Ohio National Guard History


Founding Militia

The Ohio National Guard can be traced back to the initial settlement at Marietta, Ohio, in July 1788. Rooted in the English and early colonial tradition of citizen-soldiers providing local protection and law enforcement, these Revolutionary War veterans and their families quickly organized into local militia units. Reflecting the provisions of the U.S. Constitution recognizing that "a well regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free state," the federal government passed the Militia Act of 1792 which required all able bodied men ages 18-45 to serve in their local militia units and provide their own weapons and equipment. It further authorized the Governor of each state to appoint an Adjutant General to enact the orders of the Governor and to supervise unit training and organization. Reflecting the founding fathers' distrust of a large standing army, it strictly limited the ability of the militia to serve outside of their state borders and placed effective control with the Governor rather than the federal government.

As settlements spread across the Ohio Territory, a confederation of Indian tribes with British backing engaged in a campaign of raids and depredations upon the scattered settlements. The disastrous campaigns led by Generals Harmer and St. Clair only intensified Indian resistance to white migration and threatened the existence of the Ohio settlements. Not until the decisive victory of Gen. "Mad" Anthony Wayne at Fallen Timbers, outside of present day Toledo, and the subsequent Treaty of Greenville, was the combined British-Indian military threat to Ohio eliminated. While only limited numbers of Ohio militia played a part in these campaigns, the local militia units formed an important bulwark defending their local communities against potential attack.

War of 1812

After achieving statehood in 1803 Ohio continued the law creating a body of "state troops" and each significant village or county providing its own local unit. The military readiness of these local militia units varied greatly as did their uniform and armament. The monthly militia muster was supposed to train the members in close order drill and marksmanship, but in many cases was more of a social and political event. Moreover, each unit was responsible for electing its own officers with the victors often being the most popular or the one best able to furnish a ready supply of sour mash.

With the advent of war with Great Britain in 1812, there was renewed interest in beefing up the size and effectiveness of the militia. Ohio Governor Meigs formed three regiments of Ohio militia in response to the proposed invasion to drive the British and their Indian allies from Canada with a view towards annexing it to the United States. The first attempt ended with the surrender of Fort Detroit to the British by the incompetent Gen. William Hull in late 1812. Although not present in large numbers, Ohio militia were present and paroled shortly thereafter with the promise not to engage in any further hostilities. Ohio militia also played a role in the efforts of Gen. William Henry Harrison to re-capture Fort Detroit and decisively defeat the British at the Battle of the Thames.

Mexican War

After the end of the inconclusive War of 1812, the militia system in Ohio abandoned its regimental formations and reverted to multiple small units representing the various municipalities throughout the rapidly growing state. With the last Indians expelled from the state’s borders and peaceful relations along the Canadian border, there seemed little need for a fully armed and trained militia. With the brief exception of a border dispute with Michigan that caused the Governor to issue a militia call up, meaningful local militia musters and drills again became more the exception than the rule. The Mexican War in 1848 saw a renewed interest in vitalizing the militia throughout the entire country. With the regular U.S. Army at a strength of just over 13,000, it became evident that any successful military campaign against Mexico was going to require extensive militia involvement. Ohio played a significant role, raising several regiments of infantry and artillery batteries from existing militia units and volunteers. The 1st Ohio Volunteers comprised part of the army under Gen. Zachary Taylor and took part in the battlefield victories of Monterrey and Buena Vista.

American Civil War

It was during the great Civil War however, that the Ohio National Guard can directly trace its start. Ohio played a critical part in the Union war effort and was one of the leading contributors of manpower (including a crop of gifted generals to include Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, McPherson, Griffin,). As most of the existing militia units were incorporated into federalized volunteer regiments, the mission of local defense and order fell to organized units of those exempted from federal service, youths, middle aged men and a sprinkling of veterans who had completed their active duty enlistments. Numerous battalions were organized statewide that were for the first time titled "National Guard.". During the war the Ohio National Guard served in a variety of roles, providing not only guards at the Camp Chase and Johnson Island POW camps, but serving in a number of combat situations. During the September 1862 Confederate incursion into southeast Ohio and the famed Morgan's Raid in July 1863, Ohio guardsmen were actively involved. While subjected to ridicule as a result of the lackluster performance of some poorly trained and armed local units, the Ohio National Guard in actuality played a key role in the ultimate defeat of Morgan and his much vaunted force of Confederate cavalry. Instrumental in defending the approaches to Pomeroy and its river fords, Ohio Guardsmen also were responsible for blocking Morgan's escape route at Buffington Island until pursuing Union forces caught up and administered a stinging defeat to Morgan on July 19, 1863 - the last battle fought on Ohio soil.

