Florida State Guard
|The Florida State Guard|
The shoulder patch worn by Florida State Guardsmen during World War II.
|Type||State defense force|
|Role||Military reserve force|
|Part of||Florida Department of Military Affairs|
|Civilian leadership||Governor Spessard Holland|
Governor of the State of Florida (1941–1945)
|Civilian leadership||Governor Millard F. Caldwell|
Governor of the State of Florida (1945–1949)
The Florida State Guard (FSG) is the currently inactive state defense force of the state of Florida, which was active during World War II. The FSG was created to serve as a stateside replacement the Florida National Guard while the National Guard was deployed abroad. Unlike the Florida National Guard, the Florida State Guard was trained and funded by the state and therefore could not be federalized and was available to the governor of Florida whenever needed. Although the force was disbanded, Florida law allows the governor of Florida to create and maintain a Florida state defense force should he or she decide to do so.
Before the United States entered World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted a peacetime draft, and federalized various National Guard units, including Florida's National Guard. As a result, states which had previously counted on their National Guard to maintain peace, quell riots, protect against sabotage, or repel a potential invasion were given the alternative of creating their own state-level military forces under the State Guard Act signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on October 21, 1940. In 1941, the Florida Legislature and Governor Holland created Florida Defense Force, later to be rebranded as the Florida State Guard.
Membership was open to all men in Florida aged 18 to 63. The commitment lasted for three years, although members who were eligible could be drafted into the federal military at any time. Most of the members were veterans of World War I. Members of the Florida Defense Force's air wing, the First Air Squadron, were required to either have a private pilot's license or have served in the military at least one year. By 1943, the Florida State Guard numbered 2,100 men in 36 units.
The purpose of the state defense forces, including the FSG, was to fulfil the National Guard's state obligations. This included guarding infrastructure, protecting against sabotage, calming riots, or aiding law enforcement. Although the mainland United States was never invaded during World War II, state defenses would have shared responsibility with the federal military and National Guard in defending American territory had an invasion occurred.
During the war, the First Air Squadron of the FSG regularly patrolled the coast of Florida, searching for German U-boats. The squadron was also used to assist in search-and-rescue missions.
Each county was able to organize its own unit so long as it could recruit at minimum fifty men who met the qualifications required by the state. By 1943, there were 63 separate units of state guardsmen organized. The FSG also maintained a separate air squadron, known as the First Air Squadron
Uniforms, surplus weapons, and other equipment were provided by the state of Florida. Florida law also permitted the FSG to use National Guard armories and receive any surplus weapons and equipment offered by the Department of Defense. The approximately 27 airplanes used by the First Air Squadron were privately owned by the fifteen individuals who piloted them; however, they were allowed to have "1st Air Squadron, Florida Defense Force" painted on both sides of the nose of each plane.
The Florida State Guard was disbanded in 1947 after the Florida Army National Guard was released from Federal Active Duty.
State defense forces are authorized by the federal government under Title 32, Section 109 of the United States Code. Twenty-three states, as well as the territory of Puerto Rico, actively maintain these forces. Florida law also allows the creation of a state defense force, either as a full-sized force when any part of the National Guard is federally deployed, or as a reserve cadre of officers and non-commissioned officers regardless of National Guard deployment.
As of April 2018, a renewed effort is underway to explore the viability of restarting an official Florida State Guard or State Defense Force. The Florida State Defense Force Reactivation Project maintains the Facebook group and a sister website set up for this purpose.
- "Chapter 251: Florida State Defense Force". JUSTUA US LAW. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
- Coles, David. "Florida National Guard During World War II". visitflorida.com. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
- Bankus, Lieutenant Colonel Brent C. "Volunteer Military Organizations: An Overlooked Asset". The U.S. Army Official Website. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
- "Civil Defense: Florida Defense Force". Palm Beach County History Online. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
- Weingarten, Abby (October 8, 2005). "Recalling the role of the Florida State Guard". Herald-Tribune. Sarasota, FL. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
- "Floridians in Military Service; National Guard and State Guard". Museum of Florida History. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
- "32 U.S. Code § 109 – Maintenance of other troops". Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
- Carafano, James Jay; Brinkerhoff, John R. (October 5, 2005). "Katrina's Forgotten Responders: State Defense Forces Play a Vital Role". www.heritage.org. Retrieved 13 October 2013.