National Guard

 
February - Today In Guard History
February 1

1951Nationwide - Increment Two of the partial mobilization of selected Air Guard units has 18 squadrons entering active duty today for service during the Korean War. The first increment, called up on October 10, 1950, consisted of 15 squadrons. All six squadrons to actually serve in the Korean theater were in this first group. Of the 18 units entering service on this day in 1951 only one, Washington's 116th Fighter Squadron, flying F-86A Sabre jets, is deployed to Europe to support NATO operations. The other 17 squadrons remain in the U.S. although a large number of their personnel, especially pilots, are levied and sent to Korea as individual replacements.

A F-86A Sabre Jet of the 116th Fighter Squadron in France, 1951.

From Dedication Ceremonies booklet published by the Washington Air National Guard, 1960.

1946Washington, DC - Major General Butler B. Miltonberger of Nebraska is appointed as the first post World War II Chief of the National Guard Bureau by President Harry S. Truman (who had served in World War I as a Missouri Guardsman). Miltonberger, who commanded Nebraska's 134th Infantry and later served as the assistant division commander of the 35th Infantry Division, oversees the rapid reorganization of Guard units across the nation.

February 2

1951Unnamed Hill, South Korea - men of the 65th Infantry, a Regular Army regiment composed entirely of men from Puerto Rico and assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, captures a strategic hill after a three day fight to gain its summit. What makes this unit of interest to Guard history? Organized in 1899 as the Puerto Rican Regiment of Volunteer Infantry it was a special unit within the Regular Army (redesignated to 65th Infantry in 1920). Recruited entirely on the island, the overwhelming number of enlisted personnel spoke only Spanish. As a result, the officers assigned were required to speak both English and Spanish, often a hard language requirement to fill t the time. This made peacetime assignments of the unit outside of Puerto Rico almost impossible. Over the years, the regiment took on many of the aspects of a Guard unit, with men staying in the same company for their whole career, something almost unheard of in the Army. This often led to fathers and sons and even in some cases, grandsons serving in the same unit. Again, this was not a norm in the Army, but it was (is) not an uncommon occurrence in the Guard. It did not serve overseas in World War I but did see combat in Italy during World War II. Deployed with the 3rd Division it arrived in Korea in 1950 and remained there until 1954. Since Spanish was a required language for service with the regiment, the easiest solution to finding replacements was to mobilize units from the Puerto Rican National Guard and levy men to send to Korea as fillers. After the war, as the Army began to reduce strength and open all units to integration, it was decided to transfer the 65th Infantry to the Puerto Rico National Guard, which occurred in 1959. Known as the "Borinqueneers" (after the name of the native people who lived on Puerto Rico when Columbus discovered it) this unique regiment remains an important part of the Guard today.

After a two day battle soldiers of Puerto Rico's 65th Infantry take an unnamed hill in Korea. This Regular Army unit would, in 1959, be transferred to the Puerto Rico National Guard.

Painting by Domenick D'Andrea for the National Guard Bureau Heritage Series

1945Central Burma - Guardsmen of the 124th Cavalry (TX) launch a successful attack on Japanese positions on "Knight's Hill". The regiment, part of the "Mars Task Force", was the last horse-mounted unit in the U.S. Army, and the only Guard ground maneuver unit to serve in Burma. Having lost their horses prior to leaving the states the unit was furnished mules to carry their supplies through the rugged mountains and jungles of this theater. During this engagement, Guard First Lieutenant Jack Knight earned the Medal of Honor for personally wiping out two enemy pillboxes and, though blinded, led his platoon in destroying a third. He was killed in this last assault and the hill was named in his honor.

February 4
First Nebraska Volunteer Infantry defending outskirts of Manila on opening day of Philippine Insurrection, February 4, 1899.

Nebraska National Guard Historical Collection

1899Manila, Luzon, Philippine Islands - Filipinos under the leadership of their general, Emilio Aguinaldo, launch a wave of attacks along American defensive positions outlying the city. The "Philippine Insurrection" has begun. When the U.S. entered the Spanish-American War in April 1898 over Cuban independence, little thought was given to Spain's other overseas colonies. Among them was the Philippines, which the Americans seized with little effort or loss of life in July 1898. By early 1899, as the Americans granted independence to the newly freed Cubans, it was decided to annex the Philippines as a colony. But many of the local people also wanted their freedom from foreign control and rose to fight for it. The bulk of Army forces then serving in the islands were Guardsmen in units from: CA, CO, ID, IA, KS, MN, MT, NE, NV, ND, OR, PA, SD, TN, UT, WA, WY. While the war would last until 1903, the Guards' role in it ended in autumn 1899 as the last of the volunteer units returned home. However, enough Guardsmen volunteered to stay on active duty that two regiments of infantry were organized. These remained in action until the Insurrection ended in 1901. Only one Guardsman received the Medal of Honor during the Spanish-American War, but 15 earned it during the Insurrection.

