United States Constabulary 1946-1952

Walnut Creek, CA

Very few people have heard of the U.S. Army Constabulary, even veterans. It has been largely overlooked by military historians. For two critical years following World War II, 1946-1948, it was the primary police authority in a disrupted and devastated Germany. At the end of the war, hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced persons were loose and free with no means of support or a way to go home. It fell to the army to house and feed them. Many of Germany's cities were reduced to rubble and food was scarce, even for the military.
In October 1945, General Eisenhower announced formation of a special constabulary force of 38,000 men to control the U.S. zone of occupation. It was envisioned as an elite force, composed of young high-caliber volunteers, anchored by combat veterans. Its mission was to maintain military and civilian security, control the borders between West and East Germany and Czechoslovakia, arrest black marketers and Nazis in hiding and conduct general law enforcement.
The 4th Armored Division and seven cavalry groups were earmarked to form the new Constabulary. The 1st Infantry Division was to act as strategic back-up, both reporting to the U.S. Third Army. Major General Ernest Harmon was appointed commander on Jan. 10, 1946, and formal activation slated for July 1, 1946. He organized the Constabulary into three brigades made up of nine regiments, composed of 27 squadrons. Each regiment was assigned a light tank troop and a horse troop (the last horses to serve in the army overseas). These were well-suited for border patrols. In the beginning, there were only 7,500 troopers. By 1948, its numbers reached 30,000. The main Constabulary training camp was located in Sonthofen, the southernmost town of Germany, in the Bavarian Alps. This was the site of the former Nazi youth training school. The total occupation forces in Germany and Austria at that time was around 300,000.
Constabulary troopers wore distinctive uniforms, which included a helmet with Circle C insignia, a Sam Brown belt with a holstered 45 pistol, a yellow scarf and polished paratrooper boots. The Germans called them "Lightning Police," and to other army troops they were called "Circe C Cowboys."
The Constabulary ceased to exist Dec. 15, 1952, when it became Headquarters of the U.S. Seventh Army. It had existed for only six and a half years and will be remembered by only a few, mostly descendants. However, there is a Constabulary Museum at Fort Riley, Kan., and a memorial at Fort Knox, Ky. There was a Constabulary Association active for many years but was disbanded in 2018 because of aging and dying membership.

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