National Guard

 
May - Today in Guard History
May 1
Siege at Fort Meigs"Siege at Fort Meigs" by an unknown engraver. Though this print appears to have been rendered contemporary to the event (circa 1813), there is no date of publication.
Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection

1813Fort Meigs, OH - British forces, which have had a loose siege around this post for weeks have finally brought up artillery and begin a bombardment. The forces in the fort consist of a mix of Regulars and militia from KY, PA and VA under the command of General William Henry Harrison, who had earlier been a general in the Indiana Territorial militia. When the enemy artillery starts to pound the fort, Harrison dispatches 800 Kentucky militia to cross the Maumee River and attack the guns and spike them so they can no longer fire. Once this was accomplished, the militia pursues what appears to be retreating Indians under the leadership of Tecumseh. After they entered the woods, the Indians counterattacked while the British forces swung around their flanks cutting most off from the river. Only about 150 escaped with the remainder being killed or captured. Of those captured, about 50 were murdered by the Indians before Tecumseh put a stop to it. The British, without use of their artillery, soon lifted the siege and moved back into Canada.

Lieutenant General Thomas 'Stonewall' JacksonLieutenant General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson
Army Heritage and Education Center

1863 Chancellorsville, VA - By the end of this three day battle the Army of Northern Virginia, under the command of General Robert E. Lee, soundly defeats the Army of the Potomac under General Joseph Hooker. This sets the stage for Lee to move north for what will be known as the "Gettysburg Campaign." However, Lee and the southern cause suffered a great setback with the death of General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Jackson, a West Point graduate who served in the Mexican War, taught mathematics at the Virginia Military Institute (then a part of the VA militia system) with the state rank of major. When the Civil War started he offered his services to Virginia and was appointed a brigadier general of five regiments of volunteer infantry drawn from the Shenandoah Valley. At the Battle of First Manassas in July 1861, he and his command gained immortal fame when Brigadier General Bernard Bee, a Guard officer commanding a South Carolina brigade starting to retreat off the field points to Jackson's brigade and shouts "there stands Jackson like a stonewall, rally around the Virginians!" He will forever be know as "Stonewall" Jackson and his brigade as awarded by the confederate Congress in 1862 the designation of "Stonewall Brigade." Again Virginians proved their courage when the 116th Infantry, the lineal descendant of the "Stonewall Brigade," stormed ashore in the first assault waves on Omaha Beach on D-Day. In the modern period elements of this regiment have served in Guantanamo Bay guarding prisoners from the War on Terror to serving in Afghanistan in combat missions searching for enemy fighters.

May 2
Brigadier General Roberta V. Mills.Colonel William J. Donovan (left), commanding officer 165th Infantry, and Captain Francis P. Duffy, chaplain on the regimental staff, 165th Infantry, Remagen, Rhenish, Prussia, Germany, March 1919National Archives and Records Administration

1992Cobourg, Canada - Francis Patrick Duffy, better know to history as "Father Duffy" was born. After studying for the priesthood he was ordained in the New York Archdiocese in 1897. In 1898, while continuing his studies at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., the United States entered the war against Spain over Cuban independence. Duffy requested and was granted permission to become an Army chaplain. He saw no overseas service, instead he worked long hours at an Army hospital in Montauk Point, Long Island, NY treating men returned home with typhoid fever (which is highly contagious). Despite falling ill himself, he continued to minister to the sick until the hospital closed. After spending a number of years training more than 500 new priests, in 1912 Duffy was told to establish a new parish in the Bronx. At about this time he was recommended to become the chaplain for the 69th New York Infantry, which gained great fame as part of the "Irish Brigade" during the Civil War. He joined the unit and soon won the hearts of many of his flock. Mobilized with the regiment in 1916 for service on the Mexican border, he met a bright young captain of the 1st New York Cavalry, William "Wild Bill" Donovan. They became close friends and when America entered World War I in 1917, the chaplain help secure Donovan command of the 1st Battalion, 69th NY Infantry (soon to be re designated as the 165th Infantry, an element of the newly organized 42nd "Rainbow" Division). Both men served with the 165th in France, where Donovan earned a Distinguished Service Cross (the Army's second highest award for valor) and the Medal of Honor (see January 1st for Donovan biography). Captain Duffy too earned awards including both a Distinguished Service Cross for tending wounded and dying men during the Battle of Villers-sur-Fere; and the Distinguished Service Medal (for non-combat achievement) for being in the front lines encouraging the troops and raising their spirits. Perhaps most importantly, he earned the love and respect of his men for his devotion to their spiritual and emotional well-being. As the senior chaplain of the 42nd Division, he often ministered to Catholics in regiments other than the 165th, so that by war's end he was probably the most popular man in the division. He was among the command group leading the 165th victory parade up Fifth Avenue when the regiment returned home in 1919. After the war while maintaining an active parish in mid-Manhattan's "Hell's Kitchen" he raised money for his parish by speaking about his wartime experiences. He died in 1932 and was given a military requiem mass in St. Patrick's Cathedral. A grateful city erected a statue to him, depicted wearing his World War I trench coat, in Times Square, the only monument to a Catholic priest in all of NYC. In 1940 a full-length motion picture titled The Fighting 69th starring Pat O'Brian playing Father Duffy brought his story to the entire nation just on the eve of America's entry into World War II.

May 3
Brigadier General Roberta V. Mills.Former President (and Missouri Guard officer) Harry S Truman giving the keynote speech during the dedication of the National Guard Memorial in Washington, D.C.National Guard Education Foundation

1959Washington, DC - Former President Harry S Truman, who was a Guard captain commanding Battery D, 129th Field Artillery from Missouri during World War I, is the honored guest at the dedication of the new National Guard Association "Memorial" on Capital Hill. The Association, organized in 1879, is a private organization with membership restricted to National Guard officers (active and retired), and represents Guard political and financial interests to members of Congress on actions prohibited by federal law for the Guard Bureau to pursue. To share information with its membership in 1947 the Association began publishing The National Guardsman (today National Guard) magazine. Over the years it taken upon itself the secondary mission of telling the Guard's history through the "National Guard Memorial Museum" which is open free of charge to the public.

