Military Review, March 1947..


Vigilance, Justice"
Lieutenant Colonel A.F. Irzyk, Cavalry

S-3, 1st Constabulary Brigade

Very quietly and unobtrusively a new force took control of the policing of the United States Zone of Occupation in Germany on 1 July 1946. There was no fuss nor fanfare as a brand new military organization became operational. Rather, the transition was affected smoothly, thoroughly and efficiently. The impact of this change, however, was felt at once in the entire Zone. Yellow flashes of color, characteristic of the new unit, became conspicuous all along the Zonal Boundaries and Frontiers separating the U.S. Zone from the Zones of the French, Russians, and British and from the countries of Czechoslovakia and Austria. New and brightly outfitted soldiers in their freshly painted vehicles were quickly noticed, as well, along the roads and in the towns. The Germans, Displaced Per-sons and American Troops immediately became aware of something new.

Just what is the Constabulary, what is it set up to do and how is it going about doing its job?

Late in 1945 redeployment had become virtually a torrent. The American Army of Occupation in Germany was shrinking at an alarming rate. The occupation, which had only begun a few months previously, had already reached a critical stage. With each passing day there was more and more to do and, ironically, less and less with which to do it. Obviously something had to be "snatched out of the hat" to save what might become a disastrous situation. It was a foregone conclusion by now that the size of the American Army in Germany would be inadequate to conform to the original idea of occupation. Therefore, it was only natural at such a realization to change the plan. It was decided that an answer to the dilemma might be the organization of a small, highly-trained, mobile unit that could police Germany on much the same basis as some of the better state police forces in the United States.

Such was the beginning of the United States Constabulary. Could this unit control Germany and at the same time keep to a minimum the number of troops needed to occupy the nation, and thus assist the Army in meeting the extremely difficult requirements de-manded of it? That answer is now being prepared for the history books.

Late in 1945 the United States Constabulary as such was merely a series of ideas. Early in 1946 those ideas had climbed onto paper. By February the organization and plans had been approved. To those who had just completed weeks of arduous, gruelling work the starting line had just been reached. The words and figures and numbers were to be given life. The pre-viously secret plans were now disclosed, and the persons and units that were to become part of the new organization dug in at once and began to give their creation flesh and blood and a heart.

The First Armored Division and the Fourth Armored Division, both of which had had long periods of service, had won lasting fame during long, hard months of combat and had only a few months previously been designated as probable permanent occupational di-visions, furnished the nucleus for the Constabulary. All ten operational battal-ions (three tank, three infantry, three field artillery and the reconnaissance squadron) of the Fourth Armored Di-vision became Constabulary Squadrons. The Division's Headquarters and Head-quarters Company became Head-quarters and Headquarters Troop of the 1st Constabulary Brigade, the Division's Combat Command "A" became the 2d Constabulary Brigade Headquarters and Combat "B" became the Headquarters for the 3d Brigade. Similarly, battalions of the 1st Armored Division became Constabulary Squadrons and the com-bat commands changed to Constabulary Regiments. The balance of the units and manpower were supplied by cavalry reconnaissance squadrons and tank destroyer battalions, most of whom had outstanding combat records. Thus, the beginning was auspicious, for the backbone of the Constabulary was already rich with history and tradition.

Almost immediately, however, the units were whittled down to the bone. All officers and men who would leave for home via the redeployment pipeline prior to 30 June 1946 were immediately transferred to other units. By the time the shuffle of troops was completed each organization of the new Con-stabulary force was down to a bare cadre size. There were few officers, men and vehicles. Despite such a severe handicap, the units, by the middle of March, began to take shape. An intensive and extensive training program utilizing the highest standards possible was embarked upon, and almost at once, signs of definite pro-gress was noticeable. Constabulary Headquarters, outgrowth of VI Corps, began growing and functioning. This headquarters dealt with each of its squadrons directly and separately, but soon the squadrons were being integrated into regiments and later regiments into brigades. Slowly and gradually at first, this embryo of a completely new military unit, of an experimental force used to control a defeated nation took shape, found its legs, and began to take its first unsteady steps. On 1 July little more than three months later, the unit was full grown and working.

To those on the scene the trans-formation has been well nigh un-believable. By its first working day, the Constabulary was a highly trained, well equipped, smartly uniformed, confident and capable organization that already had acquired a high morale, esprit de corps and a healthy cockiness. All this when the American Army had reached its lowest ebb in a long, long time and when practically all experienced per-sonnel had since left for home.

Today the eyes of the multitude are upon the Constabulary. The military world, especially, is receiving its recent acquisition with much interest, for the Constabulary is unlike any other military organization. As an experiment in the policing of an occupied nation, the Constabulary has the attention of much of the world focused upon it.


