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Contents
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Getting Down and Dirty:  Basic Training..
The  475th  Military  Police  Escort  Guard  Company  (MPEG Co.) was activated at Fort Custer, Michigan,  on 25 May 1943.     Officers  were  assigned  and  set about  the  business  of  conducting  basic  training for the company at the Provost Marshal
General’s School (PMGSU) at Fort Custer.  Initially  the  enlisted  personnel  consisted  of  a cadre of experienced non-commissioned officers  (NCOs) drawn  from   other units. Some further experienced personnel were  transferred  in  from  Military Police Battalions (MPBns) that had seen stateside active duty,  which included dealing with racial disturbances in the Detroit area and some strike policing.  The majority  of  enlisted  men were from an initial draft of recruits that arrived by train from Fort Dix, New Jersey,  in early June 1943.  To  permit  the company  to attain  the table of organization (TO) strength, other enlisted personnel were transferred in from other units or at the end of basic training elsewhere.

          At the time of the  activation  of  the  475th MPEG Co.,  the  army  was  classifying  as  “limited service”  (LS)  troops  some men deemed unfit for combat duty.  Since the anticipated duty for MPEG companies was to be the guarding and “chasing” of prisoners of war at stateside,  so-called  “zone of 

the interior” (ZI) camps, a number of men classified LS were transferred  into  these  companies  at  the onset.  As a part of this policy several  “older” men had  come  into  the  475th  including   Pvts.  Harry Woods  and  Arthur  “Pop”  Gibbons  who were in their 40s.   Pvt. Woods  was  a  veteran  of the first peacetime draft of 1940, having been released after serving his  “year and a day”  term, only  to  be  re- inducted with the onset of war.
TYPICAL MODE OF TRAVEL IN WWII
Gibbons was a soft-spoken, pipe-smoking gentleman with the demeanor of a professor.  I  don’t recall when  Pvt. Gibbons  was  transferred  out,  but  Pvt. Woods  went overseas with the unit and his name appears on General Order 12, Fort Eustis, Virginia, dated 18 May 1945.

          MPEG basic training consisted of about 11 weeks  of  a  generic  type training interspersed with the additional classes and exercises specific to the role of the military policeman.    Regardless of prior training all personnel excepting the headquarters  section  clerks,  supply  NCOs,  motor-pool  people, cooks, and bakers underwent break-of-day calisthenics,  plus close-order drill, venereal disease  (VD) and “booby-trap”  films, small arms  care  and  firing,  hand-grenade  tossing,  simulated  hand-to-hand combat, bayonet drill and first-aid training. 

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TROOPS -- BEFORE ..
         When the troops were deemed  “ready,”  we crawled the length of the “Infiltration Course” under machine-gun fire with live  ammunition  and in close proximity to  exploding  “land mines.”   Culmination of our training occurred at a  simulated village street dubbed “Hitlerville.”
          Here  we  played out our childhood fantasies by   attacking    pop-up   silhouette  targets  as   we captured plywood houses peopled with them  using live ammunition (always firing “down range”) and
ending with a jump from a  second-story  platform cradling our now-empty weapons in our arms. 

          In  addition  to  the  above  listed  facets  of  “basic”  training,    MPEG Cos.    had     specialty training in military police work.    Training  officers and  NCOs   usually  were  former  civilian  police  and sheriff’s  office  personnel.   Since  the  Corps of   Military   Police      was    a    relatively    new organization,     there   was   very   little   military  literature  and  few experienced personnel to draw instructors from. 

MUDDY TROOPS - AFTER
          As a result,  much  of  the training related  to police work of a civilian nature,  particularly “town” patrol training.   Military  prisoners (criminals) were used  for  training  in “prisoner chasing.”    Chasing American soldier (GI) prisoners, who are apt to be facing long prison terms,  is  much more demanding in the ZI than is chasing prisoners of war (POWs).  GI prisoners are alleged criminals; POWs had been detained for being in the wrong place at the wrong time  and  expected  treatment  as  described  by the 1929 Geneva Convention.

           Wednesday, 18 August 1943
           “We just finished our last (I hope) hike.  It was a short 7½ mile walk without a stop.  Only two more days of basic training and I won’t be a rookie any more…”

: My memories of basic training:
          Eternal fatigue.  A sense of imprisonment...
          Dread of hikes – walking through loose sand – the truck with the tear-gas generator passing
          just at the most difficult part of the hike.
          The firing range – “Maggie’s Drawers” – “Keep that weapon pointed down range.”..
 

          The barracks Cpl. Harvey Bourdon of.
the  motor  pool  lived  on  the  main..floor..of our  barracks.  As an NCO he had pass privileges that we raw  recruits  didn’t.   Even on weeknights  he. could go to town.   When  he returned apparently inebriated, he’d delight in awakening the barracks. One song he’d treat us to went: 
 “Let’s be happy.  Let’s be gay.
Let’s declare a holiday.” 
Needless to say, we did not appreciate  his  enter-
tainment.    Once  in  a while someone would sail a 
GI boot in his general direction.
FORT CUSTER BARRACKS
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       The barracks rifle cleaning – the smell of Hoppe’s No. 9 – “Memorize your rifle number.”..
       Hanging-up uniforms forevermore the hook on the hanger shall point at the left shoulder..
        of the garment hung on it.

         Saturday, 14 August 1943  was a red letter day on my calendar.   That was the day on which
         I met the girl who was to be my wife for over  52 years;  Thelma Jean VandenBerg.   I was on 
         pass from Fort Custer and met her at a  U.S.O. dance  in Kala-mazoo.    At the time I did not 
         know that we would wed on 1 February 1945.

         21 August 1943 we entrained to be transported to our next duty station.
 


 
Footnotes, Chapter 1


1 Chasing prisoners is the terminology used to indicate guarding prisoners on work details.

2 General Order,  Number 18,  Fort  Eustis, Va.  verifying  a  Vocal  Order  (VOCO)  permitting
....addition of a Bronze Service Star to the European Theater of Operations (ETO) service ribbon.

3 September 26, 1941 -   The  Secretary  of  War  establishes  the  Corps of  Military Police as a 
....separate branch of the Army. The initial authorization calls for three battalions  and four separate
....companies, of approximately 2,000 men.   http://www.azstarnet.com/~rovedo/mph2c.html

4 After  the death of  my wife  in 1997, while looking  for other papers,  I came across  92  letters 
....that  I  had  written  her  while  in the 475th.    To add a personal note I shall interject from these
....475th-related comments from these letters.   These  will appear in italic print and will be dated in
....keeping with the chronology of events.

 

....
 
Pvt. Joseph Grimaldi (?)
Cpl. Ernest Grindler (?)
Pvt. Edward Lane

..
..
PFC. Edward B. Hughes
and BUSTER
BUSTER, The troops Mascot  -  appears in several photos
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..
Pvt. Frederick Maloney

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Privates  1. Milton Jacobs
2. Victor Guilliani    and   3. Joseph Janas

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Privates ??   Charles Prevost (top)
Joseph Janis    Milton Jacobs (front)

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Privates
Flurry Sherfy    Seymour Cohen    Joseph Gorham
John F. Belshaw    Joseph C. Grimaldi    Ray A. Roberts

..
Privates  Ernest Zollo,
Joseph Voor and Vince Marchese

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..
Pvt. Harvey Tishler

..
Sgt. John F. Smith
..Standing: Pvt. Joe Janis,  Seated: L to R
Pvts. Victor Guilliani,  ?, Milt Jacobs, Arnold Magnus