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.

     While stationed on Mindoro for the Southern Philippine Campaign, guerillas brought us a Nip officer to hold until Chief of Staff Sweeny could interrogate him. We warned Sweeny to question the officer that night, but Sweeny held over the interview until next morning. That night, the officer went berserk - stormed up the sides of our shell hole prison. He reached through barbed wire to try to wrench the light machine gun from the MP on duty. Other Jap prisoners would not use their Jap language to calm him down. LaFabre had to kill him. After this necessary execution, however, Division Headquarters thought that we were trigger-happy.

     At Zamboanga Beachead, we MPs saw combat again. Landing under heavy shellfire, our LST was bracketed, but the Jap gunners never closed the bracket. Once ashore, we helped organize that shell-geysered foreshore and get the men and supplies safely inland. Then we were first to seize Zambo City Hall ahead of 163 Infantry's invasion.

     Leading a 15-man MP detachment, Sergeants Clark and Tjader landed west of Zambo City on 10 March 1945. For the next 13 hours, we endured the heaviest field artillery and mortar bombardment that the 41st Division ever suffered. The nearby Naval Beach Party took a direct hit. We believe that the whole Naval Command Staff perished.  

     For 13 hours, we MPs labored to untangle that beachhead confusion of men and vehicles and supplies below the shells arcing down from the hills. We dragged wounded from trucks or the ground and gave them what first aid we could. If blood or parts of bodies were left in trucks that drivers had leaped from under fire, those drivers refused to get back at their wheels. They deserted trucks with engines running and blocked exit tracks. Under threat of Jap mountain guns blasting whirlpools of sand, we MPs extricated 11 ammo-filled trucks from the open beach. Luckily, the Jap field artillery fired for a few minutes, then let up for a few minutes. We made good use of those lulls in fire.

     We monitored a radio team trying to place fire on a Jap gun emplacement high on a cliff. Clark was wounded in the Jap bombardment. He was slashed across left shoulder, right thigh, right ankle, and left calf. Gun-blasts gave him a temporary hearing loss, but he kept on laboring for the Division.

     Next day, 11 March, Major Wendell sent Sergeant Clark and four men with a light machine gun to jeep into Zamboanga City to find a new MP Headquarters. In that advance party were Corporals Well, Berg, and Flint, and one more unnamed MP. (Evidently Major Wendell was sure that Zambo City was clear of Japs. Probably the jeep patrol started late in the day.)

     Entering Zambo City, we found a shack that was booby-trapped and turned back to report the trap to command post. Entering again, we hit a small mine and lost a wheel. Trying once more, we finally reached the silent; deserted city center.

     City Hall and Police Station were not badly blasted. With some repairing and cleaning, we would have a fine station for sleeping and cooking and prisoners.

     Twilight was beginning. It might be unsafe to drive back to command post. We had seen no Japs, and we decided that we could sleep here securely. Hiding our jeep, we carried our light machine gun onto the roof of the City Hall. We slept well between our turns on guard.

     With daylight of 12 March, we heard gunfire and clanking tanks. Looking down one way, we saw three Jap patrols scurrying off. We saw a Yank combat Platoon arriving. We waved our American flag to welcome the surprised infantry into Zambo that we had occupied before them.

     After we settled down to routine MP assignments at Zambo, we had one more memorable assignment for the honor of the 41st MP Platoon. Filipinos informed us that they had been hiding an American woman back in the mountains for the last three years. She was Mrs. Lund, a 78-year-old missionary. General Doe's staff now feared that as the baffled, defeated Japs retreated, they might finally capture her and carry her off into suffering. They might hold her as hostage. They might kill her. Even worse, perhaps, they might torture her, or march her to her death in the Zamboanga mountain wilderness.  

     Partly because, like most MPs, they had training for combat and patrolling, Sergeants Churchill and Clark were assigned to recover her. With a Filipino guide, they passed through our lines and brought her in a safe trip but one that was full of scares.    .

     Once she was down from the mountains and safe at Division Headquarters, Mrs. Lund said, "Thank God! Now may I send a wire to my daughter in California?" A day or so later, she was flown to Leyte and on home to California. (Earlier in the Southern Philippine Campaign, Captain Murray's Palawan MP detachment had been the first to raise the flag over undefended Puerto Princesa, just as we had raised the flag in Zamboanga City.)

     These are some of the highlights of 41 MP Platoon overseas. We were fortunate to have only three wounded, and one non-battle death. We had been efficient policemen - and combat men when our Division needed us.


 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.