Post-World War II Reorganization of the Iowa National Guard
History of The Iowa National Guard
CW2 David L. Snook
After World War II, the Iowa National Guard had to be entirely rebuilt. As former Guardsmen gradually returned to the state following their release from active duty in late 1945, planning for a postwar National Guard was well underway. A long and contentious debate occurred within the General Staff Committee on National Guard Policy, the chief agency responsible for reorganization, concerning the makeup and the mission of the postwar National Guard. Some senior Regular Army officers actually wanted to eliminate the Guard’s federal mission entirely. Due to public pressure, generated in large part by Minnesota Adjutant General Ellard A. Walsh, President of the National Guard Association during World War II, the War Department ultimately decided to retain the National Guard’s dual mission – "to serve as an integral part of the first line reserve component of the postwar military establishment" and "to protect life and property and preserve the peace, order and public safety, under competent orders of state authorities." (Annual Report of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, 1946, p. 61)
Commencing July 1, 1946, the Army National Guard, within a period of approximately 36 months, organized and federally recognized 5,150 units, with a strength slightly in excess of 350,000. The Air National Guard, in that same period of time, organized and federally recognized 527 units, contained in 27 combat wings, with a strength of nearly 50,000. Recruiting by both organizations was greatly assisted by the reintroduction of a peacetime draft in 1948. Nevertheless, the reorganization of both the Army and Air National Guards was accomplished with amazing speed and efficiency.
The recruiting effort in Iowa generally reflected what was happening nationally. At the beginning of 1948, the Iowa Army National Guard numbered approximately 3,500. A final recruiting blitz raised that total to 6,330 at the end of the fiscal year. Add to that total the 731 members of the Iowa Air National Guard, and you have a grand total of 7,061 for the Iowa National Guard as a whole.
A majority of the Iowa Army National Guard units were part of the 34th Division, as had been the case before World War II. Other organizations included the 113th Cavalry Squadron, the 194th Field Artillery, the 634th Tank Destroyer Battalion, the 100th Combat Engineers, and the 3655th and 3657th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Companies.
The air arm of the Iowa National Guard included the 132nd Fighter Group Headquarters, the 124th and 174th Fighter Squadrons, the 232nd Air Service Group, and the 133rd Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron. The fighter squadrons received their first "jets," Lockheed F-80 Shooting Stars, at the end of 1949.
The most immediate postwar problem for the Iowa National Guard was the acquisition of facilities. The State of Iowa owned no armories. The only state-held property was Camp Dodge, which was both a summer campsite and a year-round supply base for the Guard. Armory space had to be leased, usually from local government agencies, but sometimes from private owners. "Leases were signed with American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, cities and towns, insurance companies, and even boards of education and colleges." (The Iowa Guardsman, Jan.-Feb., 1948, p. 13) This turned out to be a temporary solution. Throughout the 1950s and the 1960s, the state embarked on a long-term armory construction program, 75% of the cost being underwritten by the federal government. During this time, approximately 40 new armories were built all across the state.
At the time of reorganization, the area of least concern was equipment. Due to massive overproduction by defense industries at the end of World War II, most Iowa National Guard units had a full TOE (table of organization and equipment). For one of the few times in its history, the Iowa National Guard had nearly 100% of its required equipment. By the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, however, much of this equipment was already becoming outdated.
One area of great concern to National Guard leaders was training. Until 1957, National Guard recruits did not attend basic training. Recruits were taught basic soldier skills by unit noncommissioned officers. The quality of instruction, however, was excellent, most of the NCOs being combat veterans.
Annual training during the 1950s was generally conducted at one of three locations – Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, or Camp Ripley, Minnesota. Training often suffered from lack of modern equipment. Most of the tanks, artillery pieces, individual weapons, and equipment were World War II vintage. Guardsmen continued to train with surplus World War II equipment until excess armaments from the Vietnam War became available.
From the end of World War II until the late 1950s, athletic events remained an important part of the annual training experience. The success of camp was often judged by the performance of the unit boxing, wrestling, baseball, and track teams. By the late 1950s, as training became more demanding, organized sports activities were gradually phased out.
Another problem for the rapidly expanding postwar National Guard was the need to develop junior officers. Led by Indiana, the various states began to organize their own state-run officer candidate programs. Patterned on the Regular Army’s ninety-day curriculum at Fort Benning, Georgia, most of these state programs combined two annual training periods with a year of multiple drills. The Iowa Military Academy, organized in 1957, was given the responsibility of supervising the state’s officer candidate program. The 250-hour program of instruction was designed to be completed in three phases over a thirteen month period. The first class graduated on July 19, 1958.
By the end of 1949, the Iowa National Guard had been completely reorganized. Guard units contained a large percentage of well-trained combat veterans, equipped with excess equipment from World War II. The Air Force had begun to incorporate the Air Guard into its organization, allocating more federal funds, expanding its mission, and providing it with more and better training opportunities. The Army National Guard, however, soon suffered a variety of problems – lack of modern equipment, reduced federal financing, inadequate training opportunities, and limited cooperation from the regular Army and the Department of Defense. The outbreak of the Korean War, in the summer of 1950, soon made these deficiencies glaringly apparent. (Hartman, Douglas, Nebraska’s Militia, the Donning Company, 1994, p. 191)