Massachusetts National Guard

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The Massachusetts National Guard was founded as the Massachusetts Bay Colonial Militia on December 13, 1636, and contains the oldest units in the United States Army.[1] It is currently headquartered at Hanscom Air Force Base and commanded by Major General L. Scott Rice.

Organization and Missions[edit]

As with other state National Guard organizations, the Massachusetts National Guard is organized into an Army National Guard and an Air National Guard component. Officers in the Guard hold two commissions - one from the governor of Massachusetts and the other from the president of the United States. This emphasizes the Guard's dual role as both and state and national military force.

In its mission as a state organization, the National Guard can be called on by the governor to assist in national disasters and public safety emergencies. In its national role, the National Guard can be mobilized for active service with the United States Armed Forces. Units of the Massachusetts National Guard have been mobilized during the First World War, Second World War, Korean War, Gulf War, the War in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

When it is not federally mobilized, the National Guard is technically commanded by the governor who is assisted by the state adjutant general, who holds the rank of major general.

National Guard units, typically, train one weekend a month and have a 15 day annual training period.

The Massachusetts State Defense Force (MSDF) is state military force which can be mobilized by the governor to augment the National Guard. The MSDF is composed of former members of the United States Armed Forces who live in Massachusetts and serve on a voluntary basis unless called to active duty. The MSDF's three major specialties are administrative support, professional support and medical support.

History of the Massachusetts Militia and National Guard[edit]

Colonial Era[edit]

While December 13, 1636 is often cited as the "birthday" of the National Guard, it was on that day that the Massachusetts militia was organized into three regiments. Prior to that date, each town had its own militia company (also known as "trained bands") which was commanded by an officer with the rank of captain. The militia companies were nominally under the command of the colonial governor, but, in practice, operated as independent units. The regimental organization did much to improve the organization and leadership of the militia.

During King Philip's War an Army of about 1,000 militiamen (mostly from Massachusetts but also from Plymouth Colony and Connecticut) attacked the large fortified settlement of the Narragansett Tribe in modern day South Kingstown, Rhode Island. In the fighting that followed an estimated 300 to 1,000 Narragansett men, women and children were killed along with about 40 of the colonial militiamen. This battle, known to history as the Great Swamp Massacre, was the decisive engagement of King Philip's War and consolidated the power of the English colonists in New England.

As time progressed, larger towns would usually have more than one militia company and the companies of adjacent towns would be organized into regiments commanded by colonels. The regiments, in turn, were organized into brigades commanded by brigadier generals.

In 1692 Plymouth Colony merged with the Massachusetts Bay Colony and its militia became part of the Massachusetts Militia.

American Revolution[edit]

Prior to the American Revolution, the Massachusetts was organized into two major elements. There was the "regular" militia which consisted of all white males age 16 to 60 and the Minutemen which were better trained and equipped and could more quickly to an emergency - theoretically on a minute's notice.

In the early morning hours of April 19, 1775, the militia company of Lexington, commanded by Captain John Parker, confronted British forces heading to Concord to search for stores of munitions. This led to the "shot heard round the world" and the beginning of the American Revolution. While the Lexington militia retreated in the face of superior British forces, militiamen continuously engaged the British as they retreated from Concord back to Boston later the same day.

After the battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, Massachusetts militia units were called into service, along with militia units from New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island, to form the Army of Observation whose purpose was to ensure that the British did not locations outside of Boston which they occupied. The Army of Observation fought the British at the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775.

General George Washington assumed command of the Army of Observation at Cambridge in July 1775 and the militia units then became units in the newly formed Continental Army. Massachusetts regiments were a major component of the Continental Army throughout the Revolution.

War of 1812[edit]

After the British seizure of Eastport and Castine, Maine in 1814 there was great concern that the British would attack other cities on the New England coast. Massachusetts militia units were called into service to reinforce coastal fortifications protecting Boston and other locations.

Militia Law of 1840[edit]

The Massachusetts Militia Law of 1840 brought significant changes to the Massachusetts Militia. The first change was that it drew a distinction between the enrolled militia and the volunteer militia. The enrolled militia was simply a list of able bodied men age 18 to 45 which would only be called upon in time of war. There was no military training requirement for members of the enrolled militia.

The volunteer militia, named the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia (MVM) were those individuals who joined MVM and conducted regular training. The MVM was organized into three divisions with two brigades each. Each brigade consisted for two or three regiments. Regiments were organized into companies which would be from one or more municipalities.

