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Long Binh Jail Riot During the Vietnam War

6/12/2006 • Vietnam

Private First Class Thomas McKeon’s first day in Vietnam was nothing like what he expected. He was assigned to Company A, 720th MP Battalion, 18th MP Brigade, at Long Binh. Reaching his hooch on the sprawling military compound, the moment he hit his cot he was told to report to the unit armory. Equipped with a flak jacket, a fully loaded M-14 with unsheathed bayonet, tear gas grenades and gas mask, McKeon was soon on his way across the base to the notorious Long Binh Jail to quell an uprising by American prisoners.

The U.S. Army Vietnam Installation Stockade (USARVIS) at Long Binh was the primary incarceration center in Vietnam. Designed to house the Army’s malcontents and criminals, the Long Binh Jail suddenly erupted on August 29, 1968. Despite the magnitude of the riot, history has paid little attention to the incident.

The Long Binh Jail was established in summer 1966, when the stockade was moved from its original location at Pershing Field, the sports field by Tan Son Nhut Air Base, where the prisoner capacity had been about 140. As the U.S. military buildup continued, so did the growing demand for confinement space for American soldiers who went awry of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Those men either served their terms at the Long Binh Jail or were sent to the U.S. Army Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

By mid-1967 the entire U.S. Army, Vietnam, command had become centralized in Long Binh as part of Operation Moose. This massive logistical undertaking made Long Binh the largest military installation in the world, with 50,000 troops on base. Long Binh was a major objective of the VC during the 1968 Tet Offensive.

The stockade quickly acquired the dubious nickname of ‘Camp LBJ,’ a contemptuous reference to President Lyndon Baines Johnson. It was not long before Camp LBJ became a reflection of American society 12,000 miles away. Voluntary social segregation became the norm. Black and Hispanic inmates stayed together, as did the whites. The environment was dangerous and frustrating for inmates and guards alike, with morale a daily challenge for both groups. The guards, many of whom initially had little corrections training, were faced with the daunting daily task of controlling a restive population. According to one Judge Advocate General Corps officer who conducted investigations into allegations made by inmates, there were few incidents of overt brutality. Often, what appeared to be brutality was a lifesaving response of a guard or the physical restraint or movement of a belligerent inmate.

Under the overall command of the 18th MP Brigade, the direct supervision of LBJ fell to the 557th MP Company, 95th MP Battalion. The compound had gone through four confinement officers (wardens) by the time Lt. Col. Vernon D. Johnson took command on July 5, 1968. Johnson had an academic bent and tried to be sympathetic to the needs of the inmates, almost at the risk of eroding guard authority and credibility.

Inmates spent their days in tedious work details and mundane recreation. For those not inclined to follow the rules, there was always ‘Silver City,’ the maximum confinement area made up of converted Conex shipping containers, where temperatures could exceed 110 degrees. Some inmates considered this a form of torture, and Silver City dramatically contributed to LBJ’s reputation as the worst place to be in Vietnam.

For most of the inmates interned in the nearly eight-acre compound, the racial tension was made worse by overcrowding. Designed to hold 400, the facilities housed 719 by mid-1968 and had not been expanded to accommodate the population surge. Each prisoner had originally been allocated 70 square feet of living space, which soon dwindled to 36.5 square feet.

Blacks, who represented nearly 90 percent of LBJ’s inmate population, demonstrated their defiant identity with ‘Black Power’ signs and intricate hand gestures. All the while the predominantly white guards had to come to grips with the environment of rising black identity that was surging through the rest of American society.

LBJ had been a problem virtually since its establishment. Thanks to a public relations campaign during the war, most of what went on at LBJ remained essentially quiet, despite previous inmate uprisings in 1966 and 1967. But by August 1968, the embers of the flames from the American cities that had burned the previous two summers, exacerbated by the April 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., finally ignited the smoldering environment at the Long Binh Jail. Racial tensions, combined with allegations of rampant drug use, were the primary causes of the uprising. Accusations of abuse and neglect, combined with overcrowding, frustration and drugs, served as the catalysts.

The new policy of strip-searching inmates in an effort to stem the proliferation of drugs at LBJ was perceived by the inmates as the ultimate act of degradation. On the night of August 29, 1968, the lid blew. For months the inmates had planned a prison break, but instead they switched to staging an overt act of aggression.

A group of black inmates became high on drugs, mostly marijuana and the popular quaalude Binoctal. The drugs allegedly were provided by one or two of the guards. At 2345 hours, once the inmates were comfortably stoned, they approached the administration area and attacked the fence guard. From there, total chaos erupted. The frenzied inmates began to set tents, mattresses and trash on fire. The mess hall, supply building, latrine, barber shop and administration and finance buildings followed.

Guards and many of the inmates were caught by surprise. When they realized what was happening, many other prisoners joined in the riot. A group of 200 began systematically destroying the camp, while beating white inmates and guards with any impromptu weapon they could get their hands on, including wood planks and bars from dismantled beds.

Only four verified escapes were made during the confusing early stages of the uprising. Despite the wholesale violence, the only fatality was Private Edward Haskett of St. Petersburg, Fla., who was beaten to death with a shovel.

Around midnight, Colonel Johnson and Lieutenant Ernest B. Talps entered the compound in an attempt to calm the rioters. While he was addressing the mob, Johnson was viciously attacked, sustaining severe head wounds before he and Talps escaped.

By that time the prison guards were shoring up perimeter security, with fire-trucks standing by. A significant number of both black and white inmates opted not to join in the riot. Within 30 minutes, they were escorted to a secured field adjoining the prison where they waited out the night under close guard.

It was on the next day that Pfc McKeon was told to muster with the reaction force from the 720th MPs. Under the command of Lt. Col. Baxter M. Bullock, the force walked in formation across the Long Binh base to the stockade front gate where it assembled in a V formation. According to McKeon, ‘Every time the front gate opened, we formed a barrier to follow whatever vehicle went in.’

By August 31 the mood had swung from one of racial discord to one of revolt against the Army. Black and white inmates began to throw rocks and debris at the 720th MPs, who by then had established an outer perimeter. Tom Watson, who was among the reaction force MPs standing 12-hour shifts by the front gate, recalled that there was a’strong pungent smell of burning debris from the fires and a thin layer of smoke that held close to the ground because of the humid night air.’

Once the perimeter guard was established, the waiting game began. Lieutenant Colonel Eugene Murdock had assumed command from the injured Johnson by the end of August 30. Personally selected by USARV deputy commander Lt. Gen. Frank T. Mildren, Murdock took the conservative approach of waiting out the inmates. Lieutenant Colonel Eugene Trop, another seasoned MP officer, assisted Murdock. The patient approach they had adopted undoubtedly saved many lives.

‘Throughout the entire [12-hour] shift [the prisoners] constantly cursed at us and attempted to bait us into approaching the fence,’ Watson recalled. ‘If you happened to venture too close they would try to spit or piss on us.’

During the evening of August 31, several truckloads of blankets, cots and food were brought in for the prisoners. ‘We had to form a skirmish line at bayonet point so the gates could be opened to get the trucks inside, unloaded and removed,’ said Watson. ‘It was a very strange feeling having a bayonet-tipped and loaded rifle pointed at another American, knowing you might have to kill him if he rushed you. I’m grateful it didn’t come to that.’

Once the gates were closed, some of the prisoners set fire to the new supplies. The situation then remained at a standoff for about a week, during which time the number of holdouts dwindled to 13. The steady attrition was precipitated by Trop’s announcement that anyone who didn’t give up would be charged additionally with attempted escape. Trop knew that the inmates did not want any more time added to their sentences.

The remaining stalwarts finally succumbed to boredom and isolation and merely gave up. The uprising had left 63 MPs and 52 inmates injured; Haskett was the only fatality. Following the incident, 129 courts-martial were levied against the insurrectionists for charges including murder, assault on a superior officer, aggravated assault, mutiny, aggravated arson, larceny and willful destruction of government property.

The irony of the LBJ riot is the sparse coverage the event received in the American media, despite the fact that the Army gave the story to many members of the press. The Army’s reports highlighted the fact that the riot was racially motivated and was patiently quelled. Unlike other incidents during the war, the 1968 riot at LBJ was a public relations tactical victory for the military.

Until the eventual turning over of the Long Binh base to the South Vietnamese in February 1973, conditions at LBJ improved. There were a few more minor skirmishes between inmates and guards, but nothing comparable to August 1968.


The article was written by Joe Kolb and originally published in the December 2004 issue of Vietnam Magazine.

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121 Responses to Long Binh Jail Riot During the Vietnam War

  1. Mel Libby says:

    Just by chance I came across your article on Long Binh.
    I was stationed as a medic, across the sreet from LBJ, at the
    24th Evac Hospital.
    I remember we had a VIP, in a secluded little room, after the
    riot.He did have a head wound of some sort.
    I was one of the corpsmen allowed to go in his room.
    I remember the MP at the door.
    I am assuming it was Col. Johnson .
    Thanks for the article.It brought back a memory.

