Naval militia

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Top left: A recruiting poster for the Naval Militia in 1917. Top right: Commander David Tucker, NYNM, instructing subordinates. Bottom left: Members of the New York Naval Militia fill sandbags to aid in the preparations for possible flooding. Bottom right: Ensign S.S. Pierce of the New York Naval Militia stands next to an airplane in the early 20th century.

A naval militia is a reserve military organization administered under the authority of a state government in the United States. It is often composed of reservists of the Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, and Coast Guard Reserve, retirees and volunteers. They are distinguishable from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary which is a federally chartered civilian volunteer component of the U.S. Coast Guard and falls under the command of the Commandant of the Coast Guard through the Chief Director of the Auxiliary, and the United States Maritime Service and United States Merchant Marine, both of which are federal maritime services.

Under Title 10 of the United States Code, naval militias are treated differently from maritime state defense force units not primarily composed of reservists from the sea services. Naval militias are considered parts of the organized militia under federal law and thus members have a slightly different status.[1] Naval militias, though they are state armed forces, may receive federal supplies and use Navy or Marine Corps facilities available to Naval Reserve or Marine Corps Reserve units subject to certain restrictions.[2]

Like members of the National Guard, the Navy and Marine Reservists who constitute most of the membership in naval militias serve in a dual federal and state capacity; they operate as a component of their state's military force, and are subject to be called up and deployed by the governor of their respective states during emergencies. However, when individual sailors and marines are federalized, they are relieved from their state obligations and placed under federal control until they are released from active service.[3]

Seamen and state marines belonging to naval militias who do not hold federal status may be enlisted or commissioned into the federal sea services at the rank they are qualified for, at the discretion of the Secretary of the Navy.[4]


The Michigan Naval Militia standing at attention (at present arms).

In the 1880s, a United States Navy proposal to organize a national Naval Reserve Force was submitted to the United States Congress, but the proposal was defeated.[5] However, the movement to create a naval reserve force became popular at the state and local level. Following the passage of enabling legislation in several states, several of these states began establishing naval reserve forces. The first naval militia which was first organized and drilling was the Massachusetts Battalion, which first met on 28 February 1890.[6] The New York Naval Militia was organized as a Provisional Naval Battalion in 1889, and formally became the second state naval militia when it was officially mustered into state service as the First Battalion, Naval Reserve Artillery, on 23 June 1891.[5] Over the next few years, several other states, mainly in the eastern United States and in the Great Lakes region, created their own naval militias.[6]

The United States Navy began loaning older veteran ships from the American Civil War, such as USS Minnesota and USS Wabash, to state naval militias for use as armories and headquarters. On 2 March 1891, the United States Congress passed an appropriations bill which gave the Secretary of the Navy $25,000 per year to spend on the state naval militias; this money was divided among the states based on the strength levels of the naval militias.[6]

The naval militias were called into service during the Spanish–American War. Since no law existed to call them into federal service as a unit, governors were asked to release volunteers from their state service, and these naval militiamen were inducted into the Navy for the duration of their service during the war.[6] New York Naval Militiamen manned two auxiliary cruisers that fought in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, and conducted patrols of New York Harbor.[5] Members of the North Carolina Naval Militia crewed USS Nantucket and guarded the city of Port Royal, South Carolina.[7] South Carolina Naval Militia sailors also assisted in the defense of Port Royal, and served aboard multiple ships, including USS Celtic, USS Chickasaw, USS Cheyenne, and USS Waban.[8] Members of the Connecticut Naval Militia served aboard USS Minnesota.[9] Sailors from both the Rhode Island Naval Militia[10] and the Florida Naval Militia[11] were also assimilated into the ranks of the Navy.

New York Naval Militia members respond to Hurricane Sandy.

Naval militias within the United States reached their peak at the eve of World War I, when they existed across 26 states and territories.[12] In 1914, Congress passed a bill recognizing the naval militia as a reserve component of the United States Armed Forces and reorganized them into the National Naval Volunteers.[13] During World War I, naval militiamen were drafted into federal service. Many naval reservists, including a significant number of sailors from the Michigan Naval Militia, served in Naval Railway Battery crews on the Western Front.[14] The primary federal responsibility of members of the naval militias was cemented by the Naval Reserve Act of 1938.[15] In 1940, the naval militias were once again federalized to fight in World War II.[16] Following the war, many states either did not rebuild their naval militias, or deactivated them in the years that followed. By the mid-1960s, at the height of the Cold War, only the New York Naval Militia was still active.[17]

