Friday Firesmith – November the 13th

Back in late October of 1983, I answered the phone at our battalion headquarters at three in the morning. A clearly terrified officer  gave me orders to awaken my unit, and to call him back to tell him I understood and had received the orders. 

“This isn’t an exercise is it, sir?” I asked. 

“I wish it was,” he said. 

The next twenty-four or so hours were chaotic. We didn’t have the internet, no cell phones, no way to find out what was happening out there in the world, and we didn’t have televisions in the barracks or even in the offices. No one knew anything. We loaded all our gear, were given live ammunition, and waited on the tarmac of the airfield, to either go or not go, to where and to fight who we had no idea. 

As it turned out, we had invaded the tiny island of Grenada, which was poorly defended, and the whole operation was over in a day or so. 

It rattled me, and other soldiers as well, for we had no idea something like this was going to happen, and we witnessed some very serious flaws in our chains of command. A dozen or so soldiers deserted rather than take that first step by going to the airport, and all of them were very quietly discharged. 

One of my main drinking buddies was a guy from the Seattle area. His sister was barely eighteen, and she sent letters to him expressing fear from a serial killer, a man they called “The Green River Killer” who preyed mostly on prostitutes but to be a young woman in that part of the world was frightening. There was a correlation, we decided while drinking, between the chain of command we suffered under, and that of a police department who couldn’t catch a man who had killed at least ten women, and likely more. 

Suddenly, and without warning, it’s 2022. 

I was listening to an audio book, last Sunday, November the 13th.  “The Search for the Green River Killer: The True Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer

by Carlton Smith, and Tomas Guillen” and the story arrived at a part where a young woman was trying to catch a snake in a vacant lot, when she uncovered a bone, and then a human skull. The date she found the body was Sunday, November 13th, 1983, about the same time I was sitting, drinking, and talking about the Green River Killer. 

The irony here, is America loss nineteen dead in the invasion of Grenada, and Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, was convicted in 48 deaths, and likely murdered even more than that. We put an incredible amount of effort into that battle, hundreds of men, millions of dollars, and it was over in a couple of days, while at one point, two detectives were everyone assigned to catch a serial killer. 

Coincidence brings this together today, decades old memories, and long lost friends. Murder and war, terrified women on the streets trying to survive, and young men, staring down the second oldest profession, that of a soldier, wondering if they have what it takes to prove themselves in battle. 

There’s a lot to unpack here, you know. 

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

6 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – November the 13th”

  1. It’s sometimes surprising to discover where we fit in history. Living in a school dormitory with no TV, and talking to Mom on the phone, I didn’t understand why she so concerned about Soviet missiles in Cuba.
    Is it easier to figure out the coulda, shoulda, wouldas, of an organization like police or military, than pondering our personal history?
    I think I’m more sure of what those faceless organizations should have done, than I am of things I did.

    • Bruce, in the case of the United States military in Grenada, I’m not totally sure what we did meant anything, except in some abstract, symbolic, diplomatic sense. In the case of the inertia that limited some sort of meaningful response in the case of the Green River Killer case, I can only say that so far my opinion is it was a failure to understand the immensity of what was happening until it was far too late to stop it. It’s easy to sit back and say, “Gosh, why wasn’t more done sooner?” but at the same time, the same people prone to such utterances are also those not prone to action, or contributing to solutions.

  2. I agree, we got a murder here and a body there but nobody connects the two until it’s a dozen and they realize these aren’t just random, there’s somebody out there that did all these and no reason to believe they’ll stop.
    By then the killer may have moved to another county or state out of their jurisdiction. Then they hand off a cold case to people who must start at square one, finding out what the first cops did and know, their gut feelings that doesn’t show on paper in a file.
    The cops will say, we can’t go whole hog on every case, there’s too many, we’d burn out.
    Isn’t that your job? Protect and serve?

    • Bruce, it is their job, but at the same time, we the people are supposed to form a more perfect union. We’re supposed to build a society where women have other opportunities to work rather than on their backs. We’re supposed to be a place where people can find mental health treatment if they’re insane, rather than going out and killing women. We’re suppose to have equal protection under the law, but the cops are going solve the crimes the politicians see as important, and the rest get swept under the rug, until the bodies start piling up.

      Ted Bundy, had he gone after street women rather than college women, and a 12 year old, might have operated for a much longer time. Ridgeway not only went after prey no one cared about, but no one missed for a while, and even the reported missing were ignored.

      In all of this, even as the reports came in this man was killing women, then going back to the dump sites and having sex with the dead victims, no one stopped to think of the root cause of this sort of behavior and how to keep it from beginning again.

      Nothing changed, and nothing will change.

  3. You’re right, as long as the people doing the work are not the people making the decisions. it won’t change.
    When you can’t find your child and the mayor can’t find his/her dog, you know what the cops will be looking for.

    • Bruce, that was the biggest problem. A woman who is addicted, a drop out, a runaway, and who makes a living selling sex, doesn’t show up on anyone’s radar when she goes missing, and Gary Ridgway knew it. Until the first body was found in the Green River, and three others were discovered shortly afterwards, all the missing persons reports that were filed simply were filed. Even then, after three bodies became four, then five, then six, even then, there wasn’t some great outcry to find out who killed the women. Same thing in Atlanta, when missing kids became dead kids. No one cared. Wayne Williams called the kids he killed “Drop shots” because he knew no one would miss them and no one would do anything about it.

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