THE U.S. CONSTABULARY FORCES IN GERMANY, 1946-52
David A. Kaufman
© 1993 ASMIC used with permission
Following the defeat of Nazi Germany on May 9, 1945, the U.S. Army was faced with several complex tasks regarding the demobilization of personnel. First, and most important, was the return to the United States and discharge of those veterans with sufficient points of overseas service. Secondly was the concern that the long term goal of the defeat of Japan had not yet been realized. The specialized training, logistics, and large-scale troop movements of ETO- and MTO- based units, in preparation of an invasion on the other side of the world were considerations of global proportions. Thirdly, the necessity for an organized and professional occupational force was becoming readily apparent. US GI's, both combat veterans (who wanted to go home) and undisciplined replacements were the major problem in the US Occupation Zone.
These complex tasks gave rise to several related questions. Was the crushing defeat rendered against Germany going to result in chaos? Prior to and during the short-lived ";reich";, Germany was (and still is) a strictly regulated nation with laws regulating everything including when lawns could be mowed (not on Sunday) to hours and days grocery stores were allowed to be open-and what food they could sell. Were fanatical ";ex-"; Nazis going to organize and sabotage? Would they be armed? Who would arm them? Would untold numbers of criminals flood the borders and create havoc within the ranks of displaced persons legitimately in Germany? Due to these factors, and the overall physical features including the geography, land size, and sheer numbers of people, there was an unusual need for highly mechanized units in the occupational forces in what was formerly the ETO. The Stars and Stripes reported ";Highly mobile mechanized security force units, which may prove more efficient for occupation duty than infantry-type troops, will be organized soon in occupied Germany on an experimental basis. Units, to be known as Constabulary, will specialize in patrolling and liaison with other control forces. They are planned to resemble somewhat State Police forces at home and Canada's Northwest mounted Police.
Using armored cars, tanks, jeeps, motorcycles and other vehicles outfitted with full radio and signal equipment, units will patrol areas and maintain contact with local CIC (counter-intelligence corps) detachments, local MG (military government) police (German civilian police) and occupational troop commanders."; 1
The U.S. Army had some experience with Constabulary policing in the Philippine Islands following the end of the Spanish-American War. Once the Philippines had won their independence from Spain, Filipinos were hard-pressed to enjoy their new status. Heavily dependent on Spain for everything, from sanitation to education, from water systems to government, the Filipinos had to begin from scratch. Whether P.I. occupation troops were temporary or not, it was in the United States' humanitarian interests to guide the Filipinos to the independence they deserved and that they enjoyed once again following the defeat of Japan.
The Philippines Constabulary was a roving and mobile police force. The geography was entirely different from that of Germany, in that there are approximately 7,000 islands in the group. Vehicles consisted of small motor launches and horses, but the mission was the same- maintain the peace and security until the local governments could gain their feet again.
The work of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Mounties) provided another example of Constabulary-type policing. Well-noted for their attractive attire, the Mounties are responsible for policing a vast area, with different cultures, effectively and professionally.
Closer to home, State Police forces are primarily concerned with traffic and labor disturbances over wide areas, as well as providing necessary expertise for specific problems.
The U.S. Constabulary shared characteristics with all of the above mentioned examples. It was definitely a police force, and a very well armed one at that. It was granted more power than standard MP units-and it had its' own MP units. It was also a highly mobile Army, trained, ready and able to respond to general and specific needs. In military terms, it combined the attributes of the old ";horse cavalry"; with the striking power and mobility of WW II mechanized cavalry.
The U.S. Constabulary forces in Europe were initially drawn from cadres of the 1st and 4th Armored Divisions. Constabulary headquarters was activated on February 10, 1946, with personnel drawn from the VI Corps. VI Corps fought throughout Italy, France, Germany, and Austria. The 4th Armored Division provided the 1st, 2nd and 3rd brigade headquarters, and the 1st Armored Division provided a veteran cadre from the 1st and 13th Tank battalions. Personnel were also drawn from the 2nd, 6th, 11th, 14th, and 15th Cavalry Groups, as well as the 6th Tank Destroyer Group and miscellaneous units. The total number eventually assigned to the Constabulary was approximately 35,000.
