Twenty-three miles east of us, by the corner of Dexter and West Chicago, in Detroit’s near north side, several black Wayne County sheriff deputies were facing something much more ominous than freezing weather. They were experiencing a cop’s worst nightmare.
When I was a kid, I spent endless fascinating hours with my dad in the garage of our southwest Detroit home. The floor-to-ceiling shelves were crammed with boxes of spare parts and electric motors. On the floor and the workbench were large and small tools, acetylene tanks, a grinder, a drill press, and a lathe. My dad was a heating and air-conditioning serviceman, and he loved explaining and showing me how things work: things like his Triplett electrical tester. This black box, with dials, gauges, wires, and switches, looked to my 9-year-old eyes like some exotic scientific instrument from the future
It was a hot summer afternoon in 1971, and I was a 22-year-old undercover narcotics officer in the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, with a year and a half on the job. I was also a former US Army Ranger with a year in Vietnam. We were in Detroit’s east side, getting ready to make a raid.
Most people Downriver know my husband, Bob Ankony, as the “Tan Running Man of Grosse Ile.” Bob has been running the island and throughout Downriver since 1979.Bob runs in all weather, from below zero to above a hundred. Oddly enough, as he gets older, he enjoys running in the heat more and more. He comes alive in hot, humid weather—says the heat acts as a natural lubricant for aging joints—and he loves the idea that wherever he is, he can always run home. On average, he runs 2,800 miles a year.So far, he’s run more than 130,000 miles. That’s more than five laps around the earth—more than half the distance to the moon. And he has logged a lot of those miles in faraway places such as Stalingrad, Moscow, Leningrad, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Okinawa.
It was 1966, and the United States was at war again, this time in Southeast Asia, fighting Communists in South Vietnam. Our forces were also holding the line against the same foe in Europe and in faraway places such as Korea. My name is Bill Carpenter, and I was 24 years old. I had just graduated in March from Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, with a bachelor of science degree in wildlife management. I’m originally from the hills of West Virginia, but my family moved to Denver after I graduated from high school.
After the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, the Potsdam Agreement stipulated that Berlin would be occupied by the four major allied powers of World War II: the Soviet Union, the United States, the UK, and France. But the war’s end seemed to herald an even graver danger: a world split into two hostile camps, both armed with nuclear missiles. The East, with the centrally planned economies of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, faced the West, with the democratic, market-driven economies of the United States and its NATO allies. Nowhere was this tense rivalry more starkly depicted than in the divided city of Berlin, deep inside Communist East Germany.
At dawn, Friday, August 30, 1968, I woke inside my cockroach-infested hooch at LZ Betty, sixteen miles south of the Demilitarized Zone, to go on my twenty-second and last patrol. I was the sergeant and team leader of a five-man long-range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP, or “Lurp”) assigned to the First Cavalry Division’s First Brigade, whose area of operation was from Quang Tri City, near the coast of South Vietnam, to the heavily forested mountains out west, halfway to Laos.
It was my fifth grade at Bennett Elementary School in Detroit. I seldom went to school and when I did, I rarely cooperated. The teachers would make me sit in the hall or send me to the library just to get rid of me. I hated school and I didn't respect the teachers or students who participated in what seemed like a culturally-imposed prison, so I found a way to punish my jailers.