There was nobody at the shooting range, no gate, and no fence. I simply walked up to the long firing table, took the .44 out of its box, loaded the special (but normal-looking cartridges), and set the revolver down. I’d brought my dad’s shooting box, so I went back to get that from the car, and then set it up on the bench-like table. The side of the box levered open to allow the J. Unertl spotting scope to automatically point downrange. The drawer under the hinged side was filled with patches, cleaning gear, and folded-up targets. I pulled some targets out and unfolded one. I wasn’t really interested in target shooting, although it wouldn’t hurt to check out the sights and see how the little compact monster handled the placing of shots, considering the shooter, in this case, me, had never fired such a powerful hand-held weapon. I put in a pair of earplugs and then covered my ears with a set of muffs for good measure.
I reeled in the thin cable-run target holder. The maximum presumed range of the target, as I reeled one back out as far as the device would let me, was marked off in white letters printed badly on a staked wooden sign in the distance. The letters and numbers indicated that the distance was 25 yards.
The Smith and Wesson weighed close to 44 ounces loaded, according to the specifications in its little accompanying book. With the higher density (twice that of lead) tungsten rod ammo, four pounds was probably a good guess. That was about half a pound less than my fully loaded .45 Colt. I hefted the weapon for feel, using a two-handed grip. It felt okay. I extended my arms out and forward, keeping my elbows slightly bent and relaxed, in order to better absorb and accommodate the recoil. I breathed in and out deeply twice, then held the second breath and squeezed gently on the trigger while lining up the front and rear sights.
I wasn’t ready for the revolver to go off. The explosion was huge, the fireball slightly blinding me. The weapon came backward, bending my elbows to the point where the short barrel of the thing pointed directly upward in front of my half-blinded eyes. My hands and arms automatically returned the Magnum back to the battery, once again pointing downrange, I recovered myself quickly, not to put another round downrange but to put the weapon down on the bench. My ears rang, even through the protection provided by muffs and plugs. I was not normally recoil sensitive, as many people are. But the Magnum was different and it made me different in my feelings about it.
Stepping back a few seconds, I looked around the area, especially over toward the housing development nearby. The display had seemed to me, at such close range, as something that might be easily noticed by anyone nearby. I reeled the target in. The bullet had gone through the bottom of the bull. Not a bad first shot using factory-adjusted sights plus not knowing what distance. But the revolver was not a pleasant weapon to use. I had no desire to fire it again. It was sighted in enough, since hitting any part of the bullseye at 25 yards was a pretty decent shot. With my ears ringing, spots before my eyes, and the emotional charge the weapon induced, I knew I’d have little chance of being as accurate on any second firing.
There would be no second firing today, and hopefully not for some time to come. As a duty weapon, the thing would be in so many ways unsatisfactory I couldn’t believe anybody had ordered that I purchase it. There would be no earplugs or muffs when working as a regular police officer. And if it was fired at night then the person firing it would be blind, deaf, and maybe not far from being dumb. Would it be possible for someone in the system to allow me to carry my .45, which also made much more sense if worn with civilian attire? Possibly, I could have Jake put another standard .38 or .357 on the bottomless requisition form for use out on the street.
Why this particular .44 Magnum had been specifically required for me to have, I didn’t know, and the nature of it, and its possible use, was so unknown and seemingly mysterious to me I didn’t really want to ask anyone about it. I was sure that sometime in the near future, that mystery would be solved.
I cleaned the weapon, discarded the instructions and box into a nearby trash can, took a few minutes to unload the weapon, run a swab and brush through the barrel. I did the same to the cylinder chambers and then placed it inside my dad’s shooting box, wrapped in an old oily cloth. It would be returned to its place in the closet back at home when my wife was shopping or doing something away from the apartment. As long as I had the Bronco, she’d have her own car, at least for a bit. First, while I was home with the Bronco, and then when I was away at the academy. I knew she’d be thrilled to have a car, but not thrilled at all with my attending another military-style academy. Absolutely all of her good attitude would drain away if I mentioned the Magnum or any details about it. Until I knew more, I wouldn’t say more.
Re-reading first three chapters; hope a new chapter is coming soon, LT.