The Constabulary Headquarters was initially established at Bamberg, and later moved to Heidelberg. The organization of the Constabulary forces consisted of the three brigades, and each brigade had three regiments. The three brigades operated in the three German state areas of Hesse, Wuertemberg-Baden, and Bavaria. The Constabulary School Squadron furnished personnel to operate the Constabulary School at Sonthofen.
The three regiments were then organized along cavalry lines. Each regiment had three squadrons, and each squadron had five lettered troops. Each regiment had a Headquarters and a Headquarters Troop, a Service Troop, and a Light Tank (M-24 Chaffee) Troop. The lettered Troops patrolled their areas with jeeps (armed with a .30 MG) and M-8 armored cars. A Horse Cavalry Platoon (30 horses) and Motorcycle Platoon (25 motorcycles) were also included in the regimental TO. The Motorcycle Platoon consisted of 26 men (1 officer, 25 enlisted) and provided highway control, traffic control, and provided escorts. It also operated roadblocks and of course, speed traps. The Horse Cavalry Platoon was designated to work in difficult terrain, in riot suppression and crowd control, much as they are used by current policing agencies. Each regiment even had a small air force, consisting of six L-4 and three L-5 light planes attached for liaison and spotter assignments. There were even marine patrols on rivers.
Officially activated on July 1, 1946, the Constabulary forces began actively policing the approximately 43,000 square miles of Germany (and more than 16,000,000 Germans) in the U.S. zone. The Commanding Officer was Major General Ernest N. Harmon, who also commanded the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Armored Divisions in WW II. Later in the war, he was also the Commanding Officer of XXIII and XXII Corps.
The Constabulary forces initiated a system of patrols, in constant communications with their platoon or headquarters, throughout all of Germany and the borders. In addition to the land size, there were more than 1,400 miles of international as well as inter-zonal borders. Initially attempting to patrol everywhere at the same time proved to be unsuccessful. Ten-mile wide patrol zones, similar to police patrol ";beats";, were soon designated and assisted in accomplishing the task.
Opposing the Constabulary forces were Communist forces that grew to more than 45,000 troops. Most were East Germans controlled by Russians. Eventually, the border was completely fenced off and aggressively guarded against escape by the Volkspolizie (People’s Police, or Vopos). Until the fence was erected, the actual border was marked only with red-tipped white poles and rocks.
One of the problems faced by the Constabulary was the high rate of personnel turnover. In the two months prior to the official activation, more than 16,000 troops had been lost through redeployment. This meant more than 16,000 replacements, which in turn indicated that much of the force was made up of ";green"; troops. There were few veteran NCOs or officers with combat experience. The Constabulary School accelerated its curriculum and increased the number of school graduates on an impressive scale which insured that the forces' high standards were met. Each graduate was ready to be returned (or assigned) to his unit as an instructor, following the four-week course. Graduates learned everything from European/World politics to police patrol procedures. Updated ";Trooper's Handbooks"; were distributed with practical suggestions gleaned from real-life police situations that occurred in the U.S. and Germany.
The Constabulary also relied on the assistance of the reorganized German Civil Police. Initially appointed only by the Military Government following a rigid screening process, the fully armed policemen were then appointed by appropriate local German authorities. Many of them were ex-Wehrmacht who were POWs in the U.S., and had learned English.
Utilizing the standard U.S. ";three in a jeep";, the German policeman rode as third man whenever the Constabulary moved out on patrol in the cities or highways. His primary duty was assisting the Troopers in matters involving German nationals, but he was also being taught democratic police procedures. This mutual cooperation actually resulted in training German policemen and eliminating the need for additional soldiers.
The German police were organized into almost as many units as the Constabulary. There were urban police departments, rural sheriff's agencies and border police. There were railway police and river police. The Constabulary acted as a backup unit for each of these groups, and even experimented with boat patrols.
After a short period of operation, it was determined that the single line of static posts was not successful. Criminals, unrepentant Nazis, and others entered Germany by simply evading the fixed-post sentries. Even though many were caught by rear area units, the system had to be improved. Authorized crossing points were set up, manned by both German and Constabulary personnel. German policemen operated between the crossings at the rear of the borders, with the Constabulary's jeeps, horse, foot, and aerial surveillance handling ten-mile zones.
