The organized militia was renamed the South Carolina National Guard in 1905, the same year the first state-owned armory was built in Columbia.

The National Guard in South Carolina evolved out of the nineteenth-century organized militia, which was controlled by the governor and unavailable to supplement federal military forces. The organized militia was renamed the South Carolina National Guard in 1905, the same year the first state-owned armory was built in Columbia. The Dick Act of 1903 started the state militias on the road to federalization by requiring all states to conform to federal standards within two years or lose federal funding. The National Defense Act of 1916, which required a dual oath to the state and federal governments from all National Guardsmen, completed the conversion of state militias into a national reserve. The conversion came just in time for South Carolinians to participate in the campaign on the Mexican border in 1916 and in World War I. Unfortunately, the National Defense Act of 1916 did not require the federal government to maintain the integrity of National Guard units. As a result, most guardsmen found themselves used as replacements, with large numbers of Palmetto guardsmen serving in the 321st Infantry, the 118th Infantry, and the 37th Regiment, a black regiment.

South Carolinians served valiantly in France, and six received the Medal of Honor, including Lieutenant James C. Dozier (who later served as state adjutant general). The South Carolina National Guard was again federalized in World War II. The first units were mobilized on September 16, 1940, and the entire force was mobilized by mid-February 1941. The South Carolina Defense Force, composed of unpaid volunteers, was activated in its place. Two South Carolina units served in the European theater, the 118th Infantry and 178th Field Artillery. Following World War II, the National Guard was reorganized, and in 1946 it gained an air arm, the Air National Guard. While some units and individuals were called up for the Korean War and the 1961 Berlin crisis, the National Guard’s role was primarily that of responding to civil disturbances, such as the demonstrations on the University of South Carolina’s campus in 1970, or providing manpower when natural disasters struck, such as Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

The South Carolina National Guard integrated in November 1964, but it remained an all-male organization until May 1973 when the first two female members joined the 132d Medical Company at Darlington. Following the Vietnam War, the United States put increasing emphasis on the integration of regular and National Guard forces as a means of maintaining readiness while reducing the size of the active duty military. The increased role of the National Guard resulted in South Carolina receiving modern, sophisticated equipment and aircraft and a higher level of training. South Carolina National Guard units were deployed during Desert Shield / Desert Storm, in Bosnia, in the Afghanistan campaign, and in Iraq. They also participated in international assistance programs in places such as Honduras and Albania. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, homeland defense became a major factor in National Guard training and planning, along with preparing for a major military action, a civil disturbance, or another devastating hurricane.

Cooper, Jerry. The Rise of the National Guard: The Evolution of the American Militia, 1865–1920. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.

Mahon, John K. History of the Militia and the National Guard. New York: Macmillan, 1983.

Rhodes, Gwen R. South Carolina Army National Guard. Dallas, Tex.: Taylor Publishing, 1988.

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Citation Information

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  • Article Title National Guard
  • Author Jack Allen Meyer
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL
  • Access Date June 20, 2019
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date June 8, 2016
  • Date of Last Update March 22, 2017