Friday, July 12, 2024

Purple Heart Hill: Valorous Actions of the Georgia National Guard’s 121st Infantry Regiment in Normandy

By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia National Guard


The 121st distinctive unit crest, map of Normandy, after action report and modern image of Hill 112. Photo by Maj. William Carraway

On July 4, the first Soldiers of the Georgia National Guard’s 121st Infantry Regiment splashed ashore on Utah Beach as part of the 8th Infantry Division.[1] Leaving their landing crafts, the troops marched 22 miles to an assembly area near Montebourg, north of Ste. Mere Eglise. The march was conducted in full combat gear in one of the hottest Julys on record. The march to, and assembly area in Montebourg, afforded the Soldiers their first view of the bocage country which would define their combat conditions for the next several weeks. The bocage consisted of open fields bordered by woodland and tangled natural walls of vegetation, perfect for the design of the defense. For weeks, allied forces had struggled to drive German defenders from behind the natural bulwarks of the bocage.


The 121st Infantry assembly area in the bocage country near Montebourg, France. Photo by Maj William Carraway

From Montebourg, the 121st was dispatched south to La Haye du Puits, where the U.S. VIII Corps was attempting to dislodge German forces and advance out of the swampy lowland terrain. The town stood athwart a crossroads that served as a key route of advance south for the American advance. South of Le Haye du Puits was the town of Lessay near the mouth of the Ay River. Ten kilometers to the east of Lessay lay the town of Periers. Three American divisions, the 79th, 82nd Airborne and 90th, had thus far been unable to effect a penetration of German lines and establish a crossing of the Ay. Arriving on July 8, the 8th Infantry Division was assigned as the main effort of the attack which would strike south from the east of La Haye du Puit and drive between Lessay and Periers.[2]


1942 map showing La Haye du Puits and vicinity.  Hill 112 can been just west of the 22 line below Haventrie au Roux.

The next morning, the 121st assaulted German positions east of La Haye du Puits from the northeast moving out under cover of artillery. With Lt. Col. Burton Morrison’s 2nd Battalion in the lead, the Soldiers advanced approximately 500 yards with 1st Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Robert Jones, following in support. In short order, 1st Battalion began taking fire on their right flank from La Haye du Puits. Withering German machine gun fire raked the 121st while mortar fire and machine gun fire from the front stopped the advance. The 1st Battalion, in the vicinity of Hill 95, found itself in a particularly desperate situation with elements of Company A temporarily isolated. By 5:30 that evening, elements of 3rd Battalion, supported by tank destroyers, were sent in to support 1st Battalion. Meanwhile, Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion were decisively engaged with Company G taking 30 percent casualties. Though outnumbered, the German infantry was well entrenched in strong hedgerow positions with interlocking fields of machine gun fire and mortar coverage.[3]


Mortars of Company E, 121st Infantry Regiment were positioned here in the vicinity Montsenelle-Lithaire July 8, 1944. Photo by Maj. William Carraway

Consolidating under the cover of darkness, the 1st and 2nd Battalions continued to advance through the morning of July 9, gaining another 200 yards of ground. In just one day’s combat, 1st Battalion had lost fifty percent of its combat strength. Nevertheless, the 121st continued its advance through the afternoon with the 3rd Battalion driving forward 500 yards while sustaining heavy casualties. Artillery fire, and flanking fire from the 90th Division supported 3rd Battalion’s advance while enemy counterattacks pummeled 1st and 2nd Battalion. Morrison was killed and command of the 2nd Battalion fell to Maj. James Mallory who was killed in subsequent action. Mallory was succeeded by Lt. Col. Augustine Dugan who was himself wounded in action.[4]

Left: Soldiers of the 121st Infantry Regiment with enemy prisoners outside of a cathedral in La Haye du Puits July 9, 1944. Photo 191505, National Archives
Records Administration. Right:  The same church in 2023. Photo by Maj. William Carraway

