Texas National Guard

By: Bruce A. Olson

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: March 10, 2021

Early Anglo-American immigrants to Texas introduced the concept of a United States militia, building on the extant Spanish and Mexican models. Under the Republic of Texas, the president served as the commander-in-chief of the Texas army, which consisted of one brigade of two regiments with up to 1,120 men, the 386-man "Legion of Cavalry," and the irregular ranger companies, as well as the militia. The president appointed officers and exercised his authority through his adjutant general, a political appointee. During the republic, Texas maintained a universal militia. In addition, most commercial centers developed volunteer militia companies. Universal militia units organized as regiments along brigade lines, yet little is known about them. Their size and the number of organic battalions depended upon the eligible male population. In essence, the universal militia muster became an annual census of men between the ages of seventeen and fifty, like that in the United States. Comanche raids along the frontier in 1841 and the failure of organized militia units to respond fast enough resulted in congressional authorization of the formation of twenty "Minute Companies," manned by individual volunteers and under the county judges' jurisdiction. Minute Companies generally attracted more militant men, and criticism of their conduct led to their demise.

In 1838 the Milam Guards of Houston became the first recorded militia unit to form after Texas independence. In 1840 the Fourth Texas Congress granted the guards a ten-year charter of incorporation. On September 13, 1840, merchants organized the Galveston Artillery, and the Fifth Congress of Texas approved an act incorporating the company as a volunteer company on January 30, 1841. The Galveston Artillery was charged with protecting the harbor and city of Galveston. Companies varied in size between thirty-two and 100 men. Most volunteer units held drill about once a week. Each member of the militia supplied himself with his own equipment based on what he could afford. Consequently, few units of the republic period displayed any uniformity. The republic paid militia members only when they were in active service. All men furnished their own weapons (flintlocks or muskets at this time) and received a monthly allowance for ammunition; those who furnished their own horses got an extra fifteen dollars a month. The government frequently paid in the depreciated currency of the republic, however. Active service of three months or longer entitled veterans to a headright of 320 acres.

After annexation the United States Constitution, the Militia Act of 1792, and state legislation regulated the Texas militia. The idea of state sovereignty and the fear of a large standing army influenced the American concept of the militia. The federal government provided little guidance, and federal support consisted of supplying the states with antiquated weapons. Each state had the authority to appoint officers, conduct training, and determine the size and organization of its militia. The governor acted as the commander-in-chief of the state militia; his authority was exercised through an adjutant general, usually a political appointee. State legislation authorized volunteer companies that became known as the "uniformed militia" because members outfitted themselves, or as the "active militia" because units undertook more frequent training than annual or semiannual parades and musters. In antebellum Texas, this type of organization soon supplanted the universal militia contemplated by the Militia Act of 1792. Under the new structure, the volunteer militia represented 10 to 15 percent of the Texas militia. As during the republic, the militia act of 1846 divided Texas into five militia divisions and ten brigades. Little is known about them. For the most part, the annual militia muster continued as an annual census of males between eighteen and forty-five years old. Most counties seemed to take the census haphazardly. Several volunteer militia units formed between 1845 and 1861, including the Galveston City Guards, an infantry company that merged with the Galveston Artillery. In 1858, Texas volunteer companies included at least the following units: the Alamo Rifles of San Antonio, the Galveston Artillery Company, the Lone Star Military Company of Galveston, the Washington Light Guards of Houston, the Milam Rifles of Houston, the Turner Rifles of Houston, and the Refugio Riflemen. With the United States Army assuming the militia's traditional role of defense of the Mexican border and the Texas Rangers maintaining law and order in the interior, the state legislature cut funds to the militia, and undermined its effectiveness.

