National Guard

 
December - Today in Guard History
December 1
Captain Frank Tims, commander of Battery B, 196th Field Artillery BattalionCaptain Frank Tims, commander of Battery B, 196th Field Artillery Battalion, stands ready to accept a citation on behalf of the entire unit. It is being read by General Oh Duk Jun, commander of the 2nd Republic of Korea (ROK) Division. The citation highly praises the actions of the battalion in aiding the ROK division in repelling a strong Communist assault on a reservoir by laying down a "murderous fire." This award is in addition to the three American unit citations, making the 196th the most decorated Guard unit in the war.National Archives and Records Administration

1951Near Hwachon Reservoir, South Korea - As the second winter sets in along the front dividing the Communist and United Nations forces, the Red Chinese attempted to destroy the dam holding the waters of the reservoir. If broken the waters will flood through a valley wiping out American and South Korean (ROK) units. The 2nd ROK Division was assigned to attack the Chinese and stop their attempt to blow the dam. This division was supported in the attack by several American units including Tennessee's 196th Field Artillery Battalion. Over the course of this day the 196th, armed with twelve 155mm towed howitzers, fired more than 250 rounds per tube (over 3,000 shells). Their fire was so effective that the 2nd ROK was successful in stemming the Communist attack, securing the dam. The 196th earned both a Korean Presidential Unit Citation and an Army Presidential Unit Citation for this action. Over the course of their tour the battalion also earned two US Navy citations for support of Marine operations. It ended the war as the most decorated Guard unit to serve in theater.

December 2
Members of the 34th Members of the 34th "Red Bull" Infantry Division engaged in hand-to-hand combat during the last day of their defense of Mount Pantano. A relief column finally reached them late in this afternoon after a five-day 'siege.'
Painting by Donna Neary for the National Guard Bureau Heritage Series

1943Mount Pantano, Italy - Men of the 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry, 34th Infantry Division, from Iowa had been ordered in late November to secure this mountaintop position from a battalion of German defenders. The 168th's assault initially surprised the enemy but the Germans quickly recovered and launched a series of counter attacks. For five days the fighting, often on slopes so steep that supply mules could not bring in food or ammunition and remove the wounded, raged in rain, fog and snow. Finally, after being completely cut off from all aid for two days the 1st Battalion succeeded in driving the enemy off the mountain. For their steadfast actions in capturing and holding the position, the 1st Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

December 3
Colonel (shown as a Major General) William Smallwood.Colonel (shown as a Major General) William Smallwood. Oil painting by Charles Willson Peale, circa 1781.Independence National Historical Park

1774Baltimore, Maryland - The newly organized Baltimore Independent Cadets elect Mordecai Gist as its captain. The Cadets, a volunteer militia company raised along the lines of the Minutemen in Massachusetts, willing undergo weekly military training as tension increases with Britain over American rights. Less then a year after the Revolutionary War (in January 1776) the company was expanded into Colonel William Smallwood's Maryland Regiment, later redesignated as the Maryland Line of the Continental Army. During the Battle of Long Island, NY, on August 27, 1776, Smallwood's bold leadership of his regiment, along with the Delaware Regiment, helped save the American army from a total rout following a well-coordinated British assault. From 1776 until the end of the war the regiment served in every major engagement fought by the main American army including the final British surrender at Yorktown in 1781. The Maryland Line gained a reputation for strong discipline and courage under fire. Today the heritage of the Maryland Line is perpetuated by the 175th Infantry Regiment.

December 4

1864Knoxville, Tennessee - Confederates, under the command of General James Longstreet, lift their siege of Union forces in defensive positions around Knoxville. The siege started on November 16th, following the Battle of Campbell's Station, a Confederate victory that compelled Union General Ambrose Burnside to retreat into the defenses of the city. On November 29th Longstreet attacked but failed to carry a federal strongpoint at Fort Sanders. After the loss of nearly 800 men and with supplies running low due to heavy rains turning roads into quagmires, the rebel army withdrew, never again to threaten central Tennessee.

December 5
Two members of the 180th Infantry, 45th Infantry DivisionTwo members of the 180th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division smile as they display their pride at being the first elements of the division to arrive in Korea.National Guard Education Foundation

1951Inchon, Korea - Elements of the 180th Infantry and 171st Field Artillery Battalion, both part of the 45th Infantry Division (OK), arrive in Korea marking the first time since the end of World War II that a Guard division was committed to combat. Mobilized in September 1950 the 45th first trained in the states before deploying to Japan in preparation for its commitment to Korea. It was soon joined by California's 40th Infantry Division, also coming from Japan. Both divisions experienced hard months of combat before an armistice ended the fighting in July 1953.