While the troops had paid a heavy price for the ground gained, their efforts had not satisfied the expectations of higher command. Blame for the slow progress was placed at the feet of the 8th Division commander whose troops were encountering the enemy for the first time. In short order, the division commander was relieved as were two regimental commanders including Col. Albert Peyton of the 121st. Brigadier General Nelson Walker, assistant commander of the 8th Infantry Division communicated the changes to the 121st command post and helped to reorganize the advance. Departing the CP, Walker was crossing a hedgerow when he was caught by machine gun fire. Medics from 2nd Battalion moved under fire to aid the fallen general despite his insistence that the men not risk themselves. Private Philip Weintraub was hit en route, but Cpl. Alfred Michaud was able to reach the mortally wounded Walker and drag him to safety before returning to evacuate three more Soldiers.


The new regimental commander of the 121st, Col. John Jeter, continued to direct his battalions forward in the face of punishing enemy resistance. [5] Jumping off at 8:00 am, 2nd Battalion reached its initial objective 80 minutes later. The 2nd Battalion, augmented by tank destroyers and supported by 1st Battalion continued the advance with coordinated artillery and mortar fires. The southeast axis of advance by the 2nd Battalion was disrupted by fields of teller mines which stalled the advance.


Minefields encountered by 2nd Battalion 121st infantry Regiment July 10, 1944. Photo by Maj. William Carraway

The 121st consolidated its gains overnight and into the morning hours of July 11. The regiment began moving southeast at 6:00 across the bocage towards a prominence identified on maps as Hill 112, though Soldiers of the regiment would recall it as Purple Heart Hill. Lead elements of 2nd Battalion spotted pill boxes protecting the approach to the hill. As the day wore on, 1st Battalion assumed the advance with 2nd Battalion moving into reserve. Splashing across a creek, the 1st Battalion took fire from German artillery. Jones was killed by shrapnel as his men surged to the base of Hill 112. Assuming command of the battalion, Maj. Joel Hollis of Atlanta directed his troops in the surge over and around Hill 112.

Stream crossed by 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment July 9, 1944, on approach to Purple Heart Hill. Photo by Maj. William Carraway

At 6:15 the morning of July 12, 1st and 3rd Battalion advanced taking position 1,200 yards in front of Hill 112. The regiment had taken the key terrain after five days of intense close-quarter combat. By July 12, the regimental surgeon had reported 402 medical evacuations, which is a staggering number by itself, but does not represent the full account of casualties suffered by the 121st in less than a week on Normandy’s soil. Hollis was wounded by shrapnel on July 12 during the advance from Hill 112 towards Hill 92. He had been in command of 1st Battalion for just over 18 hours when he was evacuated.


Purple Heart Hill in July 2023. Photo by Maj. William Carraway

The ferocity of the action in the vicinity of La Haye du Puits is written in the blood of those who fell. In five days of combat, 26 Georgia National Guard Soldiers were killed in action. The regiment lost five battalion commanders killed or wounded. The action was also replete with individual acts of valor. Michaud and Weintraub were awarded the Silver Star for their efforts to save wounded soldiers, including Brig. Gen. Walker. Captain William McKenna, a native of Macon, Ga. also received the Silver Star for rallying Soldiers of 2nd Battalion and leading them to restore a battle line. In this action, McKenna single handedly destroyed an enemy strongpoint with hand grenades.[6]


Monument honoring Lt. Col. Forgy and the 121st Infantry Regiment.
Photo by Maj. William Carraway

Incredibly, Hill 112 did not mark the end of intense combat for the 121st which continued its advance southeast towards St. Patrice de Claids, suffering an additional 300 casualties July 13 and 14. Casualties continued to mount as the 121st clawed its way to the Ay River. Among the fallen was Major Albert Hudson, commanding 2nd Battalion, who was mortally wounded July 16 and Lt. Col. Percy Forgy who was killed in action July 27, 1944, while leading 3rd Battalion in action near St. Patrice de Claids.


