....... "The soldier is the army."

................................. ......General George S. Patton

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Captain Patterson circa Sept 1945
Captain Patterson
Provost Marshal

The 82nd Military Police Platoon
Unit History

n March 25, 1942, the 82nd Infantry Division was reactivated at Camp Claiborne, a new base outside of Alexandria, LA by the Red River. The Division Commanding Officer, MG Omar N. Bradley was chosen to lead this newly activated division with his second in command, BG Matthew B. Ridgway. These two men had a tremendous effect on the training and readiness of the 82nd. The division was a showpiece for the Army after long months of hard training. The All Americans were recognized as one of the best divisions in the Army. On June 26, 1942, MG Omar Bradley would be reassigned to the 28th Infantry Division and Ridgway would take over the 82nd. In July, the division was notified that it would soon become a “motorized” division; however fate had other plans for this unit. On August 15, 1942, before a review of the division, MG Ridgway informed the troopers that the 82nd was to become the first American airborne division.

The 82nd Infantry Division Military Police Platoon was reactivated as a component of the 82nd Infantry Division at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, on March 25, 1942. The Commanding Officer was Captain William P. Bowden. The platoon underwent the Basic Training of the MP Platoon of a triangular infantry division. Here they were instructed in the proper hand signals and traffic control, how to make arrests in a Military Police manner and the many other things an MP must know.

On August 16, 1942, the 82nd Infantry Division became the 82nd Airborne Division and under this conversion the MP platoon became the 82nd Airborne Military Police. This changeover entailed a loss of about 50 percent of the personnel of the platoon; these men going to form the Military Police Platoon of the 101st Airborne Division, the running brother of the 82nd through-out the war. After the shuffle, the platoon was left with two Officers, 36 enlisted men, and four one-quarter ton trucks, under the command of now Major William P. Bowden.

Sgt Chadford C Conway circa Sept 1945 (Courtesy: Kenton J Falerios) Thereafter the platoon continued the customary training and services of an MP platoon, supplemented by airborne training at the following stations: Camp Claiborne, LA Mar 25- Oct 5, 1942, Fort Bragg, NC Oct 5- April 19, 1943, Edwards, MA April 21-27, 1943, Aboard USAT George Washington at sea April 28- May 9, 1943, Camp Dan E. Passage, near Casablanca , North Africa. May 9-12, 1943 & Oujda, French Morocco May 12- June 21 1943. Nine enlisted men, qualified parachutists, detached from the parachute regiments, were placed on special duty with the platoon June 15 at Oujda, in order to make the composition there somewhat more in accord with the basic organization of the division. These nine men are believed to be the first Military Police parachutists in the U.S. Army. Since that time, the number has varied from time to time with over half of the platoon as airborne qualified. From here the division undertook one of its many airborne moves on the eastern side of the Atlantic. On June 24, 1943, the MP Platoon along with the rest of the division moved by air to Kairowan , Tunisia . Here, as in Oujda, the platoon had intensive training for their coming combat operations. It was here in North Africa that the Platoon suffered its first overseas casualties when five men were killed, and another seriously wounded in a traffic accident. The men killed were: Loker, Rex A. Pvt. Bentley, Edwin D. Pvt. Adams, Raymond L. Pvt. Hayes, William J. Pvt. Anderson, Lyle A. Pvt.
{picture above right: Sgt Chadford C Conway - 82nd Airborne Div Military Police - Germany - September, 1945.}
Sicily - Operation Husky
The strength of the platoon at this time had risen to 57 enlisted men and 3 officers. From this group, 23 enlisted men and 2 officers air-landed with the rest of the Division Headquarters near Gela , Sicily and participated in the Division’s tactical operation from there to Traponi, where it was stationed July 23- August 22. During this operation, the platoon detachment got its first look at the German soldier, and most of them agreed that when stripped of his weapons he was anything but a superman, but most of them still believed in “Der Fuehrer’s” policies and the Nazi party. This was of interest because in the subsequent campaigns this belief began to die as the German Army was forced into positions with its back to the wall.

