World War I Lineage
The lineage of the 251st Coast Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft) of the California National Guard traces all the way back to parent units organized on September 16th, 1916 as companies of the 1st Coast Defense Command of the Coast Artillery Corps (CAC). The 250th Coast Artillery Regiment located in San Francisco was similarly organized.
Elements of these organizations were called into federal service on August 5th, 1917 and were sent to France where they served during the Meuse and Argonne Campaigns. As noted in the Regiment's coat of Arms description, Battery B of the 251st CA was a direct descendant of Battery F of the 250th CA, hence the French fleur-de-Lis in blue and gold on the regimental insignia.
The original 251st was demobilized on February 2th, 1919 and was not reorganized as part of the Coast Artillery Corps until 1922. Then, in December of 1924, it was redesignated as the "251st C.A. Regiment (Harbor Defense)". However; on January 1st, 1930, the designation was changed to the currently more familiar title, the "251st C.A. Regiment (Anti-Aircraft)"
Post World War I Years (And Before)
Little authoritative information is available about the period following demobilization after World War I. However, the following extracts from an informal summary written around 1938 by Lt. James B. Willey of Battery B, presents some information about that period- but only after an interesting and sometimes amusing narrative about the Regiment dating back to its very beginning:
"..... Fifty-one years ago (1887) this coming 12th of October, the first forerunner unit of the Regiment was organized. In those days it was an Infantry outfit, and the men worn blue uniforms. It was more of a social organization in those days and the drills were attended irregularly. The men elected their officers and non-commissioned officers and the selections were made on a basis of popularity. The Armory was a center of social functions and the papers of those day chronicle the gay times that the dashing soldiers had.
Later on in 1889, this Company B of long ago was not doing so well. The result was that it was consolidated with company A of the 9th (California) Infantry....... These were post-boom days in San Diego and depression had settled upon her citizens. It is reported that there were weeks when no one showed up at the Armory.
More or less to put new life into the organization, and so far as is known for no other good reason, the Company was redesignated Company B. This was in 1895, when there began to be talk of a war with Spain. There was more interest taken in the Armory than in many a day. Drill attendance picked up to the point where there were some weeks when more than fifty percent of the men were either in ranks or "around the Armory some place".
Finally, the war with Spain was on. There was great consternation in the ranks. Activity of all kinds was going on. Men marched up and down the street. The Company was recruited to full strength. Men kissed their wives and sweethearts goodbye. Everything was in readiness to leave. But noting happened. The war ended and the seething activity of war-time gave way to humdrum events of peace.
Along about the middle of 1909, it was decided that the West Coast needed more protection in the way of heavy artillery. So, on the 29th of June, this oldest Company of the Regiment was redesignated 5th Company, 1st Coast Defense Command, Coast Artillery Corps
On May 11th, 1910, another Company was organized which was known as the 8th Company, 1st Coast Defese Command. On the 12th of April, 1917, it was redesignated as the 6th Company of the Coast Defenses of San Diego.
Later; it was redesignated Battery B of the 65th Coast Artillery Regiment. It served in France with that unit, This is the Battery which went to war without any guns and with no weapons on ammunition....... when they arrived in France, they were trained behind the lines for too short a time.
Then they were put in two of the toughest spots on the front- the St. Mihel and the Meuse-Argonne. They were mustered out of federal service on February 28th, 1919.
........The next few years were fast and furious in civilian activities, but National Guard activities were temporarily in abeyance. Not until 1921 were several Guard Units again mustered in this time as 5th Company of CAC on March 15th. Then, what we know as battery B was recognized as 6th Company of CAC on the same day.
The next month, what we know as Service Battery was organized and designate the 7th Company CAC. On May 11th, what we know as Battery A was organized and designated as 8th Company.
Just before Christmas of 1921, the 9th Company of CAC was organized at Long Beach. In January of 1922, these companies were redesignated as the 463, 464, 465, 466 and the 467th respectively. In April, the San Pedro Battery was organized and designated the 468th CAC. These were all part of the San Diego Fort Command of the 1st CDC,
On the sixth day of 1923, all six companies were redesignated Batteries in the 2nd Battalion 250th Coast Artillery Regiment (Harbor Defense). On the 1st of November, 1924, the battalion was reorganized and expanded into the 251st Coast Artillery Regiment.
