Photos, Articles, & Research on the European Theater in World War II
This is one of a series of G.I. Stories of the Ground, Air and Service Forces in the European Theater of Operations, issued by the Orientation Branch, Information and Education Division, ETOUSA... Major General Milton A. Reckord, commanding the Corps of Military Police, lent his cooperation; material was supplied by his staff.
Looking back over the road we have traveled, we can be justly proud of our many accomplishments. Each member of the Corps, by doing his duty, has contributed materially to the speedy and complete victory of our armies.
Therefore, with the deepest pride, I add my signature to a testimonial that describes, in brief, the contributions which we all have made to the successful campaign in Europe.
THE STORY OF THE CORPS OF MILITARY POLICE
MPs crossed those narrow belts of sand at
They were not immune. The same murderous fire caught them as well as their infantry buddies. In some ways it was even tougher for the MP. Once posted, he had to stand up and take it. His duty didn't allow him to duck into a foxhole. If he became, a casualty, another MP replaced him.
Pvt. Neil Dawson. San Antonio, Tex., a V Corps MP was typical. Acting as a beach guide, he was exposed to continuous artillery and small arms fire for eight hours. Before that, Dawson and Pvt. Jack F. Conrad, Sunbury, Pa., of the same platoon, unloaded mortar ammunition from an LCT plastered by enemy fire.
Wounded in the shoulder as he leaped from his landing craft, 1st Lt. Charles M. Conover, 1st Inf. Div. MP, directed and organized traffic three hours before collapsing. He was awarded the Silver Star.
M/Sgt. Edward Lopes, V Corps MP, led his detachment ashore in the assault and posted men within 100 yards of the enemy where they directed combat soldiers along the safest routes of advance. Men under Sgt. Nicholas T. Kinderknecht guided traffic from the beach to assembly points and evacuated wounded from the water and nearby front lines while dodging machine gun fire.
Helping division, Corps and Army MPs were especially trained amphibious MP companies—the 210th, the 214th and 449th—normally assigned to Corps but now attached to the famed Engineer Special Brigades. These outfits, experts on beach traffic, were in at the beginning.
D-Day traffic wasn't the only problem. Increasing numbers of PWs jampacked cages. Immediate help was imperative. Late in the afternoon, June 6, 1944, the 302nd MP Escort Guard Co., composed of 57 percent limited service men, came ashore. The unit suffered casualties in men and equipment before relieving 1st Inf. Div. MPs of their stockade responsibility. Several days later, the 595th took charge of three beach evacuation pens while the 301st was busily occupied with PWs in another sector. Supposedly, these were Com Z units.
Cos. C and D, 783rd MP Bn., directed beach traffic on D plus 4, and the entire battalion, along with the 713th, followed Armies thereafter.
MPs looked the enemy in the teeth and hit back the best way they knew how on that memorable
With traditional thoroughness, MPs turned in a job well done, a performance which was to he repeated many times—repeated during von Rundstedt's famous break-through drive in December, 1944.
During the crucial hours of the German drive, the Corps of Military Police, with units assigned to every echelon of command, became a prime controlling influence—the pivot on which the holding and regrouping of American troops depended.
MPs kept a firm grip on traffic, ignoring enemy artillery zeroed on vital road intersections. Pfc George F. Swearingen, Byronville, Ga., 2nd Inf. Div., drove up to
Others led outfits to battle, lines. S/Sgt. Floyd Calloway, Pfc Fred J. Warner and Pfc Henry F. Gozdan, all of the 803rd MP Corps Co., escorted the 7th Armd. Div. along
In another sector, Third Army, in a stream of veteran infantry and armored units, began a northward movement. Half-tracks, two and a half ton trucks, tanks, jeeps, clogged the roads. Traffic jams seemed inevitable. But the inevitable didn't happen!
Brig. Gen. Hobart R. Gay, Gen. Patton's chief of staff, commending the 503rd and the 512th MP Bns. (the latter now possesses the Meritorious Service Unit Plaque), praised them for their "extremely efficient and untiring efforts in expediting the recent heavy movement of troops in the Third Army area..."
In First Army's sector, the situation confronting the 509th and 518th MP Bns. was acute. In the area between Corps and Army rear boundaries, traffic was excessive, enemy agents were at large; local inhabitants were frightened, restless.
