Thursday, January 14, 2021

Sion B. Hawkins: Georgia’s 25th Adjutant General

 By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Ga. Army National Guard

 

Sion B. Hawkins assumed office as the 25th Adjutant General of Georgia January 14, 1941. The 53-year-old lieutenant colonel of the Atlanta-based 179th Field Artillery Regiment was appointed by Governor-Elect Eugene Talmadge January 5 to succeed Brig. Gen. Marion Williamson.

Hawkins was born Aug. 19, 1887 in Americus Georgia. Hawkins began his career in the Georgia National Guard in 1904[1] when he enlisted as a private. Hawkins rose steadily through the enlisted ranks while attending college. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 1908 and went to work as a bookkeeper for a cotton company in Americus while maintaining his membership in the National Guard.[2] Following the declaration of war against Germany April 6, 1917, Hawkins entered officer training camp and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant August 14.

2nd Lt. Sion Hawkins in 1917. Georgia Guard Archives


Hawkins entered federal service Aug. 15, 1917 and was assigned to the 321st Machine Gun Battalion, 82nd Infantry Division. Promoted to 1st lieutenant February 6, Hawkins served overseas from May 2, 1918 and participated in the engagements of Lorraine, St. Mihiel and The Meuse Argonne. Returning to the United States in May 1919, he was discharged from federal service June 14.[3]

Upon appointment by Governor Talmadge, Hawkins was promoted to brigadier general. During his tenure as adjutant general Hawkins also served as acting director of selective service.

Hawkins served as Georgia’s Adjutant General until Jan. 12, 1943 when newly elected governor Ellis Arnell appointed Brig. Gen. Clark Howell to succeed him.

Hawkins died December 15, 1948 at the age of 61. He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Americus.[4]

 

 

 



[1] Secretary of War, National Guard Register for 1939 (National Guard Bureau: Washington D.C. November 1, 1939), 301

[2] Year: 1910; Census Place: Militia District 789, Sumter, Georgia; Roll: T624_213; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 0109; FHL microfilm: 1374226

[3] Ancestry,com Georgia, U.S., World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919 [Database online]. Provo UT, 2013.

[4] "Sion Boone Hawkins (1887-1948) - Find A Grave...," Find a Grave, accessed January 4, 2021, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/25607604/sion-boone-hawkins)

Saturday, October 17, 2020

65 Years Ago: Birth of the 48th Armor Division

By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

Left: M-48 Patton Tanks of the Georgia Army National Guard's 48th Armor Division staged at Fort Stewart. Right:  Shoulder Sleeve Insignia of the
48th Armor Division. The patch became available in March 1956.


In August 1955, the units of the 48th Infantry Division completed annual training maneuvers at Camp Stewart, Ga. and Fort McClellan, Ala. The next month, the National Guard Bureau approved a radical redesign of the primary combat unit of the Georgia Army National Guard. On October 17, 1955, the National Guard Bureau officially ordered the reorganization of the 48th Infantry Division as the 48th Armor Division effective November 1, 1955.[1]


Brief History of the 48th Infantry Division[2]

Maj. Gen. Henry Russell, commander of the 48th Infantry Division
in 1949. To Russell's right is Maj. Homer Flynn, public affairs 
officer and future commander of the Ga. Air National Guard. 
Georgia Guard Archives.
The 48th Infantry Division was constituted July 3, 1946.[3] At the time, the units of the 48th ID were split between Georgia and Florida, with two thirds of the division’s troops in Georgia. Maj. Gen. Henry D. Russell, former commander of the 30th Infantry Division, was appointed commander of the 48th ID when the division was constituted.

The establishment of the 48th ID saw the return of decorated World War II units to the Georgia National Guard. The 121st and 122nd Infantry Regiments were incorporated into the division and the 118th Field Artillery played a key role in Division Artillery along with the 230th and 179th FA Battalions who, like the 118th had served in the European Theater during World War II.

Russell commanded the 48th ID from 1947 to March 1951 whereupon Maj. Gen. Joseph Hutchinson of the Florida National Guard assumed command of the division. Hutchinson presided over the first division annual training event at Fort McClellan, Ala. He retired in 1952 and command was passed to Maj. Gen. Joseph Fraser.

