Stories of the Highway Patrol
WITH the 62ND
HIGHWAY PATROL ...
by Larry Linville
I was very proud to serve as a member of the 62nd Highway Patrol Unit. I may have very well been the last new guy assigned to the unit. I shipped over to Germany from the MP Unit at Fort Myer, Virginia. At Fort Dix, NJ, I received my orders assigning me to Detachment A of the 62nd Military Police (HP) Company at Darmstadt, Germany in July 1958. What did the HP mean, someone wanted to know. The Sergeant behind the counter said it means this guy (me) is the luckiest MP here today. Everyone in line with me thought I had truly received the best orders of all.
The members were friendly to new personnel. I was met at the bahnhof by two on-duty patrolmen. They showed me a bit of the city, then took me to the unit, and helped me to get settled in. Some of the unit was having a party that evening and invited me to attend. I met some of the married troops and others. Later, I was helped in several ways to get established, equipped, and ready for my duties at my new post.
really enjoyed the duties and assignments of the unit.
Detachment A was equipped with nearly new 1957 Chevrolet patrol
vehicles. I remember using
both HP 4 and 8 on my patrols. I
patrolled both the north section of the autobahn from Darmstadt to Bad
Nauheim, and the south section from Darmstadt to Mannheim.
I also was assigned to the daytime roving unit, moving from the
north to the south, providing assistance to the other units as needed.
The day shift was always busy, but the evenings also had more
than their share of activities and excitement.
After the day shift, one could always kick back, relax, and enjoy
the many off-duty pursuits. When working the evening shift, the patrolmen checked off at
midnight, but were on stand-by status for emergencies until the day
shift came on duty. The HP
cruisers were parked near the barracks.
I recall being called out on several occasions.
Once, to investigate a late night accident; and on another
occasion to provide an Aid To a Traveler.
Many of the men had a pair of their duty boots modified with a
side zipper to expedite their getting dressed and back on the road in a
hurry, as was needed for these calls.
Larry Linville & HP 8, Det. A - Darmstadt, 1958
immediately started picking up on the language, and I found myself
enjoying the German culture. Another
pleasant surprise was the Cambri Fritch Kaserne mess hall which I was
pleased to find offered not only good food, but had beer for sale with the evening
meals. Another major positive factor was the absence of being
detailed for the occasional KP duty assignment that plagued many other
Stateside assignments. The
distinctive patrol vehicles, fully equipped for all types of road
emergencies, and the knowledge and professionalism displayed by the unit
members impressed me very much. During
my tenure with the unit, I felt that I was part of a working unit as
opposed to a more ceremonial unit.
We were not standing guard duty, nor working unnecessary traffic
crossings, or waving people onto and out of the base, we were doing a
real job. Unit members wore
only their HP/MP brassard, a whistle, and carried a sidearm.
The extra ammo pouches and first aid pouch worn by many MP’s
were not part of the requisite gear.
Extra magazines and handcuffs were carried in an individual’s
personal kit along with accident investigation templates, report forms,
etc. That went into the
vehicle with each shift. Duties
were more like those of a state police unit rather than a base or town
patrol, but the highway patrol units were occasionally dispatched to
back up other military police units.
Unfortunately, just as I was really getting settled in to the
routine, the great duty was about to come to an end.
came as a real shock, and truly almost broke my heart when they
deactivated the unit on 20 September 1958.
At that time I received orders assigning me to the Kassel,
Germany Detachment of D Company of the 709th MP
I was told to take one of the white mice (highway patrol
vehicles) and related equipment to Kassel with me.
The Kassel Detachment was located at the northern end of the US
patrolled sector. The 709th Military Police Battalion was
headquartered in Frankfurt. Delta
or “D” Company headquarters were in Giessen.
Kassel was a small detachment, no more than a couple of small
squads. The members of the
709th did not really seem to be familiar with the duties of
the highway patrol, and many had never patrolled beyond the city itself.
MP station was in a large military building in town.
The MP’s lived miles (or kilometers) out of town on a small,
desolate sub post, in a very rural setting.
Rumor had it that this had been part of an aircraft area, or an
aviation unit during the war. There
were no runways present, only plowed farmland, and the ever-present
honey wagons. The MP
barracks were below ground level, down a flight of stairs.
The area and rooms were cold, damp, and dreary.