Brigadier General Roberta V. Mills.'Scramble at Phan Rang' showing pilots of Colorado's 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron running to get their F-100 "Super Sabre" aircraft airborne during an enemy rocket attack.Heritage Series

1968Phan Rang Air Base, Vietnam - Colorado's 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron becomes the first Air Guard unit to arrive in Vietnam, less than four months after mobilization. Flying F-100C Super Sabre aircraft it, like the other three mobilized Air Guard units to serve in Vietnam, will primarily conduct low-level ground support missions in coordination with American and South Vietnamese units operating in South Vietnam. These include precision bombing plus machine gun and rocket attacks on enemy emplacements and troop concentrations.

May 4
Blanket Hill' moments before the fatal volley was fired.Ohio Guardsmen halt on top of "Blanket Hill" moments before the fatal volley was fired.Special Collections, Kent State University Library

1970Kent, OH - President Richard Nixon's May 1st announcement of the American incursion into Cambodia leads to massive anti-Vietnam war protests on college campuses nationwide. At Kent State University students burned the ROTC building and rioted in downtown Kent. The governor of Ohio dispatched Guardsmen from the 1st Battalion, 145th Infantry and several Troops of the 107th Armored Cavalry (at peak strength a total of 1,395 men) to restore order in Kent. These men were already on state active duty in response to a wildcat truckers strike when moved to the campus. Except for some trouble in the town ofKent on Saturday night, in which ten Guardsmen were injured by thrown bottles and rocks, overall for two days the situation remained calm. But on Monday the 4th a planned anti-war rally was scheduled, drawing both students and non-students. The campus authorities tried to stop the rally but the crowd on the Commons kept growing larger, more vocal and belligerent. The sheriff, riding a Guard jeep and with a Guard driver, approached the crowd to tell them to disperse when the jeep was pelted with stones, bottles and other missiles. The Guard driver was hit in the eye from broken windshield glass. It was then decided to have the Guardsmen clear the crowd. At this time the Guard had no crowd control equipment other than CS (tear) gas fired from grenade launchers. They had no batons, face or body shields, no body armor and no non-lethal projectiles. What they did have were steel helmets, gas masks (which greatly restrict vision) and M-1 rifles with fixed bayonets. Since ten Guardsmen had been injured two days earlier the men were now issued live ammunition. After firing a volley of tear gas the troops, totaling 125 men, moved out to push the crowd over "Blanket Hill" surmounted by the Student Center in hopes they would disperse in the parking lot on the other side. As the men moved forward, they came under a barrage of projectiles including chunks of concrete with steel rebar rods which had been stockpiled by protestors. Fifty Guardsmen were hit, some multiple times, as they continued to advance. The line of troops split to move on each side of the Center as the crowd fell back over the hill. Once the men on the right side of the advance crested the hill they found themselves cut off from further advance by a steel fence. As they turned to return the way they came, their tear gas ran out and some in the crowd started to approach them shouting and throwing objects. For reasons no one can fully explain someone fired a shot. Some say it came from a dorm room overlooking the crowd while others say only the Guard fired. Whichever version is right, the Guardsmen fired a ragged volley of 34 shots, hitting 13 people, four of whom were killed. In the aftermath the campus was immediately closed until the next school year. Years of court action resulted in no Guardsmen ever being convicted of a crime in the shooting. While Kent State will remain a dark day in Guard history some good did come from it. As a result of studies made after the event, Guardsmen today have the proper crowd control equipment and non-lethal devices are available. And all Army Guard personnel receive extensive training in crowd control techniques. Perhaps the best evidence of change is that in the more than 35 years since that day, despite numerous calls upon the Guard in many states to control riotous behavior, there has been no repeat of the tragedy.

May 5
Lieutenant General Ulysses S. GrantLieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant at the time of the Wilderness campaign. A one time colonel of Illinois militia will in 1869 become the 18th President of the United States.Army Heritage and Education Center

1864Wilderness, VA - The Union army under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant attempts to breach solid Confederate breastworks but suffers high losses for little gain. At the end of this battle Grant will start making his famous "left hook" marches attempting to get around General Lee's flank to capture Richmond, the Confederate capital. This leads to several very bloody engagements such as Cold Harbor but Grant fails to turn Lee's flank. By this point in the conflict, the most of the uniformed volunteers (forerunners of today's National Guard) who had rushed to the colors at the start of the war were either dead, were so badly wounded and/or sick as to be sent home or had deserted. However both sides, especially in the southern armies, did still have many of early war Guard units in their establishment. The Confederates rarely disbanded units; they just plugged in available new replacements into the old units. This helped to maintain a ‘local' connection (and its esprit) to a city or county carried over from the original members. The Union adopted a different system entirely. When the numbers of a unit fell low enough, its remaining men were transferred to another unit from the same state and the old designation ceased to exist. Few individual replacements were assigned to existing units. Instead new men were placed in newly organized regiments. Several states, such as New York and Pennsylvania, had infantry regimental numbers as high as 194th (NY) and 215th (PA). Both states started the war with a "1st Volunteer Infantry" so it can be seen they suffered horrible losses during the war.

May 6
Captain G.W. DawsonThe "Perote Guards," Captain G.W. Dawson commanding, was composed of members ofCompany H, 5th Louisiana Volunteer Infantry. They were assigned to man the "Perote Sand Battery" at Fort Barrancas at the entrance to Pensacola Bay, FL. This battery is composed of two 10-inch Columbiads and two smaller guns. Photo by "J.D. Edwards, No. 19 Royal Street, New Orleans" who apparently traveled to the site to make several images for the families back home.Army Heritage and Education Center

1861Fort Barrances, FL - Members of the 5th Louisiana Volunteer Infantry, take up garrison duties in this fort protecting the entrance to Pensacola Bay. In the early days of the Civil War, men in some southern units objected to being stationed outside of their home states (recall for most of the South the war was mostly over "state rights," not slavery). Some of the men in this regiment questioned why they had to protect a part of Florida when areas of Louisiana remained vulnerable to Union Navy attack. However, it soon became apparent that if the Confederacy was to have any chance to survive as a separate nation it needed a unified army, regardless of state affiliation. The unit remained here until May 1862 when Union forces captured Pensacola Bay. The 5th Louisiana later joined the Army of Northern Virginia and fought at Antietam in September 1862 and in the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1864. A few members ("less than 80") were among the men surrendered at Appomattox in April 1865.

