Cold War Mounted Warriors: U.S. Constabulary in Occupied Germany

United States Constabulary
Army of Occupation
Germany and Austria 1946-1952

<>M8 light armored car
<>M20 light armored car
M24 light tank

For greater mobility, the troops were equipped with jeeps and M8 and M20 light armored cars. Ten light armored cars were assigned to each troop… Also, supporting weapons, such as recoilless rifles and mortars, were provided. Troopers were armed with pistols, and when necessary, with rifles and sub-machine guns. Provisions were also made for motorcycle and horse cavalry troops, and L5 observation planes. M24 light tanks were positioned as mobile reserves in and around major cities when a show of force was necessary.

Armor Magazine

Fort Knox: Sep/Oct 2007. Vol. 116, Iss. 5; pg. 26, 9 pgs

Abstract (Summary)

Immediately, Harmon went to work, outlining his proposed mission for the U.S. Constabulary: To maintain general military security and to assist in the accomplishment of the objectives of the military government in the occupied zones of Germany and Austria by means of an active patrol system prepared to take prompt and effective action to forestall and suppress riots, rebellions, and acts prejudicial to the security of the U.S. occupational forces. For the first time in U.S. military history, a peacetime integrated armed force was created under a single command and employed as a defensive deterrent supported by American nuclear power.


As the post-World War II U.S. Army was rapidly downsizing, a new breed of mounted warriors emerged to deal with the political, military, economic, diplomatic, and personnel turbulence of occupation and communist expansion. There were, however, serious doubts about tiieir ability to succeed as the cold war began to escalate. As Carl von Clausewitz noted, the study of war and lessons learned are significant; however, each new age of warfare takes on a nature all its own. This is the story of the U.S. Constabulary during a period of international tensions.

In May 1945, Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill advised President Harry S. Truman, “An iron curtain is drawn down upon their [Soviet Union] front. We do not know what is going on behind.”1 At the end of me year, Allen W. Dulles, from the Office of Strategic Services and later director of the Central Intelligence Agency, addressed the Council of Foreign Relations. He noted, “Germany today is a problem of extraordinary complexity,” adding, “It defies a solution.” In East Germany, Dulles said, “An iron curtain has descended over the fate of these people and very likely conditions are truly terrible.”2

Events in Germany began to move rapidly toward unmanageable chaos. When the Nazi regime was totally defeated and surrendered that spring, the U.S. Army entered into a period of displacement. The war was won and American troops in Frankfurt, shouted, “We wanna go home.”3 The mood of many soldiers had drastically changed. By the end of 1945, redeployment back to the United States became almost a surge. Experienced war veterans were clamoring for their “ruptured duck,” an insignia worn on the right chest signifying honorable discharge. Mountains of wartime equipment were stored and began to fall into disrepair.

The Soviet military was also undergoing reorganization in meir occupied countries. Unlike the United States, Premier Joseph Stalin was determined to keep a formidable force in Eastern Europe, equipped with a staggering number of offensive tanks manned by over a million men. Even before me United States could implement a suitable military government policy, me Soviet high command began a major reconstruction of its military forces. The emphasis was placed on greater mobility with large mechanized formations and new equipment. The provocation for a military conflict with the Soviet Union was becoming more and more a possibility.

Furthermore, the Red Army began expelling millions of Germans from their former territories in the east and Sudetenland. Traditional German boundaries were redrawn as determined by President Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. Meanwhile in the American zone, depleted American military units became primarily static, trying to manage not only German refugees but also displaced Poles. In addition, anti-Semitic attacks and pogroms in Soviet-occupied Poland in 1945 and 1946 led to the immigration of thousands of Jewish refugees into the American zone.

Lieutenant General Joseph T. McNarney had more than a daunting summons. He succeeded General Dwight D. Eisenhower in November 1945 as the military governor and commander of U.S. forces in the European theater. How was he going to bring some semblance of order to the chaos in the occupied American zone? What type of organization and leadership would be required to establish structural integrity for a country destroyed by total war and undergoing disarmament and demilitarization? Adding to this process was the growing political discord between the victorious powers.

The man General McNarney chose to “inherit the wind” was a cavalryman and armor warrior, Major General Ernest N. Harmon. Known for his profane language in the tradition of General George S. Patton, he became the driving force to construct an elite mobile force based on the wartime cavalry organization model. Harmon believed the cavalry spirit was ideal for operations in the unruly atmosphere existing in the American zone. He planned to have the Constabulary fully organized and operational by 1 July 1946, with a mobile force of up to 38,000 men to patrol 40,000 square miles, including 1, 400 miles of interzonal boundaries. Approximately 16 million Germans lived in this area composed of flatlands, hills, mountains, and forests all crossed by numerous meandering streams.4 Most provocative, however, were Red Army forces positioned in eastern European countries.