The election of Abraham Lincoln, the secession crisis, and the Civil War resulted in redefined militia law and priorities in Texas between 1860 and Reconstruction. The secessionists formed a Committee of Public Safety to deal with defense-related issues initially. This committee and the Secession Convention acted to put Texas on a war footing. They divided the frontier into three districts and called for volunteers to defend them. When the new Texas legislature met, it endorsed the committee's actions and reorganized the militia into a frontier regiment of rangers and the State Troops and authorized thirty-three brigade districts. Soldiers continued to elect all officers from second lieutenant to brigadier general. Most volunteer militia units disbanded to allow members to choose state or Confederate service. Those desiring duty close to home enrolled in the State Troops. The Texas militia had three tasks in the war—defense of the frontier against Indian and Mexican incursion, defense of the coast against Union invasion, and suppression of Union loyalists. The militia failed to accomplish much of this, but instead served as a haven for men avoiding Confederate service. After the war, federal troops occupied the Southern states and disbanded their state militias. The Reconstruction Acts of 1867 ended any effort to organize militia in Texas for the next three years. Confederate veterans instituted organizations that appeared to serve other purposes, but in essence they acted like the militia. The election of a Republican governor in 1870, the ratification of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the Constitution, and the seating of the Texas congressional delegation in Washington without opposition ended military rule in Texas and made way for the reestablishment of the Texas militia. Budget cutbacks and consequent manpower reductions limited the United States Army's ability to protect the frontier, man coastal artillery forts, and police the old Confederate states. Consequently, the United States Congress allowed the Southern states to reorganize militia units in July 1870 to assume some of these responsibilities.

The new Republican governor, Edmund J. Davis, asked the Texas legislature for a militia that consisted of the State Guard of Texas and the Reserve Militia. All males between eighteen and forty-five who voluntarily enrolled and uniformed themselves made up the State Guard, while all males liable for military service but not enrolled in the State Guard became part of the Reserve Militia. Both the State Guard and the Reserve Militia organized into companies and regiments like those in the United States Army. As in the antebellum period, the state required the militia to hold an annual muster and enrollment at county courthouses, essentially a yearly census of all men between the ages of eighteen and fifty. Governor Davis instituted three racially integrated branches under the adjutant general: the State Police, the militia or State Guard, and the Reserve Militia. The State Police sought to protect citizens and property, establish law and order, and maintain peace throughout the state. The State Guard and the Reserve Militia defended against foreign invasion and augmented the state, county, or local police in the event of civil disorder. The combined state appropriations for the three branches in 1871 and 1872 was $385,444.66; the state received $30,000 in weapon transfers from the federal government. By 1872 the State Guard and Reserve Militia numbered 74,599, with 720 companies in 102 regiments; yet the state provided only fifteen companies with weapons. Commissioned officers in the State Guard and Reserve Militia totaled 2,203, for a ratio of about thirty-three enlisted men per officer. The state possessed about one rifle for every thirty men, and a total of four ten-pound Parrot artillery pieces. The Reserve Militia regiments normally formed within county boundaries. Harris County organized the Eleventh and Fifteenth regiments, composed of three and one companies respectively, while Galveston had the Eighth Regiment (seven companies) and San Antonio the Fifth Regiment (one company). Davis called on the State Guard during its first year to quell political controversies between the largely White Democrats and the integrated Republicans in four counties that objected to Republican rule. Alienated Democrats saw the state forces as outside oppressors from a Republican government that did not represent the White Democratic majority. The governor's integrated forces became a symbol and the focus of increased bitterness against the Republican regime.

In November 1872, two political events occurred that swung the pendulum of power from the Republican toward the Democratic camp. The Republican adjutant general, James Davidson, absconded with state funds, and the Democrats won the congressional and legislative elections. During its first session in January 1873, the new legislature promptly amended the Texas Militia Law of 1870, dissolving the State Police and merging the State Guard and the militia. Davis's integrated militia was separated into Black and White organizations, both still under the adjutant general's department. Militia units remained separate companies until another reorganization in 1879 that instituted battalion and brigade structures. Throughout 1873 the adjutant general, a Republican appointee, decried the elimination of the State Guard and with it the State Police. An immediate increase in crime and lawlessness seemed the result of the legislation. Democrats regained control of the state when Democrat Richard Coke defeated Davis in the 1873 gubernatorial election. Davis led an abortive attempt to mobilize the Texas militia in an effort to remain in office. He barricaded himself, along with loyal Black militiamen, in the lower floors of the Capitol, while governor-elect Coke, aided by the Travis Rifles (see TRAVIS GUARDS AND RIFLES), seized the upper floors and took the oath of office. Davis appealed to President Ulysses S. Grant for federal troops and capitulated to the voters' will only after the president ignored his second plea for help. To Texas Democrats, the episode symbolized Republican corruption and tyranny. The extralegal use of force to support Reconstruction had a permanent effect on White "redeemers" and influenced their restructuring of the state militia, in particular causing a concentration on local forces and support of unit autonomy.