Co. B, 518th MP Bn., recorded: "First Army rear echelon units were ordered to evacuate... MPs were the only military units on duty. They were the sole means of liaison to incoming combat teams... MPs tracked down all reports of enemy infiltration and action... organized and controlled all Belgians in the area...
"At Spa, Lt. Dean W. Nelson's 3rd Platoon rounded up 21 released collaborators and calmed the civilian populace. By Dec. 19, Lt. John Kolodziejski's 1st Platoon were the only troops in Rochefort... At Marche, with the exception of the 51st Engrs. and the MPs, all other military units had evacuated... Engineers engaged the enemy east of Hotton... MPs were subject to enemy tank and small arms' fire, bombing, strafing and buzz-bombing..."
Further back, Com Z MPs perfected a tight security network, with rear area defense largely the Provost Marshal's responsibility. MP battalions posted heavy guard on all key bridges; patrols scoured the countryside for parachutists and enemy agents; road blocks were thrown up from Army zones through Paris to the coast.
This vigilance trapped many disguised Krauts. S/Sgt. Richard Hallman, and Sgt. Walter A. Sowinski, Long Island, N.Y., 783rd MP Bn., in Advance Section, knocked off a fleeing German after they had teamed up with British troops to capture three Nazis in a stolen jeep.
Pfc Donald E. McHenry, Berwick, Pa., spotted a fast-moving quarter-ton, waved it to a stop at Liege, Dec. 19. When S/Sgt Leon M. Hansen, Muskegon, Mich., questioned the occupants—an officer and three men—he signalled for support. Sgt. Walter Staiger, Brooklyn; Pfc Albert Dial, Oxford, Ga.; Pfc Lars Johnson, Seattle, and Pfc. Alex Molnar, Detroit, got trigger fingers ready.
These 769th Bn. MPs had snared a prize—four spies given the job of sabotaging vital material and bridges. In the vehicle were more than enough arms and explosives to wipe the MPs off the map.
When infantrymen stormed ashore D-Day in Southern France, Aug. 15, 1944, MPs again gave efficient support, following up the 6th Army Group's lightning sweep inland. With the junction of the twin American thrusts in France, Brig. Gen. Joseph V. Dillon's MP organizations came under control of the Theater Provost Marshal and Gen. Dillon became Deputy Theater Provost Marshal.
Top Priority — Keep Traffic Moving!
March 1, 1945, 0200 hours: The 9th Inf. Div. MP platoon was charged with the responsibility of traffic control at the Ludendorff Bridge, Remagen, Germany. MPs were stationed at the approaches and out on the uncertain span itself. Intense artillery fire from aroused Germans rained down. Posts were maintained 24 hours a day as MPs evacuated wounded, laid communication lines, removed knocked-out vehicles. Traffic had to keep flowing—flowing fast. One MP raced to a blazing tank, climbed inside, rescued a trapped crew member.
Four days later, the platoon, relieved of its task, had a slight breathing spell. It counted its casualties—14 wounded, two killed.
During the height of the Battle of the Bulge, Pfc Anthony Onica, Highland Park, Mich., 2nd Inf. Div., directed traffic on a Belgian road. An enemy plane strafed the intersection, but Onica clung to his post. When a lull in traffic came, he stepped off the road to get minimum cover. Enemy fire killed him.
MPs often had to be resourceful to prevent traffic tie-ups. Sgt. Warren H. Ecke, Teaneck, N.J., and men of 3rd Platoon, Co. A, 509th MP Bn., learned the value of alternate routes in a matter of minutes. When a German aerial bomb exploded on a vital highway near Vermers, Dec. 20, and traffic couldn't be delayed, MPs located, posted and began operating a re-route. Ten minutes later a blast reduced this to uselessness. Opening a second alternate, the men kept their fingers crossed.
MPs doubled as infantrymen, then coolly returned to traffic duties more than once during the hurried journey across France.
Pfc John W. Wisdom, Denver, Colo., and Pfc William A. Cooper, Sacramento, Calif., 2nd Armd. Div. MPs, observed an enemy counter-attack pushing towards their traffic control post at Beffe, Belgium. Borrowing an
Combat teams looked on armored MPs as friends, willing to lend a hand when the going was hot. Sometimes, MPs rode the backs of tanks with a task force.
