While speaking at an awards ceremony at LZ Two Bits landing strip which was next to the Special Forces Camp, April 1967, GEN William C. Westmoreland commented that the First Team’s Finest was the only MP Company that he knew of that boasted Bob Hope as a member of the unit since the Korean War and also the only unit he knew of that US Air trusted to provide security for its air strip at that location and further that the exploits of this famed cavalry unit are known Army wide.
On 3 July, 1965, in Doughboy Stadium at Fort Benning, Georgia, the colors of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) were cased and retired. As the band played the rousing strains of Garry Owen, the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division were moved onto the field. As part of the reorganization, the 11th Air Assault Military Police Company was redesignated as the 545th Military Police Company, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).
Shortly thereafter, by mid August, an advance party of Military Police from the 545th MP Company was shipped out by troop transport and aircraft carriers from Charleston, Virginia in August 1965. The military policemen from the 545th MP Company acted as the Provost Marshal Section for each ship, including guarding prisoners who had attempted to go AWOL. As their ships arrived in Vietnam beginning 12 September, the 545th Military Police Company set up operations and began to expedite traffic.
Once an adequate traffic control system was established, the troops were flown by helicopters or accompanied convoys from Qui Nhon up Highway 19 to the Division Base Camp at An Khe. Arriving at Camp Radcliff, they commenced the construction of their company area while providing security and carrying out Division Military Police Duties. Beginning in mid September several Infantry battalions supported the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division.
On 01 October, Operation Shiny Bayonet (the First Teams first Brigade-sized airmobile operation) commenced with the Military Police providing convoy security; traffic control points; guards for captured materials and weapons; forward collection points and in some instances, 24 hour bridge security along Highway 19 from Qui Nhon through the An Khe Pass and Mang Yang Pass where four thousand French Soldiers lost their lives.
By mid October an MP Desk with traffic and criminal investigation division (CID) sections were established in the division base areas. A second MP Desk was operated in the Village of An Khe. In late October through November the Plei Me-Pleiku Campaign kept assigned MP platoons of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Brigades busy. The Security Platoon accompanied the Division Forward Headquarters. By the end of 1965, the 545th MP’s had established and operated key roadblocks with the assistance of the Vietnam National Police.
Starting on 25 January 1966, the 545th MP Company supported operations “Masher/White Wing” by providing guards for captured materials and weapons and operated an enclosure for detained VC suspects. The MP’s aided Military Intelligence Teams whenever they became involved in sweeps of populated areas – guarding, searching, detaining, protecting and detecting. MP’s of the 545th regularly accompanied Civil Affairs personnel to secure them while they operated in areas of tactical operations within the Division’s AO.
In late march, during operations “Lincoln and Mosby”, convoy escorts from An Khe to the forward CP of the 1st Brigade were provided. In October of 1966, forward collection points were set up where brigades were operating. All military age males and detainees were sent by the maneuver battalions to the collection point supporting its brigade. There, confirmed enemy were interrogated for immediate tactical information, then evacuated through regular prisoner of war channels. Other detainees were held at forward collections points for questioning by military intelligence, the National Police or Hamlet Cadre in order to classify them as friendly or enemy.
In June of 1967, the 545th MP’s launched into operations with the Police Field Force (PFF). These were combined operations, mainly with the Vietnam 222nd Battalion, Combat National Police. The mode of operation was to cordon a village at dawn. The Vietnamese Police searched houses and questioned people as they moved through.
After the 1st Cavalry Division moved south to III Corps, the 545th MP’s continued their missions of Theater of Combat (TOC) security and convoy control. They also began combined operations with the Vietnamese National Police in traffic control and “populace and resource control”. The progress of the war meant an increase, rather than a decrease, in the duties of the 545th MP Co. There were fewer prisoners of war to care for and fewer hostile hamlets to search, but relative peace of 1969 increased the need for traffic control, black market suppression and elimination and the maintenance of security in all the civil and military rear areas.
On 05 May 1971, the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) were moved from Vietnam to Fort Hood Texas and another chapter of the colorful history of the 545th Military Police Company came to an end.
Information obtained from the Historical Archives of the 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas
545 MP's in Vietnam
545 MP Living History