December 6

1944Leyte, Philippine Islands - The campaign, which opened with an American assault on October 20th, was drawing to a ferocious conclusion as desperate Japanese defenders launched repeated attacks against American positions. One of these enemy attacks had the Japanese 106th Division, in coordination with a rare Japanese airborne assault, strike against a section of the line held by Kentucky's 149th Infantry, 38th Infantry Division (KY, IN, WV). The Guardsmen, though suffering losses in some companies of as many as 40% killed and wounded, held a ridge in the face of several ‘banzai' attacks during the night. By morning more than 2,000 Japanese dead lay in front 149th's positions.

December 7

1747Philadephia, Pennsylvania - The Associated Regiment of Foot, ancestor of today's 111th Infantry, first parades under arms in front of the Philadelphia Court House. There they divide themselves into eleven companies by ward or township. They elected company and regimental officers, who are commissioned by the governor. Each member carries his own privately purchased musket, sword and cartridge box. Local women design and fund the fabrication of company colors (flags). The Associated Regiment of Foot is a privately organized and equipped, all-volunteer, force acting as a public defense force with the consent of the governor and assembly. Due to Quaker control of the legislature Pennsylvania had no governmentally-organized militia until 1777, two years after the start of the Revolutionary War.

U.S. Air Force Douglas C-124C Globemaster II aircraft.U.S. Air Force Douglas C-124C Globemaster II aircraft prepares to touch down on the runway at the conclusion of its final flight to the Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum at Travis Air Force Base, California (USA), on 10 June 1984.Photo by SSgt Bob Simons, US Air Force.

1966(Dec 7 in Hawaii) - Luzon, Philippines - Within hours of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor the first waves of Japanese aircraft attack Clark Airfield north of Manila, the Philippine capital. They are met by fierce antiaircraft fire from New Mexico's 200th Coast Artillery (AA). The Guardsmen are credited with destroying at least two enemy aircraft in this attack. In April 1942, due to most of the troops suffering from illness plus a lack of food and ammunition, the unit, along with all remaining American and Filipino forces still fighting on the Bataan Peninsula, was compelled to surrender. The men were lead into captivity as part of the infamous "Bataan Death March." Those soldiers who survived the march remained prisoners of war for the next three years.

December 8
Members of New Mexico's 200th Coast Artillery.Members of New Mexico's 200th Coast Artillery (AA) manning a position near Manila.National Archives and Records Administration

1941(Dec 7 in Hawaii) - Luzon, Philippines - Within hours of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor the first waves of Japanese aircraft attack Clark Airfield north of Manila, the Philippine capital. They are met by fierce antiaircraft fire from New Mexico's 200th Coast Artillery (AA). The Guardsmen are credited with destroying at least two enemy aircraft in this attack. In April 1942, due to most of the troops suffering from illness plus a lack of food and ammunition, the unit, along with all remaining American and Filipino forces still fighting on the Bataan Peninsula, was compelled to surrender. The men were lead into captivity as part of the infamous "Bataan Death March." Those soldiers who survived the march remained prisoners of war for the next three years.

Corporal David M. Akui.Corporal David M. Akui.National Guard Education Foundation

1941Oaha, Hawaii - In the early morning hours, less than a day after the Japanese attacks on the army and naval bases at Pearl Harbor on this island, Corporal David M. Akui, a member of the 298th Infantry of the Hawaii National Guard makes history when he captures the first Japanese prisoner of war taken by American forces during World War II. His unit was deployed to guard the beach near Bellows (Air) Field when, in the darkness, he spotted someone coming out of the water. Akui challenged the man and ordered him to halt and lie down. While covering his prisoner with his rifle, he telephoned the Officer of the Day to report the incident. The stranger was quickly taken into custody and turned out to be Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki, the commander of one of the five two-man "midget" Japanese submarines that were supposed to be used in the Pearl Harbor attacks. Sakamaki's sub had been hit and damaged by American depth charges outside the harbor entrance, later forcing it to surface. It was found in the morning floating near the shore, close to where he was captured. The other crewman was found dead. Akui, who became an instant hero in Hawaii, served throughout the war. His service included being a member of the famed "Merrill's Marauders" fighting the Japanese in Burma. He returned to the Hawaii Guard after the war and retired as a master sergeant.

December 9
Battle of Long IslandOn August 27, 1776 the Delaware Regiment fought an effective delaying action during the Battle of Long Island. By successfully holding off several British assaults the regiment gained enough time for much of the American army to retreat back to positions which allowed it to be safely ferried back into New York.
Painting by Domenick D'Andrea for the National Guard Bureau Heritage Series

1775Dover, Delaware - The state legislature authorizes and appropriates the money to organize the Delaware Regiment. The regiment, consisting of eight companies, was organized on January 13, 1776. Due to its steadfast discipline in battle it proved to be one of the best, most respected units in the Continental Army. Today it's lineage is perpetuated by the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 198th Signal Battalion.