When retreating Nazis destroyed a bridge at Creon, France, Aug. 6, advanced elements of the 5th Armd. Div. came to an abrupt halt. The division MP platoon found a detour for the troops, then gave anti-sniper protection to the engineers building a treadway bridge.
MP platoons assigned to infantry divisions encountered similar experiences. At Dinant, Belgium, 9th Inf. Div. MPs, under Sgt. John C. Mantegna, helped engineers with their first bridge across the Meuse. Reaching the east bank, MPs were deployed to provide security while engineers finished the ponton span.
Eighth Inf. Div. MPs never will forget Hurtgen Forest. Pfc Ottis Brewer, Jackson, Ky., stood in a foot of mud four hours while directing the 709th TD Bn. into its area.
When 8th Inf. Div. MPs arrived, the crooked, narrow roads were slimy morasses, splotched with craters, tree trunks, swollen streams. Three divisions had churned up the roads and engineers saw no end to their work.
First Lt. Robert L. Perrin, Howard, Kan., and Sgt. Harry Fenzlein, Fairlawn, N.J., kept MPs going 24 hours a day, directing outgoing units, clearing the roads for ambulances, setting up traffic posts.
"Weasels," tanks, TDs and jeeps had churned through mud to log trails. Sgt. Esse Lewis, Jacksonville, Fla., led 644th TD Bn.
CC R was ready at daylight, but MPs still couldn't rest. It was time to handle the normal supply.
Lt. Perrin and Cpl. George Buhler, Passaic, N.J., led tanks into battle Nov. 25, but couldn't crack enemy defenses. Reinforced, they tried again four days later and succeeded. As armor slashed ahead, muddy, bearded MPs gave them the right-of-way. Jams, mines, shells were overcome as traffic of three divisions and an adjacent Corps rolled through to the front. For nine days this nightmare continued before Hurtgen Forest was cleared.
Enemy 88s, at one to two minute intervals, shelled the traffic flow in the Roer River sector. Drivers stopped, leaped for cover, leaving some vehicles parked bumper to bumper. Germans increased the rate of fire.
Cpl. Robert T. Peterson, 102nd Inf. Div. MP Platoon, covered the area near his post and persuaded drivers to return, disperse their vehicles. Pfc Albert C. Howell, reliefman, alternately running and flopping to the ground as shell fragments whistled by, sprinted to the most prominent knot of vehicles. Finding the drivers, he went from foxhole to foxhole, urging them to scatter their trucks. When the jam finally was broken and the artillery fire ceased, only four vehicles were damaged.
Once posted, the traffic MP accepts a tremendous responsibility. Proper movement of traffic demands that he never once neglect his duty. Rain, snow, mud, enemy patrol, tank fire, strafing, artillery bursts, mortar—nothing must budge him. His post is sacred ground which he must preserve, even if he must give his life.
Early in the German breakthrough, three members of Co. C, 518th MP Bn., looked about in unhappy amazement. They were 1st Lt. Robert B. Vallon, Akron, Ohio; Cpl. Joe P. Whitehead, Henderson, N.C.; Pfc Albert F. Thompson, Bronx, N.Y. The reason: they found themselves manning a TP squarely in front of an infantry platoon entrenched and waiting for Germans.
Traffic posts, like Military Police, are everywhere—in the UK, beach areas, Paris, at the Ludendorff Bridge, Marseilles, around the world. On the Continent, Com Z MPs took over or established posts after Army MPs had pressed forward into new territories. Before final resistance was crushed, MPs of the 769th and the 707th MP Bns. routed traffic from Cherbourg.
To erect signs and control traffic on the Red Ball Highway was the mission of the 783rd MP Bn., which began working with the Transportation Corps' Motor Transport Brigade, Aug. 29, 1944.
Hundreds of miles of roads, originating in the Contentin Peninsula and stretching to Chartres and Dreux, were neither reconnoitered nor sign-posted. It was easy to pinpoint and label this road network as an express supply route. But that didn't help truck drivers find their way.
From the Theater Provost Marshal's office came Lt. Col. Charles E. Day, former traffic expert with the New York State Police; Maj. Forest L. Wyman and Capt. Lawrence O. Schneiber to assist the 707th, 793rd, 783rd and later Cos. A and B, 796th Bn., in meeting perhaps the greatest single challenge in the history of the Corps of Military Police.