February 5
Corporal Joseph Digatona, a Guardsman from Minneapolis, MN and a member of the 151st Field Artillery Battalion (MN), 34th Infantry Division, sends a message from a command post located in a cave near Cassino during the American attempt to capture the monastery, January 17, 1944.

National Archives and Records Administration

1944Monte Cassino, Italy - elements of Minnesota's 1st Battalion, 135th Infantry, 34th Infantry Division (IA, MN, ND, SD) reach a section of the wall of the Abbey but are forced by fierce German resistance to withdraw. This is as close as any American unit would get to securing the ancient monastery. It was eventually captured by British Commonwealth and Free French troops.

February 6

1862Fort Henry, Tennessee - a combined Union Army and Naval force capture this unfinished Confederate position along the Tennessee River. Illinois Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant is in overall command of the Union attack. After offering brief resistance the rebel commander surrenders the garrison. Grant would continue to find battlefield success ending the war as the first four-star general in American history and becoming the 18th president of the United States in 1869.

February 7

2003Quincy, IL - members of the 126th Maintenance Company are mobilized to support Operation Enduring Freedom (the war in Afghanistan). The unit will not be deployed overseas, rather some of its soldiers are sent to Fort Bragg, NC, to ‘backfill' for troops already shipped out. Among its 180 personnel are four sets of brothers. It is not at all uncommon for family members to be serving together in the same unit. National Guard units draw their soldiers from the local community in which they are based and often include brothers, fathers and sons and since the 1970s, sisters or mother and daughter combinations. In fact, this same unit 35-years earlier (1968) had a very similar situation. Then designated as the 126th Service and Supply Company it was mobilized for Vietnam service. Of the 148 men in its ranks were eight sets of brothers, including one set of three brothers. Fortunately the unit suffered no Guard casualties and all returned from Vietnam safely..

February 8
Two Massachusetts National Guard soldiers activated by the Commonwealth during the "Blizzard of 1978" assist in moving a vehicle in Boston. The city received a record 27 inches of snow in the storm from February 5-7, 1978. Note the "Yankee Division" patches of the famed 26th Infantry Division. Photograph by SSgt. Ernest Seeling, USAF.

1978Northeast to Upper Midwest, United States - The last of three consecutive blizzards, often with hurricane force winds leaving snow drifts as high as 15 feet, finally clears allowing the slow process of digging out to begin. Guardsmen in 21 states, from Maine to North Carolina west to Tennessee and north into the Dakota's are on state active duty for weeks helping to clear roads, move emergency supplies, offer first aid, evacuate families stranded without heat and in many cases staff armories as shelters. With more than 17,000 personnel on duty at some point this is the largest multi-state mobilization of Guardsmen in aid to civil authorities for one event up to that point in the nation's history.

February 9
Sergeant Billy Vinson, of Ohio's 148th Infantry, 37th Infantry Division, gives covering fire to allow the evacuation of several wounded men. He earned the Silver Star for his heroic actions.

Painting by Keith Rocco for the National Guard Bureau Heritage Series

1945Manila, Luzon, Philippine Islands - Squad leader Sergeant Billy E. Vinson, a member of Company B, 148th Infantry, 37th Infantry Division (OH), was leading his team in searching house-to-house for Japanese defenders. Suddenly his squad is ambushed by elite Japanese Marines. Using his Browning Automatic Rifle he quickly kills six of the enemy, allowing enough time for his soldiers to evacuate the wounded to safety. He was awarded the Silver Star. Two other members of the same regiment involved in the campaign to clear the Japanese out of Manila would earn the Medal of Honor.

February 10
Starting their campaign on February 10, 1945, members of Illinois' 130th Infantry, 33rd Infantry Division enter Baguio on April 27.

National Archives Records Administration

1945Luzon, Philippine Islands - Illinois' 33rd Infantry Division begins its Philippines operations by launching a successful drive against the towns of Rosrio and Aringay in the central mountains of the island of Luzon. Its goal is to capture the city of Baguio, headquarters for General Yamashita, the Japanese commander of the Philippines. For more than three months the 33rd is heavily engaged in savage mountain fighting. The Japanese defenders are masters of well camouflaged positions, inflicting hundreds of American casualties before the city is taken. Yamashita retreats deeper into the mountains and is captured by the 32nd Infantry Division (MI, WI) only after the war ends in August.

