Brief History of the Texas State Guard

The Texas State Guard was organized after the Congress passed the state defense force statutes in 1940. However, it carries on a long and honorable Texas militia tradition predating the Republic of Texas.

The General Council of the provisional government of Texas authorized a militia through a decree approved by the Governor on 27 November 1835. This was followed by the Republic of Texas' militia statutes on 6 December 1836.

During the Republic's short life, the militia was the subject of much controversy as President and Congress struggled for control over Texas' military forces. The fear of a strong standing army evidenced itself in much the same fashion as had been the case during the early days of the United States.

In the brief period Texas remained an independent nation, many changes were made in the laws governing the military.

Appointment of key officers was a frequent sticking point. In one act of the Legislature, the President would be given that power. In another, that power would be vested in the Major General who commanded the Army and was thus beholden to the Congress for funds. Some military laws were vetoed by the President and some were passed over his veto. At one point in the struggle, the Texas Congress effectively disbanded the nation's regular army by the simple expedient of cutting off all army appropriations.

Among the more colorful segments of Texas' military heritage is that of the Texas Rangers.

"Although a small group of Texas Rangers had been formed in 1823 by Stephen F. Austin, they were not formally organized until Oct. 17, 1835." 2 The initial reason for creation of that body appears to have been the rather mundane requirement for gathering up "loose cattle" to provide sustenance for Texas' military forces while at the same time denying them to the Mexican army. This was followed by use of the Rangers for military defense of the border areas. It was later to become the elite law enforcement agency with which we are familiar today. Rangers were paid regulars, but most Texas troops in the early days were militiamen who were required to enroll promptly upon coming of age or becoming residents of the Republic.

At one stage, a special class of militia was provided with the borrowed title of "Minutemen." Texas' military history is truly a fascinating topic that can not be covered in this brief chapter. Many interesting books are available to provide an interested reader with greater insight into that history.

A few years after becoming a state, Texas joined the Confederacy.

Like the other states in that body, it suffered the loss of the war for independence and rule by the "carpetbag" government that followed. When reconstruction, as the occupation was termed, ended, a state militia became a high priority due to lawlessness, and, presumably, dangers from Indian attacks. A militia act of this period created a reserve militia and an active militia, the "State Guard." Use of that term for the state militia originated in 1870, though it did not remain in use very long. The militia of the day eventually came to be known as the "National Guard" after Federal passage of the Dick Act in 1903. The National Guard has had from that time a dual federal-state role.

Until organization of the Texas Defense Guard, as Texas State Guard was originally named, Texas did not have a purely state militia again.

When the National Guard was mobilized for service in the First World War, the federal legislature recognized the need for state troops to replace the National Guard. A law was passed authorizing the formation of home defense forces for the duration of the war. While Texas passed the necessary enabling statutes, it did not form such an organization. As World War II made mobilization of the National Guard again likely, steps were taken to provide for state troops as replacements for the National Guard.

In October, 1940, the U. S. Congress authorized the states to organize forces in addition to the National Guard while any part of the National Guard of the state was in active federal service.

The Texas Legislature passed the Defense Act, HB 45, and the Governor signed the bill on 10 February 1941. This time, a force was organized, with the task falling to Brigadier General J. Watt Page, the Adjutant General of Texas. Within a year, the Texas Defense Guard numbered 17,497 officers and enlisted men. This number was in sharp contrast to the 11,633 members of the Texas National Guard mustered into federal service some months before. The Texas Defense Guard was organized into fifty independent battalions, each composed of a varying number of companies and a headquarters.

No equipment was issued to the units initially, and each individual had to provide his own uniform. Although the Guard inherited the unspent appropriations of the National Guard, the funds were not adequate for the equipping and maintenance of the new organization. In 1941, the Legislature passed an emergency appropriation of $65,000 to provide for munitions and other supplies. This was obviously inadequate, and Texas Defense Guard units sought out civic clubs and the like for sponsorship and financial support. On 24 July 1941, the War Department issued a limited number of surplus rifles for the Defense Guard's use. Less than a year later, the rifles were returned to the War Department to cover Army shortages. A motley assortment of shotguns was then provided for TDG use.