Immediately, Harmon went to work, outlining his proposed mission for the U.S. Constabulary: “To maintain general military security and to assist in the accomplishment of the objectives of the military government in the occupied zones of Germany and Austria by means of an active patrol system prepared to take prompt and effective action to forestall and suppress riots, rebellions, and acts prejudicial to the security of the U.S. occupational forces.”5

General Harmon’s mobile force was under me command of another cavalryman, Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott Jr., commander of the Third Army. Known for his gravel voice and a determination to win, Truscott once told his son every good commander must “have some son-of-a-bitch in him.”6 Though too optimistic, his idea was to use the Third Army as a general reserve tactical force and the Constabulary as a first line of mobile defense.

Part of General Harmon’s planning team were Colonels William S. Biddle, former commander of the 113th Cavalry Group, and Charles H. Reed, former commander of the 2d Cavalry Group. BoUi had impressive wartime records. After the war, they became important members of the general board on evaluating wartime mechanized cavalry operations and equipment. Harmon told the surprised officers, “operational elements of the occupational forces were to comprise two major forces - a tactical force, comprising roughly of a corps, and a Constabulary force.”7 Reiterating Truscott’s intent, Harmon mentioned to his team that before the Constabulary could be used as a mobile defense force it had to restore order in the American zone.

The planning team decided, with Harmon’s concurrence, to establish a table of organization and equipment for a multi-capable police security force. The Constabulary was to be organized in three brigades with three regiments each. Each regiment had three squadrons of five troops.

However, their equipment excluded heavy weapons, such as self-propelled artillery, medium tanks, and tank destroyers. For greater mobility, the troops were equipped with jeeps and M8 and M20 light armored cars.

Ten light armored cars were assigned to each troop. In addition, two troops were motorized with 1 1/2-ton utility trucks. Also, supporting weapons, such as recoilless rifles and mortars, were provided. Troopers were armed with pistols, and when necessary, with rifles and sub-machine guns. Provisions were also made for motorcycle and horse cavalry troops, and L5 observation planes. M24 light tanks were positioned as mobile reserves in and around major cities when a show of force was necessary.8

The 1st and 4th Armored Divisions, and wartime cavalry groups became the nucleus for the Constabulary. Major General Fay B. Prickett, who commanded the 4th Armored Division, was stunned by Harmon’s new proposal. At the time, the division was deployed as a tactical static occupation force. Part of Prickett’s team was another cavalryman, Lieutenant Colonel Albin F. Irzyk, who recalled, “We were hit by a thunderbolt.” Like many in the 4Div, Irzyk was astonished over the new police security mission, “we were forming a unit such as had never before been in the Army. This was a completely new drawing without any precedent.”9 Prickett had to divest the division of the armored equipment that propelled it across Europe and create an organization with light mobile equipment.

To establish pride in his unique unit, Harmon prescribed a readily distinguishable uniform. He chose the combined-arms symbol and modified it. Like the armor insignia, he selected the colors blue and yellow with a red lightning bolt. The insignia colors, however, were rearranged. The spirit of the insignia signified the quick striking power of a mounted unit. Vehicles and special helmet liners were rimmed with yellow and blue stripes. The unit’s motto, “Mobility, Vigilance, Justice,” became the watchword throughout the American zone.

Critical to the development of leadership, Harmon and his staff prescribed a training school for the new force. His emphasis on leadership was always a priority. He once stated, “More training must be devoted to the meaning and requirements of one’s combat mission. This will require commanders of all echelons to be more careful and concise in the assignments of the mission.”10

In March 1946, the Constabulary Training School at Sonthofen was established in the southernmost tip of Bavaria. The proposed school had an interesting history. It was Adolph Hitler’s strong belief that a force of arms never defeated Germany during World War I. Germany’s problem, he stated, was due to a lack of strong uniformed political leadership. The objective was to form a preparatory school for the National Socialistic Ordensburgen, which meant a castle of a religious order or fraternity. As a result, a male youth school was created on “behalf of and for the Nazi Party.” Selected students were expected to be of Aryan descent, in perfect health, demonstrating an unimpeachable character and a proficiency in sports.

Also considered were leadership abilities while members of the Hitler Jugend. Nazi Party leaders, not parents, selected students. They were to be guided by the principle, “state first, individual second.” The school was named “Die Adolph Hitler Schule.”