May 7
Lieutenant Colonel Henry R. McCroneLieutenant Colonel Henry R. McCrone, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 197th Artillery from New Hampshire, pulls the lanyard of a 155mm howitzer belonging to Battery B, firing the battalion's 100,000 round against an enemy position.National Guard Education Foundation

1969Phu Loi, Vietnam - Lieutenant Colonel Henry McCrone, commander New Hampshire's 3rd Battalion, 197th Artillery fires the battalion's 100,000 round. With each 155mm shell costing $260 (1968 price) and the 197th firing more than 146,000 rounds during its one-year tour the total cost of just ordinance for this one artillery battalion was more than 37 million dollars!

May 8

1792York, NY - Passage of the Uniform Militia Act. This law, along with the Calling Forth Act passed on May 2, are often referred to jointly as "The Militia Act of 1792" and would govern the employment of the militia for the next 111 years, until passage of the "Dick Act" of 1903. In these two laws Congress expanded upon the Constitution to spell out how the militia would be armed, equipped and trained. These laws: (1) required that the States appoint Adjutants General and muster their militia once annually to maintain the rolls, (2) specified the weapons, ammunition and equipment that each militiaman was to provide at his own expense, (3) detailed the hierarchy of militia units from divisions down to individual companies and (4) mandated that the militia train according to the same discipline prescribed by Baron von Steuben for the Continental Army. Congress delegated to the president the constitutional power to call forth the militia, but only for a period not to exceed three months in any one year.

Harry S Truman.Thirty-third President of the United States, Harry S Truman was a first lieutenant in the 2nd Field Artillery, Missouri National Guard, in 1917 when it was mobilized for World War I service. By the time his unit entered combat in 1918 he was a captain commanding Battery D, 129th Field Artillery (MO). During the Interwar period, he joined the Army Reserve and rose to the rank of colonel but was refused a command due to his leadership role in the Senate being deemed more important by the Army than any active duty assignment they could give him.Presidential Series

1884Lamar, MO - Thirty-third President of the U.S. Harry S Truman is born. 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 was forced to resign 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."

May 9
Mounted color guard of the 2nd Idaho Infantry,New Mexico National Guard arrives in Columbus, NM, ca. 1916Photo courtesy, Palace of the Governors photo archives, neg. no. 005793

1916Two months to the day after "Pancho" Villa and his rebel followers raided the town of Columbus, NM, a Presidential order places the National Guards of New Mexico, Arizona and Texas into federal service. Four days earlier, several hundred Mexican raiders overran the small hamlets of Glenn Springs and Boquillas, Texas in the remote Big Bend country, where a small cavalry detachment was stationed. The May 5 raid left four dead and two injured. The clash took several days to report to the closest post at Marfa, TX. Given this news, the Department of War realized it faced a critical shortage of Soldiers in the area. With the "Punitive Expedition" led by Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing consuming several thousand troops in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico in the aftermath of the Villa attack, and hundreds of others stationed outside the continental United States, the Border region required further stabilization through the immediate presence of these regional National Guards.

May 10
the start of the American Revolution in 1875Capture of Fort Ticonderoga" showing Ethan Allen claiming the fort for the American cause. Note Benedict Arnold is not depicted though he was on scene in reality. Published to coincide with the centennial of the start of the American Revolution in 1875 this color lithograph was printed by Heppenmeimer and Maurer, NYCAnne S.K. Brown Military Collection

1775Fort Ticonderoga, NY - Shouting "Surrender in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress" Vermonter Ethan Allen takes position of this strategic fortress without firing a shot. In fact the small British garrison had not heard of the outbreak of war at Lexington and Concord on April 19th. The joint colonial militia force commanded by Allen and Benedict Arnold of Connecticut finds more than 40 pieces of artillery inside the fort. These will be moved in an arugous (sp) winter convoy to the American siege lines around Boston, compelling the British to evacuate the city.

May 11
certificate for Corporal William W. HerbertDetail of heading of the "Honorable Discharge" certificate for Corporal William W. Herbert, a member of the Reading Artillery (Reading, PA) for two years service during the Mexican War. Signed at the "Armory" and dated "August 1, 1848" it is typical of the elaborate employment of color engraving used on many militia documents of the period. Unlike the Regular Army (dependant on federal money), these items were purchased by the units themselves through dues paid by the members. Engraving by P.S. Duval, Philadelphia, PAAnne S.K. Brown Military Collection

1846Washington, DC - Congress declares war against Mexico at request of the President James Polk. At the time the entire United States Army numbers only about 6,000 officers and men, eventually expanded to nearly 10,000 by war's end. The bulk of the force needed to prosecute the war will come from the uniformed volunteer militia (forerunners of today's National Guard) of the various states. Under the 1792 Militia Act, the militia could not be mobilized for a foreign war. So the president called for regiments of volunteers to serve in Mexico. Nearly 78,000 men served in volunteer units drawn from 24 states and District of Columbia. The war was unpopular in New England and only Massachusetts furnished any troops from that region. Of the approximately 13,000 men who died during the war, only about 2,000 were killed in combat. Almost all others died of diseases such as yellow fever, malaria, and dysentery. Several famous men who had Guard backgrounds served in this war; from Major General Winfield Scott, the overall American military commander, who started his career as a junior officer in the Virginia cavalry; to Colonel Jefferson Davis, commanding the Mississippi Rifles, who later served as Secretary of War and in 1861 became the President of the Confederate States. Other men who served as officers in this conflict enter Guard service after the war and become famous in the Civil War including Ulysses S. Grant and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. In fact, many of the early Civil War generals and colonels had Mexican War experience in various Guard units.