The 48th Legislature amended the original legislation and on 12 May 1943, the Texas Defense Guard became the Texas State Guard.

Along with its new name, Texas State Guard received the shoulder patch which is worn by its members today. it was designed by Captain Joseph C. Luther, 36th Battalion, of San Antonio, and was approved in July, 1943. In the latter part of that same year, the War Department again issued rifles and machine guns to the Guard, though the number issued was by no means adequate. Additional support was provided by the U. S. Army's Eighth Service Command, which provided training assistance, conducted a series of schools for State Guard officers and noncommissioned officers, and provided some logistical support. In 1944, the State Guard was issued a variety of military vehicles, and by April 1945 the value of federal property furnished to the State Guard was estimated to total approximately $15,000,000.

Purposes for the State Guard were varied and constantly changing during World War II. For the most part, the Guard was organized as infantry and trained as such.

Though the focus changed as the war progressed and perceptions of threats changed, an early preoccupation with invasion was evident in the large scale maneuvers along the Rio Grande. Texas State Guard participated in a variety of disaster assistance roles in connection with the same types of natural disasters which have drawn the attention of State Guard in more recent years. A major disaster operation of the war years found Texas State Guard troops evacuating hurricane victims from parts of Corpus Christi and other low-lying coastal areas.

Perhaps the most notable operation of that period was conducted at Beaumont in June, 1943

Rumors of a racial incident resulted in a series of lawless acts that saw the death of two men and injury of ten more. Marital law was declared by the Acting Governor upon the request of the City's Mayor, George Cary. Even before this was done, the Adjutant General, Brigadier General Arthur B. Knickerbocker, had nine Texas State Guard battalions on the move for Beaumont or already in the city. By the next morning, 112 officers and 1,133 enlisted men were on duty. Contemporary news accounts reported that troops arrived in every conceivable form of transportation.

The force was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Sidney C. Mason and included a local battalion which had been on duty the day before marital law was declared. The State Guard had been given the task of securing the City and County jails, since tensions had been so high that it was feared that mobs might attempt to remove prisoners and harm them. Some of Texas State Guard's troops remained on duty in Beaumont for as long as a week. Logistics support was made difficult in a crowded city where housing and dining establishments were not adequate for the civilian population.

As is often the case, the rumors which had given birth to the calamity turned out to be unfounded. But the State Guard had done the job assigned to it. Order was restored and the troops were relieved from duty to return to their home stations. One Guardsman, teen-aged Private Raymond E. Howard, spent anxious hours of duty in the Beaumont riot. He subsequently enlisted in the Army and some years later returned to Texas State Guard. At the time of his retirement from State Guard as a Lieutenant Colonel in February, 1988, he was believed to be the last serving member of the Guard who had participated in the conduct of martial law operations.

We recently received information that after LTC Howard's retirement Bud Hooper returned to the Texas State Guard after many years away. Bud had also been an under-aged participant in that same event.  Bud Hooper was a private when he went to Beaumont in 1943.  When he came back into the TSG, he was initially appointed a Major.  He served in several assignments as a member of what is now the 8th Regiment, including that of XO and later commander the old 203d MP Battalion. He held a variety of staff assignments along the way, too.  He was promoted to LTC and was retired from the Texas State Guard when he died in June of 1998.

The membership of State Guard changed frequently as people were added and others left.

During 1943, 6,000 recruits enlisted in a single one-week period. Another 8,346 soldiers left the Guard to enter the U. S. Armed Forces. Throughout most of State Guard's history, enlistment has been limited to those who had attained the age of eighteen or, with parental consent, seventeen. The War Department realized during World War II that State Guards provided useful training and authorized the service of young men at age sixteen with state concurrence and parental consent. Texas accommodated the War Department and opened ranks to troops in that age bracket. Inevitably, some "stretched" their ages and slipped in at even more tender ages. One such enlistee was fifteen year-old James T. Dennis. He was destined to finish a long and distinguished military career by serving as the Adjutant General of Texas from 1985 to 1989. More than one young State Guardsman who later entered federal service gave credit to State Guard training for rapid advancement in the U. S. Armed Forces.

Women were not accepted as full-fledged members of the Texas State Guard during the early days.