In just over one week of combat, more than 500 of the Soldiers of the 121st who waded ashore on Utah beach had fallen in the approach to Purple Heart Hill. The 121st would fight on, through Brittany to Dinard and Brest along the coast and on the Hurtgen forest, where the regiment would receive the Presidential Unit Citation. Eighty years later, the 121st Infantry Regiment is deployed overseas supporting combat operations in the Central Command area of operations.

[1] The Gray Bonnet: Combat History of the 121st Infantry. Baton Rouge, LA: Army & Navy Publishing Company, 1946, 18.

[2] Martin Blumenson, Breakout and Pursuit, Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, Dept. of the Army, 1961, 124.

[3] The Gray Bonnet: Combat History of the 121st Infantry. Baton Rouge, LA: Army & Navy Publishing Company, 1946, 27.

[4] The Gray Bonnet: Combat History of the 121st Infantry. Baton Rouge, LA: Army & Navy Publishing Company, 1946, 29.

[5] Martin Blumenson, Breakout and Pursuit, Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, Dept. of the Army, 1961, 125.

[6] The Gray Bonnet: Combat History of the 121st Infantry. Baton Rouge, LA: Army & Navy Publishing Company, 1946, 30.

Profiles in Georgia National Guard Leadership: Col. Sheftall Coleman Jr.

 By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard


On July 12, 1958, Major Sheftall Coleman Jr., World War II flying ace and second-generation Georgia Guardsman assumed command of the Georgia Air National Guard’s 158th Fighter Squadron in Savannah, Ga. The son of Col. Sheftall Coleman Sr. who commanded the 118th Field Artillery Regiment in the years leading up to World War II, Coleman Jr. served in two wars and led the 158th through a critical time in its history.

Col. Sheftall Coleman Sr. Commander, 118th FAR.
Early Life and Father’s Service

Sheftall Coleman Jr. was born Feb. 5, 1922 to Sheftall Sr. and Inez Coleman of Savannah. The younger Sheftall grew up with military service as a constant in his life. The elder Coleman, a 1912 graduate of Oglethorpe Business College had enlisted in the Republican Blues, Company M, 1st Georgia Infantry February 24, 1908 and had risen to the rank of sergeant before commissioning as a second lieutenant June 24, 1916.[1] Lieutenant Coleman mobilized with the 1st Georgia to the Mexican Border in 1916 and upon returning in 1917 was promoted to 1st lieutenant. He served stateside through World War I[2] and upon reorganization of the Georgia National Guard field artillery in 1921 was commissioned a captain in Headquarters Company, 1st Field Artillery. Five years later, he was appointed major and placed in command of the 1st Battalion 118th Field Artillery in Savannah. Promotion to lieutenant colonel followed in 1926. After a stint as executive officer of the 118th Field Artillery Regiment, Coleman was promoted to colonel and placed in command of the 118th May 30, 1931 upon the retirement of Col. Walter R. Neal.[3]

The younger Coleman grew up with his father’s military influence in a multi-generational household that included his grandparents Ernest and Elizabeth Mickler. The extended family provided continuity for the Coleman family as Col. Coleman attended to his military duties. Coleman Jr. attended Sacred Heart elementary School and later Benedictine High School. Tragedy struck the Coleman family when Inez died Dec. 29, 1935.

In 1940, on the eve of World War II, the elder Coleman remained in command of the 118th Field Artillery Regiment and was employed as a senior field deputy with the state unemployment office. The younger Coleman, while still in high school, worked as an excavator for the National Park Service.[4]

World War II

On Sept. 16, 1940, Col. Coleman and the 118th FAR were called to active federal service. The younger Coleman completed one year of college before enlisting in the Army Air Corps April 2, 1942. He completed his flying training at Luke Field, Ariz. and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He was mobilized to the European Theater and flew the P-51 Mustang on fighter escort missions and was severely wounded during an engagement in 1944. Lieutenant Coleman received the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions over enemy territory Aug 25, 1944. The award was presented for:

“Outstanding courage and flying skill in vigorously pressing home an attack upon superior numbers of enemy aircraft. In the face of overwhelming odds, he exhibited remarkable calm and aggressive tactical technique and was successful in the destruction of one of the hostile planes while assisting in the dispersal of the remainder.”