December 10
Mr. Tommy Hill.Mr. Tommy Hill.Historical files, National Guard Bureau

1941Fort McNair, Washington, DC - Virginia's 176th Infantry, an element of the 29th Division then stationed at Fort Meade, MD, is reassigned as part of the garrison of the nation's capital in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack. Its men soon start roving foot and jeep patrols and were stationed at the U.S. Capitol and other Washington landmarks. One of the men serving with the 176th is Sergeant Thomas "Tommy" Hill. While not a Guardsman himself, having been assigned to the regiment after his enlistment in 1940, he would never-the-less have the longest career as a civilian employee of the National Guard Bureau on record. Soon after his discharge in 1946 he began work for the Army in the Pentagon. Officers with the National Guard Bureau were so impressed with his performance they offered him a position with the Army National Guard. His official start date was October 1, 1948, the same day the NGB staff split into Army and Air National Guard sections. For the next 54 years, until his retirement in 2002, Mr. Hill served in several key positions and guided countless Guardsmen and civilian employees in making the Army Guard a more professional, highly trained and capable reserve for the Regular Army than it had ever been in the past. He was especially proud of the role he played in helping each state to develop its own Officer Candidate School (OCS). He also played a key role in overseeing the development of Guard overseas training under programs such as REFORGER and TEAM SPIRIT. Even in retirement Mr. Hill continued to offer advice and guidance to young officers and civilian employees alike at NGB.

December 12
Soldiers of the 7th Michigan Volunteer Infantry.Soldiers of the 7th Michigan Volunteer Infantry cross the Rappahannock River under Confederate fire during the Battle of Fredericksburg. Note the incomplete pontoon bridge in the background.Lithograph by C.S. Pengar and published in Harper's Weekly in 1896.

1862Fredericksburg, Virginia - Union engineers of the Volunteer Engineer Brigade, under the command of Brigadier General Daniel Woodbury, composed primarily of the 15th and 60th New York Engineer regiments; finally succeed in getting two pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock River. For more than a day they had failed in accomplishing this goal due to heavy Confederate fire coming from the town of Fredericksburg. Most of this fire came from Brigadier General William Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade (13th, 17th, 18th, 21st Mississippi regiments), who used houses along the shore as cover. While Union artillery pounded the town, destroying many homes and other structures in the process, the rebel fire on the bridge continued. It was only after 7th Michigan and other elements of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division of the Army of the Potomac staged an assault river crossing in the face of enemy fire that the Confederates were compelled to fall back through the town. Soon the bridges were finished and the Union army moved across only to fight one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war on the 13th.

December 13
In the spring of 1637 the first musters of the three regiments organized by the General Court on this date were heldIn the spring of 1637 the first musters of the three regiments organized by the General Court on this date were held. The men are armed with matchlock muskets which needed the fork rest to allow the soldier to aim it while still managing the burning match to fire the piece. By late in the century soldiers started using flintlocks that were easier to load and fired with using a burning match. By that time too, most of the body armor was discarded as too cumbersome for use in forest warfare waged against the Indians.Painting by Don Troiani for the National Guard Bureau Heritage Series

1636Salem, Massachusetts - When the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered the organization of the colony's separate militia companies into three regiments on this date the National Guard was born. Designated as the North, East and South regiments today their descendents are: North-181st and 182nd Infantry; East-101st Engineer Battalion; South-1st Battalion, 101st Field Artillery.

1862Fredericksburg, Virginia - The Army of the Potomac suffers terrible losses as it makes numerous attacks against entrenched Confederates under the command of General Robert E. Lee. The federal army, under the command of General Ambrose Burnside, numbers over 90,000 men. Before the disastrous assaults on this day, Union forces had made a river crossing under heavy rifle fire from four regiments of Brigadier General William Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade (13th, 17th, 18th, 21st Mississippi regiments) while northern engineers, consisting primarily of two New York engineers regiments, constructed pontoon bridges over the Rappahannock River. On this date General Lee had his men well positioned on a high ridge known as "Marye's Heights." Burnside launched wave after wave of Union regiments piecemeal against the strong rebel defenses, all to no avail. By the end of the battle more than 12,600 Union soldiers are casualties while the southern loses were only 5,300. Pre-war militia (Guard) units exist in both armies. Among the most famous are the 69th New York, part of the famed "Irish Brigade," plus the Wisconsin and Michigan troops in the "Iron Brigade" On the southern side there are the five Guard regiments comprising the "Stonewall Brigade" from Virginia along with three batteries of the "Washington Artillery" from New Orleans. Descendent units of these and other Guard units who faced each other on this field remain in the Guard today.

