The Arkansas National Guard’s roots go back to 1804, one year after the Louisiana Purchase. The legislative body governing the Indiana Territory, of which Arkansas was a part, enacted a law making most males liable for military service.
By 1806 there were two militia units in what is now Arkansas, one company each of infantry and cavalry.
Arkansas Territory was created in 1819.
The act creating the territory provided that the territorial governor “shall be commander-in-chief of the militia of said territory and shall have power to appoint and commission all officers”.
Territorial Governor Izard noted that Arkansas lay directly in the path to be used for the removal of the Eastern Indians. He spoke frequently of the need to “place the Militia in a condition to afford immediate protection to our settlements, should any disorder attend the passage of these people”
Governor Izard’s efforts slowly began to get results, including the publishing of the militia laws of the territory in 1825, with a copy going to every officer in the militia.
The Early Years
In November 1827 the territorial legislature passed a bill providing for the organization of the Militia into two brigades. It also called for battalions to muster every year in October and for companies to assemble twice a year.
These assemblies gave Arkansas the opportunity to get together and visit with their neighbors. Most assemblies ended with a dinner or party.
The first use of the Arkansas Militia was in 1828 in Miller County.
For several months trouble had been brewing between the settlers of Miller County and the Shawnee and Delaware Indians. Adjutant General Rector, under orders from Governor Izard, ordered the Indians to move west. When they refused, he called out 63 men of the Miller County Militia and rode toward the Indian camp.
Just when battle seemed imminent, the Indians agreed to move.
The largest mobilization of the Arkansas Militia during the territorial period was in 1836. Regular Army troops had been transferred to Florida to fight the Seminoles. The Arkansas Militia sent six companies to Fort Towson in the Indian Territory to replace the Regulars. They spent a year patrolling the southwestern frontier between the United States and Mexico.
War with Mexico
On May 27, 1846 Governor Thomas Drew issued a proclamation calling for volunteers to fight in the War with Mexico. These volunteers were to be existing militia companies or companies raised for service in the Mexican War. When the companies were fully manned, they rendezvoused at Washington (near present day Hope) in Hempstead County.
Of the 29 companies that rendezvoused, 18 were selected for service.
Three companies served with the 12th United States Infantry in central Mexico.
Five companies were formed into the Arkansas Battalion of Infantry and Mounted Rifles. They saw service on the western frontier, replacing federal troops fighting in Mexico.
Ten companies were formed into the Arkansas Regiment of Mounted Volunteers. That regiment rode to San Antonio, TX, a distance of about 485 miles and joined a division under BG Wool. Moving to northern Mexico, the regiment played a significant role in the defeat of a Mexican force led by Santa Ana at Buena Vista in late February 1847. The regimental commander and 19 other soldiers were killed during the second day of the battle. The regiment returned to Little Rock on July 9th, 1947 via Monterey, Mexico and New Orleans.
For Arkansas, the Civil War started about two months before the shelling of Fort Sumter.
On February 5, 1861 militia companies from across the state gathered in Little Rock and demanded the surrender of the federal arsenal.
Captain Totten, the arsenal commander, agreed to evacuate the arsenal in order to prevent bloodshed. On February 8, 1861 the militia companies occupied the arsenal.
On March 5, 1861 the Arkansas legislature defeated a secession ordinance, but with the fall of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 Arkansas was caught up in secession activity.
On May 6, 1861 the legislature met and approved an act of secession.
Arkansas troops had their first taste of combat during the Battle of Wilson’s Creek in Southwest Missouri on August 10, 1861.
Arkansas furnished over 22,000 troops for Confederate service in the first year of the Civil War.
A large number of Arkansans, mostly from Northwest Arkansas, served in the Union Army.
After the Civil War, Congress disbanded all existing state governments in the secession states and outlawed their militia organizations.
Arkansas’ reconstruction government worked with other states and got Congress to allow militias in those southern states that had Radical Republican administrations.
The Arkansas legislature passed an act to organize a militia on July 14, 1868.
By October 1868 there were 37 militia companies in Arkansas. The majority of the 1,600 militia members were black, many of them having served in the Union Army.