The United States Constabulary numbers today approximately 34,526 officers and men. This large command, headed by Major General Harmon, has a Chief of Staff and a Deputy Chief of Staff. Its general staff consists of a G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, provost marshal and a public safety officer. Except for a few variations it has much the same special staff sections as are normally found in a division headquarters but more especially a corps headquarters. As more and more problems are confronted, more sections are being added, and as a result, the head-quarters is still being expanded.

Within the headquarters in addition to the headquarters and headquarters troop, are special troops consisting of a signal squadron, a band, a school squadron, a military police company, a car platoon, an intelligence detachment, a counter-intelligence corps unit, and a representation from the criminal investigation division. Attached to the Constabulary is a special service com-pany and an ordnance medium main-tenance company, and in support is an Air Liaison Squadron.

The Constabulary, except for its headquarters and supporting troops, is divided into three Constabulary bri-gades, the 1st, 2d, and 3d Brigades. Each brigade has a headquarters and headquarters troop and its staff generally parallels the Constabulary headquarters staff except to a smaller degree. A brigadier general commands each of the three brigades.

Under each brigade are three Con-stabulary regiments. Each has a head-quarters troop consisting among others things of a horse platoon with thirty horses and a motorcycle platoon with twenty-five motorcycles. A service troop and a tank troop equipped with the latest light tanks complete the regimental headquarters organization.

Three Constabulary squadrons are an integral part of each regiment. A Constabulary squadron has six troops: a headquarters troop, three mechanized troops and two motorized troops. Mechanized troops have already proved themselves more suitable for con-stabulary operations, and because of this factor, the motorized troops have recently been furnished with additional vehicles in order to make them as mobile and as effective as the mechanized troops. Except for the tanks that are a part of regimental head-quarters, all of the operational vehicles are either "Jeeps," M-8, or M-20 armored cars. A quick glance will show that the operational units of the Con-stabulary consist of twenty-seven squadrons, nine regiments and three brigades.

Since the Constabulary covers virtually the entire U.S. Zone of Occupation, its units, of necessity, are widely scattered. Brigade headquarters are located at each of the three Land (state) capitals. The 1st Brigade is located in Wiesbaden, capital of Greater Hesse; the 2d Brigade is at Munich, capital of Bavaria; while the 3d Brigade is at Stuttgart, capital of Wurttemberg-Baden. Brigade areas conform generally to Land boundaries while squadron boundaries usually follow Kreis (small German county) boundaries. Each squadron, however, controls several Kreise.


The mission of the United States Con-stabulary, as stated in the formal, direct and businesslike tone of its directive, is to "maintain general military and civil security; assist in the accomplishment of the objectives of the United States Government in the occupied U.S. Zone of Germany (exclusive of the Berlin District and Bremen Enclave), by means of an active patrol system prepared to take prompt and effective action to forestall and suppress riots, rebellions, and acts prejudicial to the security of the U.S. occupational policies, and forces; and maintain effective military control of the borders encompassing the U.S. Zone."


To accomplish its assigned mission the Constabulary mans the border posts on the interzonal boundaries separating the U.S. Zone from the zones of the French, Russians and British and on the frontiers separating the U.S. Zone from Czechoslovakia and Austria. Intensified patrolling is done within a 1000 yard band along the boundaries and borders by foot, horse and vehicular patrols. To give further security in depth, intensified patrolling is performed by vehicular patrols within a band extending ten miles from the boundaries. Additional vehicular patrols operate constantly throughout the entire area covering hundreds of thousands of miles each week. The patrols periodically cover every road and check every town, village and hamlet.

Although border control and area patrols constitute two of the major types of operations, the mission of the Con-stabulary requires a host of others, all of vast importance. In order to discourage and suppress speeding which has caused so many fatalities in Germany, a network of effective speed traps is operated with spot punishment meted out to offenders by roving Summary Court Officers. Some of the most outstanding examples of the Con-stabulary in action have been its "search and seizure" operations. Such acts commonly referred to as "swoop raids" are levelled at areas or points where known or suspected illegal activities exist.

After much careful planning, the raiding force usually hits its objective at first light when the persons affected by the raid are still in their last moments of slumber. Surprise is essential to success and usually is obtained.

Still other functions of the Con-stabulary are the setting up of check points and road blocks, operating railroad check points and operation of Constabulary stations.

Check points and road blocks are brief affairs that constitute an extremely effective "spot check." The check points are set up without warning for approxi- mately (illegible) at crossroads and on roadsides and its purpose is to examine the credentials of every traveler that passes that point while the checkers are at work. The principle here is again surprise, and after the post has been operated a short time, and by the time the word is beginning to get out, the check point moves to a new location.

Railroad check points differ from road check points in that they are of a permanent nature and are operated just inside a border. They check every train that is entering the American Zone or departing from it. Both passengers and baggage come under the scrutiny of the troopers.

