Wednesday, February 26, 2020

February 1942: Georgia Guard Soldiers Sail for the Pacific

By Maj. William Carraway
Historian, Ga. Army National Guard

The Savannah-based Battery A, 101st Separate Battalion Coast Artillery (Antiaircraft), formerly Troop A, 108th Cavalry at Camp Stewart June 10, 1941. Georgia Guard Archives.

At 12:30 on the afternoon of Feb. 18, 1942, The Queen Mary weighed anchor and sailed out of Boston Harbor accompanied by a constellation of destroyers and a fighter plane escort. The sky was clear and the seas calm as the former luxury passenger liner turned troop transport passed the anti-submarine nets that protected the harbor. Where once her decks were adorned with passengers enjoying the sea air, now they bristled with anti-aircraft guns. Manning the guns on that voyage of the Queen Mary were the Soldiers of the Georgia Army National Guard’s 101st Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion. Eighteen months earlier, these Soldiers were members of the historic 108th Cavalry Regiment. But this day, they were bound for action in the South Pacific to defend Allied forces from air attack.[1]

From Cavalry to Coast Artillery

The unit insignia of the 108th Cavalry and 101st AAA. Georgia Archives.
In September 1940, the Hinesville-based 108th Cavalry Regiment returned to Georgia with the 30th Division following the 3rd Army Maneuvers in Louisiana. The cavalrymen, proud heirs to the heritage of the Georgia Hussars of Savannah, Hinesville’s Liberty Independent Troop and the Governor’s Horse Guards of Atlanta had grown accustomed to the hard duty required of life in the saddle. Whether enduring 12 to 18-hour missions in the saddle before breakfast or freezing in a pre-dawn screening operation, the Soldiers of the 108th were fiercely proud of their history and yearned to add another page to the book of past glories written by their forefathers.

On the eve of war, the 108th Cavalry was commanded by Col. Joseph Fraser of Hinesville, Ga. The headquarters staff of the 108th was split between Georgia and Louisiana with the regimental headquarters located in Hinesville. The headquarters of the 108th was formed July 16, 1916 as Headquarters, 2nd Squadron of Cavalry. The unit was mobilized to the Mexican Border in 1916 and remained in federal service until redesignated as the 106th Train and Headquarters and Military Police Company of the 31st Division October 23, 1917. Following World War I, the unit was reorganized as Headquarters, 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry.[2]

The Machine Gun Troop of the 108th Cavalry, the Governor’s Horse Guards, was organized March 31, 1883. It’s first captain was John Milledge who had served in the Civil War. [3]

Troop A of the 108th Cavalry descended from the Georgia Hussars, which was organized February 13, 1736 by General James Oglethorpe, Governor of Georgia.[4] The Hussars served as Company A, 5th Georgia Cavalry during the American Civil War and surrendered with Gen. Joseph Johnston at Greensboro, N.C. April 26, 1865.[5]

The Liberty Independent Troop which constituted Company B, 108th Cavalry, was organized September 12, 1786. During the American Civil War, the troop served as Troop G, 5th Regiment, Georgia Cavalry.[6]

On Oct. 15, 1940, the Soldiers of the 108th learned that they would not mobilize for war as cavalrymen but would instead guard the skies from enemy aircraft. The 108th was converted to form the 101st Separate Coast Artillery Battalion, Antiaircraft. The unit entered active federal service Feb. 10, 1941 and reported to Camp Stewart for initial training. In addition to the Hussars, Independent Troop and Horse Guards that constituted Batteries A, B and C, the battalion organized Battery D in Bainbridge, Ga.