February 11
An M-109 155mm self-propelled howitzer of Kentucky's 2nd Battalion, 138th Artillery prepares to fire a mission in Vietnam, 1969.

National Archives and Records Administration

1969Fire Support Base Anzio, Vietnam - Gunners of Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 138th Artillery (KY) use their M-109 self-propelled 155mm howitzers to deliver reinforcing fires in support of Operation Kentucky Jumper conducted by the 101st Airborne Division. During this six-week mission, the battery fires 10,942 rounds. During its one year tour of service the battalion suffers 14 men killed in action, eight of them Guardsmen, the highest number of any of the eight Guard units deployed to Vietnam.

February 12
Sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, served as a company commander in the Illinois militia during the 1832 Blackhawk War. Army Heritage and Education Center

1809Hardin County, Kentucky - Abraham Lincoln is born. An Illinois resident in 1832, when the governor called for volunteers to fight against the Sac Indians under their warchief Black Hawk, Lincoln enlisted in his local militia company. He was quickly elected captain, a moment he later recalled with pride. The war ended before he saw any combat and he was soon mustered out. In 1861 he became the 16th president of the United States and held the nation together during the Civil War.

February 14

1779Kettle Creek, Georgia - A force of about 700 "Tories" (Americans loyal to the King) are moving through the backwoods of Georgia when their column is ambushed by Colonel Andrew Pickens leading his South Carolina militia. At first the American troops are hard-pressed as the loyalist soldiers rally behind a fence. But once the British commander is killed his forces flee the field, leaving about 70 Tories dead and 70 more captured. Patriot losses were nine killed and 23 wounded. More significant, this removed the last royal threat from western Georgia during the war.

February 15
As a result of the explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor on this date, the United States declares war against Spain in April. About 170,000 men drawn from existing Guard units, like this member of the 1st New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, rush to join up.

National Guard Bureau Historical File

1898Havana Harbor, Cuba - The USS Maine explodes, killing 260 American sailors. The reason for this explosion is still questioned today, though most experts now feel it was an accident. Cuba was a Spanish colony, with rebels fighting to win their independence from colonial rule. Many Americans supported the Cubans in their goal of freedom. The Maine was sent as a 'good will' gesture by the U.S. toward Spain. When it suddenly blew up in a Spanish controlled port the newspapers of the day blamed the Spanish for sabotaging the ship. The outcry for revenge finally led America to declare war against Spain on April 25th. In the next few months nearly 200,000 men would flock to the 'colors'; 170,000 of them drawn from uniformed volunteer militia units, the predecessors of the National Guard. Many of these men served in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam and the Philippines. Thousands would die (almost all from disease) while some, like Teddy Roosevelt, would gain national exposure. All contributed to making America a world power.

February 16

1862Fort Donelson, Tennessee - Swiftly moving his army after its capture of Fort Henry on February 6th, Union commander and Illinois Brigadier General Ulysses Grant invested this fort on the 11th. It capitulates today. When the Confederate commander asked what terms he could get if he surrendered, Grant's reply was the now famous "unconditional surrender" which was quickly attached by the press to his initials "U.S." Grant. He would end the war commanding all union forces and in 1868 was elected the 18th president of the United States.

February 17
The 369th Infantry marches up Lenox Avenue to 135th Street, New York City in its own victory parade after returning from World War I. Due to Army discrimination at the time, African American soldiers were not included in the "National Victory Parade" held in Manhattan.

Courtesy, National Archives and Records Administration

1919New York City, New York - The 369th Infantry (NY) stages its own victory parade upon returning home from France at the end of World War I. This African-American regiment, also known as the "Harlem Hellfighters," were commanded by white field grade officers and a combination of white and black company officers. They established a high level of achievement in their service to the Allied cause. Assigned to fight under French command, the men of the 369th Regiment spent 191 days in contact with the enemy, more than any other American regiment. It never gave a foot of ground nor had a man captured by the enemy. More than half the Guard members of the unit were either killed or wounded in action. Many received French decorations for valor and one white officer earned the Medal of Honor. Leading the parade was the 369th Band under the command of Lt. James Reese Europe. He and the band are credited with bringing jazz to Europe, ushering in the 1920s as the "Jazz Age." Another soldier of note in the regiment band was Bill Robinson, who was its drum major. "Bojangles" Robinson later gained fame in movies in the 1930s and 40s. In the intervening years the unit has been reorganized and the 369th Supply Battalion. It was mobilized in 2004 for service in Iraq. The unit was redesignated as the 369th Sustainment Brigade prior to being deployed to serve in Kuwait in late 2012.

February 18
Guard engineers working in Honduras to improved roads and construct bridges.