In February 1974 I started my law enforcement career with the Secret Service at the age of 22. In late spring of 1974 I was assigned to the White House where I met President Nixon for the first time in the Old Executive Office Building (EOB). The word went out the MAN was coming.I expected to see a larger than life John Wayne figure! The door to the Oval Office opened and President Nixon stepped out. He was stooped over from the pressures of WaterGate and appeared to be five nine not the ten feet tall I was expecting. I was totally shocked by the physical stature of the man before me and a big grin crossed my face. He stopped and inquired as to how I was and I immediately liked him. With all of the pressure the President took a valuable moment to ask about my well-being. At this time the members of his administration were always working at what seemed to be lighting speed and it was prudent to stay clear.This was especially true of Kissinger that always appeared to be at a near run. Even with the impending chaos of his resignation my observation was that President Nixon was a decent guy.
I must say your writing draws me in. Keep up the good work. Thank you for sharing.
Made many trips to and through that EOB place. What a building and some of the strange offices within.
Kissinger was a principal player in all aspects of the Nixon administration of the time, as you write
and an imposing figure. Nixon was more accommodating and kinder to you than I ever saw him with anyone
else around me working security. Nice. He did write me a lot of notes and comments in his books. Also nice.
Thanks for the compliments and also for being one of ‘us’ a rare vestige of past power.
An interesting observation of President Nixon, Andrew.
I had the opportunity to have a few hands of Gin with him during that time, after golf.
Overall I found him to be an OK guy also.
He shared one bit of information I thought was relevant to all leaders, that “he wished he had listened to his mother’s advice of not giving away too decision making to others”
Alright! Enough about the .44 magnum! James and the rest of you guys are scaring the crap out of me. My dad had a .44 mag for years and I’ve always wanted to shoot it. He gave it to me the other day and I’ve yet to take it to the range. I think I’m already getting PTSD before I’ve shot it! LOL. Again great writting James!
Okay, okay…about the 44 Magnum…it plays a role later on and I had to develop the nature of it before I describe it’s intended and eventual
Jim and thanks for the sincere meaningful compliment.
Jim I have read every word you have so generously provided us on-line. Though I am from Canada and now living in the US as my adopted country, I followed all of the events you describe every day on the news. The war dominated our tv at the time. My dad was a WW11 vet, he flew in the heavy bombers over Germany, he would never speak of the war at home. I am most grateful you have provided this intimate window of the warrior experience and it’s affect on the soul. My brother and I joined the army in the mid 70’s when it was still a four lettered word, Though it didn’t take long to realise a garrisoned army was not a very exciting place to be, with the exception of a quick tour in Europe during the cold war 70’s era.
I left the Army for the National Police Force and enjoyed every second of it, knowing the mind numbing boredom of winter nights alone in a northern remote small town to the instant terror of looking down the barrel of a .44 magnum. I can tell you the hollowpoints in the cylinder either side of the barrel look immense! Firing it may be exciting… talking it down is pants wetting exhilarating! I finished my career at the national HQ level after 25 years as a Forensic Reconstructionist, 35 years in policing and 5 military.
All that to say I find your writing mesmerizing ! I don’t see any words beyond the opening letters, images, actions, emotions flow from the page like colours and smells. I know them and feel them. I would be useless to try to help with editing as for me, it is such a wonderful journey beyond words more like shared understanding. We seem to view the world through a similar lens and filter, I feel at home in your mind, thank-you for sharing your amazing story! All that we know make us all that we are, you are an extraordinary author and person. Thank-You for reminding me I am not all that crazy! Just because most people cannot know what I / We who have lived a life of duty know.
What can I saw to this wonderful tome, my friend. The compliment is so riveting I had to keep rereading, hence my time in getting back to you.
I am so thrilled that you wrote so much about you and how you feel and have felt. I can be real lonely out here when the truly valid combat guys
get older. So many of the combat survivors die younger, as we both know.
glad you are still here and saying what you are saying.
Your a great writer Jim. I rented a place in San Clemente across from the pier in 69. Looking forward to your next chapter. Semper Fi from an 0311!
Thanks for the compliment, Jim. Yes, that was some area in its day, when they groomed the beaches and the beach shacks served such great food.
Not like that today, at all.
This takes me back – had a very brief and cursory look at the 1972 political campaigns. Your story is not much stranger than mine. Army EOD which you mention in your last book, the “crab” specialty badge, provided all the bomb disposal support (on land) for the Secret Service branch TSD. We covered presidential candidates, visiting high value VIPs (like Golda Meyer), conventions and the inaugurations. There was one unit that covered just DC. Except for what we called “playing Polish mine detector’ (trying to kill ourselves with every known way on electrical circuits, cars, etc. after searches) it was mostly boring AF standing post up to 12 to 16 hours a day on some entrance searching bags and boxes, etc. 21, wearing coke bottle glasses, a bad haircut, & a ill-fitting suit I doubt anyone thought I was anything but military, though it was classified to admit who we were in those polarized, paranoid times that remind me so much of today. I saw Teddy Kennedy a few feet away talking to McGovern. Covered Shriver, Nixon, & Agnew. I listened to them talk about Watergate in November 72. I had no concept I was witnessing history and the movers and shakers of tomorrow when I searched handbags at the entrance to the Inaugural Youth Ball in Jan. 73. I bet I was searching women’s bags of people in the headlines 20 to 30 years later. Never entered my childish mind then.