  2. Georgann says:

    I’m looking for any vets who worked at the prisoner of war
    hospital in long binh. I believe it was the 5oth medical clearing
    company and then the 74th evac.

    • Steve Rucki says:

      I was with the 50th from Oct67 to Oct68

      • SylPrimo (Prim) says:

        Hey Steve, do you remember anything else, about the riots.I don’t have much memory left, so anything will help.

        SylPrimo (Prim)

      • Gordon Michel says:

        I was also with the 50th med clearing co. I was in country Jan 67 through Jan 68. 50th med was across the street from LBJ. We had a hospital pow for vietcong prisoners. I do not recall a specific riot at LBJ, but there was always something going on over there, many nights gun shoots were heard coming from the jail. Inmates from LBJ were responsible for burning the latrine drums with diesil fuel. I do remember their jailhouse shuffle. Vietnam wasn’t pleasant, but LBJ was even worse.

    • Larry says:

      Hey! I was with the 74th Field Hospital from around Sept. 68 – June 69 at Long Binh worked in the Operating Room. The unit was a Reserve Unit activated in the Spring of 68. I received order at Ft. Knox Kentucky and assigned to the unit at Fort Lee Virginia after the unit was activated from Reserve status. Lots of RA’s & US’s were used to feel the numerous open slots the unit had when activated.

  3. Bob Gillum says:

    I was with the 557 mp co just a few days in country when the last riot that I ever recall at the LBJ. It was a scary and never forgetting experience Then spent time as a guard for maybe a month before patroling Bien Hoa and doing just about anything else that we did. I want to thank all the guys who share their vietnam experience on the internet. Wish I could hear from Patrick Morelo from Brooklyn NY or all who remembers that tme and place.

    Bob Gillum from Muncie In

    • Michael J. Galas says:

      Hi Bob, did you work with Fish, Jerry Olson or John Cunningham ? I was in LBJ from 9/68 to 7/69. Felt like I was doing time then I worked at the PMO in Bien Hoa till I left in Dec. A few of us from Brooklyn stayed together. I’ll try and find some pictures.

      • Bob Gillum says:

        HI Mike,
        I remember you just like it was yesterday. We worked together and almost went home about the same time. Do you remember Morello fom Brooklyn? Do you know how to get in touch or where he is at? Email me


      • SylPrimo (Prim) says:

        Hey Bob,
        Sorry I am bad with memory, If you can remember anything Please let me know, OK
        SylPrimo (Prim).

  4. Robert Munshower says:

    Came across your article several years after it was published. Several important parts of the overall story have yet to be told. Most of us MPs despised wotking at LBJ as it was a no win situation. The prisoner’s were all “innocent” and to a man all claimed they were “victims” not criminals. Please note that these men were not being held because of accumulated past due parking tickets or passing bad checks. Murder, attempted murder, assault, attempted or even successful “fraggings” were more the norm. During the rioting, media people had a lot a lot of freedom and access to the disaster in the making. The inside of the prison was visible to them as the inmates had burned much of the privacy canvas sheeting that covered the fences. As the 557th CBR specialist I had prepared four tank sets (Looked like flamethrowers) of CS gas in case we had to go in (two did not works as the humidity had caked up the CS in the reservoir tank). I expected to have several MPs in front of me as we moved into the stockade as I was blind on two sides and rear from the special gas mask I was equipped with. I remember Murdock as a no nonsense type and he walked up to me and told me “get your self up on the point and fall back and get another tank when this one is dry.” One of the 720th officers agreed with me that the best plan would be to spray each of the many underground bunkers as the phalanx moved into the inner compound where the rioters had set up what really looked like a third world primitive village. As we flushed prisoners out of the bunkers, many home made weapons came with them, the most common being toothbrush handles with a half a razor blade melted onto one end of the handle. Many steel bunk post adaptors that had been sharpened and made into spears and knives were taken. Razor and concertina wire was found hangin just inside the entrance to many of the huts so it could be pulled down to ensnare MPs entering the “hootches.” As soon as I ran out of CS we began using baseball CS grenades in place of the CS gas unit. At no time was a prisoner sprayed directly with gas, nor did I ever see a grenade thrown directly at an inmate. It usually goes unmentioned that many prisoners were brutalized, beaten and assualted by other inmates and some appeared to bleeding to death or severely injured. We had some problems with non-prisoners attempting to drive by LBJ and throw razor blade packages and dope over the wire to them. Many of the inmates were as shocked as we were by what had occurred. Fortunately I had but one more week of working in that place (The LBJ duty was rotated with town patrol, road security, reaction force duty) and got to act as driver to Colonel DeRuz, assistant 18th MP Brigade commander, even got some Huey time when DeRuz and Bde. Commander Gustafson made frequent inspection flights into the brigade TAOR. It should be mentioned that the 615th MP Co. and the 557th MP Co were shoulder to shoulder with the 720th. “Of the Troops and for the Troops.”

    Best Regards,

    R. Munshower

  5. Bill O'Dell says:

    I worked at the 24th Evac. Hosp accross the street in 1966-67. I remember a riot happening in either late 1966- or early 1967.

  6. Cathie Solomonson says:

    If you have an interest in learning more about the LBJ Riot, may I suggest Long Binh Jail : An Oral History of Vietnam’s Notorious U. S. Military Prison by Cecil Barr Currey . You’ll have a chance to read ” other side of the story” .. from the perspective of some of the prisioners .. as well as first hand accounts of some of the cadre .

    As one of the many nurses who cared for the dozen or so patients brought to the 24th Evac Hosp who suffered severe head injuries from the LBJ riot .. I have always considered it the “darkest” , saddest days I spent in Vietnam ..

    Cathie , former ANC 2Lt , 24th Evac Hosp

  7. Daryl Achenbach says:

    I was assigned to the 557th MP Co when the stockade was still at Pershing Field, Saigon. We had an uprising there in early 1966. In addition after the stockade was moved to Long Bihn there was a riot in the late 1966/1967 time period also as the guy from the 24th Field Evac hospital said. I remember one of the MP’s in our squad getting his arm broken. If I remember right a black Major from the 95th MP Bn in charge of the stockade helped put the rebelling blacks in their place with wording not tolerated today..

  8. David Kerkhoff says:

    I was with the 615th MP Company. Some of us had just finished our shift on highway patrol and were escorted over to LBJ that night to serve as what I thought was reinforcements. We stood outside the main gate and were then ‘selected’ by one of the officedrs you mentioned – not sure at this date, but we , the615th MP’s, were some of the first to enter the stockade in a ‘V” formation. We were on point. I did not know the casualty rates but the story seems correct in all that we witnessed and endured. I do not remember fixing bayonets and I do remember an NCO taking my ammo clips from me and we never locked and loaded our M-14s. In the point of the ‘V’ we used them in unison as clubs when the prisoners would rush us.

  9. Nate Ford says:

    I was and inmate at LBJ during March and April 1967. There was a riot on Easter Sunday. It lasted several hours. It was very scary, those rioting used bunk adaptors to beat anyone who did not join in the riot. The gaurds then came in with bayonets in a flying wedge. Most of us were caught in the middle. We were tear gassed and the riot came to an end. The tear gass accumulated in the water tank and for a few days we got tear gas when we showered.

  10. Leon Bordelon III says:

    In August 1968 I was assigned to the 11th Trans Battalion stationed at Cat Lai, VN. I was the first Black officer assigned to the unit since it was established in 1936 in Philadelphia. The SGM was from Philadelphia and gave me the history of the unit because he was there at its inception. The hatred I immediately experienced from many of the southern officers was shocking. Our subordinte units were overwhelmingly Black but regardless of MOS qualifications Blacks and Hispanics were not allowed to ser serve in any capacity except as cargo humpers on ships. We had our own race problems and riot alerts at about the same time as the Long Binh riot. I have often said some day I would tell the story of my year in Vietnam. My unit received a few of the Blacks following the riot and were told by intelligence that they were suspected of inciting the riot but there was insufficient evidence to cout martial them. As a Black officer in that remote location in 1968 I have often revisted in my mind the horrors I witnessed at Cat Lai. Thank God my Bn commander and XO ran a tight ship and by the regulations. There were also a few other decent fellow officers there. But soon after my assignment a few of the white unit commanders let it be known that if they caught any of them socializing with me after duty hours they would be give nastier assignments. And since some of units were LCM’s that sometimes mad insertions on the Cambodian border they did not want any unnecessary exposure to danger. They came to me and told me it was nothing personal but they could not take a chance alienating their southern commanders.

    I spent ten months at Cat Lai under those circumstances. Most of my white contemporaries could not safely interact with me except during the duty day. I just happened upon this artice today and am pleasantly surprised to learn that it surfaced in 2004.

    • SylPrimo (Prim) says:

      Thank you so much, Leon.
      I needed to hear what you said, I was one of those in the LBJ riots.Even today very few know what we went through.

      Thanks again,


      Sylvestre Primous

    • Copeland says:

      Does anyone remember Big Colonel T (THOMPSON), and have a first name or know if he is still alive?

