STUTTGART, Germany — Sixty years ago, James Deming was a young cavalryman doing border patrol on horseback.
Part of the job was keeping an eye out for the Russians. The other was helping to establish civic order in war-ravaged Germany. Whether on horseback, on motorcycle or by foot, Deming and the other soldiers who comprised the U.S. Constabulary force in post war-Germany had their hands full.
"The country was in ruins. There were no governing bodies of any kind," recalled Deming, 79. "The crime rate was soaring."
Though undermanned, the U.S. Constabulary force eventually established order and was absorbed into the Seventh Army.
At U.S. European Command headquarters in Stuttgart on Wednesday, a monument honoring the achievements of the occupation force was unveiled. Before EUCOM, Stuttgart served as the headquarters for the Constabulary, which included 32,000 soldiers drawn from various infantry, armored and cavalry units.
"It’s very appropriate we’ve selected Patch Barracks (for the monument)," said Maj. Gen P.K. (Ken) Keen, EUCOM chief of staff, shortly before the unveiling.
And while the stone and bronze monument commemorates the past, Keen also noted that the war fighters of today continue to draw lessons from the Constabulary force and "how they secured the peace here."
Deming, who serves as the national commander of the U.S. Constabulary Association, made the trip from Florida for the event. One thing that made it easier to secure the peace then compared to efforts today in Iraq, Deming observed, is that Germany was disarmed after the war. And that included the German police, he said.
But there were many challenges. There was a thriving black market and old Nazi holdouts and saboteurs were still in circulation. It also was the dawn of the Cold War.
"(We) were the original Cold War warriors and we didn’t know it," Deming said.
The U.S. Constabulary, created at the conclusion of World War II, was the U.S. force that served in the occupied zones of Germany and Austria. The Constabulary operated from 1946 until 1952. But because of the Berlin blockade in 1948, it began transforming into a combat force to counter the emerging Soviet threat.
The Constabulary cavalry units continued to engage in their civic and policing duties, but they also stood guard on the border in case of attacks.
Though never fully staffed, a result of post-war downsizing, the Constabulary force managed to get their missions accomplished, Deming said.
Another achievement: "Because of the Constabulary, the German people no longer feared the American soldier," said Deming, who calls his days with the force the highlight of his 43-year military career.