Service members from the New York Guard 56th Area Command salute during the National Anthem at the 104th Annual First Provisional Regiment New York Guard Aqueduct Defense Memorial Service at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery on May 1st, 2022. 

The ceremony remembers the 40 Soldiers of the New York Guard First Provisional Regiment who died while serving New York during World War I, protecting the New York City Reservoir System. The New York Guard are the predecessors to the current NYC DEP, who protected the systems over one hundred years ago, the mission in which the NYC DEP continues to this day. (New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs photos by New York Guard Captain Mark Getman)

New York Guard Honors Their Fallen

The New York Guard (State Defense Force) held a ceremony to honor The 37 Fallen New York Guard Servicemen who died while on Active Duty during World War I. During World War I, the entire National Guard was activated and deployed to Europe to fight the Axis Powers who were attempting to conquer France. With their absence The United States authorized The States to create a Home Guard, the precursor to the modern State Defense Force, to fulfill the duties of The National Guard. Thousands of Soldiers signed up and  eventually would come to be known as The New York Guard.

During their years of service the soldiers were responsible for protecting 95 miles of aqueduct, 500 miles of state canals, all state military facilities as well as key railroad bridges, Sabotage from Axis Agents was a primary concern as large metropolitan populations such as New York City relied on uninterrupted sources of running water. While protecting these vital infrastructures the soldiers were repeatedly fired upon by enemy agents who attempted to damage or destroy the aqueduct.

As the war raged on, The Spanish Flu surfaced and spread throughout the world killing more men & women than the actual war. Millions would die from this pandemic including 37 Soldiers of The New York Guard. In commemoration of their service and sacrifice, The New York Guard honors these soldiers each year.

Here is a video from the ceremony:

Volunteer militiamen who died while protecting New York City’s water supply during World War 1 were honored during a ceremony on Sunday, May 7 at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

May 7 ceremony in Sleepy Hollow honors New York state militiamen who died during World War 1

Media Advisory

SLEEPY HOLLOW, NEW YORK (05/04/2023) (readMedia)– Forty volunteer militiamen who die while protecting New York City’s water supply during World War 1 will be honored during a ceremony on Sunday, May 7 at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.


Thirty-seven members of the New York Guard died of influenza during the 1918 pandemic while protecting the aqueducts feeding New York City against sabotage attempts from 1917 until the end of 1918. The other three names on the stone died in accidents.


WHO: Members and leaders of the New York Guard, the state’s uniformed, volunteer defense force; and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection Police.


WHAT: A memorial ceremony honoring the members of the 1st Provisional Regiment of the New York Guard who died while on state duty. This will be the 104th time the Aqueduct Defense Memorial Service has been held. The ceremony will take place at a marker made from a boulder taken from Bonticon Crag in the Shawangunk Mountains. The property for the memorial was purchased by the Rockefeller family.


WHEN: 11 a.m., Sunday, May 7, 2022


WHERE: Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, 540 Broadway, Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591.


Coverage Opportunities:

The ceremony will include remarks, a roll call of the names on the marker, and a ceremonial volley as well as the playing of taps

Contact New York Guard Capt. Mark Getman at 516-644-9743 for more information.



The New York Guard and World War I:

During the First World War German agents appeared to have successfully destroyed a munitions plant on Black Tom Island in Jersey City, New Jersey, prior to American entry into the war in the spring of 1917. There was concern that the New York City water system of reservoirs and aqueducts could be sabotaged as well.


In February 1917 the New York National Guard’s 27th Division was ordered to patrol the reservoir system that ran from the Ashokan Reservoir to Manhattan. But in the summer of 1917 the 27th Division was called into federal service and sent to France, so a new force, the New York Guard, was formed to take the place of the National Guard. Across the country state’s created State Guards of older men, and those who could not meet military physical requirements to replace the National Guard.


New York formed the 1st Provisional Regiment to guard the aqueduct system in 1917 and 1918. They guarded the section of These citizen volunteers, ranging from their teens to their 60s were armed with obsolete weapons and clothed in old uniforms and paid $1.25 a day, but they did their duty, walking patrol day-after-day and night-after-night. Average strength was about 1,600 volunteers. More than 8,000 New Yorkers served in this home guard during World War I.


When the “Spanish Influenza” swept across the world in 1918 and 1919, 32 New York Guard volunteers of the 1st Provisional Regiment were struck down in the last three months of 1918.


The New York Guard:

The New York Guard of today is an all-volunteer uniformed force whose members augment and assist the New York Army National Guard in response to state emergencies.


New York Guard members, who do not carry weapons, train in an unpaid status, unless they are ordered into State Active Duty by the governor. Many New York Guard members have prior military service in the National Guard, but many have no military service behind them. The New York Guard has an authorized strength of just over 700 volunteers.


Media AThe New York Guard of World War I was disbanded when the New York National Guard returned from federal service, but in 1940, as the National Guard was federalized again, Congress authorized the creation of State Guards. During World War II, about 22,000 New Yorkers volunteered for service.

Sources: The Provisional Brigade, the New York Guard on State Active Duty in WW1US ArmyNew York Guard–  ReadMedia

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