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National Guard in the Great War

As the result of raids by Pancho Villa on Columbus, NM, and two Texas towns in 1916, President Wilson called the National Guard into service to patrol the Mexican-American border where more than 158,000 Guardsmen served. Although the National Guard did not see any combat action, the training received was invaluable when the U.S. entered World War I. In late 1916 and early 1917, as the threat of war with Imperial Germany began to loom larger, U.S. forces were gradually withdrawn from Mexico.

In June 1916, the National Defense Act was passed which essentially created the modem National Guard. The new act provided increased federal support and regulation. When officers and units reached Army standards in regard to strength, equipment and skill, they were federally recognized and eligible for federal support.

Many of the Guardsmen returned from their Mexican border duty only to be called again into federal service in 1917 for World War I, with more than 379,000 Guardsmen being ordered to active duty. During the war, National Guard units throughout the country were organized into combat divisions of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), and soon afterwards departed for France to enter combat during World War I.

During World War I, the National Guard supplied 17 combat divisions, or about 40 percent of the entire American Expeditionary Forces. The Guard also provided three black infantry regiments, the 369th, 370th, and 372nd to the all-black 93rd Division. National Guardsmen from the 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st, 32nd, 33rd, 34th, 35th, 36th, 37th, 38th, 39th, 40th, 41st and 42nd Divisions saw World War I service. Eleven of these divisions were noted to have spent more days in actual combat than did the regular Army divisions.

After the end of World War I, following a rapid and haphazard demobilization, it was necessary for many states to rebuild their National Guard units. The National Guard began the difficult process of reorganizing into companies, regiments and divisions. The National Guard was reorganized to consist of four cavalry divisions and 18 infantry divisions.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:34:21 ZULU