To the Editor:
In March 1951, I was serving with the Marine Security Guard detachment at the top secret U.S. Naval Air Missile Test Center at Point Mugu, Calif. My assignment was base patrol operator in a radio equipped jeep.
Late one afternoon I was instructed to take three Marine sentries to the chow hall but was informed by the patrol driver coming off duty that the jeep’s radio was out of order.
After we ate, the sentries and I set out to deliver food to the night patrol protecting the radar on top of Laguna Peak. As we crossed the coastal highway, one of the sentries, Private First Class Dudley, started playing with the radio receiver. Knowing it was out of order, Dudley pretended to transmit. He “told” our commanding officer, Captain Howard Pitman, what to do with himself. We all laughed. PFC Dudley then “told” the Navy captain on the base a few obscene things, all in fun, and we laughed even louder.
Driving the winding trail up Laguna Peak, I dropped the sentries off at their post. A message was waiting for me as I approached the main gate, “Sellards, you are to report to the guard shack on the double. And by the way, you were transmitting perfectly!”
I stood at attention in the guard shack while the sergeant major reamed me out. He ordered me to go to the barracks, dress in dungarees and boots and start swabbing all the Quonset huts.
As I was getting dressed, a messenger came to the barracks and told me to get back into uniform and return to base patrol. There I learned my liberty was suspended for 30 days.
I later learned that while I was being disciplined, the Navy captain was laughing and telling people about the hilarious communications. He said that since no other transmissions were audible, I couldn’t have known the voice coil was open on my speaker. He called my CO and suggested that he go easy on me.
Two months later I was on the 9th replacement draft for Korea—the assignment I was looking forward to.