December 14
First President of the United States George Washington.First President of the United States George Washington.Painting by Chet Jezierski for the National Guard Bureau Presidential Series

1779Mount Vernon, Virginia - Former commander of the Continental Army and the first President of the United States, George Washington, dies at his home of pneumonia at the age of 67. While these events about Washington are common knowledge to most Americans, few know that the "father of his country" got his start on the national stage as an officer in the Virginia militia. Appointed as a major in 1754, he made a name for himself during the French and Indian War. When he resigned his commission as colonel of the Virginia Regiment in 1761, he was the highest ranking man in any of the 13 colonies. As tensions grew with England in the early 1770's he sponsored the organization of the "Fairfax County Minute(man) Company." In 1775, as members of the Continental Congress were looking to appoint someone of stature to command the newly organized Army, Washington was the best leader America had to offer. His success in the Revolution led to his two terms as president. All these later events were made possible because he served his state in the militia.

December 15
Captain Henry T. Waskow.Captain Henry T. Waskow.Photograph published unaccredited in National Guardsman, January 1960.

1943(TX) suffers heavy losses in capturing this town on the road to Cassino, south of Rome. The battle was recorded by film maker John Huston and shown as a documentary in American theaters. Even before the film hit the theaters many Americans knew the story of one of the participants in this attack, Captain Henry Waskow. He enlisted in Company I, 143rd Infantry, 36th Division, Texas National Guard in June 1935. By the time of this battle he had risen through the ranks to captain, commanding Company I.He and the men of his company were made famous through the stories of the newspaper reporter Ernie Pyle, who accompanied them during much of the campaign. Pyle had a nationally syndicated audience and his stories were followed across the country. Unlike many reporters, he did not focus much on the ‘big picture' battle stories, preferring instead to highlight the individuals involved in the actual fighting on the frontlines. Pyle was often referred to as the "soldier's voice." In this role he wrote often about Waskow and his men. One of Pyle's best-remembered stories told of the story of the death of Waskow on December 14, while trying to capture San Pietro. He described how his men removed his body from the battlefield strapped over the back of a mule and how they, tough, seasoned veterans of months of combat, wept over his loss. Pyle's writing was so touching that many readers felt they had lost a friend themselves without ever having known Waskow.

December 16
Brigadier General Roberta V. Mills.Members of the 117th Infantry from North Carolina, part of the 30th Infantry Division (NC, SC, TN) move past a destroyed American M-3 "Stuart" tank on their march to capture the town of St. Vith at the close of the Battle of the Bulge.National Archive and Records Administration

1944Ardennes Forest, Luxemburg - The German Army launches its last great offensive in the West in what has become known as the "Battle of the Bulge." Among the first units attacked is the 28th Infantry Division (PA) which, while giving ground, put up a stiff resistance buying time for other Allied units to move to block the enemy assault. Other Guard divisions involved in the month-long battle include the 26th (MA) and the 30th (NC, SC, TN) and 35th (KS, MO, NE) infantry divisions.

December 18
North American F-100C-1-NA Super Sabre 53-1737North American F-100C-1-NA Super Sabre 53-1737 of the 188th Tactical Fighter Squadron, from the 150th Tactical Fighting Group (TFG), circa 1965. These were the types of aircraft used by the Air National Guard during its service in Vietnam.New Mexico Air National Guard photo.

1968Tuy Hoa Airbase, Vietnam - Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Fink, commander of New Mexico's 188th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) receives a very special package from home. The Albuquerque Tribune, in conjunction with the public affairs staff's of Kirkland Air Force Base (where the 188th was based prior to it January 1968 mobilization) and the NM Air National Guard, arranged for the families and friends of the Guardsmen serving in Vietnam to make a sound color movie sharing their stories and holiday wishes. Called the "Tribune Merry Christmas Project" it was underwritten by the newspaper along with support from Radio Shack. The movie was a great boost to the men's morale, and have subsequently been employed by many communities to boost the morale of hometown Guard units during Operations desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The 188th TFS, mobilized in January 1968 served in Vietnam from May 1968 until its return home in May 1969. It flew ground support combat sorties, dropping bombs on enemy positions and disrupting troop concentrations and supply lines. Three pilots of the unit died in combat during their tour, the most from any of the four Air Guard squadrons deployed to Vietnam.

December 19
rivate First Class Charla ShullPrivate First Class Charla Shull receives her Missouri National Guard Panama Service Ribbon from Governor John Ashcroft when she and the other members of the 1138th Military Police Company returned home from Operation JUST CAUSE. National Guard Education Foundation

1989Fort Howard, Panama - The beginning of Operation JUST CAUSE, the American action to overthrow of the regime of President Manuel Noriega, finds a platoon of Missouri's 1138th Military Police Company in-country during its normal rotation of annual training. The 1138th is ordered to construct a prisoner of war holding facility. While working on the wire pen, the unit comes under mortar attack by Panamanian forces. Among its members is one female soldier, Private First Class Charla Shull. While no one is hurt in the attack, Shull gains the distinction of being the first Guardswoman, Army or Air, to come under enemy fire. She will later serve with the 1138th in Operation Desert Storm..

