The Delaware National Guard Between the World Wars
Brig. Gen. Kennard R. Wiggins (DE ANG Ret.) Kennard.email@example.com
At the conclusion of “The Great War” on June 29, 1919, the Delaware National Guard sailed from Brest France arriving at Hoboken on July 5. The men of the regiment were then discharged at Camp Dix, New Jersey. They came home to the most rousing parade and civic reception Wilmington had ever seen.
Once the men of the 59th Pioneer Infantry Regiment had been discharged, technically, only one company of Delaware Guardsmen remained on the rolls; the state "Home Guard". During the preparedness period just prior to U.S. involvement in World War I, Congress consented to establishing home defense forces for the states in the event that the National Guard was federalized. Subsequently, state legislatures authorized defense forces. The Home Defense Act of June 1917 authorized the Secretary of War to equip these “home guards” with missions focused on security and civil defense.
According to the Biennial Report of the Adjutant General, Delaware, I.P. Wickersham, December 31, 1918, “In accordance with General Order No. 10 this office, as amended by General Order No. 21, December 21, 1917, providing for the organization of Companies of Infantry for duty within the state, I have to report that one Company together with a Supply Detachment, aggregating four officers and seventy one enlisted men has been organized and stationed in Wilmington. This Company is well uniformed, armed, equipped and instructed. The officers and men of this company are to be commended for their attention to their military duties, having responded for drill two evenings each week for the past year”. By 1918, over 100,000 men were serving in 42 state guards.
For the first time since the Civil War, however, Delaware was without a National Guard, and with no provisions for reorganizing it. The other States were in the same situation. In 1920, Congress corrected the situation by spelling out very clearly how the States were to raise and maintain the militia guaranteed to them by the United State Constitution.
The 1920 National Defense Act
The 1920 law provided smoother mobilization procedures, so the Guard could more quickly take its place as part of the Army in case of future war. At the same time, Congress specifically prohibited War Department actions designed to marginalize the Guard, such as the 1917 order discharging Guardsmen from State service. It separated the Militia Bureau from the Army general staff and made the Chief of the Militia Bureau a National Guard officer.
The 1920 National Defense Act outlined a scheme that shapes military policy to this day. It stipulated a peace establishment composed of the Army, the National Guard, and the Organized Reserve Corps. Each of the nine corps areas would comprise of one regular army division, two National Guard divisions and three Reserve divisions. Theoretically, the Army’s chief task was to train and instruct the Guard and Reserve components. Even though all components were funded far below needs, the regular divisions were supposed to be ready twenty days after the call, the Guard in thirty days and the Organized Reserve in sixty days. The statute set the Army’s authorized peacetime end strength at 275,000 and the Guard’s at 435,000. However, from 1921 to 1935 the Congress appropriated only half the amount necessary and capped the National Guard at 200,000. In fact, most of the regular divisions existed only on paper, as did the reserve divisions, so the principle resource of the plan was such strength as the Guard divisions happened to have.
Priority for manning equipping and training within the Guard went to the eighteen new divisions, two separate infantry regiments in Hawaii and Puerto Rico and a Coast Artillery corps of 11,600 soldiers. The divisions kept their unit nicknames and designations adopted during World War I. Units adopted distinctive regimental crests and shoulder patches that emphasized local ties and long traditions of service. For the first time, the War department issued standard regimental colors and company guidons to the Guard units.
The National Guard nevertheless, enjoyed an era of relative prosperity. From 1921-1940 federal aid averaged $32 million nationwide, a more than fivefold increase from before the Great War.
Reorganization of the Delaware National Guard after World War I had to start from scratch, because not even the shell of its organization had been returned to the State after its wartime service. In December, 1920, a group of citizens met at the old armory at Twelfth and Orange Streets and formed four recruiting teams.
Within a month, two of the old Wilmington units had been reorganized, and were recognized by the Federal government. In January 1921 Company officers were elected, conducted by the State Administrative Staff, including a Captain, 1st Lieutenant and 2nd Lieutenant. By spring, all the old pre war units in New Castle and Kent Counties were fully organized.
The pre-war armories were returned to the Guard. The Wilmington armory had been used by the State Guard (or “Home Guard”). The State Highway Department had used the Dover facility during the war. The Newark armory was the temporary home of the YMCA and the American Legion for the duration. In some cases, repairs and modification had to be made to return the buildings to military utility.