  11. Charles Church says:

    If I recall correctly, the worst thing about being sent to LBJ was that your time served there was “bad time”, which is to say it did not count towards the year you had to spend in Vietnam. Upon leaving LBJ and rejoining his company, a former prisoner still had as much time left in country as he had before going to LBJ. The guy from my company who was sent to LBJ was sent for going AWOL. He had a girlfriend in An Khe he couldn’t stay away from.

  12. C.J. Maffei says:

    what appeared to be brutality was a lifesaving response of a guard or the physical restraint or movement of a belligerent inmate.

    I was an inmate incarcerated in silver city. I did not participate in the riot. All inmates were locked up in solitary confinement. Those of us who were put into the silver painted connexs, were told that we would be returned to the barracks when they were rebuilt. I was from california and so was the Staff Sargent in charge of the connexs. My first night I was taken from my connex. The Ssgt said I was a diagrace to his great state. He hit me twice with his batton, cutting me under my left eye. Being a stupid person, I forced myself to laugh at him. Then, 3 mps beat me until I couldn’t walk. The next day the chaplin was walking the compound. He came and saw me, The Major said I needed a doctor. I never got to see a docotr, and because I was labeled beligerent. That was so they could explain my condition. My food rations were cut to 25% of a regular soldier. I weighed 165 lbs, after 6 months there I was 125Lbs. I ask only one question?
    When will the real truth about Viet Nam be told??

    • ed stevens says:

      HI I was just fooling around and found the information on the riot at LBJ as you men call it I was a child of 11 at that time.I knew that Viet Nam was terrible and it was despised by most of the country. My stepfather was pow in Korea. He had no love for war in any form. I have learned much about the war you men fought in by research on the Net. Thank you for your stories.

      • mike riney says:

        ed, hate to inform you,but most of country did not desise the war. on the contrary, most supported it wholeheartly. otherwise it could not have lasted 20 years. iwas there in 1968, in lbj, in silver city. disgraceful. i have yet been able to forgive us.

  13. John Trotogott says:

    I was stationed at Dak To. We were getting ready for a helicopter mission. All of a sudden there stood one of our guys that had been doing a short tour at LBJ. I questioned him on his “early” release. He told us of the riot. He had came to his favorite medic to get checked out. He looked like a racoon…his face had been pummelled…he was so dark around the eyes. I asked “what the hell”? He (white) was tied to a tent pole and was being questioned. One of the inmates (black) had repeatedly told my guy to call him “Black Beauty”. Every time he refused he was hit in the face. So after a few punches the GI that was hitting him said “why not”. The tied up inmate replied with “I can’t, Black Beauty was a horse”. That is when he really got worked over. My guy was kind of a comedian…obviously his attacker was not amused. That is my memory of the riot.

  14. Ken Bentley says:

    My comment is for C.J. Maffei:
    Why were you put in LBJ ?
    And for Leon Bordelon, I was not in LBJ but I had almost the opposite experiance you had, the white men which I am one were doing all of the work while the Blacks were getting stoned and telling all that it was whities war and they didn’t have to do nothing! Remember the Detroit riots? Do they seem simalar to LBJ? Who started those?

    • Bob Hedstrom says:

      Ken, I was a prisoner at LBJ just up to the riot and both blacks and whites shared the work equally, but FYI in the prison we only had to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week; the MP guards however worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week, and when it rained we didn’t have to work but the guards still did. And you make a good point when making an analogy between the black riots back home and the black riot at LBJ. On our off time the blacks were the only ones it seemed who had drugs, as they’d be smoking joints just among them- selves, while they instigated their very anti-white riot. Not all the black prisoners participated but some did by coercion and threats. The small crowd that instigated it, turned it into a mass frenzy. bob

  15. Jim Radford says:

    I enjoyed the post. It brings back memories.

    I spent a tour with the 716th MP,

  16. Wayne says:

    Nam was a place where after all these years one forgets how bad it really was. There were many racial riots at LZ Baldy in autumn 1968 the blacks had self segregated them selves with a open hostility toward whites and there was numerous fraggigs and shooting by blacks on whites.I was a victim of this. The white officer company commander Capt Farewell had all these reported as enemy acitivty since reporting it was racial and suggested he was not solving the problems in his command, would mean black marks on his record which would h inder his promotion. Blacks would try to catch unwary whites beat them up and tie them up and hit them and m ake them say black is beautiful, his panics not as bad, but I did see a big fight over a black asking a hispanic to join the blckpowetr ovement in the compound and hispanic got mad at this suggestion because he took it as an insult and the fight was on, yeah that was one part of Nam,and I also woder when the whole story of Nam will be told.There was much more black prejudice agains whites who beleived it was pitting colored men against each other for the white mans war. Many of them were not afraid of LBJ, in April 1969 a black called Ned stitiched a CQ runners legs with auto fire from an M16 the incident was entirely unprovoked, the cq runer named Foley weas white Ned was black. He just raised his weapon and shot him. Yes these things happened and the folks back here never, knew and still dont.

    • SylPrimo (Prim) says:

      Hi Wayne,
      Thanks for the post, if there is anything else, please writ it down. I will start collecting the information around Dec. 2011.

      SylPrimo (Prim)

  17. Dan Titus says:

    Came across this article and since I was there at Long Binh at this time thought I would comment first hand account on this article. I was with D Company 87th Infantry who was right accross the street from LBJ and we were the guards who were in the towers around LBJ. All of us in the outfit were soldiers who had been in the field (combat outfits). Most had at least one or two purple hearts from their previous outfit. Most of us were compasionate to the prisioners that were in LBJ. The night this happened a group of us were coming back from the area were they were having the Bob Hope show that evening. We could see smoke and commotion at the stockade and when we got to our company area we were told to draw our weapons and report to the orderly room. My personal experience since it was my day off from guard duty in the towers was I was assigned with others to circle a group of prisioners to keep them contained. We had fixes baonnets and loaded M16. Which was normal in a combat zone. There were a couple of incidents that stand out in my a black prisoner “getting on” a black guard calling him an “Uncle Tom” and when the same prisioner got onto a white Officer guard and the prisoner said when he got back to the “World” he would rape his wife. The white officer “locked and loaded his 45 pistol on the prisoner. A Major was there and quickly jumped onto the white officer verbally and releaved him of his pistol. The other was when I was in the tower the next morning the prisoners in the housing yard was waking up and the found a 55 gallon drum and started beating on it and dancing around like they was getting ready to go on the war path?? I know when they rioted there was in the process of adding onto the stockaide with new housing for prisoners that were of lesser crimes like a work release prisoners. After a couple days I went on R & R and when I came back to my outfit I was assigned to another duty. But LBJ was completely different. Before the prisoners were for the most part left alone to themselves but after there was always continuous activity across the street at LBJ with a lot of D & C (drills and ceremonies) or marching around the stockade to keep the prisoners busy!! Like going through basic again. The only thing they achieved was going from a liesurely life to one of continual physical activity like I said basic all over again!!

    • steve dennis says:

      Was that major black? I was a guard there and the only major at the stockade was black and carried a swagger stick that he would slap on his leg as he walked. I read a lot of these comments and some don’t always ring true.Again,I was a guard there before,during and after the riot.

      It was true about the 55 gallon drums and at night they built fires and danced around the fire and drums with only towels wrapped around them.

  18. Dave Oshel says:

    Cathie Solomonson; I want to thank you form the bottom of my heart for being so kind.. I was with the 1st inf. division and received shrapnel wounds to the chest.. My stay at Long Binh was 21 days. You and a few others will always be in my thoughts and prayers.. Most of my time in vietnam has been locked away.. However, your an inspiration to all in the medical field. I remember having spinal taps and milograms and you and some other good medics, doctors, and nurses pulling me thru.. God Bless you Cathie, Hugs, et.al, Dave

  19. Herbert Small says:

    I was there , Im a eye witness . It was a lot worse than this article submits . I will never forget that night .

    • SylPrimo (Prim) says:

      Hi Herbert,
      Wish I could talk to you, and many of the others. If you would like, please e-mail me at sylsax.ssss@yahoo.com. I’ll give you my information.


    • the black major was j.j. jackson and he was one mean sonofabitch. i saw him strike prisoners across the face with his swagger-stick. I heard that he was assistnt warden in an upstate new york prison after the war. i’d say that he got to practice his special methodology there. and they did give `waterboarding` showers as punishment or just for the fun of it when they were bored. j

  20. Michael W Ryskoski says:

    I have a friend I grew up with that we landed in nam in may 1968.We were seperated . I ended up going to I corp with D co. 508inf. 82nd airborne.While serving up there and in the Ashaw Valley in combat,I got a letter from home saying my friend Gary was put LBJ for hitting a officer.Later in my tour the 82nd moved south near LongBihn.At that time Oct 68 I was tranferd into D co. 52nd Infantry which was attached to the 95th MP Bn. We did guard duty in the towers at the ammo dump and sometimes went on patrols in the small villages outside LongBihn.I was told many stories about the riot in Lbj.Some of the men in the 52nd helped the MP;s A few times I had to pick up a work crew from LBJ . The men I guarded asked me why I used a M60 machinegun,I told them if they tried to get away I could stop them on the run up to 1000 yards.They thought I was crazy and elected not to try.