By June, the 101st had completed the 13-week mobilization program which consisted of maneuvers, inspections and classroom instructions. At Fernandina, Fla., the Soldiers trained on AA-mounted .30 machine guns. Gas filled balloons, released over the ocean, provided targets for the men to practice gunnery. The men also honed their skills on the 37 mm antiaircraft gun and learned how to place it in direct-fire mode to serve as an anti-mechanized gun.[7]

Before the sun rose on September 20, the 101st was on the road from Camp Stewart bound for the Carolina Maneuvers. Reaching Augusta, Ga. by 4:00 that afternoon, the men set up a camp at the fairgrounds. The Guardsmen received passes to go to the town for a welcome break from the military training. Those who stayed out late likely didn’t get less sleep than those who remained in the camp where temperatures plunged. The grumbling that accompanied the 4:00 a.m. reveille was soon slaked by gallons of hot, black coffee that took the edge of the night’s chill. The convoy moved out after chow and, late in the afternoon of September 21, the Soldiers reached their permanent camp near Chester, S.C. In contrast to the previous night spent shivering in hastily erected tents, the Soldiers passed a comfortable night on straw filled mattresses. It would be the last good night’s sleep for most as the field problems began in earnest and continued for the next seven weeks. The highlight of the maneuvers for the 101st occurred in late October, when as part of the advance element of Brig. Gen. George Patton’s 1st Armored Division, the men of the 101st captured a convoy of the enemy red troops that included a regimental commander and staff and more than 100 infantrymen.

As the Carolina Maneuvers continued, the 101st gained experience in communication and coordination that would serve them well in the years to come. They had maneuvered their 37 mm antiaircraft guns, or in many cases, wood substitutes which they nicknamed “woodimeters” and listened eagerly to intelligence reports about the progress of the war in Europe and the Pacific.
Georgia Guardsmen man a 37 mm anti-tank gun in 1941. Georgia Guard Archives.

The maneuvers wrapped up the last day of November, and by Dec. 2, 1941, the men of the 101st had returned to Camp Stewart. For the next several days, the Ga. Guard Soldiers cleaned and inventoried equipment with lightning speed in anticipation of weekend passes. Liberty was granted at noon Dec. 6, 1941. The attack on Pearl Harbor brough a premature end to the weekend passes. Men streamed back to Camp Stewart which was on high alert. The days passed at a rapid pace. On February 1, the Soldiers of the 101st loaded their equipment onto trains bound for an unknown destination.[8]

Departing Camp Stewart, the train stopped briefly in Savannah where the men of the 101st had one last view of the city that had been the home of the Georgia Hussars. Many wondered when or if they would see it again.

The next day, the train stopped, and the men detrained into the frigid air of Camp Dix, N.J. That night, the men huddled in freezing tents as the temperature plunged below zero and the meager camp stoves shed little heat. The misery of that cold night gave way to early morning calisthenics, the men breathing geysers of steam into the frozen air as frost clung to their uniforms. Every morning would begin with exercises and be followed variously by bayonet and rifle drill. [9]

Within two weeks of arriving at Fort Dix, the men had received their new M-1 Garand Rifles that replaced their 1903 Springfields. Against a cold rainy backdrop, the men received their mobilization orders February 16. The Soldiers were hustled into coaches and driven out into the dark night; their destination unknown. The dawn light of February 17 was greeted by a thick fog that obscured the landscape as the 101st approached the port of Boston. The men spent the rest of the 17th loading equipment and personnel for a February 18 departure. As the Queen Mary steamed out of Boston Harbor, few of the men knew their ultimate destination, and none could have foretold the events that would add luster to the history of the famed 108th Cavalry.[10]

The 101st AAA sailed from Boston on the Queen Mary Feb. 18, 1942. In this 1945 image,
the Queen Mary delivers U.S. Troops to New York Harbor. US Navy Photo 80-GK-5645

[1] Henderson, Lindsey P. Come What Will: A Military History of the 101st AAA Automatic Weapons Battalion, 15 October 1940 to VJ Day 1945. Berlin: U.S. Army, 1966,13
[2] General Order No. 4 June 6, 1924
[3] Pictorial Review of the National Guard of the State of Georgia, 1939,199
[4] Ibid, 203
[5] Ibid
[6] Ibid, 207
[7] Henderson, 6
[8] Henderson, 11
[9] Henderson, 12
[10] Henderson, 13

Thursday, February 20, 2020

50 Years Ago This Month: Two Missing Canton, Ga. Girls Saved by Local Guard Soldiers

On Feb. 17, 1970, Georgia Army National Guard Specialist 4 Jerry Wood, 1st Sgt. Leland Bell and Gene Padgett located two girls who had been missing for three days in Canton, Ga. The Soldiers were from the Canton-based Company A, 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment. Georgia Guard Archives.