The Fraser Era

Fraser enlisted as a private in The Liberty Independent Troop in 1915 at the age of 19. He would remain in the military for 38 years. During World War I, Fraser, then an artillery officer, served with the 129th Field Artillery Regiment alongside future president Harry S. Truman. Returning from France, Fraser rose through the ranks and in 1936 was placed in command of the 108th Cavalry Regiment. At the time, Fraser was the youngest regimental commander in the U.S. Army.

In 1941, Fraser commanded the 101st Coast Artillery Battalion comprised of former elements of the 108th Cavalry. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the 101st CA was sent to Australia, then Papua New Guinea where, as the first U.S. troops on the island, they defended Port Moresby against relentless Japanese bombing raids. Transitioning to the European Theater, Fraser commanded the 23rd AAA Group.

Returning from the war, Fraser assumed command of the 108th AAA and was promoted to brigadier general. During the Korean War, Fraser, and two battalions of the 108th AAA mobilized to Chicago with the mission of providing antiaircraft defense. At the conclusion of the Chicago mobilization, Fraser was given command of the 48th ID taking charge of the regiment in May 1952.

Observing tank fire of the Georgia Army National Guard's 190th Tank Battalion at Camp Stewart in August 1954 left to right: Lt. Col. Wesley D. Willingham, commander, 190th Tank Battalion; Maj. Gen. Joeseph B. Fraser, commanding general, 48th Infantry Division; Maj. Gen. George Hearn, Georgia's Adjutant General and Brig. Gen. Richard Mayo, commanding general, of Camp Stewart. Georgia National Guard Archives
Less than one year later, the 48th responded to its first large-scale domestic emergency following the April 18, 1953 tornado that struck Columbus, Ga. Elements of the 48th ID, to include the 560th Engineer Battalion and 3rd Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment responded within 24 hours.

Within two weeks, Warner Robbins was struck by a tornado that killed 18 and injured 300. Once again, within 24 hours, Macon Soldiers of the 121st Infantry Regiment and the heavy mortar company from Perry, Ga. were onsite assisting with recovery operations.

Transition to Armor

Fraser guided the 48th ID through its transition to an armored division in 1955. Under Maj. Gen. Fraser’s guidance, nearly 100 Georgia Guard units were reorganized and redesignated. Prior to the conversion, the 48th ID had an authorized strength of 9,803 officers and enlisted. The 48th Armored Division would be authorized 7,727 officers and enlisted, but the creation of a non-divisional Armored Combat Group would provide slots for 2,911 personnel. This group, designated the 160th Armored Group, would be commanded by Lt. Col. Wesley Willingham and comprise eight new units. In addition to the establishment of the 160th Armored Group, the two infantry regiments of the 48th ID were designated as combat commands. The 121st Infantry was designated Combat Command B while the 122nd Infantry was designated Combat Command C. The 124th Infantry Regiment, Florida Army National Guard constituted Combat Command A under the command of Col. Robert Harkness.[4]

New Commands, New Commanders[5]

Col. Roy Hogan, commanding, 
121st Infantry Regiment in 1955.
Georgia National Guard Archives
The shift to armor prompted new assignments and major staff changes. While Maj. Gen. Joseph Fraser retained overall command of the division, the creation of the combat commands created new opportunities for combat-tested senior leaders of the division. Colonel Roy Hogan assumed command of Combat Command B and Col. Edward Mackey was placed in charge of Combat Command B.

Colonel Roy Hogan commanded the 3rd Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment in World War II and received the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Combat Infantry Badge during his service with the regiment. Prior to his appointment as commander of Combat Command B, Hogan served as regimental commander of the 121st Infantry Regiment. Combat Command B headquarters remained in Macon, home of the 121st Infantry.

Colonel Edward Mackey, former executive officer and commander of the 122nd Infantry Regiment was placed in command of the Atlanta-based Combat Command C. Mackey enlisted as a private in Company B, 122nd Infantry Regiment in 1929 and advanced to the rank of master sergeant before commissioning as a 2nd Lt. in 1939. During World War II, Mackey commanded Headquarters Company, 30th Infantry Division. As a member of the 119th Infantry Regiment, Mackey served in the European Theater campaigns from Normandy to Germany. He was awarded two Bronze Stars and the Combat Infantry Badge for his service. After the war, Mackey rejoined the 122nd Infantry Regiment.