  21. SylPrimo (Prim) says:

    Hi Brother and Sisters of VietNam, Thanks for the responces to the LBJ riots. Moreover, thanks for your input and the way you saw it. The incident was all racially motivated, Am I wrong to say 85 % of the prisoners were Black, with more coming in everyday, from across Vietnam. I served in both sides of the war, the one as a Proud American, the other, as a Proud Blackman. And, the Army made me choose between the two. A purple heart one day, and a dishonorable discharge the nexts. A shame no one want to talk about, but it must be tolded.

    Prim, (B company, 3rd/506th, “Cureehee” 101st Airborn

    Sylvestre Primous

  22. Greg Borge says:

    For the 1968 riot at LBJ, I was with the 212th MP CO, a Sentry Dog unit. We were rousted about 2AM, and told to fall out with full gear, dogs included. The trucks were there to take us to LBJ, but around 0400, we were told to stand down. We heard rumors of people being nailed to picnic tables.

    • steve dennis says:

      I was a m.p. in the 557 and was present during the riot. A lot in this article does not ring true. Silver city came after the riot when that new col. took over He was crazy and allowed a lot of insane actions to take place.Anyhow I was in the middle of the entire mess and it was really bad,much worse then what is depicted in this article.
      Afterwords things were inhumane.It is a long story and I will never forget it.
      If you want a 1st hand report,just ask.

  23. SylPrimo (Prim) says:

    Hi Brothers,
    Please continue to write what you saw, what did you see and feel, what was going on in your unit. I have done my fighting; Nevertheless, I want to tell my story, so anything anyone can remember will help. I loved the times and dates, as well as, what was going on in your unit, or the base you were at.
    Well I was in Jail I meet many brothers from all over the country that was there due to the black and white issues. I did get the Purple Heart and something for bravery, and a dishonorable discharge, because I was Black. In addition, all my Currahee brothers that were there know why I did what I did.
    Sylvestre Primous

    • traveler says:

      Hi prim
      I was in LBJ from September 68 to August 69. Silver City and maximum security. I witnessed the showers and the beatings. Even though I wasn’t involved, I witnessed them. It still bothers me today. The VA says it never happened, no witnesses. I wish everyone involved would come forward. The truth must be told. No more covering up. Speak up!

      • SylPrimo (Prim) says:

        Hi traveler,
        Thanks for the post, please keep writing, we will get the story out, I hope before I die.

        SylPrimo (Prim)

      • steve dennis says:

        Listen brother,I was there.I was 1st in the 212th m.p. dog handlers unit on the otherside of LongBinh and after tet my dog suffered real trama at the ammo dump.Then I was transfered to the 557 m.p. company to work in the stokade.L.B.J. Still have dreams of it all. Believe me it happened and it was bad,before and after the riot. 733 prisoners and 90% were black,the place was always tense.

      • traveler says:

        Hi Prim
        If there is anything you want to know about the beatings, sgt Davis or col Ivring the terrible I can hook you up. I witnessed the beatings and the army, of course, denys they ever happened.
        Like I said they did happen they did.

      • steve dennis says:

        Col. Irwin was insane.He came in about two weeks after the riot and started having everything painted silver,Also had rebar welded up with spikes or spear type points on the perimeter fence around the stockade. Then he put conex boxes out in the sun and cut out little windows in the door that resembled prison bars.The inmates did not get showers and some only had towels wrapped around the,no fatigues,and the silver paint rubbed off the boxes and stuck to their skin. And there are many more stories that go on and on,but,it never happened according to the military.

      • traveler says:

        Hey Bob you forgot.The midnight MP’s took the inmates out of silver city and gave them showers once a week, beatings were also included.I did witness it.I was a guard in the max security, a group known as the midnight raiders bear knuckled the inmates in the showers. I’m still up north give me a week to get home and we’ll talk more. I feel that I know you.

  24. Robert Hedstrom says:

    I was courtmartialled and sentenced to 6 months hard labor and confinement in LBJ summer of 1968. Many things said in the comments are inaccurate. 1st, most MPs are biased against the inmates; 2nd, blacks comprised 90% of the prison population in maximum security, but 50% throughout the whole prison. Never mentioned are the hundreds of prisoners who were courtmartialed and imprisoned for refusing a direct order to pick up a gun and fight after determining that they wanted nothing to do with killing people, as for myself. Most prisoners I met there were not hard core criminals, but were in for non-violent offenses like possession of marijuana, sleeping on guard duty, absent without leave, refusing a direct order, etc. Violent criminals were a small minority. The prisoners who organized the riot were a small minority of the black prisoners, those who hated all whites, even the white prisoners. Initially, the news media reported that there was only one death during the riot, but in his book Long Bihn Jail, Cecil Currey quotes MPs who essentially say that at least 18 prisoners were killed. This event was one more of the many cover-ups engineered by the military to keep the world mis- informed about how badly the war was going for us. Also, what now is commonly called Silver City, solitary confinement in supply conex boxes, was referred to as The Box by us prisoners back then. And for some African American prisoners, LBJ wasn’t the worst place to be in Vietnam, but the best, and many called it home and wanted to stay there with there black friends until the war was over. Many of us who went there have never been the same, and have survived on the fringe of society, since. Most of us could have been disciplined at the Company level and avoided such hardship and nightmares, but that’s just not what happened, for there were actually two wars in Vietnam: 1) America against the Vietnamese Communists 2)and the war between us American troops and the authorities. It was a mess and no-one seems to be able to get it right, still, after all these years. Check out DVD “Sir, No Sir” and the book “Soldiers in Revolt”, you’ll be amazed. Throughout the war from ’65-73 over 500,000 American soldiers deserted, throughout the world, for real. The Great Ideological Mutiny of the Vietnam war was unprecedented in American History which was really at the root of the high rate of courtmartials and the high incarceration rate. In war, the common denominator is terror, for everyone, always, Thanks, Bob, Vietnam vet, 1968. Honorably discharged 1970.

    • Bob Bott says:

      You are right about silver city being the box mine was across from the shower area down from the outhouse. The max guards were brutal to everyone we called them the job squad and you know why when you got jobbed it happened those boxes were about 6X6 and hot very hot used to urinate in your clothes because you were not out but once a day get caught you got jobbed, wring it out and do what you have to. there was always a reason to be jobbed. I have survived well since then but I will never forget what my brothers did to me for having a joint. I will have more to say later. to all of us that have held it together congrats benifits to heal were not there for most of you or I


    • Scott Riley Aco.1/5 Cav says:

      I was in the box the night of the riot on Aug. 29th 1968.I saw the war from both sides, and I’ve yet to hear anyone address the reason for so much anger between the races in Vietnam. ‘Nam mirrored the mood of the states. when the hippie counter culture was happening back here we all black, white , hispanic fought bled and died together. we shared our food , our dreams and our dope , marijuana. Two of the biggest changes came when Dr. Martin Luther King was killed and the the marketing of #4 Heroin to the troops. From that point on in my humble estimation the war was lost.Let’s face it guy’s we grunts, ground pounders, marines , sailors etc. had for many years carried the brunt of this badly led war.

  25. Robert Hedstrom says:

    The case of Billy Dean Smith is interesting. He was held in LBJ in the box for 22 months and was acquitted of the crime of fragging. He has not been the same since, and is mentioned in the DVD “Sir, No Sir.”

    • Robert Hedstrom says:

      I was off on my accuracy of the Billy Dean Smith case; he was not held incommunicado at LBJ in the Box as I originally thought. He was transferred from LBJ to the states where he was tried and acquitted for a fragging murder. He was held in solitary confinement for 22 months at LBJ and stateside. His case occurred in ’71 long after the infamous uprising/riot of ’68. Billy is mentioned often: in the DVD, ‘Sir, No Sir,” and in the book Long Binh Jail by Cecil Currey. Supposedly Billy is in and out of state prison and psychiatric care units, like many others who went through the military’s meat-grinder judicial system and incarceration. I correct myself. bbbbbbboB

  26. Thorn says:

    It must have been an awful place.

  27. Michael J. Galas says:

    I worked at LBJ for almost a year. I got a little crazy in LBJ. They had to transfer me out or back to the States. I took the early out. Funny thing the VA still doesn’t believe my stories about what went on at LBJ, they say there’s NO record of what I’m saying. I’ll talk to you more about my time in LBJ when I have a clear head and time. Its a long story, maybe I should write a book.

  28. Traveler316 says:

    Crazy times and insane working conditions. Seemed like beatings and torture all the time. Silver City had to be the worst place to be in the world. Glad those conditions don’t exist today. I hope.