The guiding educator at Sonthofen was Colonel Henry C. Newton, who graduated from the Los Angeles Polytechnic University and was commissioned in field artillery. During World War II, he had considerable experience with the armored force at Fort Knox, engaging in research and tactics on armored infantry. He was also instrumental in organizing and commanding the Armored Force Officers School, which included courses in tactics and techniques in armor warfare. The school’s graduates referred to the institution as, “Newton’s College.” Newton’s new mission at Sonthofen was to manage and coordinate the activities of six academic departments, tactics, communication, vehicle maintenance, public safety, general subjects (map reading and unarmed defense), and geopolitics. The latter department provided courses on German history, the country’s geography, politics, and characteristics of the German people.” To assist in training, the Trooper’s Handbook was distributed to all Constabulary

units. 12 The book was written under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel Warren D. Haskell, a former state police commissioner. Eventually, the school became the heart and soul of the Constabulary.

To facilitate his movement throughout the American zone, Harmon liberated former Reichsmarschall Hermann W. Göring’s private train and had it painted in Constabulary colors. However, he kept Göring’s interior fittings intact because it “suited my purpose just fine.”13 When he stepped from his train, Harmon was impeccably dressed with cavalry britches and highly polished boots. This demeanor became his hallmark, and for some young officers and troopers, created many anxieties, especially those who did not meet his expectations. Senior officers greeted him with snappy salutes, which were returned in kind. Many of his public actions were also designed to impress the Germans. At first, they called the Constabulary, “Harmon’s Gestapo.” Soon the population realized the troopers’ importance in maintaining law and order and attitudes began to change. The Germans now had another name for the Constabulary, “Blitz Polizei.” Harmon remembered the populace of Munich calling his arrival, “The Second Coming.”14

No doubt, Harmon left an unforgettable impression. One trooper recalled the general coming on like a tiger. On one occasion after a detailed squadron inspection, he made a “ferocious speech laced with every known profanity and a few that he must have created. We thought that he was really something.” Another newly arrived trooper recalled Harmon stating, “It was time to get off our beer-soaked asses and become soldiers again.”"

When Colonel Biddle from Harmon’s planning staff took command of the 11th Constabulary Regiment, he was not as abrupt as his boss: “Troubles are not new to the 11th Cavalry. For example, in 1901 [when the regiment was organized], the commander of the 1st Squadron telegraphed the War Department for more officers, saying, ‘I have 400 horses that have never seen a soldier, 400 recruits that have never seen a horse, and four second lieutenants that have never seen either a soldier or a horse.’” Biddle added that the squadron got over that hump. He reminded his command that me 11th Cavalry’s motto is “Allons;” in oilier words, “let’s go.”16

Meanwhile, Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson announced in April 1946 a planned merger of the cavalry and armored force into a single combat arm. The War Department advanced this opinion based on wartime experiences and President Harry S. Truman’s initiative for service unification. The Army had already prompted some preliminary unification earlier with the abolition of horse cavalry units, which were formed into mechanized cavalry groups and cavalry reconnaissance squadrons during the first years of the war. However, Harmon planned to reintroduce horse cavalry units to traverse rough terrain and neutralize hostile crowds and riots.

When Secretary Patterson made his announcement, the Constabulary was experiencing its most taxing organizational period. Nevertheless, Harmon was determined to complete his mission, even though more and more American soldiers were demanding to be demobilized and sent home.

Before long, me question of fraternization became a volatile issue. Most German and Austrian civilians resented fraternization with American soldiers. German women who did were loathed and insultingly referred to as “Yank brides” and “chocolate girls.” The Germans felt the policy of open fraternization led to serious disturbances. Part of the problem was the failure to understand the situations that led to prostitution by many Fräuleins. For them, it was a period of wartime desperation. They had to rely on basic human needs for survival. Many had children and families to support. This obviously made it difficult for the Constabulary to curb the oldest profession. More so, Constabulary headquarters feared that German resentment regarding American soldiers having relationships with Fräuleins could lead to the birth of a new German nationalism.17

Another display of resentment occurred when a Bürgermeister’s wife gave a Nazi salute followed by, “Heil Hitler” to a Constabulary patrol passing through a small town. These leftover attitudes of Nazi feelings were not uncommon among many Germans. The Constabulary also discovered subversive clubs, whose purpose was to place obstructions and decapitating wires on and across roads frequented by U.S. military patrols.18

That critical April, a counterintelligence corps (CIC) detachment was assigned to the Constabulary. This relationship was especially important during cases of Frageboden violations. A Frageboden was a questionnaire used by the American military government to identify Nazi officials, such as party members and dreaded members of the Sturmabteilung (SA) and Schutzstaffel (SS) who attempted to falsify questionnaires to avoid arrest. While coordinating with the Constabulary, the CIC interrogated and apprehend many suspected National Socialistic officials. By the end of 1946, Constabulary troopers apprehended 22,000 illegal border crossers and turned them over to me military government for legal disposition. Due to activities of the troopers and German border police, this negative trend was gradually reversed until the Czechoslovakia crisis in 1948.