In this period July 16- August 22 1943, these 25 men accomplished the seemingly impossible task of processing 23,191 prisoners captured by the division, at the same time forming a nucleus for the police force in the war-torn city of Traponi where they worked in connection with the Military Government to control the civilian population and any Fascist sympathizers left behind. The Detachment, with the rest of the Division, was flown back to Kairowan August 22, then back to the vicinity of Licerta, Sicily on September 7. The entire platoon was moved from this bivouac to Termini, Sicily , there to be loaded on LCIs and transported to Maroi , Italy , where it rejoined the Division September 30, accompanying the Division into the city of Naples.

September 12, 1943, the Division made its well-remembered jump at Salerno and its subsequent campaigns through Altivilla, Volturno, and Naples carried it through some of its roughest combat days.

The Military Police Platoon landed at Maroi on September 29 arriving via LCIs and moved almost immediately to the city of Naples to set up a police force there in the beautiful Mediterranean city. Here they were more concerned in establishing a more stable civilian government and population than with the great hoards of German POWs as they had been in Sicily . During the entire operation September 12- November 17, only 74 prisoners were processed as compared with the 20,000 in Sicily . Combat weary and mindful of the ways of war, the platoon left Naples November 18, 1943 aboard the USS Frederick Funston for that familiar port “unknown destination”.

The MP Platoon with the rest of the division spent 21 days aboard the USS Frederick Funston and on December 9, landed at Belfast , Ireland . The platoon went into quarters at Castledawson, North Ireland and took up their old places on the “Beat”. They came to remark in these days when they were watching the “smiling Irish eyes” and seeing what “Mother Macree” was doing, that they would rather handle Nazi POWs than to keep an Airborne Division in line. December 25, 1943, Christmas overseas, the platoon had its turkey and cranberry sauce in the traditional American style. The thought uppermost in their minds however was how many more over here?

February 8, 1944, the Division moved to England , being billeted in the Central English town of Leicester . Here the Division continued its intensive airborne training, bivouacing, jumping, glider rides, and brushing up on tactics.However, all was not work. The boys got around to seeing the beautiful English countryside, and Piccadilly Circus became as familiar as Time’s Square or Canal Street . They also found that “lorry” meant truck and “bloody” was one of the most vile curse words, making them realize that there was another side to the English language. Out of their public relations and civilian contacts, five of the platoon members took that final plunge and said their “I do’s”. This was the time when airborne divisions were under-going some reshaping in the T.O.s, and the platoon was refitted likewise. The strength of the platoon was raised to 93 enlisted men and 3 officers.

During the latter part of April and the month of May, the Military Police Platoon knew that something was in store for them in the way of action. They were alerted for movement April 19 and were almost constantly on the alert until May 24. Thirty enlisted men under the command of S/Sgt Mulligan, left Camp Braunstone , Leicester , England for the staging area at Budgend , England . Here they remained until June 3 when they boarded the Liberty Ship SS Webb Miller and set sail from Cardiff , England , June 5, 1944. This group landed on the coast of France on “ Utah ” beach June 8. After landing they moved inland and on June 9, the seaborne element joined the airborne element at St. Mere Eglise, France.

On the 29th of May, the airborne element of the platoon consisted of 18 enlisted men and 2 officers, under the command of Major F.G. McCollum, Division Provost Marshal. They left Camp Braunstone for the staging area near Newbury , England . On the morning of June 6, five enlisted men left via glider for France and the following evening the remainder of the group took to the sky. The day had finally come for these “soldier flat feet” to reach their “battle beats” through flack-spotted skies. These were the early hours of D-Day. During the early days of action when no definite front lines were established, the MPs did a little hunting on their own, bagging several snipers and taking a few prisoners.

As soon as the division was located at St. Mere Eglise, the platoon established a prisoner of war enclosure and a straggler collecting point. Also long-planning regulations concerning traffic were put into effect. Traffic was routed both to and from the forward areas and a few of the men were left on Utah beach to help with the congestion there. Action was taken to protect civilians and prevent hoards of refugees from clogging roads needed for the movement of troops and supplies, and in cooperation with the defense, platoon protective lines were thrown around the Division’s Command Post.

Prisoner of war evacuation teams were sent to the Command Post of each combat team to facilitate evacuation of prisoners to the Division POW Enclosure. During the 33 days the division faced the “Krauts” here in Normandy , the MPs evacuated and helped process 2,159 of these so-called “Blond Supermen”.