By Maj. William Carraway
Historian, Ga. Army National Guard

On February 15, 1970 two girls aged 2 and 3 wandered away from their homes in Canton, Ga. and became lost in nearby woods. After more than 40 hours missing, the girls were located by two Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers of the home-town Guard unit.[1]

Upon receiving the report of the missing children, the Georgia Department of Defense’s Civil Defense Division, forerunner of today’s Georgia Emergency Management Division, partnered with Cherokee County authorities to coordinate the efforts of hundreds of volunteer searchers who methodically combed the designated search area.[2] While no Georgia National Guard personnel were called to active duty for search operations, members of Canton’s Company A, 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment volunteered to assist the search effort. Additional support came from the Atlanta-based Organizational Maintenance Shop which delivered eight radio-equipped jeeps and additional personnel.
Members of the Ga. Army National Guard's Company A, 121st Infantry Regiment who assisted in the search for two missing girls in their hometown of Canton, Ga. Feb 15 to 17, 1970. Canton resident Gene Padgett (second from right) along with Guardsmen Specialist 4 Jerry Wood and 1st Sgt. Leland Jones found the missing girls. Georgia Guard Archives
The Guard search effort was led by 1st Lt. Carroll Edge and 1st Sgt. Leland Bell. On February 17, Bell, Specialist 4 Jerry Wood and local resident Gene Padgett were searching a dense area of woods outside the designated search area. The men had left their jeep and were moving through the dense understory on foot. It was the third day the children had been missing and the nights had been rainy with temperatures dipping into the low 40s. Bell and his team had been assigned to search beyond a stream that bordered the search area. Initially, the authorities believed the stream would act as a barrier and that the children would not be able to cross. The men were justifiably surprised when they spotted the girls who had indeed crossed the stream. The mud-spattered girls were tired, hungry and cold, but otherwise in remarkably good health.

The Georgia Guard effort did not stop with the end of the search. The Canton Armory became the staging ground of a community effort to help the families. North Georgia residents donated food, clothing and furniture. Soon the Canton Armory was full of bedding, clothing and other gifts intended for North Georgia families in need.

On February 25, Georgia’s Governor and First Lady visited the girls and contributed $200 to funds solicited by Edge through his membership in the Canton Jaycee. Governor Maddox publicly commended Bell, Wood and Padgett and praised the efforts of searchers and rescue organizations that came together for in a search effort that captivated North Georgia.[3]

Today, Canton is home to Troop B, 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry. Soldiers of the Canton unit recently returned from Afghanistan, part of their fourth overseas combat deployment since September 11, 2001.

[2] Georgia Department of Defense Annual Report 1981, 3.
[3] "Gov. Maddox Visits Lost Girls’ Families.” The Georgia Guardsman Magazine, March, 1970, 9.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Georgia National Guard Soldier Wins at Daytona

By Maj. William Carraway
Historian, Georgia Army National Guard
Captain Harold Kite poses with his 1949 Lincoln and victory trophy from the 1950 Daytona stock car race. Georgia National Guard archives.

The Daytona 500, held annually in Daytona Beach, Fla., heralds the start of the NASCAR Cup Series. In 1950, nearly a decade before the construction of the Daytona International Speedway, the Daytona race course consisted of a 4.2 mile loop of road and beach. The combination of road and sandy terrain was challenging to even the most experienced drivers. Nevertheless, Capt. Harold Kite of the Georgia Army National Guard not only won the race in 1950, he set a speed record in the process.