As with any policing agency in the US, the Constabulary began keeping crime statistics in order to determine which locations needed more active patrols. Surprisingly (to the non-police experienced Constabulary command), the problem areas were not in the rural areas, but in the cities. Weekends and nights proved to be the most troublesome times, so certain locations were saturated with patrols drawn from quieter locales. Random patrols, along with varied routes, rather than regularly-scheduled rounds and routes, also proved helpful in combating the rise in crime.
The activities of the Constabulary were as varied as any urban U.S. police department ever experienced. The following excerpts were obtained from official Constabulary reports.
";On September 30, 1946, six 27th Constabulary Squadron Troopers tracked down four heavily armed ex-general prisoners who had escaped from Wurzburg Disciplinary Training Center. The capture was made without firing a shot."; 2
";'Very friendly' relations between the Soviet and US troops stationed along the zone border in central Germany were described by General Harmon, US Constabulary Commander. "; The prevailing attitude on the border, which extends roughly from Hof to a point opposite Kassel, is a businesslike 'you keep to your side and we'll stay on ours,' he said. ";When, as it sometimes happens, Troopers step over the line and are apprehended, they are treated very well by the Soviets,"; the General said. ";They get good food and are courteously handled, as Soviet soldiers are treated when they cross into the US zone."; The Constabulary Commander, who maintains close liaison with Soviet authorities, quoted the Soviets as saying, ";'conditions on the border are better now than at any time since the war ended.'"; 3
";A large blackmarket ring which used two girls as lures to obtain gasoline from romancing US soldiers, was broken up by the arrests of 20 Germans in the vicinity of Aschaffenburg, US Constabulary headquarters disclosed. The girls lured soldiers with vehicles to their home and entertained them while confederates drained the vehicles of gasoline. Constabulary officials identified the leader of the ring as a clothing manufacturer, and estimated he had netted $60,000 from the ring's operations. They charged that the ring dealt in gasoline, jewels, clothing, typewriters, and sewing machines."; 4
";Two Constabulary Troopers were killed near Hanau early today while trying to stop a speeding command car."; 5
S/Sgt Harry Miller, a former member of the 42nd Constabulary Squadron recalled, ";One incident occurred early in 1947 when the 2nd Squadron of the 2nd Regiment was pulling border patrol along the Austrian-German border. As it happened, they had a bar across the road which could be raised or lowered to allow traffic to pass or stop as they required. A large ex-German Army truck approached the check point and broke through the lowered gate. It was noted that the truck now had red stars painted on both sides of the truck. The check points always had an M-8 armored car available to pursue in similar circumstances. The M-8 went out and caught the truck shortly (the M-8 could get up to 80 MPH if necessary). They caught the truck and brought the two Russian soldiers to our Regimental HQ in Freising, Germany, 35 miles north of Munich. Since there was a language barrier, we contacted the Russian representative at the Dachau War Crimes Trials which were proceeding at the time. A Russian colonel arrived and he chewed out the two soldiers-one was a sergeant and the other a private. When he was finished, he explained that the two Russians had been told by their C.O. to take the truckload of evidence to the Dachau War Crimes Trials 'AND DON'T STOP FOR ANYTHING.' Being the good soldiers that they were, they weren't going to let a border checkpoint stop them"; 6
Another former member, Gene Snowden, was a member of ";A"; Troop, 6th Squadron, near Coburg, on the West and East Germany border. He recalled, ";One day in January, 1947, my partner and our German policeman ride-along were going on patrol in an area that was new to all of us. We didn't know it, but the Russians liked to play a game on us, called 'move the boundary'. Before we got there, they had picked up and moved the boundary marker approximately a 1/4 mile into their zone. When we drove by, they jumped out of the bushes and captured us. They kept us for 14 days, and asked us questions about ourselves, our unit morale, and what unit we were assigned. The last question was dumb because we had ";A"; Troop, 6th Squadron"; painted on the bumpers of our jeep. They treated us well. Anyway, an officer came by and we were all released to his custody. The Russians kept the jeep, our M-1 carbine, our .45 Thompson, a pair of .45 automatics, and the policeman's PPk. We weren't allowed to play the boundary game with them, though."; 7
