From Camp Pendleton To San Quentin
I was assigned to Base MP Company Camp Pendleton. In late 1958 or early 1959, on a Sunday evening, I manned a single-sentry gate just off the Coast Highway US101. As usual, traffic was slow since buses serving the base used the gates to my south (from Oceanside) or to my north (from San Clemente). A car with no base sticker approached. The driver, in civies, showed his valid ID and liberty cards. He asked for a temporary base pass that would give him time to get a base sticker. The car had Ohio plates. None of this was odd or unusual. What caught my attention was the broken passenger side wing window and bits of broken glass on the otherwise empty passenger seat. Even this wasn’t all that unusual since no one in his right mind would break any other window if he had locked his keys in the car. Or stolen the locked car. I asked for his Ohio vehicle registration to verify his name was on the registration and he could be on his way with his temporary pass. He fumbled in the glove box a little and asked if he could pull into the parking area to dig out the registration card. Since he was blocking the roadway. I said he could and went into the guard shack to get the pass. He pulled into the parking area, executed a U-turn, and drove off base at a high rate of speed. There I was with no stolen vehicle and no prisoner. But I has his ID and liberty cards and a full description of the vehicle. I wrote a detailed incident report and sent it and the ID and liberty cards to the Provost Marshall. Two or three days later I was in the barracks and got called down to the 1STSGT’s office. He told me I was to report to SSGT Dick Tracy in the PM’s Criminal Investigation Division. Asked why I would get such an order, I said I’d be real surprised if it didn’t concern the incident report about a probable stolen vehicle. As I walked across the parking lot separating our barracks and the PM’s office, I wondered if I had screwed up the paperwork. In the PM office I told the receptionist I was PFC Murphy reporting to SSGT Tracy. Before she could say anything, a SSGT across the room was up and bounding towards me with a big smile and a hand out to shake mine. “Glad to see you. Thanks for coming. Come on in so we can talk. Have a seat. Can I get you a cup of coffee?” I decided I hadn’t screwed up. Tracy and another investigator got my report and went to the suspect’s unit. He confessed and was taken into custody. He had stolen the car in the Los Angeles area and had hot-wired it, They also found marijuana in his locker, He had gotten on base after parking the car in Oceanside and taking the bus onto base. MPs rarely heard anything about what happened after writing a citation or incident report. By chance, a few months later I met a clerk from the Brig Company who told me the prisoner got a courts martial, a Dishonorable Discharge, and 6 months confinement. He did not finish the 6 months confinement. He cut a plea deal with California authorities for felony auto theft. The Marine Corps let him go early to begin a 4-year sentence in San Quentin Penitentiary.