Members of Company D, 192nd Tank Battalion, Kentucky National Guard, pose with their vehicles at Ft. Knox, Ky., during the unit's training prior to World War II. Called into federal service pursuant to the national emergency declared by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940, the 192nd, along with the Guard’s 194th Tank Battalion, were deployed to reinforce the Army garrison of the Philippines. Photo By: Kentucky National Guard

As Pearl Harbor ships smoldered, National Guard began fighting World War II

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As Pearl Harbor ships smoldered, National Guard began fighting World War II

By National Guard Bureau Historical Services, Sofmag.com

Gun crew from 200th Coast Artillery Regiment, New Mexico National Guard, with 3-inch M2 anti-

Gun crew from 200th Coast Artillery Regiment, New Mexico National Guard, with 3-inch M2 anti-aircraft gun in the Philippine Islands, in late 1941 or early 1942. (Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps, courtesy National Archives and Records Administration)

Gun crew from 200th Coast Artillery Regiment, New Mexico National Guard, with 3-inch M2 anti-aircraft gun in the Philippine Islands, in late 1941 or early 1942. (Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps, courtesy National Archives and Records Administration)

aircraft gun in the Philippine Islands, in late 1941 or early 1942. (Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps, courtesy National Archives and Records Administration)More than 3,400 military personnel and civilians were killed and wounded that day, with significant damage inflicted upon the Pacific Fleet and to the Army Air Corps squadrons stationed in Hawaii. At this uncertain time, Americans came together in a common cause to prevail in an unwanted war.

In terms of readiness for a war, the National Guard in December, 1941, was a bellwether of the country and its citizens. After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt had declared a state of national emergency to begin preparing for American involvement in what was increasingly becoming a global war. As part of this peacetime emergency measure, the entire National Guard, over 300,000 Soldiers, was ordered into federal service, with some units mobilized as early as September, 1940.

So when the Japanese attack came and war was suddenly inevitable, Guardsmen were training in ground and air units all across the country. Moreover, because United States territories overseas were in desperate need of reinforcement, National Guard units had been deployed to augment the defenses of both the Hawaiian and Philippine Islands well before December 7. Guardsman were consequently in the thick of the fray during both attacks, claiming both the first Japanese prisoner of war at Pearl Harbor, by the 298th Infantry from Hawaii, and the first Japanese plane shot down in the Philippines, by the 200th Coast Artillery from New Mexico.

By virtue of the peacetime mobilization, the National Guard increased the size of the Army, providing the War Department with trained, organized, and thus deployable units. It also enabled the United States to almost immediately reassure beleaguered allies in both the Far East and in Europe with more than just words, but with actual American fighting men. A portent of the future, this token American military readiness, demonstrated through trained and ready units, inspired hope, both at home and abroad.

By National Guard Bureau Historical Services, Sofmag.com