However, several naval militias were activated or reactivated in the late 20th century and early 21st century. In 1977, the Ohio Naval Militia was reactivated.[18] In 1984, the Alaska Naval Militia was activated.[19] From 1999 to 2002, the New Jersey Naval Militia was reactivated after 36 years of existing only on paper.[20] In 2003, the South Carolina General Assembly reactivated the South Carolina Naval Militia.[21] The New York Naval Militia is the only naval militia which has been continuously active since its creation, thereby making it the oldest naval militia.[5]

Naval militias have been deployed multiple times in recent years to assist in national security or disaster recovery operations. In 1989, the Alaska Naval Militia was deployed to assist in recovery operations after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.[22] On September 11, 2001, the New Jersey Naval Militia and New York Naval Militia were deployed in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks to aid in emergency response efforts.[22] The New York Naval Militia provided assistance after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011; after Hurricane Sandy in 2012; and during the Buffalo lake effect snowstorm in 2014.[23] In March 2020, the Alaska Naval Militia and the New York Naval Militia were activated to assist their respective states' efforts in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.[24][25]

The Center for Naval Analysis concluded in a 2007 paper that "Naval militias were undergoing something of a revival after years of neglect."[26]

States with naval militias[edit]

An officer with the New York Naval Militia prepares his vessel for transport.


Authorized by statute but inactive[edit]

Florida Naval Militia sailors from Sarasota, Florida pose for a photo.


See also[edit]

Overseas counterparts:


