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545th Military Police Company

1st Cavalry Division

Motorcycles

A Pictorial History

As of August 11, 201

 

Although there were several famous Military Police units that were authorized motorcycles, the 545th MP Company was never authorized motorcycles on the TOE.  That did not stop the enterprising 545th MP’s from obtaining and utilizing them.  Throughout the units history the 545th has been known to come up with what was required to get the job done and has always been known for the scroungers within the unit.  From the days at Fort Bliss until the units deactivation at Fort Hood, the 545th scroungers have always come up with what the unit needed if it was not obtainable through normal supply channels – sometimes to the embarrassment of the unit commander.

Before I go any further, a little historical background is required to explain how it came about that the 545th ended up with motorcycles.  During WW II in the Pacific Islands, the radios they had were not too reliable and the land lines kept being broken or cut by artillery fire.  The Signal Corps came up with the ingenious idea that couriers could be mounted on motorcycles to transport messages quickly.  Keep in mind there were no computers or FAX machines in those days.  If a document needed to be sent to a commander in the field, it had to be hand carried.  Runners on foot took too long and jeeps got stuck in the bottle neck traffic that was so common during the war in the Pacific.  Motorcycles were the answer and the government ordered thousands of them from Harley Davidson.

After the war the occupation troops settled in to barracks life and garrison duty in Japan.  Land lines and switchboards were once again established and jeeps could once again be used if necessary to transport documents.  All the motorcycles were turned into the salvage yard for destruction or return to the states.

The old MP Platoon (soon to become the 545th MP Company), HQS Troop, 1st Cav Div was assigned Post Camp and Station duties and in addition to patrolling Camp Drake also provided patrols in villages in and around Tokyo as well as Tokyo proper.  There were no hand held radios that were reliable in those days and the only method of communication with the patrol supervisor or the Desk Sergeant was land line, MP Whistle or the night stick.  

Tokyo was so small that not even a Rickshaw could pass through them.  Obviously a jeep would not either.  Now imagine yourself an MP on the midnight shift on foot patrol in the black market district with just one other MP with you.  You have no radio and there are no pay phones anywhere in sight.  This is an area where they will kill you for just your uniform and boots and cigarettes.  There are muggers and thieves and worse in these alley ways, some of which are over a mile long before you come to an intersection that is big enough to allow a jeep to pass through.  There were many a close call before back-up could be sent to assist a foot patrol in trouble until the Platoon Commander, CPT  Albert Daniel had a talk with the Motor Sergeant, SSG “Pop”  Schrade shown here below on the left.

 

 

 

CPT Daniel asked Pop if he could manage to obtain some of the salvage motorcycles for use by the MP’s and Pop replied that one of his mechanics who everyone called Snoopy (shown on the right in the photo above) had owned a motorcycle before he joined the service and was very familiar with their care and maintenance.  Many of our old time members remember Snoopy, but no one can remember his real name.  If SGT Lehman were still alive he is probably the only one who would remember.  To make a long story short – CPT Daniel gave Pop and Snoopy a few bottles of whiskey and a case of Coke and off they went to the Salvage yard.  They returned several hours later and much mellower with four bikes, of which only two were operational.  Snoopy had insisted on the two other bikes for spare parts.

They painted them Cavalry Yellow and stenciled Military Police on them and added sirens and red flashing lights and saddle bags (also painted yellow).  They then presented them to CPT Daniel who invited the PM, MAJ Phelps to have a look at the finished product. MAJ Phelps was impressed with the results of their work and immediately knew that this was the answer to the narrow alley ways patrols. The Major asked CPT Daniel if he could obtain more and CPT Daniel stated it would cost another several bottles of whiskey and the PM obliged by immediately providing four bottles himself.  Within a week there were 1st Cav MP Bikes everywhere.

 

This is a black and white photo that has been hand painted (as was the fashion before color film)

of the first two 1st Cav MP Bikes on patrol duty around 1945/46 in Tokyo

 

The famous yellow 1st Cav MP motorcycles on parade at Camp Drake 1946

 

CPT Louis Mehl on one of the 545th yellow bikes 1949 at Camp Drake

LTC (ret) Mehl (Deceased) was a member of our association and the Assn Commandant

Note the 30 cal ammo cans mounted on the front wheel fender with first aid supplies and the saddle bags for DR’s, traffic tickets, witness statements, flares, a blanket etc.

 

545th CPL Frank Kane (with MP helmet on the left) on a yellow MP Bike at Camp Drake 1949/50

SGM (Ret) Kane is a member of our Association

 

As was the custom in the 1st Cavalry Division in Tokyo in those days, all the Regimental Commanders and the entire General staff had horses and went riding every morning before breakfast and that included the Division CG.  One fine spring morning in 1950 just prior to the Korean War, the CG was riding around the Division Hqs building and had come around the corner towards the main street just as one of the patrol bikes was proceeding down the same street and backfired.  The CG’s horse reared, almost tossing the CG off his mount and the MP panicked and hit his hand brake a little too hard and the bike fish tailed and slid out from under the MP towards the CG and his horse.  Thanks to the general’s good horsemanship and quick thinking by the MP who managed to divert the bikes slide away from the horse, no one was physically injured.  But General Chase was heard to say “Those damned bikes are a menace to good cavalry horses and have no business in a Cavalry division” Needless to say – that was the last of the MP motorcycles in the 1st Cavalry Division at Camp Drake. 

This is not the end of the story!  Pop hid the bikes in a shop in Tokyo in hopes that one day they would come in handy again.  As we all know, the 545th was shipped off with the rest of the Division to Korea and participated in the Korean War (that’s another pictorial history).  No one knows for sure how the location of these bikes was passed from one motor sergeant to another, but when the 545th returned to Japan and set up shop at Camp Crawford, the bikes mysteriously showed up on duty once again!  Thanks to one of our members (SGT Warren Sessler) we now have some great photos of these bikes at Camp Crawford:

 

Note:  The yellow jeeps and motorcycles had gone out of vogue by this time

 

      

545th MP Sessler on the famous MP Bikes at Camp Crawford

 

 

 

I hope you all enjoyed this little bit of nostalgia and 545th history as much as I did in putting it all together.

 

Sam Reinert
CPT MP USAR (Ret)
Founder
545th Military Police Company Association
626 1/2 South 9th Street
Richmond, Indiana 47374 USA
(765) 962 4627 phone & FAX
http://545thmpassn.com/

Samreinert1@545thmpcoassn.org