United States Army Military Police Corps Regimental Museum
Part 2: History of the Military Police Corps
From World War II to Today
Kathy J. West
HIST 696, Session K001, Summer 2014
American Public University System
November 23, 2014
United States Army Military Police Corps Regimental Museum
Part 2: History of the Military Police Corps
From World War II to Today
As of November 23, 2014
Bold and regular text provides notes for the tour guide.
Italic text provides the material presented to the visitor.
Green text provides vignettes that support the recurring theme “Military Police Soldiers Living the Army Values.”
Blue text informs the tour guide where they should be standing when presenting material.
Section 1: World War II (WWII)
(WWII Military Police [MP] Corps Poster by Jes Schlaikjer)
Learning Objective: To present the events leading to the establishment of the MP Corps as a permanent branch of the US Army.
The outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 and the rapid buildup of the U.S. Army highlighted the need for an organized MP Corps. With a rising national concern over possible subversion and a perceived need to control hostile aliens, the Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson appointed Major General Allen W. Guillon, the Adjutant General of the Army, as acting Provost Marshal on July 31, 1941.1 With the demands associated with an army mobilizing for war, the War Department recognized that a centralized authority above the corps level was necessary. To fill that need, the Secretary of War established the MP Corps as a permanent branch of the Army on September 26, 1941. This date is the official birthday of the MP Corps. It marks a turning point in the Corps’ history from a transitory branch of the Army to a permanent combat service support element operating during war and peace.2
(Poster for the Third Anniversary of the MP Corps: “A Soft Job? –depends on how you look at it!”)
Learning Objective: To present information on the growth of the MP Branch, its many duties and missions, and serve as an introduction to significant events and noteworthy people during WWII.
With the onset of WWII, the MP Corps experienced permanence, growth in numbers, and increased professionalism in training and operations. The MP Corps started with 2,000 men in 1941 and grew to more than 200,000 during the course of the war. The duties of the branch were those traditionally associated with the MP specialty:
The enforcement of military laws and regulations
The maintenance of order
Controlling the movement of traffic both in the battlefield area as well as in camps, posts, and stations
Safeguarding soldiers from violence or accidents
Recovering lost, stolen, and abandoned government property
Operating the prisoner of war system
New duties such as assisting combat troops in destroying hostile airborne troops when necessary. 3
The War Department established MP battalions and created the position of Provost Marshal General at each general headquarters or theater of operations and on the staff of all divisions and higher units. Initially, the Army had three new battalions and four separate companies. By mid-1942, the number of MP battalions increased to seventeen. By the end of 1945, the War Department activated 150 battalions and 900 other MP units.4 MP companies became increasingly specialized serving as zone of interior guards; escort guards; post, camp, and station garrison security and discipline, law and order; prisoner of war security and processing; and criminal investigations.5
MPs came in fighting with the first waves that hit Omaha and Utah beaches on June 6, 1944. Hours after landing, these combat MPs took over control of the huge volume of traffic debarking from the invasion fleet. The MPs established direction points, performed beach security patrol, and established prisoner of war containment areas.
On November 21, 1944, the Army established the position of Provost Marshal/Rear Area Commander as MPs assumed a rear area defensive mission, which included holding attacking elements in check until tactical troops, arrived.6
(The Ludendorff Bridge Diorama)
Learning Objective: To exemplify the courage, tenacity, and determination of combat MPs in a significant security and movement operation during the crossing of the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen, Germany.
After stopping the German Ardennes Counter-Offensive, the early spring of 1945 found Allied forces on the offensive, moving very rapidly into Germany. The Germans had been falling back rapidly and retreating across the Rhine. As they retreated, they were destroying all bridges to take advantage of the natural barrier that the Rhine offered.