May 12
Gov(ernor), Earl of Bellomont of the Reg't of Militia."Review, in 1700, By Gov(ernor), Earl of Bellomont of the Reg't of Militia, Horse and Foot, of and in the City of New York." The men are shown much too uniformed in dress than they would really have appeared in life. Also, some of the dress styles are from the late 18th century period. Lithograph of a painting in the collection of General J. Watts de Peyster; published by D. Appleton and Company, 1900.Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection

1700New York, NY - The Royal Governor, Earl of Bellomont, presides over the annual muster of the city's militia. Following English law, each spring all of the American colonies held a muster of the men enrolled in a city or county's militia. This gathering allowed for an accounting, inspection and some form of training. For those men living in the cities, this usually was a one day affair as they often had meetings during the course of the year to train at a squad or company level. However, for those men living in the country-side or in small villages, the muster days were perhaps the only chance to gather the men of a said unit together in one place at one time, so their muster sometimes lasted several days before being dismissed. At this time most men were still expected to furnish their own arms and equipment, though some colonies started to acquire old arms from Europe to supply the poorer members unable to afford weapons. There were few men in any uniform unless their commander (usually the wealthiest man in the region) furnished some article of clothing to give uniformity to "his" men. At about this time, again following the English pattern, the individual companies would start to carry their own flags, known as "colors" to give their men some form of unity and esprit. These also served a practical value in combat, as they were quite large and easy to see through gunpowder smoke, serving as a rally point on the battlefield. While some men found their muster either an annoyance, taking them away from the farms or shops, others saw it as a 'lark', a time to get with buddies and party, as became the custom all too often. However, some men took their military obligation seriously and began organizing themselves into what soon became the first uniformed volunteer militia, for the most part the forerunners of the modern National Guard. Units such as Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Boston, chartered in 1638, held drills on at least a monthly basis. This allowed its men to train and prepare for war much more thoroughly than just a day to two once a year could enable them. Soon these units began adopting uniform dress and customs, all of which helped to form a rabble into an army.

May 13
19th Iowa Volunteer InfantryWith the end of the war all prisoners, like these members of the 19th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, were finally released to return home. These men were held at Camp Ward, TX, until word of the peace finally arrive. They were photographed in New Orleans while awaiting transportation home.Army Heritage and Education Center

1865Cameron County, TX - The last battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Palmito Ranch, is fought on the Rio Grande near Brownsville, TX, adjacent to the U.S. - Mexico border. It ends in a Confederate victory; an ironic twist, because soon thereafter, word arrives of the surrender of the Confederate armies in the east to Union forces over a month prior to this engagement. These men give themselves up to victorious army on June 2nd. The Civil War is officially over at the cost of more than 600,000 dead.

The first Army Guard unit to deploy to VietnamThe first Army Guard unit to deploy to Vietnam, the 650th Medical Detachment (Dental Service), arrived just three months after being mobilized on this date. Shown is Captain Sidney T. Kellon, DDS, being observed working on a patient by the unit's commander, Colonel Daniel T. Meadows, DDS. Of the eight Army Guard units deployed to Vietnam, at least six had African American Guard members in their ranks.National Guard Education Foundation

1968Nationwide - Three additional Air Guard units are mobilized to join the 11 called up in January in response to the growing tensions in Korea and increased operational tempo in Vietnam. None of these three units deployed overseas. However, also mobilized on this date were 34 Army Guard units, including two infantry brigades; the 29th in HI and the 69th in KS/IA. This was the only involuntary call up of Army Guard personnel during the Vietnam War. Eight Army Guard units, composed of about 2,700 Guardsmen, saw combat in Vietnam; they were: 107th Signal Co. (RI), 116th Engineer BN (ID), 126th Service & Supply Co. (IL), 131st Engineer Co. (VT), 2nd Battalion, 138th Artillery (KY), Company D, 151st Infantry, Rangers (IN), 3rd Battalion, 197th Artillery (NH) and the 650th Medical Detachment (AL). In addition, over 4,300 Army Guardsmen mobilized in units which did not deploy, were levied and saw service in Vietnam as individual replacements..

May 14
Members of Company L, 167th Infantry (AL)Members of Company L, 167th Infantry (AL), 31st Infantry Division advance toward Pitce Field on Morotai Island prior to deploying to the Mindanao Island in the Philippines.National Archives and Records Administration

1945Mindanao Island, Philippines - Elements of Florida's 124th Infantry, 31st Infantry Division (AL, FL, LA, MS) repel several Japanese "banzi" suicidal attacks. The 31st Division, nicknamed "Dixie" first entered combat in World War II when, in March 1944, it took part in the fighting in New Guinea. Elements of it made an assault landing on near Aitape causing a diversion of Japanese defenders while the main portion of the division landed at Maffin Bay almost unopposed. The 31st then moved to secure Morotai Island, cutting off 40,000 enemy soldiers based on Halmahera Island from reinforcements and supply from the Philippines. By the time the 31st landed on Mindanao it was a veteran division and proved its metal when it captured a Japanese airfield at Valencia, which led to the banzi attacks as fanatical Japanese soldiers tried in vain to recapture it. The men of the 'Dixie Division' were still fighting in the mountains of the island when the war ended in August 1945. During the course of the war the division suffered 414 men killed in action with another 1,400 wounded and it had one member awarded the Medal of Honor

May 15

1864New Market, VA - In a small engagement fought near this central Shenandoah Valley town, a Union force composed of about 10,000 men from a variety of states is opposed by a smaller Confederate army composed primarily of Virginians. Among the forces on the southern side were cadets from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). During the climax of the battle these boys (ages 12 to 16) charged across an open field, taking casualties but capturing a battery of guns on a commanding hill. Ten cadets were killed and 50 were wounded. Though the battle was a Confederate victory, in the long run, it proved to futile due to overwhelming numbers the Union forces which quickly regrouped and again advanced down the Valley, burning fields and barns as they moved. The school, founded by the state in 1839, was part of the Virginia militia establishment with the primary goal of supplying professionally-trained officers for the militia. Among the faculty at the outbreak of the war was Major Thomas Jackson, soon to gain the nickname and immortal fame as "Stonewall." Other military schools, such as South Carolina's Citadel (founded in 1842) also had their cadets serving in an active role during the war. Two future famous leaders attended VMI in their youth. Future Chief of Staff of the Army, General George C. Marshall graduated from VMI in the Class of 1901. And George S. Patton, who gained fame as one of the outstanding American generals of World War II, attended VMI (a family tradition) in 1903-04 prior to being appointed to attend West Point.

Cowboy Artillery at Soyang"Cowboy Artillery at Soyang" shows men of the Wyoming's 300th Armored Field Artillery firing a mission from their M-7 "Priest" self-propelled 105mm howitzers.Heritage Series

1951Soyang, Korea - After the quick rout of two South Korean divisions by an attack of some 120,000 Communist Chinese troops, the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division, supported by intense and accurate 105mm howitzer fire from Wyoming's 300th Armored Field Artillery Battalion stemmed the enemy assault long enough for American positions to stabilize. For its determined resistance in the Battle of Soyang the 300th was awarded a Distinguished (now known as a Presidential) Unit Citation.

