||A Brief History of the Kentucky National Guard In Springfield
The National Guard has been organized in Springfield since 1846, when a unit was mustered into federal service for the Mexican War on June 9. The Guard unit was awarded a streamer for their efforts at the Battle of Buena Vista. The unit served approximately one year before they were mustered out in 1847. Ten years later the Lexington Rifles were organized in Lexington by John Hunt Morgan. In 1860, the men were assigned to the Lexington Battalion of the Kentucky State Guard. In 1861 some men withdrew from the State Guard and secretly moved to Bowling Green where the unit was reorganized under John Hunt Morgan and mustered into service for the Confederacy. Although other companies in the 623rd's lineage can trace their roots to the Confederacy, there was not an active unit at Springfield during that time. It is believed that some individual volunteers from Washington County served with John Hunt Morgan, but an entire unit did not serve during the Civil War.
The men reorganized again at a later date and became infantry regiments of the Kentucky State Guard. In 1898, the men saw service in the Spanish-American War. The men were still part of an infantry unit when they served in World War I. There were no casualties in either of these wars. The infantry unit was mustered out of service after World War I ended in 1919.
In 1921, a cavalry troop (Troop "I", later Troop "A") was federally recognized in Springfield. Troop A became a machine gun battalion. " ...Since that time, the unit has been a machine gun unit, a cavalry unit, an antiaircraft artillery unit (Battery C, 106th Battalion served in World War II), and a field artillery unit (Korea and Desert Storm)."
In both World War II and Korea, there were no casualties. However, two men from Washington County who volunteered and served in Vietnam were killed in action. One man was a member of the National Guard unit from Bardstown (138th Field Artillery), and was killed during the attack on Fire Base Tomahawk. Men from the National Guard participated in Desert Storm along with two other units from the South. The other southern units included the 181st Field Artillery from Tennessee and the 201st Artillery from West Virginia. Along with the 623rd Field Artillery, these units made up the 196th Field Artillery headquartered in Tennessee. The entire 1/623rd Field Artillery Battalion from Kentucky, including the Service Battery out of Springfield, the Headquarters Battery out of Glasgow, and Batteries A, B, and C out of Tompkinsville, Campbellsville, and Monticello, respectively, participated in Desert Storm. The 181st Field Artillery out of Tennessee and the 201st Artillery out of West Virginia made up the 196th Field Artillery Brigade out of Tennessee. The brigade was overseas from February through May, with some men staying on until August.
On December 6, 1990, the armory received a call from the warrant officer, telling them they were being mobilized for service in Desert Storm. The men were summoned to the armory, where they got their equipment and uniforms together over a three-day period. The men also had to make sure their shots, health insurance, wills, and other legal documents were up-to-date. This was a very hectic and emotional time for the men and their families. A Family Support Group was formed, in order for families of the servicemen to stay in touch and provide emotional support for each other. On December 9, the men left Springfield for training at Fort Campbell. During training, the men and their equipment were tested to make sure they were up to standards before they could depart for Saudi Arabia.
The men left for Saudi Arabia on February 9, stopping in London to refuel before continuing on. Upon arriving in Dhahran, they had to wait for their equipment to arrive. The men had to wait about one month before their weapons and vehicles arrived. The men provided support for incoming Allies along the coast. The main mission of the 196th Field Artillery was to provide support and ammunition for other units. Upon hearing word that the ground war had started, the men advanced through the deserts of Saudi Arabia and Iraq, attempting to catch up with the Iraqi Republican Guard, but the ground war was over before they could engage them. They could see the discharge of the weapons and hear the firing of guns, but they were not close enough to engage in combat. They did see a few nomads while in the desert, but otherwise did not encounter any Iraqis. The Guard finished its mission and returned to Camp Kasserine in April to await embarkation for the trip home. A few men were sent home in May, while others had to wait until June or August to leave. There were no casualties or injuries among the men from Springfield, and the city held a parade for the soldiers upon their return.
Aside from its extensive military activity, the National Guard in Springfield participates in community activities, including festivals in Springfield, Mackville, and Lebanon. The Guard has also been involved in color guards and parades in Willisburg. The Springfield Guard shares the job of supporting the Lebanon ROTC program with Campbellsville. The drill hall is rented out for functions and used by the community. Springfield has also been active in state missions, such as snow and flood duty, race riots in Louisville in the 1960s, and coal strikes and labor disturbances in the 1950s.
||About The Springfield National Guard Armory
The current armory is the second constructed in Springfield. The first was constructed in 1942 on Armory Hill Road outside of downtown. The 1942 armory was built with funds from the Armory Corporation of Kentucky and the Works Progress Administration, and is a grey, two-story poured concrete building.
Springfield Works Progress Administration Armory
The WPA armory in Springfield sits atop a hill off Main Street in downtown Springfield. This building still retains a high degree of integrity and is now owned by the city. It serves as a community recreation center and the home of the city fire, rescue and ambulance services. A DES office is also located on the second floor of the building.
Mr. Leon Strange, a native of Springfield and a National Guardsman in Springfield, Campbellsville, and Glasgow for forty years (1949-1989), remembers how the old WPA armory was constructed. "Work began on the building in 1939, when twenty cars of lumber were shipped in by rail and then off- loaded at the site. Lumber was then used as a mold for the building, and concrete was mixed on site with portable cement mixers. The lumber served as a form for the concrete, and walls were built on both the interior and exterior. A thin steel layer was placed in the middle of the form, and then the concrete was poured around it to form the wall. The walls were ten inches thick."
When the armory was complete, and the wooden forms were taken away from the walls, Mr. Strange remembers "..some of the townspeople asking for the left-over lumber, but being turned down. The lumber was consequently discarded and burnt."
The first armory in Springfield was completed in 1941 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and dedicated in 1942. The armory is located at the top of a hill on Armory Hill Road which leads out of downtown Springfield. The armory is a grey, unpainted two-story poured concrete building with a second-floor drill hall and a first-floor maintenance area. The building was constructed with funds from the Kentucky Military Department Armory Corporation.
The armory has decorative elements of the Art Deco style on its facade. The armory was used by the Kentucky Army National Guard until 1981, when a new armory was built. The former armory was given to the City of Springfield at that time, and is now used as a community center and an ambulance, fire, and emergency rescue center. Ambulances and fire trucks are now housed in what was once the maintenance garage for the armory.
A framed paper on the wall above a WPA plaque lists the names of the businesses and individuals who donated the land for the armory. This armory is in very good condition and maintains most of its historic integrity.
Photos and information courtesy Kentucky Heritage Council -- Report No. 25" Inventory and Evaluation of National Guard Armories in the State of Kentucky" - 1999 by Kate Carothers.