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Staff Sergeant Robert Duvall Sr.

C Company, 701st Maintenance Battalion, 1st Infantry Division

287th Military Police Company

I didn't know my grandfather well; he died when I was too young to ask the questions required to have a solid grasp of his service. However, he told me many stories of his time in Germany while he served at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. Robert Grahm Duvall Sr. was born on March 10, 1944, in West Virginia and when he was a young man, he joined the US Army. During his time in uniform, he was a small arms repairman and a military policeman, serving in Germany, Vietnam, South Korea, and within the United States. Ultimately, he retired after 22 years of service in the army and later became a police officer at the Northern Virginia Community College. Later on, in retirement, he moved to Virginia Beach, VA, and became the local VFW post's chaplain until he passed away. I don't fully remember many stories, and most were only fragments to begin with, but I think about the following ones quite often.

Checkpoint Charlie

Nearly everyone who has heard of the Cold War knows of the infamous Checkpoint Charlie. It was the place where World War III nearly broke out in the 1950s and until the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was a critical location for NATO and the Warsaw Pact to traverse between one side of the Iron Curtain and the other. Staff Sergeant Robert Duvall was assigned to the 287th Military Police Company, Berlin Brigade in the 1980s and was the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of Checkpoint Charlie. The checkpoint was the only crossing point for diplomats and other foreigners to cross into East Berlin and vis versa. In a letter of recommendation written by one of his superiors, it was written that "he has continually demonstrated dedicated performance of duty. He has continually demonstrated sound judgment in handling many potentially embarrassing situations -- situations which would place the United States Government in a very bad light in its relations with East Bloc Countries."

While this quote is technically correct, it isn't completely true as some of the situations he handled were of his own doing. One notable example is while he was the NCO-in-charge at Checkpoint Charlie, he operated a cigarette cartel, selling American smokes to East Germans via a courier he referred to as Hans. The transfers were done by slipping it inside newspapers and turning your back to the other before switching them out. He was never caught. Another story he told was how he smuggled a KGB officer into West Berlin to drink. After somehow getting him across the border undetected, he retrieved a stashed pair of blue jeans and a leather jacket from a garbage can and took him out on the town, shooting pool and drinking beer in nearly every beer hall in West Berlin. 

Click on a photo in this slideshow for a closer look or click on the arrows at the edges of the slideshow to look through the photos.


My grandfather did a year in Korea with the 728th MP Battalion between 1973-1974. He was the desk sergeant for, I assume, the battalion headquarters but I can't confirm anything. I think he really enjoyed his time in Korea and some of the influences may have rubbed off on him because later in life, he married my grandmother, a Korean refugee. He always called her his angel and things like that but it was true, she helped him out of poverty and helped him raise his daughter.  

USMA & Ft Belvoir

At USMA, he recalled rounding up drunk cadets after football games and generally just ensuring everyone behaved. He was awarded a plaque when he left USMA. Then at Fort Belvoir, he was discharged from the army, where he became a campus police officer in Northern Virginia. He loved to fish so when he finally retired and met my parents, he bought a home in Virginia Beach, VA and moved in just a few minutes away. He was fishing until just a year or two before he passe away from lung cancer.

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