True to the dynamic spirit of the Twenty-seventh Division, members of the102nd Military Police established a noteworthy precedent wherever their meritorious efforts are chronicled, they cannot fail to register as a criterion and stimulus for the personnel of any similar branch of the service. Whether co-operating with the British or Australian or working independently, both officers and men always exhibited a characteristic fortitude and equilibrium worthy of the highest commendation. Their problems were many; their labors often handicapped. Their area was occasionally uncharted. Their posts and patrols offered the paramount tests for perseverance and courage. Yet no task proved too difficult and no situation arose but was met manfully and tactfully solved.
Whether directing or patrolling long intricate lines of traffic that moved unceasingly to and from the trenches. Whether alert on some stragglers post, organizing system and sanity from the confused collection of lost and dazed men or whether handling the hoards of prisoners of war the members of this unit displayed unusual discretion, determination and stamina. On every occasion they justified their position as a basic branch of the division and their right to share the Twenty-seventh's triumphs.
At all times the appearance of the men was commended by superior officers- including the Commanding General who frequently proffered compliments. Their courtesy and carriage served as an example to all men in uniform. Their policy always barred officiousness and overbearing execution of duty. These attributes united with an earnest and kindly manner have defined the 102nd Military Police as one of the most popular outfits in the Division.
Smartly groomed horses and neatly polished equipment were the aims of the mounted men and wagoneers in the unit. Indeed, it was this ******* pride that lead Major Shanton, in command of the Military Police to institute a horse show at Oudezeele, which created a keen competition among the Division's transports and ultimately raised their standards that they might compare more favorably with those of the British. The Commanding General expressed enthusiasm over the results.
To have dispelled the ********* cloud of prejudice the naturally clings about all military police work would in itself have been creditable but to have gained an enviable reputation of admiration and esteem everywhere from officers and men is the formidable achievement of which this unit can be justly proud.
When the Division took over its part of the Dickebusch-Kemmel from on August the twenty-fourth, all traffic and straggler posts designated and occupied by the Sixth British Division were relieved by men of the 102nd Military Police. The duties of these posts were quite familiar to the men who for several weeks had been on detached service with the British. They were fully acquainted with the area and understood the local conditions to be coped with.
Every road feeding the lines was patrolled day and night by mounted and bicycle men. Under consummate vigilance, the traffic which was usually heavy moved with the minimum of confusion and delay, even when subjected to excessive shell-fire. These road were well known to the enemy and with his superior point of view, not a little ingenuity was required by men on traffic in guarding against over-exposure and over-crowding of the highways. Every road was kept under constant supervision and at night both officers and men of the unit would accompany the transports going to the lines, thus avoiding any possible congestion.
In addition to the traffic activities, one non-commissioned officer and four men were assigned to each battalion of the infantry in order to collect stragglers and to patrol the roads from the end of the communications trenches to battalion headquarters. In these hazardous positions the Military Police offered valuable assistance and several of their number were gassed.
The question of stragglers offered considerable difficulties at first due to the fact that many company commanders allowed their men to leave the lines without proper passes. Major Stanton recommended that no soldier be allowed to leave his unit in the lines or the reserve without a pass. The task of identifying stragglers was tremendously alleviated in later events by a close adherence to Major Shanton's recommendation.
On the twenty-sixth, the unit experienced its first sensation (?) of handling a prisoner of war taken by American troops independent of the British. However it was not long before a prisoner of war became an ordinary piece of behind-the-lines property wherever the Twenty-seventh Division was working. Three days after the first catch twenty-three prisoners were received making a total of twenty-four captured Germans handled by this unit in Belgium. The first episode came to an end on September the third when men of the Forty-first British Division comprised the relief.
Success was stamped on these first efforts of the Military Police in active line work and an important part of the credit must be attributed both to the excellent instruction given them at the Cassell (?) school and to the harmonious co-operation with the traffic men and M.M.P's of the Sixth and Forty-first British Division.
In the intermission between the first and second episode, the unit was identified with a remarkable undertaking. At Marieux, on September the twenty-second a division train consisting of 651 wagons, approximately 2200 animals and over 2000 men was assembled, conducted and disciplined by mounted military police under Major Shanton and Lieutenant Oran S. Baldwin to the forward area east of Peronne passing through Albert and Bray and crossing the Somme at Cappy (?). This tremendous venture, which had to be executed at night in order to conceal movements from enemy aircraft was completed in the early morning hours of the twenty-fourth without the loss of an animal or vehicle. Such a feat was unusual not only in its successful manipulation but because it marked the formation of what was probably the largest train of any division ever recorded in France.
September the twenty-seventh, which hailed the opening of the Division's second episode, found the unit keen over working in conjunction with the men of the Third Australian Division. The efficiency of this capital cooperation was a revelation! Wherever an American and an Australian performed duties on post or patrol, there was a spirit of complete harmony. Under these circumstances members of the 102nd Military Police won new honors and revealed a splendid attitude of resignation to long periods without relief and exposure to extraordinary dangers.
Traffic problems reached a climax at Saint Souplet, Villers- Faucon and Ronnsoy . In order check confusion and keep the lines always on the move, every available man worked night and day. So great was the demand for help that mechanics, wagoneers, horseshoers and cooks were used. Heavy shelling accentuated the confusion. Splintered vehicles and dead horses blocked the ways, but in no place for mare than a few minutes. Barriers were not allowed to remain long anywhere, with details of Military Police dispatched to clear the debris and impediments. Every man's energy worked to its utmost and but for this many transports would have never reached their goals. Deeply imbedded in the determination was the knowledge that any delaymight imperil lives of thousands of men. Considerable credit for such a successful operation is due to the unswerving devotion of Captain Juan Caballos (ed. note: Captain Caballos later commanded the 27th M.P. Company) and William W. Ackerly.
