The Iowa Guard in the Inter-War Period (Part I)
The 1920s: Rebuilding the National Guard
History of The Iowa National Guard
1LT Stephen N. Kallestad
Headquarters Detachment 113th Calvary- champion marksmanship team (1923)
To gain an understanding of the National Guard in general during the inter-war period, we must take a brief look at the National Defense Acts of 1916 and 1920, and the treatment of the National Guard by the War Department during both the mobilization for and demobilization after WWI. It was a dark period for the National Guard in both Iowa and the nation as a whole.
The National Defense Act of 1916, written originally for the mobilization for Mexican Border service, was used again for the mobilization for WWI. Because of the wording of this Act and the constitutional questions concerning state militias serving overseas, all mobilized Guard units were deactivated and then re-activated in federal service. The mobilized Guardsmen were then given the status of "draftees" by the Regular Army. (During and after the war, the National Guard Association worked tirelessly to get this status changed to "volunteer.")
At the beginning of the United States' entry into WWI, the Army consisted of three components: the Regular Army, composed of active duty units that existed prior the war; the National Army, composed of mobilized federal reservists (USAR) and draftees; and the states' National Guards. After the Guard units were mobilized, they were deactivated and re-activated as part of the National Army of the U.S. So, during mobilization and during the war, the states' respective National Guards ceased to exist.
When WWI ended, Gen. Peyton C. March was Chief of Staff of the Army. This was unfortunate for the National Guard, as March was an adherent of Emory Upton, a 19th-century military theorist who advocated the abolition of the Guard. He used his position to ensure that all Guardsmen who had been mustered into active duty were given complete discharges from the Army. This action outraged many governors because it left their states without a National Guard. This was the prelude to the legislative fight which would end in the National Defense Act of 1920.
Iowa's adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Louis G. Lasher, alluded to these problems in his 1919-20 biennial report to Gov. W. L. Harding. He mentioned that only with incredible effort could Iowa muster 1,994 men: one infantry regiment; 10 separate infantry companies; eight separate cavalry troops; and one field artillery battery. (This compared to one infantry brigade (three regiments), one cavalry squadron (four troops), one engineer company, one field hospital, and one ambulance company prior to federal service. Lasher also stated that there was still "much anxiety felt relative to the future of the National Guard."
By 1922, the total size of the Iowa National Guard has risen to 3,431 men, but the adjutant general complained about "bad relations with the War Department." Although the National Defense Act of 1920 still made provisions for a National Guard, its position was not particularly strong. The adjutant general noted that the War Department (forerunner of the Defense Department) had made three changes to the pay forms for the National Guard, much delaying the pay of its soldiers. Further, extreme delays in the shipment of supplies, which the Regular Army refused to explain, drastically slowed training in the Iowa Guard. Finally, the War Department made numerous changes to the Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E), which materially hurt many units.
The Iowa National Guard continued to persevere, however, rising to a peak strength of 6,335 men by 1924. Camp Dodge was returned to the state in 1922. By 1928 all members were being paid by the federal government, so it was unnecessary for the state to cover part of the payroll.
By the close of the '20s, stability had returned to the Iowa Guard, and soldiers were able to concentrate on training. They were going to need it for the troubled '30s.
A highlight of training for 113th Calvary troopers-horse mounted wrestling matches (c. 1921-1922)