A New Mission, 198th Coast Artillery (Anti-Aircraft)
Under the postwar plan for the Army, Delaware was to form a regiment of anti aircraft artillery. This marked a distinct departure for the Delaware Regiment. It had always been predominately an infantry unit. Historically it had had some light cavalry, or been assigned to engineering tasks, but its primary mission had always trained for infantry duties. The War Department assigned the name "198th Artillery (Anti-Aircraft)" (changed to 198th Coast Artillery three years later) to the Delaware organization. It was an appropriate mission considering the long coastline of the Delaware River and Bay estuary and the defense of the vital Philadelphia industrial /population complex up river. Radical changes in battle ship design, evolving airpower capabilities and armament required new defense capabilities. The Delaware Regiment was to be on the leading edge of this new evolving military technology.
The 198th Coast Artillery was within the II Corps (First Army) area which included New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. The 198th Coast Artillery was organized into two battalions; the 1st Battalion with four Batteries, “A”, “B”, “C”, and”D” (batteries are the equivalent of an Infantry Company) commanded by Major Harry Van Sciver. The First Battalion was armed with three inch anti-aircraft guns. The 3-inch M1918 on a mobile mount was among the United States first dedicated anti-aircraft guns, entering service in 1918. The gun was essentially an unmodified 3-inch M1903 (76.2 mm L/55) coastal- defense gun on a new mount allowing it to be aimed to high elevations. For mobile use the original coastal gun was too heavy, so a smaller version was developed as the 3-inch M1918. For this role the barrel was cut down in length, and a new breech was introduced to fire smaller rounds. These weapons were matched with acoustic listening devices to aid in locating incoming aircraft.
The 2nd Battalion with Batteries “E”,”F”,”G”, and “H” commanded by Major George Schulz was armed with standard .50 caliber Browning machine guns. In the years leading up to World War II, many Coast Artillery AA officers felt that the increased speed and performance capabilities of modern aircraft rendered the machine gun ineffective as an antiaircraft weapon. Experience in the war would reveal otherwise, as the AA machine guns provided a potent defense against both air and ground threats. Variants of the original . 50 caliber design are still in use today.
Air Defense is defined as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action." They include ground and air based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements and passive measures. It may be used to protect naval, ground and air forces wherever they are. However, the main effort has tended to be 'homeland defense'.
For most of the year, the soldiers drilled in state armories where they practiced coordinating the simulated firing of the gun batteries, tracking miniature targets and the operation of miniature searchlights from the armory drill floor. For the machine-gun battalion, the training included tracking and simulated firing on a miniature target under target-practice conditions. In addition to their armory drill, the 198th traveled once a year to an encampment for two weeks of drill and live firing under realistic conditions. Typically, they employed the facilities at the State Rifle Range on River Road south of New Castle for the first several years until the State acquired the Bethany Beach Training Site in 1927.
Soldiers score their marksmanship training targets at the River Road Range, New Castle Delaware, 1929
By the summer of 1921 the necessary battalion and regimental headquarters had been organized. In its yearly operations, the Guard functioned much as it had before the war. Athletics and social affairs returned to center stage in the annual cycle of unit life. The routine of close order drill and calisthenics resumed, along with marksmanship.
The unit held their first postwar summer training encampment at the State Rifle Range on August 1-15, 1921 under the supervision of Major H.W. Stark, C.A.C., U.S.A. who issued a detailed order with equipment and uniform requirements for individuals, and company use. His training schedule included drill and bayonet instruction, lectures on hygiene, foot care and venereal diseases, first aid, military courtesies and customs, athletics, divine services, target practice, and above all, Anti-aircraft instruction. There was to be regular and repeated inspections and parades, in order to generate good order and discipline.
At the end of 1921, the organization was able to report 38 officers and 717 enlisted men on its rolls. Responsibility for recruiting the companies fell to Major George J. Schulz, who was very successful in this endeavor, despite a difficult postwar recruiting environment. A generation appalled at the horrors of trench warfare and labor union resentment still lingered. Apathy prevailed, not unlike a similar military miasma experienced after the Civil War.
Since the experience of the Delaware Guardsmen had previously been in infantry, the Governor secured permission from the War Department to appoint Lt. Col. Harry W. Stark, a Regular Army artilleryman, to head the regiment until the State's officers could become familiar with their new duties. He was succeeded by Col. John P. LeFevre, who retired in 1932, to be followed by Col. George J. Schulz, who commanded the regiment through World War II. Both were long time veterans of the Guard. No summer soldiers, these they demanded, and got from the men of the regiment the best that was in them. The 198th was honored twice, in 1934 and in 1939, as the outstanding National Guard Coast Artillery regiment in the country.
The 198th Coast Artillery did its share of parade and ceremony. They participated in the governor’s inauguration, the Memorial Day parade and the dedication of the Washington Street Memorial Bridge spanning the Brandywine River in Wilmington in 1923. Small arms training continued to be emphasized with regular rifle matches and continued competition in the National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio.
University of Delaware R.O.T.C.
