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822nd Military Police Company

The Forgotten “Supporting Cast” of the Ninth Army

 

 

 

 

Problems in U. S. History

The American Experience in World War II

Jane Lawson Hammonds

Tuesday, May 8, 2001

Pfc. Charles Richard Lawson in Berlin, Germany, 1945

January 23, 1923 - January 28, 2001

This is dedicated to my father who served with the 822nd Military Police Company. He was a peace loving person, but was willing to serve his country to prevent the continuation of German and Japanese aggression. In 1948, he wrote, “It has been a very long time since I took as my big hobby the joy of getting along with people. It was Will Rodgers who said he had never met a man he didn‘t like. Such is my motto....I really felt good when a fellow from New York said, ‘Lawson, I don’t think there is anyone that you can’t get along with‘...As I traveled in England, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany I met many people and made many friends.” In his 78 years, he never lost his desire to make friends everywhere he went.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historians seem to emphasize their writings on the soldiers who fight the battles and negate the importance of the supporting troops, such as military police. Since these men are not on the frontlines, their stories are often overlooked. However, these support troops are vital to the army. In his comments for the book Conquer: The Story of the Ninth Army, Lieutenant General William H. Simpson credited the “supporting” troops (which included the military police) as well as the front-line troops with contributing to the success of the army. Simpson, who was the Commander of the Ninth Army, said,

To the individual soldier I give final and highest praise. Whether in a front-line line unit...or in a rearward position, performing hard and frequently monotonous and dull tasks without glamour-it was only through his spirit, courage, and ability, working in a team with his fellow soldiers, that our armies were victorious.

Major General Alvin C. Gillem, Jr., who was Commander of the XIII Corps, expressed the same gratitude and praise for the unmentioned soldiers in his introduction to One Hundred and Eighty Days:

“180 Days“ was written with all of you in mind. It is directed, in the main, to Corps troops -- the inarticulate battalions, groups or separate companies seldom mentioned in the communiques. It is the story of the XIII Corps, from the Siegfried Line to Elbe -- a story of team-play, of inter-dependent units, of doughboys, tankers, engineers, cavalrymen, wire crews, artillerymen, medics, and all the rest -- told in great measure through the eyes of the war correspondents.

Major General Milton A. Reckord, Commander of the Corps of Military Police, praised these men in the dedication to the booklet MP: “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.” These three officers recognized that the success of the group effort was dependent on the proper function of all the soldiers as a part of the U. S. Army.

Soldiers serving as military police are often not mentioned by that title. Most references are only to the necessity for one of their assigned duties, such as, the need for traffic control or road blocks. These soldiers were doing the job that the Army selected for them. They received training for security positions. Often their assignment was the solitary guard on a road or bridge. Their instructions were to maintain their post in spite of the risk to their own life.

For example, some of the soldiers to land at Normandy on D-Day were military police. Their duties were to clear vehicles, evacuate wounded, guard prisoners and unload shells.

They were not immune. The same murderous fire caught them as well as their infantry buddies. In some ways it was 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.

 

 

Background of Military Police Corps During World War II

In 1941, the secretary of war established the Military Police Corps as a permanent branch of the Army. Their peacetime duties included investigating crimes and offenses committed by persons subject to military law, “fighting crime, enforcing all police regulations pertaining to their area, reporting violations of orders...and preventing the commission of subversive acts.” Wartime duties included “the enforcement of military laws and regulations, the maintenance of order, and the control of traffic.” The branch was responsible for “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 property within the Army; and relieving combat organizations of the custody of prisoners of war and operating the prisoner-of-war system.” The corps’ strength increased from 2,000 men in 1941 to more than 200,000 by the war’s end.

The corps was also expected to assume some duties more usually associated with civilian law enforcement. These included protecting designated buildings, public works, and localities of special importance from pillage, sabotage, and damage; supervising and controlling the evacuation and repatriation of civilian populations; assisting in the enforcement of gas defense, passive antiaircraft measures, and blackouts; and performing security investigations and other general measures for security and secrecy.

The Army, in a 1943 effort to reorganize its troops for combat, assigned service units, such as military police platoons, to each army group. The military police’s functions included guiding traffic, maintaining straggler lines, and escorting prisoners. According to Kent Roberts Greenfield, one of the main reasons that the Army had military police assigned to the units was to prevent the detailing of combat troops to these jobs, which would reduce infantry strength.