Over 35,000 Ohio Guardsmen were federalized and organized into regiments for 100 days service in May 1864. Shipped to the Eastern Theater, they were designed to be placed into "safe" rear area duty to protect the railroads and supply points thereby freeing regular troops for Grant's push on the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. As events transpired, many units found themselves in the thick of combat, stationed in the path of Confederate Gen. Jubal Early's veteran Army of the Valley during its famed Raid on Washington. These Guard units participated in the battles of Monacacy, Fort Stevens, Maryland Heights, and in the siege of Petersburg. Ohio Guard units met the battle tested foe head on and helped blunt the Confederate offensive thereby saving Washington D.C. from capture. Significant casualties were incurred but the Ohio Guard had proved itself the equal of regular units on the field of battle.

Mexican Border Crisis

With the end of the Civil War, the Ohio National Guard was rapidly demobilized and its extensive inventory placed into mothballs maintained by a few non-commissioned officers. From a war-time strength in excess of 50,000, by 1870 the Ohio National Guard had been allowed to dwindle to fewer than 500 officers and enlisted men. Yet Ohio officials soon rediscovered that the Ohio Guard was an essential asset in situations other than war. Like the rest of the nation, labor unrest started to spread in the latter part of the century resulting in violent strikes and crippling shutdowns, especially in the railroad industry. Ohio Governors repeatedly called upon Ohio Guardsmen to keep the peace. In numerous situations the Guard's intervention resulted in the immediate restoration of peace and order and succeeded in keeping violence and property damage to a minimum. Having demonstrated its value beyond the battlefield, the Ohio Guard was boosted in numbers and funding to a meaningful level.

The breakout of hostilities with Spain over Cuba in 1898 also led to an increase in the size and improved equipment and training for the Ohio National Guard. Several regiments of infantry and artillery were formed and shipped to Tampa, Florida for training and eventual transport to the front lines in Cuba. Due to the rapid American success, the war ended prior to any of these units actually being deployed in a combat situation. The Spanish-American War thrust the United States into the role of a world power and both military and civilian leaders recognized that it was necessary to maintain a uniformly trained and armed military force. This reflected the slow evolution of the Ohio militia into a National Guard which in addition to being a state force for quelling civil disturbances, was assuming a key role in the national defense.

Leading the effort to accomplish this was Major General Charles Dick of the Ohio National Guard. After serving in the Spanish-American War he was later elected to the U.S. Senate where he was instrumental in passing the Dick Act of 1903. This benchmark legislation repealed the antiquated militia laws and effectively converted the various volunteer militias into the National Guard as we know it today. Under the Dick Act Guard units received increased federal funding and equipment. In return each state National Guard was required to conform to federal standards for training and organization. Rather than the periodic muster, each unit was expected to muster for a set number of monthly drills and an extended summer camp. Also, for the first time state Adjutant Generals had a formal relationship with the War Department. These common sense reforms were to pay their first dividends in 1916 when Ohio National Guard units were mobilized to serve as part of Gen. John Pershing's punitive expedition against Pancho Villa along the Mexican Border. Although the expedition failed to capture or dispatch the notorious Villa and his army of bandits, valuable lessons were learned in combined operations and mobile warfare. The relatively speedy and seamless mobilization and deployment to the desert regions of the southwest also served as a confidence builder for the units and their active duty counterparts. The errors and problems of the 1916 mobilization also proved to be excellent teaching tools that were to pay dividends when the entire Ohio Guard was to be mobilized by President Woodrow Wilson a scant 10 months later in April 1917.

