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Military Police Group (Customs)
US Army, Europe
Looking for more information from military/civilian
personnel assigned to or associated with the U.S. Army
in Germany from 1945 to 1989. If you have any
stories or thoughts on the subject, please contact me.
MP Customs Unit History
7751 MP Customs
Leroy J. Smith
Berchtesgaden Detachment, 1953 - Jack Walker, sitting, on the right (Jack Walker)
Berchtesgaden Detachment - border control point (Jack Walker)
(Source: Email from Jackie Carlson, daughter of Jack C. Walker)
My father, Jack C. Walker, was initially with in the US Constabulary and later in the MP Customs unit 7751 from 1947 to 1954 I believe. He served in the APO 541 Berchtesgaden Detachment according to these orders and things I have.
I have recently opened some of my father's old footlocker/trunks. They are filled with all most every document he ever touched.
I have tons of touristy type things, pictures of him, army buddies, the landscape, parades, manuvers and just about anything you can think of. I have propoganda books and maps and hotel brochures. Old stamps, original orders from the Army - stacks of them - I have his meal vouchers, his driving "licenses" every card the army ever gave him I think. His uniform is in pristine condition but no hat and I am not sure where everything goes. You name it and my father saved it. Seriously.
1. Special Orders
2. Customs MP Office
MP Group History
42nd MP Group
HISTORY OF THE 42D MILITARY POLICE GROUP
The precursor organization of the 42d MP Group, i.e., the 7751st
MP Detachment, was established on 21 March 1949, to fight
organized and widespread blackmarket activities which posed a serious
threat to the German economy. The unit enforced USEUCOM Customs
Regulations, investigated violations thereof, controlled parcel
post shipments of blackmarketable goods, and manned twenty-three
border stations used by US military personnel crossing the international
borders of (then) US occupied Germany.
In August 1950, the US High Commission for Germany requested the
services of the "Customs Unit," later designated as the 42d
Military Police Detachment, to control the eastward movement
of restricted goods to "Satellite Bloc" countries. On 1 November
1952, the "Customs Unit" was relieved of its strategic export control
function and this function was resumed by German authorities.
In May 1955, Germany regained sovereignty. The rights, privileges,
and obligations of the foreign forces and their members stationed
in Germany were then based on the "Bonn Forces Convention," the
forerunner of the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (NATO SOFA) and
the Supplementary Agreement thereto. As a result, the "Customs Unit"
was charged with establishing customs controls within Germany.
23 October 1956, in order to effect closer coordination
with USAREUR Headquarters, the MP Customs Detachment
headquarters relocated from Frankfurt to Heidelberg.
Four years later, the unit was relieved from USAREUR
and assigned to Headquarters, Special Troops, USAREUR.
The unit at that time had nine field offices.
On 1 Jul 63, the NATO SOFA became effective in Germany.
It allows the US Forces to establish and enforce, in
coordination with German customs authorities, customs
policy for US Forces members in Germany. Since USAREUR
has country responsibility for all three branches of
service in Germany, this task has always been carried
out by the 42d MP Group.
On 25 January 1968, Headquarters and
Headquarters Detachment, 42nd Military Police Group
was constituted in the Regular Army and activated in
Germany.. The group is charged with providing customs
enforcement and maintaining liaison and cooperation
with German customs authorities at all levels. In addition,
the group is responsible for establishing customs policies
and procedures for the Federal Republic of Germany and
to negotiate with German authorities on questions of
procedure and US forces entitlements arising from tax
and customs issues within the NATO SOFA.
On 1 Jul 74, the 42d MP Group was transferred to the
Brigade, retaining its missions and HQ USAREUR affiliation.
On 13 Dec 74, drug suppression and anti-hijack protection
were added to the missions of the 42d MP Group.
On 1 Jun 76, relieved from assignment to 15th MP Brigade,
the 42d MP Group was reassigned to US Army Europe and
Seventh Army and, on 21 Oct 77, placed under the 21st
21 Oct 77, HHD was reorganized and redesignated as Headquarters
and Headquaters Company, 42nd MP Gp.
