Stories of the Highway Patrol
ALPHA TANGO TANGO (Aid to Traveler)
by Lloyd Borguss, Stars and Stripes European Edition
Alpha Tango Tango: "Aid to Traveler," without regard to nationality of motorist, makes Army’s Highway Patrol a welcome sight in Germany.
The sleek white and black sedan, with its amber dome light blinking, glides to a stop behind a parked car beside the autobahn. As the Highway Patrolman steps out, he is met by a shivering voice saying, “Man am I glad to see you." The patrolman accepts this greeting calmly. To him it is simply the beginning of another Alpha Tango Tango [Aid to Traveler].
Aiding autobahn travelers in distress is just one of the many functions
of the U.S. Army Highway Patrol. Any motorist in need of
assistance, regardless of nationality, can expect and receive aid from
passing Highway Patrol cars, or their German counterpart, the autobahn
Polizei. The most important part of the mission of both
organizations is to Keep traffic on the autobahn moving and seeing that
stranded vehicles are moved off the driving lanes.
Since its formation in the fall of 1948, the Highway Patrol aid has been gratefully accepted by the millions of motorist from all parts of the world who travel over Germany's autobahn system. The patrolmen are recognized internationally as Good Samaritans of the road and have done much to gain good will for Americans abroad.
In this article The Stars and Stripes has worked with Det. A of the 62nd MP Co., Highway Patrol located in Darmstadt. During patrols of 1957, the Darmstadt station drove well over 400,000 miles while covering 372 accidents involving Americans, making 1,359 apprehensions for various traffic offenses, and giving aid to 1,749 motorist in distress.
This unit differs from other Highway Patrol units only in the fact that it has in its patrol area the infamous “Suicide Strip" section of autobahn located between Mannheim and Frankfurt. This seemingly peaceful, even stretch of roadway has had more fatal accidents than any other German highway of similar length.
Starting their first patrols at 7 am, their first job is to check out all parking places and exits along their 60 mile stretch of responsibility. This check is made to see that no motorist are stranded as a result of breakdowns during the early morning hours.
While on this first patrol they also make note of road and weather conditions, relaying this information to the American Forces Network for broadcast to the driving public. After this, the daily grind continues with three cars on duty, each manned by a single patrolman. One car covers the North section from Darmstadt to Bad Nauheim, the second patrols the Southern end down to Mannheim, while the third is on roving patrol. This car, through radio communications, can easily move to the assistance of either the North or South patrol and its central location gives more than adequate coverage of the area.
Late in the afternoon the patrols are changed and two cars, each with two patrolmen, take over. These units continue patrolling the autobahn until midnight, when they return to their station and remain on standby status until the next morning.
Upon its formation in 1948, the Highway Patrol was made up entirely of Military Police NCO's, and the unit’s operating procedures, were copied from those of the New Jersey State Police. As the new and younger replacements arrived, they in turn were trained by the experienced NCO’s. Present replacements to the Highway Patrol are selected from the top of the graduating classes at the MP training school at Ft. Gordon, GA. On arrival at various units, they are interviewed by the detachment commander and are placed on probation for a 60 day period. During that time they perform patrol duty along with a seasoned patrolman.
While on patrol they learn to think and act for themselves in carrying on the traditions of the whole organization. Courtesy is the guide to each and every act performed by the patrol. This, combined with the speed and efficiency in which they carry out their mission, is attested to by the thousands of letters of commendation and appreciation for their services. These letters, from motorist from all parts of the world who have been aided at one time or another by the Highway Patrol here in Germany, usually start off: "I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to the Highway Patrol for the ....” and close with “ It is gratifying to know that those traveling in your area are so well looked after.”
Experiences encountered while on patrol are many and varied. Here are a few examples: While on routine patrol one man came upon a large section of the autobahn blocked by a traffic jam. Working his way to the front of the jam, he found that a USAF jet fighter had made a safe emergency landing on the concrete strip. Another patrol was cruising along when a call came thru telling him to proceed to Rastof X and investigate a report that a tiger had bitten an American youngster. He arrived in time to see a young lady walking across the parking lot with a tiger cub on a leash. Subsequent investigation showed that a US Army Major’s son had been slightly scratched by the playful pet. In another instance the patrol arrived at the scene of a seven-vehicle accident. Part of the patrolman's job in this instance was to capture 50 live pigs that had escaped from an overturned truck.
The particular thorn in the side of the patrolmen are the driver who show no common sense while on the autobahn. One American driver, for example, stopped in the driving lane to check his road map. Another lost a wheel, then left his car unattended while he walked down the road searching for aid. But probably the worst enemy of all autobahn travelers is the driver who passes his turnoff and cuts across the center strip to get back on the right track.
It’s all part of the mission, say the patrolmen, but it sure would be nicer if there were no call for traffic tickets. “After all,” said one, there is no personal satisfaction for us when we have to investigate a fatal accident.”
White Mice editors note: This article and photography (by Lloyd Borguss Staff Photographer) were originally published in the European edition of the Stars and Strips in 1957. The photography’s have been inserted between the text of the article and not as they appear in the original article. My copy of the article is a copy from the Stars and Stripes, it was too large to copy as it appeared and had to be cut into sections, thus accounting for the photography’s being placed as you see them now. Our sincere thanks and appreciation goes out to the Stars and Strips and their staff writers for the many great articles about the Highway Patrol.
This story previously appeared in Volume 4, Issue #6, Nov-Dec 2001 edition of "The White Mice"