For their efficient handling of their part of the operation and bringing order to a seemingly impossible chaotic situation, the platoon was well rewarded. The Provost Marshal, Major Frederick G. McCollum was awarded the Legion of Merit and five enlisted men were awarded Bronze Stars. The MPs had prevented the highways from being refugee-packed, which was a major hindrance to the British and French forces during the 1940 Battle of France. Five of them had been wounded including the Major. Over 2,000 prisoners of war had been successfully handled and 327 stragglers returned to their units.

July 11, 1944, 23 enlisted men embarked on an LST from the coast of France and landed at Southampton , England , the following day. Following debarkation, the group traveled by train back to their old camp in Braunstone Park at Leicester , England . The remainder of the platoon followed in the same manner July 12.

After returning to England , the Division began to replace its losses in Normandy with fresh recruits from Fort Benning and the platoon underwent some minor changes in personnel also. After a couple months of rest with a lot of town patrols and a few furloughs in between, the platoon was on the alert again. 15 September 1944, three officers and 55 enlisted men left Camp Braunstone under the command of Major McCollum. Again, they took to the gliders and this time it was Holland.

Of the 55 enlisted men and 3 officers who began the flight, only 48 enlisted men and 2 officers reached the landing zone. The missing glider had been seen to drop out of the formation after being shot loose from its tow-plane by German anti-aircraft fire approximately thirty minutes before landing time. This glider contained the following: Captain Shelby L. White, S/Sgt Lois W. Melvin, Sgt Delmar Whitt, Cpl George P. Simon, Cpl Herring E. Lindgren, Pfc David C. Bailey & Pvt Walter J. Lineham (KIA). Of this group, Captain White and S/Sgt Melvin received wounds and were evacuated to England. The remaining five men were listed as missing in action.

Upon arriving in Holland , 23 September, the group assembled and made their way to the Division Command Post near Groesbeek, Holland . The following day, the command post guard was taken over and traffic posts were established at cross roads, bridges and other key locations. Military Police patrols were established in towns and nearby localities to prevent both military and civilian crimes.

Very shortly, the Division Command Post moved to Nijmegen , Holland where the all-important Nijmegen bridge had been one of the most important division objectives. This move was carried out by the Military Police Platoon’s traffic section under the direction of G-4. A police patrol was immediately assigned to the city of Nijmegen where they worked in close connection with the British and civil police authorities. Another patrol was sent to Brussels , Belgium to control division personnel there on pass.

At the POW Cage, the POW Section put almost 3,000 more German fighters behind the barbed wire bringing their total to date for all campaigns to nearly 29,000.

Battle of the Bulge
Forever the platoon will remember the call that took them from training in Sissonne , France, to do their part in stopping the German offensive there in the Ardennes. There on the north side of the Bulge, these Military Police experienced some of the worst weather they had ever seen on the “Beat”. They had stood in rain, scorching summer sun and felt winter’s winds, but never before had they withstood the bitter, driving blizzards of snow, ice and wind. On the night of December 17, 1944 at 2130 hours, the Military Police Platoon was notified that the entire combat echelon of the division would move by truck to the vicinity of Bastogne , Belgium. By 2300 hours, a small party under the command of Lt. Colonel Ireland left Sissonne to establish an assembly area in the vicinity of Bastogne.

Early the next morning, another small group left Sissonne to mark and post signs along the division’s route of march. Later that day, the main body of the platoon left in advance of the main division convoy to post traffic policemen at strategic intersections.

The platoon established headquarters at Webermont, Belgium, December 19, 1944. Many traffic posts were established in the area and traffic was almost a continuous flow day and night, necessarily moving slow because of the ice and snow. From here, the platoon began a series of almost constant moves, 24 December to Ville, 25 December to Homblemont, 29 December to Chevron, 2 January to Haute Bordeaux, and 11 January to Sedoz.

Prisoners of war were being collected in an ever-increasing number; the total to this date was 2,513. Also, many stragglers from 82nd units were returned to their organizations. From 13 January to 24 January, the division remained in a rest area around Sedoz, but the MPs were ever vigilant maintaining an Information Post, two command posts, a war plant post, road patrol in the division area, two straggler points and a division stockade. January 25, the platoon moved to Stavelot, Belgium and on January 28, planted for the first time their CP on German soil at Medell, Germany. The following day, the platoon suffered its only Bulge casualty. Pvt Woodward was killed at Werth, Germany. On February 7, 1945, the division with the Military Police Platoon moved to Rott, Germany, their furthermost penetration into Germany.