Kite was born in East Point, Ga. Nov. 21, 1921. After graduating from Atlanta’s Commercial High School in 1939 he went to work as a clerk for the U.S. Army at Fort McPherson. Kite enlisted in the U.S. Army June 10, 1942 and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant January 23 the following year. Assigned to the 1st Armored Division, he was wounded in action during the beach landings near Anzio, Italy in January 1944. Returning to duty, he continued to serve in the Italian campaign. He was promoted to 1st lieutenant Oct. 7, 1944.[1] Discharged as a captain in 1946, Kite joined the Ga. National Guard in May 1947 as a 1st lieutenant and executive officer of the newly formed 201st Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company. He took command of the 201st and was promoted to captain in November 1948.[2]

Kite began racing on Atlanta tracks near the armory of the 201st. In 1948 and 1949 he competed in the modified division raced held on the beach in Daytona.[3]
Kite entered the 1950 Daytona stock car race with a 1949 Lincoln. The field included more than 40 cars from 14 different states driven by racing legends such as the Flock Brothers, Ed “Fireball” Roberts and Bob “Red” Byron who won the Daytona race the previous year.[4] Nearly 10,000 spectators lined the roads and sand dunes to watch the race unfold over 48 laps and 200 miles. Kite took an early lead roaring to the head of the pack with Byron close behind. Hitting a patch of soft sand 14 laps into the race, Kite’s Lincoln skidded briefly but it was enough for Byron to take advantage and capture the lead. Byron led the race for ten laps before pitting due to transmission trouble.[5]

Byron’s engine misfortune allowed Kite to retake and hold the lead for the rest of the race. He took the checkered flag in a record time of 2 hours 26 minutes and 30 seconds for an average speed of 81.75 miles per hour. Kite finished nearly one minute ahead of Byron who captured second place. Incredibly, Byron’s brakes failed early in the running and he finished 175 miles of the race using only the emergency brakes to slow his car in the turns.

Zack Mosley, creator of the cartoon strip Smilin’ Jack, presented Kite with the victory trophy. For his efforts, Kite also received $1,500 in prize money.
Kite remained in the Georgia National Guard for a decade after his win at Daytona. In 1965, after a nine-year hiatus from Cup racing, Kite entered the National 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway Oct. 17, 1965. On the second lap, Kite was seriously injured in a multi-car wreck. Medical personnel rushed to his aid, but he died of his injuries. He was 43 years old.

In 2011, Kite was inducted into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.

[1] Secretary of the U.S. Army. Official National Guard Register, Army. January 1, 1953. National Guard Bureau, Washington D.C, 602
[2] The Georgia Guardsman Magazine. Capt. Harold Kite Sets Speed Record. Feb. 1950, 6.
[3] Georgia Racing Hall of Fame “Harold Kite” Retrieved January 31, 2020 from
[4] Daytona Beach Morning Journal. Former Tank Driver Wins 200 Mile Race at 81.75 mph. Feb. 6, 1950.
[5] Ibid.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Georgia Guard in Rome

By Maj. William Carraway
Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

On February 3, 2012, the Georgia Army National Guard’s 1160th Transportation Company was federally recognized in Rome Georgia. The 1160th, which continues in service today, is just the latest unit of Citizen Soldiers to be welcomed by the Rome community. 

A squad Citizen Soldiers of the Rome-based Company E, 122nd Infantry Regiment secure a key intersection during training in Floyd County, Ga. 
in April 1950. Georgia Guard Archives.

The American Civil War and the Rome Light Guards

The Wheatfield at Gettysburg, The Rome Light Guards moved
across this field on July 2, 1863. Photo by Maj. William Carraway
In June 1861, the Rome Light Guards assembled as Company A, 8th Georgia Volunteer Infantry, commanded by Col. Francis Bartow.[1] This regiment fought at the First Battle of Bull Run where Bartow, then a brigade commander was killed. Bartow County is named in his honor. Bartow’s regiment soldiered on with the Army of Northern Virginia and was engaged in the storied battles of the eastern theater of the American Civil War. The 8th fought in the Seven Days, 2nd Manassas, Fredericksburg, Antietam and the Wheatfield at Gettysburg where the regiment suffered fifty percent casualties.[2] The 8th ended its Confederate service with the surrender at Appomattox Court House.[3] Out of more than 100 men who joined the Rome Light Guards only 11 remained when the 8th Georgia surrendered at Appomattox.[4]

The Rome Light Guards were mustered back into state service June 17, 1872. The company served in the Georgia State Troops until disbanded in 1903.[5]