The 9th Armored Division was assigned the missions to seize the city of Remagen and its vicinity and to establish crossings over the Ahr River (a tributary of the Rhine south of Remagen). Late in the afternoon of March 7, elements of the 9th Armored Division crested a hill near the town of Remagen and discovered a bridge still standing. The Bridge they were looking at was the Ludendorff Bridge. It was built from 1916 to 1919 and was named in honor of WWI German General Erich Ludendorff. It carried two rail lines and a walkway. The American forces rushed into action to capture it.7
Before they actually reached the bridge, the men saw rocks and dirt erupt into the air. The Germans had exploded the preliminary demolition, which gouged a crater thirty feet wide in the approach to the bridge.8 Once the American soldiers reached the bridge, the Germans set off an emergency demolition two-thirds of the way across the bridge, damaging one of the trusses. The huge structure lifted up and steel, timbers, dust, thick black smoke mixed in the air. When the air cleared, the bridge was still standing.9
The 9th Armored Division quickly captured the bridge; established a bridgehead on the eastern side; and once reinforcements arrived, withdrew to the west bank to establish a marshaling area.10 The Division Provost Marshal, Major Joseph Jogl, and Lieutenant John F. Hyde with his platoon of 9th Armored Division MPs had the responsibility of traffic control in the assembly area, keeping traffic moving and preventing congestion. It would not be long before the streets were crowded with men and vehicles.11
The 9th Infantry Division was ordered to divert to Remagen, take over the bridge, push everything available across, and organize to receive fresh divisions as they came in. For five days, this unit maintained traffic control on the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen and in the Rhine Bridgehead area braving constant heavy artillery fire and air attacks to keep supply, evacuation and troop movement running smoothly over this vital link. The sector was a target for twenty-four hours of each day for heavy artillery concentration, air attacks and on two occasions V2 weapons.12
The MPs stood at their post unable to take cover as casualties to themselves and to passing troops and vehicles mounted each day. In the first three days on the bridge, the 9th Infantry Division MPs suffered seventy-two casualties. When one of their own fell, another MP stepped forward to take his place. The number of available MPs dwindled to the point that the Division Commander, Major General Craig authorized Major Thurston to take twenty-five men from each of the Infantry regiments. Seventy-five Infantrymen put on MP armbands in the heat of the battle. To teach them how to take charge of radios, traffic control, defiles and Enemy Prisoners of War, Thurston set up a school in the mouth of the tunnel on the east bank.13
The bridge was heavily used March 7 – March 12. On March 12, U.S. Army Engineers closed it to repair the damage caused by the initial attempt to blow the bridge, and subsequent damage caused by enemy artillery fire and heavy traffic. By this time, the Engineers had erected a pontoon bridge and a treadway bridge nearby and divisions continued to cross the Rhine. Disaster struck at approximately 3:00 P.M. on March 17, when, with no warning, the Ludendorff Bridge buckled and collapsed. Thirty-two Engineer soldiers who had been making repairs in an attempt to put the bridge back in operation were killed in the collapse.14
The capture of the Ludendorff Bridge hastened the end of the war in Europe. From March 7 to March 17, seven divisions crossed the Rhine. The established and expanded bridgehead became a springboard for the final offensive. The 9th Armored MP Company and the 9th Infantry MP Company both received the Presidential Unit Citation.
(The Ludendorff Bridge Diorama)
Major Clair H. Thurston, Distinguished Service Cross
Major Clair H. Thurston served as the Provost Marshal for the 9th Infantry Division during operations at the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen, Germany, in March 1945. Taking the bridge was just the beginning. After the bridge capture, German forces tried to destroy or recapture the site using explosives, demolitions divers, artillery fire, aerial bombardment, and infantry assaults. Unable to take cover during the frequent attacks, MPs at the bridge kept traffic flowing across the Rhine River into Germany. However, maintaining a constant stream of traffic and supplies proved to be a hazardous job, and the MPs suffered many casualties. Due to these losses, Major Thurston gathered Soldiers from nearby Infantry units to conduct MP training courses near the bridge. Major Thurston oversaw organization at the bridge and led by example. He constantly exposed himself to enemy artillery fire and air attacks to direct and maintain the traffic over the vital Ludendorff Bridge. On one occasion, Major Thurston, previously wounded by a shell fragment, rushed across the bridge on foot during a heavy air bombardment, and carried a man, dazed from the concussion, to safety. His actions inspired others to continue crossing the bridge in the face of devastating enemy fire. Recognized for his dauntless leadership and gallantry, Major Thurston received the Distinguished Service Cross.15
African-American Military Police Soldiers
(Photograph of Lieutenant General Joseph T. McNarney, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theater, inspecting the Honor Guard of MPs during his tour of the Fifth Army front at the 92nd Division Sector on January 4, 1945.)
Learning Objective: To explain the utilization and integration of African-American Soldiers in the MP Corps during WWII.
