Sunday, September 27, 2015

Some Gave All: Wyoming Army National Guard Museum

Here we have yet another post that appeared on another one of our sites, that being the one dedicated to war memorials, that we're linking in here, as it shows us a lot of interesting things that relate directly to the focus of this blog, including some that have been commented on before.  As they say, and quite correctly, a picture is worth a thousand words, and these pictures, while not great.  Reveal quite a bit.  This "mirrored" posts depicts the Wyoming Army National Guard Museum in Cheyenne Wyoming.

As there was a fair amount of text in the original entry, we've set this off as quotes so that we can add our additional comments here and expand on it in the context of this post.

These photographs illustrate the location of the Wyoming Army National Guard Museum.  As I was taking this photo in an effort to illustrate the older, cavalry related, part of this structure, I failed to get a really good photo of the front of the museum.

The building was built in 1936, during a period of time during which cavalry was actually receiving increased attention in the American military.  The Wyoming National Guard (there was only an Army Guard at the time, as of course there was no Air Force at all, that being part of the Army) was cavalry at the time, being the 115th Cavalry Regiment. Some may wonder about the "AL" below the AD on the corner stone.  The AL is the date used in Masonry for the creation of the earth, and many buildings of this type during this era were dedicated with the participation of Masons.
Adding to this what these photos above (and below) depict is architectural evidence of a couple of really interesting things that were going on at the time.

Note the date of the construction, 1936, and what the building was constructed for, the Headquarters unit of the 115th Cavalry Regiment, Wyoming National Guard.

Cheyenne borders what was then Ft. D. A. Russell, which is now Warren Air Force Base.  This, then, tells us something about the oddity of how the Army and the National Guard interacted at the time.  Now, Camp Guernsey, the  huge Wyoming Army National Guard training range, is used nearly full time by units of various states Army National Guards as well as the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps.  In other words, the service had a high degree of interaction between the reserve and the active duty forces.  In 1936. .  . not nearly so much.  Indeed, it's really odd to think of a National Guard building being built just a few miles from a huge Army post. Why not just build a structure within the post grounds? Well, they didn't.

Additionally, note that this served a horse cavalry regiment, which shortly became a Horse Mechanized cavalry regiment. This stands counter to what a lot of people imagine occurring just three years prior to the German invasion of Poland. But in reality, cavalry not only remained in the U.S. Army in this period, but it had expanded in size and significance after World War One.

This wasn't folly, it reflected a sincere strategic concern. 

In retrospect, it's been enormously common to look down on the armies of World War Two, such as the American army and Polish army, and criticize them for retaining cavalry, as if they were mired in romanticism about the horse.  Far from it, in actuality, the lessons of World War One, when viewed in context, argued for mobility, and well into, and beyond, the late 1930s, that argued for the horse. The challenge was hot to retain mobility so that warfare didn't become static, like it had in late 1914, rather than mobile, and quick.  Armor in the original 1917-18 context didn't offer that promise, and it wasn't clear until World War Two that it did.

Indeed, there was actually quite a bit of horse cavalry action during World War One, something that's often forgotten or completely overlooked, and in some immediate post war examples cavalry was predominate.  Cavalry was hugely significant in the Russian Civil War and in the Russo Polish War, for example.  And, as nearly completely overlooked, ever single army during World War Two used horses, and quite a few armies, such as the Soviet Army, and yes the German Army, used quite a bit of cavalry.  It was World War Two, not World War One, that turned out to be the last big war featuring lots of cavalry.

So, in that context, the expansion of cavalry into the National Guard in the 1920s and 1930s makes a lot of sense. And that's what happened in Wyoming.

Wyoming's National Guard had only one pre 1920s National Guard cavalry unit, that being the Laramie Grey's.  Most of Wyoming's National Guard in the 19th Century was infantry. The reason is fairly simple. Cavalry is expensive.  Sure, there were a lot of people who rode in Wyoming in the 19th Century (and a lot of people who did not), but that didn't mean that the state would be able to provide a lot of horses for people to use once a week at drill (as Guard units, in that era, drilled once a week).  And people aren't necessarily keen on using their own horses for such things. Beyond that, quite a few of the best riders were not the people who would be in town and able to attend a National Guard drill every week.

Wyoming did, of course, famously contribute a volunteer cavalry regiment, the Second United States Volunteer Cavalry, during the Spanish American War. But that unit isn't properly considered to be a National Guard unit. Wyoming did provide some Guard units do the Spanish American War and the Philippine Insurrection, but none of them were cavalry.  In spite of that, it should be noted, the Wyoming Army National Guard retains the lineage of the Second United States Volunteer Cavalry, given Wyoming's role in raising this citizen soldier unit.

During World War One, in contrast, the Wyoming National Guard was artillery.  Artillery used a lot of horsepower in that era, and is pretty complicated to train men on, but that's what it was.  In the 1920s, however, as the Army became increasingly concerned about battlefield mobility, and as it operated to have more and more control over state Guard units and what they were, the Wyoming National Guard became cavalry. This was a cavalry armory.