Although a change in the administration occurred, the same lawlessness continued to plague the new Democratic government. Instead of radically changing state militia policy to confront this problem, the new adjutant general, William Steele, displayed remarkable continuity with the man he replaced, Frank L. Britton, a relative of former Republican governor Edmund Davis. In addition to lawlessness, Steele believed that the declining presence of United States Army soldiers in Texas after Reconstruction required the state to defend itself, primarily along the frontier. These factors led to formation of the Frontier Battalion on April 10, 1874, a branch of the Texas Rangers. The battalion operated as a full-time, statewide police force, organized along military lines into squads, platoons, and companies. Its mission included a full-time patrol of the frontier and the Mexican border. Its main concerns focused on the Indian problem (at least through 1878), and conflict with the Mexicans. The lion's share of the adjutant general's budget went toward establishing frontier security. The Frontier Battalion directed its efforts after 1874 at ending Indian and Mexican border conflicts and apprehending criminals. The militia was thus freed to perform traditional militia roles.

Citizen soldiers, called the "Uniformed Militia" until 1879, the "Texas Volunteer Guard" to 1903, and the "Texas National Guard" in the twentieth century, had the traditional militia responsibility to repel invasions, suppress insurrections, and execute the laws of the Union. The increase in volunteer companies from eighteen in 1875 to forty in 1878 meant that many of the companies went unarmed. The United States Militia Law of 1808 based the quantity of arms for the militia on the number of representatives each state had in Congress. At the time, Texas had only six members of Congress, far fewer than the more settled eastern states, yet it had a greater need for weapons to protect its extensive frontier. After the Texas Militia Act of 1879, the governor continued to act as the commander-in-chief, leaving the daily administration to his adjutant general. State troops now formed one brigade with three regiments and one separate battalion. Texas militia companies retained their independence until reorganized into battalions and brigades in 1879; however, until well into the twentieth century, decentralization of unit administration seemed the norm. At the same time, state authorities began to consolidate their control over the militia. In 1879 the legislature approved the adjutant general's policy of forming only uniformed volunteer militia companies. This focused the state's militia effort toward a centralized Texas Volunteer Guard and began a process of professionalization that continued with the Dick Militia Act of 1903 and the National Defense Act of 1916. By 1880 the Texas militia consisted of forty-seven company-size units, thirty-eight White and nine "colored." Membership declined after 1891 to an aggregate strength of 1,960 men in 1898.

A concern for emerging class consciousness and class alienation first appeared in the Report of the Adjutant General for 1886, following that year's spring-time railroad strikes as well as significant budget reductions. More significantly, however, it justified militia budgets. Adjutant General Wilburn H. King viewed racism, communism, political cronyism, and misrepresentation by demagogues as the major cause of civil disorders and disobedience in the South. He saw the citizen soldiery—armed, organized, drilled and disciplined—as the only safe agency to preserve life, government, and civil authority during times of violence. Newly appointed adjutant general Woodford H. Mabry continued King's policies and initiated an aggressive training program to elevate the Texas Volunteer Guard's awareness of crowd-control procedures. Dovetailing with its role in civil disorders, militia service provided a means for the state to indoctrinate young men and align them with elite values and the accepted order of the status quo. Most state activations of the Texas National Guard and militia from 1873 through the outbreak of World War I occurred because of labor, race, or political conflict, or border tensions with Mexico. Reports of the adjutant general during the last quarter of the nineteenth century show that units of the Texas militia mobilized at least seventy-five times to answer calls for assistance from local and regional authorities. In addition, unit charters and the 1879 and 1897 militia acts allowed county sheriffs and city mayors to activate local militia without state approval. These actions are representative of the more important roles contemporary Texas leaders perceived for their militia—the control of Blacks, Mexicans, and labor unrest to encourage social order.