National Guard Bureau Historical Collection

1988Palmerola Air Base, Honduras - despite an intense debate about the use of Guard personnel for 'nation building' in Central America, 52 members of the 110th Civil Engineer Squadron, Michigan Air National Guard, deploy for 17-days annual training. While in-country they will assist other American and Honduran military units in base construction and improvement. During the late 1980s, there was a serious attempt by some governors to prevent the president and Defense Department from employing Guard units on annual training to potential 'hot spots' in Latin America. In 1990 the Supreme Court found that DOD does indeed have the authority, with presidential approval, to deploy Guardsmen anywhere in the world for training, even over the objections of the governors.

February 21
Officers and men from the Washington Cadet Corps wearing their distinctive dress uniforms during their visit to Philadelphia in 1887. The man standing second from right in rear row is Captain Christian Fleetwood, who earned the Medal of Honor (5-pointed star on chest) in the Civil War as a soldier in the 6th United States Colored Troops, was a founding member of the Corps and later rose to command the city's all-black battalion.

Private Collection

1887Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Company A of the Washington Cadets Corps from Washington, DC, arrives in this city today to take part in the annual Washington's Birthday Parade held on February 22nd. Despite the name "Cadet Corps" in fact this unit is an African American battalion of the District's Guard. They are hosted by Philadelphia's "Grey Invincibles" the only remaining black unit in the Pennsylvania Guard. Both units, like many Guard organizations of the day, have distinctive dress uniforms that are paid for by the men themselves.

February 22
The Mississippi Rifles, commanded by Colonel Jefferson Davis, counterattacked the Mexican advance, throwing the enemy into confusion. The 2nd Kentucky Cavalry charged into their ranks and routed them from the field.

Painting by Kenneth Riley for the National Guard Bureau Heritage Series.

1847Buena Vista, Mexico - A small American army under the command of General Zachary Taylor defeats a much larger force commanded by General Santa Anna, President of Mexico. About ninety percent of Taylor's army was composed of state volunteer (Guard) units, several of which were heavily engaged in the fight. The 2nd Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, led by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Clay, Jr. (son of the famous former secretary of state and speaker of the House of Representatives) was killed while commanding his men in blunting the Mexican assault. The 1st Mississippi Rifles, under the command of Colonel Jefferson Davis (future secretary of war and president of the Confederacy) and the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry charged into the flank of the Mexicans and routed them off the field.

First President of the United States George Washington, c1792. Painting by Gilbert Stuart.

National Gallery of Art

1732Pope's Creek Plantation, Virginia - George Washington is born here today. Known for commanding the Continental Army during the Revolution and for being the first President of the United States, he is often referred to as the "father of his country". Few know however, that probably none of these later events in his life would have occurred if he had not been an officer in the Virginia militia. His service during the French and Indian War brought him name recognition in the other colonies and when the Second Continental Congress was looking for a strong leader to command its army Washington, with his militia experience, appeared the most logical choice. The rest is history.

1926Vanderburg and Warwick Counties, IN - a total of 169 Guardsmen from the 151st and 152nd Infantry regiments along with elements of the 139th Field Artillery and two aircraft from the 113th Observation Squadron respond to a coal field riot over an attempt to unionize workers. A Guard presence, which remains on state active duty until March 23, is credited with keeping the violence to a minimum, only one man stabbed and a number of non-miners roughed up. Total expenditures amounted to about $8,500.

 

February 23
Just prior to the Normandy invasion, the 107th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron was issued F6A the photo-recon version of the P-51 "Mustang" to replace their British "Spitfire" modified for photographic work.

Painting by William S. Phillips for the National Guard Bureau Heritage Series.

1944Middle Wallop, England - In preparation for the D-Day landings to take place in June, the photo-reconnaissance aircraft of the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Group begins daily over flight missions along a 160-mile strip of French coastline. The Group is composed of three former Guard observation squadrons, the 107th (MI) and 109th (MN) Tactical Reconnaissance Squadrons plus Mississippis' 153rd Liaison Squadron. This operation continued right up to the invasion, with a total of 83 sorties being flown without the loss of a single plane. The Group produced more than 9,500 images which were used in planning where to land the invasion forces. The 67th was one of the first Groups to have its aircraft transferred to France as soon as a safe airfield was secured.

February 24
Members of the 212th Engineer Company from Tennessee stand beside the road sign proclaiming their efforts in the rapid victory of the Iraqi army.

