41st Military Police Platoon: Soldiers and Policemen
By Dr. Hargis Westerfield, Division Historian, with Colonel Paul Wendell, Sergeant Lewis H. Clark, and other MP’s

     Outsiders normally expect Military Police to have routine police duties - like directing traffic, arresting drunks, and guarding prisoners; but 41 MPs had plenty of front-line action. For example, during the Salamaua Operation, when Aussie soldiers pilfered our supplies, the Provost Marshall and 12 MP volunteers halted most of this thievery. When supply LCMs unloaded, we endured numerous air-raids - luckily with no casualties.

     But at Hollandia, the bomb and the great fire put us MPs into deadly action. The fire and the explosions of 23-24 April split up our MP unit. After the Jap seaplane's bomb hit at about 2000 Hours, most of us MPs with other troops ran towards White Beaches 1 and 2, usually barefoot and unclothed from our bivouac. After regrouping, we MPs returned to the fire for relief duties, despite danger of explosions with fragments and flaming gasoline. Major Wendell set up an organization for evacuating the wounded. (A total of 24 men were killed, and about 100 wounded.) Removed to Cape Tjeweri across from Cape Pie, we had to use a Jap supply base for rations and re-clothing until LCTs resupplied us from Finsch.

     Fire and explosions cut off some five MPs from the outfit. Schmidt and Corporal Clark, among others, had to creep 1500 yards up the beach and inland through fire, burning oil, exploding gas and ammo.

     Finally topping Pancake Hill, we cowered under tanks until morning. After daylight, we discovered that an unfired Nippo gas dump was at the base of Pancake Hill. If this gas had ignited, all Pancake Hill would have disappeared with us on it.

     Clark himself had light wounds from fragments on top of his left arm, left shoulder, and left thigh. When he tried to remove his fatigue jacket, most of it fell off in burnt pieces. His back was a mass of blisters, blood, and sweat.

     Near Hollandia on 6 May, MPs' Welch saved an Amphibious Engineer's life. A beach craft's motor failed, and the driver swam for help, half a mile offshore. He dislocated his shoulder, and was in danger of drowning. MP Welch leaped overboard and saved this Engineer's life.

 

CREDIT: Personal reports are from Col Paul Wendell's 7-page handwritten MS of late 1982, with Lewis F. Clark's letter of 6 November 1976, undated letter early 1981, and letter of 24 April 1981. Other letters were from Don Hedburg on 12 January 1978, and Paul Robinson on 29 April 1981. I used also Award Stories of Colonel (then Major) Paul Wendell, Corporals Joseph Sheibie and Matthew Trummer, and Jack Welch. Basic archival document is "Historical Report for the Year 1944" of 41 MP Platoon. This document discovered on my Division Assn Grant to Dwight Eisenhower Library at Abilene, Kansas.