To supplement Constabulary operations, Harmon used reconstituted German border police, whose members were selected only after being cleared of any connections with the National Socialist Party, its philosophy, and members of the SA and SS. The formation of such a force had a positive effect on me civilian population. More so, it allowed the Constabulary to spend more time monitoring political agitators, displaced persons, border incursions, and gathering intelligence.

A year after the war ended, it was still evident that security threats in the American zone continued to come from local and infiltrating communists, former Nazis, and a restless German population. Adding to these concerns were two divergent and problematic groups of displaced persons - the Poles and Jews. For centuries, the Poles hated the Germans for past territory violations and invasions. The Jews, in turn, wanted revenge for the Nazi Holocaust. With the Holocaust behind them, many were anxious to move to their traditional home in Palestine. Consequently, they had no desire to assimilate into the German population because of the Nazi anti-Semitism that still existed.

Another problem Constabulary headquarters became aware of was the issue of dismantling and reparations. The communists, more man the other zonal powers, were determined to strip East Germany of heavy industry, plus acquire what they could from West Germany. The rationale was that the Soviet Union demanded Germany make good their war losses. Stalin’s goal was to transform his occupation zone into a single-party communist political system and, at the same time, denude the economic base for a unified Germany. Coal mining equipment, aluminum, locomotive engines, jet engines and ball bearing plants, just to mention a few, were among the wartime industries dismantled. The Krupp works and LG. Farben chemical facilities located in the Eastern zone met the same fate. Hydrogenation plants that were producing synthetic gasoline were totally dismantled and sent to the Soviet Union. They did not hesitate to dismantle all plants engaged in manufacturing arms, ammunition, tank parts, and other military equipment.19

During the first 6 months after becoming fully operational, Constabulary elements uncovered numerous black-market rings involving scarce merchandise, much of which was coming from the Soviet zone. Germans, Jews, and Poles operated the illegal rings. By the end of the year, 2,681 major black-market operations were exposed. The problem leading to this situation was an overabundance of currency and a scarcity of agricultural goods, which were being hoarded by German farmers. Also the black marketeers dealt with jewelry, drugs, cigarettes, clothing, large sums of money, and aforementioned agricultural goods. Most of the Constabulary “swoop raids” were conducted in displaced-persons camps and German homes. One typical example occurred in November 1946 when a Constabulary squadron discovered the largest cache of black-market money at the time. An alert sergeant found over two million Reich Marks hidden in a civilian sedan crossing over from the Soviet zone into the American zone.20

An exciting Constabulary mission for these young troopers was to chase down cattle rustlers, which was a flourishing business as soon as the war ended because of the huge demand for fresh meat. Horse cavalry elements gained the honorable distinction, as did many of their fellow troopers, of being called “Circle C Cowboys.”

The Constabulary also had a serious problem with refugees from the Baltic countries. They had no desire to return to their homelands, which were overrun and now occupied by Soviet military forces. The most sensitive issue was the situation of the Ukrainians and anti-Soviet Russians, many whom had joined the Nazi war machine. Other refugees in eastern European countries, such as Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Rumania, fled their homelands and refused reparation. These people resented the Soviet Union’s domination and communization of their homelands.21

One of the least recognized activities was the Constabulary’s G2 function. A historian later wrote that the intelligence net created by Colonel A.R. Reeves, assistant chief of staff, Constabulary G2 section, was “exemplary.” This was because the Constabulary was spread throughout the American zone, and as a result, they were able to acquire pertinent information. Each trooper was constantly reminded to be “intelligence-conscious.” Weekly classes were held on how to cooperate with other intelligence agencies. These intelligence operations were critical; they kept the military and political network abreast of all activities that potentially threatened internal security, such as communists and socialists engaging in promoting strikes, population unrest, propaganda activities, and supporting political uprisings and riots.22

Aside from the intelligence and police security missions, Constabulary elements paid considerable attention to political activities of the KPD (German communist party) and SED (socialist unity party of Germany). The military government, now under the command of General Lucius D. Clay in Berlin, was concerned over the shortage in essentials of life, such as food, shelter and clothing, in the American zone. This could lead to political agitation, plus the potential for a major German uprising directed against American supply areas and command posts.