On 9 Dec 77, the Cdr, 42d MP Group became the Executive Agent
for all customs matters in USEUCOM. As the Executive Agent,
the Cdr, 42d MP Group, provides staff supervision over the
US Military Customs inspection programs in 11 countries throughout
Europe. This responsibility includes staff supervision of
169 military customs inspection programs operated by the US
Army, Navy and Air Force.
On 21 Jan 78, the 42d MP Group was reassigned to HQ, USAREUR/7th
Army (Office of the Deputy Commander in Chief) and converted
into a major command. In Aug 83, the Commander, 42d Military
Police Group was also designated the USAREUR Executive Agent
for customs for US Forces personnel in Germany.
Continuing to expand through the years, the 42d MP Group was
reorganized on 1 Jul 85, and currently has over 650 military
and civilians assigned throughout Germany and Northern Italy
at 43 separate locations, ranging from Bremerhaven, in the
north, to West Berlin, and south to Livorno, Italy.
42d Military Police Group provides customs support on an area
basis. Our unit boundaries are generally the same as the German
state (Land) boundaries. The Group Headquarters and its Headquarters
Company are located in Mannheim; the 193rd MP Company is in
Nürnberg; the 256th in Frankfurt; the 285th in Karlsruhe;
the 294th in Kaiserslautern and the 560th in Bremerhaven.
A map showing these locations, as well as our subordinate
field offices, is on the left. The field offices are structured
into platoon and squad organizations which perform the day-to-day
peacetime customs missions and also train to perform their
In August 1994, the 42d MP Group (Customs) was inactivated as part of the drawdown of US military forces in Europe.
|If you have more
information on the history or organization of the 42nd MP Gp, please
Email from Rick D. Moderie, 42nd MP Gp, 1982-85; 1987-93)
was stationed in Germany during the timeframe 1982 to 1993, almost
continuously assigned to 42d MP Group.
I was a customs investigator in Nuernberg from 1982 to 1985 and
in Hanau and Frankfurt from 1987 to 1993. I have lots of experiences
to relate concerning USAREUR during the "Cold War."
42nd MP Group was organized in 1968 from the 7751st MP Detachment.
Customer Service (Retiree Verification, Unit Briefings, Customs
- Overwatch of
the Military Customs Inspection Program
This was the unit layout in July 1980:
Field Offices: Karlsruhe, Heidelberg, Mannheim, Heilbronn,
Offices: Hamburg, Berlin, Osterholz-Schwarmbeck, Bremerhaven
(including Vehicle Processing Center)
Offices: Fulda, Giessen, Hanau, Darmstadt, Rhein-Main,
Rheinland/Pfalz - Saarland
Offices: Kaiserslautern, Baumholder, Mainz, Saarbrucken,
Livorno (IT), Vicenza (IT)
Offices: Nuernberg, Aschaffenburg, Bamberg, Wuerzburg,
Ansbach, Schweinfurt, Grafenwoehr, Augsburg, Munich, Bad Toelz,
Garmisch, Berchtesgaden, Neu Ulm
June 1985, the companies converted to TO&E units. Evelyn P. "Pat"
Foote, then a Colonel, was group commander.
EPW Guard Companies:
294th MP Co, formerly Det D
560th MP Co, formerly Det B
EPW Escort/Guard Companies (TO&E 19-256):
193d MP Co, formerly Det E
256th MP Co, formerly Det C
285th MP Co, formerly Det A
While being designated as TO&E units, they still maintained a TDA
unit. Investigators were assigned the TDA positions. I was in Frankfurt
Field Office. Our Field Office NCOIC was the "squad leader." A TO&E
platoon sergeant, responsible for personnel, leadership and training
(not the TDA missions) was responsible for Wiesbaden, Frankfurt
and Rhein-Main "squads."
Lots of conflicts arose from this strange setup (which looked good
on paper, albeit severely hampered the effectiveness of investigations
and customer service capabilities).