The University of Delaware Reserve Officer Training Corps program had always had an infantry orientation. In 1924 the board of Trustees resolved to change over to a Coast Artillery unit to align with the needs of the 2nd Corps Area under Robert Bullard. Brigadier General J. Austin Ellison provided the impetus for this initiative, and it began to pay dividends as more and more University of Delaware graduates were commissioned into the Delaware Regiment. Because most troops provided to the state were in the Coast Artillery Corps, this initiative helped to secure trained artillery officers for the Delaware National Guard. Most of these officers were engineering graduates with coast artillery training, and were therefore technically better equipped to comprehend and instruct in artillery methods. This bright young crop of young officers helped to flesh out the strong backbone of the Delaware Guard constituted of the experienced cadre who had served the Regiment since the Mexican Expedition in 1916.
One change in the law meant that Delaware Officers could apply for a reserve commission once they had received federal recognition. If successful, they were then “pre-qualified” and upon entering federal service could begin to function at once without waiting for re-commissioning in the active component. Guard officers began to attend the Army’s advanced schools and enlisted men were given the opportunity to apply to the Military Academy at West Point.
The Great Depression
Even the Great Depression proved helpful in spurring the Public Works Administration, a New Deal federal relief agency, to build and improve armories and training camps. The Depression also created a very favorable recruiting environment, resulting in waiting lists, for the first time, and longer enlistments. An unemployed worker could earn $75 annually as a private in the Guard by attending drills and annual summer camp. Attendance at drill and camp exceeded 90 percent during 1932-1933 in the depths of the Depression. The National Guard helped Delaware endure the Great Depression’s trials by providing construction jobs, and contracts for equipment to stimulate the economy. It provided a measure of stability and refuge for families and communities. The local armory provided a place for community activities and events such as dances, athletic competitions, concerts and the like.
The Delaware National Guard experienced a building boom in the two decades following World War I. Working through the State Commission on Armories, new armories were designed and built in Laurel, Dover, Newark, Milford, Georgetown and Wilmington. General Ellison noted that the Wilmington organization was forced for many years to house its troops in the dilapidated structure at 12th and Orange streets, originally intended for one troop of cavalry. He cited the negative impact this had on recruiting. The building was long since outgrown, housing seven units from the attic to the cellar. A bill was introduced to the legislature in 1923 to appropriate $100,000 for a new Wilmington armory. Facilities at the State Rifle Range were improved and parcels throughout Delaware were actively sought and acquired for future armories.
Most importantly, the Bethany Beach training site was acquired in 1927. This location became the primary training site for the Delaware National Guard from 1928 until 1939 when it went to New York State for First Army maneuvers. It remains in continued use today.
The Delaware National Guard needed a site that could accommodate the large caliber weapons of their new artillery mission. Inaccuracy of the rounds and distance from population centers dictated the selection of Bethany Beach, at that time a quiet community of isolated cottages. The State purchased an undeveloped portion of the town on April 29, 1927 from William P. Short. Additional acreage was purchased in 1934 bringing the facility to 104.5 acres.
Construction of permanent facilities began in 1928 including an administration building, two storerooms, three saltwater shower and latrine facilities, mess halls, a powerhouse, wooden platforms for tents, and a landing strip with two runways measuring 200x1500 feet. These were designed for the airplanes that towed targets for the anti-aircraft artillery practice. The towed targets were flown parallel to the shoreline so that expended rounds would fall harmlessly to sea.
The first encampment at Bethany Beach was held beginning on August 4, 1928. Governor’s Day, held on August 15, and honored Governor Robert P. Robertson, drawing a crowd of some 600 visitors. The spectators enjoyed small and large gun exercises, athletic competitions, drills, musical performances by the National Guard Band, and an awards ceremony.
The Bethany camp facility was put to use by other units and states as well, including National Guard units from West Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.
In the 1920s, Bethany Beach was only a small collection of cottages with a few dozen permanent residents. Most vacationers reached the resort by using the railroad to Rehoboth Beach, where they boarded a small boat for the trip through the coastal bays and down the canal to the Loop near the center of Bethany, where they could disembark for the short walk to the beach cottages. The completion of the Du Pont Highway in the early 1920s helped spur the construction of additional hard-surfaced roads in southern Delaware. As Delaware roads improved, more and more motorists began to drive down narrow Route 26 through Millville and Ocean View to Bethany Beach.
Despite the improvements in Delaware roads, a fully-equipped regiment took its time as it crawled across Sussex County to Bethany Beach. In 1929, the 213th Coastal Artillery Regiment, based at Reading, Pa., traveled to Bethany Beach in a convoy of trucks, trailers, motorcycles, and cars. It took this unit, (similar in size to the 198th and containing over 750 soldiers), five hours to travel from Milford to Bethany.