In the course of 120 combat missions, Coleman shot down seven enemy aircraft and assisted in the destruction of an eighth. His victories were reaped against ME 109s, FW 190s He 111s and JU 88s. Coleman left active duty at the end of World War II with the rank of major.

Georgia National Guard Service

Maj. Sheftall Coleman Jr. 
In February 1947, Coleman joined the Georgia National Guard’s 158th Fighter Squadron.[5] He served during the Korean War i and returned to Georgia following the conflict. On June 7, 1952, Coleman and his wife Sara welcomed son Michael Eugene Coleman into the world.[6]

In August 1954, Capt. Coleman was one of five pilots of the 158th brought on active duty for stand-by
service at Travis Field in support of American air defense.[7] He remained on active duty through the remainder of 1954.[8]

Major Coleman was alerted for an unscheduled mission in September 1956. While on runway alert duty at Travis Field, Coleman received the order to launch on an intercept mission. A radio control target aircraft had flown out of the range of its controller on the Fort Stewart antiaircraft range. The controller was unable to get the target aircraft to respond and the 350-pound drone continued flying at 230 miles per hour. Coleman received coordinates for the drone after take-off and directed his F-84 Thunderjet on an intercept course. Coleman was prepared to shoot down the drone to prevent it from crashing in a populated area. For more than an hour Coleman shadowed the drone as it flew erratically through the skies before the drone’s parachute opened and it drifted harmlessly to the ground near Odum, southwest of Fort Stewart.[9]

Assuming command of the Savannah-based 158th Fighter Squadron July 12, 1958, Major Coleman guided the squadron through the transition from the F84F Thunderchief to the F-86 Saber Jet. The sun had not yet risen on the first day of 1960 when the 158th was put on alert status and prepared to scramble fighter interceptors at a moment’s notice. The 158th was one of 21 Air National Guard Squadrons across the nation to participate in this readiness exercise which was designed to test the ability of National Guard pilots and aircraft to take to the air in response to the detection of incoming enemy aircraft. Additionally, the alert tested the ability of Air National Guard units to conduct sustained operations against a possible enemy attack.[10]

Maj. Sheftall Coleman Jr. (on ladder) briefs pilots of the 158th Fighter Squadron before a mission in July 1960. Georgia National Guard Archives.

Promoted to lieutenant colonel in September 1960, Coleman led the 158th through another transition as the 165th Fighter Group was redesignated the 165th Air Transport Group April 1, 1962.[11] Coleman witnessed the delivery of the first four-engine C-97 Stratofreighter March 8, 1962 marking a historic change in mission for the 158th which was among the first Air National Guard units in the United States to be issued jet aircraft in 1949. Major Ben Patterson, a future commander of the Ga. Air National Guard, succeeded Coleman in command of the 158th Air Transportation Squadron in 1962. Patterson had previously served as operations officer and flight leader in the 158th.[12]

Major Glenn Herd, commander of the 128th Air Transport Squadron shakes hands with Maj. Sheftall Coleman Jr. after delivering the first C-97 Stratofreighter to Travis Field March 8, 1962.
Georgia National Guard Archives.

Coleman completed training on the multi-engine C-97 en route to logging his 5,000th flight hour. In January 1967, Coleman served as co-pilot on a mission to fly life-saving serum to a Savannah child. The aircraft, piloted by Brig. Gen. Paul Stone, commander of the Ga. Air National Guard, was conducting practice approaches at Bush Field in Augusta when radio traffic informed the crew of the medical emergency in Savannah. The aircraft immediately flew to Charleston Air Force Base to pick up the serum and rush it to Travis Field. The serum was delivered 65 minutes after the radio report was received and the child recovered.[13]

Coleman remained with the 165th Air Transport Group and in May 1967, reported to Tinker Air Force Base for ten weeks of training in C-124 aircraft.[14] The 165th ATG replaced its C-97s with C-124s in July 1967.[15]

Coleman retired from the Georgia Air National Guard in 1971 and was promoted to colonel. He continued to work at his civilian job as safety and security director for Chandler Hospital in Savannah. He died February 21, 2003 at the age of 81.