December 20
General Washington observes his army marchingGeneral Washington observes his army marching into winter quarters at Valley Forge. Oil painting by William B.T. Trego, 1883. Valley Forge Historical Society

1777Valley Forge, Pennsylvania - Failing to prevent the British occupation the American capital of Philadelphia in October, General George Washington selects this area for his army's winter quarters. Often in more than six inches of snow and with winds blowing through their threadbare clothes the troops construct nearly 1,000 log huts for shelter. Many times during this winter food is scarce to non-existent. The army arrived with about 12,000 but lost 2,000 to death from disease and cold. Early in the winter it appeared the army would just melt away but slowly supplies of food and clothing improved. Morale was boosted when word arrived of the alliance between America and France. It was further improved with the new emphasis on better individual and unit training plus strict discipline brought to the army by General Baron Friedrich von Steuben. Most of the men, even in the Continental regiments, came from militia backgrounds with little formal military training or experience. By the time the army marched out to engage the British in June 1778, it was capable of fighting the enemy on an even basis and gave a good account of itself at the Battle of Monmouth.

Corporal Robert Slaughter.Corporal Robert Slaughter, Company A, 29th Ranger Battalion repels across a ravine during his training at the British Commando School in Scotland. Slaughter, a Guardsman from Roanoke, VA, landed on D-Day with his original unit, Company D, 116th Infantry, 29th Infantry Division.Baltimore Sun

1942Tidworth Barracks, Cornwall, England - The 29th Ranger Battalion (Provisional) is organized. Composed of volunteers from the 29th Infantry Division (DC, MD, VA) it is designed to teach highly-motivated soldiers how to act as raiders and to gather intelligence behind enemy lines. The stated purpose of this training was to enable its men to be able to return to their former companies to teach more men these specialized skills. Marylander Major Randolph Millholland, who had himself just completed British Commando training, commanded the battalion. Despite high praise from all involved with their training, and the successful completion of several raids along with the British Commandos on German installation's in Norway and the Channel Islands, as planned the battalion was disbanded in October 1943. Its members did return to their old units where they taught many of the ranger skills to other men of the 29th. Some of the veterans of D-Day and the Normandy campaign credit this special instruction for saving their lives in combat.

December 21
The March of Miles StandishA fanciful 19th century lithograph entitled "The March of Miles Standish" depicts him leading a body of militia soon after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth. A Currier and Ives lithograph, 1882Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection

1620Plymouth Harbor, Massachusetts - 102 English colonist, men, women and children, generally referred to as the "Pilgrims" arrive here aboard the Mayflower. Prior to landing 41 male members of this party sign the "Mayflower Compact" agreeing to adopt laws to protect the group and to insure freedom of worship. It was this latter matter which compelled them to leave England seeking religious freedom. Among those signing the Compact was Captain Miles Standish, a professional soldier hired to train the colonist to defend themselves in the New World. He instructed them on the proper handling ofmuskets and other arms, helping to make them a more effective defensive force.

December 22
The type of tents used by National Guard units serving along the border with MexicoThe type of tents used by National Guard units serving along the border with Mexico. They proved quite drafty and cold, especially when the weather turned damp. While no Guardsmen took part in any fighting during the border crisis, thus none were killed in action, 406 died from disease and accidentsMissouri Historical Society

1916Boise Barracks, Idaho - The 2nd Infantry Regiment, Idaho National Guard, arrives home from its deployment to Camp Little in Nogales, AZ, during the Mexican Border crisis. While deployed more than 20 soldiers were hospitalized with respiratory problems; four of whom died of pneumonia caused by "exposure and lack of fuel" to keep their tents warm in the cold desert nights. Today the lineage of the 2nd Idaho is perpetuated by the 116th Engineer Battalion. It served in both world wars and was the only National Guard unit, Army or Air, to serve both in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

