~ 720th Military Police Battalion Reunion Association History Project ~
Chasing A Tank

   This is a tale I’ve told over the years but never put down on paper so my memories consist of snippets of events and little details standing out starkly, while other facts have simply disappeared.

   It was a Sunday morning, bright blue sky and warm, sometime in 1973, but I cannot recall an accurate date. I was in a 1973 Ford police interceptor with a partner when we got a radio call to proceed to a tank park where it was reported someone had driven off with an M-60 tank. Given the job because I was the only man in my MP Company that had experience on tanks, I recall doubting the initial radio call. Who would steal a tank? Driving up a street next to fenced areas filled with tanks, we arrived at an entrance that revealed bent and smashed chain-link gates. Two soldiers with M-16s slung over their backs, stood together looking befuddled. We rolled to a stop, and the men came to us pointing across the street, shouting that a man had climbed into a tank and driven off. Across the street was a portion of the post golf course. Tank tracks mangled the mowed fairway, then turned out of sight.

   On the radio to the PMO, I informed them that a tank was gone, being driven by an unknown person, and since I was in a sedan I had no way to follow the tank that I had yet to see. Our dispatcher assigned a jeep patrol to look for the tank. The dispatcher began to relay reports that people were calling into the PMO reporting a tank driving erratically across the golf course, driving range and then disappearing into a wooded area.

   I remember driving on Turkey Run Road going west. All our windows rolled down, we moved slowly because we were listening for the tank. My first sight of it was it smashing through a line of trees to my right front; it crossed the two-lane blacktop and disappeared into scattered trees. The jeep assigned appeared about this time, and followed the tank into the woods, bouncing over crushed trees and brush. The radio on the jeep had a different frequency than my patrol car, so all communications went through the dispatcher.

   Radio calls were becoming frantic as people realized we had a real problem on our hands. The Provost Marshall himself, a Bird Colonel, radioed me asking how we could stop the tank. I recall saying we could ram him with another tank, or hit him with LAWs [light anti armor rocket] to break a track. Sometime during this I was told a helicopter had been sent to fly above the tank to keep track of it. I also recall the helicopter radioed in saying it saw the tank, and then had to leave since it was short of fuel. Big help!

   The hide and seek went on for some time, and the tank continued to move westward. The county sheriff and Copperas Cove Police were notified. They held the western border of the fort. How long this went on I have no memory. My next clear memory was stopping at a T-intersection, facing west. The highway in front of me lay outside the boundary of Fort Hood, to my left was a high bluff created by the road cut. The tank appeared at the lip of the bluff above the road, and then paused. Sheriff cars and police cars formed a road block below at the city limits of Copperas Cove. I remember one police officer holding a large rifle with a telescopic sight. I radioed the PMO to pass along the information that shooting at a tank with rifles would be a complete waste of time. By sheer luck, our company commander, a Captain, was OIC of the MPs that day. He radioed me about shooting the vision blocks in the drivers hatch with an M-16. I recall telling him that if the tank remained still and you had an expert shooter with plenty of ammo, you "might" get it done.

   About this time we learned that the man in the tank was an assigned guard from the unit. He had been issued an M-16 and 5 rounds for guard duty. Just wonderful!

   The tank backed away from the bluff, disappearing back into the trees. Unbelievably, moments later I watched the tank reappear and drive over the bluff. The slope was 70-80 degrees, almost vertical and at least 30 feet high. It was amazing watching that tank slide/roll down the slope. It must have jarred the hell out of the driver. It slammed into the ditch at the base of the slope, and he was able to drive it onto the road, then across another shallow ditch into a pecan grove. I later learned that the tank ran over multiple pecan trees for which the owner was paid $6,000 each for damages.

   Once again the tank disappeared, this time into a residential area. It was becoming really scary. This guy was unhinged, and a 52 ton tank could drive through a house as easy as an axe through a matchstick. Cops in patrol cars were talking about ramming it. Pointless. I was on the radio requesting a Ranger team be flown out with many LAWS to shoot it, maybe even kill the driver. The Colonel wanted to know its range. It was full of fuel, so I told him it could travel as far as Austin or maybe Dallas. I knew that if he drove it into a house or harmed anyone, all hell would break loose.

   We drove down a street lined with wood-framed houses, listening. A woman shaking a dust-mop on her front porch called out to us, “Looking for a Tank? It just drove through my backyard.” Radio said it was heading back to the area where it had driven off the bluff. We turned around and raced back to the highway. Many jeeps now, MPs and police cars pulled onto the side of the highway, everybody with their guns out. I caught sight of the tank below us near a small stream. It drove into the stream bank, and stopped. I realized he had stopped because he couldn’t see the other side of the stream; the tank was pointed up slightly. The driver may have thought he was above another high bluff. I saw the tank shudder, and realized the driver had tried to shift into reverse, something not usually done with a tank. The transmission we learned later had been damaged from the steep fall/ roll down the bluff. Shifting into reverse had killed the engine. One of our guys in a following jeep jumped out, and ran down the slope towards the tank. I jumped out, shouting out instructions on how to best mount the tank, and which hatch to go for hoping the guy had not locked all of them. I saw another soldier running behind me. As I was scrambling onto the tank from the rear Andy [last name unknown] jerked open the loader’s hatch, and pointed his .45 into the turret. He was screaming, “come out!” I got up beside him, and watched the driver wiggle out of the driver’s seat and into the turret. Pointing my pistol at him, too, I searched for the rifle he was supposed to have with him.

   He was a slender white kid, pasty faced, and when he started to climb out of the loader’s hatch he slugged the other MP in the leg. The third soldier who had run down to the tank with us was the First Sergeant from the company where he had stolen the tank. Climbing up beside us, he kicked the kid in the head 2-3 times. Still remember watching his head bounce off the steel rim of the hatch opening. The guy was spitting, nose bleeding and struggling as we lifted him by his shirt out of the hatch. We got his hands behind his back and cuffed him. He was kicking us, swinging his head, struggling. Enough was enough. He was pushed off the turret, and fell the nine feet to the ground. That took the fight out of him. Hours had passed since the first radio call.

   Have no memory of how he was transported. I think he was taken to hospital, and do recall that since I was the assigned patrol officer I had to do the paperwork on the pursuit and arrest; which took hours. We drove over to his company when we learned that it was "his" assigned tank that he had stolen. While checking his locker other men in the unit came to us, telling us that the guy had lost it weeks ago but no one in the chain of command would listen to them. We learned that he had not bathed in weeks. His bunk and locker reeked. Shaking their heads, men who knew him talked of warning the platoon leader and others that he had gone insane. He was from Indiana, and we found a Dear John letter in his locker.

   Fortunately, no one other than him was harmed during the incident. He had driven over clothes lines filled with clothes, many fences, through gardens, and across a putting green where he had done a pivot turn! The last thing I recall, is that someone told me he had become completely catatonic. I never heard of a conclusion in the matter, and there was no court martial.

SP/4 Gerold F. “Gary” Glover, 410th MP Company, 720th MP Battalion, 5th Army, Fort Hood, Texas.
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