National Guard Bureau Historical File

1941Brainard Field, Hartford, CT - The 118th Observation Squadron enters active duty for World War II service. At first flying antisubmarine patrols along the Atlantic coast, in December 1943 it is transferred via India to China. Redesignated as the 118th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron it was armed with the photo-recon version of the P-51 Mustang fighters. In June 1944 it was reassigned to the 23rd Fighter Group, the heir to the famous "Flying Tigers." During the balance of the war its pilots often engaged Japanese "Zero's" in combat, with five members of the unit earning the designation of "ace" for shooting down at least five enemy aircraft each. Today the 118th Fighter Squadron remains a part of the Connecticut Air Guard flying A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft.

1991Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq - The long awaited ground offensive of Operation Desert Storm starts with an overwhelming assault across the Saudi desert to outflank the Iraqi forces trapped in Kuwait. Among the units supporting this advance are the artillery battalions of the 142nd (AR) and 196th (TN) Field Artillery Brigades, the only two Guard combat units to fight in the war. Following nearly six weeks of constant aerial attack the Iraqi Army has been heavily damaged and had its lines of communications and supply cut. As the American and Allied armies move into Iraq, Guard units like the 212th Engineer Company (TN) support their efforts by making or repairing roads. Other units such as Arizona's 222nd Transportation Company moved fuel to keep the tanks rolling. In all 297 Army Guard units, consisting of 37,848 soldiers, served in theater. Another 24,563 Guard members either deployed to other stations overseas or were still training in the U.S. when the war ended.

February 25
Colonel George Rogers Clark (shown as a Brigadier General in old age), c1800.

Painting by Matthew H. Jouett. Filson Club of Louisville (KY)

1779Vincennes, IN - Virginia militia Colonel George Rogers Clark, commanding a force of backwoodsmen captures this post from the British. This effectively ended a two-year frontier war and secured a large portion of the trans-Alleghany region for the American cause.

February 26
Two members of the 29th Ranger Battalion demonstrating their fitness for photographers at the training center in Scotland. By the time this image was published on Yank the battalion had been disbanded and the men returned to their parent organizations.

Virginia National Guard Historical Collection

1943Spean Bridge, Scotland - Army public relations officers accompany press photographers and reporters on a visit to the British Commando Depot at Camp Achnacarry. They witness the 29th Ranger Battalion (Provisional) being put through its paces as its men demonstrate ranger/commando skills and tactics. The battalion, composed of volunteers from the 29th Infantry Division (DC, MD, VA), was a temporary unit organized to give ranger training to selected men who would then return to their former companies and pass these specialized skills along to their comrades. Later some of the photos would appear in newspapers back home, like the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post. Exactly one year later, after the battalion had been disbanded, one of these photos appeared on the cover of Yank magazine in Europe. The Army disbanded the 29th Rangers in October 1943. As planned, when the rangers returned to their units they taught the other soldiers some of their raiding and observation skills.

February 27
Staff Sergeant Richard Baldwin (facing camera) and Specialist Rodney Freel, both members of the 838th Military Police Company from Youngstown, Ohio, express their appreciation for the work of the Air National Guard (ANG).

National Guard Education Foundation

1712Bath Town, NC - Colonel John Barnwell of South Carolina, commanding a combined force of white militia from North and South Carolina along with about 120 friendly Indians, moves his army to attack Hancock's Fort, main settlement of the hostile Tuscarora Indians. The Tuscarora's had launched a surprise attack in September 1711, killing about 130 colonists and catching the North Carolinians completely unprepared for war. After appeals to Virginia and South Carolina for help, the situation had stabilized. Virginia sent arms and sealed its border to prevent more Indians from aiding the hostiles. South Carolina, seeing these attacks as a threat to its safety raised an army to march north. With this force Barnwell would lay siege to Hancock's Fort in March.

1991 Saudia Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq - Operation Desert Storm ends with an armistice announced by President George H.W. Bush. The war, which opened with a crippling aerial assault on January 16th, ends after just 100 hours of ground combat. Many Guard units, especially military police and medical, continued to be employed processing the thousands of Iraqi prisoners of war taken during the conflict. Of the 34 Guard personnel (Army and Air) to die during Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm, none was killed in combat.

February 28
Soldiers of the 116th Engineer Combat Battalion repair a bridge in South Korea, 1951.

National Guard Education Foundation

1951Inchon, South Korea - Idaho's 116th Combat Engineer Battalion arrives in-country. It will send most of its next three years constructing and/or repairing bridges, maintaining and improving roads and other major engineering tasks. This unit, Idaho's oldest Guard organization, saw service in the Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection (1898-99); Mexican Border (1916); World War I (1917-1919); World War II (1941-1945); Korea (1950-1955) and Vietnam (1968-1969). In fact, it was the only Guard unit, Army or Air, to serve in both the Korean and Vietnamese wars.