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.
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3 comments


  • Gerald F. Merna, 1stLt USMC Ret (Mustang: MGySgt–1stLt)

    Ken: What a “coincidence! As a Staff Sergeant I was also a member of L Co., 20th Replacement Draft, Staging Regiment, Camp Pendleton, CA from Feb. 13th to April 4th, 1952. We boarded the USNS General
    John Pope on April 5th with our draft consisting of 168 Officers and 2,780 Enlisted men. We arrived in Kobe, Japan on May 1st for a brief liberty before proceeding to the Port of Inchon, arriving on May 5th when we were shuttled forward by railroad in serials to the 1st Marine Division rail-head at Munson-Ni. There we were received and boarded trucks to our assigned units. I was assigned to Weapons Company, First Battalion, Fifth Marines (ATA-1stBn-5thMar-1stMarDiv) where I was assigned as one of the three Anti-Tank Assault Section Leaders–First Section. The first section was in support of A Co, 1/5; the second section (TSgt Don Lupo) supported B Co, 1/5 and the 3d Section (TSgt Corbett-retired as a LtCol) supported C Co, 1/5. Don Lupo and I were promoted to Technical Sergeant while serving in this assignment. Unfortunately Don was killed in action in January 1953. I would serve with three other units before I finished my 13-month Korea tour, including Easy Co, 2ndBn, 5thMarines. My Brother Jim, a Sgt., arrived on the 21st draft in June 52 and initially went to another Unit but very shortly thereafter we arranged to have him join me in the 1stBn,5thMar. Years later I would become a Master Gunnery Sergeant before being appointed a commissioned officer on my way to Vietnam.


  • Ken Cutright

    My older brother Glen Cutright, 1st platoon, “C” Co.,3rd armored Amphibious Bn. (Provisional), 1st Mar. Div. was in the first wave to hit the beach on Peleliu. He related to me some stories that were hard to comprehend. He managed to survive that and was later involved in the invasion of Okinawa, after that he was part of the occupation troops in Sasebo, Japan. He returned home and discharged later at Camp Pendleton. I, myself later joined and served with the 1st Ord. Bn., 1st Mar. Div. in Korea from April 1952 to May 1953. 20th replacement draft.


  • JR Morgan Sgt USMC 1966-70

    I’d like to relate that my single experience like the Marine ( Murphy ) here was in 1967. I was assigned to a Okinawa based C-130 squadron, VMGR 152, in the Electric Shop. The First Sergeant ordered me to Brig Chaser duty to escort as prisoner to the brig location someplace remote on the island. I was given some instructions about being under arms (1911 strapped on) and to have no contact with the prisoner. I was told I was expected to control the guy as we were transported in the open bed of a deuce and a half truck. Well I couldn’t keep my curiosity quiet and finally did ask him what he was going in for. Turned out that he had broken into foot lockers in the barracks and stolen personal gear from his fellow Marines. This is how I discovered what had happened to a transistor radio that I had lost. At the First Sergeant’s office on returning the 1911 to him I also learned that the pistol had no rounds. First Sergeant just said since I didn’t check the weapon out from him properly by verifying its status he was more confident that he would not have to fill out papers later about my accidental death……. Oh yeah, after witnessing the treatment of my chased prisoner at the brig check in, I was never tempted to pull any stupid stunts that would get me to that place !


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