But, they subsequently became recognized members of the Guard and were entitled to the same opportunities for advancement open to men. During the war years, there were numerous "ladies' auxiliaries" whose dedicated members served as drivers, mastered first aid, and performed other mission-essential tasks. In later years, women became members of line units of the Texas State Guard and now serve in a wide variety of commissioned and enlisted assignments. They have held command and staff assignments and have served in military police roles. Women have not been relegated to behind-the-scenes clerical roles, but have taken their places in crowd control lines, on traffic control posts, guard assignments and any other activities in which their male counterparts were engaged.

Although interest in the State Guard had decreased with the end of World War II, it continued to exist and in April, 1947, served in a second tour of duty under martial law. This time the setting was a disaster at Texas City, where a freighter had exploded and some 398 people were killed and about 4,000 were injured. It was only a few weeks later, on 7 May 1947, that Texas State Guard was disbanded, its colors cased, and all remaining members placed on the inactive list.

When National Guard units had been returned to state control after World War II, Congress saw little need for state guards.

The federal legislation authorizing them expired on 25 July 1947. This was not taken lightly in some states and most notably in Texas. In that same year, the State Legislature authorized the Texas State Guard Reserve Corps. It. was activated in January, 1948. The Reserve Corps carried on much as Texas State Guard had and continued in existence until ten years after the Congress had once again authorized state guards in 1955. Under statutes enacted by the 59th Legislature, the Texas State Guard Reserve Corps was abolished and Texas State Guard was again authorized and organized on 30 August 1965.

For a brief time, the table of organization included a naval unit, the First Naval Battalion. Its first skipper was Sterling Hogan, and its first vessel was a sixty-foot yacht, the Sumoria. It should be no surprise that the Sumoria had been the Skipper's yacht. The ship was commissioned as flagship of Texas' fleet on 30 October 1948, in ceremonies resided over by Governor Beauford Jester and Major General K. L. Berry, the Adjutant General. The Naval Battalion used the vessel for training purposes, as it did another ship not formally under its control - the battleship U. S. S. Texas. The Texas, a veteran of two world wars, had been retired from active naval service and berthed near the San Jacinto Monument shortly after the end of World War II.

The structure of Texas State Guard has changed several times since its activation.

First made up of independent battalions, it was later organized along regimental lines, and at one time also included brigade-sized elements. It has been organized as Infantry and "Internal Security" units. Since the early 1970s, it has been organized as Military Police with companies assigned to battalions for control and the battalions, in turn, assigned to groups. For several years, there were six Military Police Groups with boundaries gene-ally following those of Texas Department of Public Safety command districts.

In 1979, the 7th Military Police Group was formed to provide for command and control over remaining separate battalions in East Texas. A reorganization in 1980 resulted in formation of the 8th and 9th Military Police Groups in San Antonio and Dallas. The original six groups are headquartered in Fort Worth, Houston, the Rio Grande Valley, Midland, Lubbock, and Austin.

In 1993, Texas State Guard was reorganized into regiments and the old group designations
disappeared.  Regimental headquarters were established in San Antonio (1st,) Austin (2nd,) Fort
Worth (4th,) Houston (8th,) Dallas (19th,) and Lubbock (39th.)  In ceremonies held in Killeen in
July, 1993, during the Texas State Guard Association convention, the newly organized regiments
were presented with their new colors by the incumbent general officers and three retired general
officers of the Texas State Guard.  For the first time since World War II, the regiments were
soon authorized distinctive unit insignia for wear by assigned personnel.  In March, 1995, a
seventh regiment, the 9th, was organized in El Paso from elements of the 39th.  This added
regiment did not survive though and personnel were returned to the 39th in 1999.

A noteworthy change in training came when MG Bailey initiated annual training weekends
which included all elements of Texas State Guard in one place.  These superceded the multiple
annual training assemblies which had previously been completed in two locations with each
attended by about half the TSG's units.  That practice had been implemented by MG Bruce Harris
when he became Commander of the TSG and had been continued by his successors.  

After MG John H. Bailey, II, retired in March, 1997,  BG Bertus L. Sisco, the new Commanding General of the Texas State Guard reorganized the Texas State Guard and changed the former Regiments to Brigades. 


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