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The Guard in Watts

May 26, 1990

As an African-American resident of Watts during the 1965 uprising, my recollections of National Guard activities differ substantially from those of Duane Shelton (Letters, May 12).

True to Bob Richardson's assertion in Irv Letofsky's May 3 "Reliving a Nightmare," the vast majority of guardsmen were from such places as Redwood City and Eureka and had little or no exposure to or understanding of African-Americans and our problems.

Contrary to former guardsman Shelton's statement that "we didn't shoot dogs, cats, or people for that matter," the record clearly shows that after the Guard moved in on Friday, Aug. 13, the death toll rose exponentially. Perhaps he feels this is some odd coincidence, but those of us who were there know better.

Twenty-five years later, I am still haunted by the searing image of two of my neighbors lying dead in the street, their bodies riddled with bullet wounds as young guardsmen stood over them, magazines emptied, bayonets affixed, looking up at me quizzically, seemingly searching for answers.

Perhaps Mr. Shelton can vouch for his own unit, but ignoring the actions of the remaining 14,000 guardsmen whose convoys patrolled the 54-square-mile area is a cruel distortion and a slap in the face to the many families who lost their loved ones during those long, hot days in August.

MICHAEL HARRIS

Los Angeles

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