Arkansas was divided into four militia districts.
The actions of the Ku Klux Klan against the reconstruction government got so bad that martial law was declared in three of the four districts on November 4, 1868. Only the northwest district escaped martial law.
During the next five months there were numerous clashes between the militia and the Klan. Several men were killed and dozens were arrested.
By March 1869 martial law had ended.
In the 1872 elections the Republican Party was split between two candidates, Joseph Brooks and Elisa Baxter. In a very close election, Baxter was declared the winner.
On April 12, 1874, over a year after Baxter took office, Brooks got the results overthrown and forcibly evicted Baxter from his State House office. Both sides called for militia support and both calls were answered.
On April 16th firing broke out along Markham Street around the State House and one man was killed and several wounded.
Over the next month there were several clashes between the opposing forces in central Arkansas. At least a dozen men were killed and many more wounded.
During this time Baxter’s forces had been firing muskets at the State House from across the river in Argenta (now North Little Rock). On May 9th Brooks’ forces threatened to shell the city. Fortunately the musket fire ceased.
On May 15th President Grant, acting on an appeal from both sides, recognized Baxter as the duly elected Governor.
Peace gradually returned and the militia was faced with the task of re-establishing an effective force.
Office of the AG Abolished
Although the Brooks-Baxter War had ended, things were far from peaceful in Arkansas.
In the summer of 1875 armed conflict broke out in Scott County in west central Arkansas between political and personal rivals.
As the conflict increased, Governor Miller was forced to call out the militia to keep the peace. By 1878 there were seven companies of militia stationed in Scott County.
Many legislators opposed the use of the militia, feeling it an infringement on local elected officials.
In the General Assembly of 1879, over the Governor’s veto, the legislature passed Act No. XLIV which abolished the Office of the Adjutant General.
The bill provided that the Governor’s private secretary would perform all the duties of the Adjutant General.
Although the militia would continue in Arkansas, it suffered from a lack of leadership.
The McCarthy Light Guards were organized in Little Rock in October of 1887. They were named for John H. McCarthy, a prominent local businessman, who provided the funds for the units uniforms. And what uniforms they were! Made of blue broadcloth, they were trimmed in red and white. The helmet was red, capped off with a white plume. Each man carried a patent leather knapsack with the company’s name inscribed on the back.
The McCarthy Light Guards developed quite a reputation as a competitive drill company. In their first event they took third prize in the Interstate Competitive Drill at Galveston, Texas in 1888. They won second prize at Atlanta in 1889, but were disqualified in the 1890 competition at Indianapolis. The company again took second prize in 1891 at Omaha. After not competing in 1892 the McCarthy Light Guards won first prize in the Interstate Competitive drill at Nashville, Tennessee. After that competition, they traveled to Chicago and participated in several parades and exibition drills at the World’s Fair. The unit took forth prize in the 1894 competition at Little Rock. That competition was one of the largest gatherings in Arkansas history, with up to 10,000 people a day paying to watch the drills.
On April 25, 1898 the War Department requested that Arkansas provide two regiments of infantry, each at a strength of 1,000 men, for service in the Spanish-American War.
Governor Dan Jones directed that the two regiments be formed from 18 companies of the State Guard, with two additional companies to be raised from volunteers.
The governor accepted the offer of use of part of the estate of the late Dr. Roderick Dodge and Camp Dodge was established at the corner of College Avenue and Seventh Street in Little Rock.
Units began arriving in early May and companies were mustered in as soon as medical examinations were completed.
Both regiments were ordered to Camp Thomas at Chickamauga Park, GA and both had arrived by May 30th.
Fully armed and equipped, the regiments began training. However, the War ended on August 12th.
Living conditions in the camp were deplorable and 54 of the Arkansans died, mainly from malaria or typhoid fever.
The 1st Regiment departed Camp Thomas on September 25, 1898 and mustered out at Fort Roots on October 25, 1898.
The 2nd Regiment was ordered to Camp Anniston, AL on September 2, 1898 where they remained until February 25, 1899. They were mustered out on that date, given 30 days pay and put on trains for Arkansas.