Activations to extend or protect national strategic objectives eventually caused a breakdown in elite domination of the militia membership. Guardsmen who owned, managed, and worked in Texas businesses had different interests from those of national leaders, and in time the ties binding elites to the unit loosened. Between 1895 and 1898 tension between the United States and Spain escalated because of the Cuban Insurrection. President William McKinley signed the resolution of Congress declaring war against Spain and issued a call for volunteers on April 23, 1898, expecting most of these to come from the state militia. The jingoism that prevailed throughout the country ensured an adequate supply of qualified volunteers. McKinley directed Texas to furnish one cavalry (First Texas Cavalry) and three infantry regiments (the First, Second, Third Texas Infantry). In turn, the governor called for volunteers from the existing militia units to fill the new organizations. McKinley issued a call for an additional 75,000 volunteers on May 25, 1898, and Texas raised the Fourth Texas Infantry. Only the First Texas served in Cuba, and only as occupation troops. The 1898 mobilization demonstrated serious shortcomings within an antiquated national security policy and led to changes in the role of the state militia. The Dick Militia Act of 1903 reorganized the militia along regular army lines, with companies carrying letter designations instead of regional identities. The militia was made a national guard with federal funding and federal controls. Congress amended the Dick Act in 1908 and 1914, and the law evolved into the comprehensive National Defense Act of 1916, which instituted the Reserve Officer Training Corps and established the national guard as the nation's first military reserve. With amendments, this act remains the foundation of the country's defense policy and organization. While the Dick Act of 1903 federalized the militia, the Terrell Acts of 1903 and 1905 disfranchised most Blacks and Hispanics in Texas and allowed the adjutant general to eliminate segregated Black militia units and to bar most Hispanics from service by 1906. The aggregate strength of the Texas National Guard averaged around 2,500 members and reached a high of more than 4,900 by 1916, most of whom were White.

The Mexican Revolution acted as a catalyst for border troubles in the first quarter of the twentieth century and became the greatest single cause for activations between 1910 and 1917. In early May 1916, Mexican raiders crossed the Rio Grande and attacked Americans in the Big Bend region of Texas. They killed or wounded several American soldiers in the Glenn Spring raid. On May 9, with the United States Army stretched thin due to the punitive expedition into Mexico, the War Department asked for the mobilization of the militia in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Texas provided 3,762 troops. The second call in response to these border incidents came on June 18, 1916, and mobilized most of the remaining militia units in the United States. The two mobilizations mustered a total of 158,664 guardsmen into federal service. The second call was the first mobilization under the National Defense Act of 1916, which standardized the title "National Guard" for all organized militia units. When Congress declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, 40 percent of the national guardsmen called up for border service remained on active duty. On August 5, 1917, all members of the guard were drafted into federal service. By this date more than 379,000 guardsmen reported to training camps in the United States, a total that resulted from extensive recruiting during the summer of 1917. At this time the army reorganized the national guard units by eliminating their state designations. Texas and Oklahoma guard units assembled at Camp Bowie (Tarrant County) and formed the Thirty-sixth Infantry Division, which went overseas between May and August 1918 and participated in the Meuse-Argonne campaign in October and November. The division suffered 2,584 casualties, including 591 killed in action, before sailing for home in May 1919. The entry of the United States during World War I ended elite domination of the Texas militia because extended service away from hometowns severed elite ties. The mobilization of the Texas National Guard during that war lasted more than two years and further aligned unit membership standards with federal ones. The Great Depression and the New Deal also brought about changes in America's structure that influenced elite flight from the militia.

To replace the militia units called into federal service, Texas formed the "new national guard" in November 1918. It included many prominent Texans and gave many men an alternative to immediate active duty. After the war, veterans' groups worked to reestablish their former units according to prewar patterns. But those who joined the militia after the war did not fit the prewar mold. Although officers and a few enlisted men continued to come from the elite sector, the number with working-class backgrounds and trades more than doubled after World War I. The change in member status of the militia occurred for other reasons as well. The National Defense Act of 1916 instituted an officers' reserve corps that demanded a large number of educated officers; by 1940 almost 140,000 Americans held commissions in this corps, which gave young elites a prestigious alternative to enlisting in the local militia unit. Further, the militia was no longer needed to control labor. The New Deal introduced legislation in the 1930s, such as the Wagner Act, that guaranteed the right to organize and bargain collectively, while restraining business from unfair labor practices. At the same time, the establishment of the Texas Department of Public Safety in 1935 and growing city police forces largely took over the militia's traditional "law and order" role. In the 1920s and 1930s the disparity between state and federal appropriations widened. State-approved expenses for the Texas National Guard during this period averaged around $250,000 each year; the rangers received most of it. Meanwhile the federal government supplied about $1.5 million a year as well as $5 million in equipment and weapons. The change demonstrates a shift in the role of the militia, primarily due to the efforts of militia lobby groups. For this increased funding, the federal government required the guard to adhere to more stringent standards. In addition, the National Defense Act defined physical, moral, and professional fitness standards for the national guard and encouraged more guard officers to attend regular army service schools after 1922. This formal military training imparted federal values and further undermined ties between the unit and the city. By the end of the 1920s and 1930s, the Texas National Guard fluctuated from about 6,500 men to 8,200 men, organized into a modified organization of the Thirty-sixth Division. It represented the sixth largest state militia in the nation.