When a National Guard regiment settled into its encampment on the north edge of the resort near Salt Pond, the throng of several hundred soldiers dwarfed the town's permanent population. Unlike those who came to enjoy the surf and sand, the National Guard arrived in Bethany to drill under conditions that they might encounter during the next war. The Coast Artillery Journal reported: "Bethany Beach has been utilized by the regiment for its annual camp since 1927, and its location has distinct advantages in many respects. All firing can be conducted from state-owned land over water areas directly in front of positions with a minimum interference from marine traffic. The 3-inch guns conducted their practices from a position about four miles from the camp area, while the machine guns were emplaced in a beach position in front of a discontinued Coast Guard station. Therefore it was possible, with two towing planes available, for gun and machine-gun units to fire at the same time without interfering with each other."
Once the 198th arrived at its encampment, the regiment got down to the serious business of setting up its guns and conducting live firings. On days when a section of the unit was firing, it was relieved of the routine camp activities so that it could devote an entire day at a time to training at the gun positions. Consequently, most of the firings were held late in the day when light and visibility were at their best. The firings of the three antiaircraft guns and the 32 Browning machine guns created quite a racket that echoed over the dunes. During the night firings, the regiment's three anti-aircraft searchlights provided an eerie glow accompanying the cacophony of the guns.
Douglas O-38 target towing airplane at Bethany Beach summer encampment. Pictured left to right are, the Adjutant General, George Schulz, S.B.I. Duncan, and Harry Van Sciver.
After the gun crews had been drilled with their weapons, the soldiers practiced firing at a target towed by a plane. In addition, the machine-gun units trained by firing at free-floating balloons. After the firings were completed, the targets were collected and holes were counted to determine gunners' accuracy.
The 1930 encampment was named for United States Senator and Delaware National Guard General T. Coleman DuPont. General DuPont had been the Quartermaster General for the Delaware Guard circa 1909- 1921. The soldiers gathered in Wilmington, forming a convoy of trucks on Saturday August 2nd traveling down U.S. route 13 with numerous spectators waving them on. They were accompanied by Lieutenant J. Norris Robinson, and a 40 piece regimental band. Robinson was born in 1865, and his military service dated back to 1882. The Delaware National Guard Band itself, dated from 1903 and was founded and organized by Norris.
The Delaware Governor, C. Douglass Buck visited and inspected the camp on 13 August. The day began with the boom of 10 cannons firing 75-mm shells when the Governor’s car arrived at the camp. While a squad of buglers played flourishes, he was greeted by Adjutant General J. Austin Ellison and Col. John P. LeFevre, commandant of the encampment, (Evening Journal, Wilmington, DE, August 13, 1930).
The Governor was then given a tour of the camp and the training activities. Machine gun emplacements set up on the beach fired at balloons and sleeve targets towed by airplanes. 75 mm anti-aircraft guns were also fired at moving targets, and there was a demonstration of chemical warfare training with tear gas. Governor Buck was given a pistol on the firing round, and fired at a target. At 3:00 in the afternoon, the entire regiment passed by the Governor in a formal review of the troops. Athletics competitions were also held in the afternoon, including swimming competitions, a 100 yard dash and the baseball championships (Evening Journal, Wilmington, DE, August 13, 1930). Later, the Governor presided over an awards ceremony for the troops.
In the evening, a mock battle was performed for the large crowd in attendance. According to the local accounts: “Night firing featured the close of yesterday’s program at the camp. The scene was reminiscent of the night air raids during the late war. Searchlights combed the sky for the imaginary enemy planes; 75 mm guns boomed; men worked quickly but quietly at the guns. And through it all could be heard the steady whine of airplane motors. Hundreds who had come here for Governor’s Day remained until late to witness the night shooting. It was the first time during the present camp that the big guns were used at night. The searchlights made a big V with their rays and at this the guns fired.” (Evening Journal, Wilmington, DE, August 14, 1930).
Following the completion of schedule activities, orders were given to the soldiers to begin preparations to dismantle the camp and return to their respective armories. The mess hall floors were cleaned and scrubbed, and all the tent floors were cleaned. The following morning, the supplies were packed back onto the trucks for movement, including hauling the 75 mm guns from their placements on the dunes back to the camp to be cleaned and dismantled. On August the 15th, all the tents were dismantled and the men loaded their personal gear onto the convoy trucks and made the day long trip to return to the Wilmington Armory (Evening Journal, Wilmington, DE, August 16, 1930). The camp was ready for the Pennsylvania Guardsmen, who were preparing to conduct a similar two week training camp there the following week.
The 213th Regiment, 28th Airborne Division, Pennsylvania National Guard, arrived at Bethany Beach on the 18th of August to begin their two week encampment. One of the notable events was an “experiment with long wave radio transmission as sole means of communication between the airport communications, planes in flight, and Bethany Beach” (Titusville, PA, Journal, August 18, 1930).