May 16
Louisbourg's fortress complexAmerican colonial soldiers, most from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are depicted unloading cannons, weapons, and other supplies within view of the fortress at Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, the chief north Atlantic garrison maintained by the French military. The operation, aided by British marines, sought to reassert British commercial interests in the North Atlantic fishing waters starting in May 1745. The French capitulated by the following month. Colonial militia units felt a sense of frustration and betrayal from the British crown, however, as the British returned the fortress to the French as part of the Treaty of Aix-de-Chappelle in 1748, an event that first turned many New World settlers against British interests. This endured until the start of the Revolutionary War; many older Massachusetts veterans of the first battles of the War in 1775, were in fact veterans of the Louisbourg siege.
Painting by Dominic d’Andrea and Mark Reeves, National Guard Bureau Heritage Paintings Series

1745Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia - A force numbering about 4,200 men, all of them drawn from New England militia regiments, under the command of General William Pepperrell of Maine, opens a brisk artillery bombardment against the French fortress of Louisbourg. In a siege operation that would last 47 days before the garrison surrenders, the colonial soldiers maintain a disciplined investment of the walled city and harbor. Built in the 1720s by the French to protect the entrance to the St. Lawrence River and French Canada it was the largest fort anywhere in North America. England and France had gone to war in 1741 and French privateers used Louisbourg's protected harbor as a base from which to prey on British and colonial fishing and merchant fleets. When colonial authorities asked England for Royal Navy assistance to stop the attacks no help was forthcoming. So the colonial governments decided to launch their own expedition to take Louisbourg and stop the raids. Militiamen from Massachusetts (which also included the present day state of Maine), Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire were gathered for the campaign. They were transported on 19 colonial ships, protected by 13 armed merchant ships. After the capitulation the militia garrisoned the fort until war's end. Rightfully proud of their achievement the colonies were dismayed to learn that the fortress was returned to France in the peace treaty ending the war. In the next war (the French and Indian War, 1755-1763) it had to be recaptured, this time by regular British troops and ships.

Soldiers in the SunDonna Neary's painting "Soldiers in the Sun" captures the 22 members of Young's Scouts desperately rushing to prevent the bridge from being burned, thus slowing up the American advanceHeritage Series

1889

San Isidro, Luzon, Philippines - One month after the Spanish-American War began in April 1898, an expeditionary force sailed from San Francisco to capture the Spanish colonial capital of Manila, on Luzon Island, Philippines. Because most of the Regular Army was fighting in Cuba and Puerto Rico, three-quarters of this force was composed of state volunteer units, mostly from mid-western and western states. The Spanish surrendered by August and an uneasy peace settled in. The Filipinos wanted independence and when the American government announced it was annexing the islands as a colony, the local people rose up in revolt in February 1899. By spring the American Army, still composed mostly of state units, was on the offensive cleaning out insurgent strongholds north of Manila. During this period a long-time American resident named Henry Young offered his services as a guide to the Army. He organized 25 men into a highly-mobile reconnaissance force called "Young's Scouts" to patrol ahead of the advance. Most of the men in this unit were volunteers from the 1st North Dakota and 2nd Oregon Volunteer infantry regiments. On May 13th, a patrol of 11 Scouts plus Young charged and routed about 300 insurgents. Young was killed in this attack. Three days later (this date) 22 Scouts rushed across a bridge being set ablaze by enemy soldiers. The Guardsmen, while under a heavy fire from about 600 Filipinos across the river, succeeded in routing the insurgents and saving the bridge from burning. They continued to hold off several assaults to recapture the bridge until relieved by the 2nd Oregon. A total of 15 Medals of Honor were awarded to Guardsmen during the Philippine Insurrection. For their heroic actions in these two events ten Guardsmen of "Young's Scouts" received the Medal, seven from North Dakota and three from Oregon.
May 17
Iowa's 174th Tactical Fighter SquadronSoon after Iowa's 174th Tactical Fighter Squadron arrived in Vietnam its flight surgeon, Major Gerald McGowan (shown here being observed by Captain Joseph Kennedy, the base chaplain) volunteered to perform treatment for abandoned children in the Kim Chau Orphanage near the Phu Cat Air Base. Non-medical members of the unit also volunteered their time and, in many cases, their money to help the kids with games, toys, clothes and school suppliesNational Guard Education Foundation

1968Phu Cat Air Base, Vietnam - The second Air Guard unit to arrive in Vietnam is Iowa's 174th Tactical Fighter Squadron. When not engaged in combat operations many of the men volunteered their time to work with abandoned children in nearby orphanages. The medical personnel treated Vietnamese civilians for a variety of diseases and injuries under the MEDCAP (Medical Civic Action Program) project. Some Guardsmen wrote home about the bad conditions at the orphanage and had their families, with the help of local churches and businesses, gather donated clothes, toys, books, and school supplies to help these children.

May 18
Unidentified SoldiersUnidentified Soldiers from the 81st Aviation Brigade head to assist central Washington residents after Mt. St. Helen’s eruption on May 18, 1980. Under extremely adverse conditions, over 125 people were evacuated from toxic fumes, ash, and mudslides caused by the volcanic explosion.
Courtesy of US Geological Survey and the Washington National Guard.

1980Mt. St. Helens in central Washington state, a volcano that remained dormant for over 120 years, erupts violently over Washington, Oregon, and many other neighboring states. The explosion’s ash plume reached a height of 15 miles in 15 minutes, and would circle the Earth in just over two weeks, and create what was recorded as history’s largest landslide. It caused a chaotic environmental event, one which governments and first responders had not previously seen in modern times.

Washington National Guard’s 81st Aviation Brigade responded that Sunday with rotor-wing assets from Ft. Lewis, Washington, where annual training was being conducted, and nearby Guard assets in Oregon aided the operations. Well over 100 stranded victims were evacuated from dismal surroundings after the eruption, thanks in part to Washington’s Citizen-Soldiers.

