6TH CONSTABULARY SQUADRON
THE 3RD BATTALION OF THE 14TH ARMORED CAVALRY REGIMENT
AUGUST 11, 1947 to JUNE 28, 1951
as remembered and recounted by
COL (USA Ret) Benjamin L. Landis
I arrived in Bamberg, Germany, on the afternoon of Monday, August 11, with 14 other second lieutenants assigned to the 6th Constabulary Regiment. We had climbed aboard a train that morning in Marburg, just one week after our ship had docked at Bremerhaven. There was no one to greet us at the Bamberg railroad station. No arrangements had been made for our transportation, nor for that of our luggage, to our billets, for which, we quickly learned, no arrangements had been made, either.
One of us managed to telephone to the regimental headquarters to request rescue. Eventually a 2 1/2-ton truck showed up to take us to the Bamberger Hof, where we spent the night. The next morning we reported to the headquarters and after the routine processing and briefings were assigned to the various squadrons of the regiment. Four of us were assigned to the13th Constabulary Squadron, located in the same kaserne as the regimental headquarters, and that afternoon we reported to its headquarters.
On August 11, 1947, the 6th Constabulary Squadron did not exist. In a major reorganization of the U.S. Constabulary beginning July 1 the then 6th Constabulary Squadron, stationed at Coburg, about 45 kilometers north of Bamberg, was deactivated. This squadron had originally been the 6th Mechanized Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron of the 6th Cavalry Group, the direct descendant of the 6th Cavalry Regiment that had been created in 1861 and had fought in all of America's wars from the Civil War to the Second World War. Subsequent to its deactivation, after most of the personnel had been reassigned to and had already joined other units, it was apparently brought to the attention of Headquarters, U.S. Constabulary, that it had no authority to inactivate a unit that had been established by Congress. (According to an officer who was a member of the "original" 6th Squadron and was reassigned to the "new" 6th, Congress became aware of the situation as follows: "when the orders were first issued a sergeant in the horse platoon wrote his father who was a senator I believe from New Hampshire or one of the New England states asking him to do something about it and stop it. That is when it was found out that it took a Congressional order to make the change. So we [the officer undoubtedly means the squadron, since most of the personnel had already been reassigned] didn't move. I have a copy of the order keeping us in place in Coburg."] So, it was decided to recreate the 6th Squadron by redesignating the 13th Squadron and moving it to Coburg (once the home of Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, and near which was located the Hummel figurine factory), where it would retrieve those personnel of the original 6th who had not yet been reassigned.
This had already been decided by the time of my arrival. The move of the 13th occurred on August 27 into the kaserne on the north edge of town previously occupied by the original 6th Squadron. The officers of the 13th were assigned to the newly reactivated 6th by regimental special orders dated September 15 with an effective date of September 20. The authority for the regimental orders was cited as VOCG (Verbal Orders Commanding General), Headquarters, U.S. Constabulary, September 10. Whether there is any trace in any official or historic document that the 6th Squadron had been non-existent for about 2 months is unknown to me.
The new 6th Squadron consisted of a Headquarters & Headquarters and Service Troop and four line troops, A, B, C, and D. The Headquarters & Headquarters and Service Troop had an authorized strength of 16 officers, 3 warrant officers, and 116 enlisted men. Each line troop had an authorized strength of 6 officers and 179 enlisted men. Each line troop consisted of a troop headquarters and 3 platoons, each platoon consisting of 1 officer and 46 enlisted men. The The troop headquarters consisted of 3 officers and 41 enlisted men. They were organized in a headquarters section (2-O,11-EM), an administration, mess, and supply section (16-EM), a maintenace section (7-EM), and a police operations section (1-O, 7-EM). The troop headquarters was equipped with 2 M-8 armored cars, 5 1/4-ton trucks, and 3 2 1/2-ton trucks.
In the platoons, an officer and 10 enlisted men were in the platoon headquarters, armed with 11 pistols, 6 rifles, and 3 submachine guns. They were mounted in 1 1/4-ton truck (jeep) and 2 M-8 armored cars. The rest of the personnel were organized in 2 mechanized sections of 12 EM each and 1 motorized section of 12 EM. Each mechanized section had 3 jeeps; the motorized section rode in a 2 1/2-ton truck. Each mechanized section was armed with 12 pistols, 8 rifles, 3 submachine guns, and 1 light machine gun. The motorized section was armed with 12 pistols, 10 rifles, 1 submachine gun, and 1 light machine gun.