The Hill City Cadets and Phillip G. Byrd

Brig. Gen. Phillip G. Byrd. Georgia Guard Archives
The Hill City Cadets were organized Sept. 23, 1879 and served in the Georgia State Troops until 1907.[6] On June 8, 1891, Phillip G. Byrd became captain of the Cadets. A Rome resident, Byrd had enlisted in the Rome Light Guards upon graduating from the University of North Georgia in 1879. He served as captain of the Cadets for three years during which time he also served as editor of the Hustler of Rome, which he billed as “the only afternoon paper between Atlanta and Chattanooga.”[7]

On December 4, 1894, Byrd was appointed aide de camp to the governor of Georgia with the rank of lieutenant colonel.[8] Due to the declining health of Georgia’s adjutant general, Brig. Gen. John McIntosh Kell, Byrd was appointed assistant adjutant general Jan. 1, 1899 with the rank of colonel. Byrd served as the acting adjutant general until the death of Brig. Gen. Kell Oct. 5, 1900. General Order No. 19 issued by Governor Allen D. Candler appointed Byrd Adjutant General of the Georgia State Troops Oct. 11, 1900. Byrd’s official term as adjutant general was short lived as Governor Candler appointed James W. Robertson to succeed him Nov. 11, 1900. Byrd reverted to his previous position and rank as assistant adjutant general.

World War I

While the Georgia Guard did not have a unit stationed in Rome during World War I, Floyd County citizens still entered the ranks of Georgia Guard units. Two of them paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Private Giles Parsons and Pvt. Lonzo Stager of Rome, Ga. Georgia Guard Archives.
Giles Parsons of Rome was inducted into Company F, 328th Infantry Regiment Sept. 20, 1917 at the age of 25. He was transferred to the Georgia National Guard’s Company G, 122nd Infantry Regiment Oct. 14, 1917 and remained with the 122nd until June 1918 when he began his transfer to Company B, 9th Infantry Regiment. He fought at St. Mihiel, Blanc Monte and the Argonne. He was killed in action at Beaumont, France Nov. 4, 1918.

Lonzo L. Stager of Rome enlisted in Company, F 325th Infantry Regiment Oct. 1, 1917 and transferred to the Georgia National Guard’s Company F, 122nd Infantry Regiment Oct. 14, 1917. In June 1918, McGinnis transferred from the 122nd and was ultimately assigned to Company B, 102nd Infantry Regiment. He was killed in action in France July 22, 1918 at the age of 22.

Post WWII Reorganization and Return to Rome

The Georgia Guard was reorganized following World War II. The reorganization established the 48th Infantry Division, which was comprised of units from Georgia and Florida. On May 8, 1947, the 122nd Infantry Regiment was organized and assigned to the 48th.[9] The 122nd was comprised of companies in sixteen north Georgia communities. Company E of the 122nd was assigned to Rome.

1955-2010: The Era of Armor and Cavalry

In 1955, the 48th Infantry Division was reorganized as an armor division. This unit reorganized in 1955 as Company A, 163rd Tank Battalion beginning a long association with armor forces in Rome.

In 1990, the Georgia Army National Guard’s 48th Brigade was activated in anticipation of service during Desert Storm. Rome’s Company A, 108th Armor Regiment mobilized and trained at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. but the war ended before the brigade mobilized overseas.
Company A, 108th Armor in 1991. Georgia Guard Archives.

In 2005, Rome’s Guard unit was again mobilized, this time in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit completed combat missions in and around Baghdad before returning to the United States in 2006. In 2008, the 108th Armor converted to the 108th Cavalry. Troop A, 108th remained in Rome.

The 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team was mobilized for service in Afghanistan in 2009 and Floyd County’s Citizen Soldiers were again called to serve in overseas combat operations. Two of them would pay the ultimate sacrifice.
Specialist Isaac Johnson and Sgt. Jeffrey Jordan. Georgia Guard Archives
Sergeant Jeffrey Jordan enlisted in the Georgia Army National Guard in 2006. He left his job with the Floyd County Prison to mobilize with the 48th IBCT. He was killed in action June 4, 2009 during combat operations in Kapisa, Afghanistan. The Sgt. Jeffrey W. Jordan GED Plus Complex at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, Ark. was dedicated in his memory in 2010.

