The Soldier at the Crossroad: The 726th MP Battalion in World War II (review)
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The Soldier at the Crossroad: The 726th MP Battalion in World War II. By Edwin L. Dooley, Jr. Bloomington, Ind.: 1st Books, 2003. ISBN 1-4140-0965-8. Photographs. Notes. Pp. 197. $12.50.

With the publication of this book the author has made a major contribution [End Page 1002] to U.S. Army history because the number of books addressing the complex and necessary role of the Army Military Police is very limited. The author formulated no preface with grand promises of historic, academic goals. Instead, he stated his aim simply in the first couple of pages, as the story of ordinary soldiers called upon to suffer in war, enforce military law, bring order to a chaotic environment, manage prisoners of war, and maintain orderly movement of all military elements.

The author's organization of the book into four parts, instead of dividing the unit's history into chapters, is unusual portioning, but corresponds to the four distinctive eras experienced by the unit's members in three theaters of operation: the Zone of Interior, European Theater (before and after the Battle of the Bulge), and Pacific Theater.

This book not only chronicles the four-year history of the 726th MP Battalion but serves as a prime example of the fragmented organizational structure experienced by most military police units. The nineteen months in the United States reflect the disjointed operations with the battalion being separated into not only companies but platoons, squads, and even detachments of a few men. This is further reinforced by the fact that on V-E Day, 8 May 1945, the battalion "was operating fifteen detachments dispersed over a large sector from the Paris region to the Belgian border" (p. 130).

The choice of a "Zone of Interior" battalion provides numerous characteristics common to the Military Police of the era. While serving in the continental United States, the soldiers provided security for industrial plants and VIPs, guarded prisoners of war brought from overseas, and performed riot duties. During their months in France, the battalion's soldiers regulated traffic on both the critical White Ball and Red Ball Express supply routes, escorted supply and troop convoys, maintained a semblance of order in devastated towns, and provided security for military trains. In addition, they performed such mundane assignments as investigating traffic accidents, arresting soldiers for committing common crimes, and providing security at ports, depots, and supply dumps.

Resources related to many Army Military Police units of World War II are scarce and former unit members are being reduced daily. Utilizing these limited sources, the author has preserved, along with the historical record, that invaluable human element of war, such as living conditions, diets, thoughts, and feelings, through his use of diaries and interviews with former members of the battalion. The one addition to this story that could have aided the reader would have been occasional maps for orientation, particularly in Northern Europe.

This book is an invaluable tool for military members to understand a few slices of World War II. It allows members of the Military Police Corps to appreciate the general conditions experienced by their predecessors. And it provides an insight for members of other branches into the contribution of MPs to the general war effort.

Ronald Craig
U. S. Army Military Police Corps
Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
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