Colonel Wesley Willingham assumed command of the 160th Armored Group headquartered in Forsyth. Willingham enlisted in the Georgia Guard’s 30th Tank Company in 1924. He commanded Company A of the Georgia Guard’s 193rd Tank Battalion in 1940 and served as a tank battalion commander during World War II. Returning from the war, Willingham was promoted to colonel. He accepted a one-grade reduction to Lt. Col. In order to serve as battalion commander of the 190th Tank Battalion. Upon assuming command of the 160th Armored Group, Willingham was again promoted to colonel.

Equipping the Division

In the intervening months between the conversion and the 48th Armored Division’s first annual training in 1956, units across the state received hundreds of M-41 Walker Bulldog light tanks and M-47 Patton medium tanks. Drivers, gunners, and vehicle commanders trained on new tanks, self-propelled howitzers and artillery pieces. In November 1955, curious attendees of the Coastal States Fair in Savannah could view the first M-7 tank-mounted 105 mm self-propelled howitzers assigned to the 118th Field Artillery and Division Artillery.[6] Massive self-propelled 155 mm howitzers would add additional firepower and range at a cost of $194,000 per howitzer.[7]

M-41 Walker Bulldogs of the 48th Armor Division. Georgia National Guard Archives.


Infantry of the former 121st and 122nd Infantry Regiments adapted to their new mechanized role as armored infantry battalions. They were joined by the 171st AIB and 144th AIB.[8]

By July 1956, the division’s transition was complete. But more changes would follow. The division upgraded to M-48 Patton heavy tanks in 1958.[9] In 1963, the division reorganized into a three-brigade structure with all units belonging to Georgia. The 121st Infantry expanded to four battalions and the 108th Armored Regiment was composed of five battalions. The 748th Cavalry Squadron, 560th Engineer Battalion and 148th Aviation Battalion rounded out the division while Division Artillery was composed of three battalions from the 118th Field Artillery, and a battalion each from the 179th and 214th Field Artillery. For the remainder of its existence, the 48th Armored Division conducted annual training at Fort Stewart.

After months of conversion, training, equipping and planning, Maj. Gen. Joe Fraser commanded the 48th AD’s first annual training at Fort Stewart in July 1956. At the conclusion of AT, Fraser retired with the rank of lieutenant general passing command to Maj. Gen. Patrick Seawright, former commander of the 48th ID Artillery.[10]

  

Units of the 48th Armored Division, October 17, 1955 with previous 48th ID designations

 Headquarters Company, Band, and Medical Detachment – Macon HQ, Band Med Det, 48th ID

 Headquarters Company, Combat Command B –Macon- HHC 121st Inf Regt

Headquarters Company, Combat Command C – Atlanta – Formerly Headquarters, 122nd Inf Regt

48th Armored Signal Company – Atlanta – 48th Signal Company

48th Military Police Company – Atlanta – Service Company, 122nd Inf Regt

48th Replacement Company – Newly created unit

 

48th Reconnaissance Battalion

48th Recon Bn 
Headquarters and Service Company – Jackson

Company A – LaGrange – 48th Recon Company

Company B – Newnan – Company C, 122nd Inf Regt

Company C – Griffin – HQ Company, 48th ID

Company D – Marietta – Tank Company, 122nd Inf Regt

Medical Detachment – newly created unit

 

121st Armored Infantry Battalion

121st AIB

Headquarters Company – Albany – HHC 3-121st Inf Regt

Company A – Dawson – Company I, 121st Inf Regt

Company B – Albany – Company B, 121st Inf Regt

Company C – Thomasville – Company F, 121st Inf Regt

Company D – Bainbridge – Tank Company, 121st Inf Regt

Medical Detachment – newly created unit

 

162nd Tank Battalion 

162nd Tank Bn

Headquarters and Service Company – Macon – HHC 1-121st Inf Regt

Company A – Perry – Heavy Mortar Company, 121st Inf Regt

Company B – Thomaston – Company K, 122nd Inf Regt

Company C – Macon – Company C, 121st Inf Regt

Company D – Montezuma – Company B, less Sep Det, 121st Inf Regt

Separate Detachment, Company D – Reynolds – Sep Det, Company B 121st Inf Regt

Medical Detachment – Macon – Separate Detachment, Company B, 121st Inf Regt

 

