Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Pearl Harbor and the Impact on the Georgia National Guard

 By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

 

December 7, 1941 edition of the Sunday Times of Jacksonville, Fla. announcing the attack on Pearl Harbor with unit insignia of the Ga. National Guard
that had been called to active service as well as the Georgia State Guard.  


The morning of Dec 7, 1941promised to be a routine off-duty day for the 5,200 Georgia National Guard Soldiers in federal service across the country. The vast majority of these service members had entered federal service Sept 16, 1940[1] and, following a week’s preparation at home station, mobilized to camps of instruction. Units of the 30th Division had arrived at Camp Jackson in several waves beginning with the Springfield-based 30th MP Company and Atlanta’s Company H, 105th Medical Regiment on September 20. The 121st Infantry Regiment would follow on September 23 and the 118th Field Artillery would join them September 25. At the time, no one knew how long the Soldiers would be gone. Orders were for one year, but with the situation growing grimmer in Europe one year seemed optimistic. In the end, the majority would spend the next five years in active service.


 “The government mobilized the National Guards before Pearl Harbor. We knew that the war was coming, and we knew…everybody knew that the United States would be involved in it before it was over.” - Sgt. Corbett Ward Clark, Battery E, 179th Field Artillery, Georgia National Guard.


By December 1941, Georgia’s Citizen Soldiers and Airmen had progressed beyond initial instruction and had completed field maneuvers in Tennessee and South Carolina. Georgia National Guard Soldiers of the 101st Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion, formerly the 108th Cavalry Regiment, returned from the Carolina Maneuvers December 2 and worked diligently recovering equipment and conducting final inventories in hopes of receiving a weekend pass – their first of several months. On the afternoon of Dec 6, their commander, Col. Joseph Fraser addressed the men, thanking them for their efforts in Carolina and then released the formation on what was supposed to be a long weekend home with family. Only a charge of quarters and kitchen detail remained in each battery area of Camp Stewart. One member of CQ, less than 48 miles from home, begrudgingly mused, “It’d be funny as hell if we really went to war tomorrow and those birds lost a few hours leave, wouldn’t it?” [2]

 

Battery A, 101st Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion at Camp Stewart six months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Prior to October 1940
this unit had served as Troop A, 108th Cavalry - The Georgia Hussars. Georgia National Guard Archives.

Less than 24 hours later, wire reports of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor prompted the recall of all personnel on leave and installations across the country were placed on high alert. Over the next four years, Georgia’s Citizen Soldiers would serve through Europe and the Pacific. The 101st AAA AWB would be the first Georgia National Guard mobilized overseas and was the first American combat unit to arrive at Port Moresby, New Guinea in May 1942.[3] Through the remainder of the year, the 101st defended the skies over five airdromes ensuring Allied victory in New Guinea. For its gallant conduct, the 101st was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.[4]

 

Summary of unit actions for the 214th Coast Artillery Regiment Jan. 16, 1943.  Georgia National Guard Archives.

Also serving in the Pacific Theater, the 214th Coast Artillery was assigned to protect Henderson Field on Guadalcanal.[5] Seven Georgia National Guard battalions would wade ashore on Normandy’s Beaches in 1944 and fight east helping to secure victory against Germany. Meanwhile, the 128th Observation Squadron was organized in Atlanta in 1941 and mobilized to provide anti-submarine defense over the Atlantic Ocean.

 

While many of Georgia’s Guardsmen would continue to serve in federalized units of the National Guard, others would volunteer Airborne service and give their lives in Sicily, France and the Netherlands. Still others joined the Air Corps flying combat missions in in all theaters of the war. Of the 5,200 of Georgia’s Citizen Soldiers who were mobilized Dec. 7, 1941, nearly 200 never came home.


More than seventy Georgia National Guard company-sized units served in World War II. Three of these units are profiled below:


Georgia National Guard Soldiers of Battery F, 179th FAR at Camp Blanding in 1941. Georgia National Guard Archives.


On Dec. 7, 1941, Georgia National Guard Soldiers of the Atlanta-based Battery F, 179th Field Artillery Regiment were training at Camp Blanding, Fla. when Pearl Harbor was attacked. In 1942, the 179th FAR was reorganized as the 179th and 945th FA Battalions with Battery F becoming Battery C, 945th FA. Both battalions served in the European Theater. Five Soldiers of Battery F, 179th FAR were killed in action in the course of the war. Battery F, 179th FAR continues in service today as the 116th Army Band, a unit of the 78th Troop Command.

 

April 1941 - Soldiers of Company A, 121st Infantry Regiment at Fort Jackson, S.C. Georgia National Guard Archives. 

Company A, 121st Infantry Regiment landed on Utah Beach July 4, 1944. Battling across Northern France into Germany ten Georgia National Guard Soldiers of Company A were killed in action in the course of the war. The 121st Infantry Regiment continues to serve as part of the Macon-based 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. 


Members of the 128th Observation Squadron Sept. 8, 1941.


Activated in May 1941 in Atlanta, the 128th Observation Squadron trained at Lawson Field before Pearl Harbor. The following year, the 128th mobilized to the Atlantic Coast and began antisubmarine operations. It ended the war flying B-17 bombers as the 840th Bombardment Squadron in Europe. Nine Citizen Soldiers of the 128th OS were killed during the war. The unit continues to serve in the 116th Air Control Wing, Georgia Air National Guard.




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