  29. Hime Hambrick says:

    Do anyone remember the roit in Long Bin jail in Nov. 1969 when Gen. Westmoreland was in command

  30. Michael "Big O" O'Brian says:

    I was in LBJ during the riot of ’68’, sentenced to 6 months in Special Courts Martial for Possession of Marijuana. Most of the prisoners I met were in for, as previously noted by a few here, Assaulting an Officer, AWOL, drugs (of many types), and yes, I remember the Binactal craze, man, what a crazy way to do war, huh? Murderers were shipped to Leavenworth, not locked at LBJ! One guy, actually my closest friend while there, was in for shooting himself in the foot, to get out of combat. Hell, he was a medic! He was from Tennessee and played Bass for a Pop group that you have all heard of!

    Also, as previously noted here, the associated article leaves out much of the truth, or facts, as when he states that an investigator told him that there was not really much violence. Well, that’s just plain bullshit! I know what I saw, with my own two eyes, and it was a freakin’ nightmare. I know I saw at least ONE white prisoner beat to death by a black prisoner, and his (both) names escape me, but I DID see it! I was on the minimum compound side when the riot broke out, in the first hootch on the right, just inside the Min. Comp. gate. There were several white guys in there, and a couple black prisoners came up and opened the canvass and hollered at their buddies, “Hey, this hootch is full of whities” which sent the fear of God down all of our backs! We escaped to the big wooden and metal tent up toward the fence on the ?north? side of the compound (not sure of the direction) by sneaking along the back of the hootches between us and our destination. Once there, we were told by a black prisoner (who we knew to be a good guy) to stay low and we would be safe. Shortly after that they burned the hootch we left behind, so we did the right thing by getting out!

    I served in the 5th Light Equipment Maintenance Company at Long Binh next to the 61st Heavy Equip. Maint. Co.
    If anyone wants to hear more of MY story, or just share our experiences, send E-Mail to:


    • steve dennis says:

      I was a guard there and worked the big gate at the entrance to th stockade.During the riot at one point there was a line of prisoners coming toward us,m.p.’s in full gear.The front line was white and behind them was a large group of black prisoners with the wooden ends of the cots sharpened
      and pointed at the backs of the white prisoners trying to use them as a shield as the moved toward the main gate to try and escape.We sawwhat was happening and someone yelled”RUN” and the front row ran behind us and the rest took off everywhere it seemed. Also,I remember our c.o.,we called him Capt. Crunch,can’t remember his name,never liked the guy,just a real goof.Anyhow, he walked in Mr tough guy and some prisoner ran up to him and smacked him in the forhead with one of those cot ends and made off with his .45,now we got a prisoner with a gun running loose.Now that is another story,one of many I might add.It is all still very vivid and clear.

      • Michael "Big O" O'Brian says:


        Some of what you say here does sound familiar, but all of that whole mess is so foggy, at least in my recollection. I can tell you that the “one of thos cot ends” to which you refer were called “Bunk Adapters” by those of us who slept in them. They were placed between ends of our cots to make them taut, so they would hold us. They were vey hard – not sure of the type of wood – and would deliver quite a blow. In fact, it was one of these very adapters that the killer I refered to in my orignal message above, used on the white kid in the yard to beat the life out of him, for being white, I suppose There was, as you know and allude to above, quite a bit of racial hatred in that Prison!

        Anyway, feel free to drop me an E-Mail if you feel so moved. I am a retired Corrections Officer – Michigan – and available to chat if you wish.

  31. Chuck says:

    I’d refuse vietnam. A useless war, for profit by contractors who bombed innocents. They should have been jailed instead of GI’s.

    • Bob says:

      Chuck, yes, the war was useless and criminal; the government gets young men when they’re too young to understand war and are full of dreams of glory. There is no glory in war; only gore and hate. Did you know that over 500,000 us troops deserted worldwide from 1965 to 1973? In case you’re interested, I would recommend a book called, Soldiers In Revolt by David Cortright, and a DVD called Sir, No Sir. I appreciate your comment; if I had to do it all over again, knowing what I know now, I would have evaded the draft. Some say that it was rebellion in the ranks that brought the ground war to an end; I believe it. I was there, I saw it. I was one of those rebels. Cool, Bob.

  32. birdsong says:

    I was in LBJ as a prisoner when a small group of black prisoners was planning the riot; I listened to them in my hootch. The riot was all about black hate expressed to anyone close by who was white including the other prisoners who were white. But most of the black prisoners did not hate us white prisoners, but during the riot these violent blacks attacked even us white prisoners. Some blacks who were not radicalized before their courtmartial and imprisonment, became radical in LBJ and joined the uprising movement I witnessed developing. Fortunately I got out 2 weeks before the riot which FYI was the largest military prison uprising in modern American war history, but it was less political than racial. While i was there I never saw anything that could be considered racism except one time in the shower after the last drop of soap dropped of of me, there was a black prisoner right behind me who tapped me on the shoulder and pointed with his thumb toward the exit door. I step aside and allowed him his place. Us white prisoners had to deal with being called Chuck which is the equivalent of the word Honky. I felt I was in a reversed racist place since there were more blacks than whites in maximum security (not silver city). We had to practically cow tow to the black prisoners if we wanted to survive the ordeal of LBJ. There was no systematic racism though that was practiced by the administration. To R. Munshower a guard at LBJ, not all of us prisoners were the same. A minority of prisoners were real criminals as you mention who committed murder, rape, robbery, conspiracy, etc. but most prisoners were not of the criminal mentality and had merely broken military law, like being in possession of a small amount of marijuana, sleeping on guard duty, disobeying a direct order; many black prisoners were in LBJ for turning against the war and the Army and refused direct orders to pick up a gun and fight; I met many like this, and even the leader of the black militants who sympathized with the Black Panther party was sophisticated and highly educated, an antiwar activist who was in LBJ for seditious activities. Most of us prisoners regardless of race were there for military offenses and I repeat, nonviolent crimes – one could almost say that many of us who went to LBJ were the other prisoners of war during the Vietnam war. The Army became the other enemy, many of us came to learn. The peace, love and antiwar consciousness movement infected the troops during the whole war, and many who were drafted went to Vietnam with great reluctance and no interest in shooting another human. The draft failed to select between Americans who were against the war and those of the boomer generation who were for the war, but I turned antiwar during the war, and it wasn’t long before I was standing before a military tribunal and then on my way to Hotel LBJ. Bob

  33. Robin Hood says:

    I was drafted into the army in July of 1964 and spent all my time state wide. I did apply for Viet Nam but was told that I would have to go to Ft. Benning and take Guerra warfar training. I was told that I would have to re-up. That was the point . I wanted out!! I did not go to Ft Benning. I did not go to Viet Nam and I did not see the rotten crap that so many others had to see. I want to hear more about LBJ ( the prison not the president )

    • Bob says:

      Robin Hood, what do you want to know about LBJ? I was there as a prisoner for one month in 1968 from July to August. I got out 2 weeks before the riot, the largest military prison uprising in American history. You might want to read the book, Long Binh Jail by Cecil Currey. It is good but leaves out some things which he probably didn’t know about when he wrote the book; some of the blacks felt more at home together in LBJ than out in the bush, and many prisoners were there for deciding not to partici-pate in something they no longer believed in and were court martialled and imprisoned for refusing a direct order to pick up their gun and fight. This occurred across race lines, but many black prisoners in LBJ by summer of 1968 were there for that reason. It wasn’t as bad as they say, we didn’t have to work when it rained or on weekends. We had 8 hour work days. Out in the bush it was a 24/7 job. I will say lastly that I encountered anti-white racial hate among the black prisoners, for the first time in my life. I was only 20 and some of the black prisoners wanted to kill me merely for being a white man. They refused to identify with me as a fellow prisoner. That’s what sucked about that place, the racial hate towards the white prisoners, man. I never saw a guard abuse any prisoners, though I’m sure it happened on occasion. The black prisoners were not discriminated against in LBJ, but some say they were. I never saw it. Bob

  34. Gordon Reynaud says:

    I was in South Vietnam in 1968/69 as an Entertainer with a Show Band from Canada, and lived in Country 1 year, travelling most of South Vietnam.
    We did many shows in Long Bihn, and I will post my site … chek it out to see if you recognize anyone?
    My deepest apprecitation for all the Men and Women who were there at the time, and all who cared for us in such a special way. Colonel Castle, Colonel Bob Wright, and Colonol McGilvrey (“Mac” of the Mess Association).

    • Gordon Reynaud says:

      The site I have posted is a 1 hour Show at Long Bihn base in Dec,1968.

      I am hoping someone will look at it and either recognize themselves, or someone they know in the audience.

      This was an awesome time in my life, and I was at the base during the riots, and talked with various men on duty at the time. Colonel Edmund Castle had befriended us, and was giving us updates as the days went by.

      I will post my youtube site again, and invite all to look it over, hoping it will bring some good memories.