Army Information Digest, September 1952)
Lines in the Cold War
By Captain Edgar M. Jones
If the Cold
War can be said to have any visible front lines, then a small
group of American Military Police may be said to be manning that
line. It is a line devoid of spectacular action, although the
possibility of physical danger and violence is always imminent.
And while there is no glory and no widespread recognition for
these men of the 7751st Military Police Customs
Unit, their organization is wielding an influence and
responsibility all out of proportion to its numbers in helping
to advance the cause of Western nations -- and especially the
cause of the United States.
Along stretches of the Bavarian frontier which face the Soviet
Zone in Germany and also Czechoslovakia and Austria, men of the
7751st are on duty. They do not search for escapees or smugglers
or infiltrating foreign agents -- nothing so spectacular and dramatic
as that. Daily they go through the drudgery and repetitive detail
of checking cars in isolated, dirty rail yards, often working
alone far from mess hall or barracks.
As a result of their efforts, millions of dollars worth of goods
which could have been used by Russia or satellite countries for
manufacture of war materiel have been intercepted at the borders.
That in essence is the job being performed by these Military Police.
Theirs is difficult and often very delicate work. If a shipment
of goods is stopped as potential war materiel, the shippers can
and do protest vehemently. And sometimes there can be international
repercussions which reverberate up to the very top echelons of
military and diplomatic circles.
Take for instance the case of twenty-eight carloads of pipes consigned
to a Czech firm. When the Military Police inspected this matereil,
they became suspicious and ordered the shipment held. The Czechs
were water pipes. To the Military Police they looked suspiciously
like oil casings which could very easily find their way to Rumanian
or even Russian oil fields. The enraged Czech authorities were
so incensed over the stoppage that they cut off coal shipments
to the porcelain factories in Bavaria. This seriously affected
the West German economy; a minor diplomatic crisis had been created.
The whole matter finally had to be settled on levels of diplomatic
discussion high above the field worker who first inspected the
That single case epitomizes the many diverse elements that ebb
and flow in the complicated situation that exists today in Germany.
Even on the highest levels of statecraft, it is difficult to make
clear-cut decision regarding shipments from Germany to the satellite
countries. It must be remembered that Western European countries
are dependent on some sort of trade in order to maintain their
normal economies -- and it is in the American interest to rebuild
those economics. For Germany and some of the other western nations
to switch entirely to the dollar areas for their raw materials
would well nigh bankrupt a Europe that is scarcely solvent even
One expedient has been to work out agreements which specify the
kinds of goods, the quantities, and the kinds of payments that
can be made in international trade. Thus some articles can be
placed under absolute embargo while others not highly rated as
potential war goods can be subject to quantitative control and
within limits may be shipped to the East. A system of licensing
seeks to control the flow of such materiel at the source.
A recent step in the continuing battle to curtail the availability
of critical materiel to Iron Curtain countries is the agreement
reached in January 1952 between the United Slates and ten Western
European nations, to prevent re-export of such materials which
may he received from the United States.
Russia and her satellites need many products manufactured in Germany
and other western countries. Some of these needs are for civilian
consumer goods, others are essential in manufacture of war materiel.
It is often extremely difficult, as in the case of the pipes,
to be sure just what the ultimate use many be. In any case, Allied
interests demand that no goods, manufactured or raw, be sent behind
the Iron Curtain for war purposes. Consequently the inspection
of freight at border points has become an increasingly important
phase in the Cold War.
As often happens, the 7751st Military Police Customs Unit evolved
to fill a special need. The unit was originally organized by the
European Command of the United States Army in April 1949 as a
special purpose organization to combat smuggling and black marketeering
in the United States Zone. At that time floods of black market
items came into the American Zone. It was difficult to call it
smuggling because German customs men were hesitant about asking
questions of Allied persons, much less snooping through their
baggage or searching for contraband.
Creation of a special Military Police unit was ordered and soon
volunteers were being trained. Rigid standards were established.
