A Peek at Military Law, Canal Zone, W.W.II
by George Chevalier

During those years of early childhood in the Canal Zone we were witness to the severe treatment accorded those peacetime depression soldiers by the Army MPs. Then with our entry into the war the role of the Military Police was greatly expanded but the CZ did not go under Martial Law. The MP unit at Quarry Heights were given patrol jurisdiction within the Republic and worked jointly with the Guardia Nacional and these storm troopers were all six foot or taller with full authority to terminate unruly behavior with their night sticks. The areas within the Canal Zone were patrolled by the MP unit out of Ft. Clayton and they were of normal size range and far kinder in their treatment of wayward troops.

Article 15s were your fate for being in the republic after 11PM and for not being back at your post by 12 midnight. Even though all of 4th of July Ave. was in the CZ up to 6 inches from the curb we were still zapped if caught waiting for a bus on the east side of the Ave. I'm short and sitting at a stool in a J St. bar one night I had my heels up several rungs from the bottom. When over my shoulder came a night stick to connect behind my knee cap followed by the bark to sit up like a soldier. Ties had to be worn while in the Republic but not in the Zone. Leaving Kelleys Ritz one hot night and heading for the USO I prematurely removed my tie as I started to cross into the Zone. Again came the night stick out of nowhere to slam me into the wall of a building. and pressure was maintained until I replaced my tie only to remove it 20ft or so after crossing the street.

Inebriated soldiers who didn't respond quick enough were often beaten senseless to the ground and dragged off to a patrol wagon. I long wondered what the mortality rate was but you can be sure it was classified. These troopers from Quarry Heights wore riding britches with lace up boots that came up near to their knees. Tight fitting shirts and leather Sam Brown type belts and loaded with highly buffed brass.

For serious offenders the Army had a very special place to get you readjusted over at Empire on the West Bank. It was the stockade and if you saw "From Here to Eternity" you can get an idea of it's grimness. And like the movie, I'm sure they had their version of SGT. Fatso Judson. The mere thought of that place kept us local boys in line for not only it's treatment but the Family humiliation you would bring about.

If you weren't a serious case but just a pain to your unit they would transfer you to the " Rock " {Galapagos Islands}. While I had been there a few times as a sailor on the Army Transport I sure didn't want to be assigned there to that barren life. I won't mention the name but one local boy did get the "Rock" for unwise use of his mouth to the wrong people I believe.

When the war ended and in those final months of service I recall a number of those Quarry Heights MPs seeing us in the El Rancho and trying to butter us up to put in a good word for them as they wanted to go on the CZ Police Force. Needless to say they got no help from us although I think one or two did sneak in.

When I was discharged I thought I would never see MPs such as these again but I was recalled to active duty during Korea and while at Mitchel Field one nice summer noon I took a WAF out to lunch at a restaurant and we sat at a table outdoors. I forgot to take off my cap and was approached by an MP who told me that you take off you cap when seated with a lady. I was very embarrassed and then furious when I recognized him as an MP from Panama during WWII and even remembered his name.

George C.