||Getting Down and Dirty:
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.
|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.
| 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.
18 August 1943
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:
A sense of imprisonment...
of hikes – walking through loose sand – the truck with the
tear-gas generator passing
just at the
most difficult part of the hike.
firing range – “Maggie’s Drawers” – “Keep that weapon pointed
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
GI boot in his general direction.
barracks – rifle cleaning – the smell of Hoppe’s No. 9 –
“Memorize your rifle number.”..
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.