Kansas National Guard History
Citizen-soldiers began protecting Kansas homes and families when our state was still a territory, leaving farms, businesses and other work places when called to defend the state and nation.
As members of the National Guard of the United States, they trace their roots to the organized “militia” regiments formed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in December 1636. “Militia,” from the Latin “miles,” means “soldier.” The concept of armed citizenry comes from the Greeks who required military service of free male citizens to defend their own land and the city-state, generally for short durations. That concept, which came to the colonies from England through the Saxons, brought with it an enduring fear of standing armies – the repressive forces of monarchs. The posting of British Regulars in the colonies reinforced that fear and distrust of full-time soldiers among Americans.
“Minutemen” from that same colony’s militia fired the “shot heard around the world” at Concord River’s North Bridge on April 19, 1775, and began our nation’s struggle for independence from Britain. We gained that independence with the help of the Marquis de Lafayette, a volunteer commander for American troops, and on his return to America in 1824, members of a New York militia took the name “National Guard” in honor of the Marquis, who was the commander of a French militia unit called the “Garde Nationale de Paris.” By the end of the 19th century, militia units in nearly all states were designated “National Guard” and with the passage of the Militia Act of 1903, the name “National Guard” became official.
Both the Army and Air National Guard seals are built around the “Minuteman,” the symbol of the National Guard. During colonial times, the Minutemen were the members of the militia who volunteered to respond within 30 minutes with their own arms. The plowshare in the Minuteman symbol represents the civilian job the Citizen-Soldier leaves to pick up a musket and answer the call to serve our state or nation.
Both the Army and Air National Guard seals are built around the “Minuteman,” the symbol of the National Guard. During colonial times, the Minutemen were the members of the militia who volunteered to respond within 30 minutes with their own arms. The plowshare in the Minuteman symbol represents the civilian job the Citizen-Soldier leaves to pick up a musket and answer the call to serve our state or nation. The forerunner of the Kansas National Guard, the Kansas Militia, was formed Aug. 30, 1855, when the governor and Legislative Assembly of the Kansas territory established “An Act to organize, discipline and govern the militia of this Territory.” The act also provided for the territorial governor, with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council, to appoint and commission one adjutant general to oversee the territorial militia. The first territorial adjutant general was Hiram J. Strickler, who was appointed on Aug. 31, 1855. On Jan. 29, 1861, six years after the formation of the territorial militia, Kansas became the 34th state and the militia was organized into units of the Kansas National Guard. Article 8, Section 4 of the Kansas Constitution designates the governor of Kansas as the commander in chief for state duties. The U.S. Congress passed the Militia Act of 1903, providing the same organization and equipment for the National Guard in each state as provided to the U.S. Army.
The Kansas National Guard consists of the Kansas Army National Guard and the Kansas Air National Guard. The latter was established on Sept. 18, 1947.
The Kansas National Guard has been involved in the nation’s conflicts since the state’s inception as a territory. The Kansas Guard actively participated in the Civil War, 1861-1865; Indian Wars, 1864-1870; Spanish-American War, 1898-1899; Mexican Border, 1916; World War I, 1917-1919; World War II, 1940-1946; Korean War, 1950-1952; Berlin Crisis, 1961-1962; Air National Guard Squadron Tactical Reconnaissance Interceptor Program alert (STRIP), 1955-1965; Vietnam War, 1966-1969; Operations Plan 8044 (formerly Single Integrated Operations Plan Alert), 1978-present; Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm, 1990- 1991; Operations Northern and Southern Watch in Southwest Asia, 1992-2002; Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, 1992- 1993; Operations Joint Endeavor, Deny Flight and Joint Guardian in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1995 2003; Operations Phoenix Scorpion, Phoenix Scorpion III and Desert Fox in Southwest Asia, 1997-1998; Operation Allied Force in Kosovo, 1999-2010; the Global War on Terrorism (Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Noble Eagle), 2001- present; Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003-2010; and Operation New Dawn, 2010-present.
During the Philippine Insurrection following the Spanish-American War, five Kansas Guardsmen were awarded the Medal of Honor for their heroic actions. Col. Frederick Funston was the most famous of these Guardsmen. The others were 1st Lt. Arthur Ferguson, Sgt. John A. Huntsman, Pvt. Edward White and Pvt. William Trembley.
Another Medal of Honor recipient was William F. Cody, a.k.a. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, who was a member of the 7th Kansas Cavalry during the Civil War. Cody earned his medal for gallantry in 1872 during the Indian Wars when he was a civilian scout assigned to the 3rd U.S. Cavalry.
A posthumous award was presented to 2nd Lt. Erwin Bleckley for helping save the “Lost Battalion” during World War I. He began military service by enlisting in the Kansas Army National Guard’s Battery F, 1st Field Artillery, which later became the 130th Field Artillery Regiment. His interest in aviation led him to volunteer for the Army Air Service, the forerunner of the U.S. Army Air Corps, which later became the U.S. Air Force. As the first aviator to earn the Medal of Honor, he is claimed by the Kansas Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force, although in reality he was a member of the Kansas Army National Guard.
Col. Don Ballard, a retired member of the Kansas Army National Guard, saved lives while risking his own life as a Navy medic in Vietnam. Ballard is the only living Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from the Kansas National Guard.
Kansas citizen-soldiers and citizen-airmen have also served our state supporting civil authority in the 1888-89 County Seat Wars, the 1893 Legislative War, labor disputes in 1886 and 1893, and during student unrest over the Vietnam conflict in the 1960s. They continue to train to assist civil authority today. They also serve to protect Kansans in response to emergencies and disasters throughout the state, including tornadoes, floods, snowstorms and other weather-related and manmade emergencies and disasters.