On June 9, 1916 President Wilson called out the National Guards of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, and on the 18th called out the remainder of the states.
This mobilization was to replace the regular troops who were chasing Poncho Villa and to be prepared in case Mexico reacted to the incursion.
Arkansas units began to respond immediately and assembled at Fort Roots during the month of June.
On July 29th the Arkansans received orders to move to Deming, NM and began arriving there in large numbers on August 10th. Deming, a town of 1,341, was located about 90 miles northwest of El Paso.
Prohibited from entering Mexico, the 112,000 guardsmen from all states found themselves involved in a training routine described as “a daily grind of drill, drill, shoot, shoot, and fatigue, fatigue and more fatigue”.
By October, the Arkansans were hiking 5 miles each morning.
Medical conditions were vastly improved over the conditions found during the Spanish-American War; four Arkansans died while mobilized for border duty – all from accidents or pre-existing conditions.
On January 12, 1917 the President ordered US troops out of Mexico. By February 3rd the Arkansas units were boarding trains for Fort Roots and by the end of February all were mustered out.
Although they never saw combat, the training they received would be soon prove invaluable.
World War I
The United States declared war on Germany April 6, 1917, less than two months after the last Arkansas National Guard units completed mustering out from duty on the Mexican border.
In mid-September the Arkansas units were notified that they were to be part of a newly created division, initially called the 18th but later named the 39th.
Arkansas’ 1st Regiment was redesignated the 153rd Infantry Regiment; the 2nd was changed to the 142nd Field Artillery regiment. A newly recruited regiment, the 3rd Arkansas, was used to form the 154th Infantry (along with a battalion from the 2nd Mississippi) and the 141st Machinegun Battalion.
The rest of the 39th Division was made up of National Guard units from Louisiana and Mississippi.
On their arrival at Camp Beauregard, the units began intensive training.
The old 2nd Regiment had the more difficult task as it converted to artillery.
The 39th, less its artillery units, left Camp Beauregard August 1, 1918 and sailed for overseas service August 6th.
Shortly after arriving in France, the division was broken up and personnel used as replacements on the front lines.
The 142nd sailed for France August 31st and arrived September 7th.
The 142nd was certified for combat November 8th, 1918 and the armistice was signed on the 11th, and the 142nd did not participate in combat.
Most former Arkansas guardsmen returned to the United States during January and February of 1919 and were discharged at Camp Pike.
The 142nd stayed in France to conduct tests and exercises to develop techniques for motorized artillery battalions and won a commendation for efficient performance.
The 142nd sailed from France aboard the USS Amphion June 3, 1919 and personnel were discharged at Camp Pike June 26, 1919.
Post World War I
The National Defense Act of 1920 had a tremendous impact on the National Guard nationwide. The act:
- Distributed huge amounts of surplus WWI equipment to Guard units
- Required Guardsmen to perform 48 armory drills and 15 days of field training a yea
- Paid the Guardsmen for drills and field training
- Required that units obtain and maintain “federal recognition” in order to receive pay or equipment
Arkansas began to work to get their units federally recognized.
During the early 1920’s several things happened that helped in this effort:
- In 1922 the state received a revocable license to 5,596 acres that were the permanent part of Camp Pike. This gave the Guard stability and an excellent training facility.
- The 1923 legislature provided the Adjutant General with an office in the state capitol and an annual salary of $3,000, a substantial amount at that time.
- The 1925 legislature passed an act establishing a Military Fund, financed by a corporation tax, to build armories.
By January 1926 all Arkansas Guard units had received federal recognition. A list of those units, home station and date extended federal recognition is available here.
A number of units were added in the 1930’s, causing several reorganizations.
Those reorganizations were completed by 1939, and a list of units and their home stations are available here.
As the nation stood on the brink of WWII, the Arkansas National Guard was much better trained and equipped to answer the upcoming call.
World War II
Four Arkansas National Guard units saw service in World War II, and all were called to duty before the start of the war on December 7, 1941.