Thanks so much for your rendition of your own experiences SSG. Yes, a lot like my own. I never even thought once about living history or rubbing shoulders with all
those people who would become so famous. Thanks for the contribution.
Too heavy for a belt holster so carried while hunting and concealed with a a sport coat. A lot of deer went down with that 357?
was it a camo sport coat?
James, this is your best writing
30 days was well done – a well told war story . Not everyone can relate to war or how you viewed war. The Lion is A human story- being in transition, in a strange new world and learning on the fly. All people can relate to this human experience . You offered then as you now the best in human existence. Facing a challenge, feeling discomfort- yet navigating the situation to survive and thrive. Chamberlain believed that “war is for the participants a test of character; it makes bad men worse and good men better. You came out much better because you are good man. Even if your readers hunt dear in a sport coat.
It was interesting to sit next to you one evening, and take you in, so to speak. What an impressive brilliant man, but also quiet and seemingly unassuming.
You were and remain a delight.
I cannot thank you enough for this review and comment.
The compliment is deep and laced throughout your writing and it is received as it has been given…with great emotional thanks.
Who gets these kinds of reviews out here in this hard real world?
Not many, and I am proud to be one.
Semper fi, friend, and brother,
I can’t help but think the magnum was more for Haldamans ego than for any realistic purpose !!
Not far off, when it came to Haldeman, but there was a use….later on…
Can’t wait 😲😁
Thanks for the compliment in that short comment Sgt.
Chief Clifford Murray and I started our Cadet Program. One year later I was full time. He was always a “class act”. He was inovative and not afraid to try new things.
Thanks Dwayne, as usual. Are you recovering well and quickly…since you seem to have gotten your mental mojo back?
Could not agree more, Dwayne…
You wrote: “Down to Del Mar and then the beach at the lifeguard headquarters,” the chief replied.
Not sure that Del Mar is maybe what you intended. Del Mar is miles south from San Clemente and way distant from the Chief’s jurisdiction.
Jim discussed Avenida Del Mar correctly
If you check a map of beautiful San Clemente you will see it is the “Main Street” down to the beach from the Pacific Coast Highway.
Used to breakfast there most mornings.
James LT Junior God Bless You Sir Salute Have to remember to breath when I read Your Stuff Drive on Down Range is No Longer Clear If Anyone is down range repeat after me Our Father ………….
George…we wre not at a range. We were out in an open field, and the man was an idiot showing off to a bunch of recruits, if you are referring to what I wrote Dwayne as a comment.
Thanks for the observation though and for following me through the labyrinth….
George, you are absolutely correct. We were in a big field, however, not at a range. The guy was showing off for the boots and an idito.
A close relative of mine regularly shoots a Super Blackhawk.44 mag with stock grips. I fired a couple of rounds and had enough. On the final shot, it almost fell out of my hands. I immediately blamed the grips, but the truth be known both of my hands felt like they were ringing like a 10 penny finishing nail hit with a greasy ball peen hammer!
Thanks Dave, for the supporting comment and putting your own experience up on here.
Another great chapter. Part of me wants to wait so I can read the whole story but I’ve never been good at waiting. President Nixon was an enigma. My personal feelings were formed as a result of his offering one of his two appointments to the Air Force Academy. As the son of an active duty NCO I qualified. Your writing is at a very level IMO. Your courage in allowing the crowd editing says a lot about your confidence.
Thanks Chris. How could I not accept the help here. So meaningfully given, the editing, the advice and the questions, not to mention the compliments.
Thanks for wanting the story so badly. That’s a great compliment right there!
Very interesting read. I do enjoy your stories !!!
Thanks Roger, much appreciate the compliment.
The 44 magnum with a 4″ barrel I found too much recoil for a 2nd even semi accurate shot. Thought it would be the best handgun for deer and bear hunting. Sold it for a Ruger Security Six 357 magnum with a 2″ barrel in stainless steel. Too heavy for a belt holster so carried while hunting and concealed with a a sport coat. A lot of deer went down with that 357
Shooting deer with a handgun is quite a feat. You must spend a lot to time at the range. You can’t exactly get too close to most deer.