  1. ^ "10 U.S. Code § 246 - Militia: composition and classes". Legal Information Institute. Retrieved February 19, 2019.
  2. ^ "10 U.S. Code § 8904 - Availability of material for Naval Militia". Retrieved January 29, 2022.
  3. ^ "10 U.S. Code § 8903 - Release from Militia duty upon order to active duty in reserve components". Retrieved January 29, 2022.
  4. ^ "10 U.S. Code § 8902 - Appointment and enlistment in reserve components". Retrieved January 29, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d "New York Naval Militia History". The New York Naval Militia Official Website. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d Hart, Kevin R. "Toward a Citizen Sailor: The History of the Naval Militia Movement, 1888–1898". The California Military Museum Official Website. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  7. ^ Calhoun, Gordon (September 13, 2012). "North Carolina Naval Militia Uniform, 1893". Hampton Roads Naval Museum. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  8. ^ Pinckney, P. H.; Robison II, Kenneth H. "A Brief History of the South Carolina Naval Militia". The Spanish American War Centennial Website. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  9. ^ McSherry, Patrick. "The Connecticut Volunteer Naval Militia".
  10. ^ "Spanish American War – RI Naval Militia in United States Service". Rhode Island Secretary of State Official Website. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  11. ^ "Florida Naval Militia". State Archives of Florida Online Catalog. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  12. ^ Nofi, Albert (July 2007). The Naval Militia: A Neglected Asset? (PDF). Arlington, Virginia: The Center for Naval Analysis. p. 3. Retrieved October 9, 2023.
  13. ^ "Naval Militia". The Oxford Companion to American Military History. 2000. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  14. ^ Leuci, James L. "Naval Railway Battalions During the First World War". Navy Reserve Centennial. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  15. ^ "Naval Reserve Act of 1938". Legal Information Institute. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  16. ^ "History of the Naval Militia". Naval Militia Association. Archived from the original on September 3, 2018. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  17. ^ Nofi, Albert (July 2007). The Naval Militia: A Neglected Asset? (PDF). Arlington, Virginia: The Center for Naval Analysis. p. 3. Retrieved October 9, 2023.
  18. ^ "History". Ohio Naval Militia. 2013. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  19. ^ Nofi, Albert A. (July 2007). "The Naval Militia: A Neglected Asset?". mmowgli. Center for Naval Analyses. Archived from the original on December 24, 2013. Retrieved December 23, 2013.
  20. ^ Rieth, Glenn (April 5, 2005). "The Adjutant General Report to Legislature on the NJ Naval Militia Joint Command". Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  21. ^ "South Carolina Maritime Security Act". South Carolina Legislature. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  22. ^ a b Tulak, Arthur N.; Kraft, Robert W.; Silbaugh, Don (Winter 2003). "State Defense Forces and Homeland Security" (PDF). Parameters. Strategic Studies Institute. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  23. ^ McNeil, Deano L. (April 30, 2015). "Naval Militia: An Overlooked Domestic Emergency Response Option". In Homeland Security. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  24. ^ "On Call and Always Ready: The Alaska Naval Militia". Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. Alaska National Guard Public Affairs. April 14, 2020. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  25. ^ "900 New York National Guard Members Respond to COVID-19". Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. March 17, 2020. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  26. ^ Nofi, Albert (July 2007). The Naval Militia: A Neglected Asset? (PDF). Arlington, Virginia: The Center for Naval Analysis. p. 3. Retrieved October 9, 2023.
  27. ^ "Alaska Stat. § 26.05.010. : Alaska Statutes - Section 26.05.010.: Alaska militia established". Retrieved October 20, 2009.
  28. ^ Powers, K.J. (May 2017). "California State Military Reserve Establishes Maritime Component" (PDF). State Guard Association of the United States. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  29. ^ "New York Naval Militia". Retrieved October 20, 2009.
  30. ^ "Ohio Naval Militia". Retrieved October 20, 2009.
  31. ^ "South Carolina Naval Militia". Archived from the original on July 28, 2011. Retrieved October 20, 2009.
  32. ^ "Unit - Texas State Guard". Archived from the original on May 11, 2010. Retrieved October 20, 2009.
  33. ^ "Alabama Code § 31-2-4: Composition of naval militia". Justia. Retrieved July 5, 2014.
  34. ^ "History of California State Naval Forces (Naval Battalion and the California Naval Militia)". Retrieved October 20, 2009.
  35. ^ "Sec. 27-5. Naval militia. - Connecticut Sec. 27-5. Naval militia. - Connecticut Code :: Justia". Retrieved October 20, 2009.
  36. ^ ”An act to provide for organizing a naval battalion in the District of Columbia,” approved 11 May 1898, 30 Statutes at Large 464.
  37. ^ "250.04 Naval militia; marine corps". Official Internet Site of the Florida State Legislature. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  38. ^ Wilbanks, James H. (Spring 1989). "Georgia's Naval Militia: Still Authorized, Still Ignored, and Still Disbanded". Journal of the Historical Society of the Georgia National Guard. 1 (2): 1–8. Retrieved May 27, 2013.
  39. ^ "Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 123: Naval Militia". Hawaii State Legislature. Retrieved December 8, 2010.
  40. ^ "Executive Order authorizing the Illinois Naval Militia" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 27, 2006. Retrieved October 20, 2009.
  41. ^ "Indiana Code Ch. 10 § 16-14-1". Indiana General Assembly Official Website. Retrieved July 5, 2014.
  42. ^ "Maine Revised Statutes Title 37B § 221". Maine State Legislature Official Website. Retrieved July 5, 2014.
  43. ^ "Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts". Massachusetts General Court Official Website. Retrieved August 13, 2015. The governor of this commonwealth for the time being, shall be the commander in chief of the army and navy, and of all the military forces of the state, by sea and land, and shall have full power by himself, or by any commander, or other officer or officers, from time to time, to train, instruct, exercise and govern the militia and navy...
  44. ^ "33.1 Naval militia; enrollment classifications". Michigan Legislative Website. Retrieved July 5, 2014.
  45. ^ "Sec. 3. Powers and duties of governor". The Office of the Revisor of Statutes. Retrieved September 4, 2015. He is commander-in-chief of the military and naval forces and may call them out to execute the laws, suppress insurrection and repel invasion.
  46. ^ "Chapter 41: Military Forces, Section 41.070". Missouri General Assembly Official Website. Retrieved July 5, 2014.
  47. ^ "New Hampshire Revised Statutes § 110-B:1 Composition of the Militia". The New Hampshire General Court Official Website. Retrieved July 5, 2014.
  48. ^ "New Jersey Naval Militia". Retrieved October 20, 2009.
  49. ^ "North Carolina General Statutes 127A-4". Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  50. ^ "51 PA Cons Stat § 301 (2016)". Justia. 2016. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  51. ^ "Chapter 30 § 30-1-4: Classes of militia". State of Rhode Island General Assembly Official Website. Retrieved July 5, 2014.
  52. ^ "Tennessee Code. § 58-1-104(c)". Retrieved July 5, 2014.
  53. ^ "Virginia Code § 44-1. Composition of militia". Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  54. ^ "Chapter 78: AN ACT to create sections 649m to 649u, inclusive, of the statutes, establishing a naval militia" (PDF). Wisconsin Legislature Official Website. Retrieved May 10, 2015.