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New York National Guard Reported for World War I Duty 100 Years Ago

By Eric Durr New York National Guard

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y., July 14, 2017 — On July 15, 1917, 24,000 members of the New York National Guard began reporting for duty in what was then known as the World War.

New York National Guard soldiers assigned to Company G, 1st New York State Infantry, gather outside the armory in Oneonta, N.Y., in July 1917, following their mobilization for duty in World War I. The men not in uniform were new recruits. New York State Military History Museum photo
New York National Guard soldiers assigned to Company G, 1st New York State Infantry, gather outside the armory in Oneonta, N.Y., in July 1917, following their mobilization for duty in World War I. The men not in uniform were new recruits. New York State Military History Museum photo
New York National Guard soldiers assigned to Company G, 1st New York State Infantry, gather outside the armory in Oneonta, N.Y., in July 1917, following their mobilization for duty in World War I. The men not in uniform were new recruits. New York State Military History Museum photo NY World War I history
New York National Guard soldiers assigned to Company G, 1st New York State Infantry, gather outside the armory in Oneonta, N.Y., in July 1917, following their mobilization for duty in World War I. The men not in uniform were new recruits. New York State Military History Museum photo

On July 12, President Woodrow Wilson had ordered all 112,000 National Guardsmen across the country to report for duty as part of the National Army, which was being built to fight the Germans in France.

The U.S. had declared war on Imperial Germany and Austria-Hungary on April 6 and now an army had to be sent to France to fight.

The first step was to mobilize the Army's main reserve, which was the National Guard. Wilson's order specified that National Guard soldiers begin reporting to their local armories between July 12 and July 25.

New York's troops, along with those in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska were instructed to report on July 15 and begin preparing to ship out.

The soldiers were allowed to go home each night and report back to the armory each day to continue training.

Almost 17,000 New York National Guard soldiers had been on duty along the Mexican border to prevent incursions from the troops of Mexican revolutionary Gen. Pancho Villa during 1916. Some of them had only returned to New York in the spring of 1917.

Other New York soldiers had been guarding railroad bridges, aqueducts and the Erie Canal to prevent German sabotage.

Organizing an Army

The bulk of New York's troops were organized as the 6th Division, which would be changed on July 20 to the 27th Division.

Other New York units were mobilized separately.

The 69th Infantry Regiment would be renamed the 165th Infantry and fight as part of the 42nd Infantry Division, which was made up of National Guard troops from around the country.

The15th New York Infantry, an African-American regiment, would fight on its own under French command and become famous as the 369th Infantry Regiment, the "Harlem Hell Fighters."

New York's 1st Aero Company, which had conducted the first long-distance American military aviation flight in 1916, did not go to war as a unit, but its members all served in the brand new U.S. Army Air Service.

On Aug. 5, all those New York National Guard soldiers became members of the United States Army. At the end of the month, the members of the 27th Division began leaving New York for Camp Wadsworth, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where they would continue their training.

More than 400,000 New Yorkers served in the military during World War I, more than any other state.


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