To accomplish its mission of monitoring and protecting the zonal and international boundaries in its assigned sector the Squadron manned 4 border outposts. Starting in the West there was an outpost about 2 kilometers north of Neustadt, a small town 12 kilometers north of Coburg and opposite the town of Sonneberg in the Russian zone. Moving eastward, there was an outpost at Falkenstein north of Kronach. Much farther east on the autobahn to Chemnitz and northeast of Hof was Post # 10. Finally, on the Czechoslovakian border was Post #34 at Arzberg on the route to Eger. These posts were manned by reinforced platoons. The platoons of the Squadron were rotated among these outposts, usually staying four to six weeks at a time.
In between Post #10 and Post #34 at Sofienreuth on the road from Hof to Selb (the home of Rosenthal china) there was another border post manned by a horse platoon. This platoon was assigned to the regiment, but detached for operations to the squadron. Unlike the Squadron's platoons, the horse platoon was permanently stationed at Sofienreuth. It patrolled a wooded, hilly segment of the Czechoslovakian border opposite the city of Asch.
Shortly after the Squadron relocated to Coburg the outpost at Falkenstein was closed and its segment of the border split between the posts at Neustadt and Hof.
The 6th Squadron was the only major military unit in Coburg and its vicinity. The Squadron Commander was also the Commander of Coburg Sub Post. The only other U.S. units and agencies in Coburg were a detachment from the 427th CIC (Counter Intelligence Corps), a small Russian-American Liaison detachment and a Military Government office.
In addition to its border responsibilities the Squadron performed police operations in the interior part of its assigned area. Included in this area were the towns of Bayreuth and Hof. These operations consisted primarily of highway speed traps, shows of force, and raids on and searches of displaced persons camps. (In August 1947 there were still over three hundred thousand refugees in the U.S. Occupation Zone.) There were also rare occasions when the Squadron was called into one of these camps to prevent or suppress riots.
Training of any kind was very much limited because of the heavy requirements for personnel in border operations, in normal garrison housekeeping and maintenance activities, and in subpost support. What training there was was for the individual soldier, such as, weapons qualification, map reading, physical fitness, etc. There was no unit training, except for sporadic foot marches, oftentimes as a part of the war against venereal disease, which was one of the major preoccupations, if not the major one, of all our higher headquarters.
In order to bolster morale, to create unit pride, and to combat VD, the Squadron Commander, LTC Charles A. Corcoran, launched an intensive athletic program. Even though tackle football was prohibited at the company (troop) level by Headquarters, European Command, LTC Corcoran scrounged the necessary uniforms and equipment and organized inter-troop competition. The reason that he was able to do so was probably because of the Squadron's relative isolation and because of the lack of any major injuries resulting from the tackle football games. In addition to troop-level football, the Squadron Commander organized troop-level basketball and baseball competition in season.
In the 1947-1948 European Command battalion-level basketball competition the 6th Squadron "Dukes" won the U.S. Constabulary Eastern Division championship, but were eliminated in the first round of the European Command championship tournament, losing one game by 2 points and one by 5 points, primarily because their leading scorer was injured and unable to play. In 1948 the Squadron's baseball team won the U.S. Constabulary championship, but was eliminated in the semi-finals of the European Command championship series. With the semi-final series tied at 2 games apiece, the "Dukes", also known as the "Coburg Bully Boys", lost the fifth game in an extra-inning heartbreaker.
At the end of March 1948 the Russian blockade of Berlin was initiated. The heightened tensions precipitated a renewal of unit training at the section, platoon, and troop level. In April the squadron proceeded to implement a directive from Headquarters, 6th Constabulary Regiment, requiring an "Interim Reorganization of Line Troops" in order to expedite training and attainment of tactical proficiency." This directive was based upon 'Information reaching this headquarters indicat[ing] that the proposed reorganization of the Constabulary line troops will be approved and effective at an early date."
The reorganized line troop consisted of 6 officers (the police operations officer disappears) and 179 enlisted men. The troop was organized into a troop headquarters, 2 reconnaissance platoons, 1 rifle platoon, and 1 support platoon. The troop headquarters consisted of a command group (2-O, 8-EM) and the troop trains (28-EM). They were equipped with 2 M-8 armored cars, 4 1/4-ton trucks, and 3 2 1/2-ton trucks. They were armed with 5 pistols, 14 sub-machine guns, and 19 rifles.