On February 19, the route marking group left Rott to mark the route of march and establish posts at crucial traffic points from the return of the division to Sissonne. On 22 February, the first division convoy arrived at Sissonne, followed by the remainder of the tired, frozen Military Police Platoon. These had been two busy months. They had routed the division from Sissonne, France, to Rott, Germany, through some of the most battle-choked highways in World War II without a serious mishap. And 4,529 German soldiers had been put in their proper place, behind barbed wire.

On the Belgian front, January 21, 1945, the 82nd MP Platoon set up a prisoner of war cage in the Belgian hills by an old abandon farm. But before the prisoners could be herded into the barn, a bunch of cows had to be herded out. A call was sent out for men who had been farmers. PFC Tom Neverdahl, who was from Menomonie, Wisconsin, arrived. Tom got Steve Debrow to help with the milking, but other tasks fell on the shoulders of the MP Troopers. PFC George Apen drew ‘bovine latrine detail.’ PFC Louis Mikrut was responsible for herding the cows 200 yards down the road to a water trough every day. PFC Mikrut was not taking any chances so he herded them by using his submachine gun. He and PFC Apen kept the cows covered each morning while PFC Archie Stringer let them out of their stalls. At first, the barnyard details were not very popular, but when fresh milk and eggs began showing up in the chow, the MP Troopers decided that farm life had its good points.

In late March, 1945, the platoon was in training with the rest of the division at Sissonne , France, when on March 31 they were alerted for movement. On April 1, a small route-marking group left Sissonne for Weiden, Germany, near Cologne . They marked the convoy route and posted men at critical points. By midnight of April 2, most of the division convoys had reached Weiden. Approximately half of the platoon arrived in these convoys and the remainder of the platoon arrived by rail.

Here, the platoon was concerned with patrolling the division area, preventing civil and military crimes and working with the Military Government in the city of Cologne. The former Gestapo prison, Klingelputz, was used in carrying out all sentences of confinement. The division was alerted again on 23 April for possible movement; on 25 April, the 82nd Airborne Division was relieved in the Cologne area for movement to the Elbe River.

As usual, the Military Police Platoon with its over-night notice got a route-marking detail on the move to Hobrenzetben, Germany, where the division command post was established April 29. The following day it moved to Bleckede, Germany. Here, the Military Police Platoon established a headquarters and a POW cage. However, the platoon’s personnel were scattered along the route of march from Cologne to Bleckede directing traffic as part of the elements of the division were still on the move.

On the first day of attack of importance, the POW cage received 588 prisoners. The following few days were to be the greatest day of the Military Police Platoon’s PW cage. On May 2, General von Tippelskirch surrendered the entire German 21st Army totaling approximately 144,000 men. The task of putting so great a number behind the barbed wire was so great, that the platoon could not handle it alone, and the 505th Parachute Regiment was assigned to help with the task.

This was a great month for the platoon. They had met the Russians, made a General a POW and most of all, V-E Day. The commanding officer at this time was Major Paul E. Vaupel. During the last days of May, the division began moving back to Sissonne for the unknown; they did not know if they would see action in the Pacific, occupation duty, discharge or what.

Moving back to Sissonne early in June 1945, the 82nd Airborne Division moved to Epinal , France , shortly afterwards for the purpose of redeployment. The Military Police Platoon was quartered in a former girls’ school and took up its regular places on town patrol and traffic direction under the command of Captain Robert B. Patterson.

The redeployment shuffle began at once and personnel with 85 points or better were transferred to the Military Police Platoon of the 17th Airborne Division and in exchange, men with fewer than 80 points in the 17th Airborne Division MP Platoon were transferred to the 82nd Airborne Division Military Police Platoon. Additional personnel were acquired from the First Allied Airborne Army Headquarters and the Greek and Yugoslav guerrilla fighters. With all the swapping of personnel, the strength of the platoon had risen to 179 enlisted men and 3 officers. Of this group, 76 were Glidermen and 106 were jumpers.