163rd Tank Battalion 

163rd Tank Bn

Headquarters and Service Company – Calhoun – HHC 2-122nd Inf Regt

Company A – Rome – Company E, 122nd Inf Regt

Company B – Cedartown – Company F, 122nd Inf Regt

Company C – Canton – Company G, 122nd Inf Regt

Company D – Dalton – Company H, 122nd Infantry Regt

Medical Detachment – Calhoun – Med Det, 122nd Inf Regt

 

190th Tank Battalion 

190th Tank Bn

HQ and Service Company – Americus – Company C, 190th Tank Battalion

Company A – Hawkinsville – Company M, 121st Inf Regt

Company B – Fitzgerald – Company B, 190th Tank Battalion

Company C – Cordele – Company K, 121st Inf Regt

Company D – Moultrie – Battery C, 250th AAA Battalion

Medical Detachment – newly created unit

 

48th Armored Division Artillery

Headquarters and Headquarters Battery – Savannah – HQ and HQ Battery, 48th ID Arty

Medical Detachment – Savannah – Med Det, less 3 BN Dets, 48th Div Arty

 

179th Armored Field Artillery Battalion

179th AFA Bn

HQ and Service Battery – Atlanta – HHB and Service Battery, 179th FA

Battery A – Atlanta – Battery A, 179th FA

Battery B – Atlanta - Battery B, 179th FA

Battery C – Atlanta – Battery C, 179th FA

Medical Detachment – Atlanta – Med Det, 179th FA

 

118th Armored Field Artillery Battalion

118th AFA Bn

Headquarters and Service Battery – Savannah – Headquarters and Service Battery, 118th FA

Battery A – Savannah – Battery A, 118th FA

Battery B – Savannah – Battery B, 118th FA

Battery C – Savannah – Battery C, 118th FA

 

230th Armored Field Artillery Battalion

230th AFA Bn

Headquarters and Service Battery – Savannah – HQ and Service Battery, 230th FA

Battery A – Savannah – Battery A, 230th FA

Battery B – Savannah – Battery B, 230th FA

Battery C – Springfield – 48th MP Company

 

560th Armored Engineer Battalion

560th En Bn

Headquarters and Service Company – Columbus – HHC, 560th Eng Bn

Company A – Columbus – Company A, 560th Eng Bn

Company B – newly created unit

Company C – Reidsville – Company C, 560th Eng Bn

Company D – Columbus – Company D, 560th Eng Bn

Company E (Bridge) newly created unit

Medical Detachment – Columbus – Med Det, 560th Eng Bn

 

122nd Armored Infantry Battalion

122nd AIB

Headquarters and Service Company – Atlanta – HHC, 122nd Inf Regt

Company A – Atlanta – Company A, 122nd Inf Regt

Company B – Atlanta – Company B, 122nd Inf Regt

Company C – Gainesville – Company L, 122nd Inf Regt

Company D – Douglasville – Company D, 122nd Inf Regt

Medical Detachment – Atlanta – Medical Company, less 3rd BN Platoons, 122nd Inf Regt

 

160th Armored Group (Non-Divisional)

Headquarters Company, 160th Armored Group – newly

created unit

 

160th Tank Battalion (90 mm)

Headquarters and Service Company – Dublin – HHC, 286th Infantry Battalion

Company A – Lyons – Company A, 286th Infantry Battalion

Company B – Sandersville – Company B, 286th Infantry Battalion

Company C –Louisville – Company I, 122nd Inf Regt

Company D – Eastman – Company A, 190th Tank Battalion

Medical Detachment – Dublin – Med Det, 190th Tank Battalion

 

161st Tank Battalion (120 mm) 

161st Tank Bn

HQ and Svc. Company – Milledgeville- HHC, 3rd Bn 121st Inf Regt

Company A – Covington – Heavy Mortar Company, 122nd Inf Regt

Company B – Forsyth – HHC, 190th Tank Battalion

Company C – Eatonton – Company D, 190th Tank Battalion

Medical Detachment – Milledgeville – Med Det 3-122nd Inf Regt

 

144th Armored Infantry Battalion 

144th AIB

HQ and Svc. Company – Brunswick – HHC 2-121 Inf Regt

Company A – Brunswick – Company H 121st Inf Regt

Company B – newly created unit

Company C – newly created unit

Company D – newly created unit

Medical Detachment – newly created unit

 

171st Armored Infantry Battalion

Headquarters and Services Company – Waycross – Company G 121st Inf Regt

Company A – Valdosta – Company E, 121st Inf Regt

Company B – Douglas – Company B, 560th Eng Bn

Company C – newly created unit

Company D - newly created unit

Medical Detachment - newly created unit

 




[1] NG-AROTO 325.4 30 Sep 55 – Ga. National Guard Bureau, Washington DC, October 17, 1955.