Similar training exercises are documented for the 1933 encampment. In this year, the Camp honored Governor C. Douglass Buck, and was under the command of Colonel George J. Schultz. The training began with the arrival of the Delaware troops of the 198th Coast Artillery, Anti-Aircraft, Delaware Army National Guard, to the site on the 29th of July, 1933. It was noted that this camp has added improvements since the 1930 encampment, including: the assistance of “Bozo,” a 10-ton caterpillar tractor, used to tow the 75 mm guns to the dunes; and also the establishment of temporary radio station W3XF for communications during the encampment. A new “moving picture machine” was brought to show the films “42nd Street” and “Rome Express” to the men in the evenings (Evening Journal, Wilmington, DE, July 29, 1933). The also added a camp newspaper, the “D.N.G. News”, which was produced and distributed daily during the camp (Evening Journal, Wilmington, DE, August 9, 1933).
Governor’s Day was held at the camp on August 9th, with Governor Buck attending a similar series of exhibitions, marches, award ceremonies and athletic competitions that he has witnessed in previous years. This year, special note was made of a radio telephone that was installed in one of the airplanes, and radio messages were passed to people at the camp while the flight was passing by (Evening Journal, Wilmington, DE, August 9, 1933).
After the Governor’s Day celebrations were over, the orders were given to break camp and the soldier’s began on the 10th to dismantle the guns and other large equipment. They were scheduled to mobilize for the return on the morning of the 11th, but in the early hours of that morning the camp was struck with a heavy storm. Accounts of the event relate that five men were injured, most of the tents were destroyed, two telephone poles were knocked over, and the roof of the officers’ mess was loosened by the wind.
261st Coast Artillery (Harbor Defense)
Meanwhile, the Sussex County battalion of the old First Delaware Infantry was reorganized on March 24, 1924 as the 261st Separate Coast Artillery Battalion (Harbor Defense), with Battery “A” stationed in Laurel. Initially the men met at the Laurel High School gymnasium. A new armory was constructed and dedicated in February 1927. The Dedication ceremony included a governor’s reception and dance at the new armory. Music was provided by the Laurel High School band and food was served at the Rigbie Hotel.
The unit trained at various active duty posts and forts, primarily Fort Hancock, Sandy Hook New Jersey, which provided coastal defense for the approaches to New York harbor.
Subsequently, Battery “B” at Georgetown was organized and federally recognized on July 9, 1936 along with Headquarters at Dover, the Medical Department detachment at Laurel and headquarters at Dover. The original Laurel unit was designated as Battery “A”. It was not until May 8, 1940 that War Department permission was secured to fully organize the battalion, adding another Battery “C” at Laurel.
National Defense Act of 1933
The year 1933 was a milestone for the National Guard. Congress that year finally enacted into law, after 141 years, provisions that George Washington had recommended during his first term as President. Under the act of June 15, 1933, the National Guard was recognized as a component of the Army of the United States at all times, not just when in active service in wartime. It created the dual status for Guardsmen.
This little-known but critical legislation finally solved a Constitutional dilemma that had troubled the Army and Guardsmen since 1903. Despite all the laws passed from 1903 to 1933 increasing the readiness of the Guard to serve as a reserve of the Army, the Guard remained the militia of the states according to the Constitution. It was thus limited in its federal service to the three purposes specified in the Constitution: executing the laws of the union, suppressing insurrections and repelling invasions. In order to remove Guardsmen from these restrictions imposed on the militia, the federal government drafted each National Guardsman for World War I, thus legally removing him from the militia and placing him in the Army. Guardsmen universally resented being drafted, since they all considered themselves volunteers. However, they also did not wish in peacetime to surrender the independence from Army control that membership in the state-controlled militia conferred, and (barring an amendment to the Constitution) they could not simultaneously be members of both a state and a federal military force, no matter how the law was written.
The solution to this problem was developed in the 1920s after considerable study by leaders of the National Guard Association of the United States. When it was finally passed by Congress in 1933, the National Guard Status Act created a new federal reserve component of the Army called "The National Guard of the United States." This new reserve component would only be populated when the Guard was ordered into federal service; at all other times this federal reserve would have only an inactive "shadow" existence, its personnel residing in identical units of the Organized Militia (called "The National Guard of the several States, Territories, and the District of Columbia") under state control. The law also changed the name of the Army staff organization.
Under this act, all Guard officers and men became reserve officers and enlisted men of the Army, at the same time retaining their status as officers and enlisted men in the military forces of the individual States. Without sacrificing the peace time rights of the States to control the National Guard, the new law insured that all National Guard units and personnel would meet the uniform rigid standards required to function effectively as part of the Army in wartime. This reform was timely, and its new elements would soon be put to good use.
