November 1968 Issue
The 159th Military Police Battalion was activated 5 September 1944 at Chabua, Assam, India, and operated in the Assam area until deactivated 25 October 1945 following termination of hostilities. The battalion was operational throughout its history, and was never assembled in one place at any time. Its units and detachments were spread for 500 miles along the Assam line of communications leading to the fighting fronts in Burma and China. The battalion never engaged in combat, but supported the combat effort by fulfilling its mission of assisting in the movement of vital supplies trucked over the perilous Ledo Road into Burma and flown over the treacherous Himalaya "Hump" into China. The battalion never saw a city, but existed solely in an area of small villages and tea plantations carved out of the jungles of Upper Assam, and bounded by the world's highest mountain ranges. The battalion headquarters, located at the head of the Brahmaputra Valley, was 50 miles from Burma, 88 miles from China, and 100 miles from Tibet. Fixed-TO&E military police battalions had arrived in the China-Burma-India Theater in 1943, and had been split up and scattered throughout the theater. A battalion commander had no control over his units which were located in several major commands. Nevertheless they remained part of his battalion, and the whole system became quite confusing. Under the reorganization the old battalions were deactivated and new flexible-TO&E battalions were organized. The 158th was at Ledo, the 159th at Chabua and the 160th at Calcutta. Each was composed of the military police units within its respective major command, regardless of their former designations. Thereafter a unit moved from one major command area to another was dropped by one parent MP battalion and became part of another. Thus the 269th MP Company from Karachi and the 156th MP Guard Platoon from Bombay were received from other areas and became part of the 159th MP Battalion. This battalion had an aggregate strength of 659 men, but was augmented by temporarily attached air force and ground forces MP companies, U.S. Negro provisional MPs, K-9 guard dog detachments, Gurkha guard detachments, and Chinese MP detachments. The battalion proper was composed of personnel from throughout the United States, the officers alone being from 17 different states. It was made up of Regular Army "old soldiers," reservists, and many civilians in uniform for the "duration only." The 159th was activated shortly after the last thrust by Japanese forces into India, a drive aimed at cutting the supply lines and isolating the Upper Assam military bases. This failed, and about the same time the title of the U.S. Army command in Assam was changed from Advance Section to Intermediate Section. When the 159th came into being, the Japanese were putting up stubborn resistance southward in Burma, and the MPs considered possible another desperate thrust by the Japanese. Accordingly the 159th remained in readiness to participate in repelling any new attack on the vital Assam supply lines and installations. But "none came, and the war moved further and further away. The demand for supplies kept increasing, however, and the 159th was ever busy. Its duties included the security of military supplies en route up the Assam Valley on a single track small-gauge tea plantation railroad, by truck along the single gravel road up the valley, and by river barge up the broad Brahmaputra. Truck convoys were escorted by 159th MPs from Pandu, and MP guards boarded railroad supply trains at Parvatapur. Their schedules did not permit regular stops, and many times good old Yankee ingenuity displayed by the MPs kept their stomachs filled. One two-man team left Calcutta as barge guards with the standard issue of seven days rations. They arrived at Dibrugarh 40 days later looking happy and well fed. They lived "on the river" all the way, and managed somehow to never miss a meal (well, not many anyway). The huge volumes of supplies which came up the valley by road, rail, water and air were staged in the vast depots and airbases clustered in the area around Chabua. The MPs were responsible for the security of these supplies (except on the airbases), for policing the troops concentrated in the area, and for controlling the vast amount of ground traffic on the inadequate road net between airfields and supply depots in the area. The supplies were then airlifted over the "Hump" into China, and sent over the Ledo Road into Burma, hut the 159th stayed behind. It kept its 65 jeeps and 24 motorcycles moving through the choking road dust or the incessant monsoon rains, escorting convoy movements or handling miscellaneous traffic, operating area and town patrols, guarding headquarters and supply installations, and performing its numerous other duties. These included criminal investigations, emergency rescue service to plane crash victims, and operation of the Intermediate Section Stockade housing U.S. military prisoners. The 159th was commanded throughout its history by Lt. Col. Earl O. Cullum, and was under the overall command of Brig. Gen. Joseph A. Cranston, Commanding General of the Intermediate Section. Battalion Headquarters Detachment at Chabua was commanded by Capt. Harold I. Funk of Altoona, Pa. The 167th MP Company, stationed in the Chabua area, was commanded by Capt. Walter C. Hall of Dubois, Pa. Capt. Joseph J. Armand of Alexandria, La., commanded the 269th MP Company at Gauhati, and also served as Provost Marshal of the Military Railway Service. Capt. Garey M. Wells of Portland, Ore., commanded the 271st MP Company at Makum Junction. Lieut. Gordon V. Pingree of Corte Madera, Cal., commanded the 152nd MP Company at Dibrugarh. This company was activated in July 1945. Major Walter A. Swinhoe of Port Townsend, Wash., was Battalion Executive Officer but spent much of his time away on detached assignments. Capt. Arthur F. Perlin of Minneapolis served as Assistant Provost Marshal of Intermediate Section.