That description pretty well describes the entire post.
Individuals taking showers would usually find it necessary to
turn on a half dozen showers to steam up and warm the area before
undressing. Rooms were dark and warren like.
You entered a room on one side, walked across the end of the
room, and entered the next room from the far side, rather than entering
the rooms off a common hall. Two
bunks were usually in a room and there was very little privacy for those
of us living in the rooms, as everyone had to walk through the maze of
individual rooms to get from one end of the area to the other.
It was said this building had served as some type of German
bunker during the war. A
large steel door led off of our arms room.
The unit armorer swore that you could drive a jeep underground
for several kilometers in the area behind the door.
He said that Luftwaffe airplanes had been kept safe and hidden
from view (and bombings) there during the war.
That may well have been just another rumor, but it certainly had
credibility at the time.
seemed like had occurred many years before.
Looking back on it today, I realize that I was there only
thirteen years after the fighting had ended.
On several return trips to Germany in the '80’s, I visited
Kassel, but could never locate the area where I had been billeted.
Many of the MP’s in the Kassel detachment were married and
lived on the economy. There
was very limited recreational activity on base for off duty troops.
A deuce and a half truck was used to run the troops into town in
the evening if enough wanted to go into town.
A free movie was shown some evenings in a large room in the
building that housed the MP station.
A designated driver (usually in civilian clothes) would drive the
truck in and bring us back early (too early) in the evenings.
I do not remember trip tickets being filled out, but I do
remember the back of the truck being very cold.
I was not happy at Kassel although I continued to patrol the
autobahn in the white mouse that I had delivered.
I continued to wear my HP unit shoulder crests while on duty in
Kassel much to the concern of some of the people that I worked with.
I was happiest while on the autobahn or related environs, but
frequently other MP assignments encroached into my duties.
On occasion, British and/or Canadian Military Police would patrol
with us as the British zone stretched off to the north. I was also sent TDY (temporary duty) to our Company
Headquarters in Giessen for some additional training.
I believe it was CBR (chemical, biological, radiation).
I think someone was making a point; the 709th was
primarily a combat Military Police Battalion. A number of convoy escorts also materialized, as US forces
were suddenly being mobilized and moved northward to Bremerhaven.
There the units boarded ships to be transported to Lebanon where
a potential crisis was brewing. Various
temporary road camps, with POL (petroleum, oil, lubrication) points,
fuel depots, mess facilities, and overnight sleeping areas were erected.
Some long road days helped to fill the time.
the 10th of December, 1958, I wangled a PCS (permanent change
of station) to the Bad Hersfeld detachment, still a part of D Company of
the 709th MP Battalion.
I took my white mouse (highway patrol cruiser) with me to Bad
Hersfeld. Bad Hersfeld is a picturesque city nestled between scenic
mountain ranges. It is
located southeast of Kassel, north of Fulda, fairly close to what was
then, the east/west border. It
rests near a main east/west autobahn route which connects with a main
north/south autobahn. The
unit at Bad Hersfeld was really only slightly larger than a reinforced
squad. The 709th
was really stretched out all over Germany.
It was only when we were on maneuvers that we formed up with our
platoon, company, and battalion.
main kaserne housed a battalion of the 14th Armored Cavalry
and an Engineer Company. The
tanks and jeeps of the unit provided the border guards that constantly
patrolled the east/west German border.
The area between Bad Hersfeld and Fulda formed a natural gap in
the mountains that separated East from West Germany.
During the “cold war” atmosphere that was so prevalent during
that era, it was feared that the “Fulda Gap” would provide the point
where “East Block” troops and armored divisions would pour through
in the event of an attack. The
MP’s lived on a small sub post. They
shared barracks with a few medics, and some individuals from an Army
Garrison unit. A motor
pool, housing office, carpenter and plumbing shop, an AFN station, were
on the periphery of the sub post. A
large three-story building housed the MP station, MP offices, sub post
commanders office and Military Intelligence and Counter Intelligence
Corps detachment offices. Strange
comings and goings occurred here. The
troop mess hall located on the main kaserne, which was rather
inconvenient to get to, and MP’s were not encouraged to eat there.
