Richard Broschay, January 24th, 2017
WW: Hello, today is January 24, 2017. My name is William Winkel. This interview is for the Detroit Historical Society’s Detroit 67 Oral History Project, and I am sitting down with Dick Broschay. Thank you so much for sitting down with me today.
RB: Glad to be here.
WW: Can you please start by telling me where and when you were born?
RB: I was born in December of 1941 here in Detroit.
WW: Did you grow up in the city?
RB: No, I moved to Kalamazoo when I was about two years old. I was there until 1985.
WW: What prompted the move? Do you know?
WW: Okay. And while you were on the west side of the state, what year did you join the National Guard?
RB: In 1963.
WW: What prompted you to join the National Guard?
RB: I didn't want to get drafted [laughter].
WW: And you were in the National Guard for those four years, then?
RB: Six years.
WW: Ah, okay, four years before leading up to ’67?
WW: In those four years, were you trained for anything along the lines of ’67?
RB: Somewhat. I mean, basically, that was during basic training where we had combat readiness and everything, and I actually was trained to be a motor pool officer or NCL.
WW: What does that entail?
RB: I was responsible for the 29 vehicles our company had.
WW: When did you first hear about what was happening in Detroit in ’67?
RB: I think it was about ten o’clock on Sunday evening, I got a call from one of our sergeants. I had to activate my people from my section.
WW: How did your sergeants sound on the phone?
RB: I do profess, I can’t remember that [laughter].
WW: Okay. How quickly were you able to gather your men?
RB: We started in getting ready at about 10:30 at night, and I think we left Kalamazoo around one o’clock Monday morning. We arrived here probably four o’clock Monday morning.
WW: What was the mood after you gathered up and began deploying to the city? Was there an anxious feeling?
RB: I don’t really know if there’s any anxious feelings. I’m sure there was some, but it wasn't an astronomical thing. I mean, we were prepared and we knew it could happen. It was just one of those things.
WW: Did it feel weird for you coming back to Detroit? That’s where you were from.
RB: No, because I was over here quite often anyway. Some of my relatives still lived here, but it was quite an experience when I got back. The thing I’ll never forget is we were going north on the Southfield Expressway and we looked to the right and all you saw was an orange ball. How do you describe it, it’s just something I’ll never forget, the sight that greeted us when we came in.
WW: On your periodic trips to the city, did you sense any tension? On your trips to see your family, stuff like that.
RB: No, no. It might have been there, but it was never brought up.
WW: Okay, so as you arrive in Detroit, and you said about four a.m. Monday morning?
WW: What was the situation?
RB: Well, they didn't do anything with us at first on Monday. We went to the armory on Eight Mile and Southfield and then early afternoon they moved us to Central High School, and then Monday evening we were put on patrol.
WW: Was it tense at Central High School compared to the Southfield armory?
RB: It was different, yes [laughter]. You know, I don't really sense a tenseness, but it was just people not sure what’s happening. I wasn't actually supposed to be on patrol, but it was bugging me sitting there, doing nothing, so I volunteered to go out on patrol.
WW: And what consisted of a patrol?
RB: Well, one of the first things we came up to was a little party store that there was a bunch of people around it, and basically, they were getting ready to burn the place. We kind of just burst the group. The storeowner said, “Hey, if you guys need cigarettes or candy or anything, pop, just take it,” he says, “because by tomorrow, I’ll be gone.” And that turned out to be a fact.
WW: When you would go out on patrol, would you be partnered with the Detroit Police Department at all?
RB: We never worked with the Detroit Police Department.
WW: Did you find that it was difficult to get around the city, or when you were on patrol it was easy—
RB: It was easy to get around because there was no traffic, the place was deserted. It was no problem. But it was dark, most of the streetlights were gone.
WW: Did you run into any other issues on patrol?
RB: Several, yes, and I’d really rather not talk about some of those, they’re just not fun things to have to explain.
WW: Okay. Are there any that you would like to share?
RB: Well, the people of Detroit actually treated us with extreme courtesy and everything else. Most of us didn't have much money with us or anything because we had come on the spur of a moment, and one of the guys collected all of our uniforms and stuff to get a deal to get our laundry done, and this laundry wouldn't take our money. They took care of all our stuff for us and got it back to us, and people were mostly very nice.
WW: As the week went on in the city, did you become more comfortable in the city, or become uneasy?
RB: As each night progressed, there was less and less going on, and less and less problems, so it got easier as time went.
RB: Second week, there was virtually nothing negative happening.
WW: Personally, do you personally that the federal troops were required to come in?
RB: I mean, I don't think they did much. I talked to one guy, and he says, “This is a lot different than Vietnam.” He says, “You don’t see where they’re at,” which is similar to the way it was over there, but he says, “this is different.”
WW: From an organizational standpoint, referring to the National Guard, do you think the National Guard deployment to Detroit went smoothly?
RB: I think it did go very smoothly and once we got to Central High School where we stayed, everything was organized. They knew what they were doing, they knew where people were going, and I didn't see any negative parts of that. Everything was good, you know.
WW: And so after you've gone through the week, and everything that you experienced, do you feel that your training prepared you for that?
RB: No, but I can handle my – what I was supposed to do I handled very well. We were really not trained for riots. We weren't carrying the right weapons, it was different, you know. We got a lot of training after the fact, which was good.
WW: Did the training from the National Guard change, or was it just additional training added for riot situations?
RB: It was additional.
WW: Okay. You just called it a riot, then. Do you believe that’s what took place? Is that how you interpret what happened in ’67?
RB: I do, yes.
RB: I mean, to me it’s pretty obvious: the groups of people, the looting and rioting – not rioting but burning and everything, yes.
WW: Okay. After you left the city, when was your deployment over?
RB: I think we got home on the Saturday of the second week.
RB: So we were there from Monday morning until a week from Saturday.
WW: After you left the city, did you keep returning to visit family?
RB: Oh, yeah. Nothing changed. My heart was still with Detroit even when I lived in Kalamazoo.
WW: After you came back in 1985, how different was the city from when you came in ’67?
RB: I really can’t put in words, but it was different. It wasn't the same as it was then, and I think relations were better then than they were in the seventies. I love being in Detroit. My kids, when I moved them over they were still in high school, they all didn't want to go back to Kalamazoo when I got a chance to go back, cause they liked the city, the things that happened. We used to go down to Tiger Stadium all the time and never felt uncomfortable or anything.
WW: Are there any stories from ’67, either from your deployment or any small stories you'd like to share?
RB: No, I saw a few things that I thought was abusive on the police officers’ part, but it was the situation and I think some of the police officers were trying to get even for some of the other stuff that they put up with, because they could.
WW: And that’s while you were on patrol?
RB: Yeah, I did see a couple things, yes.
WW: If you don't have anything else to add, thank you so much for sitting down with me.
RB: Well, I’ve enjoyed it, and it’s a great time of my life. I mean, I won’t say it’s a great time of my life, but I wouldn't give up my years of service for anything. I think everybody ought to go on the service for a while.
WW: What was your National Guard unit?
RB: Company C, 156 Single Battalion, based in Kalamazoo.
WW: And looking at the city today, are you optimistic for the city moving forward?
RB: Oh, I think the city is moving forward leaps and bounds right now. I’m excited about Detroit. I think it’s a neat place. I don't have any qualms about going in downtown areas or the New Center area. It’s great.
WW: Thank you so much for sitting down with me today. I really appreciate it.