Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Georgia Guard on the Eve of War: May, 1939

By Maj. William Carraway
Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

A machine gun crew of The Albany Guards, Company H, 121st Infantry Division at Camp Clifford Foster, Fla. Georgia Archives
On May 1, 1939, the Georgia National Guard published a leather-bound pictorial review depicting all the Soldiers and units of the Georgia National Guard. Compiled on the eve of World War II, the book serves as a snapshot in time, capturing units in their last months of existence and Soldiers whose lives would soon be cut short by the world’s most destructive war. In his introduction to the book, Brig. Gen. John E. Stoddard wrote: “If in the years to come, this edition shall bring back pleasant memories of deeds well done and services faithfully rendered it shall have served its purpose, and I, together with the others who have made its publication possible, shall feel that the efforts put forth in getting out this edition were well worthwhile.”

The 1939 pictorial review captures a Georgia National Guard in a state of transition. While the Guard structure had changed very little since the reorganization following WWI, from 1939 forward, the units and mission of the Georgia Guard would change regularly, shaped by the perceived threat of the Soviet Union and its capabilities. This article offers an overview of the Georgia Guard structure of 1939 and serves as the first of many articles that will delve into the role of the Georgia Guard in World War II.

Brig. Gen. John Stoddard, Georgia's Adjutant
General 1937-1940. Georgia Guard Archives
The driving force behind the 1939 pictorial review, Brig. Gen. John Stoddard began his military career in Nebraska where he organized and commanded an infantry company of the 7th Nebraska regiment. When that unit was not called for service in World War I, Stoddard attempted to pursue a commission from the Balloon School at Fort Omaha. Anxious to serve and unable to receive a timely appointment, Stoddard enlisted in the United States Navy and rose through the petty officer grades before commissioning as an ensign. After resigning his commission in the Navy, Stoddard remained in the Naval Reserves until 1925. Five years later, Stoddard returned to military service in the Georgia Guard when he organized the Washington, Ga.-based Company B, 264th Coast Artillery. During his time in command, Company B achieved the highest firing record of any National Guard artillery unit. In 1937 he was appointed adjutant general by Governor E. D. Rivers. Stoddard served as the adjutant general until 1940.[i]

In 1939, the Georgia Army National Guard was organized into a State Headquarters, 30th Division Units and Non-Division Units.

State Staff
The headquarters of the Military Department of Georgia was located in the Old Soldiers Home east of Grant Park near the present location of 410 United Avenue. At the time, there were no armories for National Guard units, although construction had been initiated for facilities in Calhoun and Marietta.
Non-commissioned officers on the state staff in 1939: Master Sgt. R. J. Banks,
TSgt. Luther Holcombe, Staff Sgt. D. Owen Walker and Sgt. Addison Smith.
Georgia Guard Archives.

The state staff of the Georgia National Guard was federally recognized September 5, 1927 and by 1939 consisted of 12 officers and enlisted personnel, including the adjutant general. By contrast, the Joint Force Headquarters of the Georgia National Guard in 2019 consisted of nearly 500 personnel.[ii]

Thirtieth Division

Commander and staff of the 30th Infantry Division. Major General Henry Russell is seated on the left.  Georgia Guard Archives.

Following World War I, the 30th Infantry Division was reorganized with National Guard troops allocated from Tennessee, North and South Carolina and Georgia. Division Headquarters was reorganized in Macon, Ga. August 23, 1923. The Special Troops of the 30th Division contained several Georgia Guard specialty units and was headquartered in Griffin and Atlanta. The 30th Military Police Company was designated June 2, 1924 in Springfield, Ga., while the 30th Tank Company was established in Forsyth August 15, 1924. A medical detachment of the 30th Division Special Troops was authorized in Toccoa, Ga. in 1936.

Soldiers of the Forsyth-based 30th Tank Company in 1939. Georgia Guard Archives.

In addition to headquarters and special units, the 30th Division was comprised of two infantry brigades, a field artillery brigade, an engineer regiment and aviation assets. Of these, Georgia Guard units comprised parts of the 59th Infantry Brigade and the 55th Field Artillery Brigade.
Crests of the 59th Infantry Brigade and 55th Field Artillery Brigade.
Georgia Guard Archives
The 59th Infantry Brigade, headquartered in Macon, Ga. consisted of the 121st Infantry Regiment, Georgia National Guard and the 118th Infantry Regiment, South Carolina National Guard. The Headquarters Company of the 59th Infantry Brigade was the Macon Volunteers, which is today the Headquarters Company of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
Summer encampment of the Albany Guards, Company H, 121st Infantry Regiment, Georgia National Guard at Camp Clifford Foster, Fla., July 1932.  Left to right: 1: Capt. S. Saye, 2-, 3-, 4: Col. Lewis Pope, 5-, 6: Sgt. McCauley, 7-, 8-, 9: Capt. John Joe West, 10-, 11: Dave Gotatowsky. Georgia Guard Archives.