      • Bob says:

        Gordon Reynaud, I watched some of the show and thoroughly enjoyed it. Wow, good jokes, guitar pickin, and Marilyn. How did you like touring Vietnam and playing for us G.Is? Yes, I was at the prison, but just before the riot. It is slowly becoming a famous story. Are you still in show biz? Thank you for the vid and photos, and yes it brought back many memories, but not the ones I was too drunk to remember. bbbbbbbbbboB

  35. Bob says:

    Robin Hood, what do you want to know about LBJ? I was their for one month as a prisoner from July to August. I was in the hootch where the riot was being planned, but since I was the only white prisoner in my hootch, I had to pretend I knew nothing. Since I could see which way the wind was blowing, I was advised by a friendly black prisoner to become friends with the leader of the black militants who was also in my hootch. I did and it may have saved me. I was left alone by the other prisoners who hated me because of was white. I remember there was a traitor in my hootch who bragged about getting high with the Vietcong down in their tunnels.
    In 1999 the book ‘Long Bihn Jail: An Oral History…’ by Cecil Currey came out. It is very good and I am using it to write a novel on the subject. But it is definitely biased towards the guards, and those who were imprisoned for refusing to fight were never mentioned. Many of the black prisoners and some whites were there for going conscientious, you know, and put down their guns. Most of the prisoners were not the criminal type, such as myself. We however were there because we had violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice; Military Justice of course being an oxymoron of grandiose proportions. Bob

    • Robin Hood says:

      Thank you Bob for telling me your experience in LBJ. This whole affair has been a well kept secret. I have taked to many who have been in Viet Nam and they have no knowlege of LBJ I even talked to a man that was in long Binh and he didn’t even know about a prison there. Is Long Binh that big of an area that he would not know of a prison being there?? I can understand why our government; especially the military would try to keep LBJ from the rest of the nation.

      • Bob says:

        Robin Hood, regarding the guy you met who was stationed at Long Bihn Army base, it’s strange he never knew anything about the prison. It was out in the open, not hidden. And whenever us troops would be incorrigible we’d be threatened with a trip to LBJ. Long Bihn base was however the largest US military base in Vietnam. What was hidden was the riot. A few years ago I researched this and found real short blirbs in the back of the NY Times, Newsweek, et al. It was touted as a race riot that was suppressed by MPs in one day. Not true; it was a racial uprising that used rioting as its method. The blacks held the stockade for 30 days and had nearly burnt the whole place down. The media also reported that 54 persons were injured and 1 killed. BS There were lots of black prisoners killed and a few whites including at least one guard. The prison commadant tried to talk with the rebels, and they literally bashed his brains in; he has been disabled permanental since. An MP in Currey’s book recounted to the author that he and his fellow MPs were ordered into the compound and may have bayoneted 18 rioting prisoners to death.
        I never witnessed or experienced any abuse from the guards. I do think that when us white prisoners smarted off to a guard, we were treated with more leniency than the blacks, but I remember some blacks harrassing the guards. I think this would make a great movie; know any good movie producers?. Another book I read was the first one to even mention the riot at LBJ. The book is called After Tet: The Bloodiest Year In Vietnam by Ronald Spector. Cool, Bob

    • steve dennis says:

      I was a guard there and if you are writing a book contact me at
      stevedennis45@ yahoo.com.I can fill in a lot of blank spots and tell you 1st hand about many things prior to ,during and after the riot.This article is pretty bland in comparison to what really occurred.

    • Gordon Reynaud says:

      Hello BBBBBBob;

      Thanks for your very welcome comments. I am not in the entertainment business any more (currently 73 yrs old and retired), but treasure the time I had in Vietnam. Both Marilyn and Tony are deceased, but John Lavoie is living in Vancouver, Canada. I never hear from Dernise. I always hope the video will bring memories and maybe see yourself or somebody you knew in the pictures.
      God Bless and thanks again.

  36. Traveler says:

    I was a guard in LBJ from Aug 1968 to June 1969. I was assigned to maximum security. We were ordered to feed the prisoners bread and water and we had to lock them up in small silver conex boxes, silver city, painted silver and out side. They were HOT. We had to clean up the mess after the riot that the Army created. If you need and information just ask.

    • steve dennis says:

      I was a guard there,before and after the riot.Do you remember the prisoners turning silver from rubbing against the paint?Not to mention the horrible condition they were kept in after it became to know buy its new name siver city.

    • Bob says:

      Traveler; were you there for the riot? When you say maximum security do you mean solitary confinement in the Box. When I was in that joint in Aug ’68, maximum was where they put us new prisoners, and solitary confinement was the conex boxes, which as I understand it, wasn’t named Silver City until after the riot. Prior to, it was The Box. I am attempting to turn this story into a historical novel and need mo info. Bob

  37. J Jones says:

    I was stationed just accross the street 52 nd Inf. Several of us were sitting on sand bags drinking beer when the riot started. I knew many of the inmates because we signed them out on work details around our compound. Many of these guys were being held for refusing to get a hair cut. Now that was not the charge but it is how it started by refusing an order giving by an officer. Many of the blacks stated that they would rather be in lock up than out fighting killing people that had done nothing to them. I was a young black SGT E-5 at the time. I did my time to include time in the Big Red One. It was a very difficutly time in our history. I remember coming home from first tour in 1966 and was told in Memphis, TN that I could not ride in a Limmo from the airport to the bus station with whites college students that had befriend me on the plane from Calif. Students got out also and we took a bus to the down town bus station.

    • Bob says:

      JJonyes, I was on one of those outside details you watched; thankfully I got out 2 weeks before the riot. I’m white and I minded my own business and made friends with blacks and whites; I was advised by a black friend that prisoner Planter was the leader of the black militants and I would be best if I befriended him; he was in my hootchI did and I was respected. I even got the brothers to give me a hit or two of their ganja; the blacks were the only prisoners with ganja, and yes, many black prisoners preferred life behind the wall than outside, and there was a real strongly knit young black men’s culture. Not all the brothers were violent or wanted to riot. But once it started many joined out of fear of reprisal. The book Long Binh Jail by Cecil Currey tells almost all of it, except about all the non-violent offenders who were there for refusing to pick up a gun and fight. Most prisoners, black and white were not common criminal types, but had broken the UCMJ, possession of pot, sleeping on guard duty, refusing direct order, etc. Must have been something to have watched it dude. As a Vietnam vet, how are you doing these days? They found that us Vietnam vets are aging prematurely and dieing young; there’re only about 250,000 of us left out of 3.14 who served in the Nam. Thank for your input. bbbbbboB

  38. robert rice says:

    I did four tours in LBJ, the first time was before the compound move to long binh. the jail at that time was out side a saigon us air force base. I spent three years in vietnam trying to complete one year of service. for my story go to robert lee rice story and log on.

  39. Major John Baldwin, MD says:

    Came across this report and well I remember as one of the surgeons who was there. I have never before or since seen so many head injuries, from night sticks and rifle butt hits. Every corpsman and even nurses who could numb it up and sew was put to work…I’ll bet 30 or so heads…and we used big blue nylon stitches because we knew somebody somewhere would be taking them out. At least four of the names in Comments were there that night..nurse Capt. Cathy Solomonson and corpsmen Libby and several others. I was too busy to get pictures of this, but the 24th Evac Casualties can be seen on You tube.

    looks like won’t be automatic, so google Youtube vietnam casualties 24th evac, follow directions in comment for full screen and pause.

    • Bob Munshower says:

      Mr. Jones, in regards to your comments about men being incarcerated for refusing to get a haircut, simply rings hollow or smacks of the legends and myths that have arisen from the Long Binh Jail riot. The majority of prisoners in the minimum and medium security sections of LBJ were there for refusing to go to the field, AWOL more than 60 days or for assault, theft or direct and serious violations of the UCMJ such as intentionally wounding themselves or deliberately becoming infected with any numbers of maladies and diseases. In an attempt to avoid going in the field. Refusing to get a haircut and similar childish crap was dealt with at the company level with an Article 15. What I found while working my rotation at LBJ was that the prisoners usually had a long rapsheet with more than a few offenses but always used the “haircut” or “rascism” excuses to rail against their confinement. Many MP’s assigned to the 615th, 557th, and 212th MP companies may remember the night time “sweeps” we made through Tam Hiep, Tan Mai, Ho Nai and Cogido villages picking up GIs who had been missing from their units for up to 6 months and living with Vietnamese and working as pimps and drug dealers. The book about the LBJ riot was typical of the bull spewed by those with a left wing agenda much like the one we see everyday on television.

    • Bob Munshower says:

      Dear Major Baldwin, with all due respect, I wish you had taken time to walk the 3 or 4 blocks from the Evac and had taken a chance on watching what really happened. Obviously you were also qualified as a medical examiner and was able to deduce that the head injuries delivered by either a nightstick of about 1 1/2 inches diameter and those of a bunk adapter, also about an inch and a half in diameter were identical but could only have come from the nightstick. We were briefed and warned about the use of excessive force and had been told we would be prosecuted under the UCMJ if it was found that we had employed such force. In fact, many of us were interviewed at the Provost Marshall’s office, and some of us were under oath when we did. I did not witness a single prisoner being beaten with a nightstick or a rifle butt, and if you had read what has been written by those of us in the forefront of the melee, you would see that little interaction between us and the prisoners took place because the whole idea had been to segregate the docile prisoners from the rascist criminals and agitators. We were there to reclaim ground that had been ceded to the criminals over the past several days.