The military government made Reeves’s G2 section aware that interviews with various German communists and socialist party members indicated their prevailing suspicious attitude of anything American. The communist agitators demonstrated a mood that was becoming increasingly more antagonistic. Reeves observed that the transition from wartime cooperation to the current period of suspicion and dislike was reflected in the communist publication, Das Neue Wort. One article noted that KPD members in the American zone were convinced that a final military conflict between communists and capitalists was inevitable. Reluctantly, a few members of the KPD and SED interviewed admitted that in the Soviet zone political freedom was restricted, reasoning, “it only affected the reactionaries who deserve to be restricted.” As the Soviet Union was consolidating its control over their zone and Eastern Europe, its authoritative one-party communist system did not tolerate dissenting opinions. German communists rationalized that the Soviet zone was more “security-conscious,” because it was, as paranoid propagandists would have it, under constant attack from the west.23

In September 1946, Secretary of State James E. Byrnes delivered his startling Stuttgart speech indicating there would be a change in U.S. foreign policy regarding the German economic situation. It was evident that Germany could no longer be treated as a separate economic unit for each occupying power. Byrnes stated that it was obvious that the military role of the allied powers in western Germany had changed. At first, it was one of occupation and control; the new goal was to defend and revitalize Germany. Byrnes let it be known that me removal of heavy industries by the Soviets should not be continued. Now, he argued, there was a necessity for generating peacetime German economy, trade, and self-sufficiency.24 Consequently, the United States and me United Kingdom moved to create Bizonia as a single economic unit and suspend dismantling operations.

By now, the most noticeable effect redirecting the Constabulary’s mission was the result of the breakdown of the Four Power Authorities (United States, England, France, and Soviet Union) arrangements over the sensitive issue of German reparations. At the end of 1946 and into 1947, Stalin tightened his totalitarian grip over conquered countries. President Truman, along with a concerned state department, believed communist expansion was bent on probing for European economic and political weaknesses. These events now signaled the President to issue early in 1947 historic doctrine that provided economic and military assistance to deal with the immediate communist menace in Greece and Turkey.

The impact of a new direction in U.S. foreign policy was based on containment and a fear of appeasement. With this in mind, the War Department made a final decision a year after Secretary Patterson’s announcement that the cavalry and armored force be consolidated into a single armored cavalry arm. The combination term “armored cavalry” soon became controversial and unpopular because of branch disagreements. The traditionalist upheld the term “cavalry” because of long historical association with horses and the modernist felt armor and mechanization was the new method of warfighting requiring an independent designation and branch.25

Nevertheless, the transition to a tactical force was put in motion. General Clay, the military governor, told Lieutenant General Albert C. Wedemeyer, director of Army Plans and Operations at the Pentagon, that arrangements had been drawn up to round out U.S. forces in Europe. Clay proposed to reorganize me Constabulary into armored cavalry regiments, with two additional supporting artillery battalions. Clay also requested three armored infantry battalions from the states to be incorporated into armored cavalry regiments as a combined arms mobile force.26

By now, General Harmon felt he had set the course, and it was time for a new commander. Organizing the Constabulary had taken its toll on the armor warrior. Setting up a police security force at a time of rapid demobilization of officers and enlisted personnel had been more than an exhausting challenge. By early 1947, the Constabulary had reached its peak strength of nearly 30,917 men. General Harmon lamented that the Constabulary was constantly suffering from a loss of trained personnel due to persistent turnovers. On 1 May 1947, Major General Withers A. Burress took command.

It was now evident that the Constabulary elements were becoming engines of change. Plans were made to inactivate most units and reorganize the 2d, 6th, and 14th Constabularies into armored cavalry regiments.

In June 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall launched his economic assistance plan designed to deal with the plight of Europe, which was still responding from the destructive nature of total war and the demonic effects of hunger, poverty, desperation, and harsh European winters. Stalin’s foreign minister, VM. Molotov, rejected the plan, calling it a capitalistic scheme that meddled in the internal affairs of other countries. Stalin made sure that east European countries under Soviet occupation did not comply because part of the Marshall plan required participating nations to have freely elected democratic institutions.