Duty stations were designated along the international frontiers
within the United States Zone. As soon as the German customs men
found that their jobs would not be endangered, and when it was
demonstrated that rigid border inspections would assist the sagging
German economy by bringing in added tax revenue, they co-operated
enthusiastically. This was particularly true at highway control
points where clear division of labor could be made. The Americans
inspected the luggage of Allied forces while the Germans took
care of other nationals. In the vicinity of Salzburg and Innsbruck
in Austria, and of Berchtesgaden, Garmisch and Oberammergau in
Germany, the heavy tourist traffic kept all hands busy during
The men stationed at railway crossing points, however, were not
so pressed and were consequently able to take more time preparing
detailed reports on the kinds and amounts of traffic passing their
check points. At first these reports were merely made available
to economic experts as an indication of trade conditions. But
these commercial freight records also provided a wealth of information
on the consignor and consignee, description of the goods, quantity,
weight, value and routings.
All of these records were duly turned over to the civilian experts
for study until several incidents occurred. The first was discovery
of material listed as scrap but which proved to be some fifteen
tons of serviceable and unused copper wiring consigned to Hungary.
Since nobody seriously objected to the shipment, it was allowed
to go on its way. But when, two months later, another shipment
of alleged scrap turned out to be a hundred aerial bomb casings,
capacity half ton, they were ordered cut up by acetelyne torch.
And then some serious consideration was given to means of remedying
the entire situation.
As a result, the emphasis of work by the Military Police Customs
Unit was shifted from checking tourists to heavier concentration
on freight movements. Today the Unit operates customs control
points at international airports within the United States Zone,
in the Bremen and Berlin enclaves and at rail points all along
the Bavarian frontier.
In most instances these duty stations are remote from other military
facilities. Along the Czech frontier some of the men drive their
jeeps up to fifty miles inland to get gasoline and food supplies.
Mess is provided by putting the men on station allowance and giving
them access to military commissaries. They hire German cooks because
the strength at any billet is usually under ten men who must take
turns in border watches around the clock. They also make weekly
patrols to points manned by German customs and border police.
The entire strength of the Unit is twelve officers and one hundred
and sixty-four enlisted men -- all noncommissioned officers. Paperwork
on personnel records and monthly payrolls is turned over to the
nearest post or sub-post. Control points are usually administered
by a master sergeant. He in turn is supervised by an area inspector,
either a lieutenant or a captain.
When a member of the Customs Unit finds something that looks suspicious
he reports it immediately by telephone and the work of investigating
the shipment is quickly under way. Some of the materiel clearly
is on the banned lists but other items are more difficult to judge.
And often trying to find out just who did ship the goods in question
is impossible because of the devious "triangular trade" methods
that are used by opportunists who flourish in the twilight zone
of world trade.
A typical "triangular trade" deal was that involving eleven tons
of highly polished bearings. The shipment arrived at rail yards
on the German side of the Czech border. All the papers were in
order, indicating that the ball bearings were in transit from
a Swiss manufacturer. An American Military Policeman nevertheless
opened the boxes and discovered packing slips showing that the
bearings had been made in Schweinfurt, Germany. Investigation
revealed that they had presumably been sold originally to an Englishman
in Antwerp, Belgium. From there they went to a French concern
which shipped them to Switzerland; the bearings then were dispatched
to Germany as a transit shipment for the Czechs. The shipment
was seized by United States East-West trade authorities in Germany
and somebody lost approximately seventy-five thousand dollars,
the value of the bearings. But proving just who may have been
the real violator is still another problem.
Licensed exports from another country in transit across Germany
to the East are outside the jurisdiction of the Customs Unit.
But members still copy down all data appearing on the shipping
documents and, as in the case of the ball bearings, suspicious
shipments can be identified. Formal procedures for stoppages and
clearances were adopted in May 1950. During that year the members
of the Unit held up some two hundred shipments. In 1951, almost
seven hundred shipments were detained. And while not all of these
were turned back, many were barred from export. Admittedly, however,
some of these barred shipments conceivably have been rerouted
to the west and to the north where the American Military Police
were not on duty and thus may have reached the satellites.
