Donald M. Johnson

Private First Class Donald M. Johnson, 104 Grand Avenue, is with the Airborne Military Police in the European Theater.

Eau Claire MP in Airborne Unit Fighting in Normandy
Private First Class Donald M. Johnson, 104 West Grand Avenue, son of Ole S. Johnson, was one of the Military Police of a hard-hitting airborne division which cleared more than 2,000 prisoners of  war, during the 33 days the division faced the Germans in Normandy, according to a dispatch from the headquarters of the European Theater of Operations. Some of them reached their "beats" only by gliding through flak-splotched skies during the early morning hours of D-Day.

Private First Class Johnson, one of 49 men in the unit, entered the service on December 26, 1942. He trained at Fort Riley, KS and was then sent to North Africa for further training. From there, he reported to England, North Ireland, back to England and, more recently, to France.

The job of clearing the prisoners from regimental zones of action to the rear areas in Normandy was only one of several performed by this small group of MPs in bringing order to rear areas so that vital supply lines could be established.

Traffic was routed both to and from the forward areas; long-planned regulations were placed quickly in effect to protect civilians and to prevent hordes of refugees from clogging roads needed for the movement of troops and supplies.

During the early days of action, when no definite front lines were established, the soldier-policemen did a little hunting on their own. One man bagged two German snipers on the afternoon of  June 7. Five men of the group reached France three hours before H-Hour on D-Day on the first glider flight.

Operating in three sections under the command of Major Frederick McCollum of Mobile, Alabama, the MPs lost little time in going into action once their gliders reached French soil. 

The regulation of the movement of units through the division's area, guarding of bridges and other vital points against sabotage was controlled by the Traffic Section. Meanwhile, the Prisoners of War Section had already started moving prisoners to corps enclosures, while the Command Post Section was carrying out its mission. 

Working closely with local French officials and with the Army's civil affairs detachments in the control of civilian traffic, the MPs regulated both the movement of military and civilians by allotting definite periods of time to each. In this manner, refugee-packed highways, which were a major hindrance to British and French forces during the 1940 Battle of France, were avoided. 

Questioned about the hundreds of prisoners of war cleared to rear areas, Major McCollum reported that the German soldier, stripped of his weapons, is anything but a "super man". A significant fact about most, he said, is that, judging from photographs taken of them only a few months ago, they seemed to have aged years. The youthful German, not more than 16 years of age, is still the fanatical Nazi, while generally the older ones are beginning to question Der Fuehrer's policies.

One prisoner, a Pole, previously captured by the Germans, was "drafted" by the MPs for general utility purposes. Volunteering for service as a barber to his captors, who knew him as "The Tame Prisoner," the youthful Pole soon fell into the spirit of the outfit and earned his meals by digging fox holes, serving as cook's helper, and performing other useful tasks, including interrogation of other prisoners. He became so attached to the unit that he showed disappointment over having to leave it, the Major said.

Landing away from the division's area during the night of D-Day, Major McCollum, former football star and coach for Alabama Polytechnic Institute at Auburn, and four of his men were isolated for more than 12 hours. At one time, they were within 50 yards of a German machine gun. They made their way to the divisional area after Infantrymen of another division, contacted by a patrol from the isolated party, had captured the enemy strong point.

Private First Class Harold M. Johnson, son of Ole Johnson, has arrived in the Hawaiian Islands, according to word received by his wife, who resides at 534 Forest Street. 

He entered the service October 9, 1942 and received his training at Camp Wheeler, GA; Camp Hyder, AZ; Indiantown Gap, PA; and Camp Pickett, VA. 

He has a brother, Donald Johnson, now serving in England. 

Private First Class Harold Johnson was employed at the H. T. Lange Company, here, prior to his entering the Army.