Members of Company F, 3rd Virginia Volunteer InfantryMembers of Company F, 3rd Virginia Volunteer Infantry "Alexandria Light Infantry" purchased special dress uniforms to wear at the National Encampment. They consist of scarlet, swallow-tailed coats faced with dark blue with yellow (gold for officers) trim and buttons, dark blue pants with a scarlet stripe along each outer seam. They are all wearing black lynx fur shakos with yellow/gold tassels. Uniforms like these were extremely popular in the late 19th century, however, Guard units also wore the regulation Army field/fatigue uniform for normal daily activities. This unit is perpetuated today by Company A, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry, 29th Infantry Division (Light).Private Collection

1887Washington, DC - To celebrate the centennial of the signing of the U.S. Constitution the Army sponsored a "National Drill Encampment" on the Mall in Washington and invited representative Guard units from each state to attend. Eighteen states sent at least one unit each, with several such as Virginia, having enough to organize their own battalions. During the four-day event, numerous drill competitions from precision marching to bayonet demonstrations were held. The climax was a full dress "Pass in Review" for President Grover Cleveland.

May 19
Ulysses S. GrantMajor General (shown here as lieutenant general) Ulysses S. Grant, who commanded the Union armies involved in the Vicksburg campaign, was a West Point graduate and had served as a engineer officer in the Mexican War (1846-1848). He resigned form the Army in the 1850s. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 he was appointed a colonel by the governor of Illinois to command the 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He quickly proved his battlefield skills, winning important victories in the western theater (basically along the Mississippi Valley region). In 1864 he was appointed by President Lincoln to command all Union armies. In 1868 he was elected the 18th President of the United States.Army Heritage and Education Center

1863

Vicksburg, MS - Union commander Major General Ulysses S. Grant fails in his first attempt to take the strategic Confederate city of Vicksburg, which sits on a bluff overlooking (and thereby controlling boat traffic on) the Mississippi River. After substantial causalities, he calls off the attack. Instead he develops a plan to encircle and besiege the city. Grant was a West Point trained engineer who had served in the Mexican War (1846-1848) butresigned from the Army in the 1850s. When the Civil War started, he was appointed by the governor of Illinois as the colonel of the 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He soon proved his value as a battlefield commander and by 1864 would be placed in command of all Union armies. In 1868 he was elected as the 18th President of the United States.
May 21
Captain Charles A. LindberghOfficial passport photo of Captain Charles A. Lindbergh shown wearing his officer's uniform as a member of the 110th Observation Squadron, Missouri National Guard. This is the passport he carried with him during his historic flight to Paris. Note his signature at the bottomNational Guard Bureau Historical Files

1927Paris, France - How much flight has changed in three decades! Captain James Robertson Risner walks from his F-86 Sabre aircraft in Paris in less than seven hours after leaving New York. Exactly 30 years earlier to the day it took Lindbergh 33 1/2 hours to complete the same trip.. While many people know Lindbergh the hero, few know that at the time of his flight he was a Guardsman in Missouri's 110th Observation Squadron, then an element of the 35th Division. He had joined the unit in March 1924 and remained on its rolls until he resigned in 1933. After receiving a promotion to Colonel in the Officer Reserve Corps and soon thereafter the Medal of Honor for his feat, he continued to support the Guard in publicity campaigns.

Captain James Robertson RisnerHow much flight had changed in three decades! Captain James Robertson Risner walks from his F-86 "Sabre" aircraft in Paris in less than seven hours after leaving New York. Exactly 30 years earlier to the day it took Lindbergh 33½hours to complete the same trip.Courtesy of General James Robertson Risner (Ret.)

1957Paris, France - Former Air Guard Captain James Robinson Risner, flying his F-100A Super Sabre jet completes the fastest trans-Atlantic crossing to date, just six hours, 38 minutes (versus Lindbergh's 33½ hours). Risner had served in World War IIbut saw no combat. He joined the 185th Fighter Squadron, Oklahoma Air Guard in 1947. Mobilized with his unit in 1951 for the Korean War, when he realized his unit was not going to deploy to Korea he volunteered for combat duty. During his tour, flying F-86 "Sabre" jet in air-to-air combat he shot down eight enemy planes, earning the title of "Ace." He stayed in the Air Force after the war, set the trans-Atlantic speed record in 1957 and by the time of the war in Vietnam he was a lieutenant colonel in command of a fighter wing. His image was featured on the cover of Time magazine in April 1965 as part of article discussing the increasing role of American involvement in the conflict. Soon after its publication Risner was awarded the second Air Force Cross ever presented (the first was awarded posthumously to the U-2 pilot killed during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962) for his bravery in lead air strikes over North Vietnam. In September 1965, while leading such a mission his aircraft was shot down and he became a prisoner of war for the next seven years, during which he was repeatedly tortured. When released from captivity he was called by President Richard Nixon. Upon picking up the telephone receiver his first words to the president were "This is Colonel Risner Sir, Reporting for Duty" In a later interview he credits his Guard service as one of the ".cornerstones of building his leadership abilities." As a sign of the importance the Guard played in his character he still maintains a close relationship with his old unit and its veterans.

May 22
Members of the 45th Members of the 45th "Thunderbird" Infantry Division (AZ, CO, OK) stand beside the abandoned "Anzio Annie," a German 240mm railroad mounted, long-range gun used to shell the Anzio Beachhead.National Archives and Records Administration

1944Anzio Beachhead, Italy - Allied forces, including elements of three National Guard divisions; the 34th (IA, MN, ND), 36th (TX) and 45th (AZ, CO, OK) begin their final "push" to breakout of the besieged positions which have held them contained just south of Rome for four months. The original intent was to land behind the German "Gustav Line" (running across Italy about 100 miles south of Rome) and rush to capture Rome before the Germans could react. But poor leadership slowed down the advance and the enemy was able to seal the Allied forces on the beachhead. They shelled it constantly with heavy rail guns and bombed it from the air. Finally after four months and thousands of killed and wounded the Allies were finally able to make some headway by May 25th. The breakout will be completed on May 31st and on June 5th the Allies enter a liberated Rome. Unfortunately the achievements of these men and capture of Rome was overshadowed in the media by the D-Day invasion on June 6th.