Another interesting thing about this building's corner stone is the AL 5936 year mark, which is noted above. As noted above, this is a calendar year based upon a Masonic system.  The inclusion of Masons in the dedication of various public buildings has been noted on our blogs before, with both the Federal District Courthouse in Casper and the Colorado State House having cornerstones noting the same.  This demonstrates how significant fraternal organizations were in earlier eras, as this simply would not happen now.  Indeed, including such a mark on a cornerstone now would likely be controversial.  But at the time, it clearly was not.

It also is interesting in the context of the year system, as it reflects a once fairly common view that the world was only a little over 5,000 years old. There are still those who adhere to this, but it is certainly the common scientific view that the world is billions of years old, and most Christian faiths have no problem with this.  The AL system relied upon a fairly common set of efforts by various individuals to determine the age of the world by way of the Bible, even though the Bible never states how old the world is.

Its interesting to note that the Jewish year for 1936 would have been 5696, which isn't greatly different, is also based on the year of creation, with the initial  year being the year before the creation.  Most contemporary Jews would not have a problem with the scientific position that the world is billions of years old.

The calendar date for the Gregorian calendar here is noted as "AD 1936". This too is telling.  AD, of course, stand for Anno Domini, or Year of Our Lord.  As opposed to the AL system noted above, or the AM system of the Jewish calendar (the Year of the Word), the AD system is tied closely to an actual event, that being the birth of Christ. While some may scoff, the fact that the early history of Christianity featured twelve individuals going as far about the globe as they could, all with the same story, and all with the same practices, and  that they left very lengthy letters regarding it, pretty much fixes in time the event and that it happened.

The interesting thing about "AD" as a calendar date is that the whole glove now uses it, but some scholars have recently reworked AD as BCE, that standing for Before the Common Era.  This is a sort of snooty way of devaluing the Christian nature of a calendar that came about as a Papal reformation of an existing Christian calendar, but ironically, it enforces it. What's "common" about the "Common Era". Well, the Christian influence. Again, we have the remarkable fact that twelve men spread all over the known globe for a message that required them to live in poverty and to die for the message, and yet they retained the same on, and that this soon spread over the civilized world and change it. That's the common feature of the Common Era.  That some would even feel compelled to have to deny this is something that wouldn't have come about until our own era.

This shows the front of the building. This structure was used as a National Guard Armory from the 1930s until some time until the 1970s, but I suspect the brick structure was a latter addition.   These small armories became very unsuitable for continued use by the 1960s, and were replaced in quite a few instances during the 1970s to contemplate the need for much larger armories.  Compounding this need was the fact that in some instances, such as in Casper and Cheyenne, the old armories were well within the city limits by the 1960s making their use for military purposes difficult.
Not only is this true, we've noted it before with the photographs of the Casper Armory that came down in the late 1980s.  At any rate, the added element of the story I didn't fill in is that after the Cold War small town armories disappeared altogether, or at least they ceased to be used as armories.  All sorts of National Guard armories that existed in the 1980s when I was in the Guard are no longer used.  Only the bigger towns tend to retain armories, or areas that are so isolated that there's no other choice but to have them. Armories that once existed, for example, in Rawlins, Riverton, Wheatland and Thermopolis no longer do.  However, in some ways that's a long term trend.  Small Glenrock Wyoming had a National Guard unit in the 1920s and 1930s.  It hasn't since World War Two.

M7 105 Gun Motor Carriage. The Wyoming Army National Guard's 300th Armored Field Artillery used these during the Korean War, during which they won a Presidential and a Congressional Unit Citation for an action in which they directly engaged attacking Communist forces.
After World War Two, much of the Wyoming Army National Guard was converted to artillery and became the 300th AFA, as noted here. They used this fine gun, although it was already entering obsolescence.  Fearing the same chassis as the M4 Sherman tank, this was a very good self propelled gun.  By the late 1950s, however, it was obsolete in the U.S. Army, although it soldiered on in other armies into the 1970s.

This is a M59 Armored Personnel Carrier, two of which are on display at this museum.  I'm not aware of any Wyoming Army National Guard unit using these, but some must have as the other items on display here were definitely used by the Wyoming Army National Guard.  Wyoming's units included the 115th Mechanized Cavalry, the descendant of the 115th Cavalry and the 115th Cavalry (Horse Mech), in the 1950s and perhaps onto the 1960s, at which point the cavalry was phased out and the 115th lineage was carried on by the 115th Artillery Regiment.  The former cavalry units became battalions of the 49th Field Artillery along with the 300th AFA.  Today, those units are smaller and are once again the 300th AFA.
I was surprised to see this in the Guard's collection, but they must have used some when the Guard here still had mechanized cavalry.  These early APCs established the American type, but they were always problematic in some sense.

This is a USS M777 155mm howitzer, which is a gun still used by the US military.
This isn't an obsolete howitzer.  The fact that it would show up in this collection, however, shows the extent to which rockets have taken over in the heavy artillery field, in the U.S. Army.


dogsoldier said...

Just wondering. Reference the M59 APC in a couple of the pictures. That looks like an M-114.

Pat, Marcus & Alexis said...

Indeed, they look a lot alike, but that's a M59.