[2] The 48th Armored Division Georgia Army National Guard, 1946-1965 Scrapbook. Georgia National Guard PIO, Atlanta, 1965.

[3] The 48th Armored Division Georgia Army National Guard, 1946-1965 Scrapbook provides July 3, 1946 as the date of activation for HHC, 48th ID. July 11, 1946 is given as the activation date in “Allotment of National Guard Ground Force Units for the State of Georgia” War Department, Washington D.C. July 11, 1946 as amended August 8, 1946.

[4] “Sikes to Speak at NG Banquet.” Tallahassee Democrat, December 18, 1955, 13.

[5] “Shift to Armor Provides New Assignments and Promotions.” Georgia Guardsman, Oct.- Dec. 1955, 15-16.

[6] Georgia Guardsman, Oct.-Dec. 1955, 1.

[7] Georgia Guardsman, May-June 1956, 1.

[8] “New Armor Units,” Georgia Guardsman, Aug. – Sept. 1955, 14.

[9]“Newer M-48 Tanks Replacing M-47s. 256 ‘Iron Monsters’ Authorized.” Georgia Guardsman, March-April 1958, 1.

[10] Scrapbook, 9.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Sgt. 1st Class John Beale Honored by Cedartown-Based Troop A, 108th Cavalry

By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard.

 

Crystal Beale is joined by Command Sgt. Major John Ballenger and Lt. Col. Christopher Powell, command team of the 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry in
dedicating a training field at the Cedartown, Ga. Armory in memory of Sgt. 1st Class John Beale who was killed in action in Afghanistan June 4, 2009.
Photo by Maj. William Carraway

Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers of the Cedartown-based Troop A, 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry stood at attention for the dedication of a training field in honor of Sergeant 1st Class John C. Beale who was killed in Afghanistan June 4, 2009. The dedication was attended by family, friends, fellow Soldiers and Veterans who served with Sgt. 1st Class Beale.

Sergeant John Beale in 2005 with Troop E, 108th Cavalry in Griffin, Ga. preparing to mobilize a relief convoy to Mississippi following
Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Photo by Spc. William Carraway

“Sgt. 1st Class Beale embodied the attributes of the United States Army Noncommissioned Officer’s Creed,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Powell, commander of the 1-108th Cavalry. “His professionalism, leadership, selflessness, courage, technical and tactical competence as a 19D Cavalry Scout and love for Soldiers was unmatched. No commander could ask for a better NCO than him.”

Powell observed that Beale balanced his service as a Soldier with his role as a husband to wife Crystal and father to children Christopher and Callie who attended the ceremony.

“As we honor Sgt. 1st Class Beale’s service and sacrifice, we also honor yours,” said Powell to Beale’s family.

Soldiers of the Georgia Army National Guard's Troop A, 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment stand in formation during a ceremony honoring
Sgt. 1st Class John Beale at the unit's Cedartown Armory Oct 4, 2020. Photo by Maj. William Carraway


Major General Randall Simmons, commander of the Georgia Army National Guard spoke of Beale’s service and legacy. Simmons commanded the 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010.

“Those of us who knew Sgt 1st Class Beale hold him in a special place in our hearts,” said Simmons. “But this day is not about sad reflection, it is about a celebration of the courage and sacrifice and service of this hero.”

Simmons called Beale a consummate professional noting how approachable and welcoming he was to all Soldiers and how he was absolutely dedicated to the Soldier’s craft.

Sgt. 1st Class John Beale in 2009.
Ga. National Guard Archives.
“John was a warrior.  He served with distinction. He was a team builder who was widely respected and loved.”  Said Simmons.  “For those Soldiers going forward who will train on this field, when you feel tired, when you feel like you can give no more, if you need to draw on a source of motivation, think of the sacrifice of Sgt. 1st Class John Beale and the other fallen Rough Riders who paid the ultimate price so we could be here to move forward.”

Sergeant 1st Class Robert Freeman, who deployed with Beale in 2009 recalled leadership lessons Beale imparted as a mentor and teacher to the Soldiers of Troop A.