In October 1941, the War Department authorized the organization of MP Detachments with African-American Soldiers. The directive establishing the new Corps of Military Police included the organization of black, white, and mixed units. By August 1942, there were ten battalions and three companies that were integrated with black and white soldiers. On April 12, 1945, the first all black MP unit was formed in the China-Burma Theater.16
(World War II Display Case, Distinguished Service Cross of Second Lieutenant Walter J. Burns)
Second Lieutenant Walter J. Burns, Distinguished Service Cross
On the morning of November 8, 1942, Second Lieutenant Walter J. Burns, with the 204th MP Police Company, was approaching Casablanca in French Morocco by landing craft. The landing party came under attack from an enemy warship at a distance of only 20 yards. When the coxswain of the landing craft was wounded, Second Lieutenant Burns voluntarily exposed himself to heavy fire from the enemy warship in order to helm the landing craft. He calmly guided the boat toward shore under the instructions of the wounded coxswain and received a severe thigh wound from enemy gunfire. Even after being wounded and thrown from the controls, he returned to take the wheel. When it became evident that the boat could not reach shore, Second Lieutenant Burns retained control of the situation and gave the order to abandon ship. An instant later, enemy shellfire shot the boat out of the water. Second Lieutenant Burns gathered his men and swam to shore, where they were taken prisoner until freed by American forces a few days later.17
(World War II Display Case)
Learning Objective: To present the role of MPs during the post-war tribunals.
In 1945, hundreds of German Nazi were charged with war crimes and tried in Nuremberg. MPs of the 793rd MP Battalion, 802nd MP Company and 821st MP Company served as guards during the trials. The MPs escorted the accused to and from the courtroom and provided security within the courtroom. MPs kept the prisoners under constant surveillance when not in court. After the trials, MPs provided security and assisted with the execution of hangings; and escorted sentenced prisoners to Spandau Prison. The Allies shared the responsibility for guarding the Spandau prisoners, rotating control of the prison on a monthly basis. Every four months a contingent of MPs assumed the task of guarding the prisoners until the death of the last of the prisoners, Rudolf Hess, in 1987.18
In 1946-1947, soldiers of the 720th MP Battalion guarded 1,700 Japanese prisoners tried for war crimes. The MPs were also responsible for transporting the war criminals to and from Sugamo Prison for the duration of the trails. Four hundred of those tried were convicted and sentenced. MPs provided security at Sugamo Prison until the sentences could be carried out.19
After WWII, the War Department did not disband the MP Corps, but it did reduce in size. MPs remained as part of the forces occupying conquered Germany and Japan.
Section 2: The Korean War
(The Korean War Exhibit/Map of Korea)
Learning Objective: Utilizing representative equipment, weapons, uniforms, and photographs, to present the duties of MPs and the challenges they faced during the Korean War, and the problems and challenges faced by MPs at Koje-do Prisoner of War (POW) Camp.
On June 25, 1950, North Korean troops crossed the 38th Parallel invading South Korea in an effort to unify the Korean peninsula. This action resulted in the immediate intervention of United Nations troops to defend South Korea. American forces would face circumstances and conditions that were entirely new to them as they fought against bands of guerrillas.20
The surprise invasion caused Korean and American troops to retreat into a perimeter surrounding the Pusan area, establishing a defensive line to protect the vital port. MPs cleared roadways and protected transportation routes. In September1950, the Department of the Army issued new guidance concerning the responsibilities and organization of the MP Corps. It redefined the responsibilities of the Provost Marshals who would not only advise commanders on policy matters but also directly supervise the operations of the MP units of the command.21
In September 1950, United Nation forces made an amphibious landing at Inchon, on the west coast of Korea and broke the North Korean lines. The North Koreans retreated north to the Yalu River. In November 1950, Chinese armies flooded into North Korea and slammed against the United Nation forces, causing another massive retreat. One of the more difficult duties for the MPs was controlling millions of refugees as the front line wavered back and forth. As the MPs moved back and forth over the fighting area, they provided an invaluable service in mapping roads and reporting on road conditions.
Between November 1950 and May 1951, a stable front in the center of the peninsula gradually emerged and a protracted period of engagement followed. A dramatic increase in black market activities associated with an army fighting in a third world nation placed increased emphasis on the duty of Military Police to control and eliminate black-marketing.22
On July 27, 1953, the signing of the Armistice Agreement officially established a truce. MPs remain in Korea and continue to patrol the demilitarized zone.
