Ex-CBI Roundup
December 1996 Issue

By A. Holliday

The World War II
Military Police Battalions
In China-Burma-India

More than 50 years ago, during World War II, three U.S. Army Military Police Battalions operated in the CBI Theater, the most distant in the history of warfare. Prior to that, the U.S. Army had no permanent Military Police Corps, and limited MP duties were performed by detachments from other service branches.

Then in 1941 the permanent Military Police Corps was created, with new MP companies and battalions activated for training. The personnel came from other service branches, from reservists who were active in civilian law enforcement, and from new inductees.

The Pearl Harbor attack brought the U.S. into the "Greatest" War, before the nation was ready for it. The new Military Police School did not open until early 1942. Its first graduates then trained thousands of new Military Police officers who were soon deployed throughout the world. In the distant China-Burma-India Theater, Colonel Harry Cooper became the Theater Provost Marshal. He was General John J. Pershing's Sergeant Major in World War I, and later a member of the U.S. Secret Service White House Detail at Washington. He was sent home from the CBI Theater before MP Battalions became truly effective there: and was replaced by Lt. Col. Charles Meyers as Theater P.M.

The 502nd, 782nd and 792nd MP Battalions were sent to the CBI Theater, and were split up there and their smaller units were scattered, wherever most urgently needed. Thus, they never operated as battalions, and their senior officers often commanded only a headquarters, with companies assigned to Major Commands in other CBI areas.

In September 1944, the U.S. War Department deactivated these existing MP Battalions, and relieved the battalion commanders. It created the new 158th, 159th and 160th MP Battalions, all with flexible structures, and each including the existing MP units in the major command. New unit designations were assigned to these battalions and companies.

The 158th MP Bn at Ledo was commanded by Lt. Col. Elliott Stouten-burgh, operating along the Ledo Road being built through Northern Burma to China.

The 159th MP Bn at Chabua was commanded by Major Earl O. Cullum, spread for 500 miles in the Assam Valley, and including the giant Chabua supply complex at the foot of the Himalaya "Hump" to China.

The 160th MP Bn at Calcutta, commanded by Major John Cruickshank, based at the Calcutta seaport.

There were also many individual MP companies in the CBI Theater, assigned to airfields and other commands not in the MP Battalion areas of responsibility.

The major criminal case of the CBI Theater had a strong effect on the Military Police units and officers in the CBI. A disgruntled soldier shot and killed his commanding officer in Burma, fled into the Naga Hills, and "went native." He was later wounded and captured by Military Police led by Captain Walter McMinn, but recovered in a U. S. Army Field Hospital. He was tried by an Army Court-Martial and sentenced to death, but escaped from the Ledo Stockade and from an attempt by Ledo MPs to recapture him.

The fugitive rafted down a jungle river into the 159th MP Battalion area in Assam, where he was wounded again, but kept going. Then, for 18 days, he led the Military Police in a manhunt through heavy jungles, and was finally captured man-to-man in darkness by Major Earl O. Cullum. The killer was held in the escape-proof Chabua Stockade, and five days later was taken to Ledo where he was hanged, under the supervision of Lt. Col. Meyers.

Following this case Meyers was promoted to Colonel, and Cullum and Cruickshank to Lt. Colonel. The three MP Battalions operated effectively through the rest of the war. They were deactivated after the war ended, and the troops were shipped home individually.

So, after a poor start, the value of Military Police Battalions was finally proven in the CBI Theater, and they have been part of the U.S. Army ever since then.

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