 

The 822nd Military Police Company

This is the story of the 822nd Military Police Company, which began its service as the 510th Military Police Battalion and was activated at Camp Maxey, Texas on May 1, 1943. They had a fourteen-week intensive training period that included a twenty-five mile hike with full field equipment and general basic infantry training.

After receiving their initial draft notices, both Charles Lawson and George Riley were granted deferments. Charles Lawson’s high school principal interceded on his behalf, because he was only a month away from high school graduation. George Riley’s employer Graniteville Company had received a government contract to manufacturer cloth for pup tents and tarps for Army trucks. The government initially granted him a six month deferment because he was a foreman in the plant, but after three months, he received another draft notice. In July 1943, both began basic training and were assigned to the 510th Military Police Battalion. They spent about a year in stateside duty, before being sent to Europe.

The training for future military police included lectures on the importance of their top priority, “Keep traffic moving safely...Give this duty top attention, for tactical success often hinges on this factor.“ “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.“

After a two week stint at a maneuver area in Louisiana practicing their duties of road patrols, traffic and area guard, the battalion moved to San Antonio to serve as guards at Camp Fort Sam Houston for the Third Army Headquarters, and later, for the Fourth Army Headquarters. George Riley said that there were two guards at the main gate of the officers building, one to open the gate and another to salute “everybody that went in.”

The United States Ninth Army was activated in May of 1944. Lieutenant General William H. Simpson was commander of the Ninth Army for the seventeen months that it was in operation. In preparation for an overseas assignment, the 510th Military Police Battalion was relieved of their duties at Camp Fort Sam Houston and the soldiers spent the next few weeks in “hardening exercises, sports and furloughs.” The company moved from San Antonio to Camp Miles Standish in Massachusetts in June 1944. On July 1, they sailed for Liverpool, England. George Riley said that until they knew they were traveling east, the company had no idea where their overseas post would be.

Since they were military police, they were assigned duty on board the ship as guards and patrols. When they docked on July 8, the company traveled by train to Bristol, England. These men were housed in a building, to their surprise, since they had slept in pup tents while on maneuvers in Louisiana. Their duties included harbor guard, US Ninth Army Headquarters guard, town and road patrol.

Again traveling by train, the company moved to Southampton, England, to board a ship that would carry them to France. When they went ashore at Utah Beach in August 1944, they landed after dark. They marched about eight miles with full field equipment through rain and mud. They traveled to Périers, St. Sauveur-Lendelin and Mi-Forêt, France, where the rear echelon established their quarters. The company then moved to Beaugency, France, where they helped set up a prisoner enclosure for the anticipated surrender of the German Brigadier General Botho Henning Elster and about 20,000 German soldiers.

After the surrender, the company (Co. B, 510th Military Police Corps) was responsible for the control of the prisoners, as well as, searching them for weapons and guarding the captured vehicles and material. There was a shortage of personnel, but they managed to process the prisoners in a few days. George Riley estimated that there were 130 -140 American military police to process these German prisoners. He said that the Germans were not hard to control, because they had nothing left to fight with. The seized items included 500 bicycles and 500 horses. First Sergeant Kenneth Khunes recalled,

We were given the responsibility of police duties from the very start of our overseas service...Two weeks after it landed in France, the 822nd, with other units, was assigned to process 20,000 Nazi prisoners. Everybody in the outfit, including cooks and clerks, had to work on that job.

This was the company’s first big assignment in Europe and the Provost Marshal complimented the unit for their accomplishments and success in handling the prisoners in accordance with the Geneva Convention rules and approved methods of the U. S. Army. The story of this bloodless victory remained in the memories of the soldiers, as evidenced by the fact that Charles Lawson wrote a college paper about the incident and John Cress related the story to the Salisbury (NC) Post in 1994.

Rear area defense was one of the Provost Marshall’s responsibilities. In order to perfect a tight security network, military police “battalions posted heavy guard on all key bridges; patrols scoured the countryside for parachutists and enemy agents; roadblocks were thrown up around Army zones.” John Cress said that this company was classified as “combat MPs. Their job was to direct convoys going up to the front to relieve troops already up there so they could come back for a rest period. In addition to directing traffic, they had to walk patrols in towns that the infantry has already captured. We kept moving up with them.”

On October 1,1944, the company (Co. B., 510th Military Police Battalion) moved to Arlon, Belgium. Three days later, the Ninth Army Headquarters opened in the woods just on the outskirts of the town. Part of the company was split into detachments and sent to Bastogne, Belgium, Longwy, Longuyon, and Sedan, France. Since it was necessary to maintain a communication and travel network on the north/south road by Arlon, this location was about 15 miles behind the fighting. Because of the inclement weather, the group that remained with headquarters built two log cabins, covering them with shelter halves and latrine screens. Cardboard from “K” ration boxes was used as insulation.

