The Army of South Vietnam (ARVNs) had a reputation for being corrupt and incompetent, and I noticed that the paratroops carried grease guns, along with other World War II‑era weapons. Since I wanted an extra one to send home, I thought I’d make them an offer. I took a walk to the ARVNs’ compound, but when I saw how careless they were about leaving their weapons lying around, a new plan began to take shape. If I tried to buy a grease gun but failed to close the deal, I would only draw attention to myself. Then, if one of the weapons should later go missing, things could get awkward. Better just to steal one.
My lifelong passion for firearms started in Patton Park, behind my Detroit home. That’s where, at 12 years old, I traded a gas-powered wooden model airplane to an older kid for his Winchester Model 58 bolt-action, single-shot .22-caliber rifle. I already had BB guns, bayonets, and knives, but no way was my dad going to let me keep a real rifle. So I carried it home and hid it under our back porch. But it didn’t take more than two days for my dad to find it. To my great surprise, he just smiled and said, “Robert, you can keep it.”