“Beale was in charge of all our supplies,” recalled Freeman.  Every single morning, He would literally go over every single thing we loaded,” said Freeman. “But I learned so much from that.  It made me a better NCO. He always wanted me to know my mission, and my routes. He was a constant professional and teacher.”

Crystal Beale, wife of John and long-time supporter of the 108th Cavalry thanked the Soldiers for the dedication and thanked them for their service.

“I just want to thank you all for this day,” said Beale. “I pray over every one of you and thank you that you serve.”

After sharing some of Sgt. 1st Class Beale’s favorite quotes from military history Crystal was joined by Powell and Command Sgt. Major John Ballenger, senior enlisted advisor for the 1st Squadron 108th Cavalry in revealing the sign dedicating the field in honor of Sgt 1st Class Beale. Captain Samuel Jerome, commander of Troop A, closed out the ceremony and invited Soldiers, veterans and family members to share stories and fellowship.

Following the ceremony, the armory grounds resounded with laughter as family and friends recalled the life and times of John Beale, consummate Soldier, gregarious personality, and friend to everyone he met.

Sgt. 1st Class John Beale's family and military family joined together for the dedication of the SFC John C. Beale Field at the Cedartown Armory of Troop A,
1-108th Cavalry Oct 4, 2020. Photo by Maj. William Carraway.


Thursday, October 1, 2020

The 121st Infantry Regiment Turns 103

 By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

 

The 121st Infantry at Camp Wheeler, near Macon Ga. February 1, 1918. LOC

Early History

The companies that would eventually form the 121st Infantry have a long and varied history. The first company to form was the Baldwin Blues, originally organized May 11, 1810 in Milledgeville, Ga.[i] The Blues, along with other predecessor units of the 121st – the Albany Guards and Barnesville Blues, were mustered into Confederate service as elements of the 4th Georgia Volunteer Infantry which would see extensive service in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War.[ii]

On December 20, 1860, other early elements of the 121st Infantry Regiment were organized as the Independent Volunteer Battalion of Macon to include the Macon Volunteers, which had fought in the Seminole Wars, and the Floyd Rifles.[iii] Mustered into Confederate service in April 1861 as part of the 2nd Battalion, Georgia Infantry,[iv] the 2nd Battalion served in the brigade of Brig. Gen. Ambrose Wright and was the skirmish element on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg in which the brigade crested Cemetery Hill.[v] The battalion surrendered at Appomattox Court House with the Army of Northern Virginia April 9, 1865.

The Codori Farm and Emmitsburg Road at Gettysburg viewed from Federal lines. The 2nd Battalion, Georgia Infantry assaulted across this field July 2, 1863.
Photo by Maj. William Carraway


1874 to 1917

The 2nd Battalion was reorganized June 15, 1874 in the Georgia Volunteers, precursor to the Georgia National Guard. The battalion was expanded and reorganized January 23, 1891 as the 2nd Regiment of Infantry. Elements of the 2nd Infantry were mustered into federal service in May 1898 for the Spanish American War and returned to state control in November 1898.[vi]

On July 2, 1916, the 2nd Regiment of Infantry was mustered into federal service and dispatched to the Mexican Border. For the next eight months, the Infantrymen patrolled the border from El Paso, Texas to Noria, N.M. in support of Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing’s punitive expedition.[vii] The regiment returned to Macon in March 1917 but remained in federal service. In August 1917, Companies B, C and F of the 2nd Georgia were reorganized as the 151st Machine Gun Battalion. The 151st would serve with the 42nd Infantry Division during World War I. The remaining companies of the 2nd Georgia Infantry were redesignated the 121st Infantry Regiment on October 1, 1917.

CAMP WHEELER, Macon, Ga., February 5, 1918 – 121st and 122nd Infantry Regiments, on a road march at Camp Wheeler, Macon, Ga. Feb 5, 1918.
Photo 4670, NARA.