Between the two world wars, racial and labor conflict continued to cause activations of the militia. Enforcement of prohibition, antigambling laws, and oil production added new dimensions to militia mobilizations during this period. By the early 1930s, as the newly formed Department of Public Safety assumed former law and order duties of the militia, the National Guard of Texas changed its focused to civil disaster-relief missions, heretofore a seldom performed duty of the Texas militia. Also, increasing population and congestion made civil disasters more costly in both lives and property than before, thereby requiring more attention from the state than before. In response to escalating conflicts in Europe and the Far East and expert opinion from the regular army of the need to prepare for expected conscript legislation, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a congressional bill on August 28, 1940, that authorized him to call out 360,000 members of the national guard and army reserves for twelve months of active duty. Plans called for the guardsmen and reserves to train and help organize the new conscript army. The federal government mobilized the Texas National Guard in November 1940. The Fifty-sixth Cavalry Brigade was federalized on November 18, 1940, with 2,564 guardsmen. Its training site was Fort Clark, Texas. The 12,526 guardsmen of the Thirty-sixth Division reported on November 25, 1940, and returned to Camp Bowie. Along with the Thirty-sixth Division was the 111th Observation Squadron, an aviation unit organized in 1923 that formed the basis of the postwar Texas Air National Guard.

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the army extended enlistment to an indefinite status and revoked the orders releasing officers due to the age-in-grade separation policy. The Fifty-sixth Cavalry Brigade's two regiments, the 112th and 124th, fought against the Japanese. The 112th, known as the "Little Giant of the Pacific," left its horses and the United States in the summer of 1942. It was sent to New Caledonia to protect against a possible Japanese invasion. The regiment invaded New Britain in December of 1943, then went on to fight in New Guinea and later in the Philippines on Leyte and Luzon. During the Philippines campaign the 112th was one of the first units to use helicopters to evacuate wounded troopers. The 124th Cavalry Regiment was the last cavalry unit of the United States Army to give up its horses. It was sent to Burma in August 1944 and participated in action as part of the Mars Task Force. The Eleventh Observation Squadron went overseas in the fall of 1942. It was reorganized as the 111th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron and flew missions in the Mediterranean and European theaters. The Second Battalion, 131st Field Artillery Regiment—the so-called Lost Battalion—was eliminated from the Thirty-sixth Division during a reorganization in 1941. This unit was en route to the Philippines in November and December 1941 along with several other national guard units. After Pearl Harbor the units were diverted to Australia. The Second Battalion was sent from Australia to the Dutch East Indies. The Japanese captured the entire unit in March 1942, and its men spent the rest of the war as prisoners in Southeast Asia. The Thirty-sixth Division was transferred in February 1942 to Camp Blanding, Florida, where it remained until July. According to the division personnel officer, the division suffered its biggest personnel turnovers in Florida, as the army raided the Thirty-sixth for well-trained NCOs to form new divisions throughout the United States. Members of the division had more than a year's training, a rare and valuable asset at the time. The army wanted this expertise in the new units. The division subsequently endured prolonged and bitter fighting in Italy, France, Germany, and Austria. Its units spent 386 days actively engaged with the enemy. Most line infantry units had a 200 percent turnover between September 9, 1943, when the Thirty-sixth landed at Salerno, and May 8, 1945, when the war in Europe ended. About one in twelve men who fought in the line companies during World War II were native Texans, and one in five were southerners. On the other hand, more than seven out of ten men hailed from northern and western states. The membership of the Thirty-sixth Division during World War II truly represented a national profile.