Isaac Lee Johnson enlisted in the Georgia Army National Guard in 2005 in the Rome-based Troop A, 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry. On July 6, 2009, Johnson was killed in action in Kunduz, Afghanistan. He was 24.

Upon its return from Afghanistan, Troop A, 108th Cavalry relocated to Cedartown, Ga. Subsequently, the 1160th Transportation Company was assigned to Rome. Since that time, the 1160th has responded to state emergencies prompted by winter storms and hurricanes. Today, the 1160th continues the long connection between Floyd County, Rome, and the National Guard.


[1] 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. (192 Sequoia Dr., N.E., Marietta, GA 30060-7214): T.E. Lyle, L.O. Blair, D.S. Lyle, 1999, 92.
[2] Wilkinson, Warren, and Steven E. Woodworth. A Scythe of Fire: a Civil War Story of the Eighth Georgia Infantry Regiment. New York: Perennial, 2003, 253.
[3] Sifakis, Stewart. Compendium of the Confederate Armies: South Carolina and Georgia. New York, NY: Facts on File, Pub., 1995.
[4] Southern Historical Society Papers Volume XV Paroles of the Army of Northern Virginia. Richmond, VA: The Society, 1887, 97.
[5] The Adjutant General, State of Georgia. Official Register of the National Guard of Georgia for 1916. 1916, 82.
[6] Ibid, 80.
[7] Georgia National Guard Archives. Hill City Cadets file: Correspondence of Phill G. Byrd. May 1, 1893.
[8] The Adjutant General, State of Georgia. Report of the Adjutant General of Georgia, 1900., 62
[9] The Georgia Guardsman. The 48th Infantry Division: a condensed history of the Georgia-Florida organization. May 1950, 3.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The Georgia Guard Fields the OV-1 Mohawk

By Maj. William Carraway
Historian, Georgia Army National Guard
An OV-1 Mohawk piloted by Capt. K. B. Pearce makes its first flight from Winder Airport. Georgia Guard Archives

Aviation units of the Georgia Army National Guard first received the OV-1 Mohawk Aircraft Feb. 2, 1970.[1] The first two Mohawks to arrive were flown from the Grumman Aircraft Company in Stuart Florida to the headquarters of the 151st Aviation Battalion in Winder by Capt. John Towler and Capt. K. B. Pearce. The 151st was the first National Guard aviation unit to field the Mohawk. In addition to the 158th and 159th Aviation Companies which flew the OV-1 Mohawk, the 151st consisted of the 1140th Transportation Company. In 1970, the 151st had an aggregate strength of 762 Soldiers.

A CH-54 Skycrane of the 1160th Trans Co. lifts an
OV-1 Mohawk from Winder to the Ga. State 
Fairgrounds in 1977.
The OV1 Mohawk was a sophisticated two-seat reconnaissance aircraft capable of detecting enemy forces with infra-red and side-looking airborne radar (SLAR) technology. The twin turboprop aircraft had been used to monitoring the demilitarized zone in Korea and for reconnaissance efforts in Vietnam to provide surveillance for ground units irrespective or weather conditions.

Aviators of the 151st and its subordinate units, the 158th and 159th Aviation Companies, completed initial training on the OV-1 airframe in the summer of 1969 during annual training at Fort Lewis. An additional ten weeks of transition training was required for pilots to qualify on the Mohawk. This training included seven weeks at Fort Rucker, Ala. followed by three weeks at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

The 151st conducted their first operational training June 27 to July 11, 1970 at Savannah Municipal Airport where the unit flew more than 80 missions.[2] Six Mohawk crews flew more than 130 hours in day and nighttime conditions. In addition to the skills developed by the aircraft pilots and technical observers, the unit’s photograph technicians and imagery observers were provided with a steady stream of imagery for analysis.

[1] The Georgia Guardsman Magazine. Now it’s Mohawk Country. Jan-Mar 1970, 2
[2] The Georgia Guardsman Magazine. 80 Mohawk Missions Flown from Savannah.  July to September 1970, 8

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