May 24
Colonel E.E. Ellsworth of the New York Fire Zouaves.Detail of a recruiting poster "Colonel E.E. Ellsworth of the New York Fire Zouaves," published in 1861.Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection

1861Alexandria, VA - As Union troops enter this vital port city across the Potomac River from Washington, DC, they moved to secure it against rebel resistance. Colonel Elmer Ellsworth noticed a Confederate flag flying from the roof of a tavern and was shot and killed while removing it. Ellsworth, 24, gained national fame in the years prior to the Civil War by commanding two distinctive uniformed volunteer units which put on drill performances for the paying public. His first company was the "U.S. Zouave Cadets of Chicago" and the second was the "11th New York Fire Zouaves" a regimental-sized organization composed entirely of NYC fireman. 'Zouave' units were based upon the French North African troops of the same designation and had world renown for their particularly elaborate form of drill and tactical evolutions. They sported distinctive dress uniforms usually composed of a red fez or white turban, short embroidered jacket, baggy red or white trousers and white gaiters. Despite the high costs of these uniforms the style quickly caught on with young men serving in militia companies both North and South just prior to the Civil War. Ellsworth was a talented showman promoting himself and his troop's performances with posters, music song sheet covers, calendars and newspaper ads. While performing in Chicago he met Abraham Lincoln and they became fast friends. When not on the road he worked to help Lincoln win the presidency. Just before the start of the Civil War Ellsworth moved to New York City and linked up with the 11th Regiment and was soon elected its colonel. Immediately upon the outbreak of war he traveled with the regiment to Washington at the invitation of Lincoln. He stayed at the White House and often accompanied the president around town as an unofficial aide. Lincoln was devastated at his death. His body lay in state in the White House before a federal train to carried it back to Chicago for burial. Ellsworth was the first noteworthy person to die in the war. In the north his image appeared everywhere in memoriam and many men 'joined the colors' angered at his killing. In death he became a "poster boy" for the Union cause.

May 25
A militia dragoon, circa 1820s-1830sA militia dragoon, circa 1820s-1830s. It is possible that one or more Georgia or other state militia units were dressed in a similar manner during their involvement in the "Trail of Tears" march of 1838. A pen and ink sketch by William H. Earle.Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection

1838New Echota, Cherokee Nation, GA - Once the Supreme Court upheld enactment of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Georgia Guard, a unit of Georgia militia especially organized to handle Cherokee relocation, began rounding up the people and moving them by force to one of 15 forts built to house them. Once enough people were gathered in several forts Regular Army soldiers escorted them as they began their forced march to the newly established "Indian Territory" (today Oklahoma). They were compelled to march, often in horrible weather and with little or no food or fuel. Governors from Alabama, Florida, North and South Carolina and Tennessee contributed militia troops to assist in this operation. Known to history as the "Trail of Tears," it's estimated that 2,000 Indians died of cold, hunger and disease during this journey.

May 26

1945Okinawa - Soldiers of California's 184th Infantry, assigned to the Regular Army's 7th Infantry Division, succeed in reducing several Japanese strong points as American forces drive deeper into the island's defenses. The 184th was one of 18 Guard infantry regiments separated from it peacetime parent division, in this case the 40th Infantry Division, by the restructuring of all infantry divisions into smaller organizations in 1942.

May 27

1908Washington, DC - Congress passes the "Second Dick Act," one of a series of laws enacted between 1903 and 1916 that completely restructured the old "militia" into the modern "National Guard." This law requires the federal government to call forth the Guard in case of emergency before accepting any volunteers for military service. It also removed the previous nine month limitation on militia service, and stated that such service could take place "either within or without of the territory of the United States." This last aspect of the law was critical, because it appeared to remove a major objection the Army had regarding the militia: inability to employ the militia outside of the U.S. borders. However, less than four years later this aspect of the law was overturned when the Judge Advocate General of the Army and the Attorney General of the United States both opined that employing militia outside the boundaries of the country violated the Constitution, which limited Congress' power to call forth the militia to only three purposes: "to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions." It was only after World War I, when the entire National Guard had to be "drafted" into the Army as a quick and dirty way of getting the troops deployed to Europe, that the Congress in 1933 finally passed a new law giving every Guard member "dual status" in both the militia and as a federal reserve of the Army. In the latter capacity Guardsmen could be deployed overseas.

Shoulder patch,Shoulder patch, "Americal" Infantry Division as approved by the Army in July 1942. It depicts the "Southern Cross" star constellation under which the division was organized in French New Caledonia. (Note: the division was reorganized 1967 during the Vietnam War and was finally numbered as the "23rd Infantry Division".)
National Guard Education Foundation

1942French New Caledonia - The "Americal" Infantry Division is organized primarily from Guard elements separated from their parent divisions by the Army's reorganization of 1942. Three former Guard infantry regiments, the 132nd from Illinois, 164th from North Dakota and the 182nd from Massachusetts are its primary elements. In addition its four field artillery battalions also came from Illinois and Massachusetts. After completing its organization and training the division was committed to combat to relieve U.S. Marines fighting on Guadalcanal. Later in the war it saw hard fighting on Leyte and other southern Philippine Islands. When the war ended the "Americal" was inactivated, only to be reconstituted (with no Guard connection) during the Vietnam War.

Members of the 29th Ranger BattalionMembers of the 29th Ranger Battalion training in water-borne assault techniques. This kind of intensive training proved its worth when the men returned to their parent units and participated in the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.
Baltimore Sun newspaper, courtesy of the Virginia National Guard Historical Collection

1943Kennet-Avon Canal, England - The 29th Ranger Battalion (Provisional), composed of volunteers from the 29th Infantry Division (DC, MD, VA), takes part in Exercise "Columbus," a joint Anglo-American wargame in southern England. The Battalion was assigned to the 175th Infantry along with the 29th Reconnaissance Troop, both also from the 29th Division. While the other elements of this task force kept the ‘enemy' busy the rangers made a 20-mile forced night march coming in behind the British 42nd Armoured Division. They were credited with ‘destroying' six tank carriers along with capturing two command posts and numerous prisoners. On the next night, though arriving late due to fatigue, the battalion destroyed a newly constructed bridge over the Canal. The Chief Umpire's report states "The work of this battalion was performed in an excellent manner. In spite of only one hot meal the men worked with enthusiasm and without complaining." Unfortunately the Army decided the battalion was not needed for the invasion of France on D-Day so it was disbanded in October 1943. The men of the 29th Rangers were returned to their former units where they shared their specialized training with other soldiers in their companies. Veteran's recount how this helped them to survive the horrific carnage suffered by the 29th Infantry Division on D-Day and in the Normandy campaign which followed.