While the debate was going on over the Marshall plan, the Constabulary G2 received an alarming report in August from the European Command advising that the Soviets were operating three uranium mines in Czechoslovakia with hundreds of German prisoners of war. One mine was reported to have the richest uranium vein in Eastern Europe. Once extracted, the ore was crushed, washed, rinsed, boxed, and rushed to the Soviet Union.27

During General Burress’ tour, tensions became even more volatile when a communist coup occurred in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, causing again a large flow of Sudeten Germans and Volksdeutsh from other east European countries into the American zone. The creation of another Soviet satellite caused intense intelligence gathering by Reeves’s G2 and CIC elements. It seemed this international provocation by the Soviets would accelerate the organization of armored cavalry regiments. However, diplomatic efforts were not in agreement with military capabilities. No sooner had General Burress taken command when the European Command advised him that troop cuts were again expected.

The major personnel and equipment problems had originated in the United States. The President and Congress routinely cut Army budgets while a national military strategy began to rely more on nuclear weapons. An economy-minded, Republican-controlled Congress made the Army’s future unstable. An influential Republican isolationist and proponent of limited government, Senator Robert A. Taft, challenged the country’s post-war role in internationalism. The Ohio senator was not enthusiastic about committing American ground forces in Europe. For national defense, he supported the Navy and a strategic policy relying on nuclear airpower. The military cuts were so drastic that during his tour as chief of staff, General Eisenhower remarked that implementing me rapid demobilization of the wartime Army was more unpleasant than being head of the occupation forces in Germany.28

Meantime, Major General Isaac D. White had succeeded General Burress. White served under Harmon during the war as an armor commander, later commanding the 2d Armored Division. At the time, he commanded the Cavalry School at Fort Riley, Kansas. His mission, beginning in May 1948, was to continue to reorganize the Constabulary based on an Army general board report for a new table of organization and equipment for new armored cavalry regiments (light). Lieutenant General Clarence C. Huebner, the commander of U.S. ground forces in Europe, told White to reform the Constabulary from a police security force to a multitasked, hard-hitting armored cavalry fighting force as soon as possible.

Like his predecessors, General White’s mission was far from easy. He had the task of organizing and training a new military force predisposed by personnel turbulence, budget cuts, equipment problems, and the uneasiness of the cold war. The tactical concept he perceived was to use armored cavalry as a fast-moving, combined-arms team to penetrate and disrupt the enemy’s communications and supply installations. His view was to mold armored cavalry into a self-contained organization similar to the regimental combat teams of World War II known for their ability to use cavalry tactics of exploitation and pursuit.29 In June 1948, the Constabulary school at Sonthofen was closed.

That same month, the Soviet Union withdrew representatives from the quadripartite administration of Berlin. Days later, the western powers officially announced currency reform for Trizonia (United States, England, and France). Consequently, the Soviets stopped all ground traffic in and out of Berlin. Thus, began the infamous Berlin blockade, which was finally lifted in May 1949.

Colonel George A. Rehm, meanwhile, reported to General White and took command of the 6th Armored Cavalry. Rehm’s objective was similar to what was happening with the other armored cavalry regiments. For example, he immediately began a rigorous training schedule, stressing the importance of armored cavalry as a mobile defense element. The problem he had, as did the other armored cavalry commanders, was ensuring the regiments could defend the American zone with fewer soldiers all armed with worn-out World War II equipment. Thus, Huebner and White’s tactical ideas at the time were far from realistic. In reality, the armored cavalry regiments became more of a defensive combat force. Unfortunately, the armored cavalry regiments’ tactical recourse was to act as tripwires if the Soviets crossed the border with their massive manpower and tanks.

The doctrine directing the reconstituted Constabulary elements to armored cavalry regiments was finally resolved by the end of the decade. The regiments were to deploy as a light armored force “to engage in offensive or defensive combat, either mounted, dismounted, or a combination of both, primarily in execution of security and reconnaissance missions.”

The principle of economy of force was added to the field manuals, meaning high commanders now had the means to discriminate employment and distribution of their forces. In addition, the regiments were to be tasked as screening, reconnaissance, and counter reconnaissance elements as prescribed by higher echelons for independent action without reinforcements.30

Finally, the Constabulary’s intelligence, and police security missions came to an end. The United States, England, and a reluctant France, agreed on an occupation statute for western Germany, assuring the Germans self-government and economic independence. All dismantling provisions and industrial restrictions had been removed, giving West Germany more economic freedom and opportunities. On 8 May 1949, the Basic Law was adopted and the Federal Republic of Germany was established with Bonn as its capital. Meanwhile, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed and went into effect in August 1949 as a defensive counterbalance to expected Soviet aggressive overtures. For the first time in U.S. military history, a peacetime integrated armed force was created under a single command and employed as a defensive deterrent supported by American nuclear power. There was no place for a Constabulary in this new international arena and a restored democratic West Germany. The Constabulary headquarters was inactivated in November 1950, and by end of 1952, the last few operational Constabulary squadrons met the same fate.