A small German Canteen fed many of the German workers on the sub
post. Many of the MP’s
purchased food there, on the snack bar on the main kaserne, or the snack
bar located at the American Forces Service Plaza on the Autobahn,
several miles away.
patrol of the autobahn continued and the HP vehicle was put to good use
for a while. The section of
the autobahn patrolled did not have as much US Forces traffic as had
been present in the Darmstadt, Mannheim, and Frankfurt areas.
A Highway Patrol sign existed near Bad Hersfeld for much of the
time that I was there, but I do not believe that Highway Patrol vehicles
had often patrolled the area. The
white mouse was an attraction to the military and the civilian
population. I was slowly
assimilated into the MP unit. I
reluctantly replaced my HP crests with the 709th crests.
During the early spring it was decided by the powers that be,
that the highway patrol unit would be repainted OD and would become an
ordinary MP unit. In
reality, the MP’s in Hersfeld often used jeeps, and the HP cruiser was
more frequently used by the MP NCOs to drive the sub post commander or
the Intelligence type weenies on their “secret” errands and missions
to the border. We had a
visiting Provost Marshal that came from another unit (non 709th)
when necessary. It was a
rather strange set-up. Many
of the MP’s did not feel that they had proper support by necessary
brass. Whenever any of the local armored cavalry or engineer
troopers were apprehended they were soon turned over to their units
without any real serious consequences.
I do not remember ever seeing our company or battalion brass in
our area except for the Company Commander attending one of our
detachment parties. Disciplinary action did not seem to be taken very seriously
by anyone other than the MP’s.
Hersfeld unit was commanded by a Sgt (E-5).
There was one Corporal there.
Both of the NCOs handled the unit’s administrative work and
never went on patrol. The
sergeant had served several tours of duty in his very same location for
years before I got there (and was there for years after I left).
It was said that he had entered the area after WW II as a DP
(displaced person), had worked as a hired worker in the mess hall (KP or
kitchen police), had enlisted in the US Army, became an MP (and later a US
citizen) and returned to Bad Hersfeld.
His wife was the daughter of a prominent local family that owned
several major businesses. Again, it was said (where would we be without the rumors)
that as the family did not have any sons, that he had taken the family
name when he married. In
any event, he was well set and established.
He seemed to know everyone, and had numerous important contacts
in the community and in the military. He
was an avid hunter and was a Jägermeister (hunting master).
High-ranking brass used to come to our area to hunt with him.
While I was stationed in Bad Hersfeld, one of his duty tours
ended and he returned to the US. Less
than a month later he was back, and business was as usual.
Bad Hersfeld Detachment, Co. D - 709th MP Bn. 1959
occasional patrol of the autobahn and daily patrols of Bad Hersfeld and
the surrounding small towns were supplemented by frequent readiness
alerts that seemed to occur on an almost monthly basis.
The desk sergeant would receive a phone call, (why did they
always come late at night?) followed by an authentication of the daily
code and the transmission of the alert orders.
We never knew if it was for real or not.
All patrols were called in, the troops in the barracks awakened,
and off post individuals called to return to the post.
In those days, the desk sergeants (all Sp/4’s) and the MP’s
on duty wore a class A uniform. They
immediately changed into field uniforms and gear, the arms room was
opened, and M1’s issued. Jeeps that had canvas tops and doors were stripped,
windshields lowered, trailers attached, and rations, and field gear
loaded. By this time the
armored cavalry units had their tanks, APC’s (armored personnel
carriers), and jeeps with machine guns mounted, rolling.
Sometimes we got an almost immediate stand down, other times we
hit the road for a day or two. I
remember one alert that stretched into three days long.
These alerts tested our ability to operate and carry out a combat
support mission. The MP
role was usually to establish traffic checkpoints, and to control troop
movements. We frequently
established a radio net and sometimes erected a high mast antenna to
facilitate communications. Our
alerts were usually into areas that we were not familiar with, so map
reading and compass work was a necessity.
Good preparation for my scout leader days that would come later.
an alert or two, most of us kept a back up supply of marks in our field
gear. No matter how far out
in the “boonies” that we found ourselves, there were always some
local kids that would soon find us and beg for chokolade und kaugummi.
Usually a few marks would get us some frische brotchen from the
local Bäckerei. Sometimes
some meat and cheese would supplement our canned rations.
When we returned to our areas, there were weapons to be cleaned,
gear to be stowed, and vehicles to be washed.
Did I mention that I missed the Highway Patrol?