Operational But Never Assembled
Lieut. Franklin M. Geron was born at Paris, Tex., in 1908. He entered service in January 1941 and became a sergeant at Camp Bowie, Texas. He attended OCS in 1943 and served in North Africa. He was then assigned to the 269th and then the 271st MP Company, and became commander of the 167th MP Company in August 1945. Staff Sergeant Al Sherman was born at New York City in 1913 and worked for the Port of New York. He was inducted in May 1941 and after various assignments he reached the Intermediate Section Stockade at Chabua. There he was in charge of all prison records, and became quite a "personality," long remembered by all who knew him. Captain Harold I. Funk was born at Altoona, Pa., in 1913. He entered the Pennsylvania National Guard in 1932 and went on active duty in 1940. He attended MP OCS and was commissioned in November 1942, and assigned to the 782nd MP Battalion. He commanded Company C and then served on battalion staffs of both the 782nd and the 159th. He served as executive officer of the 159th while Major Walter A. Swinhoe was away on detached duty. Lt. Col. Earl O. Cullum, born in San Antonio in 1913, was raised at Dallas, Tex. He was an ROTC cadet colonel, and was commissioned in the Infantry Reserve in 1937. He entered active duty in March 1941 with the 208th MP Company at Camp Bowie, Tex. He graduated in the first class at the PMG School at Fort Myer, Va. in March 1942, and served as a PMGS instructor at Fort Oglethorpe and Fort Custer. In September 1943 he became Assistant Theater Provost Marshal in the CBI, and was promoted to major in February 1944. He became Provost Marshal of Advance Section No. 2 at Chabua, and commander of the 159th MP Battalion when it was activated in September 1944. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in April 1945. Master Sergeant Henry G. Roscher was born at Manor, Pa., in 1920. He was inducted in 1942 and went overseas with the 782nd. He served with the 271st MP Company at Makum Junction and then with 159th MP Battalion Headquarters where he became a M/Sgt. Lieut. Cecil L. Rostagno was born at Norway, Mich., in 1916 and was inducted in 1942 and later assigned to the 782nd. He became a staff sergeant in the 167th MP Company, and was given a direct commission in June 1945. He then became commander of the 156th MP Guard Platoon and Prison Officer of the Intermediate Section Stockade. Tcch/Sgt. Cecil E. Thill, born at Uniontown, Wash., in 1922, left college to enter the army in January 1943. He shipped out to the CBI with the 502 MP Battalion, and in May 1944 was assigned to the 167th MP Company when that unit was activated. He later became a staff sergeant in the 152nd MP Company, and then battalion supply sergeant of the 159th in Sept. 1945. Lieut. Peter Macura was born at Granville, N. Y., in 1917. He entered the army in March 1941 and was later assigned to the 782nd MP Battalion. He became first sergeant of the 271st MP Company, and was later given a direct commission as a second lieutenant. Staff Sergeant Walter R. Hall was born in 1921 and became a logger in the great northwest. He entered service in 1942 and was later assigned to the 269th MP Company. He was in charge of a detachment of military pilice at Jorhat, Assam. Lieut. William E. Mallory was born in 1917 at Cranston, R. I. He enlisted in the National Guard in 1940 and entered active duty in February 1941. He attended OCS in November 1942 and was assigned to the 502 MP Battalion. He was stationed in the Ledo area with this unit until May 1945. He then was assigned to the 269th MP Company and became company commander in September 1945. Tech/Sgt. Joseph V. Mcl.aughlin was born in San Francisco, Calif, in 1923. Ho shipped to the C3I with the 502nd MP Battalion, and was assigned to the 137th MP Company when it was activated. When a vacancy occurred at the Intermediate Section Stockade, McLaughlin moved "up the road a bit" and became the new Provost Sergeant. Other key NCOS were M/Sgt. Jack Rabinowitz and First Sgts. George J. Fournier, Hiral L. Franklin, Henry T. Jernigan and Ernest E. Landry. The war ended and the Battalion was deactivated before sketches were written about them. Sgt. Henry T. Jernigan served as editor of the "Assam Police Gazette" until he became first sergeant of the 152nd MP Company. T/5 Roger Curtice then became editor.
EXAMINING wound in Perry's foot are Colonel Cullum and a medical technician.