Earlier, General Clay had returned to the United States with the satisfaction of seeing the transfer of military government to German civil authority. Regarding the Constabulary, Clay said, “It won the respect and admiration of all, including the German population.” This was a ringing endorsement from one of the Army’s greatest leaders and administrators during the early cold war period.31 In the 1950 Congressional Record, 81st Congress, recorded that the Constabulary was “probably the keenest, most vigilant eye” the country possessed, always “ready to live up to [its] mission.”32

In June 1950, Congress passed the Army Reorganization Act. The traditional offices of the chief of infantry, chief of cavalry, chief of field artillery, and the chief of coast artillery were abolished. This congressional action finally gave legal recognition to the armored force, which had actually occurred in 1942. The armored force now absorbed the cavalry branch. Mechanized cavalry simply became armor. The act was the coup de grace to traditional cavalrymen, who held fast to past historical exploits, and a victory for the modernists.

The U.S. Constabulary was built on the cavalry organizational model and created during a tumultuous period in American military, diplomatic, and political history. Surely, it was a period of postwar uncertainty. Armored and mechanized cavalry elements, along with supporting units, were called on to perform a unique mission under unparalleled conditions. They adjusted to extraordinary international tensions and internal complexities.

It can be persuasively argued that the Constabulary was instrumental in liberating the Germans in the American zone from the chains of their totalitarian past. These young troopers filled a void created by the redeployment of World War II veterans eager to get home. Isolationism again became a postwar demand by many Americans and their congressmen. Army budgets were cut, seriously affecting manpower and research required for mechanized warfighting. All these actions stifled preparedness for the emerging contingencies of the cold war. Yet, in spite of this, the Constabulary spirit prevailed, redirecting its legacy toward a tactical orientation, armored cavalry. Certainly, the Constabulary became a distinct engine of change. It created a model and doctrine for today’s mounted force and became a new breed - the U.S. Army’s “cold war mounted warriors.”


1 Winston Churchill. The Second World War: Triumph and Tragedy. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 1953, p.573.

2 Allen W. Dulles, “The Present Situation in Germany,”

Digest of an off-the-record speech at meeting of the Council of Foreign Relations, 3 December 1945, in “That Was Then: Allen W. Dulles on the Occupation of Germany,” Foreign Affairs, November-December 2003.

3 Major General Ernest N. Harmon with Milton MacKaye and William Ross MacCaye, Combat Commander: Autobiography of a Soldier, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1970, p. 280.

4 Major General Ernest N. Harmon, History of the United States Constabulary (For the Biennial Report to the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army), Ernest N. Harmon Papers, U.S. Army Military History Institute (MHI), Carlisle Barracks, PA, p. 6.

5 Memorandum to: Commanding General, Third Army, U.S. Army, Subject: “Organization of the Zone Constabulary,” 20 January 1946, William S. Biddle Papers. MHl, pp. 2-4.

6 Lucian K. Truscott Jr., ed. Lucian K. Truscott III, The Twilight of the U.S. Cavalry: Life in the Old Army, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 1989, p. xv.

7 Colonel William S. Biddle, “The U.S. Zone Constabulary,” Biddle Papers, MHl, p. 3.

8 William E. Stacy, “The Constabulary takes Charge,”

Chapter Two, US Army Border Operations in Germany: 1945-1983, Headquarters, U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army, Military History Office, GSM 5-1-1984, MHI, p.21.

9 Letter BG Albin F. Irzyk to author, 7 August 2004; also, see Irzyk, “Mobility, Vigilance, Justice: A Saga of the Constabulary,” M Hilary Review, March 1947,pp.13-21.

10 Major General Ernest N. Harmon, Notes on Combat Experience During the Tunisian and African Campaigns, 1943, Armor School Research Library, Fort Knox, KY, p.23.

11 Dee W. Pettigrew, Subject: Report of Operations, To: The Commanding General, U.S. Constabulary, U.S. Army, 10 July 1946, “Background of the Constabulary School,” Sec. II, Henry C. Newton Papers, MHI, pp.1-3.

12 United States Constabulary Trooper’s Handbook.

1946, General Military History, 1946, online at

11 http://cgsc.cdmhost.eom/u ?/p4013collll,248>.

