National Guard

The United States National Guard is the organized militia of the United States, whose men and officers are recruited by individual states but trained and equipped under the direction of the federal government.  It forms one of three branches of the Army of the United States, the others being the Regular Army and the Army Reserve.  Unlike the Regular Army and Army Reserve, the National Guard remains under state control in peacetime, and it is not prohibited from assisting in law enforcement under posse comitatus until it is called into federal service.

When the National Guard is called to the colors (federalized), as it was in August of 1940, it becomes an integral part of the Army of the United States.  There were eighteen divisions in the National Guard in 1940, many more than the number of regular divisions, and all saw combat.  Their initial state of training varied considerably, but none of the divisions could be described as well-trained.  (Even the regular divisions were not well-trained by the standards that were established later in the war.)  Training was typically a weekend a month and two weeks once a year. The weekend training often amounted to little more than an overnight camp and some drills from the Manual of Arms, while the two weeks' continuous training was somewhat more rigorous.

With federalization, training became continuous and much more rigorous.  Many of the divisions became very capable, such as Americal Division, which was organized from National Guards regiments out of North Dakota, Illinois, and Massachusetts.  Others, such as 27 Division from New York, were never able to fully overcome their deficiencies.   Much depended on the quality of the regular officers assigned to the divisions.  Patch, for example, who commanded Americal, was widely acknowledged to be an outstanding officer. Equally important was the quality and duration of training prior to introduction to combat.  Americal was organized in New Caledonia, received extended realistic training in the New Caledonian hills, and was introduced to combat in Guadalcanal gradually. 27 Division, by contrast, spent two years on garrison duty in Hawaii that did little to prepare it for combat.  The performance of National Guard divisions in New Guinea correlates with the number of times each division was forced to interrupt training to relocate and develop a new base prior to combat deployment.


Bergerud (2000)

National Guard Virtual Armory (accessed 8 January 2007)


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