SANDSTON, Va. — Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, will join Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Dr. Lynn Rainville of Sweet Briar College at a ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I at 11;45 a.m. April 6, 2017, at Virginia’s state memorial to WWI, the Carillon Tower at Byrd Park in Richmond, Virginia.
“World War I essentially marks the birth of the modern National Guard,” Williams said. “After defending the U. S. border from hostile Mexican revolutionaries from 1916 to 1917, volunteer state militia units were activated for federal duty under a formal Army structure to deploy overseas for combat operations for the first time. Guard Soldiers from across the nation served with courage, honor and distinction in World War I, and that tradition continues on today as we have Guard personnel deployed all over the world. Our Guard Soldiers and Airmen serve as a combat reserve to fight our nation’s wars and conduct peacekeeping and stabilization operations with our multi-national partners.”
Read more about the event on the Virginia World War I and World War II Commemoration Commission web site:
The Virginia Guard traces the history and tradition of Citizen-Soldier service to the founding of Jamestown in 1607, and there has been a military presence defending the commonwealth ever since, William said. Virginia militia units served through the colonial era, Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and American Civil War, and the federalization of militia units to defend the U. S. border from 1916 to 1917 helped prepare the troops for service in World War I.
In 2017, the Virginia National Guard will mark the 100th anniversary of the official formation of many of the military units serving in the commonwealth today. The 29th Infantry Division, 116th Infantry Regiment, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 54th Field Artillery Brigade and 246th Field Artillery Regiment were all formed from existing militia units as the United States prepared to enter World War I. The 29th, 116th and 111th are still in active service today, and the 329th Regional Support Group carries the lineage of the 54th, and the 429th Brigade Support Battalion carries the lineage of the 246th.
The National Guard played a major role in World War I. Its units were organized into divisions by state, and those divisions made up 40% of the combat strength of the American Expeditionary Forces. Three of the first five U.S. Army divisions to deploy to France in World War I were from the National Guard.
The 29th Division was formed in 1917 at Camp McClellan, Alabama, from National Guard units from Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington DC, and Delaware. The inclusion of units that fought for both the North and South during the Civil War inspired the nicknamed of the “Blue and Gray” division. The division deployed to France as a part of the AEF during World War I and received campaign streamers for Alsace and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, one of the final major offensive engagements of the war. During its 21 days of combat, the 29th suffered nearly 5,700 causalities while taking 2,148 enemy soldiers prisoner and capturing or destroying approximately 250 artillery pieces and machine guns.
The 116th Infantry Regiment was originally formed from the 1st, 2nd and 4th Virginia Infantry Regiments. Between them, these regiments shared campaign streamers for thirteen Revolutionary War, one War of 1812 and eighteen Civil War battles or campaigns. During World War I, it served in the 58th Infantry Brigade of the 29th Division. The regiment was credited with participation in the Alsace and Meuse-Argonne campaigns and received its motto “Ever Forward” for their reputation of never having given ground in battle. During this Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Sgt. Earle Gregory of the 116th Infantry earned the Medal of Honor, the first Virginia National Guard Soldier to receive the award.
The 111th Field Artillery Regiment was originally comprised of Soldiers from the 1st Virginia Artillery and was part of the 58th Artillery Brigade in the 29th Division during World War I. Like many other artillery regiments, the 111th spent World War I in training at Camp McClellan and in the Brittany region of France, but never actively engaged in combat operations.
The 54th Field Artillery Brigade was constituted in July 1917 and assigned to the 29th Division, and was organized Sept. 8, 1917, at Camp McClellan. It was demobilized May 26, 1919, at Camp Lee. In 1942, it was reorganized and redesignated as the 29th Division Artillery.It was laterwas reorganized again and redesignated into different artillery organizations until it was converted and redesignated as the 329th Regional Support Group in September 2008.
The 246th Field Artillery Regiment traces their lineage back to the Virginia National Guard coast artillery units and to service in the famed 42nd “Rainbow” Division during World War I. The 1st Battalion, 246th Field Artillery Regiment was redesignated as the 429th Brigade Support Battalion in 2005.
The 29th, 116th, 111th and 54th all saw duty in World War II, particularly on D-Day during the Allied invasion of France. The 246th saw service in World War II as a coastal artillery unit in the United States.