December 23
Battalion of Free Men of Color.As part of General Jackson's attacking force in this action was the "Battalion of Free Men of Color."When the United States bought the Louisiana Territory in 1803 its French and Spanish citizens already had several existing militia units. Among them were several companies composed of intermixed free blacks and Creoles. The U.S. authorities soon disbanded these units. However, with the impending invasion of the British Army to capture New Orleans in late 1814, the governor authorized the reorganization of a new battalion of the black freeman. It was commanded by Major Pierre Lacoste, a prominent black property (and slave) owner. He had been the former commander of the battalion disbanded in 1804. The new battalion numbered 280 men, later reinforced by an additional 180 men. It fought well this night, gaining praise from Jackson himself. And it saw combat as part of the American line that repelled major British assault on January 8, 1815. Once the enemy threat was removed, as often happened following the end of other periods of national crisis, the black battalion was again disbanded by the government. No black would again serve in any state militia or Regular Army capacity until 1862 during the Civil War.A painting by Charles McBarron for the U.S. Army Art Collection

1814Villere's Plantation, Louisiana - An advance force of some 1,500 men, preceding a British army numbering nearly 10,000 troops, is attacked by General Andrew Jackson on this night. The British, having landed several days earlier on Lake Borgne, are tasked with the capture of the New Orleans. Jackson, himself a former Tennessee militia general before being appointed a general in the Regular Army, had under his command about 1,000 Regular Army solders reinforced by militia units drawn from Louisiana and Tennessee. His attack this night involved about 2,000 troops, about three quarters of them militia. They successfully surprised the British, who failed to adequately guard their camp. The American attack proved so effective that they soon overran the outer British defenses and hand-to-hand combat took place in the English camp. After about an hour of fighting, the Americans broke off the engagement and withdrew. They caused so much confusion in the enemy ranks that it was several days before the British could get themselves prepared to advance on the city. Meanwhile, Jackson had his men entrench and fortify a dry canal blocking the British advance. From this position his army, now numbering 5,300 men (mostly militia and even some pirates), repelled the British assault launched on January 8, 1815. In one of the most lopsided victories in history the American's inflicted a decisive defeat on the enemy force, killing at least 291 and wounding more than 1,200 more. Jackson's army suffered only 13 killed and 39 wounded. The British retreated to their ships, only learning in February that the peace treaty ending the war on had been signed in Belgium on Christmas Eve. Jackson became a national hero, eventually leading to his election to the presidency.

December 24
Brigadier General Frederick W. Castle.Brigadier General Frederick W. Castle.Oil painting by an unknown artist, New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame

1944Skies over the Belgium - It is Christmas Eve and the Battle of the Bulge is raging as American forces attempt to repel German attacks along a front more than 50 miles wide. Brigadier General Frederick Castle commands a B-17 bomber force on a mission to hit enemy targets behind the enemy lines. Castle started his military career as a private in the New Jersey Guard's 173rd Motor Transport Company, 44th Division. He enlisted in 1924 and remained a drilling Guardsman until the summer of 1926 when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He graduated in 1930 and was soon serving in the Air Corps. He quickly rose in rank and influence, in part because he became a noted author of several works dealing with the use of air power in modern war. Some of his predications on the use of strategic bombing were proved true once the war in Europe erupted in 1939. By 1944 General Castle is the Assistant Commander of the 4th Bombardment Wing, 8th Air Force based in England. This afternoon he is flying the lead plane of a 2,000-strong B-17 strike heading on a bombing mission to destroy enemy airfields supporting the Bulge campaign. As his bomber approaches an area over Belgium occupied by Allied troops it develops a problem in one of its four engines. Rather than aborting the mission, Castle turns command over to another pilot and dropped out of formation. With the loss of one engine his plane soon lags behind the others. Unable to drop his bombs for fear of hitting friendly forces below, his plane continues on toward its target. However, enemy aircraft quickly finds his crippled plane and repeatedly attack it. After just a few minutes two more engines are on fire and the bomber starts to fall from the sky. Castle realizes it is going to explode or crash and orders all his crew to bail out. Just as the last man leaves the burning plane it explodes and Castle, still at the controls attempting to hold it steady, is killed. But because of his sacrifice, seven of his crewman survived. He is awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for his courage in the face of imminent death.

December 25
Members of the 104th Infantry.Members of the 104th Infantry marching though the snow soon after their attack of Christmas day.National Archives and Records Administration/em>

1944Near the Sure River, Luxembourg - Despite heavy snow and sub-freezing temperatures Massachusetts' 104th Infantry, 26th Infantry Division (MA) spends Christmas day attacking Germans in the village of Eschdorf. They need to link up with the U.S. 80th Infantry Division in securing the area so a bridgehead across the Sure can be constructed to allow General George Patton's armored formations to cross over and move to the relief of the besieged town of Bastogne. Soon after the start of the German Ardennes offensive, usually referred to as the "Battle of the Bulge", the 26th Division, part of Patton's Third Army, had been diverted from its eastward advance toward the German border near Metz, France, and was one of the spearhead elements of Patton's historic winter march north to relieve the 101st Airborne Division surrounded in Bastogne. After a sharp firefight, which included tanks from both sides, Eschdorf is cleared of its last German defenders and the 26th moves to the river and secure the area allowing combat engineers to quickly construct a floatbridge. Used by the 3rd Armored Division to cross over, it's forward elements reach the outskirts of Bastogne on the 26th, effectively lifting the siege. The 26th would stay in close combat with German forces until the enemy was finally pushed back to his starting positions, marking the end of the campaign in mid-January 1945.