Each reconnaissance platoon consisted of a platoon headquarters (1-O, 2-EM) and 3 reconnaissance sections, each section with 10 EM. Each reconnaissance platoon was projected to be equipped with 3 M-8 armored cars and 4 1/4-ton trucks.
The rifle platoon consisted of 1 officer and 52 enlisted men. It was organized into a platoon headquarters (1-O, 2-EM) 3 rifle squads, each with 13 EM, and a light machine gun section (11-EM). It was projected to be equipped with 3 2 1/2-ton trucks and 4 1/4-ton trucks.
The support platoon consisted of a platoon headquarters (1-O, 2-EM), I mortar squad (16-EM), and 1 57 mm recoilless rifle section (8-EM). It was projected to be equipped with 8 1/4-ton trucks, 2 81 mm mortars, and probably 2 57 mm recoilless rifles. The reorganization directive specified that the 57 mm recoilless rifle sections would be formed at regimental level and transferred to the squadrons at a future date.
Because of the shortage of personnel, the 3rd reconnaissance section in each reconnaissance platoon, the 3rd rifle squad, and the light machine gun section were to be activated "when personnel situation permitted]"
The new training program was briefly interrupted during the third week in June because of the conversion of the Deutsche Mark in the U.S., British, and French zones of occupation. The U.S. Constabulary was given the missions of sealing the zonal and international borders along the U.S. Occupation Zone and of transporting the new Deutsche Marks from the printing plants to banks throughout the zone. The 6th Squadron was assigned a sector from Post#10 in the north to Post #34 in the south, a sector normally patrolled by only 3 platoons, one of which was a horse platoon. The objective of the more intensive patrolling and surveillance was to prevent the anticipated rush of foreigners from converting illegally held old marks and to prevent a flow into the country of counterfeit marks for conversion. The operation lasted about one week.
On July 7 the Squadron departed for extended field training at the Grafenwöhr Training Area. The culmination of the month-long field training was a multi-day field exercise acting as the Agressor force against the 1st Infantry Division. Shortly after its return to Coburg the Squadron learned that the Constabulary regiments and squadrons would be converted into armored cavalry regiments and reconnaissance battalions, respectively, except for 2 squadrons that would remain unconverted and take over the border security mission of the U.S. Constabulary. The converted units would be primarily involved in training in order to accomplish a combat mission, to wit, defend the U.S. Occupation Zone in conjunction with the 1st Infantry Division against an attack by Soviet forces.
Prior to January 1, 1949, the scheduled date of conversion(Special Orders Number 289, Headquarters, 14th Constabulary Regiment [subsequently the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment], dated December 17, 1948, transferred the officers of the 6th Constabulary Squadron to their new units in the 3rd Battalion, 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment), a tremendous amount of work had to be accomplished. Starting in September officers and enlisted men were sent to The Ordnance School at Eschwege for courses in light and medium tank maintenance. The Squadron's Troop D was dispatched in late September to Vilseck in the Grafenwöhr Training Area to assist in the establishment of the U.S. Constabulary Tank Training Center. It then became the first unit to complete the tank training course. The 14th Constabulary Regiment, of which the 6th Squadron was part,(The transfer of the squadron from the 6th Constabulary Regiment to the 14th Constabulary Regiment occurred sometime prior to November 12, 1948) established a program at its garrison in Fritzlar to train cadres of officers and enlisted men in tank driving and gunnery, these cadres then to instruct their units.
In early November the rest of the Squadron moved to Vilseck to undergo tank training at the newly established Center and to receive the Squadron's new tanks. One of the major problems encountered by the Squadron at this time was the loss of personnel. The 3-year enlistments of a very high percentage of the enlisted men were reaching their end in the Fall of 1948. Most of the lower ranking EM were choosing to return to the United States. Although the loss of experienced Corporals and Sergeants was serious, luckily, most of the senior non-commissioned officers re-enlisted to remain in Germany. Nonetheless, the Squadron at Vilseck became an almost skeleton force.
