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The U.S. Constabulary in Post-War Germany

The end of World War II brought rapid demobilization and an enormous reduction in the nation's Armored Force. By mid-1948, for example, only ten Regular Army divisions remained active and only one of these was organized as an armored division (i.e., the 2d Armored Division). Amid the disorder of post-war Germany in 1945-46, however, there was still a need for highly mobile organizations to serve as a multi-capable security force in occupied areas. Standard infantry units lacked mobility, and military police units lacked the firepower to perform the many functions that would be required. A mobile and flexible force would allow fewer troops to control a larger area with minimum personnel, as the nation's demobilization policy demanded. Armor and cavalry organizations were noted for their mobility, so these units formed the basis of what would be called the U.S. Constabulary.

Gradually, soldiers from various units and specialties, elements of the 1st and 4th Armored Divisions, and existing cavalry units that were already conducting similar functions, were reorganized and redesignated as constabulary organizations. The U.S. Constabulary became fully operational on 1 July 1946. It consisted of its headquarters and special troops, the 1st, 2d, and 3d Constabulary Brigades, and the 1st, 2d, 3d, 4th [this regiment served in Austria, with one squadron stationed in Berlin, but did not report to the HQ, U.S. Constabulary], 5th, 6th, 10th, 11th, 14th, and 15th Constabulary Regiments. Each regiment had three squadrons that conducted routine patrols and maintained static posts to control the border and crossing points. The Constabulary was organized to provide unit representation within each significant geo-political boundary in the occupied zone. Each of the three Constabulary Brigades was stationed in one of the German "states" in the U.S. occupation zone. The regiments, squadrons and troops carried this presence down to the smaller political boundaries. Almost 35,000 soldiers formed the Constabulary, which suffered from a continual loss of trained personnel due to frequent turnovers. Force reductions in 1947 caused the inactivation of the HQ, 3d Constabulary Brigade, and the 1st, 3d, 5th, and 10th Constabulary Regiments. In addition, the Army inactivated the regimental light tank troops, and each squadron was reduced by one line troop.

As a new and more democratic German nation developed, along with its own police force, there was less need for the Constabulary's police mission so it began to transform into a more defensive combat force. By 1948, German police assumed the Constabulary's old police and border missions, while the remaining constabulary regiments were strengthened for possible combat by adding reconnaissance, rifle, and weapons platoons to each line troop. The Army also inactivated the 15th Constabulary Regiment and reorganized three more (2d, 6th, and 14th) into armored cavalry regiments [The U.S. would keep at least two ACRs in Germany until the end of the Cold War]. The HQ, U.S. Constabulary was inactivated on 24 Novembe 1950, and most of its elements subordinated to the concurrently activating Seventh Army. The 2d Constabulary Brigade, with the 15th and 24th Constabulary Squadrons, were the last operational units and continued until their inactivation in December 1952.

The U.S. Constabulary: 1946 Organization and Equipment

  • Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, U.S. Constabulary was organized much as a conventional corps headquarters, but was supported by special troops with an emphasis on communications and intelligence (both criminal investigation and counterintelligence assets) activities to assist its mission as a security force. A signal squadron was dedicated to maintaining open communications between headquarters and the various constabulary units and posts. There was also an air liaison squadron to operate the 32 spotter planes (each regiment was also authorized nine aircraft in its TOE).

  • Constabulary brigades were commanded by brigadier generals and consisted of three regiments.

  • Constabulary regiments were commanded by colonels and consisted of the three line squadrons. Each regimental headquarters had a motorcycle platoon with 25 motorcycles for traffic control and patrols along the autobahns, and a horse platoon with 30 horses to patrol difficult terrain. Regiments also had a light tank troop with 17 M24s to serve as a mobile reserve and a service troop for administrative functions and vehicle maintenance.

  • Constabulary squadrons were commanded by lieutenant colonels. In addition to the headquarters troop, each squadron had three mechanized troops and two motorized troops.

  • Each of the constabulary squadrons' five troops had 5 officers and 155 enlisted men. These troops were organized much like a World War II mechanized cavalry troop, but their patrol and police-type missions required more light vehicles (jeeps and armored cars) and individual weapons. The troops' 13 and 12 man reconnaissance sections conducted basic patrols and made the Army's presence felt in the occupied zones.

a. The three mechanized troops were equipped with jeeps and M8 or M38 armored cars. Each troop had three platoons with three reconnaissance sections. There were 10 armored cars (each mounting a 37mm gun in its turret) in each troop (three per platoon, one per section, and one for the troop HQ). Other weapons included the .30-caliber light machine guns mounted on the armored cars and jeeps. The typical reconnaissance section had thirteen men who carried five .45-caliber machine guns, seven .30-caliber M1 rifles, and thirteen .45-caliber pistols as individual weapons.

b. Two motorized troops utilized trucks (of various sizes but mostly 1 ½ ton) mounting a single .30-caliber light machine gun on each vehicle.. Heavy weapons authorized in the troop TOE included three 57 mm recoilless rifles and three 81 mm mortars. Like the mechanized troops they were also organized into three motorized sections, but only twelve men served in each section They were individually armed with seven M1s, five .45 machine guns, and twelve pistols.

Prepared by DAMH-FPO / Apr 2000