Riot Control-Lesson 101

About a month after we returned from MACV-SOG duty in
Vietnam in August 1968, several of us were goofing off at
the Stag Bar in the American Legion.  They announced over
the public address system that all special forces personnel
were to report back to their unit immediately.  When we
arrived at our company, we were told that the Okinawans were
rioting and we began to draw weapons and prepare for riot
control duty.  None of us had received any prior riot
control training.

We loaded onto trucks and off we went.  My truck went to a
road intersection where the US camp bordered the civilian
highway and out we hopped.  Our company had issued us live
ammunition, but they left it in the wooden case on the
truck.  We did have our rifles and bayonets.  A group of
Okinawan men were standing on our side of the highway waving
flags and shouting something in Japanese.  Our officer
jumped out of the cab of the truck, observed the situation,
and told us, “Our orders are to eject any rioters from US
property and those people are on US property.”  Then he
said, “Move them off US property!”  Without a word spoken
between us, we looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders,
fixed bayonets, and then, screaming like a bunch of blood
thirsty maniacs, we charged.  Those protesters disappeared
like a wisp of smoke.

Someone else radioed for help.  According to the radio
message, there was a huge mob trying to push their way onto
the Sukiran Marine Base from Highway 1.  So we loaded back
up on our trucks and away we raced.  We were the first
troops to arrive at the besieged gate.  We already had our
orders so as soon as the truck screeched to a stop, we
leaped off, charged past the Marine MPs, and went after the
mob with our bayonets.  It was a race to see who would get
the honor of drawing first blood.  If you want to be a
leader in SF, you must be fleet of foot.  We were in pretty
good physical condition and some of our guys were fast, but
none of us could get close enough to a protester to stick
him.  We chased them across Highway 1 and through the alleys
and side streets and into and “through” the houses.  Those
protesters scattered like a flock of geese.  We still couldn’t get
within bayonet range and no one got stuck, which

really frustrated some of our guys.  They really wanted to
“mix it up.”

Our fearless leader received another radio call and we were
ordered to the gate at the American Legion.  Now that’s
carrying things too damn far.  The American Legion was Group
’s favorite watering hole on the island.  This time it took
us a while to round up our troops because they had chased
protestors to the four winds and were reluctant to give up
the chase.  When we finally arrived at the American Legion,
there were several trucks of SF troops already there.
Thousands of protesters were along the civilian highway, but
outside our fence.  Our company commander stationed one
twelve-man A Team outside our fence along our side of the
highway right of way and told the rest of us, “Stack arms
and take a break.”  What better place to take a break than
our favorite watering hole.  We left one man to guard our
weapons and the rest retrieved a cool beer.  Of course we
provided our guard with refreshments also.

The size of the mob continued to increase.  They began to
Dragon Dance and the line of dancers started weaving closer
and closer to our guys that were standing at parade rest on
our side of the highway.  To the best of my memory, the
Island Commander at the time was a general that we had
nick-named “Small Paul.”  Anyway, the Island Commander,
whoever the hell he was, decided to intervene and interject
his inspirational leadership and wisdom into the situation.
The general landed in the parking lot, hopped out of his
itty-bitty “bubble” chopper and ran to meet our company
commander.  Our Colonel ran to meet the general as if he was
overjoyed to meet with his much-adored superior officer.
The general surmised the situation and noted the protesters
slowly working their way closer to the men we had stationed
outside the fence.  By this time the line of Dragon Dancers
were weaving within three to six feet of our guys who were
standing at parade rest —  and practically defenseless in
that position.  The general made a command decision.  He
told our CO, “Move your troops out Colonel!”  [He later
explained that he really meant for our CO to bring that A
Team “back inside” the fence.  However, what our CO heard
was “Charge!”]  Our Colonel shouted, “Move ‘em out!”  Our
twelve brave men on the outside of the fence immediately
“snapped to” and charged that mob with fixed bayonets.  This
time those bastards couldn’t escape and at least one of that
A Team drew blood.  The protesters in the front of the mob
literally climbed over the protesters behind them in an
effort to avoid being stabbed in the ass.  We snatched up
our rifles and raced towards the gate to help our guys on
guard there.  Before we could reach the gate those twelve
guys had already broken that mob up and sent them fleeing in
all directions trampling each other in the process.  The
general nearly had a damn heart attack right there on the
spot.  He quickly clarified his order and had our troops
withdraw back inside the wire.  He then jumped back on his
itty-bitty chopper and flew away.

When the civilian paper hit the stands the next day, almost
the entire edition was devoted to the protest and the
brutality of the American forces.  The very next day the
entire 1st Group began mandatory riot and mob control
training that was conducted by the local military police
battalion.  With bayonets affixed to our rifles, we marched
around in formation at a half-step for several hours while
wearing wearing helmets and gas masks.

Even after we had riot control training, from that moment
on, SF troops were not allowed to directly confront
protesters unless the protestors broke through the military
police lines and actually entered a US base.  When SF was
called out for riot control duty, they would always place us
in the center of the base that was threatened and we were
told to stay there.  They told us, “If the protesters jump
the fence or overrun the MPs, we’ll radio you and tell you
where they are.  Then they belong to you.  Until then, stay
put.”

Using the approved and politically correct riot control
techniques, the US eventually lost control of Okinawa and
returned it to the Japanese Government.  The US greatly
reduced their “payments subsidizing the local economy” and
prices have soared.  How the typical Okinawan benefited from
the Japanese takeover, is a mystery to me.

So much for politically correct and DA-approved riot control
techniques.  Personally, I preferred SF’s riot destruction
technique.  At least it worked.  The protesters threw rocks
of all sizes, shouted obscenities in English, and threw
paper bags full of shit at the riot control troops and they
just stood there and took it.  If they had put an SF unit in
a situation like that, I think somebody would have been
killed.

Don "Val"  Valentine