World War I

As war had broken out in Europe in 1914, the original intent of the United States was to avoid the conflict and maintain a stance of neutrality. As hostilities between the great European powers bogged down into a bloody stalemate, each side sought an edge to break the deadlock. For Germany, it was unrestricted submarine warfare. While this assisted in slowing down trade and supplies between the Allies and the United States, the end result was to propel the United States into war as American merchant ships began to be targeted. With hostilities looming the Selective Service Act of 1917 was enacted. This tasked the Adjutant General of each state to set up local draft boards to institute the draft. With this massive mobilization the strength of the Ohio National Guard expanded and was eventually organized into the 37th Division. To preserve its Ohio identity, they adopted the nickname of the "Buckeye" Division. Again under the overall leadership of "Black Jack" Pershing, Ohio Guardsmen were a key component of the American Expeditionary Force sent over to France. Rated by the German General Staff as one of the best six American divisions for combat effectiveness, the "Buckeye" Division proved its worth in numerous battles including the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and the St. Mihiel Salient. This reputation for being a crack unit came with a considerable cost as the Buckeye Division alone suffered almost 5400 casualties while in France. An Ohio Guard units also formed part of the 42nd "Rainbow" Division which won an enviable combat record along the front lines.

World War II

During the period between the two World Wars, the Ohio National Guard found itself frequently called upon to perform relief duties during natural disasters. Noteworthy were efforts during the almost annual flooding of the Ohio River and the great tornado of 1924 in the Lorain and Sandusky area. Units were again utilized to keep the peace during a series of bitter strikes in the coal-mining region of southeast Ohio. Although initially perceived as being brought in to aid and assist the mine operators, they won begrudging respect for adopting a fair and even-handed approach. Unlike the bloody history associated with the use of the National Guard in labor disputes in many other states, the Ohio Guard's non-partisan approach alleviated numerous potentially explosive labor conflicts.

As the year 1939 brought yet another world war, the Ohio Guard found itself in a relative state of readiness and under the leadership of one of its greatest officers, MG Robert Beightler. The Buckeye Division along with most other Guard units were mobilized in late 1940 as it appeared the United States would be inevitably drawn into the conflict. Once the nation committed to war following the Japanese sneak attack at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Ohio Guard almost immediately began playing its role. One of its units, the 192nd Tank Battalion, was stationed in the Philippines when the war broke out. Outgunned and undermanned, they tenaciously attempted to stem the Japanese invasion of those islands and became an integral part of the plucky but doomed "Battling Bastards of Bataan." Captured along with the remainder of the U.S. Forces in 1942, they suffered unspeakable horrors and cruelties at the hands of their captors in POW camps.

The Buckeye Division also participated in the Pacific theater of the war, serving during the bloody battle of Guadacanal, New Guinea and the re-taking of the Philippines. The combat record of the Buckeye Division is perhaps best reflected in the fact that it was home to seven Medal of Honor recipients for their heroic actions under fire in World War II. Respected for his leadership and tactical skills, MG Beightler led the Buckeye Division throughout the course of the war, the only one of 32 National Guard division commanders to accomplish this. As in prior conflicts the price of battlefield victory came at a considerable cost as thousands of Ohio Guardsmen made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Korea and Vietnam

The demobilization from World War II had barely taken place when once again the Ohio National Guard was required to answer the call to duty. This time the hotspot was in the Korean peninsula where democratic South Korea had been almost completely overrun by a brutal, unprovoked invasion by the totalitarian regime of North Korea. In 1952 the Buckeye Division was again mobilized to serve as a training division at Fort Polk, Louisiana. While the mission of training green recruits may have lacked the headline glamour of combat service, it nevertheless served as a vital role in preparing other units for war. While no major Ohio Guard units were deployed to Korea during hostilities, numerous individual soldiers did serve in the combat sector. It is also noteworthy that during this time period the Air Force broke off from the Army to become a separate service branch. Within the Ohio Guard this was reflected in the creation of the Ohio Air National Guard.

After the armistice and uneasy cease-fire was declared in Korea, the Ohio Guard's focus returned to its state mission and reorganization in accordance with federal mandates. Significant challenges were met by the continuing changes and advances in technology which required a flexible and better educated force. World events also continued to impact the Ohio Guard. The Berlin Crisis of 1961 resulted in the mobilization of ten Ohio Air and Army National Guard units to help counter the Soviet threat to our NATO allies. It was during this period that the Ohio Guard adapted to the restructuring dictated by the Department of Defense. Most notable among these changes was the deactivation of the storied 37th "Buckeye" Division in February 1968.