Then, in early December the Squadron received over 350 privates, fresh out of basic training. The Squadron was obliged to create an ad hoc training center at Coburg in order to receive these recruits and indoctrinate them into the European Command and into the 6th Squadron, soon to be the 3rd Battalion of the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment. The remnants of the Squadron at Vilseck returned to Coburg on December 22.(I can no longer recall whether the tanks returned overland or by rail. Nor can I recall whether the new wheeled vehicles were received in Vilseck and driven back to Coburg or received in Coburg. I had returned early to Coburg to run B Troop’s recruit training.)
After a brief easing of the intense activity of the previous four months to celebrate Christmas and the New Year, intensive training in tank gunnery was initiated in order to prepare the tank crews for gunnery practice at the British Army of the Rhine's Tank Gunnery Range near Bergen-Hohe (by the infamous Belsen concentration camp) in the British Occupation Zone. None of the recruits had ever received any instruction in tank gunnery, and there was only a short month available before going to Bergen-Hohe. The Battalion's tank crews and its Mortar Platoon (see below) proceeded to the British range in late January and returned to Coburg on February 8. They were the first U.S, tankers to accomplish tank gunnery at Bergen-Hohe.
The new 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion of the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment consisted of a Headquarters and Headquarters Company, three Reconnaissance Companies, and one Tank Company. Troop A of the 6th Squadron became Company G; Troop B, Company H; Troop C, Company I; Troop D, Tank Company. Tank Company consisted of a Company Headquarters with two medium tanks M-26 and three Tank Platoons, each with 5 medium tanks M-26.
Each Reconnaissance Company consisted of a Company Headquarters with one light tank M-24, two Armored Cavalry Platoons, and one Rifle Platoon. The Reconnaissance Company prescribed by the TO&E published by the Department of the Army consisted of three Reconnaissance Platoons in addition to Company Headquarters. Headquarters, U.S. Constabulary, had decided that the standard organization did not meet the needs of the probable combat role of the Reconnaissance Battalion in the European Theater and, especially, was not conducive to efficient training. Therefore, the Reconnaissance Company was reorganized, as was the Reconnaissance Platoon.
The Department of the Army reconnaissance platoon consisted of a tank section with two light tanks, a scout section composed of two scout squads with two jeeps each, a rifle squad and an 81mm mortar squad. The Constabulary version, of which there were only two, not three, per company, consisted of a tank section of three light tanks M24 and a scout section of two scout squads of three jeeps each. The three rifle squads of the Department of the Army organization were formed into a Rifle Platoon, making it the third line platoon in the company. Each squad of the Rifle Platoon was transported in a 1 1/2-ton truck in lieu of a half-track. The nine 81mm mortar squads, three from each Reconnaissance Company, were formed into a mortar platoon, which was placed in Headquarters and Headquarters Company.(Eventually, the Constabulary armored cavalry regiments reverted to the standard DA TOE organization. I do not recall that this happened prior to my return to the U.S. A friend has surmised that it occurred as soon as Major General I.D. White rotated to the U.S. As the last CG, U.S. Constabulary, he was the creator of the modified organization.)
After returning to Coburg from tank gunnery practice the battalion launched itself into a program of intensive unit training, to include field exercises. The lack of corporals and sergeants was a serious hindrance to the development of effective squads and sections, and even before the departure for Bergen-Hohe the companies were obliged to appoint the best (insofar as that could be determined) of the recruits as acting corporals and sergeants. On April 15 the Battalion departed to participate in "Exercise Showers", the first European Command-wide field exercise, involving all the combat and combat support units in Germany. The exercise began April 18. As reported in the Constabulary Lightning Bolt, the Battalion after "marching tactically to the vicinity of Munchberg near Hof, fought a successful delaying action from Hof to Bamberg, jumped off across the Ludwig Canal at Bamberg and raced for Bayreuth as part of the three-pronged spearhead of the 14th Armored Cavalry. Following the capture of Bayreuth...the battalion marched on Vilseck..." in the Grafenwöhr Training Area, where it then remained for an extended period to undertake further field training. During its stay the Battalion participated in a review for General Lucius Clay, the Commander-in-Chief, European Command. The Battalion returned to its home station on June 6, but in less than a month it departed for the Wildflecken Training Area for a week of live firing field exercises and tank gunnery.
