Mobility Vigilance Justice

Jan 2003 
by Irzyk, Albin F

In the grand scheme of things two events that took place in June were relatively minor in nature, but to a group of aging Cold War warriors, who still often refer to themselves as the Circle C Cowboys, the ceremonies were historic, memorable and a long time in coming.

On June 1 at Fort Riley, Kan., Maj. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, commanding general, 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) and Fort Riley, chose the day of his post open house to open the United States Constabulary Museum. He and I cut the ceremonial ribbon. Three weeks later, on June 21, before dozens of former constabulary troopers and their families, the museum was dedicated. This time the ribbon was cut by the museum committee of Bill Tevington, Ray Thomas and myself. In his remarks, on that occasion, Gen. Metz said that he was immensely pleased that he was able to play an important role in helping to keep the United States Constabulary from slipping through the cracks into oblivion. The great significance of these events at Fort Riley was that there was finally something tangible, a legacy, to prove that there had, indeed, been an organization in our Army called the U.S. Constabulary.

The day after the ceremony, an active duty major, a friend of the family, said to me, "I know that you are here for a Constabulary event, but just what is the Constabulary?"

Fifty-seven years before, Lt. Gen. Joseph McNarney, American military commander in Europe said to Maj. Gen. Ernest N. Harmon, "Harmon, you are going to be the head of the Constabulary." Harmon's blurted response was, "What's that?" Today, there is virtually no one in our nation or in our Army aware that such an organization actually existed. The United States Constabulary was a special organization created specifically for service in the occupation of Germany.

When World War II ended, the victorious nations jointly assumed the occupation of Germany by dividing it into four zones of occupation: the Russian, British, French and United States. In its zone of occupation the United States Army was faced with difficult and unprecedented challenges. There was no functioning border and no municipal, state or national police forces.

There were no governing bodies of any kind-no burgomeisters, Kreis commanders or Lander leaders in control. Further aggravating the situation, the beaten country was flooded with thousands of refugees and displaced persons desperately looking for food and shelter. As could be expected, crime was rampant.

It was the tactical units put into place right after the war that prevented total chaos. One of those elements was the 4th Armored Division.

That division had distinguished itself by spearheading the advance of Gen. George Patton's Third Army across Europe. As the war was ending, it was told that it would be a permanent occupation division. After V-E Day, the battalions of the division were spread throughout its occupation zone and were bringing law and order to the communities and assisting the demoralized German population in getting their lives back together.

During the early weeks of the occupation, I moved successively from tank battalion commander to chief of staff of the division, and had a pivotal role in what was soon to develop. At division headquarters we were busily involved in carrying out our assigned mission, when, without any warning, we were hit by a combination hurricane, cyclone and tornado. We were told that the division would be summarily deactivated and would be a division no more. This was staggering, unbelievable news. (So much for "permanent" and "division.")

What came next was even more astonishing. The division was directed to proceed with utmost urgency to divest itself of all the items that had made it a fearsome power during the war-its tanks, half tracks and armored artillery, as well as heavy engineer and ordnance vehicles and equipment. We were informed that the elements of our division would become the nucleus of a brand new organization.

Senior officials had apparently determined that, to have a successful occupation, the United States required an entirely different military force that would have to be created almost from scratch. That force had to be lighter, faster and more mobile-able to move quickly and cover lots of ground. It would be akin to mechanized cavalry. It would have a strength of about 38,000, and its missions would be incredibly challenging and demanding. It would have to control the population of a defeated and occupied territory by maintaining general security in the U.S. occupied zone of Germany. That meant that it would be maintaining order in an area equivalent to the size of Pennsylvania. That region was home to 16 million Germans, and had over a half million refugees, as well as thousands of U.S. troops within its sector. The new unit would operate under a banner which proclaimed its credo, its motto-Mobility, Vigilance and Justice.

In the reorganization, the 4th Armored Division Headquarters would become Headquarters, First Constabulary Brigade; its Combat Command A, Headquarters, Second Brigade; Combat Command B, Headquarters, Third Brigade. There would be three regiments in each brigade. Each regiment would have three battalion-sized units called squadrons (after the Cavalry) with troops instead of companies. Thus, in the three brigades there would be a total of 27 squadrons.