Colonel Thomas and the Gray Bonnet Regiment

The commander of the 121st Infantry Regiment in the years leading up to World War I was Col. James Adrian Thomas Jr. of Macon, Ga. On November 18, 1912, Col. Thomas assumed command of the 2nd Infantry. Shortly after assuming command, Thomas designated the 121st Infantry Regiment the Old Gray Bonnet after the popular song "Put on your Old Gray Bonnet" by Stanley Murphy and Percy Wenrich which was first released in 1909.[viii]

The 121st departed for France October 5, 1918 aboard the transport USS Orizaba. Arriving in the port of Brest, France the 121st was compelled to remain onboard until the ship could be unloaded. It was in the harbor that Col. Thomas, beloved regimental commander, died of pneumonia October 16 having never set foot in France. He was 48.[ix]

Reeling from the loss of their commander, the Soldiers of the 121st were dealt a second blow. Having reached Le Mans October 22, the Soldiers of the 121st were informed they would be parceled into replacement units rather than enter combat as a regiment. Having trained so long for combat, many of the Soldiers of the 121st would reach the front lines just as the war was coming to a close.[x]

Following World War I, the Georgia National Guard was reorganized. The 121st Infantry Regiment was federally recognized May 31, 1921 as the 1st Georgia Infantry Regiment. It would not regain its 121st designation until 1924 by which time the regiment was part of the 30th Division. [xi] By 1939, on the eve of war, the 121st Infantry was comprised of three battalions based in Macon, Brunswick and Dublin, Ga.

Colonel Lewis Pope, The Gray Bonnet Insignia and Federalization

In September 1940, the 121st was accepted into federal service under the command of Col. Lewis C. Pope. Pope was born June 23, 1884 in Laurence County, Ga. and enlisted in Company A, 2nd Infantry, Georgia Sate Troops November 24, 1899. He served through the ranks from private to sergeant before commissioning as a second lieutenant in Company K November 7, 1906. Pope was appointed captain of the Dublin Guards August 28, 1919, was promoted to major January 25, 1921 and lieutenant colonel July 22, 1922. Upon the unexpected death of Georgia’s Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. J. Van Holt Nash, Pope was promoted to brigadier general and appointed as Nash’s successor by Governor Thomas Hardwick. Pope served as the adjutant general until January 13, 1923 when he was appointed colonel, commanding the 121st Infantry Regiment.

During a ceremony in Macon, Ga. October 14, 1928, ten years after the regiment sailed for France, the 121st regimental colors were presented amidst much fanfare. The ceremony also marked the first appearance of the unit’s distinctive insignia as described by Capt. Charles F. Stuart, regimental adjutant:

“All of the men were equipped and wearing the Old Gray Bonnet insignia, and it looked mighty good in its first appearance.”[xii]

Twelve years after the first appearance of the Gray Bonnet, Pope was still in command of the 121st Infantry Regiment when it was dispatched to Fort Jackson, S.C. for sixteen weeks of initial training.[xiii] In June, the 121st participated in the Tennessee Maneuvers followed by the Carolina Maneuvers. In September, Col. Pope was succeeded by Col. Aaron J. Becker.[xiv] Shortly after Becker assumed command the reorganization of Army divisions resulted in assignment of the 121st to the 8th Infantry Division.[xv]

Reinforcements for the 121st Infantry move up a snow covered road in Hurtgen, Germany Jan 6, 1945. Photo 270807, NARA.


World War II

On June 30, 1944, the 121st began loading transports in Belfast Harbor. Four days later the 121st Infantry Regiment splashed ashore on Utah Beach and entered the Normandy Campaign. Within a week of landing, the regiment would suffer its first casualties and in less than 10 months, the casualty list of the 121st would grow to 70 pages as the regiment fought its way from La Haye du Puits France to Schwerin Germany and the liberation of concentration camps near Wobbelin.[xvi]

Reactivation and the 48th Division

The 121st Infantry Regiment was inactivated for less than a year following World War II when it was assigned to the Georgia National Guard as part of the initial allotment of National Guard ground force units for the state of Georgia on July 11, 1946. The 121st Infantry Regiment formed one of three infantry regiments assigned to the 48th Infantry Division in addition to the 122nd Infantry Regiment of Georgia and the 124th Infantry Regiment of Florida.

Reorganization of the 48th ID as an armor division in 1955 scattered the 121st Regiment into battalion and company-size elements. Company D, 121st became headquarters company of the 48th AD. Four companies of the 121st constituted the 121st Armored Infantry Battalion while two more formed the core of the 171st Armored Infantry Battalion. Company K and M formed the nucleus of the 190th Tank Battalion while the 162nd Tank Battalion was comprised entirely of former 121st Infantry units.[xvii]

In 1959, the 121st and 171st AIB were combined to reform the 121st Infantry Regiment, consisting of 1st and 2nd Armored Rifle Battalions.[xviii] The 121st was expanded to four battalions under the ROAD reorganization of 1963.[xix]  With the reorganization of the 48th AD as 3rd Brigade, 30th Division in 1968, the 121st Infantry Regiment was again reduced to two battalions.[xx]

Infantrymen of the 121st Infantry Regiment, 48th Armored Division pass in review before Governor Carl Sanders during Governor's Day
activities at Fort Stewart Ga. The 48th Armored Division was at Fort Stewart for Annual Training August 7 to 21, 1966. Georgia National Guard Archives.