Thanks for your evaluation, founded in solid experience and knowledge. Appreciate the compliment of you putting it up on here too.
A long time ago I decided I needed more challenge on deer so I chose a .357 mag Rossi cyclops 5 inch ported slab barrel. That thing was a dream to shoot extremely accurate. Killed a lot of deer and hogs as long as they were inside 50 yards they were meat on the table. Used it several years until I went to a bigger challenge and started hunting with a bow. Now the only weapons I carry in the woods is my .45 and occasionally my daughter rifle if she gets tired just trying to teach her the skills I was taught along with a few I learned along the way. Anyway the .357 impressed me so much I built my daughter a rifle in .350 legend which is you guessed it a .357 bullet sitting inside a .223 case.
thanks for all the background on your own ballistics experience. I am right there with you all the way.
Happy New Year, and thanks for the great complex comment and the compliment of its writing.
“He’d come perilously close to meeting Junior”. He had no freaking idea. Hell of a chapter LT, I await these as much as I did when you were in the Valley. Semper Fi.
Thanks Mike. I was truly uncertain, when I started Cowardly, whether anyone would care about it at all. There’s not all the violence, terror
or physical misery of Thirty Days…although look for violence to reappear, as well as a different kind of fear.
Semper fi, and thanks for the compliment too.
I went to Rio Hondo after you “The Staff asked about the Reserve Officer that carried that carried that big assed gun”. I assured them that you were alive and well!
Dwayne. One day, in training ‘lab’ we were out on the open part of the then pretty wild outback of the campus. It was a
demonstration area away from things so as to be able to fire the new canister gas gun. The tear gas gun was like an M79 grenade launcher.
The demonstrating sheriff saw some kids on bikes riding near the fence inside our area. He pointed the gas gun up and said: “this ought to scare the hell out them and let ’em know this is private property” and prepared to fire. I stood up in the class, took out the .44, pointed it at him and told him I’d shoot him if he pulled the trigger. I knew enough to know that if the gas gun fired the canister and it hit one of the kids it would probably kill him. The place went wild. The sheriff didn’t fire, but I was taken out of the class, at least until it was time to go through the gas tent. They put me in the tent and tortured me, of course, to get even. That’s the real story I haven’t told in the chapters, as to why I was a mess afterward and barely able to drive home.
Thanks for being here Dwayne, and still being you.
How many people are you answering to at this stage of your life?
I wasn’t sure Paul…as I was following the Marine saying: “If you can’t baffle them with your bullshit then dazzle them with your footwork.”
Thanks for the question and writing it on here for everyone else to enjoy.
Another very good chapter, Jim. Always enjoy reading each new chapter – you draw and hold my attention very well.
Looking forward to reading more of your contacts with the “big cheeses” of the Nixon world.
Police Chief is a very good character.
Thanks Craig. Yes, the Chief was something else again, sort of like a combination of Andy Griffith and Barney in Mayberry.
The times they were strange for me back then…but then, when have they not been for me?
Appreciated the support and the compliment…
Getting more and more interesting!
I saw Nixon on Martha’s Vineyard when I was a kid… it was around the time of his impeachment… he was staying on a yaght in Edgartown and was accompanied by two huge secret service guys… I had just come out of the paper store after getting off work,, picking up garbage in a 2 block radius around the Dairy Queen, I wanted to go back in and get a couple more packs of base ball cards and get another look at Nixon, but the big guy with sun glasses and a suit just shook his head at me from the inside and I left….
I’m loving your book sir!
Did any of your men make it out of the valley?
As always, Dave
Thanks for you own experience with Nixon and the crew that worked around him. Once inside the Secret Service just kind of disappeared as long as we were all cleared to be near him.
Nixon didn’t talk to lowly types like security though.
I love Jim’s description of Chief Murray as the Combo is spot on.
However, the Chief exhibited great leadership ability
He was police chief from 1958 to 1974, the longest tenure of any of the 12 chiefs in the 65-year history of the San Clemente Police Department.
LT in thinking about that 44 Mag, The short barrel and the fireball you described tells me that a bunch of the powder is being burnt outside of the barrel (the fireball) The high density bullet is making me think the govt is thinking in their worst case scenario mindset. Thinking you would be shooting at someone wearing armor ( maybe someone backed and financed by a foreign power) in an assignation attempt. It does sound like a good weapon to shoot someone hiding behind the refrigerator in your next door neighbor’s house! I had a 44 Mag once and shooting it wasn’t too bad but it had a 9 inch barrel and I wasn’t shooting tungsten bullets. I can’t wait to see how this turns out. I do have to say your life has had more twists and turns than a snake with seizures! Keep up the good writing.