December 26
The Capture of the Hessians at Trenton.In his painting "The Capture of the Hessians at Trenton" artist (and Connecticut militiaman) John Trumbull captures the moment when Washington accepts the surrender of Colonel Rall commanding the German troops in the town. Rall, wounded during the fight, later died.Oil painting by John Trumbull, circa 1790, Yale University Art Gallery

1776Trenton, New Jersey - After a long night of crossing an ice-choked Delaware River and marching nine miles over snow-covered roads General George Washington's American Army of approximately 2,600 men, including a large contingent of Pennsylvania militia, surprised the Hessian garrison placed in this village by British commander Lord Cornwallis. In a battle that lasted less than an hour a few enemy soldiers, including their commander, are killed but more than 900 are captured along with their arms and stores, with no deaths on the American side and only two wounded. More significantly many of the men in the Army whose enlistments were due to expire extended their service believing Washington could achieve a victory.

Thirty-third President of the United States Harry S Truman.Thirty-third President of the United States Harry S Truman. Painting by Chet Jezierski for the National Guard Bureau Presidential Series

1972Independence, Missouri - Thirty-third President of the United States Harry S Truman dies. Truman started his Guard career when he enlisted as a member of Battery B, Missouri National Guard Artillery in 1904. He was soon promoted to corporal but resigned 1911 due to job commitments. As soon as America entered World War I in April 1917, Truman reentered the Missouri Guard, helping to expand his old unit along with a second battery into a six battery regiment in the newly organized 2nd Missouri Field Artillery, which was soon redesignated as 129th Field Artillery, an element of the 35th "Santa Fe" Division (KS, MO). Promoted to first lieutenant he was given commanded of Battery F and sailed with his unit to France in 1918. After arriving he was promoted to captain and transferred to command Battery D. Known in the regiment as a rambunctious, troubled unit with poor discipline, Truman had his hands full. But soon his strong but fair leadership solved many of the problems and his men grew to respect and even love their "Captain Harry." With his men taking a new pride in themselves and the unit, they were soon the best trained battery in firing accuracy and speed in gun movement within the 129th. Truman led them into battle, first in Alsace and later in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of September-October 1918. The war soon ended and he and his men returned home for discharge. Truman left the Guard 1919 but later accepted a commission in the Officer Reserve Corps, rising to the rank of colonel by 1938. He retained his status even after elected to the Senate. During the height of World War II he was selected by President Franklin Roosevelt as his running mate in 1944; Truman became president when Roosevelt died in April 1945. He was a strong proponent of reorganizing the Guard in the post World War II defense establishment. Under his presidency Guardsmen served in the Korean War and enhanced the strength of NATO in Europe. In 1959, now former-President Truman was the guest speaker when the National Guard Memorial was dedicated in Washington, DC. An Honor Guard of four of his former soldiers from Battery D, all wearing their World War I uniforms, greeted his arrival. He once remarked about his time and friendships in the Guard by saying "I'm just as proud of that as I am of having been president."

December 28
Newark City GuardDetail of the enlistment certificate of the "Newark City Guard" of Newark, NJ. The men are wearing what by this period, was obsolete U.S. Army dress but still proved very popular among volunteer militia units. It consisted of a Model 1822 shako with falling feather plume and hanging cords plus a tight fitting, high collared, coatee with swallow-tails (the style still worn by cadets at West Point). This same type of artwork was used in the production of poster advertising upcoming unit events such as the new years ball.Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection

1845Newark, New Jersey - During the middle 19th century duty in one of the uniformed volunteer companies in most major cities involved not only military training but also the need to raise money to support the company. Except for arms issued by the state there was little or no state or federal financial aid to help keep these units prepared for emergencies. To cover the costs of armory rent, dress uniforms and travel to participate in parades and ceremonies in other communities (sometimes even in other states) the units themselves had to pay for everything. To raise money many units held holiday balls and dances, charging the public to attend. The Newark City Guard was one such unit, advertising a holiday "Gala" in 1845 to include a banquet and dancing to celebrate the new year. Other fund-raising functions done by some units included bake sales (with their wives baking most of the goods sold) and expositions of military drill such as marching and bayonet drills for paying audiences. Large units having bands as part of their organizations gave paid concerts. Many of these aspects of Guard life would continue until after World War II, by which time almost all expenses were paid by the government. In the early 21st century few units still maintain distinctive dress uniforms and those who do still have to pay for them from private, not governmental, funds.

