Thursday, August 30, 2018

Operation Deathless: The Georgia Guard's 1958 Labor Day Mission

by Maj. William Carraway
Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

For more than 120 years, Georgia National Guard Citizen Soldiers, operating out of armories across the state, have partnered with state and local responders in times of emergency. But in September 1958, the Georgia Guard and Georgia State Patrol combined forces in unique emergency mission.

ELBERTON, Ga. September 1958 - Georgia Army National Guard Lt. Col. John P. Wallis identifies 
a roadblock position on a map for Georgia Guard Soldiers of the Elberton-based 950th Antiaircraft 
Artillery Battalion.  This Operation Deathless patrol was composed of Specialist 3 Lavasque, 
Sgt. Maxwell, Master Sgt. Cordell and Capt. John Shirreffs, all of Headquarters Company.  
- Georgia Guard Archives

At the direction of the Governor of Georgia, Maj. Gen. Charlie Camp, Adjutant General of the Georgia National Guard ordered more than 600 Guardsmen to state active duty over the Labor Day weekend for an unprecedented mission of public safety. The Guardsmen, representing more than 30 units from across the state took to the roads and skies in partnership with the Georgia State Patrol to spread a message of traffic safety and to prevent traffic accidents and deaths associated with increased holiday traffic.

A 12 by 18 inch placard used during Operation Deathless. Georgia Guard Archives
Operation Deathless, as it was called, was conceived by the Governor as a means to prevent 14 predicted traffic fatalities over the holiday weekend. On the ground, more than 100 National Guard Jeeps, prominently adorned with the 12 by 18-inch Operation Deathless sign with two skull and cross-bones logos were positioned to deter and assist motorists. Guardsmen in radio-equipped jeeps maintained road blocks and observation points at key intersections and highways. Though Guardsmen had no arresting authority they provided back up to law enforcement, detained intoxicated drivers and stopped cars with defective headlights. Georgia Guardsmen also delivered 20,000 letters from the Governor on motor safety most notably to motorists entering Georgia from neighboring states. The Guardsmen also rendered aid to stranded motorists with flat tires, stalled vehicles and other minor problems. 

TOCCOA, Ga. September 1958 - Georgia State Troopers and National Guard Soldiers distribute a letter from Governor Marvin Griffin urging motorists 
to drive safely over the Labor Day weekend during Operation Deathless. More than 600 Georgia Guardsmen and 500 state troopers participated 
in the four-day event designed to reduce motor vehicle fatalities.  Georgia Guard Archives

In addition to the robust ground effort, twenty Georgia National Guard helicopter and fixed wing aircraft also took to the air to advise Georgia State Patrol of reckless drivers. One pilot reported an incident in which a motorist was exceeding the speed of his Cessna L-19 which had a top speed of 100 miles per hour.

ATLANTA, September 1958 – Georgia Army National Guard Col. W. R. Robinette, Lt. Col Emmett. Plunkett and Capt. Robert Sprayberry plan aerial surveillance
of highways near Atlanta during Operation Deathless, an information campaign created by Governor Marvin Griffin to reduce traffic fatalities over the
Labor Day Weekend. – Georgia Guard Archives
Operating 24 hours a day from 6:00 pm Friday to Midnight on Monday, The Georgia Guardsmen worked with State and local law enforcement officials to spread the word about highway safety and to respond to those in need. As a result of their combined efforts traffic fatalities fell well below the predicted level of 14 with only eight lives lost over the long travel weekend.

"Operation Deathless Holds Ga. Fatalities to 8 as Guard Patrols Hwys. Labor Day." Georgia Guardsman Magazine, 8-9.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

July 19-26, 1918: "A hurricane of fire, small arms, machine guns and artillery."

by Maj. William Carraway
Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

The 42nd Division Monument at the Croix Rouge Farm, Fere en Tardenois, France.  Photo by Maj. William Carraway

With the German offensive in the Champagne region blunted, Marshall Ferdinand Foch was at last able to launch a counter offensive to reduce the Marne salient. Accordingly, attacks by the French and 1st American Division to the west had pushed German forces and isolated those forces along the Marne River where the American 4th and 26 Divisions were also vigorously pressing forward with French divisions. By July 23, the Germans had begun to retire to a new line of defense along the Ourcq River[i] leaving behind enemy machine gun squads and rear-guard units tasked with protecting the German redeployment and harassing the advancing Allies.