I will be speaking or writing to the points you have made as this goes on.
Thanks for the speculation written here, as obviously you have some pretty solid ballistics knowledge.
A few editing suggestions below. I really enjoy your writing.
“Would you mind not mentioning the .44 to anyone?” I asked, afraid that just by ordering such a destructive device, and both I and that being tied to the Western White House…
There was a downside to being married to a beautiful but brilliant woman. There were some things I just could not or did not want to discuss.
“Not our vehicle, at least not yet, and we don’t have permission to be anywhere on or near the Nixon estate area,” the chief replied.
I guided the Bronco onto the dry Cotton’s beach sand, pulled up directly in front of the estate, and turned off the ignition.
Sincerely appreciate the quality editing assistance here. It is so hard to read my own work and spot
the errors and wording that could be so easily made better. You have made some of it better.
As someone on Hogan’s Hero’s said, “very interesting”!
Nice compliment Buck!
I can fully relate to shooting a 44 Mag revolver with a 4” barrel. Fired one round from a friend of mines revolver. Both hands went nearly numb. No desire for a 2nd shot!!
Thanks for the accurate comment and your writing you own experience here.
More twists and turns ! I agree about the 44, that’s why I like a .45. It never gets boring with Junior around!
Thanks Chuck, much appreciate the comment and sharing your own opinion here.
Chief Cliff Murray on the left, was a leader.
The guy in the middle played a decent game of Gin
The sycophant on the right, Haldeman, was an insipid ass.
Never in my life could I have predicted all the twists and turns. Awestruck.
Thanks for the great comment and the compliment at the end….
I can identify with you .44 experience. Firing a Ruger in .454 Casull with maxed out hand loads is more fun than a person can stand.
That Casull was a ‘bucket of ice’ weapon. You fired it, like the .44 and then plunged your hand into the ice water.
Thanks for the accurate comment.
Nope Jim, not a Gun you shoot with a relaxed grip and slightly flexed elbows. Some of the old revolvers really had a sweet trigger. I have known people having to explain a cut in the forehead from the front sight of a .44 mag. Enjoying the story. Good job.
Thanks Joe, for the compliment and your own take on the ballistics.
James; I enjoy reading your books. The thirty days hooked me, then the Cat, now The Cowardly Lion, not to mention Island in the Sand. I am now having a problem, each time I load your site I get a message “ERR_CERT_AUTHORITY_INVALID” and it says you are going to steal my info. I have to bypass security to see each page.
I’ll get on it. Thanks for the heads up.
And also thanks for the loyalty and the compliment inherent in your writing about the work.
I noticed your comment about the “ERR_CERT_AUTHORITY_INVALID”.
I believe Jim’s SSL security is up to date.
Your Browser may need an update.
That happened to me and now all is fine.
I enjoyed the chapter. Thank you for the writing and sharing.
Thanks H. Kemp, and of course for the continued support and commenting on here.
Well done. Keep writing.
“You said the magic words,” the big man, walking to a counter and through a swinging. ( Add door or gate.)
thanks Paul, you were accurate and correct. Made the change. Thanks for the very necessary editorial help.
The twists and turn are making me dizzy, Wow!!! When do you get assigned and double o number. Quite a rapid fire chapter, TY LT
Thanks for the compliment Bob, and nobody in government positions I ever heard of needed
an authorization number to do bad or violent (and bad) things! Loved Ian Fleming, though.
I can’t wait to find out who your benefactor is! It seems the Corps didn’t have much confidence in Junior while in Nam but someone obviously saw the warrior and hero he really is. James you are become the Forrest Gump of the military!
Oh, come on. I speak very clearly Jack. The trick in the movie was to have Forrest
speak with stupid sounding wisdom while acting like a genius. I have no script
of course, although it always seems like someone is handing me one.
how did you get this gig?
is it related to the high ranking officer Mary spoke to to get your return to Nam revoked ?and will it be revealed? Will the names be changed to protect the innocent?
Sorry i watched dragnet yesterday
I will ‘come clean’ later in the story Rich. The story has many twists and turns, as you already have
guessed. Trying to predict where this is going to go is just as difficult for those who didn’t live it (now)
as it was for me back then.
Semper fi, my friend,
Firing that 44 reminds me of the one time I fired a Desert Eagle chambered in 50. Only once and I was done. I thought it dislocated both elbows and shoulders.