National Guard History
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The Army National Guard traces its history to the militia regiments organized by the General Courts of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636. The National Guard saw its first deployment in support of military conflict during the 1637 Pequot War. Since that time, the militia regiments, has been deployed in every colonial and American military conflict and recently in support of numerous natural disasters. During the nineteenth century, the standing army was relatively small, and depended heavily on the National Guard for augmentation in times of conflict. The first unit to adopt the name National Guard was the New York 7th Regiment in 1824, a term that was gradually adopted by other militia units.
Deployments of the National Guard
The following are a few of the main deployments of the National Guard in its past.
- In the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, over 78,000 National Guard troops were mobilized, which composed 78% of General Taylor’s expeditionary force in Mexico. At the regimental level, the units deployed were primarily infantry, with cavalry and artillery companies as support.
- In the Civil War, the National Guard formed the majority of the troops in the field for both sides of the conflict. Because of the intensity and duration of the conflict, there was a higher degree of specialization, with a significant number of National Guard cavalry and artillery units. Engineering functions, however, remained a regular army task.
- At the time of the Spanish-American War, it was determined that the President did not have the right to order National Guard Units outside of the United States. Members of the Guard units volunteered as individuals, and retained their Guard unit designations with the added designation “volunteer.” They served in Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico, primarily as infantry, but also as cavalry, artillery and signal units.
- In the short Filipino-American War of 1899, the National Guard infantry units supported the regular army in its counter-insurgency operations.
- In 1916, the entire National Guard was mobilized to prevent raids by the Mexican bandit, Pancho Villa, and 158,000 Guardsmen were stationed on the Mexican border.
The National Guard and World War I
A year later the National Guard were deployed in support of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in World War I, composing 40% of the nation’s combat strength. At this time, the National Guard regiments were reorganized into divisions, which were equipped and organized in accordance with regular army standards. Of the first five American divisions to arrive in France, three were National Guard divisions. By the war’s end, seventeen National Guard divisions were assigned to the AEF. In World War II, there were eighteen National Guard divisions, all of which were deployed in various combat theaters. During the Korean War, 138,600 Army National Guardsmen were deployed. These troops included echelons of engineering and artillery units not attached to divisions. In Viet Nam, the National Guard played a less prominent role, with no ground units deployed.