With the militia federalized for the war, Texas established the Texas Defense Guard in May 1941 to meet the need for a state militia. In 1943 the legislature redesignated this force the Texas State Guard. Its members included former guardsmen too old for active duty and students. Its units occupied the state armories and assumed the roles and duties of the former national guard. After the war they continued in existence as the Texas State Guard Reserve Corps, a reserve to the Texas National Guard, with an average authorized strength of 12,700 officers and men when mobilized. The reserve corps maintained its strength on a cadre basis, fluctuating from 580 to 3,750. Maj. Gen. Lloyd Bentsen, Jr., commanded the Texas State Guard Reserve Corps from December 1953 to 1963. In 1946, after demobilization, steps to form the Thirty-sixth Infantry and Forty-ninth Armored divisions as part of the Texas Army National Guard began. By the 1950s the Texas militia included the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air Guard. Selected units not federalized went on year-round training and manned missile silos and air-defense aircraft on a twenty-four-hour basis. The air guard continued the twenty-four-hour alert status into the 1990s. Between World War II and the Korean War the most important event for the national guard was the beginning of the Air National Guard. Its establishment brought into being both an air and an army national guard in each state.

Only four Texas Army National Guard units were called to federal service during the Korean War. These units, three medical and one army band, were federalized in 1950 and numbered 137 guardsmen. Across the United States eight army guard divisions were called up; two went to fight in Korea, and two went to Europe to strengthen American forces there. Eight Texas Air National Guard units were mobilized for the Korean War: the 1808 Engineer Aviation Company, the 136th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, the 108th Radar Calibration Detachment, the 134th Aircraft Control Squadron, the 158th Aircraft Control and Warning Group, the 136th Fighter Group (later redesignated the 136th Fighter-Bomber Wing), the 111th Fighter Squadron (descendant of the pre-World War II 111th Observation Squadron and later redesignated the 111th Fighter-Bomber Squadron), and the 182d Fighter Squadron (later redesignated the 182d Fighter-Bomber Squadron). These units were in federal service from October 1950 until July 1952. They converted from P-51 propeller aircraft to F-84 jets and flew combat missions from Japan and Korea from July 1951 to July 1952. The 182d Fighter-Bomber Squadron is credited with the first aerial victory in the Korean War by a National Guard unit.

The Soviet Union and its satellite regime in East Germany built the Berlin Wall in August 1961. As a result President John F. Kennedy decided to strengthen American conventional forces and ordered a partial mobilization of the national guard and reserves. The Texas Army National Guard had four units mobilized totaling nearly 10,000 guardsmen. The largest of these was the Forty-ninth Armored Division, with a strength of 9,684. It remained on active duty from October 1961 to August 1962 at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Reorganization of army reserve components after the Berlin mobilization reduced the number of divisions. In 1968 the Texas Army National Guard lost both the Thirty-sixth Infantry and Forty-ninth Armored divisions. The deactivation of these divisions accompanied formation of three separate brigades: the 36th Infantry, the 72d Mechanized Infantry, and the 71st Airborne brigades. During the Vietnam War the federal government did not call up many army or air national guard units. No Texas Air Guard units were mobilized, although the air guard mobilized 9,343 nationwide. Only one small Texas Army Guard unit with 124 members received the federal call. This unit was a portion of the 12,234 army guardsmen who were mobilized in May 1968. Well into the 1980s the adjutant general of Texas used the Cold War and "rising tensions" between the West and the Soviets to justify an expansion program at federal expense, thus further widening the disparity between state and federal appropriations. In 1951 the federal budget for the army guard was $9,569,303, and that for the air guard was $2,287,555. State appropriations totaled $658,457. By 1960 the federal budget grew to $49,075,920, of which the army guard got 60 percent and the air guard 40 percent. The state's share came to $886,310 that year. In 1972, as American troops withdrew from Vietnam, the federal government gave the Texas National Guard more than $58 million, and the state appropriated $1,611,823 to manage the distribution of these federal funds. The federal government's portion leaped to $109 million in 1981, when the state paid about $3 million. The federal budget skyrocketed to $244,970,000 by 1991, while the state budget swelled to $16,074,510. The army guard received 72 percent of that total and the air guard 22 percent.