MPs began a period of intense day and night activity. A fast but limited reconnaissance was conducted. Advance Section Engineers furnished special Red Ball directional signs. Static traffic posts were selected and manned while patrols in quarter-tons and on motorcycles were stationed in readiness. MPs posted, maintained signs. Pointsmen assumed duties at all major cross roads, entrances and exits to all traffic control regulating posts and blind corners in urban districts.
Every participating service could look with pride on that route as initial convoys roared through without a hitch. An outstanding achievement, it later was extended with the 783rd getting the toughest job. Because MP strength never was sufficient to provide full-scale control of the Red Ball route, those assigned redoubled efforts, fighting to check pilferage, black market activities and to curb serious traffic violations.
Waffendorf, Germany, Sept. 16-18, 1944: To control traffic at a blind corner. 5th Armored MPs withstood enemy artillery and mortar fire for three days. Five of the original six men were evacuated as battle casualties. Three volunteers, knocking out machine guns nests and infiltrating infantry, held on until all elements of the division were clear.
During emergency periods, the most effective means of checking vehicles and individuals was the road block. Identification of personnel was of utmost importance. Acting as valves, efficiently operated road blocks regulated the flow of authorized traffic.
MPs Herd PWs by the Numbers
Transfer of prisoners from front lines to rear was a mission of great significance. These bedraggled, beaten members of the "master race" easily could constitute a back-breaking burden to swift, mobile Armies.
Through a foolproof evacuation system, Military Police scraped up the PWs, by handfuls or by thousands, dispatched them to the rear, clearing Army areas for future captures.
Provost Marshals and MP units perfected a chain of evacuation that withstood countless heavy loads thrown at it. When the haul of prisoners was unusually large, tactical units assisted in escorting and guarding.
But the bulk of the work fell to a small number of MP escort guard companies, most of whom had handled prisoners before in Zone of Interior camps. Broken into sections, companies like the 142nd, 430th, 483rd, 554th, and 620th MP EG, picked up PWs at division collecting points and escorted them to enclosures. Here, Advance Section EG companies attached to the Army PWs, accepted and moved prisoners to forward Com Z enclosures. PWs were passed to the rear until they reached final destinations, Continental Central enclosures, labor enclosures or ZI camps.
A week later 5th Armored surrounded Le Mans and bagged a large number of Germans. Because no guards were available, prisoners were turned over to traffic control pointsman. These MPs not only guarded scores of PWs and directed traffic but underwent enemy small arms fire.
Invasion forces pushed inland. Initially, the 428th, 437th, and 472nd MP Escort Guard Cos. evacuated from divisions under V, VII and XIX Corps, to two beach enclosures operated by the 301st, 302nd, and 595th MP Escort Guard Cos.
Cherbourg Peninsula, packed with Germans, began to overflow, but First Army's Provost Marshal was prepared to cope with any sudden influx of prisoners.
A 10,000-man enclosure was established at Foucarville with the 552nd MP EG Co. and the 5th. Ranger Bn. in charge. In addition, three 1000-man cages were located on VII Corps' beach. After official notification, a second 10,000-man enclosure, under the 482nd MP EG Co. at Valognes, was built to regulate the flow of prisoners into Foucarville. More than 25,000 prisoners were evacuated in one sweep when the Normandy peninsula collapsed.
These temporary cages were crude affairs, often no more than a strand of barbed wire encircling the field. When time was available, concertina wire was used; carbide floodlights and telephone communications installed.
Lack of personnel was a handicap. One platoon of Capt. Joseph C. Virgillio's 454th MP EG Co. once handled 5000 prisoners. A single guard sat behind a machine gun at each corner of the enclosure. The remainder of the platoon processed prisoners or handled rations and water. EG personnel, always short on organic transportation, often had to travel 100 miles for rations and water. Two officers and 34 men of the 82nd Airborne MP platoon once guarded 4900 prisoners.
Division cages were up close, well within range of enemy fire. The first MP detachment to enter Germany was a group from 3rd Armd. Div., led by Capt. John M. Walton and Lt. Arthur J. Rutshaw. The detachment was in the van of the first task force to dent the Siegfried Line, Sept. 12, 1944, and promptly set up a PW enclosure about a mile inside the Line.
Further back and deep into Com Z were Continental Central Enclosures, permanent structures, which barricaded 20,000 or more prisoners. These gigantic, sprawling compounds, with guard towers and thousands of feet of wire on ten foot poles, were a far cry from the first hastily-built cages.