Late in July, the 82nd Airborne Division officially announced what had been rumored for some time that the division was to have the honor of occupying the German capital, Berlin , and on July 30, 2 officers and 22 enlisted men left Epinal for the Berlin Military District as a route marking and billeting detail. The remainder of the platoon followed in the next two weeks by rail and motor convoy. The final elements reached Berlin August 16, 1945.

In the bomb-gutted city the platoon met their old friends again, the British and the Russians. Upon relieving the Second Armored Military Police, the platoon immediately established motor and foot patrols in the city for keeping an eye on both civilians and military personnel. The Military Police at this time were under the command of Captain Robert B. Patterson, now the Provost Marshal.

While in Berlin , the platoon suffered two additional casualties when PFC S.E. Floyd was killed in a traffic accident August 14 and PVT James S. George died of accidental gunshot wounds in the chest September 27, 1945.

The platoon was on the verge of redeployment again. Parachutists with fewer than 45 points were being transferred to the 508th Parachute Regiment. Non-jumpers were transferred to the Infantry and the group with more than 45 points hoped to be homeward bound soon.

( Source: " Give Me Something I Can't Do: The History of the 82nd Military Police Company, WW 1 to Iraq " by Kenton J Falerios )

82nd Military Police Platoon - Pictures  Photos 82nd PM Platoon  
  • German POW's - Photo of 82nd Military Police guarding German prisoners during the Battle of the Bulge.   (Courtesy: Kenton J Falerios)  

R E L A T E D   B O O K S

Astor, Gerald  A Blood-Dimmed Tide: The Battle of the Bulge by the Men Who Fought It. Mass Market Paperback, 1994 ISBN: 0440215749
Badsey , Stephen & Chandler, David G (Editor)  Arnhem 1944: Operation "Market Garden" (Campaign No.24) 1993 96p. ISBN: 1855323028
Black, Wallace B.& Blashfield, Jean F. Battle of the Bulge (World War II 50th Anniversary Series). Crestwood House, 48 pp May,1993 ISBN: 0896865681
Breuer, William B Geronimo! American Paratroopers in WWII. New York: St. Martin Press, 1989 621 p. ISBN: 0-312-03350-8
Breuer, William B Drop Zone Sicily: Allied Airborne Strike,July 1943. Novato, CA: Presidio, c1983. 212 p. ISBN: 089 141 1968
Breuer, William B  They Jumped at Midnight Jove Publishing, (P) c1990 ISBN: 0515104256
Burriss, T Moffatt  Strike and Hold: A Memoir of the 82nd Airborne in WW II Brasseys, Inc, 256 pp August,2000 ISBN: 1574882589
D'Este, Carlonbsp; Decision in Normandy William S Konnecky Assc(P), 560 p. ISBN: 1568522606
D'Este, Carlo  Patton: A Genius for War 1024 pp ISBN: 0060927623
Falerios, Kenton J.  Give Me Something I Can't Do: The History of the 82nd Military Police Company, WW 1 to Iraq Nov 2007, Authorhouse, 192 p ISBN: 1434337197
Gavin, James M.  On to Berlin : Battles of an Airborne Commander, 1943-1946 ISBN: 0670525170
Hastings, Max Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy Simon and Shuster(JUV), 396 p. ISBN: 0671554352
Keegan, John The Second World War Penguin (P), 708 p. ISBN: 014011341X
Keegan, John Six Armies in Normandy: From D-Day to the Liberation of Paris Penguin USA(P), 365 p. ISBN: 0140235426
MacDonald, Charles B  A Time For Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge Wm Morrow & Co (P), 720 p. ISBN: 068151574
Messina , Phillip Anzio: Song of Destiny A.G.Halldin Publishing Company, 1992. ISBN: 0 935 64838 0
O'Donnell, Patrick K. Beyond Valor  Free Press, 2001, 384 p. ISBN: 0684873842
Ryan, Cornelius  The Longest Day Touchstone Books (P), 350 p. ISBN: 0671890913
Ryan, Cornelius  A Bridge Too Far 670p. ISBN: 0684803305
The Center of Military History  The War in the Mediterranean: A WWII Pictorial History Brasseys, Inc., 465 p. ISBN:1574881302
Verier, Mike  82nd Airborne Division in Colour Photographs  (Europa Militaria, No 9) ISBN: 187 200 4857
Wildman, John B All Americans 82nd Airborne. Meadowlands Militaria, 6/83 ISBN:091 208 1007

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