Mexican War[edit]

During the Mexican War the Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers was formed. It served from January 1847 to July 1848. Its first commander was former congressman and future United States attorney general Caleb Cushing. [2]

American Civil War[edit]

At the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861, Massachusetts Militia units were mobilized to serve in the Union Army. From April to December of 1864 at total of 27 Unattached Companies Massachusetts Volunteer Militia were called to active service to garrison coast defense forts in Massachusetts. Most of these companies were drawn from existing units of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. Terms of service ranged from 90 days to one year and all of the companies had been demobilized by July of 1865.

Spanish American War[edit]

During the Spanish-American war six Massachusetts Volunteer Militia regiments were called into Federal service between May and July of 1898. The regiments were the 2nd, 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th infantry regiments and the 1st Heavy Artillery regiment.

The 2nd, 8th and 9th regiments engaged in combat in Cuba and the 6th saw action in Puerto Rico. All units were demobilized by May of 1899.[3]

Dick Act of 1903[edit]

The Dick Act of 1903 brought into being the National Guard in its current form. In exchange for federal funding, state militia units could join the National Guard with the obligation to serve in the event of a federal emergency.

The name National Guard was applied to units receiving Federal financing and subject to Federal mobilization and regulation. The primary result of the Dick Act was that the state militias were transformed into better trained, better equipped and more professional military forces.

The National Defense Act of 1916 built upon the Dick Act by requiring National Guard units to increase their number of annual training assemblies (commonly called "drills") from 24 to 48 and the number of annual training days from 5 to 15.

The result of these reforms is that when National Guard units were called into Federal service during the First World War, they were better prepared than their forbearers in previous wars.

World War I[edit]

During the First World War, the 26th Division (nicknamed the "Yankee Division") was formed from units of Massachusetts National Guard. The division spent 210 days in combat and participated in the St. Mihele and Muese-Argonne offensives. Additionally, Guard units were mobilized for coastal defense at forts in the Boston and New Bedford areas.

World War II[edit]

As in the First World War, Massachusetts National Guard units were called into Federal service. Most units were either in the 26th Infantry Division (United States) or the 242nd Coast Artillery Regiment. The 181st Infantry Regiment served as a coastal patrol unit in Massachusetts and other locations in New England.

Post World War II[edit]

The Massachusetts Army National Guard reorganized in 1946 after five years of active duty.[4] The 26th Infantry Division was the largest unit; however, there were now two major non-divisional units in the state: the 182d Infantry Regimental Combat Team and the 104th Antiaircraft Artillery Brigade. The Guard was still in the process of rebuilding when the Korean War broke out in June 1950. The 26th Division was considered for active duty, but eight non-divisional units were ordered into active duty as part of the Army’s expansion instead.

During the Vietnam era (1965-1972) service in the National Guard was used by tens of thousands of men as a means of avoiding being drafted into the active Army and, probably, being sent to fight in Vietnam. While this enabled the National Guard to fill its personnel requirements there was a diminishing of readiness as many members of the Guard had a low level of motivation for military service.

In the early 1980's the National Guard received more Federal funding and evolved into a better trained, better equipped and more professional force. The National Guard was in a high state of readiness when units were activated to serve in the Gulf War of 1990 to 1991.

Post 9/11 Era[edit]

Numerous Massachusetts National Guard units have been called into Federal service to serve in both Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan from 2001 to the present and in Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq from 2003 to 2011.

Units of the Massachusetts Army National Guard[edit]

Major units of the Massachusetts Army National Guard include the following:

Camp Edwards in the Massachusetts Military Reservation, Cape Cod, Massachusetts is the major training site for Army National Guard units. Armories for the MA ARNG include Hudson Armory.

Former Units

Historical Notes:

The 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade is descended from the 26th Infantry Division.

The 104th Infantry Regiment was raised in 1639 as the Hampshire Regiment in Springfield, MA.

The 101st Engineer Battalion (United States), 101st Field Artillery Regiment, 181st Infantry Regiment (United States) and 182nd Infantry Regiment (United States) are the oldest combat regiments in the United States Army.

The 181st Infantry Regiment (United States), 182nd Infantry Regiment (United States), 101st Field Artillery Regiment and the 772nd Military Police Company are four of only twenty Army National Guard units with campaign credit for the War of 1812.

Coats of arms of the Massachusetts Army National Guard[edit]

Massachusetts Air National Guard[edit]

Otis Air National Guard Base and Barnes Municipal Airport, Massachusetts are the major Massachusetts Air National Guard bases.

Massachusetts National Guard Museum and Archives[edit]

The Massachusetts National Guard Museum and Archives is located in the Concord Armory in Concord, Massachusetts.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]