“Good bye dear, I’ll be back in a year” Mobilization 1940-1941
The rising tide of Nazism and Japanese militarism threatened Europe and Asia toward the end of the 1930s, but the majority of Americans remained staunchly isolationist. Japan's invasion of China in 1936 and Germany's attack against Poland three years later converted fascist rhetoric into bellicose action. In September 1939, the U.S. Army with only 190,000 regulars was the 17th largest army in the world -- just behind the Romanian Army.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to enhance military readiness by increasing the Guard's annual paid drill periods from 48 to 60 and expanding summer camp from two to three weeks. Hitler's stunning defeat of France in May 1940 prompted a sharp American response. On August 27, Congress declared a national emergency and authorized the president to call out the Guard for one year. At the same time, Congress approved America's first, peacetime draft.
198th Coast Artillery Mobilization
The 198th Coast Artillery was federalized on September 16, 1940 in the very first mobilization increment to train at Camp Edwards, on Cape Cod, Massachusetts with a strength of 946 personnel. They were followed in January 1941 by the 261st Coast Artillery.
Like most Guard units, the Delaware organization had been maintained for years at the full strength permitted by Congressional appropriations which was about half the authorized wartime strength. In 1933 the Guard had apparently won its long struggle for official acceptance by the Federal Government. Yet when it entered active service in 1940, a number of high military officials publicly criticized the Guard for being under strength. Guardsmen especially resented the slur because the Federal officials responsible knew full well that the Guard's lack of strength was due to no fault of its own. It was due rather to the same national policy that kept the Regular Army on a skeleton basis between 1920 and 1939.
Nevertheless, the Delaware units went to work with a will, devoting their efforts to training new recruits who were being assigned to them under the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. Many of the new men came from Delaware.
Delaware National Guard enlisted strength was 1369 at the beginning of 1940 including 501 new recruits. The National Guard Bureau had authorized a strength increase of 69%, the largest increase authorized for any state. Most states increased by an average of 21%. By March 4, 1940 the Delaware Guard had recruited to 93% of its authorized strength.
The 198th went first to Camp Upton, Long Island, N. Y., a mere remnant of the encampment it had been during the Great War. The size and speed of the mobilization created several problems. Guard units often arrived at training camps that lacked adequate billeting, mess and training facilities. All types of weapons and equipment were woefully short.
The men lived in winterized tents heated by Sibley stoves. Training was handicapped at Camp Upton by the lack of equipment, but the men were nevertheless hardened and conditioned by their field training. Guardsmen used stove pipes to simulate cannons, carried brooms for rifles and pretended that pine logs were machine guns.
Camp Edwards, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Then in March 1941 the unit removed to Camp Edwards on Cape Cod, where they were grouped with Army and other National Guard units in the 36th Coast Artillery Brigade. Here they quartered in newly constructed wooden barracks. The Regiment won the First Army Trophy as the outstanding National Guard regiment in First Army. While at Camp Edwards, in addition to actual anti-aircraft training, the unit made many extended convoy training trips throughout New England, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware. They trained to be mobile and to dismantle and re-establish themselves on short notice.
In September 1941, the regiment was ordered to Fort Ontario, at Oswego, New York, where it conducted firing and searchlight training. The day after the Pearl Harbor attack, December 8, 1941 the unit was alerted and moved on a motor march through winter weather to Hartford Connecticut where it established anti- aircraft gun positions for the protection of the industrial center there.
261st Coast Artillery Mobilization
The 261st Coast Artillery was federalized on January 27, 1941 in the eleventh mobilization increment to train at Fort DuPont Delaware City Delaware with a total strength of 334 men. The men were sent by train after a week of preparation and last minute recruiting to their mobilization station at Fort DuPont. “A” and “C” Batteries and the Medical detachment departed from the Laurel Armory; Headquarters and “B” Battery departed from Georgetown. Their send-off was reminiscent of the Civil War. Community ceremonies were held with speeches and presentations and a high school band led the march to the railroad depot.
On Easter Sunday, April 1941, Battery “B” was ordered to Cape Henlopen to establish an outpost of the harbor defenses of the Delaware Bay with Major Ralph Baker in overall command, under the purview of Headquarters of the Harbor Defenses of the Delaware Bay and River, Fort DuPont, commanded by regular army Colonel George Rhulen, also commander of Fort DuPont, and the 21st Coast Artillery Battalion.
The weather was unseasonably cold and damp. There were no permanent buildings. Only tents were available for shelter. Located near a fish processing factory, the odor was ubiquitous and unpleasant, but the factory was able to provide a three inch waterline for the kitchens and other points, even providing warm water in the summertime if the sun was shining on the pipe. Preparations began for construction of permanent facilities soon after the arrival of the 261st. The Guardsmen named the location “Camp Henlopen”.
