738TH MP BATTALION, US ARMY
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

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visits since 21 May 2004

 

The 738th Military Police Battalion was activated on 1 February 1942. A Medical Detachment was added on 15 June 1942. On 23 July 1942 all components of the 738th MP Bn. boarded the USS Mount Vernon at San Francisco for an unknown destination. The USS Mount Vernon arrived at Wellington, New Zealand on 7 August 1942 and sailed for Auckland, New Zealand on the 8 August 1942 arriving there on 9 August 1942.

The USS Mount Vernon left Auckland on 11 August 1942 arriving in Sydney, Australia on 14 August 1942. The unit was transported by truck convoy to Camp Prospect. Company "D" left the Battalion on 19 August 1942 and was stationed for training and MP duty at Camp Warwick at Liverpool in New South Wales from 20 August 1942 until 20 November 1942. Company "D" then moved to Palladium in Sydney on 20 November 1942. On 12 June 1943, Company "D" then moved to Sydney University Oval. Company "D" carried out the varied program of Military Police operating in a big centre of communications. Personnel did M.P. duty, wharf duty, ship, city, train guard, motorcycle and radio car patrol.

The 738th MP Battalion was one of the first Army service units to reach Australia during WWII. During most of its time in Australia, its Headquarters and two companies were located in Brisbane. Other Companies of the 38th MP Bn. operated in Sydney, Darwin, Melbourne, Mount Isa and nearby cities.

The rest of the 738th MP Bn left Camp Prospect by train for Brisbane on 19 August 1942. They initially camped in Camp Ascot in Brisbane. Company "A" left for Darwin on 1 September 1942 and arrived at Darwin (Base Section 1) on 14 September 1942 where they witnessed their first air raid on 25 September 1942. Some personnel from Company "A" were placed on detached service at Strauss Airfield in the Northern Territory. Another group went to Birdum in the Northern Territory and yet another group was sent to Mount Isa in far western Queensland. Another detachment may have spent time in Townsville. On 23 February 1943, units of Company "A" began a movement to Melbourne arriving there on 9 March 1943.

On 27 August 1942, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, the Medical Detachment and Companies "B and "C" were moved by truck from Camp Ascot to Camp Columbia some 13 miles away. There they underwent training for street and wharf duty in Brisbane.

Headquarters, the Medical Detachment and Company "B" took over Camp Whinstanes on 24 December 1942.

On 25 October 1942, Company "C" took over Camp Lafayette, the Stockade for Base Section 3 in Brisbane, where it stayed until rejoining Headquarters, the Medical Detachment and Company "B" at nearby Camp Whinstanes on 7 January 1943. Company "C" whilst at Camp Lafayette operated the stockade and provided prison guards for the stockade. When they relocated to Camp Whinstanes they joined Company "B" is its duties as wharf guards and on M.P. Patrol in South Brisbane and Ipswich. Battalion Guard Detachments were also sent to the 105th General Hospital at Gatton, Headquarters of the Sixth Army at Camp Columbia, and some units and some individuals served in Toowoomba, Coolangatta and Southport and on trains between Sydney and Brisbane and trains going north from Brisbane and at various railheads in Queensland.

Six months later Company "A" (from Northern Territory and Mt Isa) and Company "D" (from Sydney) arrived at Camp Whinstanes on 9 July 1943 and 11 July 1943 respectively.

A formal march was held at Camp Columbia on 14 to 15 September 1942. Whilst at Camp Columbia the Battalion moved by truck to Redcliffe for full fiend inspection and some recreation.

Whilst at Camp Whinstanes the Battalion conducted all general camp activities, including the post exchange and the movies. Funds accruing to the companies were used for company parties and dances. The battalion held an anniversary ball, celebrating the end of its first year abroad, in the Trocadero, in Brisbane on 15 August 1943.

The 738th MP Battalion received many commendations for their work, including a report from the Office of the Surgeon, Base Section 3, USASOS - SWPA, on 9 May 1943, giving the Officer's Mess at Camp Whinstanes a rating of "Excellent" and the Company messes a rating of "Superior". The 738th was the only organisation in the Base Section with highest rating of "Superior".

Another letter of commendation was received from the Field Director of the American Red Cross Service Club in Brisbane on 10 September 1943, addressed to the Base Section Officer, commending the work of the Military Police at the appearance of Artie Shaw and his orchestra.

The 738th MP Battalion was involved in the traditional guard and police patrol duties and also carried out other duties such as guard duty in ship holds, and on train journeys delivering prisoners. They also assisted Port Battalions in combat areas loading and unloading ships.

The 738th MP Battalion were directly involved in the "Battle of Brisbane" on 26 November 1942, where very large crowds of American and Australia soldiers confronted each other. The MP's of the 738th MP Battalion were armed with 12-gauge Stevens pump-action shotguns. One of these persons was Private Norbert Grant of "C" Company. They elbowed their way to the front of the American PX on the corner of Creek and Adelaide Street in Brisbane, Queensland.

Someone in the crowd saw that Grant had a gun and suddenly he was accosted by people trying to get the gun off him. He jabbed one Aussie soldier with the shotgun. Another soldier grabbed the gun and someone else had him around the neck. The shotgun discharged. In all 3 shots were fired. These 3 shots and the resulting melee produced the following outcome:-

- 1 Australian killed
- 8 minor gunshot wounds
- 6 baton injuries
- 100's with black eyes, split lips, swollen cheeks, broken noses and various abrasions

Chuck Morton advised that records he had obtained showed that SSgt. Shook of Company C of the 738th MP Battalion was based at the prison stockade at Camp Lafayette and also at nearby Camp Whinstanes in 1942 and 1943. Glenn, as he was known, arrived in Australia in July 1942 and stayed in Australia for a year before being sent to New Guinea. He was later killed in action on 20 October 1944 at Red Beach during the invasion of Leyte, in the Philippines. His death and burial were front page news in the regional and local newspapers in his hometown. 

 

Grave of S/Sgt Glenn G. Shook

 

Lieutenant Colonel William R. Kester (0-223608) assumed command of the 738th MP Battalion on 22 March 1942. He served, with teh exception of brief periods of illness, until he was relieved on 10 May 1943. Lieutenant Colonel Carl V. Shoemaker (0-178434) assumed command of the 738th Military Police Battalion on 29 June 1943. Lt. Col. Shoemaker then left to take command of the 345th Escort Guard Company on 9 August 1943 and Major Hubert J. Scallon (0-309331) took over as the Commanding Officer of the 738th MP Bn. Major Taggart took over as Commanding Officer during times of illness of the CO and during transition periods for the Commanding Officer. Major William A. Carter (0-289074) also served for a brief period as Commanding Officer.

On 30 October 1943 an Advance Echelon of 398 men and four officers including most of Company "B" and Company "C" boarded the SS Polk headed for Milne Bay in New Guinea. They established a camp at Ahioma, Milne Bay on 4 November 1943.

The rest of the Battalion left Brisbane by train on 4 November 1943 and arrived in Townsville on 6 November 1943. They boarded HMAS Manoora on 8 November 1943 and arrived in Milne Bay on 10 November 1943 where they were reunited with the advance echelon at Ahioma. On 14 December 1943 Headquarters, Headquarters Detachment, the Medical detachment, Company "B", Company "C" and Detachments from the other two Companies boarded M.S. Tjisadane for Oro Bay arriving there on 15 December 1943. A few days later they were assigned for quarters and duty to the 387th Port Battalion and moved into the area at Oro Bay occupied by this unit.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank John Daly and Chuck Morton for their assistance with this home page.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"They Passed This Way"
by Barry Ralph

 

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This page first produced 21 May 2004

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