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Williamsburg Armory

Williamsburg Armory

A Brief History of the Kentucky National Guard In Williamsburg

A military unit of some type has been in Williamsburg since the Civil War. In 1921, Company D of the 149th Infantry was federally recognized. Currently, the unit assigned there is Detachment 1 of they Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 1/149th Infantry, with medical and support platoons. However, other units besides infantry have been in Williamsburg since the Guard first started there.

In the 1920s, the Guard used J. M. Porter's drugstore building in downtown Williamsburg as their headquarters/armory. The unit remained infantry through World War II, when they were mobilized for active duty. The entire Battalion served in World War II. They were activated on January 17, 1941, and deactivated at Camp Anza in California, in April, 1945. While overseas, the men served in the Phillippines, Leyte, and Luzon (Pacific theater) with the 38th Division. The Division earned the nickname "Avengers of Bataan" in memory of the Harrodsburg unit which was captured and forced to endure the Bataan Death March, where several members of the unit perished along the way. The National Guard companies were all deactivated after the war.

In March, 1947, the unit was reactivated as the 241st Tank company, which they remained until 1969, when the unit was reorganized again as the 438th Military Police. In 1974, the unit was reorganized again as Infantry, which they have remained since that time. The National Guard companies from Williamsburg have not participated in a major war since World War II.

The National Guard in Williamsburg has participated in several state active duty missions, including flood and snow duty, and forest fire duty. For two weeks during the February 1998 snowstorm, the entire unit was on active duty cutting trees so that roads could be re-opened. The Williamsburg Guard has also been called upon in years past to preserve peace during riots in Bell, Clay, Harlan, and Knox counties. Besides state active duties and other community functions, the Guard participates in the Daniel Boone Festival and the Whitley County Fair every year.

The first armory in Williamsburg was built in 1942 with help from the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA armory on South Second Street functioned as the unit's armory until April of 1982, when the unit moved to the current building. The WPA armory was built on land donated by the Foster Lane family in 1940.

About The Williamsburg National Guard Armory

The current armory is the second one built in Williamsburg. The first armory was built by the Works Progress Administration in 1942, and was located close to downtown on Bridge Street.

Williamsburg Works Progress Administration Armory
Williamsburg Works Progress Administration Armory

The old Williamsburg Armory was designed by Louisville architect Edd R. Gregg, who designed six other armories in Kentucky in the same style. The armory is a two-story poured concrete building with attached maintenance garage/drill hall. Currently, the old armory is being leased to Cumberland College, who uses the building for storage purposes. The Commonwealth of Kentucky agreed to a 99-year lease to the College in exchange for the 5 acres of land on which the current armory sits. The exterior of the building is in fair condition, and on the interior, the vast majority of the building's original features are intact. The original wooden drill hall floor is still there, most of the windows are original, and the original wooden doors and radiators are intact as well. Sergeant Tony Jones, armory manager at the new facility remembers that the old armory "... was in good shape and had been altered very little when we (the Guard) moved out in 1982." Equipment and vehicles were stored at the old armory until the Guard moved to their new facility in 1982.

Credits

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.

 

Last Updated 8/30/2007
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