Every advantage was taken of abandoned enemy enclosures, of barracks such as Caserne Valaine, or of former German civilian concentration camps like Compiegne, where the 2022nd PW Overhead Detachment of 21 officers and 128 men, and 14 men of the 453rd MP EG Co., received, guarded and administered to 4000 PWs who increased to 20,000 in five days.
Under technical supervision of U.S. personnel, PWs built their own enclosure fences, processed themselves, tended their own sick and wounded.
MPs of the 2022nd also assisted Psychological Warfare units in organizing an anti-Fascist PW group. This overhead detachment, with a score of officers and a company of administrative personnel, received and evacuated 180,000 prisoners in seven months.
G-2 field interrogation detachments screened prisoners. Transients, Allied nationals, civilians, officers, troublemakers went to Cherbourg. First-class labor eligibles were processed and farmed out to various services—Signal, TC, QM, Medical, Ordnance, Engineers.
At first, PWs were transported to the U.S., but the procedure was revised about D plus 60. By
An amazing feat accomplished by MPs was moving PWs en masse. Pre-invasion plans established a safe, sound ratio of one guard to every ten prisoners in transit. Nine months later on the Continent, the accepted ratio was one to 50, and one to 150 was not unusual.
MPs met with success in handling PWs because, while strictly observing Geneva Convention rules, they punished without compassion and in accordance with approved methods any German overstepping the bounds. PWs expected discipline; they got it.
Cracking Down on the Profiteers
Lawlessness spread, reached alarming proportions. Armored columns spluttered to a gasless standstill as civilian cars drove unrestricted about Paris. Cigarettes became scarce. In Parisian bars, a pack cost cost 150 to 200 francs.
Then came a swift wedge which put fear into these treasonable racketeers. Beginning Nov. 8, 1944, picked criminal investigation agents, operating under the Theater Provost Marshal, placed the quarters and personnel of several Railway Operating battalions under surveillance. Close watch was kept at Dreux, Velliers, Villaneuve, St. George, St. Cyr, Matelot Yards, Versailles, and the Batignolles Yards in Paris. Agents stoked locomotives, lived with the men, gathering evidence. Records of Army postal units were checked. The stage was set.
On Nov. 25, Military Police struck—CID agents, officers and men of the 709th and 787th MP Bns. By nightfall the job was complete, the culprits apprehended.
Within approximately two months, eight officers and 235 enlisted men had netted nearly $200,000 through illicit traffic in essential Army goods. These merely were a few groups among many whom MP and CID agents constantly were breaking down.
The effect of the raid was immediately noticeable. Pilfering and profiteering on the French black market fell off. The weak, the susceptible, realized that MPs ever were alert.
Agents did more than operate in rear echelons. Suppression of crime was their interest in every locale. Though assigned to the various Armies, Com Z sections and Headquarters, the central drive emanated from Lt. Col. James Edler, CID Chief in Paris, whose uncompromising and fixed determination to wipe out crime recognized no barriers. Rape, murder, assault, black market—Col. Edler and hundreds of trained agents hit them all, beating down crimes of violence.
Not only were CI Sections organized but each MP battalion and post, camp and station company set up investigation sections where the spadework on serious cases frequently began, and for minor offenses, generally ended.
Determined MPs stopped at nothing in their search for testimony. T/4 Humbert S. Betti, Jr., Union City, N.J., 509th MP Bn. Hq., huddled in a bathtub-size foxhole near a German-held Siegfried Line pillbox. While mortar shells screamed overhead, Betti took a statement from an astonished doughfoot.
Down in CONAD, 2nd Lt. George H. Williams and Sgt. Alfred Zeringue, 68th MP Co., PC & S, all but solved a murder before CID agents arrived. They had located the fatal projectile, an empty cartridge case and ascertained the suspect's identity. Maj. Gen. Arthur R. Wilson, CG, Continental Advance Section, commended the two MPs for their thorough job.
MPs on traffic duty often were able to lend a hand. The 241st MP Co. threw out a dragnet Feb. 10, 1945, that caught a hit-and-run driver within five hours after the fatal accident.
At 1910 hours in 241st MP Co. Hqs., Dole, France, the desk sergeant's telephone rang. The 475th Ordnance Depot was calling. An Army truck had hit a civilian walking towards the depot.