During the course of this episode one hundred and fifty stragglers were recorded. The names of those men were taken and they were escorted to a collection station and returned to their respective units. A list of names was sent to their organization commanders. It is greatly to the credit of the Division that no actual Battle stragglers- that is men who through cowardice or shock have dodged the issue- were apprehended by the Military Police.
Prisoners of war became a common sight at Ronnsoy where the Divisional cage was operated by this unit under the direction of Lieut. Baldwin. Fourteen officers and five hundred men of other ranks constituted the total number of prisoners of war. Mounted men were employed to relieve the infantry of the prisoners and to escort them from the Divisional to the Corps cage. Major Shanton's orders to allow no man to molest the prisoners of war was closely followed and his policy of complete isolation for the captured man was adopted. At all times an alert watch was maintained to prevent any interference with the prisoners other than by members of the Intelligence Department or Military Police under orders to search for valuable papers or concealed weapons.
During these few days the unit sustained four casualties one of which was a death. Private Lester Callahan, while directing traffic on a conspicuous cross-roads was hit by a bomb from an enemy aeroplane and was instantly killed. Two wounded and one gassed comprised the other casualties.
As a reward for their impressive work during this episode Major Shanton recommended the following men for mention. Captains Cabellos and Ackerly; Sergeants Averbeek (?) and Hendershott; Privates Johnson and Clark.
This colossal experience was invaluable as the men had faced the apex of traffic troubles under the most adverse conditions of shell torn roads. Besides, they had standardized methods of procedure for stragglers and prisoners of war.
In the course of the third episode from October the twelfth to twentieth the 102nd Military police performed their crowning achievement justifying beyond a doubt their claim to unusual distinction. Their field of endeavor was newly won territory where neither British nor Australian had mapped out roads or designated posts. This unit became pioneers in traffic control on (?) ruined road and disrupted highways and they worked like veterans entirely independently of any other allied cooperation. Furthermore, groups of Military Police were attached to the infantry and advanced with them under the barrage of October seventeenth. Beside this and even more unusual is the fact that detachments from this same unit were posted in Saint Souplet and La Haie Meuerasse (?) while those towns were still "no man's land", before even the advancing infantry had entered to claim them as Allied ground. Under these extraordinary conditions the men showed real metal.
When the Division moved into Busigny, several hundred civilians from Escaufort, La Haie Meuerasse, and Saint Souplet had taken refuge there. Owing to the frequent shelling of the town and the congestion caused by the influx of refugees Major Shanton decided to use every means available in order that these people might evacuate to a back area as soon as possible. Through his organized efforts and by means of an empty lorry, within three days the evacuation of nine hundred and eighty-one refugees to Roisel (?) was consummated. Rations were provided by the Second Army Corps, American E.F. and the American Red Cross. Strict orders were given to all traffic posts to permit no civilian to leave the village and the gendarmes attached to the unit prevented the refugees from returning to their homes. By protecting these refugees the military Police rendered a service not easily forgotten.
Traffic again loomed as a vexatious problem but by the process of converting certain highways into one-way roads and careful prevention of all double ***** congestion remained at a minimum. At all times the unit displayed fresh activity and despite the tremendous number of cannon and vehicles demanding rapid movement the traffic was handled with precision and efficiency.
A novelty in the method of handling stragglers was adopted during this episode. On the morning of October the seventeenth a detail of Military police was attached to both the 106th and 107th Infantry Regiments for duty as mobile straggler posts in the rear of these organizations. These two details advanced under the barrage that morning to the banks of La Selle River where their posts became stationary. Other straggler posts were established in Saint Souplet, La Haie Meuerasse and Escaufort. This time more specific information was obtained about each straggler and they were returned to their unit upon identification. One hundred and thirty stragglers were collected.
Collecting prisoners of war during this stunt required a larger force due to the amazing number taken. In the course of four days from October twenty-first, the prisoners of war totaled forty-six officers and one thousand five hundred seventeen men of other ranks. These men were assembled and escorted by mounted Military Police. The strictest vigilance prevented any molesting or interference with them while under the unit's guard. Many of the prisoners of war were detained for the purpose of clearing the roads and burying dead animals. In the village of Busigny alone twenty-two animals were buried. Such employment of German energy proved not only a great assistance in opening the roads for traffic but undoubtedly improved sanitary conditions.
In this engagement the Military Police sustained five casualties all of which were wounded. However a number of the men suffered from the ***** gas in Escaufort and Saint Souplet.
Major Shanton has recommended as deserving of special mention the men stationed at Saint Souplet and along La Selle River on the morning of October the seventeenth before the offensive began, and after.
On October the twenty-first the Military Police concluded their active line duties, returned with many well deserved honors and the complete satisfaction of having offered a distinct contribution to the supreme successes of the Twenty-seventh Division.
During these activities the personnel consisted of Major Shanton, assistant Provost Marshal, Captains Cabellos and Ackerly, Lieutenant Baldwin and two companies totaling about 255 men together. Wherever the unit has been located they have worked in splendid cooperation with their allies and in their many experiences they completed each task with diligence and discretion. Performing duties with French, Belgium, British and Australian Military Police was a test of which few corresponding units in the American E.F. can boast.