The Ninth Army Headquarters moved on October 22, 1944 to Maastricht, Holland. Maastricht was the hub of Ninth Army’s new supply area. The location presented special problems for engineering and traffic control since it was actually an island with only three bridges, two across the Maas River and one over the Albert Canal.

In order to control the overload of traffic, “strict traffic control was enforced twenty-four hours a day. As they [vehicles] approached the access roads leading to the bridges, vehicles were classified and were directed to the appropriate bridge. Both bridges were necessarily operated as alternating one-way bridges, and, as a result, there was constant congestion on the access roads on both sides of the river.”

“Ninth Army’s position in the Maastricht region brought its first major contact with flying bombs; the Army rear area was squarely in the path of the buzz bomb attack against the port of Antwerp...Graphical analysis of the incidence of the flying bombs showed, however, that no target in the Ninth Army area was under a planned attack.” Therefore, the troops in the town of Maastricht did not launch a counter attack because it was not worth the risk of losing men, the bridges, or supplies.

Charles Lawson took his job seriously. While on duty in Europe, an air raid siren blasted, but he maintained his post. Later, his buddies, who interrupted a meal to protect themselves, said, “Why didn’t you take cover?” His matter-of-fact response was “I was on duty!” George Riley said that the men did not suffer any injuries due to bomb blasts, but a “couple landed close enough to knock them [MPs] down.” These soldiers “were knocked down by the blast...But they came back to their feet promptly, dusted off, and continued their duties.

The company (Co. B, 510th Military Police Battalion) had detachments sent to Visé (about eight miles south of Maastricht), Tongres and Hasselt, Belgium. The detachment sent to Tongres were responsible for the recovery of several thousand dollars worth of stolen property, such as foodstuffs and cigarettes that belonged to the U. S. government.

In November 1944, the company was reassigned to the XIII Corps and activated as the 822nd Military Police Company. “XIII Corps, using initially the 102d Infantry Division and the 113th Calvary Group, Reinforced, was directed to assume control of a zone on the Army north flank from the vicinity of Immendorf to Maeseyck on or about November 7, and to contain the enemy in this zone until relieved by elements of the British Second Army on or about November 15. After relief by the British, XIII Corps was directed to be prepared for further operations to the east on the left of XIX Corps.”

“The Yanks, who arrived in Hoensbroek, [Holland] on November 8, 1944, were Headquarters, XIII Corps, commencing operations under Ninth U. S. Army.... Between them and the Roer River (which was to prove a turbulent affair during the winter to come), were two German Divisions, with a total of twenty-three battalions committed, plus eight battalions in reserve, or an estimated total of 8300 troops.” In spite of the opposition, the first Ninth Army units reached the river on November 28. The bulk of the Ninth Army reached the Roer River on December 14, with a casualty count of over ten thousand with over 1,000 known dead.

The 1st Platoon moved to Teveren, Germany on November 21. They were responsible for setting up traffic post and directing the convoys that were carrying rations, ammunition, gas and other supplies to the front lines. Several times this platoon “was under heavy enemy artillery fire and saw many German planes shot down.” In December, the platoon received orders to move to Eijgelshoven, Holland.

Most of the company attended a Christmas play, sponsored by the Catholic Church, at Hoensbroek, Holland. On their first Christmas overseas, the soldiers were grateful for this gift from a people who didn’t have anything else to give. At the end of December, the company moved to Herzogenrath, Germany. Here their duties were roadblocks, traffic, and town patrol. A substation was set up in Kerkrade, Holland where a conference of generals was held. The company was responsible for escorting General Eisenhower to the meeting place.

“Operation Grenade, the drive from the Roer River to the Rhine, was probably Ninth Army’s most brilliant contribution to Allied victory in Europe.” Although the plan was to fight their way across the Cologne plain, the battle in the Ardennes created a need to send reinforcements to the First Army and delayed the plans to progress to the Rhine River. “Ninth Army...sent south, during the first week of the attack, a total of five divisions and supporting troops on a corresponding scale.”

On the second day of the German attack, December 17, the 7th Armored Division moved to the St. Vith area and the 30th Armored Division went to the Malmédy area. “Three days later, the 84th Infantry Division was en route to the south to the Hotton area. The following day the 2nd Armored Division also moved to First Army in the Celles area. On the same day, the 75th Infantry Division...moved to First Army in the vicinity of Hotton.”