First Lt. James F. Kingwell, 241st CO, got on the case immediately, talking with men at the depot where the driver had come for gasoline. What kind of a truck was it? A five-ton semi-trailer. And the driver? Tall and thin, nervous, face haggard, dressed in dirty fatigue clothes and a blue combat jacket with the letters USN stencilled on the back. It was dusk but the driver hadn't heeded a suggestion to turn on his headlights.
At 1830 hours, Cpl. George L. Riddle, 241st MP Co., patrolling a street in Dole, told the corporal of the guard that a battered semi-trailer had come through, its headlights out and a ripped tarpaulin flapping in the wind.
Lt. Kingwell alerted the Provost Marshal and MP headquarters at Dijon, as well as MP companies and ordnance depots. Patrols set out from 241st MP Hqs.
At 2315 hours, the lieutenant and Cpl. Charles Aronson spotted a semi-trailer off the road. The driver got out of the cab. He was tall, gaunt, and wearing a blue combat jacket. The driver asked the officer if he knew of a place to sleep. Lt. Kingwell did and escorted him to MP headquarters.
The MP — Anything, Anywhere, Anytime
With machine guns, BARs and scout cars, the 62nd MP Co. held security posts on the Strasbourg perimeter until the threat of German infiltration in Alsace subsided. Hysteria and panic were prevented by Psychological Warfare detachments and MPs whose appearance on the streets was evidence that Americans intended to stay.
MP training, aside from its specialization, bore many similarities to infantry training. MPs were familiar with the light and heavy machine gun, the 60mm mortar, Tommygun, carbine,
MPs also helped stabilize lines of resistance. In late December, 1944, at Wirtzfeld, 2nd Inf. Div. MPs hastily organized a straggler collecting point where personnel and vehicles were checked.
The Provost Marshal often was charged with rear area security. During emergencies his principle concern was enemy agents. Disguised as Army personnel or as civilians, these saboteurs sifted into France and Belgium.
Security-alert MPs, stringing up their counter-sabotage net, manning road blocks, patrolling open flat lands, checking vehicles across bridges, made a record catch. In a single day, one MP EG lieutenant ordered his firing squad to execute six spies.
S/Sgt. Morris F. Anderson, Willmar, Minn., Co. C, 509th MP Bn., took a long look at a civilian wandering near an ammunition dump. The "civilian," who carried two identity cards and said he taught at a local school, was an SS man.
MPs flushed out pro-Nazi civilians trying to aid the enemy. On Dec. 21, 1944, in a house near Hotton, signals were flashed to direct German artillery. Cpl. Michael P. Rich, Bronx, N.Y., and Pfc Stephen R. Pavlich, Bridgeport, Conn., Co. C, 518th MP Bn., accompanied by a group armed with grenades and a Tommygun, forced their way into the house. After a brief battle, 14 persons were led out.
Suspicious civilians usually were brought for questioning to the nearest CIC detachment, with whom MPs worked in close cooperation. The First Army Provost Marshal operated the Master Interrogation Center and Civilian Internee Enclosure for the Counter-Intelligence Corps. MPs furnished raiding parties for the CIC.
Thousands of MPs rode front-bound freights as train guards. Ex-combat soldiers of the Theater-activated 385th MP Bn. knew the rigors of this monotonous, tough life, and for comfort they preferred a foxhole to the bare floor of a 40 & 8. In two months this outfit guarded 548 trains of 17,786 cars and travelled 110,000 miles. The box score: no cars pilfered!
The 794th MP Bn., probably the oldest at this new MP duty—train security—developed a pilfer-proof system that fathered SOPs for all units. A minimum of three MPs boarded a train when it moved out. At the marshalling yards, the non-com in charge of the permanent yard MPs, along with the train guard NCO, inspected the train. A special report was made which the latter kept as a receipt. Guard relief stations maintained responsibility along the route. When the train reached its destination, a thorough report was forwarded.
When the train stopped en route, MPs deployed on both sides, keeping an eye on cars containing pilferable supplies. Sometimes guards turned up more than ordinary thieves. Cpl. Richard Donovan, Pfc George D. Rivar, Pvt. Herbert Dockery, Pvt. James W. Howard and Pvt. Jack E. King, 389th MP Bn., pulled a German from a ration car on a train en route to Paris, Dec. 5, 1944.