December 29
A 155mm howitzer of Battery BA 155mm howitzer of Battery B firing a mission in Vietnam.Courtesy Colonel John Andrews

1968Fire Support Base "Betty," Vietnam - New Hampshire's Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 197th Artillery is selected to take part in a unique experiment. Three of its 155mm howitzers are combined into a battery along with three 105mm howitzers from the 2nd Battalion, 13th Artillery (a Regular Army unit). The combined unit, designated as Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 13th Artillery, was more commonly known as the "Jungle Battery." It was airlifted by helicopter to numerous undeveloped areas where the guns could quickly come into play, often with devastating effect. They were frequently called upon to support Special Forces teams operating deep in the jungles far from road access. The experiment proved so successful that Battery B retained this mission until it cleared country to return home in August 1969.

December 30

1779Morristown, New Jersey - The Continental Army, under the command of General George Washington, spends a second winter encampment in this location. The army wintered here in 1777 and spent the winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge, PA. While the harsh winter at Valley Forge is remembered in American folklore, in fact, this winter at Morristown was harder on the army than any other during the war. The weather was extremely cold and produced snow measured in feet rather than inches. This blocked supply roads making food and fuel for fires non-existent much of the time. Of an army numbering about 10,000 when it entered the camp, it is estimated more than 2,000 died of cold, hunger and disease.

December 31
General George C. MarshallUpon the announcement of General George C. Marshall to become the next Army Chief of Staff the Illinois Guardsman ran a special feature about him and his service with the 33rd Division in May 1939.National Guard Education Foundation

1880Uniontown, Pennsylvania - Future Chief of the Staff of the Army during World War II, and later Secretary of State and Defense Secretary, General of the Army George C. Marshall is born. One of the most important American military leaders of the 20th century, he had several periods of service working directly with the National Guard. After graduating from the Virginia Military Institute in 1901 he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the 30th U.S. Infantry. As a 1st Lieutenant in 1912 he was assigned as an Army advisor and instructor to the Massachusetts National Guard. During World War I, he served as Assistant Chief of Staff of the 1st Division in France, earning high praise for his detailed planning of the Cantigny offensive in May 1918. Reassigned to Headquarters of the American Expeditionary Force, he helped plan two more offensives before war's end. He was then assigned as General John Pershing's aide-de-camp with the rank of major. After the war he served in several assignments including, with the rank of colonel, serving as the Senior Instructor, Illinois National Guard from November 1933-August 1936. Most of his time was spent assisting the Guard officers in the planning and performance objectives of the 33rd Division. Soon after leaving the Illinois Guard he was promoted to brigadier general and moved to Washington to join the War Plans Division. Due to his considerable organizational talents in August 1939, just as Europe is about to plunge into World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt appoints Marshall as Army Chief of Staff. He earns great distinction during the war, becoming one of the five, 5-star generals/admirals when the rank was created by Congress in 1945. Marshall left the Army after World War II, becoming American Secretary of State in 1946. During his tenure he formulated the "Marshall Plan" to rebuild Western Europe including West Germany. He later served as Secretary of Defense, from September 1950-June 1952, during the height of the Korean War. It was in this period, in a speech to the National Guard Association, he remarked "Of the citizen-Army, the National Guard is in the first category of importance. It must be healthy and strong, ready to take its place in the first line of defense in the first weeks of an emergency and not dependent upon a year or more of training before it can be conditioned to take the field against a trained enemy." To put these thoughts into action he strongly urged Congress to supply the Guard with new weapons, not the ‘cast off's' of the Army as had been the policy to this date. It would not be until the Reagan military build up of the 1980s that Marshall's concept of Guard units being properly equipped with the latest weapons and highly trained for war would become reality.

Members of the 726th Transportation Truck CompanyMembers of the 726th Transportation Truck Company, assigned to the 231st Transportation Truck Battalion, also an African American Guard unit from Baltimore, unload wounded onto a helicopter for evacuation in Korea in February 1951. The 231st was a headquarters unit, with several truck companies, such as the 726th, assigned as needed for certain missions.National Archives and Records Administration

1950Pusan Harbor, Korea - Members the 726th Transportation Truck Company (MD) spend their first night in Korea standing in warming tents waiting for their equipment to be unloaded New Years morning. This all-black company is the first mobilized Guard unit to arrive in-country. While President Harry Truman issued an Executive Order in 1948 desegregating the Regular forces, his order had no immediate effect on the Guard. In peacetime Guard membership remained under the control of the governor. Some states after World War II had started to integrate their units but others, especially in the South, allowed no African American participation at all. Once a unit was mobilized it came under federal law and was subject to integration. Today all Guard units are open to any qualified candidate, regardless of race.