California State Guard

Brief History of the California State Guard

The California Home Guard in World War I

The “California State Defense Guard” authorized by Legislature in 1917. Although officially known as the California State Defense Guard in the legislation, it was universally know as the the California Home Guard. The federal Home Guard Act authorized states to use weapons. California Legislature authorized none to be used as armed support, however it is noted that 5,000 were listed as unauthorized armed support in 1917. California had 100 companies listed as existing in the annual report to the Secretary of War for 1918-1919. A February 5, 1918 Military Bureau report lists California as needing 3,600 arms . The offical War Department records state, “The Governor and Adjutant General headed a State Defense Guard of men 30-50 years of age. Originally ten companies were authorized. Later there were about 100. They had duties of a constabulary and such other duties as the governor might direct, but could not be used in industrial disputes. They were self-armed or armed by local authorities”. An article in the San Francisco Chronicle (14 March 1920) stated the Governor ordered its discontinuance, and discharge papers were given.

State Guard Units in the United States during World War II

When it became evident that the National Guard units which were allocated to the different States and Territories would have to be called up for Federal service (Federalized), Congress approved an Act on October 21 St, 1940, which allowed the various States to raise troops under the provisions of Article I of the United States Constitution. The same actions were taken by Congress in the early stages of World War I, 44 of the 48 States organized militia forces, as did the Territories of Alaska and Hawaii. The States of Arizona, Montana, Nevada, and Oklahoma elected not to form local units as there was no Federal requirements to do so nor was there any Federal restriction placed on the size of State units.

The October 21st, 1940, legislation did prescribe that State forces would be under the War Department “for discipline in training,” and under this authority the Secretary of War placed limitations “not upon the actual size of any State Guard” but “upon the number of arms” that would be issued by the Federal Government. Initially, the War Department placed this figure at “numbers equal to half of the National Guard strength as of June 30th, 1940,” but this allowance was doubled at the end of 1941.

In April of 1942, the War Department announced that all rifles loaned to the States must be returned as the need for these weapons elsewhere had become “very great.” The reaction to this announcement throughout the different States was “astounding” as these was an “almost universal protest at this disarmament of the State Guard.” It later became apparent that there was a “need for these weapons (within the States) and the recall was substantially modified.

When the United States entered World War II on December 7th, 1941, 34 States had already organized and equipped State Forces totaling nearly 90,000 personnel. By the end of 1941 States had activated all or part of their State Forces to protect key installations and facilities and to guard hundreds of miles of otherwise unprotected shoreline. The employment of State troops for these purposes was entirely Voluntary as the 1940 Act specifically prohibited State Guard units from being called, drafted, or ordered into Federal service nor could these troops be ordered to serve outside the boundaries of their own states.

Since there was no provision in the Act for Federal pay, State Guardsmen were paid by their home States when activated (usually at the same rate as Army personnel of the same rank) but for the most part received no pay at all for their services. The organization of the State Guards and the British Home Guards was similar in many respects with the major difference being that British units were seldom of a fixed size and were more “closely controlled by the general Government and more precisely integrated with other defense forces.

In spite of the fact that American Guardsmen were not required to fight against an armed enemy, history reveals that they played a valuable part in the national war effort. By guarding installations in the early years of the war, Federal Forces were freed to train replacements and to form cadres for combat units for immediate overseas service. Additionally, many thousands of young men received their first military training as Guard members and were better prepared when they entered the Armed Forces. Finally, the Guardsmen aided the individual States by providing a well-organized force to keep internal order and to aid civilian authorities in emergencies and disasters.

On December 17th, 1941, the War Department “directed” that State Guardsmen were “authorized” to wear “distinctive, round shoulder patches, 2½” in diameter, bearing the designation of the State Guard concerned.” The intent of the letter was to clearly identify State forces wearing uniforms provided by the Federal Government. Those provisions were later included in Army Regulations, and many States changed designs to comply with the Federal requirements while others did not as they felt this was an “infringement” of their State rights. With the return of National Guard units at the end of the war, the legality of maintaining State forces was once again in question. While most States disbanded their State troops in 1945 and 1946, others kept their State Guard units organized but redesignated them and (in some cases) changed their insignia.

The California State Guard in World War II

The California State Guard was organized with Headquarters in Sacramento in January of 1941 by Executive Order of Governor Culbert L. Olsen when California National Guard elements of the 40th Infantry Division, 250th and 251st Coast Artillery Regiments, and other units were Federalized. Although the authorized strength of the State Guard was originally set at 10,000, the actual mustered strength reached 21,615 by the end of 1941.

By February of 1942, a total of 13 Infantry Regiments (numbers 1 through 13) were activated along with a Medical Regiment, Marine Company, two Nautical Corps, and a Quartermaster Regiment. During the first year of the Guard, a number of special organizations were activated but later were mustered out of service including the 1st through 10th Observation Squadrons, 1st Engineer Regiment, 1st Evacuation Corps, Sanitary Corps, Women’s Ambulance and Nursing Corps, 1st and 2nd Ambulance Battalions, and several provisional companies. The 3rd and 11th Infantry Regiments were mustered out of service on March 25th, 1942, and elements of the two units were merged to form a new 311th Regiment. For purposes of “organization and administration, the State was originally organized’ into six command areas (each with a separate Headquarters staff), and the areas were further broken down into districts and subdistricts. On May 27th, 1943, the 12 Regiments of the State Guard were reorganized and redesignated as 10 regions.

The Battalion was established as the largest tactical unit of the Regional system, but on November 23rd, 1943, Regiments were again formed. A history of duties performed by the California State Guard during World War II filled many pages. On December 7th, 1941, elements of the 1st Regiment were ordered to active duty, and by the end of the month almost all of the 9th and 10th Regiments were activated.

Thousands of State Guardsmen were assigned the mission of guarding lines of communications, key facilities, and vital installations during the early days of the war. For example, in February of 1942, 59 men guarded the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and Marin Counties, 37 Guardsmen from another unit searched for a downed Navy airplane in the rugged San Jacinto Mountains, 61 men guarded the water supply for Vallejo, 40 men guarded bridges in Sacramento, 108 Guardsmen protected the Torrance water supply and oil refineries, and special units guarded piers and harbors from San Diego to Redding. In January of 1944, nearly 6,000 officers and men were still on statewide active duty, often with great personal sacrifice of time, wages, and careers. By the end of World War II, over 75,000 Californians had served with State troops.

The California State Military Reserve

In 1950, one-third of the California National Guard was Federalized. The California Legislature authorized 63 state active duty positions for the California State Military Reserve. By 1952, there were 128 positions in the Office of the Adjutant General (OTAG) and 67 positions in the field organization of California State Military Reserve.Fifty-eight percent of the Military Department’s appropriation was allocated to CSMR for administration and recruit training. CSMR reached a strength of 13,599. There existed two (2) division headquarters, eight (8) brigades, twenty-four (24) battalions and ninety-six (96) companies.

In 1976, CSMR was reactivated by the Military Department.The organization would eventually of two area commands, Northern Area Command (NACOM) and Southern Area Command (SACOM), five Brigades and numerous Battalions and special commands such as a Medical Brigade, Aviation Brigade, Training Command and Center for Military History.

In 1996 the CSMR once again went through a reorganization. Area commands, Brigades and Battalions were deactivated and reformed as Support Brigades and Battalion in direct support of Army National Guard units. The first of these new support brigades to be activated was the 49th Military Police Brigade Support Brigade in direct support of the 49th Military Police Brigade of the California Army National Guard.

Source: California State Military Museum

Compiled by Colonel Richard Grossman
California State Military Reserve