Constabulary stations are a recent development. They are merely a Con-stabulary office manned permanently by six or eight men in or near an area that is considered troublesome yet which has no Constabulary Troops stationed in it. The station will provide Germans and American troops alike with a source to contact when giving or securing information or in the event of an emergency. (The Germans have long since ceased calling the Constabulary, "Harmon's Gestapo," for they realize that the Constabulary is interested only in the protection of the law abiding and the apprehension and prosecution of transgressors.)


Continually experimenting, the Con-stabulary, on 1 July for example, took over border control from infantry units which it relieved, and troopers continued operating as all units before them had done. The border until that time had been controlled by static posts which in most cases covered roads. The posts gained the desired results only in the immediate area of the post. Prospective border violators quickly learned the locations of the posts and simply detoured them and invariably found an open spot to use in their crossing, for soldiers on post were tied closely to the restricted area of their post. (It is an impossibility to completely "close" the border.) Three weeks of experience quickly proved that static posts on the border were not the answer to most effective control of that border. The plan was changed at once to make provisions for foot, horse, and vehicular patrols that operated parallel to the border and in depth. The patrols were dispatched at irregular intervals over changing routes. Static posts have not been entirely abandoned but are still maintained in key places and on main roads. As a result, border violators never know when they will come upon a Constabulary patrol with troopers on the alert for just such individuals. The line of demarcation where border control ends and area security begins is difficult to decide, for many border violators are picked up well into the interior by vigilant patrolmen.

The Constabulary has experimented with all methods of operation in its constant quest for the "approved solution". It has tried performing its tasks with virtually all of its troops employed and conversely, it has operated with a good sized force in reserve so that a policy of frequent rotation could be used in order to keep a program of review training constantly in effect, and to prevent the heavily extended troops from growing stale.

The risk of loss in administrative con-trol in favor of added operational effectiveness was taken and small units of platoon size were placed in widely scattered areas in an effort to cut down on "backtracking" of patrols, and to have Constabulary personnel available in all localities. Sometimes before, the experiment in effect was the concentration of all non-operational troops in one locality, in an effort to strengthen administrative control. This, of course, weakened in a certain extent the operational effectiveness. Gaining valuable knowledge by its intelligent ex-perimentation, the Constabulary is pres-ently operating under a plan that combines the best features of all plans that they have tried to date. The end is not in sight, however, as it is contem-plated that at least one more shift will be made.

The Constabulary University

Much credit for the success of the Constabulary to date must, of necessity, go to Sonthofen. Sonthofen, as all men of the Constabulary know, is the Constabulary University, the institution that gives selected Constabulary Officers and men their Constabulary Bachelor's Degree. The school sits on the crest of a small hill overlooking the town of Sonthofen approximately ninety miles southwest of Munich. Constab-ulary students today study in the same classrooms where not too long ago the cream of Hitler Youth trained. Sonthofen School, originally a preparatory school for the National Socialistic Ordensburg, was constructed in 1937 under the direction of Dr. Robert Ley and Baldur von Schirach, cost $26,000,000 but was never completed. This school is surrounded by the Algaeu Alps, and provides its classes with every imagina-ble facility. Each month Sonthofen turns out a little less than a thousand trained officers and men. The Constabulary's field grade officers take an abbreviated course lasting five days. Company grade officers and enlisted men are provided with a fully-packed four weeks course that, General McNarney has said, "surpasses any previous military conditioning program." The school's cur-riculum consists of four courses: a basic course for officers and enlisted men and three specialized and technical courses for enlisted men - the communications course, the investigator's course and the desk and records course.

Each month, special trains start at the extreme ends of the U.S. Zone and con-verge upon Sonthofen picking up students all along the way. After they reach the school, the students are presented with a course of study that has rarely been equalled in Army training. Courses are thoroughly planned, effectively organized and are expertly and interestingly presented by as competent a staff of military educators as could have been assembled. Subjects include not only the normal military subjects such as maintenance, driver training, leadership, weapons, map reading and tactics, but include a host of subjects called "Constabulary Subjects." These include: passes and permits; technique and mechanics of arrest; operation of desk and records section; interrogation, confession and statements; evidence; rules, collection, preservation; traffic control and accidents and many others. The trooper's education is completed with the study of general subjects of vital interest such as: History of Germany; Potsdam Conference; Military Govern-ment; U.N.R.R.A. and Displaced Persons; International Relations; and German Courts, Laws and Political Parties. As can be seen, the education provided by the Constabulary School is varied and complete. The training must equip the school's graduates to be able to meet the great demands placed upon them.