The 48th Brigade and Overseas Mobilizations

In 1973, at the request of the governor of Georgia, the National Guard Bureau assigned an infantry brigade to the state. Designated the 48th Infantry Brigade in honor of the 48th Division, the 48th Brigade welcomed the 121st Infantry Regiment into its force structure where it remains to this day.

The 48th Brigade and 121st Infantry Regiment were activated for service during Desert Storm but fighting ended before the units mobilized overseas. Elements of the 121st Infantry mobilized to Bosnia in March 2001.[xxi] These units were in Bosnia when terrorists struck on September 11, 2001.

Elements of the 48th Infantry Brigade, later the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, have mobilized four times since September 11, 2001, and infantrymen of the 121st have been part of all overseas combat deployments From the 2005 deployment to Iraq to the 2018 mobilization to Afghanistan, the 121st Infantry Regiment has provided security, mentoring and combat power to kinetic operations. During its last deployment, the 121st Infantry mobilized overseas with three battalions for the first time since 1944. The 3rd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, which had been inactivated in 1968 with the loss of the 48th AD was activated in 2016 with its headquarters in Cumming, Ga.[xxii]

Company, D 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, 4in Kunduz, Afghanistan in January 2010, Georgia National Guard Archives.
Continuing Operations

Soldiers of the 121st Infantry Regiment have supported response operations for COVID-19 and civil disturbances throughout 2020 lending medical support to hospitals in Hall County, staffing COVID-19 testing sites and foodbanks and assisting law enforcement during civil disturbances in Atlanta and Athens. Simultaneously, the 121st has continued to support overseas training deployments by contributing personnel to Operation Saber Junction in Germany.

 

Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers of the 3rd Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment assist law enforcement officials during civil unrest in Atlanta May 30, 2020.
Photo by Maj. William Carraway.

 



[i] The 121st Infantry Regiment. The Gray Bonnet: Combat History of the 121st Infantry Regiment, 1810-1945. Army Navy Publishing Company, 1946, 18.

[ii] Lyle, Thomas E., Larry O. Blair, Debra S. Lyle, and J. Harmon. Smith. Organizational Summary of Military Organizations from Georgia in the Confederate States of America. Marietta, Ga. 1999, 61.

[iii] Lyle et al,40-41.

[iv] Center for Military History. “Lineage and Honors Certificate, 121st Infantry Regiment”

[v] Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Vol XXVII/2. -- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/2: JUNE 3-AUGUST 1, 1863--The Gettysburg Campaign. Washington DC: War Department, 1897.

[vi] CMH

[vii] Carraway, William. “We Are Having a Big Time Now: January-March 1917.” April 17, 2017. http://www.georgiaguardhistory.com/2017/04/we-are-having-big-time-now-january.html

[viii] The first official authority for this designation appears March 24, 1924 in GO No. 1 in which the 121st Infantry was officially designated the Old Gray Bonnet Regiment. This much was affirmed in an October 28, 1926 outline of the history of the 121st Infantry certified by Charles H. Cox, Georgia's Adjutant General.

[ix] The Georgia State Memorial Book Adopted as the Official Record by the Military Department of the State of Georgia. Atlanta: 1921, 31.

[x] Gray Bonnet, 18.

[xi] Pictorial Review of the National Guard of the State of Georgia, 1939, 44.

[xii] Gray Bonnet, 17.

[xiii] Pictorial Review, 45.

[xiv] Gray Bonnet, 20.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] The Gray Bonnet, 85.

[xvii] NGAROTO 325.4 Oct 17, 1955

[xviii] RA 73-59, June 10, 1959.

[xix] RA 57-63 March 21, 1963.

[xx] RA Dec 14, 1967.

[xxi] “Bosnia Bound: The Countdown Begins.” Georgia Guardsman, Spring 2000, Vol. 1, No. 3, 10.

[xxii] OA 545-15 January 8, 2016.