The 261st erected a tent city of some fifteen pyramidal tents and welcomed elements of the Headquarters to the camp on June 5, 1941. The Camp was renamed “Fort Miles” and the men continued their section and unit training, while lending a hand to the construction of permanent facilities. Battery “A” was also transferred to Fort Miles equipped with four 155mm guns of split trail French design. This was the only tractor drawn weapon used by the Coast Artillery. Meanwhile, Battery “B” manned two, twelve inch disappearing fixed guns at Fort Saulsbury near Slaughter Beach and two 155 mm guns at Cape May Point New Jersey across the mouth of the Delaware Bay.
The men of the 261st who remained at Fort DuPont composed of “C” Battery manned two, three-inch guns at Fort DuPont and two more at Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River. In addition, they were also armed with four 90mm towed guns.
The men posted to Fort Delaware enjoyed a life not too different than their Civil War predecessors. They were housed in the same brick buildings that once held confederate prisoners. There was no heat, electricity or showers. The garrison was supplied daily by boat from Fort DuPont. Eventually, and an old 10kw generator was found and repaired, providing some electricity, powering a portable radio for news of the outside world.
During the summer of 1941, elements of the 261st at Fort DuPont and Fort Delaware witnessed and supported rehearsals of the 21st Coast Artillery planting mines in the Delaware River and supported the 21st in the actual laying of mines in the Delaware Bay after the war started.
Captain Albert W. Adams was officer of the day at Fort Miles on December 7, 1941. He notes that at 2:00 P. M. “all hell broke loose”. No ammunition of any type had been issued to the troops, but by the evening they were “loaded” with 155mm shells, powder, fuses and thousands of rounds of .30 caliber machine gun ammunition.
State Guard Re-formed
In 1940, Section 61 of the old National Defense Act of 1916 was modified to again allow the establishment of state defense forces. An amendment specified that state forces would be limited to duties as determined by their respective state governors.
Legislation was passed by the Delaware General Assembly on April 14, 1941 “to provide for the Creation, Maintenance, Discipline, Legislation and Use of the Delaware State Guard” (significantly, well before war was declared). This act enabled the State Guard to assume the state mission the Delaware National Guard had previously held. Their federalization effectively led to the disbandment of the former organization as a state entity until it could be re-organized post bellum. The legislation provided that the governor could establish a State Guard when the National Guard was in federal service, however, and could be organized and maintained as he felt necessary to defend the State. All members were to be uniformed volunteers. Although they were unpaid volunteers, if they were to be called out for an emergency, they would be granted pay and subsidence for each day’s service. The state legislature apportioned $50,000 towards the establishment of the State Guard.
In May 1941 organizational meetings were conducted throughout the state to form what was then labeled the “Home Guard”. General Paul Rinard, Adjutant General for Delaware explained and discussed the structure and programs of the nascent organization. The Middletown Transcript quoted President Roosevelt in a fireside chat,” the war is coming close to home”, and the reporter added, “It seems time for all patriotic men and women to face this grim reality. It would seem the least every able bodied man can do is attend this meeting and join the home guard. Here is an opportunity for patriotic service, improved health, and social expansion of the community.” By the following month, the first meetings were held. A more complete history of the Delaware State Guard can be found here.
In retrospect, the interwar years of the National Guard were a kind of “golden age”, despite the financial limitations imposed by Congress. The interwar years were relatively serene compared to the turbulent squabbles for existence within the War Department prior to World War I and as we shall see, once again post World War II. Military policy was fixed by the 1920 legislation and no substantial changes to unit tables of organization appeared for nearly twenty years.
In 1933 the Guard even won an uncontested legislative victory by convincing Congress to modify the 1920 law by creating the National Guard of the United States under the Constitution’s army clause. The National Guard became, and remains, simultaneously the constitutional state militia and a reserve component of the United States Army governed by federal law and regulation. The President can “order” men to federal service during war. By “ordering” the individual soldiers were not discharged from their state service.
The interwar years provided the National Guard with a stable environment, a better equipped, more fully manned, and better commanded organization than at any other time since the modern revival of the Guard in the 1870s. Its guaranteed role in national defense gave the Guard the resources and the prestige needed to win community support and to attract recruits.
The National Guard won the 1920 battle for its existence, and by 1940 was able to furnish 19 divisions at a time when our regular forces included only six divisions and our other reserve forces were only skeleton units made up entirely of officers. If the Guard had lost its 1920 struggle with the War Department, and these 19 divisions had not been available 20 years later, the history of Word War II would have been written much differently.