Since World War II, civil disaster and humanitarian relief have occasioned the majority of militia mobilizations. Between 1947 and 1972 the state activated guard units 101 times. Civil disaster caused 96 of these, law enforcement missions 4, and race riots 1. Between 1973 and 1992 the governor mobilized Texas National Guard units 112 times—74 times for civil disasters or humanitarian relief, at least 32 times for law enforcement, 3 times for political purposes, and twice for ceremonial purposes; the cause of one activation is unclear. The ten activations for hurricane relief between 1947 and 1992 represent the largest and most expensive mobilizations. The activation for Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 cost $128,525, Hurricane Alicia in 1983 amounted to $54,698, and Hurricane Carla in 1961 totaled $99,655 (see HURRICANES). Texas National Guard expenditures for the papal visit to San Antonio in September 1987 came to $102,117. In 1968 the adjutant general developed Operations Plan CLAMPDOWN, which provided for a 12,000-man force to respond to civil disturbances like those in Watts, Detroit, and Chicago. Although the state has continued to update the plan, Texas has never had to implement it. Law-enforcement missions from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s focused mainly on augmenting the Texas Department of Public Safety to implement the governor's highway-safety program. In the late 1980s law enforcement duties took a new twist as guardsmen augmented the Drug Enforcement Agency and Texas narcotics police efforts. The federal government paid most of the costs.

Following World War II, the draft motivated enlistments through 1972; young men joined the guard to avoid interruption of their daily life for active duty. The Texas National Guard began using television advertisements to improve its public image in 1953 and engaged in community relations to attract recruits. Conscription allowed company commanders, first sergeants, and recruiters to select the best applicants for the guard, and White middle-class and upper-class membership once again became the norm. Following the Dick Act of 1903 and the Terrell Acts of 1903 and 1905, the first Mexican Americans had joined the guard in the 1930s and the first Blacks entered in the mid-1960s. Nationwide, Blacks made up about 1.26 percent of the guard in the 1960s. After the draft ended in 1972, unit strengths fell to about 50 percent of the authorized maximum. African Americans made up about one-half of many East Texas units' membership, with another 5 to 10 percent Hispanic. Units in South Texas swelled to 50 percent or more Hispanic. Whites continued to dominate most of the leadership, however. At the same time Texas had an ethnic composition of approximately 13 percent Black and 24 percent Hispanic. Pressure from the adjutant general of Texas for units to recruit to full strength after 1973 caused recruiters to bend rules. In 1980 scandal racked the Texas Army National Guard. White middle-class men no longer proved eager to join the national guard. The end of the draft, disillusionment with the military toward the end of American involvement in Vietnam, and distrust of the "establishment" forced the national guard to relearn recruiting and retention skills as the post-World War II manpower source dried up. Recruiters lowered their standards for recruits and came up with men unable to pass the mental or physical examinations. Some offered the "midnight special," wherein prospective recruits reported to recruiting facilities after working hours so that supervisors or other recruiters would not be aware of their actions. Men unable to pass the Armed Forces Qualification Test during duty hours got a chance to retake it, but this time with a coach to help them as they waded through the test. Applicants with physical disabilities that disqualified them from service had their medical examinations retyped without the shortcomings listed. Recruits with criminal records had police reports purged from their files. These men soon reported to previously all-White units, where officers and NCOs were ill-prepared to train and lead Blacks and Hispanics, especially those from the lower socioeconomic classes. Racial tensions mounted and frustrated unit leaders. Training and readiness further degenerated. Pressure to maintain personnel strength in order to qualify for federal money caused state officials to cover up deficiencies instead of attacking the problem at its roots. A subsequent resurgence of nationalism caused the pendulum to swing back to a mostly White membership in the 1980s, when minorities represented 10 to 40 percent of units. Recruiting violations dropped as patriotism encouraged enlistments.

The Forty-ninth Armored Division was reactivated in 1973 and, as one of the state's major commands, modernized rapidly in the mid-1980s in accord with new doctrine for the integration of air and land forces in battle. One prominent change was the development, led by three former National Security Agency officers, of an all-source intelligence center to permit this reserve division, at that time one of the largest in the world, to operate effectively as part of an American active-duty corps.