Scope of Operations

The scope of the Constabulary's mission is tremendous. Its requirements (illegible) constantly sprinting with all the (illegible) it is able to muster. An illustration to indicate the magnitude of the Constabulary effort is the vehicular and pedestrian bridge and the railroad bridge that cross from the city of Mainz in the French Zone to the American Zone. On the former the papers and credentials of 25,000 persons were checked on a single day, while on the latter it is customary, on an average day, to check the passes and baggage of 12,000 individuals. By multiplying those two routine instances by many score, one is able to gain some realization of the tremendous responsibility of the Constabulary today.

The men of the Constabulary are not burdened with static commitments such as the guarding of prisoner of war camps, civilian internee enclosures and other vital installations. Such tasks are taken over by the few infantry units that still remain. It is the job of the Constabu-lary however, to contact periodically (as often as once every three days) the town mayors of all towns, military government detachments and head-quarters of U.S. Troop units in the Con-stabulary areas of responsibility. It is hoped that such close liaison will provide the Constabulary with all the information it requires in order to perform its mission. One of the es-pecially bright features of Constabulary operations is its utilization of German police. Cooperation between the two is good and is becoming progressively better. In very many instances the troops are working side by side with Germans with the latter giving valuable service.

One will quickly agree that the operations just discussed are quite a mouthful. What manner of men are they that are accomplishing or attempting to accomplish such an extensive task?

Youth and Inexperience

Today, the United States Constabu-lary consists primarily of young, inexperienced men. Most of them have had only a short period of overseas service, and their total time in the Army is extremely short, as well. Although approximately seventy-three per cent of the troopers are Regular Army men, one does not often see men with decorations or overseas stripes in the Constabulary. Many of the Regular Army men enlisted for a year or eighteen months, and already the enlistment is nearly completed for a large number of them. Many are already in the process of departing for home.

What is perhaps the most outstanding characteristic of the Constabulary is its youth. The average age of the Con-stabulary Trooper is twenty-two, which would indicate that a very high percentage are eighteen and nineteen years of age.

Since most men who today are assigned to the Constabulary have such little service, they must receive immediate training and indoctrination. Thus, the training of new men is a constant, important part of the Constabulary program.

It has long been assumed that top notch Noncommissioned Officers are the backbone of the army. "Old Army Non-Coms" are conspicuous by their absence in the Constabulary as in the rest of the Army overseas today, which places a tremendous burden upon the officers and upon the young enlisted men who must assume important jobs without the experience or training necessary to handle them adequately. Similarly, technical specialists which make an Army operate and function are sadly lacking. This has caused a critical situation. Radio operators, radio repairmen, mechanics, typists, and the hundred and one other specialists that pump blood into the heart of an Army are an extremely scarce commodity, indeed.

Yet, the Constabulary today is doing an outstanding piece of work as is attested by the many units and agencies which are in a position to observe or work with it. The Constabulary Troopers have an air about them and a record of accomplishments that already sets them apart from most other military units.


In order to distinguish the Constabulary and to add luster to its appearance the troopers are uniquely uniformed. Yellow is the Constabulary trademark. The Troopers' helmet liners have two bright yellow stripes around them with the Constabulary patch on the front, they wear yellow scarves when on duty and in special formations, and even the vehicles hold their own, for they, too, are hugged by wide yellow stripes. Sam Browne belts, new leather boots and visored caps are soon to be issued to all men in order to make the trooper as natty a soldier as there is today.

Lightning Bolt

The Constabulary like a young child is ever restless, never satisfied. Filled with the determination to do the best job possible, it constantly keeps its eyes and ears cocked for new ideas and new improvements. During a few months of operations it has profited tremendously by experience. Operational exigencies have found wanting the framework upon which the Constabulary was built. As a result, a program is presently underway to attempt to make changes to the Table of Organization and Equipment so that the Constabulary will be so equipped and so organized as to be able to accomplish ever better the task before it.

Thus, the unit with its well-hidden nervousness and perhaps misgivings with which it started is now well established. Still feeling its growing pains and sometimes overzealous in its eagerness to make good, the Constabulary is making now and again an inevitable mistake. No one doubts but that the Constabulary is definitely here to stay. And today all over the U.S. Zone of Germany law violators are more skittish, less confident, and less eager to take a chance; law-abiding German civilians are breathing more easily; American and German drivers alike invariably ease up on their accelerators as a Constabulary patrol passes; and the Constabulary is again showing the world that an American can soldier without being pushed by a war.

And thus in Europe today the flash of the "Lightning Bold" no longer portends a storm, but is greeted as a good omen, for the words "Mobility, Vigilance, Justice" are no longer simply words or even an expression, slogan or motto, but now represent a distinct policy, a manner of operating, a characterization of the performance of the United States Constabulary.

Thank You, Walter Elkins for sending in this copy of the Military Review, March 1947.  It is greatly appreciated.