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A Pictorial History

Prepared by CPT Sam Reinert

As of November 12, 2013


There has been a great deal of controversy and discussion regarding the use of the lanyard by the 1st Cavalry Division Military Police, especially when the famous yellow lanyards first came into use.  This document will hopefully answer a lot of those questions and provide a little historical background.

To this writer’s knowledge, the old Provost Sergeants did not wear any lanyards in the line regiments and the original MP Platoon members at Fort Bliss, did not either?  As World War II drew near the MP Platoon members did adopt the New Army Issue Brass Whistle and the single strand, white lanyard as used by most MP organizations at that time sometime around late 1943.

Before we get to the yellow lanyard, a bit of history concerning the lanyard in general is in order and I believe I have provided more than ample historical background in the following four paragraphs!

The lanyard has it's origins in the utilitarian purpose of keeping an item close to hand.  In other words, it attached an item such as a sword, pistol, bugle or whistle to the body of the owner.  This was particularly true of cavalry, it was inconvenient for a cavalryman to dismount in a melee to retrieve his dropped sword or pistol.  You can still see them in use for this purpose as late as WWII where British officers had lanyards attached to their whistles and pistols.  In the American forces they are still authorized for that purpose. Lanyards today probably evolved from the braid festooned uniforms of the Napoleonic period.  The Cuirassiers had braid connecting their swords to their shoulders, that way they would not interfere with the use of it but keep it attached to them.  Today the lanyard is more used as a badge of distinction, qualification or award.  The Canadians and Americans authorize the wear of different colored lanyards in dress and service (Canadian only) uniform to distinguish units or branch of service.  The Austro-Hungarians authorized it as a badge of qualification, such as gunner or marksman.  The French give multicolored lanyards as awards. This is still true today where it is worn by Aides de Camp to distinguish them as bagmen for high ranking officials, such as they guy who carries the "football" for the President of the US.  I think Gen. Colin Powell wore a braided lanyard to distinguish him as the Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Many European monarchies made lanyards part of a unit award such as the Military Order of William of Orange which originated in 1815.  A regiment was awarded an orange streamer for heroism to attach to the regimental colors and the senior officers of that regiment a Knights cross with orange and white enamel on the badge and all the other members of the regiment an orange lanyard.

In the English Army, The Royal Engineers lanyard is navy blue and worn on the right shoulder. Since 19th century plain lanyards were used for securing the jackknife which was issued to all mounted troops. It was intended to be worn around the waist but soldiers soon found it to be more convenient to wear it on the shoulder with the knife in the breast pocket. The Royal Engineers, as did other corps and regiments of the British Army, introduced the lanyard to brighten up their battledress uniform in 1951.

Some lanyards down through history were quite plain and simple such as a single strand of rope or perhaps a double braided cord worn around the shoulder and under the epaulette and of a single color. Many units were authorized the wear of a lanyard for various reasons and most often at their own expense as was the case with the British Military Police when they wore a plain white lanyard before they were authorized by regulation the red brassard, lanyard and cap they wear today.  Some were quite exquisite in appearance such as seen here below worn by the Duty Officer of the San Marino Castle Guard.



This lanyard is so fancy it appears to be an aiguillette but you will note that it does eventually end up attached to the pistol


The Old MP Platoon and later the 545th MP Company had made quite an impression on General Macarthur both during the division’s actions in the Pacific Theatre and later during the occupation of Japan.  MG Chase, the 1st Cavalry Div CG was also very proud of his MP’s and went so far as to authorize the issue of additional Class A uniforms so they could remain always sharp in appearance.  Both of these generals allowed the 1st Cav MP’s to more or less prescribe not only distinctive color of their vehicles but their uniforms as well.

It is a well known fact that within weeks of the arrival of the 1st Cavalry Division at Camp Drake, the MP Jeeps were all painted Cav yellow and the motorcycles shortly thereafter – all with the approval of the 545th Company Commander, Division Provost Marshal, the Division CG and the endorsement of General Macarthur himself. 


