Readers may remember I recently wrote a column defending the image of the National Rifle Association of America in which I reviewed the origin, purpose, and contributions to the country by that organization. I am extremely concerned by the concerted effort of the past 30 years or so to denigrate, marginalize, and even criminalize many of the traditions, organizations, and activities that make us uniquely American.
While researching a different subject in the Kansas State Adjutant General’s archives, I was impressed by what an integral part the National Rifle Association plays in the national defense, though it is not a governmental agency, and how truly different we are from the rest of the world; and how blessed I am to have been born American. We have no need to apologize for who we are, to anybody, foreign or domestic.
During the late 1930s, the world was marching inexorably toward World War II. Japan was at war in China and Manchuria; Germany was on the march in Europe. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked for, and was given, authority to federalize the National Guard of the United States for one year of active duty training when war had not been declared. Mobilization of the National Guard began Sept. 16, 1940.
This mobilization stripped all 48 states of their military forces, leaving them incapable of responding to insurrection, riot, invasion, and disasters. Legislation was formulated allowing the governors to raise Home Guard units to replace the National Guard, which was to be immediately mustered out upon return of all the states’ National Guard elements to state control. These were to serve without pay and allowance, with federal support limited to “...such arms and equipment as may be in possession of and can be spared by the War Department.” The War Department expressed no objection to open market purchases.
The requirement for uniforms to “...unmistakable different from that of any federal military force...” resulted in some rather colorful uniforms across the nation. The people who volunteered for this service knew from the outset they were going to be responsible for their own equipment, and, volunteer they did!
I’m about half way through my study, and the people’s response is more than impressive. This is a time when rifle and pistol clubs affiliated with the National Rifle Association were prolific in nature. Some large high schools even had rifle clubs. There had been no public bias created against the ownership, carrying and use of firearms, and there was no question in most minds as to what the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution said, and meant.
The National Rifle Association encouraged their membership to participate in the anticipated formation of the Home Guard units to replace the activated National Guard. From the time the people became aware the Home Guard was to be formed, clubs, cities, and individuals inundated the Adjutant General’s Office with offers of service and request for instructions. To date in my study, six Kansas clubs and the Kansas State Rifle Association have volunteered the membership and facilities.
Page 2 of 3 - I found the Augusta Rifle And Pistol Club’s letter more interesting than the norm: they noted they had also formed what they called The Anti-Fifth Column Movement. Fifth Column was a term used during the war that encompassed spy and sabotage activities. The letter did not expand on exactly what this Movement’s anticipated activity was to be. They did provide quite a specific breakdown of the club’s strengths and capabilities:
“Each man is equipped with a .30 caliber rifle, bayonet, cartridge belts, 100 rounds of ammunition, flashlights, and many have sidearms.”
5 Aged 18-31
11 Aged 32-45
5 Over 46
8 Refinery workers
1 Dairy man
2 City employees
1 Real estate man
Of these, one had four years experience in the U.S. Marine Corps; five were qualified rifle instructors; and one was a qualified pistol instructor.
No mention is made of the occupations of the five not identified by trade. One of my friends recalls shooting with the club as a youngster; these five may have been students.
The letter was signed by H.S. Wilson, Secretary. The kind of information provided suggests the veteran may have been involved in composition of the letter. The dairy man would be Alva Clausen, whose dairy was located in the two-story, triangular shaped building at the junction of Ohio Street and Santa Fe Street; the dentist would be “Doc” Alley; and the welder would be Roy A. White. Harvey Smith was secretary. To date the rest are unidentified.
This is the National Rifle Association so many want you to fear and revile. We stand not in the way of the American people, but stand against the un-American political agendas, and for the Constitution of the United States of America.
When state legislation was enacted (Senate Bill 51) to authorize this volunteer force, it officially designated the force the Kansas State Guard. It was interesting to note, in the event sufficient volunteers were unavailable, the unit was to be”...supplemented, if necessary, by men of the Unorganized Militia enrolled by draft or otherwise as provided by law.”
The “Unorganized Militia” is that provided for in the U.S. Constitution. How refreshing to look back to a time when our government knew there is a Constitution. “Militia” is another tradition, and word, many would have us learn to fear and revile.
What is the “Unorganized Militia?” In federal law it is all able bodied males aged 17-45, citizens and those declaring their intent to become citizens, and all persons under age 64 who the “Unorganized Militia” as “All those subject to military duty, but not included in the Kansas Army and Air National Guard” or the “Militia;” it is to be known as the Kansas “Military Reserve.”
Page 3 of 3 - A 1939 U.S. Supreme Court case (U.S. vs. Miller) said that militia members, when called to service, were “expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time.”
Among the powers and duties of the State Guard described by state law were the powers, duties, and immunities of peace officers “...when ordered out for service of any kind.” A War Department Bureau of Public Relations publication indicates the status of State Guardsmen in time of war is “...that of a lawful belligerent as a soldier in the military service of his state.” Thus, State Guardsmen are protected by legal status in their operations, whether military or civilian in nature. This discovery explains why one of my older friends recalls the Guardsmen patrolling the streets and monitoring the flights of aircraft.
Additionally, numerous Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion Posts volunteered their entire memberships, as did various other local veterans’ and officers’ clubs and associations.
Equally impressive, and even more numerous, were the many individuals seeking information and volunteering to serve. These include a great number of former servicemen from the Army, National Guard, Army Reserve, and Marine Corps. Many were combat arms veterans (Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery) and knew exactly what they might experience. A great number were World War I veterans; also represented were two veterans of Mexican Border service during Mexico’s revolution that spilled over into the United States in 1916, and one was a Spanish-American War veteran. Very impressive! Those who had already given the most were eager to serve again!
One was more fun: a woman who wrote the general wanting her husband included in the Home Guard regardless of any protests he might offer. Lots of speculations present as to why she may have wanted him out of her hair!
The May 16, 1941 Status of State Guards Report indicate the Kansas State Guard was organized under authority of Senate Bill 51 with a strength of 1300 men. No equipment issue had been authorized as the state property officer had not been bonded.
All this occurred in the interest of the national defense and the good of the nation, with all 1300 participants aware they would be unpaid, and most would provide their own equipment. I don’t want to be like anyone else; I am so very proud to be an American!
Charles Hanna of Augusta, is a retired Kansas Highway Patrolman and Augusta City Councilman.