13 Harmon, Combat Commander, pp. 286-87.

14 Ibid., p. 287.

15 Quoted in Michael A. Rauer, “Order out of Chaos: The United Stated Constabulary in Capital Germany,” Army Historian, Center of Military History, Summer 1998, p. 26.

16 Biddle Speech, “Officers and Men of the 11th Constabulary Regiment,” 15 April 1946, Biddle Papers, MHI, pp. 1-6.

17 Weekly Intelligence Summary, number 24, for the period from 160001 November to November 1946, Civil Security, 97-USF8-2.6, in G2 Section, Record Group (RG) 407, National Archives (NA), College Park, MD.

18 Ibid.

19 Subject: Intelligence Reports, Reports 1947, To: Deputy Director of Intelligence, Headquarters, EUCOM, Frankfurt, APO 757, Headquarters, U. S. Constabulary, End of 1947, 97-USF8-2.6, Intelligence Reports in G2 Section, RG 407, NA, all.

20 Black Market, Quarterly Reports of Operations, July to December 1946, in General Historical and Operational Reports, 97-USF8-0.3, RG 407, NA, pp. 1-2.

21 James. M. Snyder with Warren Goldman, The Establishment and Operations of the United States Constabulary. 3 October 1945-30 June 1947, Historical Sub-Section C-3, United States Constabulary 1947, Headquarters, United States Constabulary, MHI, p. 248.

This history is one of the most extensive and researched projects of the early Constabulary.

22 H. Rand, “A Progress Report on Uk United States Constabulary,” Military Review. October 1947, p. 37; and Subject: Intelligence Reports for the Month of February 1948, EUCOM, Frankfurt, APO 757, Headquarters, U.S. Constabulary, 97-USF8-2.6, Intelligence Reports in G2 Section, RG 407, NA, pp.1-3.

23 Subject: KPD Attitudes to Current Problems, Annex #5, To: G2 Weekly Intelligence, Summary #68, Headquarters, U.S. Constabulary, August 1947, 97-USF8-2.6, Weekly Intelligence Summaries in G2 Section, RG 407, NA, pp. 1-3.

24 James E. Byrnes, Speaking Frankly, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, 1 947, pp. 1 88-89.

25 Mary Lee Stubbs and Stanley Russell Connor, ARMOR-CAVALRY. Part I: Regular Army and Army Reserves, Office of the Chief of Military History, Washington, D.C., 1969, p. 75.

26 Jean Edward Smith, ed., The Papers of General Lucius D. Clay, Germany 1945-1949, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, 1974, p. 640.

27 Subject: Intelligence Report No. 29, To: Deputy Director of Intelligence, Headquarters, EUCOM, Frankfurt, APO 757, Headquarters, U.S. Constabulary, August 30, 1947, 97-USF8-2.6, Intelligence Reports in G2 Section, RG 407. NA, p. 14.

28 Dwight D. Eisenhower, At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends, Doubleday & Company. Inc., New York, 1967, pp. 316-20.

29 A Pre-interview with: General Isaac Davis White, Retired, Conducted by: Charles Pittsburgh Roe, 17 October 1977, MHI, pp. 19-20.

30 U.S. Army Field Manual (FM) 17-51, Table of Organization and Equipment, Armored Cavalry Regiment (Light), U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), Washington, DC, 7 October 1948, passim; and Field Manual 17-35: Reconnaissance Battalion, Armored Division, GPO, Washington, DC, 1951, p. 3.

31 Lucius Du Bignon Clay, Decision in Germany, Doubleday & Company, Inc., New York, 1950, p. 65.

32 Albin F. Irzyk, “Mobility, Vigilance, Justice,” Army, January 2003, p. 47.

Dr. George F. Hofmann is a history professor at the University of Cincinnati. He served in the U.S. Army’s armored force. He is the author of The Super Sixth: A History of the Sixth Armored Division; Cold War Casualty: The Court Martial of Major General Robert W. Grow; Through Mobility We Conquer: The Mechanization of U.S. Cavalry, which won the 2006 LTG Richard G. Trefry Award from the Army Historical Foundation for an historical analysis of the assimilation of cavalry into the Armor Force; and co edited, with GEN Donn A. Starry, Camp Colt to Desert Storm: The History of U.S. Armored Forces. He also contributes to History in Dispute, World War II, The Journal of Military History, The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, and is a valued contributor to ARMOR.

<>The above information is a reprint of the Armor Magazine, Fort Knox: Sep/Oct 2007. Vol. 116, Iss. 5; pg. 26, 9 pgs.

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