One of the 545th MP Co Cav yellow jeeps in Japan


What is not known is exactly when they started to wear the yellow lanyards.  We do have extensive historical input from two old timers who were actually at Camp Drake from 1946 until 1948.  When PVT’s George and Lehman arrived at Camp Drake, Japan in 1946 the unit was already wearing the yellow lanyard as well as yellow leggings, gloves and helmet liners.  Since the MP Platoon was already pulling post, camp and station operations, the extra new recruits were given the choice of working in the Camp Drake Stockade as stockade guards or pulling permanent KP in the Mess Hall.  Those pulling KP would be given a permanent overnight pass and would be allowed to pull MP Duty as fill in when someone did not show up or went on sick call.  PFC George chose the Stockade Duty and SGT Lehman chose the Mess Hall.  Once SGT Lehman got to the Mess Hall and got his “feet wet” so to speak, he rose quickly in both rank and responsibility as he seldom took advantage of his overnight pass but chose instead to remain in the barracks area and listen to the old timers talk about the old horse cavalry days.  Because he was always available to fill in on the road patrol or take over when the Mess SGT had a few too many, he became a trooper always in demand.  As the story goes, the original lanyards were made by Japanese POW’s under the supervision of the Cav MP’s and later as these POW’s were released they or their wives continued to make them for the 545th, but they all got good jobs eventually and moved away from the Camp Drake area.  Word went out throughout the unit inquiring if anyone could make these lanyards and SGT Lehman said he would give it a try.


PVT Harold Lehman at Camp Drake 1946/47

Before his demise in 2006, SGT Lehman informed me that he got the last Japanese POW’s wife who had been making the lanyards to show him how to braid them and asked her how much each MP had been paying for them.  He learned quickly that he could in fact make the lanyards quite quickly from white parachute cord but he could not get the yellow color just right from the instructions given him the Japanese woman.  Since he worked mostly in the mess hall and the Mess SGT bunked with the Medic unit NCOIC he was told by them to set up an emersion heater and place several Malaria tablets in the boiling water which would probably become quite yellow. To everyone’s surprise this actually worked. 


 Here is a photo of the old style, gasoline fired emersion heaters in the typical 35 gal galvanized garbage cans from the Mess Hall.  We used to bet how long it would take for a raw recruit on his first stint on KP to allow too much gasoline to drip into the heater before he lit it and watch the stove pipes go into orbit like a rocket! 


SGT Harold Lehman getting ready for Road Duty after finishing a Batch of lanyards 1948


All of the lanyards (both for the pistol and the whistle), gloves, ascots, and leggings were dyed in the same fashion using malaria tablets in boiling hot water.  The leggings had to be bleached at first until SGT Lehman found a source of white leggings from the US Navy that took the yellow malaria mixture very well and produced a nice cav yellow color.


The following are a few photos of the famous cav yellow lanyards:


You’ll note that the first lanyards produced by SGT Lehman were made of parachute cord and a little on the thin side.  The whistle lanyards were of the same material.


The 545th MP’s at Camp McGill, which was quite some distance from Camp Drake found a local Japanese tailor to make them and he used more braiding and they were thicker and had a sharper appearance.  You will also note the second loop on the shoulder which appeared at this time.


Not to be outdone by the tailor at Camp McGill, SGT Lehman began making his with two loops and also started making the famous holster tassel which remained in use until Korea


Once the 545th returned from the Korean War and set up shop at Camp Crawford, Japan the yellow lanyard was once again in use and instead of yellow ascot they used a yellow silk scarf.


Going to chow before Guard Mount at Camp Crawford



Guard Mount at Camp Drake in 1952.  Nor more yellow leggings, but the yellow lanyard was still there


Company Area at Camp Crawford


On the Gate at Camp Crawford


The yellow lanyard seen at the MP Desk at hardy Barracks in Japan


Once the unit was reactivated at Camp Custer and Camp Howze, Korea, the yellow lanyard and holster tassel was back in use once again as seen on the following pages.


Main Gate at Camp Howze, Korea


Main Gate at Camp Custer and yellow lanyards in plain sight


Camp Howze ceremony with yellow lanyards



545th MP’s greeting a dignitary in Korea with yellow lanyards and tassels



This photo is probably the last photo taken of a yellow Cav MP Lanyard in Korea before the unit went to Vietnam and it came out of use, but it shows great detail of both the lanyard and the holster tassel.


Our famous 545th Cavalry Yellow Lanyard has been brought back into vogue by the Association Honor Guard.  The MP shown here above is SSG (Ret) Victor Alvarez, a member of that Honor Guard.


The 545th MP’s were always proud of the garrison duty as well as their combat duty and they showed it in many ways – especially with their yellow lanyards.  Anyone having comments or additions to make to this document - please send them to:


Sam Reinert



545th Military Police Company Association

626 1/2 South 9th Street

Richmond, Indiana   47374  USA

(765) 962 4627 phone & FAX