[1] Official Registry of the National Guard, 1939. (Washington DC: War Department, 1939) 318.


[3] Pictorial Review of the National Guard of the State of Georgia, 1939, 160.


[4], 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Retrieved from

[5] “Biography of Maj. Sheftall Coleman Jr.” Georgia National Guard Archives, NP.


[6] City Directory, Savannah, Ga. 168.


[7] “Savannah’s 158th Ftr. Bmr. Sqdn. Alerted for 14-hr., 7 Day Watch.” The Georgia Guardsman. July August 1954, 6.


[8] “Modern Minutemen of the Air National Guard Maintain Daily Guard of Skies Above Savannah.” The Georgia Guardsman, Nov Dec 1954, 6.


[9] “Travis Air N.G. Pilot tracks RCAT by Jet.” The Georgia Guardsman, Sept Oct 1956, 11.


[10] William Carraway “Sixty Years Ago: The Georgia Air National Guard Enters a New Decade on High Alert.” Georgia National Guard History Jan. 2, 2020,


[11] “165th Gets First Stratofreighter.” The Georgia Guardsman, March April 1962, 6.


[12] “Biography of Brig. Gen. Benjamin L. Patterson.” Georgia National Guard Archives, NP.


[13] “B/G Paul S. Stone, Travis Field Airmen Fly Vital Serum to Save Sav. Child.” The Georgia Guardsman, January 1967, 3.


[14] “School Bells.” The Georgia Guardsman, May-Aug 1967, 15.


[15] The Georgia Air National Guard. 165th Tactical Airlift Group, 1946-1984, 23.

Thursday, July 4, 2024

The Georgia Guard Response to the Flood of 1994

By Maj. William Carraway
Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

ALBANY, Ga., July 7, 1994 - Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers of Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment construct 
a protective sandbag wall around the Palmyra Medical Center in Albany, Ga. following Tropical Storm Alberto. 
Photo by Spc. Mike Carr, 124th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Operation Crested River
In July 1994, the Georgia National Guard conducted its largest natural disaster response in history up to that date. On July 3, 1994, Tropical Storm Alberto began tracking north across Georgia inundating the state with unprecedented rainfall. Twenty-one inches of precipitation was recorded in 24 hours in Americus Georgia. With the ground already saturated from previous rains, Alberto swiftly overloaded streams and rivers with surface runoff. Flooding was widespread from the southwest Georgia counties to Atlanta. 
MONTEZUMA, Ga. July 8, 1994 - Flood waters from the Flint River flooded downtown Montezuma to the rooftops leaving approximately 2,000 residents 
stranded. Georgia Guardsmen with the LaGrange-based Company C, 560th Engineer Battalion repaired bridges so that water and food could be delivered. 
Georgia National Guard photo by Spc. Rob Hainer

By July 6, the rain had washed out roads and dams, and the Georgia National Guard had opened six armories as shelters for people displaced by floodwaters. The next day, the units of the Macon-based 48th Infantry Brigade under the command of Col. William Thielemann began to mobilize. By the end of the July, more than 3,600 Guardsmen had been called to active duty. They came from units ranging from Toccoa to Valdosta and from Savannah to Columbus. They came together with one mission — to help Georgians in need. The response became known as Operation Crested River.[i]

The Infantry Company Executive Officer[ii]
Lieutenant General Thomas Carden, former Adjutant General of the National Guard, was
 Soldiers of Headquarters Company, 
2-121 constructed a sand bag dam to protect
an emergency power generator at an Albany, Ga.
hospital.  Photo by Spc. Mike Carr, 124th MPAD.

a first lieutenant when Alberto struck in 1994. As the executive officer of Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, Carden was responsible for a detachment of Soldiers at the Georgia National Guard armory in Tifton. Following a declaration of a state of emergency by Governor Zell Miller, Carden and his detachment reported for duty.