Since its establishment the Texas Air National Guard has flown missions for air defense, refueling tankers and fighters, and tactical airlift. In December 1989 Texas Air Guard tactical transport aircraft took part in Operation Just Cause in Panama. During Desert Shield and Desert Storm both Texas Air Guard and Texas Army Guard units and personnel received the call to federal duty. Volunteers from the Texas Air Guard started flying missions in support of Persian Gulf operations as early as August 1990. In October 1990 Texas Air Guard units were called to active duty and flew missions in Saudi Arabia. These units were part of the 10,456 air guardsmen who served during the Gulf War and were released from federal service in the spring of 1991. Eight Texas Army Guard units were mobilized for the Persian Gulf War between September 1990 and January 1991. Four Texas units, the 1104 Transportation Detachment; the 217th Evacuation Hospital; Co. G., 149th Aviation Battalion; and the 49th Air Traffic Control Platoon were deployed to the Middle East—a total of 657 personnel. Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm saw the federalization of 61,855 army guardsmen. Of this number 37,692 were deployed to Southwest Asia.

In 1994–95 the Texas National Guard and other reserve forces in the state took a leading role among the states to execute American international-security and nation-building programs in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. During this period the adjutant general's department in Austin hosted visiting diplomats, members of parliament, and military leaders from more than thirty countries on six continents. The state sent numerous training teams abroad, and Texas guard members participated in landmark exercises with NATO and former Warsaw Pact armies.

A significant change in the makeup of the guard since 1979 is the emergence of a new breed of noncommissioned officers and enlisted men. The draft no longer motivates recruits as it did from 1947 until 1972. Several of the new breed of NCOs are combat veterans who served in Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, or the Persian Gulf region, and others have peacetime experience with the regular army. These men recruit soldiers who admire their example, desire to emulate them, and want to train hard and realistically. But in doing so they often run afoul of the old-style bureaucratic leadership and are pressured to quit. Enlisted men, observing this treatment of their role models, decide not to reenlist, thus requiring the state to spend more money to recruit and train replacements. As a result, for instance, during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, three brigades of the national guard from Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi failed to qualify for deployment to Southwest Asia. Furthermore, law-enforcement agencies initiated investigations into the activities of the Texas National Guard's coordinator of the joint federal-state drug-interdiction program. Charges of racism continued as Hispanic soldiers in South Texas alleged prejudicial policies adverse to their promotion, retention, and professional development. Retention, the key element in building a veteran force, has thus not been a recent focus of federal and state bureaucratic leaders, whose policies keep company training and personnel in a constant state of flux and partially erode the foundation of national security. See also COMMITTEES OF PUBLIC SAFETY, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT.

Clarence P. Denman, "The Office of Adjutant General in Texas, 1835–1881," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 28 (April 1925). Joseph O. Dyer, The Old Artillery Company of Galveston (Galveston, 1917). Rene J. Francillon, The U.S. Air National Guard (Westport, Connecticut: Air Times Publishing, 1993). Hans Peter Nielsen Gammel, comp., Laws of Texas, 1822–1897 (10 vols., Austin: Gammel, 1898). Jim Dan Hill, The Minute Man in Peace and War: A History of the National Guard (1964; rpt., Washington: GPO, 1991). Marvin A. Kreidberg, History of Military Mobilization in the United States Army, 1775–1945 (Washington: Department of the Army, 1955). Richard Lubbock, Six Decades in Texas (Austin: Ben C. Jones, 1900; rpt., Austin: Pemberton, 1968). John K. Mahon, History of the Militia and the National Guard (New York: Macmillan, 1983). Bruce A. Olson, The Houston Light Guards: Elite Cohesion and Social Control in the New South, 1873–1940 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Houston, 1989). Allan Robert Purcell, The History of the Texas Militia (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1981). William L. Richter, The Army in Texas during Reconstruction, 1865–1870 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1987). Otis Singletary, "The Texas Militia during Reconstruction," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 60 (July 1956).

Time Periods:
  • Texas Revolution
  • Reconstruction
  • Progressive Era
  • World War II

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Bruce A. Olson, “Texas National Guard,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/texas-national-guard.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 10, 2021