The Battalion's baseball team began the 1949 season by racking up a 27-game winning streak in regular season competition, establishing a European Command record. The first 20 wins of the streak gave it the Northern league title for the first half of the season competition.(I, unfortunately, do not remember how well the team fared for the whole season. It was undoubtedly in the Constabulary playffs, but whether it rewon the Constabulary championship I cannot recall.)
Headquarters, U.S. Constabulary established a Combat Leadership Competition for the tank platoons, armored cavalry (reconnaissance) platoons, rifle platoons, and mortar platoons of the Constabulary. In the first competition in 1949 a platoon of the Battalion's Tank Company won the Tank Platoon Combat Leadership Competition. The platoon leader was 1LT Selwyn P. Rogers; the platoon sergeant was SGT Gordon C. Tenneson. The battalion's Mortar Platoon , commanded by 1LT Joseph A. Boldizar, won the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment competition, and subsequently, the Constabulary-level competition..
In the summer of 1949 LTC Corcoran returned to the United States, as did almost half the other officers of the Battalion. After an interim of several months, during which time the Battalion Executive Officer, MAJ Roger Van Duyn, was acting commander, LTC Arthur W. Allen was designated the Battalion's commanding officer.
In the Fall another European Command-wide field exercise was conducted. The initial role of the Battalion was to represent an Agressor force attacking from the Russian zonal border down the Fulda Gap to seize the crossings of the Main in the vicinity of Frankfurt.
After returning to Coburg the Battalion recommenced a tank gunnery training program in preparation for another round of tank gunnery practice at the Bergen-Hohe Tank Gunnery Range in January-February 1950.
After participating in another command-wide field exercise in the spring, the Battalion was selected to present a demonstration for the European Command of the firepower of a Reconnaissance Battalion. The demonstration was held at the Grafenwöhr Training Area.
In May 1950 the 2d Armored Cavalry Platoon of Company H won the U.S. Constabulary Armored Cavalry Platoon Combat Leadership Competition. The platoon leader was 2LT Jess B. Hendricks; the platoon sergeant was PVT William Armstrong (A photograph of the platoon taken shortly after the competition shows no insignia of rank on his field jacket. In November 1949 Armstrong had been a PFC. At various times he had been a corporal and a sergeant. He regularly moved up and down the rank ladder.)
In June the Battalion underwent its first Annual Training Test (ATT) in the vicinity of and on the Grafenwöhr Training Area. To prepare for the test the Battalion conducted a battalion field exercise at the Wildflecken Training Area. The successful completion of the ATT was marred by the death of a non-commissioned officer in a tank accident during the night road march preceding the final attack phase .
In the Fall the Battalion was scheduled to undertake several weeks of field training at the French Army training area near Münsingen in the French Occupation Zone. This was canceled because the Battalion was ordered to relocate from Coburg to Friedberg, a town north of Frankfurt on the autobahn to Erfurt and Hamburg, in order to be better positioned to perform its assigned combat mission, namely to fight a delaying action against a Soviet attack down the Fulda Gap. This was also the period in which additional divisions and other major units were sent to West Germany because of the heightened fears of a Soviet attack as a result of the U.S. intervention in Korea.
The relocation took place in November. Shortly afterwards and again in keeping with its combat mission, the Battalion established a forward camp off the autobahn at the head of the Fulda Gap overlooking Bad Hersfeld and the Fulda River. This camp, given the name "Camp Highlands" was occupied by the Reconnaissance Companies of the Battalion in rotation. Each Reconnaissance Company had a tank platoon of Tank Company attached.
In early 1951 Headquarters, U.S. Constabulary announced that the Battalion had earned the award as the Best Reconnaissance Battalion in the U.S. Constabulary for the year 1950.
In January-February 1951 the tank crews of the Battalion accomplished their annual tank gunnery practice at the Bergen-Hohe Range. The canceled field training at the Münsingen Training Area took place in the late winter. The battalion participated in the European Command maneuver "Spring Carnival".
The first week in June the Battalion moved again, this time to Bad Hersfeld.
On June 28, 1951, I left the Battalion and headed for Rhein-Main Air Base to fly back to the United States.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This narrative history is based on my recollections as well as on the various documents I still have in my possession. Wherever a precise date is written it is based upon a document from that period, such as, orders, letters, newspaper articles, etc. I would very much enjoy and appreciate hearing from those of you who were there with me and can add information and details that my memory and documents do not cover.