“We rallied at Cordele and were sent to Albany,” said Carden.
Upon reaching Albany, the 2-121 Soldiers were tasked with building a sand-bag dam for a local hospital.

“Some of the patients were too weak to evacuate,” recalled Carden. “The power was out and the critical patients at the hospital relied on a generator to supply power to ventilators and life support. “If that generator went out those people would not have survived.”

Thanks to backbreaking effort, the dam constructed by the Soldiers of 2nd Battalion held, and the patients were saved.

The Army Veteran on His First Guard Response Mission[iii]
Retired State Command Sergeant Major Phillip Stringfield was also assigned to 2-121 during Crested River. Having recently transferred into the Georgia Army National Guard from the 82nd Airborne Division, Stringfield was on his first disaster response mission.

“It was my first call out as a Guardsman for state activation,” said Stringfield “It was a unique experience because I will always remember how the service members, whose homes were destroyed, reported for duty. That was so amazing to me, and that will always remain in my mind as an example of the true character of our service members and what we do in this organization.”

Despite the passing of time, Stringfield still vividly recalled details of the flood response.

“I remember driving through Albany and feeling amazed at the destruction of all those buildings,” said Stringfield. “The cries for help from the people in the area were devastating.”

Stringfield was among the first Guardsmen to reach Albany. With 24,000 evacuees in the area, large public facilities were converted into temporary living quarters for displaced families.

“I was assigned to a shelter that I worked at during the day,” Stringfield said. “We provided security and brought hot meals for citizens who had been displaced. Once the permanent housing became available, we transported them there.”

With trucks and tactical vehicles capable of negotiating damaged and debris-strewn roads, transportation became a key component of the Georgia National Guard response. In areas such as Leesburg that were completely cut off by flood waters, Georgia Guard helicopters delivered relief supplies and transported residents and medical personnel.[iv]

A UH-1 Iroquois of the Marietta-based 148th Medical Company delivers relief
supplies through southwest Georgia following Tropical Storm Alberto.
“We also transported doctors and first responders who couldn’t get to their jobs because of the flood,” noted Stringfield of operations in Dougherty County.

The Engineer[v]
Retired Lt. Col. Matthew Shannon was a captain with the Statesboro-based 648th Engineer Battalion (now the 177th Brigade Engineer Battalion of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team). Working as the battalion's assistant operations officer, Shannon relayed assignments from the 48th Brigade to subordinate units.

“(The operations center was) located on a college campus and we were tasked to assist local police,” Shannon said. “Part of the mission was recovering bodies that had come up through the graves because of the flood.”

Shannon described how the Soldiers of his unit recovered bodies dating back to the Civil War while also ensuring artifacts were recovered.

“I remember them saying they recovered a lot of sabers, other weapons and artifacts from the Civil War,” he said. “They would then take everything to a central location for graves registration. Their goal was to try to put as much back together for re-burial.”

Shannon recalled how strange it was to have so much flooding in the south when much of the rain had fallen in the north of the state.

“It was such an oddity because there was a lot of sun and a lot of water,” he said. “It’s not something you would have expected to see.”

Engineers of the Georgia National Guard assess roads in southwest Georgia
following Tropical Storm Alberto.

Engineer units of the Georgia National Guard were pressed into service surveying damage and repairing roads. Soldiers of the Columbus-based 560th Engineer Battalion worked around the clock to construct a berm around an ammonia tank in Bainbridge. Had flood waters breached the berm the entire town would have had to evacuate.[vi]

By July 18, command and control of response operations shifted from the 48th Infantry Brigade to the 265th Engineer Group. Throughout their portion of the response, the Soldiers of the 48th Brigade operated more than 500 vehicles filled nearly 55,000 sandbags and transported more than 400,000 of drinking water.