Devious means of getting around the export restrictions are sometimes
uncovered. One such case was a shipment to Czechoslovakia of about
ten tons of what looked like laundry mangle parts labeled as a
"soot machine." Upon closer investigation it turned out to be
machinery for making carbon black, an ingredient used by automobile
tire manufacturers to toughen rubber and to lengthen the wearing
life of their product. There is an acute shortage of this product
within the Soviet bloc.
The individual Customs Unit member feels that his work is vital
and important in winning the Cold War. He is supported by words
of praise from a United States Senate Committee and also by a
unit commendation given by the Department of State.
Some memorable effects can be noted, too. Delays at the frontier
while investigating the validity of suspicious export licenses
have disrupted Communist time tables. Risks involved in trading
with the East have caused German manufacturers to increase their
prices; now they demand substantial down payments from their Communist
customers in advance. Extra costs for circuitous routing of freight
just to avoid the inspections have also thrown Red-dominated industry
budgets out of line.
And what do the Communists themselves think of it all? Probably
the best indication of the Unit's effectiveness is that boiling-mad
Communist newspaper editors often refer to the men of the 7751st
Military Police Customs Unit, EUCOM, as "war criminals."
Military Police, November 1989)
Years of Challenge
By Robert Szostek
|Born forty years
ago in the ruins of postwar Germany, the 42d Military Police Group
is tasked with a mission that spans the European continent.
Immediately after World War II the 42d began its fight against widespread
black market activity. Even after Germany regained sovereignty black
market investigations continued to protect the reemergent Germany
During these critical years the group manned major German border crossings,
the Bremerhaven seaport, and international airports to control the
flow of tax- and duty-free goods into and out of Germany, as well
as assist soldiers during border crossings.
Although the group relinquished these border posts in 1980, its military
police stayed on at Frankfurt International Airport and Rhein Main
Air Base (where most military members and their families still enter
The 42d's primary mission remains law enforcement under the NATO Status
of Forces Agreement, particularly regarding drug and black market
suppression. However, helping new arrivals to import pets and other
restricted items is also important.
In 1968 the 42d MP Group also assumed the military customs inspection
(MCI) mission for USAREUR (United States Army, Europe). Qualified
customs inspectors inspect everything from household goods to tanks
moved through military channels m the United States.
Each year 42d's inspectors clear approximately one hundred thousand
household goods shipments, twenty thousand privately-owned vehicles
(POVs), five thousand military aircraft and eighty thousand passengers.
This saves the government and the individual soldier, DOD civilian,
and their families time and money. Because shipments, passengers,
and vehicles cleared by the 42d are not normally inspected when they
enter the United States, they reach their destination sooner.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture requirements are of central importance
to the MCI mission. They safeguard the American farming industry from
foreign pests such as the Mediterranean fruit fly. It tray be unusual
to see an MP crawling tinder a wet tank looking for dirt; but that
dirt could harbor nematodes and other voracious insects that could
wipe out the American potato industry if they reached CONUS. When
considered in that context, the mission is an awesome responsibility
for young soldiers.
Customs information is also a vital service that can save a soldier
from unintentionally breaking the law. So 42d's public affairs office
uses all available media to tell the U.S. forces audience in Europe
about customs and agriculture laws and about their host nation tax-
and duty-free benefits. This mission is challenging because many soldiers
and their families have never dealt with customs before.
As a result of the group's expertise in the military customs inspection
arena, it was assigned duties as the executive agent for all customs
matters in the European Command. The Group USEUCOM (United Stated
European Command) Executive Agency for Customs supervises approximately
180 MCI programs run by the Army, Navy, and Air Force in nine European
countries. Advisors from the U.S. Customs Service and U.S. Department
of Agriculture assist in program accreditation, coordination with
U.S.federal agencies, and training.
Training Is Unique
The core of this training is a unique week-long qualification course
organized and conducted by the executive agency. It introduces MPs
to the complex world of customs and agriculture regulations. Which
U.S. Department of Transportation safety rules apply to POVs built
in 1971? What paperwork does the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
need for a 9mm handgun made in Lithuania after 1945?
Other subjects covered in the training range from currency, wildlife,
and environmental protection laws to Public Health Service regulations.