“On December 20 Ninth Army passed from 12th Army Group to the operational control of 21 Army Group” because “Bradley’s headquarters were on the southern flank and the First and Ninth American Armies were on the northern shoulder of the Bulge. Two days later, “the [Ninth] Army took over from First Army the front of the VII Corps to the south, extending from Simmerath north almost to Jülich.”

Although George Riley disagreed, John Cress related that his platoon was trapped during the Battle of the Bulge. Cress said that his “outfit was surrounded for several days by the Germans and could not move. One platoon of men had gone into Bastogne, which was completely cut off from aid by surrounding enemy troops.” However, Riley believed that “there was a time or two something [the enemy] was beside us but not behind us as far as I know.” Riley admitted that the company was close enough to hear the fighting.

“Cress recalls that they were camped in tents out in the woods. Bad weather closed in and the air force couldn’t get through. So tanks and infantry were sent in. The Germans stayed back in the woods until the Americans got in. Then they came out and surrounded them. After three of four days of being surrounded there was a breakthrough and they started to advance.” Although Charles Lawson, who was with the Third Platoon, was keeping a log of his duty stations, he did not make an entry from December 8 - 21. On December 7, he was on duty in Scherpenseel, Germany (north of Aachen), then his entry on December 22 indicated that he had returned to Eijgelshoven, Holland.

“Ninth Army...improved its defensive position and regrouped its forces, enabling it to send three more divisions to the fast growing force which was to turn defeat into victory in the snow covered forests of the Ardennes.” The 5th Armored Division moved to the area of Eupen and the 83rd Infantry Division went to the Rochefort area. “The British 51st Highland Division...under operational control of Ninth Army for use as an Army reserve, moved to the Liège area.”

After the German defeat in the Ardennes, General Simpson wanted to launch his planned attack northwest to the Rhine. It was not until February 7, 1945, that the coordination was in place for the move toward the Rhine. The 822nd Military Police Company moved to the banks of the Roer River on February 27, 1945. Their first assignment was to direct convoy traffic and check vehicles for German spies. In order to shield the convoy of supplies, the river was screened with artificial smoke for camouflage. The Germans had bombed three pontoon bridges on the night before and the remaining two were essential to moving the Army forward.

Throughout European towns, the company found narrow roads. George Riley said that his job included putting up “one way” signs to direct traffic thorough the towns. “European streets were not designed to accommodate American vehicles - they were too narrow.... Almost all of the towns had town squares. We would put up signs re-directing the traffic flow so that everybody could get around.“ Charles Lawson related his fear of being hit by a tank when directing military vehicles through the towns. With the roads being narrow and the size of the tanks, his position on the side of the road was dangerous. The driver of the tank has limited visibility and turning out of the gate into the street required a sharp turn.

In early March, the company, along with other support troops, moved to Viersen, Germany. Platoons were sent to Anrath and Dülken, Germany. The Ninth Army completed closing up to the Rhine with support from the U. S. First, Third and Seventh Army along with the French First Army to the south. These troops crossed the Rhine on March 24.

On this same day, there was an air drop at Wesel, Germany, which dropped over 14, 000 troops, along with vehicles, weapons and ammunition. From a church tower in Alpen, General Eisenhower and General Simpson watched the airborne assault.

When the 822nd Military Police Company crossed the Rhine River on April 1, 1945, they “passed the spot where the airborne troops had landed. The gliders covered the fields as far as one could see.” George Riley said that it was a “sight to see. They were all over the place. Some were in the trees.“ The progress of the Ninth Army kept the company moving toward Berlin through the month of April. They continued to the towns of Hiltrup (outskirts of Münster), Herford, Minden (where they crossed the Weser River), Stadthagen and Lehrte.

George Riley related this story about the inexperience of replacement troops. Riley had left camp to take some soldiers out to direct traffic. When he returned, it was just getting daylight and there were two big trucks sitting in their area. Riley investigated by starting to open the curtain on the back of the truck, but the curtain moved and a soldier stuck his head out saying, “Must be going to rain.” Riley replied, “Why?” The soldier said, “I hear it thunder.” Riley answered, “Thunder? Did you know there’s a war going on? That’s gunfire.” The soldier’s response, “Are we that close?” Riley said, “Three or four miles.”