Koje-Do POW Camp
(The Koje-Do POW panel)
During the conflict, the United Nations (U.N.) forces captured over 175,000 POWs. The U.N. confined most of the prisoners on Koje-Do Island. The prisoners built their own camps, constructing fences, buildings, and sewage systems. MPs served under the U.N. Command. They worked with a shortage of personnel while dealing with continuous political agitation among the prisoners. Captured communist leaders began a campaign of terror against their fellow prisoners to embarrass the United Nations Command, divert front line troops to Koje-do, and convert non-communist prisoners of war.23
Early on May 7, 1952, Brigadier General Francis T. Dodd, Koje-do’s commander, received word that the POWs in compound 76 wished to speak with him in person. Since the POWS submitted their request through proper channels, Dodd went to the compound. As he stepped in, the prisoners surrounded him. He now found himself a prisoner. On May 9, Brigadier General Colson, the newly appointed commander of Koje-do, secured Dodd’s release after signing a four-point agreement written by the POWs.24
On June 2, 1952, Brigadier General Hayden Boatner, an MP officer, was named Koje-do's new Commandant and he would be the fourteenth Commandant in less than twenty-four months.25 He quickly set about to restore order to the compounds. In a matter of days, the entire camp was reconstructed. New enclosures, subdivided into four to eight compounds designed to accommodate five hundred prisoners each, were constructed. By segregating the prisoners into smaller groups, General Boatner weakened the communist leaders’ influence over other prisoners and restored order.26
The United States Army even under the United Nations umbrella had to learn by trial and error some very serious lessons. The lessons learned had to include how to handle people whose culture and ethnic background was very different.
Sergeant First Class Robert F. Keiser, Distinguished Service Cross
The following comes from Sergeant First Class Keiser’s award citation: On 30 November 1950 at about 1300 hours, the 2d Infantry Division's main convoy began its retreat south along the Kunu-ri Suchon Road. When the division convoy reached the crest of the Kunu-ri Suchon Pass, referred to as "The Gauntlet," they faced a roadblock consisting of over twenty damaged and abandoned vehicles. With complete disregard for his own safety, Sergeant First Class Keiser, a MP with the 2d MP Company, personally removed the vehicles blocking the road, allowing the division convoy to proceed to the safety of friendly lines. He received several injuries while under constant small arms and machine gun fire from the enemy, estimated to be of regimental size and located in the hills overlooking the pass, during a two-hour period. Upon finding a vehicle that would run, Sergeant First Class Keiser loaded the dead and wounded lying in the road and ditches aboard the vehicle, and commanded fellow Soldiers to drive the vehicles through the pass to the safety of friendly lines. After clearing the vehicles from the pass, Sergeant First Class Keiser proceeded to a stream a half mile south of the pass and stood for an hour in the cold water directing the division convoy through the ford, because the bridge had been destroyed. Sergeant First Class Keiser was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty.27
Section 3: Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and Women’s’ Army Corps (WAC)
(Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and Women’s’ Army Corps (WAC) Exhibit)
Learning Objective: To explain the formation of the WAAC and its evolution into the WAC, including the uniforms worn. In addition, to explain the Military Police duties of SSG Marvel L. Joos, a member of the WAC stationed in St. Louis, Missouri, as an example of the contributing role that members of the WAC played.
The idea of women in the Army other than the Army Nurse Corps was entertained during World War I (WWI) and with the threat of another war looming, interest was renewed. In May 1941, Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts introduced a bill for the creation of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). The WAAC would work with the Army. The Army would provide food, uniforms, living quarters, pay, and medical care. Women officers would not be allowed to command men. The Director of the WAAC was assigned the rank of Major.28 Congress approved the creation of the WAAC on May 14, 1942. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the bill into law on May 15, and on May 16, Oveta Culp Hobby was sworn in as the first Director.29
The WAAC Training Center opened at Fort Des Moines, Iowa and the first women arrived on July 20, 1942. Designers at the Heraldic Section of the Quartermaster General's Office suggested the head of the goddess Pallas Athene as a design for insignia. She was a goddess associated with an impressive variety of womanly virtues with no vices. She was the goddess of handicrafts, wise in industries of peace and arts of war the goddess of storms and battle, who led through victory to peace and prosperity. Hence, the head of Pallas Athene, together with the traditional U.S., was selected for lapel insignia.30
An eagle for the cap was also designed, less intricate than the Army eagle and later to be familiarly known to WAACs, for reasons closely connected with its appearance, as "the buzzard." Since Army buttons could not be used for an auxiliary corps, the WAAC eagle was also to be imprinted on plastic buttons. It was agreed upon to use olive drab, plastic buttons due to the need to conserve medal. Only the insignia of grade required no planning; it was to be the same as the Army's, with a tab lettered WAAC sewed under the chevrons.31
The WAAC Cap, later known as the "Hobby Hat," was adopted only after prolonged discussion on May 13, 1942. After July 1, 1943, the hat insignia changed to the United States coat of arms.32 In August1944, the women received a garrison cap, commonly called an "overseas cap," as a replacement for the Hobby hat that was difficult to clean, block, and store. In addition, gold-colored metal buttons with the United States coat of arms imprinted on them replaced the olive-drab plastic buttons imprinted with the distinctive WAAC eagle.