Another duty was to keep watch on the Soviet Military Missions.
Remember their cars with the distinctive red license plates
marked with the hammer and sickle?
Their units would frequently travel through our area of
responsibility going to or from Berlin. They would cross the border at the border check point at Herleshausen.
When they were scheduled to cross the border one of the desk
sergeants would travel to the border and physically check the papers of
each of the individuals and process the mission.
These activities augmented our other responsibilities and kept
life from getting too dull.
also liked taking a jeep, and traveling off the main roads.
Following some of the trails leading to gasthouses located back
in the woods was always fun and often rewarding.
After arriving in Bad Hersfeld, I was promoted to Sp/4 (remember
rank in the peacetime Army), and found myself working as a desk
sergeant. I remember
calling in the patrol on numerous occasions and trading places with one
of the MP’s, so I could get some street time.
Bad Hersfeld had a number of bars, clubs and gasthouses to check.
Occasionally, the Volkspolizei (East German Police) or the
Bundegrenzschutz (West German Border Police) would call us to pick up a
deserter or someone who had strayed into the forbidden area of the
border. That would provide
an excuse for another trip to the border to take custody of the
detachment at Hersfeld hosted several parties while I was there. Most of our personnel, and frequently the military
intelligence folks would attend. I
took pictures at them, and fortunately wrote names of individuals on the
back. That is my mind
refresher for the present as memories are beginning to fade with time.
Bad Hersfeld offered a variety of recreational and off duty
activities. All-in-all it
was a pretty good place to spend some quiet time.
I stayed in Bad Hersfeld until the end of my enlistment in June
of 1960, when I returned to the States and was separated from active
duty. I missed the age
limit for that year to attend the Indiana State Police academy.
I was ready and wanting to return to highway patrol duties.
I also tested for the local police department and took several
civil service examinations. After
months of waiting to hear, several job offers finally materialized
almost at the same time. I decided on the Metropolitan Police Department in
Washington, DC over the local police department and the border patrol.
Government pay and benefits were better than local pay; I did not
speak Spanish, and I partially knew the Washington area after being
stationed there earlier with a nearby military police unit (Fort Myer,
VA). I moved to Virginia
and began a new law enforcement career.
Patrol duties became a memory of the past.
My law enforcement duties included: uniformed patrol, old clothes
tactical patrol force, plain clothes and undercover assignments, and two
years as special weapons and tactics instructor.
During the latter assignment, I made recommendations for the
formation of a bomb disposal unit within the department.
I was then assigned to develop plans for training and equipping
the unit. I then served ten
years as the Senior Explosive Technician for the police department,
retiring from that position.
department believed in training and education and made many resources
available. I was detailed
to attend numerous specialized schools and training courses while on
active duty with the police department.
These included: special Naval EOD (explosive ordnance disposal)
School, Indianhead, MD.; Hazardous Explosive Devices School (and three
refresher courses), at Redstone Arsenal, AL; Nuclear Emergency Response
Operations, Nevada Test Site; four Law Enforcement Armorer schools; and
over fifty-five other specialized schools.
I also completed my under-graduate college education while I was
with the department.
I am a retired, veteran law enforcement officer, now nearing the completion of a second career as an educator after previously serving nearly twenty-three years in the law enforcement profession. In 1982, some twenty-two years after leaving Bad Hersfeld (and after retiring from the police department), I again found myself in Germany. This time, working as an Educator & Special Law Enforcement Projects Facilitator for the European Division, University of Maryland, involved in teaching in many Military Police Units throughout central and southern Germany including many elements of my old unit, the 709th Military Police Battalion.
Although living near Heidelberg, I spent a lot of time in the Bad Hersfeld area. (I have a married daughter and her family living there.) I met with my former sergeant there. He had retired from the military and was working as a civilian for the US Army in Bad Hersfeld. Five years later, I was again in Germany as a special consultant for the US government, and again had contact with him. He stated that several members of our old unit had visited from time to time, but I have not been able to make contact with any of them. None of them are listed on the various MP web sites that I have seen.
You may click here for a listing of names of individuals that I have been able to recall or to identify from photo captions. Anyone knowing the whereabouts of any of these former comrades are welcome to contact me. I would like to make contact with some of them again.
This story previously appeared in Volume #3, Issue #5, Nov.-Dec. 2000 of "THE WHITE MICE"