Faithful and Ready: Black Service in the Ohio Army National Guard(Part II)

By arohmiller, posted on February 11th, 2015.
Filed under: News
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Written by: SFC Joshua Mann, Historian, Ohio Army National Guard

From the formation of the Northwest Territory Militia in 1788, until the termination of racial segregation in the Ohio National Guard in 1954 and service since, black Soldiers from Ohio have distinguished themselves in service to their country even in the face of difficult race, social and political barriers.

Even after the service of the 5th and later the 27th USCT, also assembled from Ohio’s black Soldiers, in the Civil War, Ohio’s laws remained silent on black membership in the militia. New laws in 1878 looked to shape the guard into a more ready force and opened military service to all male citizens. In 1881 the 9th Battalion of Infantry was formed from two existing black companies, the Du Quesne Blues of Springfield and Poe Light Guards of Columbus; in 1884 the Martin Light Guard of Xenia joined the battalion.

Colonel Charles Young was the third black graduate of the U.S. Military Academy in 1889. He was a member of the famous Buffalo Soldiers before being awarded the rank of Major in 1898 and placed in command of the all-black 9th battalion, Ohio Volunteer Infantry at Camp Algers, Virginia, a post he held until the battalion returned to Ohio in 1899.

Colonel Charles Young was the third black graduate of the U.S. Military Academy in 1889. He was a member of the famous Buffalo Soldiers before being awarded the rank of Major in 1898 and placed in command of the all-black 9th battalion, Ohio Volunteer Infantry at Camp Algers, Virginia, a post he held until the battalion returned to Ohio in 1899.

When War with Spain was declared in 1898, the 9th Battalion added a fourth company in Cleveland and was mustered into Federal service in May. As the battalion prepared to leave Columbus, a political showdown forced the resignation of the battalion commander. His replacement was a regular army officer and the third black graduate of West Point, Charles Young. A native Buckeye, Major Young was known as a strict disciplinarian and introduced the guardsman to the rigors of professional military life. The war would end before most Ohio units could see combat and the 9th Ohio returned home in January 1899.

Ohio National Guard officers in France during WWI (L-R) 2d Lt. Tom Walker, 1st Lt. Ben Rudd, and 2d Lt. William Nichols

Ohio National Guard officers in France during WWI (L-R) 2d Lt. Tom Walker, 1st Lt. Ben Rudd, and 2d Lt. William Nichols

The battalion quickly reorganized and in the years prior to World War I answered many calls for aid to Ohio’s citizens. In 1917, the 9th was drafted into Federal service for World War I and was consolidated with all black units from five other states to form the 372d Infantry. In France, it was assigned to the French 157th Division and would receive the French Croix de Guerre for their actions in the Meusse-Argonne Campaign. Lieutenant Robert C. Allen, one of the few remaining black officers in the regiment, became the first African-American to receive the Distinguished Service Cross.

Colonel Howard C. Gilbert was the commander of teh 2d Battalion, 372d Infantry from its reorganization in 1924 until he was promoted to colonel and in command of the 372d Infantry Regiment in 1940. He first enlisted in the Ohio National Guard in 1893 and was a veteran of World War I.

Colonel Howard C. Gilbert was the commander of teh 2d Battalion, 372d Infantry from its reorganization in 1924 until he was promoted to colonel and in command of the 372d Infantry Regiment in 1940. He first enlisted in the Ohio National Guard in 1893 and was a veteran of World War I.

Reorganization following the war was slow for the black units. It was not until 1924 that the battalion was formed, again taking shape as the 2d Battalion, 372d Infantry. Life for the battalion during the inter-war years was comprised of routine weekly drills, summer camps and the occasional call to state active duty. On March 10, 1941, the battalion was ordered into federal service and left Ohio for Fort Dix, New Jersey. After a brief basic training it was assigned “home guard” duties in Philadelphia and later New York, guarding the harbor, subway and other key installations. Following stops in Kentucky and Arizona the 372d was finally sent to the pacific and was assigned to defensive positions on Hawaii. The war ended before the battalion could see combat and the 372d was inactivated on January 21, 1946.

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