On April 15, the company, along with XIII Corps, arrived in Klötze, Germany. “It fell to XIII Corps to carry out the last offensive operation of Ninth Army.” On April 20, an area east of the Elbe River was taken over by the 12th Army Group. However, “this new triangular area was still teeming with German forces.” The next day, northeast of Klötze, German troops surrounded the road and began shooting at the supply convoys and capturing Americans. The military police quickly set up road blocks and “the corps sent out its Calvary units, a tank battalion, Artillery, and infantry against them and wiped the pocket out.”

One platoon of the company was assigned to guard the remains at Gardelegen, Germany where the horror of the Holocaust touched these soldiers. When a German corporal realized his truck transporting slave laborers was going to be taken by the Americans, he herded the nationals, including Poles and Russians, into a barn, doused the structure with gasoline and struck a match to the building. Outside the Germans waited with machine guns for those who managed to escape. The Americans “noticed a large fire and much machine-gun and tank action. They investigated and found the ruins of the barn.” George Riley said they were stationed in a building close to the remains.

The assignment of the company on May 3 moved them to a location between Burgdorf and Uetze, Germany to guard German prisoners at a beer tavern. Charles Lawson recalled that “May 7, 1945, brought the news that Germany had surrendered, but [he] like most of the others thought the Pacific War lay ahead.“ However, they moved to Gifhorn and then Peine. Once again, the company provided escort guard for commanding officers. On this occasion, “Major General A. C. Gillem, Jr., XIII Corps Commander,...entertained Major General Cijozov, Russian Corps Commander, and his staff in official recognition of the linkup of the two units at the Elbe River.”

After nine months and ten days of active operations, the Ninth Army was reduced and the remaining troops were reassigned to the Seventh Army. On June 12, 1945, the 822nd Military Police Company was relieved of assignment with the XIII Corps. The next day, they moved southward to Hochst, Germany, where they assumed their new duties under Lt. General Lucius D. Clay with the United States Control Council. George Riley said that this was Eisenhower‘s headquarters.

“The advance element of the company arrived in Berlin on the fifth of July 1945, being the first Military Police to arrive or to enter Berlin.” Their duties included military and civilian investigation. In August, the company joined them in Berlin where they were assigned guard duty for the United States Control Council.

On the day Charles Lawson arrived in Berlin, the Japanese surrendered to the Allies. He was happy to know that he would not be going to the Pacific, but the question on his mind was, “When was I going home?” Homesickness was just one of the emotional traumas suffered by soldiers away from home. Even though these military police had not seen battle on the front line, they faced the same psychological stresses of the combat soldiers.

 

The Psychological Stresses of War

Even though these military police were not in the midst of the fighting, they still were within enemy range. George Riley and another driver escorted some American soldiers, who had been liberated from a German prison camp, to the airport for a flight home. On the way back to their post, the other driver, who was in front, missed a right turn. Riley attempted to catch him, because Riley knew there was a bridge out ahead. As Riley passed the intersection, a bullet passed through the window behind him. When he reached the other soldier, Riley told him, we have to go back, but somebody shot at my truck. Riley said he had to cross four railroad tracks at that intersection, but he did not even slow down to make that turn.

George Riley felt that the greatest tragedy that happened while the 822nd Military Police Company served overseas was the death of their comrade Kary E. Prickett while serving with the company in Herzogenrath, Germany on February 18, 1945. This was the only death in their company. Prickett was trying to repair a communication line and was electrocuted. Two of his fellow soldiers found his body but he had already died. A tribute was made to him in the company book, Memories.

The bodies of German soldiers were often left where they fell. George Riley said that the American soldiers would force the townspeople to remove the bodies from the roadways. On one occasion, there was a body he had observed for several days that had begun to swell. He knew one American soldier who could speak German, so Riley took this soldier, from Nebraska, to the house closest to the body. Riley said, “I don’t know what he told them, but before he got back to the jeep, they were moving the body.“

In Band of Brothers, Stephen E. Ambrose told how, even with bitter feelings toward the Germans and Nazis, two members of the patrol sent to capture a Nazi, who had been the head of the slave labor camps in the area, resisted killing him. When 1st Sergeant Lynch ordered Moone to shoot the escaping prisoner, Moone reacted, “You shoot him...The war is over.”

Most Americans thought that reports of the Nazi brutality and mass murder were exaggerated or were simply propaganda. Even David K. Webster in Band of Brothers admitted that he “discounted as propaganda the stories about concentration camps and other atrocities.” It was only when reports, pictures and newsreels were shown to the public that they realized that the story of Hitler’s Holocaust was true. The soldiers who visited Gardelegen faced first hand the reality of the atrocities. Charles Lawson described Gardelegen as an average German city, but the fact that 700 slave laborers had been executed and burned there made the town very different from the norm.