More than 10,000 MPs, stationed in Germany, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom, guarded runways, hangars, bomb dumps and aircraft at all Air Corps installations. The almost complete absence of theft, tampering and sabotage testify to effective security methods.
MPs detailed to crash-trucks pulled airmen from wrecked and burning planes, stood guard as enemy strafers shot up fields, and more than once battled flames that threatened hangars, planes and vital equipment.
The mission of aviation MPs seemed routine but actually was of top-flight significance. Whether working on a freshly-carved airstrip or patrolling a London airdrome, these MPs were part of the insurance which enabled USSTAF to carry out thousands of missions that helped to bring Germany to its knees.
The day of the heavy-handed MP was gone. In his stead was the specially trained World War II MP, an expert in tact, common sense and diplomacy. Minimum force was used to carry out his task; his club was a last resort.
Ninth Air Service Command MPs broke up a gang of French civilians and AWOL American soldiers dealing in stolen Army supplies. While MPs were raiding the group's hideout and questioning four soldiers, a truck drove up. Sgt. Levi M. Dolloff, Needham, Mass., and Pvt. Albert De Wilde, Pueville, La., ordered the two men in the truck to dismount. Instead the driver fired, wounding Dolloff. Pvt. Frank J. Woods, New York City, killed the driver with a pistol shot but was wounded in the exchange of fire. Pfc Lawrence Allard, Attleboro, Mass., wounded the driver's companion. Thousands of dollars' worth of rations, a jeep and two trucks were recovered.
Sgt. Charles A. Brence, 28th Inf. Div. MP, ran into something tougher, proving that a town patrolman does more than make visiting soldiers unhappy. In a surprise move, enemy infantry and tanks poured across the Our River and overran defenses outside Cherisaux, Luxembourg, Dec. 16, 1944. Sgt. Brence sent his squad to a nearby infantry CP, then reported to an aid station of the 103rd Med. Bn. Taking weapons and ammunition from casualties, he passed them out to his men.
The advance of the enemy endangered the aid station, so the sergeant climbed a cliff across the road from the station and put up a one-man defense with a sub-machine gun. Temporarily blinded by the searchlight of an enemy tank, Brence fell from the cliff, fracturing a leg and his skull. He was evacuated before Germans gained control of the town.
Cpl. Kenneth L. Meyer and Pfc Marion A. Skinner, 9th Inf. Div. MPs, were investigating a burning house at Kalterherberg, Germany, Dec. 24, 1944, when a German paratrooper cut loose with a burp gun from a basement window. The two MPs took cover and in a few minutes the paratrooper emerged, shooting at Skinner. Meyer fired, spinning the German around, as Skinner's Tommy-gun spurted death.
MPs aided G-5 in controlling the movement of refugees streaming back to their homes. They also helped enforce curfew regulations and travel restrictions for civilians. In turn,
MPs not only operate Disciplinary Training Centers but five Base Section Guardhouses, which receive prisoners from all Com Z Sections and the Armies. Once MPs gain custody of a law-breaker, they accent rehabilitation. Hundreds of soldiers passed through DTCs, went back to fight and won decorations.
Besides furnishing guards for all types of Army headquarters, MPs also provided escorts for celebrities and top-ranking generals. The 795th MP Bn. safeguarded Gen. Charles De Gaulle and his entourage, saw them safely to Paris. The 769th has a long list to its credit: the King, Queen and Princess Elizabeth of England, Winston Churchill, Henry Morgenthau, Queen Wilhelmina, and many generals including Gen. Eisenhower and Field Marshal Montgomery.
The Corps of Military Police was organized in 1941 as a separate branch of the service. Since its founding, the Corps has spread over the face of the earth.
Under Maj. Gen. Milton A. Reckord, former Third Service Command CG and 29th Inf. Div. commander, the Corps not only has increased in strength but in the efficient performance of multiple duties.
In November, 1944, 16 new MP battalions were activated at Le Mans. They were composed mostly of men who had seen combat. Using the same type of personnel, eight new PW Overhead Detachments also were activated, and previous to this, 2700 MP Escort Guards were added.
With new duties and expanding capacities, the Corps of Military Police prospered despite its youth in the family of the U.S. Army Service Forces.
And this is the way it will be until the job is complete—the MPs backing up the troops at every stage and at every hour.
Photos: U.S. Signal Corps
Draeger - Paris