DIVISION HISTORY: 1945 to 1985

 Even before the last of the mobilized units had been released from occupation duties for inactivation, the National Guard Bureau assembled a committee to plan the postwar Guard force. It was assumed that the nation would retain a large military, more as reserves than on active duty, and that the Guard component would essentially resemble it's prewar structure with modifications caused by the adoption of more modern tables of organization. Virginia's allocation of troops came in a letter of instructions to the Adjutant General dated 20 June 1946. This letter allowed the state to begin efforts to identify home stations for each company and set in motion the actual reorganization.

The Commonwealth's major command remained its portion of the 29th Infantry Division-parts of headquarters for the division and division artillery, the 29th Signal Company, 116th Infantry, 111th and 227th Field Artillery Battalions and the 29th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop, Mechanized. The first units received Federal recognition during the last months of 1946 but full manning was not completed for several years. By 1950 both infantry regiments were complete along with the division and antiaircraft artillery headquarters elements, all four field artillery battalions and two battalions of the antiaircraft artillery. On 1 February 1949 the 691st was changed to the 129th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion and became part of the 29th Division.

As the Old Dominion's soldiers started to reform their units they also found themselves being asked to aid civilian authorities. Natural disasters caused most mobilizations, especially hurricanes. Guardsmen on disaster duty helped to evacuate civilians from flooded areas, establish security patrols to prevent looting, supplied clean drinking water and set up armories as temporary shelters for those left homeless. Units also fought forest fires or helped search for missing persons in wilderness areas. A few commands were asked to assist with man-made disasters too. In 1947, Winchester's two units (Headquarters Company, 3d Battalion and Company I, both from the 116th Infantry) were dispatched to assist in the location and removal of bodies resulting from an airplane crash at Hillsboro.

The armory situation throughout Virginia had been improving in the years prior to the Guard's mobilization, but construction and renovation projects virtually ceased during the war. As reorganized units occupied the buildings during the late 1940s, little state money to cover needed improvements was available. Furthermore, missions and equipment from prewar days required additional space. The problem received little action until 1951 when Army inspectors found the " ... armory situation is close to critical-some units are threatened with disbandment for lack of space." The Commonwealth reinstated the Armory Commission to allocate federal funds that became available after a new law passed Congress in 1952. Within two years four new armories were completed and by the end of 1966 a total of twenty-five had been put into use. To compliment the new construction, many older armories were renovated or expanded. Federal inspectors in 1960 found the facilities vastly improved and noted that Virginia was far ahead of many states in providing adequate security.

Communist North Korea's invasion of neighboring South Korea in 1950 brought the United States into a war without warning. Although no Virginia Army National Guard formations entered combat, many of it's citizen-soldiers were called to the colors and used to release other units for deployment or to strengthen defenses to deter Soviet aggression elsewhere. Individual members of the Guard volunteered and served in combat with other units.

Drastic change came to Virginia on 1 June 1959 when it implemented National Guard Bureau plans to adopt the PENTOMIC organization adopted two years earlier by the Regular Army. Pentagon analysts had concluded that the introduction of tactical nuclear weapons to the battlefield left the familiar World War II-style structure too vulnerable to enemy action, and inefficiently arranged to make use of the latest advances in technology. The nine maneuver battalions of infantrymen would be replaced by five battle groups, each containing a headquarters, a combat support and five rifle companies. They would be backed up by artillery battalions employing rockets and three different calibers of howitzers, plus helicopters, medium tanks and upgraded support troops. To smooth the transition and preserve old histories based mostly on regiments, the branches of infantry, armor, cavalry and artillery, the latter a merger of previously separate field and antiaircraft arms, placed their battle groups, squadrons and battalions together on paper to form "parent regiments" under the Combat Arms Regimental System (CARS).

The Commonwealth's share of CARS came in the form of six regiments: 116th and 176th Infantry; 111th, 246th and 280th Artillery; and the I 83d Armor. These formations included three battle groups, ten artillery battalions, and a reconnaissance squadron. Virginia was still part of the Blue and Gray Division, in conjunction with Maryland, and as such supplied the 1st and 2d Battle Groups of the 116th Infantry, the 1st Howitzer Battalions of both the 111th and 246th Artillery, the latter's 2d Rocket Howitzer Battalion and the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, 183d Armor. The Old Dominion also furnished the 29th with parts of both the division and division artillery headquarters elements, plus the 29th Aviation and 29th Administration Companies and the full 129th Signal Battalion. The rest of the CARS elements formed non-divisional assets.

Two Virginia National Guard formations were called into federal duty while under the PENTOMIC structure. Construction of the Berlin Wall by the Soviet Union in late 1961 escalated tensions between the superpowers, prompting President John Kennedy to order a limited mobilization to free Regular units to reinforce NATO forces in Europe. On 15 October Richmond's 2d Howitzer Battery, 111th Artillery and Fredericksburg's 189th Engineer Company entered active duty. Within two weeks both had reported to new stations-the artillerists at Fort Campbell and the floating bridge company to Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County. These units were released back to state control in August 1962 following an easing of tensions in Europe.

The Army quickly discovered that PENTOMIC divisions were too awkward in actual use, regardless of how well they looked on paper. A new plan, the so-called ROAD division, replaced it in 1962. This plan sought to preserve the best parts of the 1957 concept while returning to a more traditional configuration based on triangular organization for flexibility. Battle Groups converted to four-company battalions, and three brigade headquarters were inserted into the chain of command to simplify the division commander's control problems. Artillery units streamlined their structures, principally by redistributing their main weapons to leave each battalion with a single type. Service forces were also increased and placed under a unified division support command.

The 29th Division underwent its reorganization on 22 March 1963, with Virginia contributing three of the four artillery battalions, and two battalions of infantry. The 183d Armor changed to the 183d Cavalry and furnished one squadron for reconnaissance (less Maryland's air troop). A new regiment, the 116th Armor, was organized in the northern Shenandoah Valley to provide the divisional battalion of medium tanks.

The proud Blue and Gray Division became surplus in the eyes of the Pentagon during the height of the Vietnam War. Changing priorities for the use of limited resources led to a decision to eliminate several Guard and Army Reserve divisions. On 1 February 1968 Virginia dropped its traditional affiliation and joined Maryland and Pennsylvania in manning the 28th (Keystone) Infantry Division, a hitherto all-Pennsylvania division. Virginia provided one brigade, numbered the 116th, with three battalions from the 116th Infantry. It also furnished the 1st Battalion, 111th Artillery and direct support elements including cavalry, medics, engineers, military police, aviators, logisticians and administrators. The reorganization shifted other units to non-divisional roles and resulted in the termination of the 116th Armor, 183d Cavalry and 129th Signal Battalion, plus battalions of the 111th and 246th Artillery.

On 6 June 1984, at a ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Normandy landings, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinburger announced the reactivation of the 29th Blue and Gray Division...

* From The Tradition Continues: A History of the Virginia National Guard 1607-1985; edited by John W. Listman, Jr.; Robert K. Wright, Jr.; and Bruce D. Hardcastle. Taylor Publishing Company 1987.