United States National Guard: World War II (1939-45)

Figure 1.--President Roosevelt ordered the National Guard to active duty (September 1940). This was conducted in a phased schedule. Here members of the Deleware National Guard are reporting for active duty and training. They saying goodbye to their families on a train platform, we think in Spring 1941. National Guard units were among the few U.S. Army combat units availabe immediately after Pearl Harbor.

Along with the passage of the Selective Service Act (September 1940), President Roosevelt ordered the National Guard into active military service for 1 year. As America was still not at war, the purpose was preparedness training to ensure the Guard would be ready if America was attacked. A phased program of mobilization began (September 16, 1940). Many refoprted with World War I uniforms and rifles. The mobilization was completed by (spring 1941). After the Selective Service Act was narrowly extended (August 1941), the active service for the Guard was also extended. Three months later the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor bringing the United States into World War II (Sepember 1941). As a result, when America entered the War, a substantial portion of the U.S. Army was made up of National Guard divisions. The National Guard made up 19 divisions Army divisions during the War. As they had some training before mobilization and had about a year of active duty training, they were among the best prepared divisions in the Army. Thus National Guard units were among the first Army divisions to be deployed overseas and the first engaged in active combat, both in the Pacific and European theatres. Three National Guard units were involved in the defense of Batan in the Philippines (December 1941-April 1942). It was the North Dakota National Guard (164th Infantry) that reinforced the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal. They were thus the first Army Division to conduct offensive operations. The National Guard was also an important part of the first American offensive operation in Europe--Operation Torch in North Africa (November 1942). This was the 34th Division (Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota). The 34th went on to fight in Italy and was the Army division with the most days in combat.


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Created: 8:00 AM 5/21/2011
Last updated: 8:00 AM 5/21/2011