Snowden also recalled, ";In February, 1947, we were going to raid a DP Camp, also near Coburg. We had received information that some of the DP's were illegally producing liquor and counterfeiting the U.S. script being used as currency then. We took three M-8 Greyhounds and 10 jeeps along on this night raid. I was the gunner in the lead M-8 and we were going about 50 MPH, with nothing but our blackout lights on. A horse-drawn ";honey wagon"; (septic hauler) was approaching from a side crossing and we broadsided him. ‘Crap’ went everywhere! We had to burn our uniforms and had to turn in the M-8, as we could never get the stink out of it."; 8
Captain Charles Gill, Commanding Officer, D Troop, 24th Squadron, recalled, ";Morale was always high in D Troop. We got along well with the Germans, whether we were stationed in Hersfeld or in Fulda. I remember that in 1949, the Commanding Officer, U.S. Constabulary Forces, General I. B. White, came down for an inspection. He had his own train at the time. When he arrived and exited the train, the German police provided an escort all the way to Kassen. He was really impressed. One of the first things he did during his inspection was to examine our Commendations Book and our Court Martial Book. He said, 'A good unit C.O. has as many commendations, if not more, than as he does courts martial.' I've never forgotten that advice.";9
Warrant Officer Norman Bolduc, assigned as a liaison member (1948-50) of the 24th Constabulary Squadron to British and French occupation forces, recalled how the situation had changed from General Harmon's view in 1947. Bolduc said, ";We were trading casualties at the rate of about 2 per week for each side. They would ambush our patrols inside the Western border, and we would return fire. We weren't allowed to cross over the border under any circumstances. They also strung piano wire across the roads, and that was successful, particularly at night, until we welded strong anti-wire tripod bars across the front of jeeps. Then, they used 1/4"; wire cable, and had it set up so the jeep driver lost control, and 'followed' the wire to where it was attached to a sturdy tree. There were usually mines at the bases of the trees."; 10
During its activation, the Constabulary was constantly changing and evolving. From a total of thirty-two squadrons and 135 lettered Troops, the Constabulary experienced what the entire US Armed Forces was facing-shrinking personnel levels. Starting a year to the date of formal activation, the Constabulary began deactivating units. Initially, one brigade, four regiments, and eleven squadrons were deactivated in phased order. By early 1948, it was clear that the mission of the Constabulary had changed, from police force to military occupation and the defense of West Germany. The Constabulary was bolstered by the additions of other units –separate infantry battalions, engineer battalions, and the like. The Constabulary began training along side Regular Army units, already themselves stationed in Germany, in combat support roles. By late 1948, the success of the Constabulary had given the U.S. Army a new branch of service - Armored Cavalry. With a new training mission in hand, the Constabulary slowly withdrew from its' original objectives. By November 1950, HQ and HQ Company were deactivated, and remaining units assigned to 7th Army. The last Constabulary units were the 15th and 24th Squadrons, which remained active until December, 1952.
1. The Stars and Stripes, November 13, 1945
2. Official Constabulary Report, (Schweinfurt) September 30, 1946
3. ibid., (Bamberg) November 21, 1946
4. ibid., (Frankfurt) December 2, 1946
5. ibid., (Frankfurt) October 8, 1946
6. Personal interview with author
Stanley R. Connor and Mary L. Stubbs, Armor-Cavalry Part 1: Regular Army and Army Reserve, Army Lineage Series, (Washington: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1969)
The United States Constabulary, Occupation Forces in Europe Series, 1945-6, (Frankfurt am Main: Office of the Chief Historian, European Command, 1947)
Major James M. Snyder, The Establishment and Operations of the United States Constabulary, 3 October 45- 30 June 1947, (n.p.: Historical Sub-Section G-3, U.S. Constabulary, 1947)
I and E Bulletin, ";Know Your Army Constabulary"(n.p.: Troop Information Program 23 March, 1947)