  40. CSM Richard Bates says:

    Looking for Soldiers that served with CSM Glen Bates. LBJ CSM 1967-1968.

  41. […] Lost Stories of Vietnam Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

    • Robert l Rice says:

      It took three years to complete one year in Vietnam.
      my book title: AWOL in Saigon Vietnam, by Robert L Rice

  42. Eric Snow says:

    I was assigned to the 557th MP Company March 1967. My first week there we had a riot on the right side of the stockade or the area that required more supervision of prisoners. The riot started around 1800 hours and all available MPs were ordered to the armory and issued the basic gear that was mentioned in the article. I was surprised to be issued live ammo and a fixed bayonet to the M-14. We went into the stockade in several V formations and entered the troubled part of the stockade and removed the prisoners that were causing the problems. I worked in most all the sections. The maximum confinement building had about 20 containment cells with a small wooden platform for the prisoner to sleep. Prisoners had to ask permission to leave the cell and use the latrine area to the back of the building. There were 3 small Conex Shipping containers with small holes cut in them for ventilation that were used for prisoners that needed additional discipline. In May 1967 there was a directive from USARV that soldiers could request a transfer to a combat unit. There were a few of us that put in a request for transfer out of the Stockade. In early June 1967 two of us were transferred to Task Force Organ at Chu Lai, the unit became the Americal Division or 23rd ID. And a few months after that I saw other soldiers from the Stockade at Chu Lai. We all agreed that any duty out of the LBL or the Stockade in Vietnam was better duty.
    I retired from the Army Reserve in 2004 (age 60 for Reserve Retirement) as a CW5, CID and my civilian job as a California Deputy Sheriff.

  43. Bob Hedstrom says:

    I got out of LBJ 2 weeks before the riot; I’m white, I slept in same hootch with blacks, worked Big Red with blacks, showered in the same shower, ate in the same cafeteria, stood formation in the rec yard with blacks, and never did I see anything that could be interpreted as racism by the guards or administration; the only racism I saw was against me because I was white, the blacks hated the white man out of proportion to any reality in the ranks during the war. I was called Chuck and had to take a lot of abuse from the black prisoners solely because I was white, and here I was a prisoner just like them. The only racism I saw was black on white; fact! bbbbbbbboB

  44. Dan says:

    I got into with my first Sargent who didn’t like me because I was from California and he was from Alabama so one night I had a few beers and we ran into each other and I beat him senseless needless to say I spent several months in LBJ this was the middle of 68, while I was there I got in to the work detail med security but we had a Black Guard who was scared shitless and would aim his shotgun at us constantly so I refused to go out and was put into Max where I finished my time I was called a chuck many times but I was big and from the 101st ( I would fight anyone) so they left me alone, those months did not count on my tour so I was in country for 1 1/2 years no big deal I ended staying in for 6 more years after that kind of vague memories now…

  45. Chico Caldera says:

    I was stationd at Long Binh in june 1972 and worked in the shop plt, I remember the day i got there the Plt Sgt told me to find a room in the Shop Plt Barracks, so I did on the botton floor in the rear….Plt Sgt came looking for me and said where is your room, I said bottom floor in the rear. He quickly told me to move to the 2nd floor, and soon. A few days later some “brother” told me what was I doing in the “jungle”, I asked him what did he mean ” he said this floor is only for blacks” I said thats cool soon I will look like you, I am Mexican…..I guess they thought I was crazy or just plain stupid, I lived there until we stood down in Oct….

  46. frank moultrie says:

    I was with the 284th mp co. and worked inside LBJ as a supply clerk from dec `68 to oct `69. I am Black and was eventually barred from LBJ for “fratinizing” with prisoners.

  47. Major John Baldwin, MD says:

    I recall that incident as all surgeons at the 24th Evac were working for 12+ hours, and every corpsman also. The most amazing part of our work was sewing up large scalp gashes which bled profusely. Every person, right down to those OR Corpsmen washed heads, then shaved them to see the wounds, then injected local anesthetic and started sewing. I remember telling the boys, “Keep the stitches big and cut them long, as God only knows when and who will be taking them out.”

  48. steve dennis says:

    Much of what has been said in or printed in these books does not come close to the truth. During the riot there was very little interaction between prisoners and the guards,most were from the 557th.We mainly tried to move the minimum and medium security that were not part of the riot out of harms way.
    Two encounters did occur however,when a prisoner used a bunk adapter and put it to the head of the C.O. of the 557 and made off with his 45.Then there was a real reason to move against a prisoner.He was subdued and apprehended in a bunker.Outside of that there was very little physical action taken against the prisoners.

  49. jae hall says:

    If Black soldiers weren’t discriminated against while at LBJ. Well. They were discriminated against before they entered the armed services, and during their active duty, and during their courtmarshals, on their way to LBJ. Why would their experience be any different at LBJ?

  50. DeWayne Cord says:

    Mr Ford
    I was in LBJ for 52 days during the riot. I remember filling sand bags with red dirt. My C.O. and buddy came and got me the day after riot. I was there for fighting with 2nd Lt. to much beer. DeWayne Cord

  51. Bill Noak says:

    I was company clerk at the 50th Medical next door to the 24th Evac. Anyone out there who served in 66-67, like to hear from you.

  52. Wayne Miller says:

    Does anyone have information about race riot at the EM club at Long Bing. looking for a unit report for the 16th PI Det Military police, Attached to the 2nd Field Force, Long Binh March 1970 that shows a major riot that would show this incident. Any info. will help. Welcome Home

    • Robert Plumlee says:

      When things began to get out of hand I decided to leave as it didn’t matter where your sympathies were, this was black and white: there was no middle ground.

      I tried to mind my own business but there was a common ritual in the EM club that bothered a lot of us and I believe contributed to the riot. In order to get a front row table in the club someone had to get there in the afternoon and hold it for their group. Once the show began people would start to show up. When black members of a group showed up, all members at the table would typically stand up to greet them and perform the soul brothers handshake, This could take quite a while to accomplish and if you were seated behind them you could not see the stage until it was over only to begin again when someone else joined the group or just came to the front to visit. I realize this was symptomatic of the larger problem but it made it difficult for those of us that were on the “live and let live” side.

  53. bob says:

    Mr. Hall, if black soldiers were always being discriminated against, why were there so many black career soldiers in the Army? I think you have a persecution complex. In LBJ the black prisoners discriminated against us white prisoners just because we were white. They were the racists, the black prisoners and I was a victim of it. This is something you would know nothing about. We did what the blacks said; they ran he prison. The Army had no policy of discrimination during the war;I am getting tired of blacks crying about discrimination. BS!

  54. Ron Slagle says:

    let me begin by saying I was with the 268 th aviation battalion 61 st. helicopter assult helicopter co. Bong Son Vietnam.I was a prisoner at LbJ in August 1967 and was a hostage during the riot. It all started on the medium compound and spilled over to the whole complex.It was for those who have never been in a riot just look at the film clips of the riots in Watts and detroit. Their is fear like no other when all civil order is no longer.Blacks had been conducting what was refered as midnight chuck raids where the would throw a blanket over a white man while he slept and beat the hell out of em. So we all feared for our lives. When the fire trucks tried to enter to put out the fires they were beat back by the rioters.The order was given to fix bayonets dawn gas masks and get control.Thats when the leaders of the riot took 14 of us hostage. They melted the ends of tooth brushes and put razor blades in them as a very lethal weapon. They[the blacks]also had butcher knives from the mess hall as weapons and shovels and pick axes also. They stood us up in front of the Mp’s so they backed off about 25 yards. Then for the next few hours their were so sort of negotations done with the army brass. This didn’t last long the army was not going to give the rioters any thing they demanded. So they pulled the big brass boys out of the way and the MP’S STARTEDADVANCING pushing everyone into the corner of the fence and started firing tear gas through the chain link fence behind us. That pissed off the blacks even more so the started to attack us hostages. I was lucky for just as the guy started to cut my throat another guy hit me on the back of my head with a bunk adapter which knocked me loose from the guy with the razor blade knife and I FELL ON THE GROUND. i PLAYED DEAD AS THE BLOOD WAS PUMPING FAST OUT OF MY WOUND. hE STARTED TO HIT ME AGAIN WHE ONE OF THE OTHER BROTHERS SAID NDON’T NEED TO HIT HIM AGAIN HE IS ALREADY DEAD.tHE mp’S WERE STEPPING OVER ME and thrusting their bayonets in the brothers. I guess the army said don’t kill them so they were stabbing them in the arms and their thighs..I jumped up and ran as fast as i could towards the front gate and was met by medical people and they led me out and loaded me up and took me to the field hospital . When I arrived they looked at my wound and put us in the order of severity of people with head wounds. There were at least 125 to 200 people sitting on the ground waiting to be seen.Isaw one man with his nose torn off ,stab wounds mostly busted heads. They took me in layed me face down on a gurney with my head hanging off one end took a large bottle of water and poured it over my head washing the wound out and then sewed it up. 28 stitches. Bunk adapters are solid oak and can do lots of damage. Took me back outside and took me right back to the stockade. By then the had it under control and ran consentino wire between the two halves of the prison and put blacks on one sige and whites on the other.
    The side we were on still had some shelter standing the blacks had none they had burn’t it all down. They gave us c-rations to eat. The blacks took the 50 gallon drums that we used to catch water in when it rained turned them upside down built a bon fire between them and then starded beating on them for two days. We were all scared half to death of them attacking us again.It sounded like a tarzan movie. There were about 600 of them and 200 of us. Not very good odds.We belive that 20 to25 people were actually killed. About a week later our company commanders came and pick us up. Where the name silver dollar city came from was they rebuilt the stockade and painted every thing with fire proof paint that was silver. I know because I WAS SENT BACK A SECOND TIME for 2tenths of a graham of pot and when I got there they kept me in a connex for three months because I was ther durning the riot.After that period of time I WAS SO MENTALLY gone fro the isolation and brutallity of the guards I would take any discharge they offered. I took a undesirable discharge not knowing that I was giving up all my VA benifits. So I have been fighting with the VA for the last 40 years to regain them. I have been waiting for a face to face meeting now for the last two years to give my side of the case.I have had a very good civillian life even thou I came home with a pot addiction and lots of mental problems from the war but I have 5 wonderful daughters a loving wife and 9 grand childern and 2 great grand childern. I only want from the army what I deserve and nothing more. Thanks for allowing me a this oppertunity to vent. God bless