May 28
An A-10 'Warthog'An A-10 "Warthog" of the 104th Expeditionary Operations Group looking for a target. Also known as 'tank busters' these jets are slower than F-15s or F-16s but this allows them to be a steadier platform for attacking ground targets.
Heritage Series

1906Kosovo, Yugoslavia - Flying from its main installation at Trapani Air Base, Sicily, and a forward location at Taszer Air Base, Hungary, the A-10s of the 104th Expeditionary operations group (EOG) were known as the "Killer Bees." They belonged to a composite Air National Guard unit composed of personnel and aircraft from the 104th Fighter Wing, Barnes Air National Guard Base, MA; the 110th Fighter Wing, Battle Creek, MI; and the 124th Fighter Wing, Boise, ID. The composite unit was organized because no single Air Guard wing possessed enough A-10s to meet the wartime requirements for Operation Allied Force, the war for Kosovo. The unit flew 439 combat sorties expending 64 AGM-65s "Maverick" air-to-surface missiles, 539 MK-82 free-fall non-guided general purpose 500-pound bombs, 49 CBU-87 "Combined Effects Munitions" and 14,300 rounds of 30mm machine gun ammunition while attacking enemy military convoys, armor, artillery, plus supply and ammunition storage sites. Its pilots also flew combat airborne forwardcontrol missions. The 104th EOG accumulated 3,300 flying hours in 45 days without losing a single pilot or aircraft. The employment of composite units was an increasingly important element of efforts by the Air Guard and the Air Force to adapt to the complexities of the post Cold War environment. Due in part to the 104th's involvement the war ends on June 9th with the signing of Military Technical Agreement. This required the Serbs to withdraw from Kosovo, making this the first war in history won without any ground forces being committed by one of the opponents. The term "Killer Bees" came from the fact each squadron had a home station base the name of which started with a "B".

May 29

1780Waxhaw Creek, SC - American Continental Army and militia units are defeated by a combined British and Tory (Americans who remained loyal to the King) force. As the Americans start to withdraw, they are charged by British cavalry commanded by Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who has gained infamy for not taking prisoners. His men proceed in massacring a large number of men, many of whom tried to surrender.

May 30
Enlisted members of the 7th New York Volunteer InfantryEnlisted members of the 7th New York Volunteer Infantry pose for the camera while stationed at Camp Cameron, Washington, DC. In 1825 the unit adopted the nickname "National Guard" and proudly displayed their "NG" on belt plates, buttons, or as in this case, a camp sign. Note they are wearing gray dress uniforms, not an uncommon experience early in the war; with many Northern units in gray and many Southern units in blue. This caused some confusion at the Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run) when soldiers mistaken enemy units as friendly. By the start of 1862 almost all Union troops were dressed in blue and Confederate troops either in gray (when they could get the dye) or ‘butternut' brown.
Army Heritage and Education Center

1906Enlisted members of the 7th New York Volunteer Infantry pose for the camera while stationed at Camp Cameron, Washington, DC. In 1825 the unit adopted the nickname "National Guard" and proudly displayed their "NG" on belt plates, buttons, or as in this case, a camp sign. Note they are wearing gray dress uniforms, not an uncommon experience early in the war; with many Northern units in gray and many Southern units in blue. This caused some confusion at the Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run) when soldiers mistaken enemy units as friendly. By the start of 1862 almost all Union troops were dressed in blue and Confederate troops either in gray (when they could get the dye) or ‘butternut' brown.

 

May 31
Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers stand vigil over Kernville HillPennsylvania National Guard Soldiers stand vigil over Kernville Hill, a borough adjacent to Johnstown after the flood of May 31, 1889. Guard members provided security to prevent looting, administered quarters for displaced residents, and distributed food for the stricken population. The Johnstown disaster was up to that point the most devastating single-day disaster in United States history, unsurpassed in that tragic distinction until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2011. Original image photographed by Histed Studio, Pittsburgh; image courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

1889The Johnstown, Pennsylvania, flood of 1889 took place on this day. Johnstown grew as a steel-producing town in the western part of the commonwealth, fueled through the rising Industrial Revolution that started in the 1870s.

This event became the greatest mass casualty event in United States history. The flood and its aftermath caused 2,209 deaths. The scope of the tragedy exceeded any prior natural disaster due to its proximity to the densely populated industrial heart of the country. Not until Sept. 11, 2011, did a single-day disaster claim so many American lives. Only the Galveston hurricane of September 1900, which took an estimated 8,000 lives at minimum over several days, registered a greater natural disaster death toll.

Coupled with torrential late May rains, the failure of the poorly maintained South Fork Dam on the Little Conemaugh River caused a massive wall of water to descend upon Johnstown and its adjacent boroughs on the afternoon of May 31.

The region stood on a footprint with the confluence of the Little Conemaugh and Stony Creek Rivers that provided a power source for the mills as the waterway merged into the Conemaugh River. The topography around Johnstown consisted of perilous narrow ravines and high hills. This rugged terrain and the millions of gallons of water in the dam loomed as a danger to the people south of the dam in Johnstown.

Massive flows of wood and masonry combined to clog waterways that collapsed the Conemaugh viaduct. It caused fires among the buildings in the business district. Residents scrambled to find high ground or some hiding spot from the rampaging waters. Debris piled three stories high in downtown Johnstown.

In response to the catastrophe, the Pennsylvania National Guard's Third Brigade, Fourteenth Infantry (later the 107th Field Artillery) served alongside Johnstown's Company H of the Fifth Regiment. Batteries B, E, and F, as well as Headquarters Company and Supply Company of the 14th Infantry also assisted in recovery and relief efforts. In support, the Commissary, Quartermaster, and Sanitary Departments also provided relief to Johnstown. In all, the 14th Infantry encamped for a month in response to the deluge. Many of these units still function today as part of the 28th Infantry Division of the Pennsylvania National Guard, the country's oldest recognized infantry division in the Army.

The Johnstown event served as a prime example of how the National Guard worked well supporting local civil authorities, particularly those administering medical aid and relief from the trauma. This cooperation and coordination among several disparate groups, even on an ad hoc basis, provided badly needed mental and physical relief for the victims. Another milestone achieved saw the American Red Cross providing medical care in a mass response setting for the first time on a national scale.

The National Guard's presence at Johnstown is still repeated in a passage from the poem “I Am the Guard,” which recalls several milestones in the organization's 377-year history. It states,

I was at Johnstown, where the raging waters boomed down the valley. I cradled the crying child in my arms and saw the terror leave her eyes.”

That simple statement still carries the weight of the National Guard's presence in times of large-scale natural disasters. The Guard provides rescue and recovery capacity, conveys comfort and hope in relief efforts, and also works with other neighbors in the rebuilding process.