For off-duty wear, WACs received a uniform dress – one for winter that was a horizon tan (grayish-pink) color in a wool crepe fabric and one for summer that was pale cream beige in a rayon-shantung fabric.33
On July 1, 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law legislation which changed the name of the WAAC to the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and made it part of the Army of the United States (AUS). On July 5, 1943, Oveta Culp Hobby was administered the oath as the first Director of WAC, with the rank of Colonel, AUS.34
When the WAAC converted to the WAC, becoming an official part of the Army, female MPs could police the training centers and detachments of women soldiers. One of the training locations for female MPs was at Orlando, Florida. They received rigorous training, including judo and familiarization with handguns, although they were not allowed to carry firearms. Female MPs in St. Louis, Missouri enforced military regulations and uniform conformity in the large railroad depot but also provided assistance and aid to the numerous military travelers. Although most of the female MPs served within the United States, there were others sent to every theater of war. 35
The number of female MPs serving in WWII is unknown but the entire military was severely reduced with the ending of hostilities and the return of peace. By the end of May 1948, there were only 6,500 women on active duty in the Army. In addition, the WAC law passed by the U.S. Congress in 1943 giving the WAC full army status during wartime was scheduled to expire on June 30, 1948.
To replace the law, President Harry S. Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act on June 12, 1948, which established the WAC as a separate corps in the Army and permitted women to serve as full members of the U.S. armed forces. The Army opened a new training center at Camp Lee, Virginia the next month. The 505th MP Company, composed of both male and female military police, was assigned the duties of policing Camp Lee. In 1978, the Army abolished the Women’s Army Corps as a separate corps and fully integrated women into all but the combat branches.36
Marvel L. Joos
October 1, 2007, the U.S. Army MP Corps Regimental Museum received a donation of (WAAC and WAC artifacts that had belonged to Marvel LeClair Joos. Marvel Joos enlisted in the WAAC on September 1, 1943. When the WAAC became the WAC, she transitioned to the WAC. She was discharged from the WAC on June 3, 1946. The museum accessioned fifty-three artifacts and added over a hundred photographs, documents, and wartime letters to its archives.
Marvel Joos received her training at Fort Des Moines. She was issued both summer and winter uniforms. The high top shoes she wore were called “Little Abners.” She found them very comfortable. She was also fitted with overshoes for her sturdy brown dress shoes.
After completing basic training, she was assigned to the post Headquarters Company. Marvel was assigned to the clothing warehouse, handing out jackets and skirts to the new recruits, and helped fitting shoes.
Marvel worked at Ft. Des Moines for two years in the receiving and induction center, when her brother Oscar died while fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. She asked for a transfer to another post, wanting to do more to serve her country. In February 1945, she and Sergeant Lavone “Rusty” Durant received orders to report to Headquarters Detachment, District No. 3, 7th Service Command, Army Service Forces in St. Louis, Missouri.
She arrived by train at Union Station, St. Louis. Marvel was assigned the MP detachment of about 300 male MP’s at Kings Highway on the edge of Forest Park, the largest public park in St. Louis. The MP’s were living in Quonset huts on the edge of the park. She was given a substance and quarters allowance for private housing. She found an apartment about two blocks from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and about fifteen minutes from Union Station on the streetcar line.
On her first day of duty, reporters from the St. Louis Dispatch and the St. Louis Times descended upon her. The story resulted in a double page spread in the Sunday editions. The Associated Press picked up the story and ran an article that appeared in newspapers all over the country. It was also in the Stars and Stripes. Marvel stated that, “Strangers came from all over to see us, get autographs, and take pictures. We also started getting fan mail from all over the world.”37
She patrolled with a male MP and went out on the Railroad docks to take Red Cross or “gray ladies” out to the troop trains, prisoner of war trains, and later war bride trains or cars. One evening, she met General and Mrs. Eisenhower. General Eisenhower shook hands with her and said he had been all over the world but she was the first MP he had ever met who wore a skirt.38