- The first unit called to active duty was the 154th Observation Squadron on September 16, 1940. They had completed their one-year training, but were recalled to active duty on December 7, 1941. After extensive stateside training, the squadron flew combat missions from several airfields in North Africa and later from Bari Airdrome east of Naples, Italy. The squadron earned a distinguished unit citation for its service in operations over the Ploesti oil refineries in August 1944.
- The 153rd Infantry Regiment was ordered to active duty December 23, 1940. After stateside training the regiment was posted to Alaska and took part in the occupation of Adak Island and the assault on Kiska. The 153rd returned to Camp Shelby, MS March 21, 1944 and was deactivated on June 30th and its soldiers assigned as replacements.
- The 206th Coast Artillery Regiment (Anti-aircraft) was ordered to active duty January 6, 1941. After extensive training at Fort Bliss the 206th arrived at Dutch Harbor, Alaska August 16, 1941. In June 1942 the 206th participated in the defense of Dutch Harbor against two attacks by carrier based Japanese planes. The regiment returned to Fort Bliss in March of 1944, deactivated and personnel were reassigned.
- The 142nd Field Artillery Regiment was ordered to active duty January 6, 1941, moved to Fort Sill, OK. and later to Camp Bowie, TX. On February 25, 1943 the 142nd Field Artillery Regiment was disbanded. The headquarters was redesignated the 142nd Field Artillery Group, the 1st Battalion became the 936th and the 2nd became the 937th. These were independent battalions equipped with the 155mm howitzer.
The 142nd FA Group left Camp Bowie September 25, 1943 and arrived in England on November 3, 1943. It crossed Utah Beach June 14, 1944 and participated in the European offensive with up to five battalions attached.
The 936th left Camp Bowie August 9, 1943, arrived in Algiers September 2, 1943 and landed in Naples, Italy November 11, 1943. It participated in the drive across the Rapido River, the liberation of Rome and the assault on Mount Cassino. It fired 139,364 rounds in combat.
The 937th left Camp Bowie on August 10, 1943, arrived in Algiers September 2, 1943 and landed in Naples, Italy November 11, 1943. It participated in the drive across the Rapido River and the liberation of Rome. It then prepared for and participated in the amphibious landings in southern France August 15, 1944. The 937th fired over 200,000 combat rounds.
Post World War II
Following WWII the Arkansas National Guard was reconstituted.
Many of these units were disbanded before the start of the Korean War.
After the Arkansas National Guard units returned to home, a period of recovery and reorganization began. A copy of the post WWII reorganization is available below. Unit personnel expected a long period of peace; such was not to be the case.
North Korea invaded South Korea June 25, 1950 and President Truman ordered US troops to defend South Korea. The following units were called to active duty for service in Korea:
- The 154th Fighter Squadron reported to active duty October 2, 1950. After transition training in the F84E, the 154th flew its first combat sortie May 2, 1951. Initially operating out of Itazuke, Japan the unit later moved to Taegu, Korea. While in Korea the 154th flew 3,790 combat sorties and was awarded the Korean Presidential Citation for its service.
- The 936th FA Battalion was called to active duty August 2, 1950 and moved to Camp Carson, CO for training. It arrived in Korea February 10, 1951 and fired its first combat mission March 30,1951. The 936th fired 348,547 combat rounds in Korea and suffered 10 killed in action and 28 wounded in action.
- The 937th was called to active duty on the same day as the 936th and moved to Fort Hood, TX for training. It arrived in Korea on the same ship as the 936th and fired its first combat mission April 3, 1951. The 937th fired 223,400 combat rounds in Korea and suffered 13 killed in action and 156 wounded in action. Headquarters and Headquarters battery and Battery C were awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation.
- The 217th Medical Company was also called to active duty August 2, 1950 and after training at Fort Benning, GA arrived in Korea May 4, 1951. The 217th conducted its basic mission of air evacuation of patients to Japan in an area from Pusan north to Seoul. While in Korea the 217th was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation and the Korean Presidential Citation.
The following units also were called to active duty for the Korean Conflict, but did not see duty in Korea:
- HHB, 142nd FA Group – Germany
- HHD, 101st Medical Battalion – Germany
- 218th Medical Ambulance Company – Fort Hood and Fort Leonard Wood
Central High School
The United States Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in a public school was unconstitutional. That ruling would place the Arkansas National Guard in a unique position and offered a chance to demonstrate the professionalism of citizen-soldiers.