Federal Recognition extended to various units in 1921, 198th C.A.State Staff
Lt. Colonel James A. Ellison, Adjutant General Major Joshua D. Bush, Inspector General Major Edward G. Bradford Jr. Judge Advocate Major Weller E. Stover, Quartermaster Major David M. Salter, Ordnance Major Victor D. Washburn, Medical Corps
Regimental Headquarters Colonel Harry W. Stark Commanding Officer
1st Battalion Headquarters & Combat Training , Wilmington Major Harry B. Van Sciver, Commanding Officer
Headquarters & Headquarters Battery Wilmington 1st Lt. William J. B. Regan Service Battery, Wilmington, Captain Harvey C. Bounds Battery “A” Wilmington, Captain William W. Ramsey Battery “B” Wilmington, Captain Leroy E. Work Battery “C” Wilmington, 1st Lt. Warren R. Baldwin Battery “D” Wilmington, 1st Lt. Lewis W. Zebley Medical Detachment, Wilmington, Major Joseph M. Barsky, M.C.
2nd Battalion Headquarters M.B. Detachment, Dover Major George J. Schulz, Commanding Company “E” Newark, Captain Joshua W. Davis Company “F” Milford, Captain Harry J. Pettyjohn Company “G” Dover, Captain Robert D. Simmons Company “H” New Castle, Captain Silas B. I. Duncan
Donn Devine, Captain of Artillery, Delaware National Guard, The Delaware National Guard, A Historical Sketch, State of Delaware, Wilmington 1968, page 28. This 47 page booklet is the most comprehensive history of the Delaware National Guard extant.
Kennard R. Wiggins Jr., Delaware State Guard, A History, http://www.militaryheritage.org/StateGuard. html
, I.P. Wickersham Biennial Report of the Adjutant General, Delaware, December 31, 1918, pp.6-7
Jerry Cooper, The Rise of the National Guard , the Evolution of the American Militia, 1865-1920, University of Nebraska Press, 1997, pp. 173-174
John K. Mahon, History of the Militia and the National Guard, MacMillan PublishingNew york, 1983, p. 173
Michael D. Doubler, “I am the Guard, A History of the Army National Guard, 1636-2000”, Department of the Army Pamphlet No. 130-1, 2001, p. 189
Jim Dan Hill, “The Minuteman in Peace and War, A History of the National Guard, Stackpole Books 1964, p. 355
Michael Morgan, “Artillery Rattles Bethany Beach, “The Wave”, date unknown, p.1
J. Austin Ellison Biennial Report of the Adjutant General, Delaware, December 31, 1921, p. 5
Paul R. Rinard, Chapter 10, Recent Military History of Delaware, “Delaware, A History of the First State, Volume 1, Lewis Historical Publishing, New York 1947, p. 240
J. Austin Ellison, Biennial Report of The Adjutant General, State of Delaware, 1921 and 1922, p. 193
Thomas E. Jones, Preservation Planner, Groenendaal and Jones, Between World Wars: 1920-1940, A General History of the Delaware Army National Guard, 1995, p.92
Ken Baumgardt, “History of Bethany Beach Training Site, Delaware Army National Guard”, prepared by U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, July 2008 pp.1-2
It appears that the original three inch M1918 anti-aircraft guns were replaced by “French 75s” by 1930. The US Army adopted the French 75 mm field gun during World War I and used it extensively in battle. The US Army also kept a large inventory of the gun after World War I and used it extensively for training purposes until 1942.
William H. Duncan, M.D. “Delaware National Guard, World War II, 261st Coast Artillery Battalion (Harbor Defense) (Separate)”, 2000 Unpublished Manuscript, p.1
Historical and Pictorial Review, National Guard of the State of Delaware, 1940, Army and Navy Publishing Co. Baton Rouge LA 1940, p. XVI.
Ray Wilson, Delaware National Guard 1940, Organization, March 28, 1940, Unpublished manuscript from the collection of the Delaware Military Heritage and Education Foundation archives. P.37
C.W. Warrington, Delaware’s Coastal Defenses, Fort Saulsbury & A Mighty Fort Called Miles, 1972, Reprinted by Delaware Heritage Press, 2003, p. 68
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Would you like to know more? We recommend the following book available at local Delaware bookstores and from Arcadia Publishing.
Delaware Army National Guard The Delaware National Guard traces its roots to 1655, when the Swedish Colonial government formed a militia to defend itself. That tradition carried through Dutch and then English control of the colony. The militia served in all five French and Indian Wars and then distinguished itself during the Revolutionary War as the First Delaware Regiment of the Continental Army, earning its "Blue Hen" nickname. The Delaware militia continued to serve in every major war, and currently it remains in the forefront. Images of America: Delaware Army National Guard presents images of this fabled organization that survived from the Spanish-American War to the present. The people, places, equipment, and facilities of the Delaware National Guard are illustrated in this compilation of historic photographs from the collection of the Delaware Military Heritage and Education Foundation.