  55. bob says:

    Dr Baldwin, thank you for being there to help the prisoners, and for sharing your thoughts. Unbelievable is all I can say. I missed the riot by two weeks thank god.

  56. joe anthony says:

    Hay I was there in 1969 not shore of moth I was one how was in the jail yes it brought back memories I’ve only have meat a few people that know about LBG

  57. Bob says:

    C.J Maffei, what is the real truth about the war? I would like to hear your viewpoint. Bob

  58. Bob says:

    Frank Moultrie; would you have fraternized with the prisoners if they were mostly white? Bob

  59. Ron Slagle says:

    anyone who wants to know anything about vietnam and the war i will be glad to share what i know with them.

    you can call me on my cell phone 817-781-1771

  60. Bob says:

    I am interested in writing a historical novel about the place and the riot. I’ve studied writing at college in 90s, was a soldier in the Vietnam/American war and was a prisoner at LBJ leading right up to the riot. I know this would make a great movie. I have researched and written some so far; I am looking for people to help me put the story together, and to send off a synopsis of the story to a movie agent. Ron, you went through the whole riot. I got out of LBJ just before the riot luckily, but I was in the hootch where the soul brothers seemed to be planning a riot; I heard that word fall from many a mouth while I laid there and pretended to be asleep. My time there was very eventful, but I didn’t go through the riot.To write the complete story, I’d need someone or two who are committed to getting the details of the riot down on paper, make a movie, then finish the novel. I have the time to write and anyone interested in joining me I’d be more than happy to send you an example of my work. This story beckons to be told and seen on the screen. If you are interested, e-mail me and give me your tel #. We should organize a committee of consultants, whose mission is to get the story out, and have fun doing it. There’s only one reason this won’t happen, and it’s because most of us like to talk a lot about it, but putting together a team to write, score, and sell this great movie idea isn’t easy.It’s just a big flash from the past, and when I think about it, I feel strong and courageous, but I want this story turned into a movie. You’d think Spike Lee or someone like him would be real interested. Want to talk? E-mail me, then we can talk. Bob

  61. Robert Plumlee says:

    I’m afraid my memories of LBJ are a little less political than some of the other responses found here but this is what I remember. My tour of duty in Nam was 1969-70 with the 720th MP Bn, HHD. I worked in the S4. We were allowed to sign out LBJ trustees to work in our office during the day doing menial tasks, janitorial work and etc. We were regularly assigned a trustee that was doing time in silver city for smoking marijuana. As with a lot of people I met in Nam, I have forgotten his name but he was a really decent guy and we tried to keep him out of jail as much as we could.

    Sometime around the middle of my tour there was a riot at LBJ. We were some of the first to know as there was a need for CS gas riot dispersers and our office was contacted to locate as many as we could find. A short time later HHD personnel were assembled and issued M16s with fixed bayonets and gas masks to go quell the riot. The “real MPs” in the line companies were all out at the TAOR, convoy escort or town patrol etc. For the most part HHD personnel were not MPs but instead were trained in a variety of support specialties, I was a truck driver working supply. By the time we got there the place was so full of smoke and CS gas you could hardly see your hand in front of your mask. The prisoners were burning mattresses and the guards were firing tear gas from their towers. We were lined up and told to walk across an open area where the prisoners had assembled and told not to shoot anyone. Fortunately for all concerned, when it was all over no shots were fired.

  62. sam james says:

    It is about time the world knew what really happend there. We the people who were there should get PTST…

  63. Traveler says:

    Yes I agree James. I was a guard in Silver City. Bread, Water and once a week showers. This would make anyone a little crazy. Even working there 12 hours a day.

  64. Steven Dennis says:

    You had to love the connex boxes the isolated prisoners were housed in. That silver paint rubbing off on their skin and one shower a week.Not to mention the exercise regiment the new colonel incorporated. The new colonel was some kinda of a nut. The heat in those boxes had to be horrible. I don’t know if anyone remembers or not,but there were very few records of the prisoners after the riot because they started the fire in the office with those records. After they were isolated in the one compound we have to take them out one at a time to finger print to get positive id’s to those that refused to talk.

  65. Steven Dennis says:

    I wonder if anyone remembers the connex boxes that were used to house the prisoners that isolated themselves in the original medium compound. The new colonel had them placed inside,cut little widows to represent prison bars and cells and had them all painted silver. Then of course put prisoners inside.Scorching heat and no showers.

    That was disgusting,not to mention pretty much inhuman.The prisoners there were the one that refused to identify themselves.They started the fires in the main office with prisoner records. Later ,guards would bring them out one at a time to get.prints so they could be i.d.ed

  66. sam james says:

    i was in silver city because i did not want to eat. me and a brother from baltimore were sitting in front of the office when it all started i witness it all.

  67. lenny elvin says:

    never forget it i was assigned to hq co of 720 th woke up one nite to big time fire was called in to cut open the admin safe afterwards our work area was rite across the street

  68. Heavenly Traveler says:

    I was a prisoner at LBJ from Feb.1970 to July 1970 my crime was that I wanted to go back out to the bush. The man that was there in the position of recon sgt. with D BAT. 319th Arty.. 173 airborne Brigade did not want to be there. The sergeant major told me the only way I could talk to the battalion commander was to walk back I said OK I started walking back to the main base camp at Bong Song and was picked up by ARVNs. The Colonel picked me up in his chopper and put me in a conex and shipped me to LBJ. While there I was tortured and witnessed one young man beaten to death. When my trial came up the sergeant major admitted under oath that he said the only way for me to get back to talk with the colonel was to walk. I was sentenced to 6months. I would take revenge on these so called men who were chicken shit sissies .I was a prisoner of war for 10 days with 2 air force officers we were traded for some NVAs and they treated me better than my own people. Yes I would give back to them what they did to me and us. My day of revenge will come soon. We called max Z block.

  69. Heavenly Traveler says:

    Yes I was there a prisoner. We called it Z block and it was a place of torment, I was hung up like a slayed deer on a pole backwards while I was in Z block and beaten on a schedule I saw a young man beaten to death because he had courage. Thinking of all that I know about our government and their lackeys I wonder why I have maintained loyalty to this government. I believe it is time for us to be destroyed. It will be so.l

  70. Jim says:

    I was in LBJ At the time I was also I was wondering if anyone remember get in the by Stuitt that with the big guy leaving in Silver city named Stuart. Sure would like to see him now

  71. James says:

    Was in Long Beach in jail doing the riot I was beaten ,I am bothered by it today.VA tells me it never happened.when will the real story be told.

  72. James says:

    I was there also I was beaten by the guards there I am still bothered by it today the VA tells me that it never happened

  73. surfside six says:

    Even though the often used term “racial tensions” makes an interesting moniker or reporter “situation description” it is as wrong in this story as it is everywhere else you find this fabricated synopsis. Because just like the 1971 USS Kitty Hawk Gulf of Tonkin incident or 1972 Camp Lejeune incident the phony “racial tensions” simply means hostile, violent, law breaking ghetto blacks. Which is also operative anywhere these walking talking food stamp queens inflict themselves on the highly productive non-black world.

    • Pocono18519 says:

      A real piece of shit aren’t you? You’re what’s wrong with the country you asshole.
      Just so you know, I actually was a guard at LBJ but a few years later. The time that I was there we had very few problems with the inmates and when there was a problem it was with both black and white prisoners. Most of that was over playing basketball and didn’t last long.
      Take your KKK talk and stick it where the sun don’t shine: up your ass.

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