The Operations Sergeant Major[vii]
The Georgia Guard coordinated the statewide response from the tactical operation center in Atlanta. Retired Sgt. Major Jacqueline McKennie was assigned to the TOC Emergency Operations Center during the flood relief.

“The EOC was the central command and control facility over all of the National Guard units—both Air Guard and Army Guard—throughout the state of Georgia,” said McKennie.

McKennie was responsible for personnel control. She assisted with the mobilization of units and made sure the units knew where they were supposed to go while maintaining accountability for personnel. Once the units were dispatched, the EOC handled the command and control for each of them.
A Soldier with the Georgia Army National Guard's Decatur-based 170th Military
Police Battalion provides directions to citizens following Tropical Storm Alberto.
From July 6 to August 5, a myriad of units with specialized equipment and capabilities were dispatched across the state. The Decatur-based 170th Military Police Battalion augmented law enforcement in impacted areas. Airmen of the Georgia Air National Guard’s
A Georgia Air National Guard Airman of the
116th CES monitors water filtration
at Lake Tobesofkee in Macon.
116th Civil Engineer Squadron were dispatched to Macon after the city’s drinking water source was overwhelmed. The 116th conducted water purification operations with the assistance of 20 Alabama National Guard Soldiers of the 1,200th Quartermaster Company as well as the Fort Stewart-based 559th Quartermaster Battalion.[viii] The massive purification and distribution mission resulted in the production of nearly five million gallons of drinking water for Bibb County residents.[ix]

“It was kind of hectic at first, because the flood hit so hard and so fast that it caused so much death and destruction,” said McKennie. “But things eventually returned to normal once we got people into place where help was needed.”

The Aftermath
Flooding from Tropical Storm Alberto claimed 30 lives in Georgia[x]. The ages of the victims ranged from 2 to 84 years old. The storm forced more than 35,000 citizens from their homes and caused more than $203 million in infrastructure damage. The Georgia National Guard responded by mobilizing nearly 3,700 Guardsmen - nearly one third of the state’s force. In the weeks that followed, These Guardsmen, in partnership with first responders and civil authorities from impacted counties, distributed more than 10.2 million gallons of water, served 154,000 meals and repaired hundreds of miles of damaged road.[xi] For those who served, the memory of the response remains, and the lessons learned have been applied to ensure that the Guard remains ready to respond.

In the years following the flood of 1994, the Georgia National Guard has honed its ability to respond to natural disasters. From Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to Hurricanes Matthew, Irma and Michael of recent memory, the Georgia National Guard has responded and partnered with state and local agencies to assist Georgia’s citizens in times of emergencies and to minimize the impacts of natural disasters. For those who participated in the response in 1994, the memory of Operation Crested River remains fresh.

“It does not seem like it was so long ago,” said Carden. “Helping our fellow citizens is one of the most rewarding things we do in the National Guard.”[xii]

[i] “The Georgia Guard Response: Our Communities Under Water." The Georgia Guardsman Magazine, September 1994, 4.
[ii] "Interview with Col. Thomas Carden." Interview by author. May 19, 2014.
[iii] "Interview with Command Sgt. Major Phillip Stringfield." Interview by author. May 20, 2014.
[v] "Interview with Matthew Shannon." Interview by author. May 11, 2014.
[vi] Operation Crested River. Produced by James Driscoll and the124th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
[vii] "Interview with Jacquelin McKinnie." Interview by author. May 22, 2014.
[viii] The Georgia Guardsman Magazine, 8-9.
[ix] Georgia Department of Defense Annual Report 1994. Marietta, GA: 1994, 19.
[x] "Flood-Related Mortality -- Georgia, July 4-14, 1994." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed July 02, 2019.
[xi] The Georgia Guardsman Magazine, 24.
[xii] "Interview with Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden." Interview by author. July 3, 2019.