With the escalation of the Vietnam conflict, the Ohio Guard was again called upon to engage in combat upon foreign shores. Both the Ohio Army and Air National Guard deployed units to Southeast Asia to defend South Vietnam from communist aggression. The mission to support state authorities still continued during this time with Ohio Guard playing a key role in quelling a full scale riot at the Ohio Penitentiary in 1968 and in helping to curb the violence associated with the trucker's strike in 1970. It was subsequent to this latter event that the Ohio Guard was involved in one of the most unfortunate events in its long history, the Kent State shootings of May 1970. Called to that campus to help restore order after massive unrest and destructive anti-war protests.

After the United States terminated its involvement in Vietnam, the Ohio Guard, like the rest of the military, was faced by the challenges of significantly decreased funding and adapting to new missions. Increasing attention was directed towards "peace-keeping" and civic assistance missions. Of particular success were the efforts of the Ohio Guard in saving lives and aiding hard pressed local authorities during the winter blizzards of 1977 and 1978. Also of note was the extensive mission to Honduras which provided considerable infrastructure improvement and medical assistance to an impoverished nation while at the same time providing valuable training experience to Ohio Guard personnel.

Desert Storm

When the military machine of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein overran Kuwait in an unprovoked display of raw aggression, the Ohio National Guard again responded in exemplary fashion. A number of Ohio Air National Guard units were deployed almost immediately and performed yeoman service in providing the transportation of critical supplies and troops to the Persian Gulf theater. Additionally, fighter and air refueling components were key players in the highly successful air war in the days leading up to the ground assault. The Ohio Army National Guard also did its part providing numerous transportation, logistical and other combat support units to assist in Operation Desert Storm. Additionally, numerous individual Ohio Guardsmen with specialty skills volunteered and served in Operation Desert Storm. Despite long-standing questions as to the viability of the National Guard in a fast paced, rapid response combat environment, the Ohio Guard once again demonstrated that its citizen soldiers were equal to the challenge and were equal partners with their active duty counterparts.

Although active hostilities ceased in February 1991 after a lightening campaign, the continuing presence of Saddam Hussein required continued military presence in the Persian Gulf region. The Ohio Guard continued in its role as key player as its Air National Guard units were routinely deployed to enforce the no-fly zones over Iraq as part of Operation Northern Watch. Other Ohio Guard units were periodically deployed to the Persian Gulf and Kuwait to engage in joint desert warfare training and to send a clear message to Hussein of our nation's resolve. Ohio Guardsmen also saw overseas service in a demanding environment when deployed to the Balkans to provide peacekeeping support in war - torn Bosnia and Kosovo. Units of the Ohio Guard continued to take a leading role in providing humanitarian assistance in impoverished areas of Central America. Engineering, transportation and medical detachments all acquired valuable experience by providing critical medical care as well as building roads, wells, bridges, schools and other needed infrastructure.

On the domestic front the Ohio Guard fulfilled its role in assisting civilian authorities in maintaining order in extraordinary circumstances. A significant number of Ohio Guardsmen were activated in 1993 to help quell the deadly prison riots at the Lucasville Correctional Facility. Personnel from the Ohio Guard also provided crucial advice and stood by to provide law enforcement support during rioting in Cincinnati and civic unrest surrounding the operation of a waste incinerator plant near East Liverpool. Disaster relief also continued to be a priority mission with stellar service during the Shadyside floods, tornadoes, snow emergencies and Ohio River flooding.

The Ohio Guard again met the call to duty in response to the attack upon the United States by fanatic Islamic terrorists on September 11, 2001. Aircraft from both the 178th and the 180th Fighter Wings were immediately scrambled to provide air cover and homeland security within minutes of being alerted on that black day. Numerous units from the Army Guard supplemented by security police units of the Air Guard were mobilized on short notice in the following days and executed critical security missions at various locations for extended periods of time. Other communications and engineering units deployed to the Persian Gulf area and Afghanistan in support of the war on terrorism.

In keeping with its proud tradition, the Ohio National Guard today stands ready to perform its various state and national defense missions. While the missions, challenges and technology are ever changing, the men and women of the Ohio National Guard continue to demonstrate the flexibility and willingness to meet these tests. As the 21st century brings new uncertainties and threats to domestic and national security, the Ohio National Guard stands ready to take its place in the front ranks as it has in the past.