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The Massachusetts National Guard: A Brief History

“Massachusetts National Guard, The Nation’s First.”

The Massachusetts National Guard was founded as the Massachusetts Bay Colonial Militia on 13 December 1636.

The first units of the Massachusetts Militia were organized in Plymouth in 1621, Salem in 1629 and in Boston in 1630. Town militia companies were organized into three permanent militia regiments on 13 December 1636. This date marks the birth of the Massachusetts National Guard and is observed as the birth date of the National Guard of the United States.

The Revolutionary War began on 19 April 1775 when units of the Massachusetts Militia engaged British troops at Lexington, Concord and during the retreat to Boston. The United States Army was born in Cambridge in June 1775 when militia units entered service as regiments of the Continental Army. Massachusetts provided more regiments for the Continental Army than any other state.

The Massachusetts Militia took part briefly in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. However, its real challenge took place in April 1861 when President Lincoln called on the states to provide militia to put down the insurrection and to protect Washington. Massachusetts  was the first state to mobilize and deploy its regiments to the national capital. The Massachusetts Militia raised some 71 regiments that fought in nearly every major battle of the Civil War.

Massachusetts units fought in Cuba and Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War. National Guard units from the state also helped to secure the border with Mexico in 1916. During World War I, the National Guard of the New England states organized the 26th Yankee Division which was the second American Division to deploy to France and was rated as one of the top American Expeditionary Forces Divisions. After the war, the 26th became solely a Massachusetts organization.

In January 1941, the 26th Yankee Division was mobilized for service during World War II and took part in four campaigns in Europe. Other Massachusetts units fought in the Pacific as part of the American Division.

The Massachusetts Air National Guard was born on 18 November 1921 when the 101st Observation Squadron was organized. After World War II, the Air Guard expanded to include the 102nd and 104th  Fighter Wings and the 253rd Communications Group.

Massachusetts National Guard units participated in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. During the Berlin Crisis of 1961, virtually the entire Air Guard was mobilized along with Army Guard units. During the Gulf War of 1991, seven Massachusetts units mobilized and supported operations in Iraq.

Since 11 September 2001, Massachusetts National Guard units have been in continuous federal service in   Iraq,   Afghanistan,   Kuwait, Kosovo and other countries in support of Overseas Contingency Operations.

There are 8,200 Soldiers and Airmen in the Massachusetts National Guard, serving in Air and Army units, in both combat and support roles.

More than 6,500 Massachusetts National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have been mobilized into federal service since 11 September 2001, and more than 5,000 of those served overseas.

The Massachusetts National Guard has a unique dual mission: first, to maintain properly trained and equipped units available to support the Department of Defense under the direction of the President of the United States. The second part is to provide trained and disciplined forces for emergencies within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts under the direction of the Governor of Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts National Guard has always been there to support the community in time of need. Massachusetts Guard members were activated to protect life and property during the Blizzard of 1978, the airport security missions in 2001 and 2006, the Democratic National Convention in 2004, relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Southwest Border Security Mission in 2007-2008, and most recently at home, the emergency response to the major Ice Storm in 2008.

The Massachusetts National Guard is a Citizen-Soldier force that is ready, reliable, robust and essential to the safety and security of the Commonwealth and Nation. We have interstate emergency compacts with the National Guard from other states, so if we need an asset in Massachusetts, other states will lend us the personnel and equipment to buttress our response to a crisis.

No other state’s National Guard has such a long and distinguished history.