The 121st Infantry Regiment headquarters and 1st Battalion were based in Macon. The 2nd Battalion was based in Brunswick while the third battalion was based in Dublin. In addition to the regimental and battalion headquarters and line companies A to M, the 121st included a Macon-based service company and medical detachment as well as a Monroe-based howitzer company.

Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 118th Field Artillery Regiment at Camp Jackson, S.C., 1935.  Georgia Guard Archives.
The 55th Field Artillery Brigade was headquartered in Savannah, Ga. and consisted of the 118th Field Artillery Regiment of Georgia, 113th FA of North Carolina and 115th FA of Tennessee. The 118th FA was composed of two Savannah-based field artillery battalions, each with a headquarters battery and combat train and three line batteries. All batteries were based in Savannah with the exception of the Waynesboro-based Battery A.

Headquarters Platoon, Company H, 105th Quartermaster
Regiment in 1939. Lieutenant Colonel George Mallett stands
center.  Georgia Guard Archives.
The 105th Medical Regiment was comprised of units based in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Georgia’s Company H, 105th Medical Regiment was organized March 17, 1924 in Atlanta, Ga. as Field Hospital Number 114.

Division Headquarters Platoon, Headquarters Company, 105th Quartermaster Regiment was organized and federally recognized June 13, 1927 in Jackson, Ga. Lt. Col. George Mallet commanded the detachment from its organization.

Non Division Units

Company A, 122nd Infantry Regiment at Fort McClellan, Ala. 1932.  Georgia Guard Archives.

The 122nd Infantry Regiment
The 122nd Infantry Regiment was based in Atlanta Georgia and mirrored the structure of the 121st Infantry Regiment. With historic units such as the Gate City Guard dating back to 1857, the 122nd Infantry entered World War I service as the 5th Infantry Regiment, Georgia Guard and was redesignated the 122nd Infantry in September 1917. Reorganized in 1924, the 122nd Infantry was initially comprised of two battalions with units based in Atlanta. A third battalion was constituted with units based in Calhoun, Cedartown, and Elberton.

The 108th Cavalry on parade in Atlanta in 1939.
Georgia Guard Archives.
108th Cavalry
With regimental headquarters based in Hinesville, Ga., the 108th Cavalry Regiment was composed of units from Louisiana and Georgia. In addition to the regimental headquarters, the Georgia component of the 108th consisted of the 1st Squadron, headquartered in Atlanta, Ga. along with a Machine Gun Troop, known as The Governor’s Horse Guards. Troop A, the Georgia Hussars, was based in Savannah with a medical detachment while Troop B, the Liberty Independent Troop, was stationed in Hinesville.

264th Coast Artillery Battalion
The Statesboro-based 264th Coast Artillery Battalion was initially allocated to Georgia in 1930. Headquarters, Medical Detachment and Battery A were based in Statesboro with Battery B in Washington. Brigadier General John Stoddard, the Adjutant General of Georgia had organized Battery B in 1930 and served as its first commander.

Soldiers of the 264th Coast Artillery Medical Detachment in 1939. Top Row:  Private
William D. Franklin, Pvt. I. V. Simmons, Pfc. Gerald D. Groover.  Bottom Row:
Sgt. Albert Green, Pvt. James Deal. Georgia Guard Archives.

A Howitzer of the Atlanta-based 179th Field Artillery Regt.
Georgia Guard Archives.
Pre-War Organizational Changes
While the units of the 30th Division would remain intact, the non-divisional units of the Georgia Guard would face reorganization and the Soldiers of those units would be retrained in different military specialties. On July 1, 1939, the 1st and 2nd Battalions, of the 122nd Infantry Regiment were reorganized and federally recognized as the 179th Field Artillery regiment. The 179th would field 155 mm towed howitzers and would ultimately serve in the European Theater of the war[iii].

The 3rd Battalion of the 122nd Infantry Regiment was combined with the batteries of the 264th Coast Artillery to form the 214th Coast Artillery (antiaircraft).[iv] Instead of going to war as cavalrymen, the Soldiers would serve anti-aircraft guns as their unit was reorganized as the 101st Antiaircraft Automatic Weapons Battalion. The 214th and the 101st would both see active service in the Pacific Theater of the war.

[i] Pictorial Review of the National Guard of the State of Georgia, 1939, inside cover.
[ii] Ga. ARNG Task Organization December 1, 2018
[iii] Pictorial Review of the National Guard of the State of Georgia, 1939, 89.
[iv] Official National Guard Register, War Department, 1939, 66.

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