The Federal District Court ordered the Little Rock School District to proceed with its integration plans when school opened in 1957.
Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to Central High School on September 2, 1957 because he had evidence “that there is imminent danger of tumult, riot and breach of peace and the doing of violence to persons and property.”
President Eisenhower federalized the entire Arkansas National Guard on the 23rd of September.
On the 24th elements of the 101st Division (Airborne) began arriving at Little Rock and took up positions around Central High. That same day the Adjutant General met with the commander of the Arkansas Military District and was ordered to assemble a force at Camp Robinson for duty at Central High.
Beginning with night patrols on the 25th the Arkansas units worked with the 101st, gradually taking over more of the responsibility. By the 30th the Arkansas National Guard had full responsibility for escorting the black students to and from Central High and for providing them protection while inside the school.
Annex C to Operations Order Number 1, from Headquarters Arkansas National Guard, dated October 28, 1957 stated in part “Our mission is to enforce the orders of the Federal Courts with respect to the attendance at the public schools of Little Rock of all those who are properly enrolled, and to maintain law and order while doing so…Our individual feelings towards those court orders should have no influence on our execution of the mission.”
The professionalism of the Arkansas National Guard in responding to its federal mission eased any concerns about the National Guard being able to perform its unique role as a force available to governors and the President.
The Arkansas Army National Guard had 13 units called into federal service during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm and the Arkansas Air National Guard had members of 10 units called up. More than 3,400 Arkansas Guard soldiers were called up, the second highest percentage of any state or territory.
- The 142nd Field Artillery Brigade provided fire support to the 1st Infantry Division (US) and the 1st Armoured Division (UK), firing 1,060 rounds.
- The 148th Medical Hospital (Evacuation) provided general medical support to US and coalition forces, with priority to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. It also treated Iraqi soldiers.
- The 25th Rear Area Operations Center initially provided support to the XVIII Airborne Corps. Later the unit moved into Iraq with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.
- The Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 217th Maintenance Battalion was assigned to VII Corps’ Support Command, and provided command and control for eight maintenance companies and performed half of the vehicle maintenance and 95% of the communications equipment maintenance in the VII Corps area.
- The 1122nd Transportation Company (Light-Medium Truck) transported soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division into Iraq during Operation Desert Storm.
- The 216th Medical Company (Ambulance) transported over 5,100 patients during Desert Storm and served as part of the residual force.
- The 224th Composite Service Company (Maintenance) provided support to units in the 16th Corps Support Group sector. It completed over 3,500 maintenance requests while in theater.
- The 204th Medical Detachment deployed to Germany and provided dental services for several military communities. It was the only Army Guard dental unit called to active duty.
- The 296th Medical Company served at Fort Polk, LA. In addition to providing support to Fort Polk, the unit provided ambulance support to the Port of Entry at Corpus Christi, TX.
- The 119th Adjutant General Company (Personnel Services) provided personnel service support to soldiers mobilizing and demobilizing at Fort Sill.
- The 212th Signal Battalion trained at Fort Hood and was validated for overseas service the week the war ended.
Although the Arkansas Air National Guard did not have any entire units activated, members of 10 Air Guard units saw service. Seven of those units served in the United States and three were overseas.
Global War On Terror
In support of the Global War on Terror, the AR National Guard has:
- Conducted almost 70 unit and countless individual mobilizations.
- Over 9,000 Guard members mobilized.
- Over 3,900,000 man-days on active duty (almost 11,000 man-years).
In the United States:
- Little Rock Air Force Base
- Fort Smith Airport
- Fort Hood, TX
- Scott AFB, IL
- Sheppard AFB, TX
- Red River Army Depot, TX
- Fort Huachuca, AZ
- Langley AFB, VA
- Fort Stewart, GA
- Fort Sill, OK
- Fort Polk, LA
Outside the United States:
- Iraq (over 15 locations)
- United Arab Emirates
- Saudi Arabia
- Diego Garcia
- and several that are still classified