When “the XIII Corps began the investigation of the remains, a few of the bodies were still burning.... The American military authorities ordered 200 of the Gardelegen male civilians to go out and bury the bodies.... The Yank guards that rode herd (sic) on these civilians fingered their triggers and were barely able to fight down an obvious urge. They were thoroughly angered and revolted. If a worker halted for a single second, he was forcibly reminded by some of the German-speaking guards just what the score was, and why they were there.”

Remarkably, a Hungarian musician, Bondo Gaza, survived the Gardelegen barn burning. Charles Lawson retold Gaza’s account, as he had shared it with the soldiers. George Riley said that he didn’t meet Gaza but he had heard stories about survivors. Gaza said that he and two comrades dug for an hour before they had a hole dug large enough to crawl out. He and one comrade waited for the German guard to walk to the other side of the building then, first rolling and then crawling he made his way two miles to a house. They hid there, without food or water for 48 hours, waiting for the Americans to take the town.

The American soldiers also saw the abuse that the helpless German people received from the Nazi government. In Hadamar, an insane asylum had been used to eliminate the patients who could not be cured. The gas chamber was used to put to sleep those who were mental ill. The building was equipped with a dissecting room and a crematory to burn the remains of the bodies.

Charles Lawson related the story of a survivor who could speak English. The man spoke of the next day, which was the beginning of a new year, January 1, 1946. “To him the new year would mean the most because he would not have to fear anymore having to go to the gas chamber...Those who still lived here in the asylum could begin...a new year and the hope for a new way of life.

The greatest tragedy for Charles Lawson while he was serving overseas was the death of his father. He expressed his regret that Christmas wouldn’t be the same without his entire family around. He had spent his first Army Christmas (1943) at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. When his father became ill in April 1944, he receive an emergency furlough to go home. His father died in 1945, and soon he received word that his mother thought it best to sell the family farm. His feelings were compounded by the fact that when he returned to the States, he wouldn’t have a home (as he knew it).

Stephen E. Ambrose, in Band of Brothers, described Easy Company’s assignment to occupation duty as “The Soldier’s Dream Life.” The company’s “job was to maintain order, to gather in all German soldiers, disarm them, and ship them off to P. O. W. camps.” In contrast to their battle front experience, this assignment may have seemed “easy.”

“The 822nd [Military Police Company] had a varied schedule, including town and traffic patrol, capture of escaped prisoners and paratroopers, and maintaining security patrol.” George Riley said they had unmentioned jobs, like going to pick up the mail, groceries and gasoline for the entire station.

George Riley was discharged in December 1944 and returned to his job as foreman at Graniteville Company. Ironically, on Veterans Day in 1948, Riley lost two fingers in an industrial accident. “He laughed and said, ‘I went through the whole war and never got hurt and came home and lost two fingers!”

On February 12, 1946, John Cress and Charles Lawson arrived in New York, on the Aiken Victory. Cress worked in the grocery business for a couple of years before taking a job as a traveling salesman for a wholesale grocer. In 1950, he bought a grocery store and, years later, converted the building to a launderette.

Charles Lawson came home from the Army and worked for two years before beginning college. He continued his education at Southwestern Seminary and, after graduation, became a Southern Baptist minister.

The 822nd Military Police Corps has maintained the bonds that they created while serving in World War II. Since 1974, they renew their friendships at an annual reunion at Hickory Knob State Park in South Carolina. George Riley said that they talk about varied subjects, but sometimes the conversation is related to their war time experiences. They also publish a newsletter that helps the veterans retain contact with, not only their Army buddies, but the widows and children of those who have died.

Every soldier, who served his country during World War II, is a hero. Although soldiers

who worked as military police did not fight on the front lines, they still served their country in the role that the Army assigned them. Their duty often placed them in a solitary position, such as a road block or bridge guard, without backup.. When they were assigned to night shift guard duty, they were responsible for the safety of their sleeping comrades.

The success of the battle was dependent on the support troops having the needed supplies, such as food, gas and ammunition, available in a timely manner. The military police were responsible, as escorts and guards, to keep convoys of troops safe and of supplies moving from the rear to the front-line. They removed both liberated Allied soldiers to the rear, and German prisoners of war to rear enclosures. The commanders recognized that the continued forward movement of their infantry was dependent on the flow of supplies to the front-lines by the combat support units, and, in the end, they praised them for their efforts.

Last modified: 29 July 2012
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