Military police are taught to inspect household goods, POVs, aircraft,
passengers and cargo. They learn the latest smuggling methods and
are given reinforcement training in drug recognition.
Later in the week the MPs learn the tax and customs laws that apply
to the U.S. forces in Germany under the NATO Status of Forces Agreement.
Who exactly is allowed to have tax-free privileges in Germany? What
privileges do they have and what are the limitations?
In addition, classes are given on black-market investigations and
surveillance. A military working dog team comes to demonstrate the
effectiveness of its drug-detection capabilities. The interaction
between the group's military customs inspectors, dog handlers, and
investigators is heavily stressed.
One spin-off from the MCI mission is the 42d's role in the annual
REFORGER exercise. When REFORGER troops land in Europe, the 42d's
customs inspectors are there to speed them through customs. Then,
when the exercise is over, the troops and their baggage move to special
customs clearance areas where they are inspected before flying back
Their equipment goes to wash sites where it is cleaned by the unit,
inspected by the 42d, and then loaded onto flatcars for the journey
to the port and the voyage to CONUS. All this saves the taxpayer millions
of dollars each year because such precleared flights don't have to
land at U.S. ports of entry, download, and go through customs before
flying on to their destinations -- thereby saving time, fuel, airport
landing fees, and customs user fees.
To give the MCI program real teeth, the 42d was the first Army unit
in Europe to acquire drug-detector dog teams. Today the 42d still
has the largest drug-detector dog force in USAREUR for its own customs
operations and to support USAREUR drug-suppression missions, with
seventeen kennels strategically placed throughout Germany and Italy.
Today the majority of 42d's dogs not only detect drugs, they also
perform patrol functions for wartime.
This bewildering array of peacetime customs-related tasks would seem
enough to keep any unit busy, but the 42d also performs extensive
combat planning and training. In wartime the headquarters of the 42d
assumes command and control of MP assets in the RCZ. The (peacetime)
subordinate companies become enemy-prisoner-of-war (EPW) guard and
escort guard units collecting EPW from forward units and escorting
them to camps set up by the guard companies. Here tile prisoners are
processed for shipment out to permanent EPW camps.
To meet its missions the 42d is dispersed over a wide geographic area
with forty-three field offices ranging from Bremerhaven in the far
north of Germany, to West Berlin, and to Livorno, Italy, in the south.
The five subordinate companies fall under the group headquarters in
Mannheim, Germany: their headquarters are located in Fuerth (1934
MP Company), Frankfurt (256th MP Company), Karlsruhe (285th MP Company),
Kaiserslautern (294th MP Company), and Bremerhaven (560th MP Company).
NCOs Play Key Role
Communication and individual responsibility are the vital keys to
the success of this widely dispersed organization. Soldiers on the
ground must make good independent decisions; their company headquarters
is sometimes hundreds of miles away. For this reason NCOs in the 42d
are assigned more responsibility than NCOs in many other MP units.
A noncommissioned officer is appointed as the NCOIC of a field office
supplying many customs services to whole military communities serving
thousands of soldiers, civilians, and families.
These NCOs must also independently apply the local laws pertinent
to their particular area. Laws that apply in Frankfurt may not always
apply in Berlin, and may be different again from Italy. The local
field office serves as a focal point of law enforcement liaison between
the German customs authorities, provost marshal, and CID (Criminal
Exercise missions require the NCOs to organize travel to foreign countries
from Norway to Zaire, provide troop support for their soldiers while
abroad, and complete the customs mission with minimum delay. Such
unique challenges are the reasons why so many soldiers choose to stay
in the 42d.
Although the demands placed upon the 42d have changed during its forty-year
history, its basic missions have remained the same: provide peacetime
customs support to members of the U.S. forces and to be prepared to
fight, survive, and win in war. In this the 42d has succeeded. Throughout
the last forty years the road has been paved with challenges for the
42d Military Police Group and it has met them all.
In the future continued emphasis must be placed upon balancing the
sensitive nature of peacetime support with the critical training for
wartime support. The 42d Group has accepted this challenge.