In the latter part of 1929, it was found that the crying need of the Western part of the United States was protection against enemy aircraft. This was soon rectified by the War Department designation the best Regiment in California to protect the western coast against enemy aircraft. On January 1st; 1930, this Regiment became the 251st CA (AA)........."
For more information concerning the Coast Artillery in San Diego, CLICK HERE
The following article, quoted in its entirety, appeared in the Honolulu Advertiser on January 21, 1941 under the title of "The Saga of the 251st C.A.":
"This is the interesting account of the wandering of Southern California's own Coast Artillery Regiment during the year 1940. With these figures, the regiment makes its bid for the title of the most "Travelingest Regiment in the United States Army".
From January 14th to the 24th, this Regiment participated in the Army-Navy joint maneuvers in the San Francisco-Monterey area covering a distance of approximately 1400 miles by truck. On this occasion, the Regiment was honored by being one of the two National guard units participating.
On August 3rd, the Regiment entrained for an extended Annual Field Training Encampment of three weeks at Chehalis, Washington. This involved a trip by train of about 3000 miles for the round trip. While in Washington, the Regiment was very active in the Fourth Field Army Maneuvers and added at least 300 miles to the total of miles covered under orders.
The Day-of-Days dawned on September 16th (1940), on a life that the citizen-soldiers never thought would come to them. Uncomplainingly and cheerfully, they answered the call of their President and Country. They left their homes, their loved ones, their jobs, their classrooms, to obey the order that was to add to their already impressive total. One hundred and ninety miles bought them from their home stations in San Diego, Long Beach and San Pedro to their training camp at Ventura. There they entered Army life eager to learn and do their part to keep the American flag the symbol of peace on earth.
During the first part of November; the Regiment started on the voyage to Hawaii. On the 17th of November, the last of the Regiment left its native soil by way of San Pedro and added 2345 miles by the time it arrived at Fort Shafter in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. The next stop was a short move to its new home in a kiawe grove 25 miles from Ft. Shafter Here, the men fell-to with a will to clear away the tenacious kiawe or algaroba as it is called on the mainland. The men were building their own quarters amid the hardships of inadequate toilet and water facilities with little complaint. These sons of California are proud to uphold the tradition of a proud Regiment whose motto is"We Aim to Hit".
The mileage covered by the end of the year totalled 7260 miles and was done in 138 days of service. This was an average of 52.6 miles for each day of service under Federal orders. If this mileage was computed at five-cents per mile and given to a man, he would have $363.00 in his pocket and would still be at home with his loved ones instead of working for a dollar a day and leading a monastic life on this barren kiawe infested coral reef.
Of course, all this travel and expense is necessary .to properly train the Regiment to be an efficient unit of anti-aircraft defense. However; a careful check finds that the Regiment has spent since entering Federal Service last September the enormous total of 18 days in Infantry Drill. The rest of the time has been spent in making camps and moving.
When duty calls and America needs defense from enemy aircraft, this Regiment will gallantly defend with hammers, saws and squares to the last nail and stick of lumber for "We Aim to Hit".
Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941
While the "Malakole Saga" article portrays some of the frustrations, it does not depict the high level of morale nor the outstanding record achieved by the 251st Regiment in direct competition with regular army troops during periods of field testing within the Hawaiian Department.
During daily training and firing on Oahu, the Regiment received its quota of draftees bringing it to full strength level of 2400 troops.
As the potential of an impending conflict became increasingly clear; the Regiment was ordered on full alert in the field whenever sight of the Japanese Fleet was lost. Batteries of the Regiment were assigned defensive positions around the west shore of Pearl Harbor and the perimeter of Schofield Barracks, providing an anti-aircraft defense coordinated with the Navy and other Army units.
However, on December 7th, 1941, the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; all carefully rehearsed procedures were of no avail.- the Regiment was at Camp Malakole having just returned from a full alert in the field. After the standard Saturday morning inspection, half of the Regiment on that infamous Sunday were either sleeping or away form the Camp on weekend pass. Even so, the Regiment is officially credited with downing two enemy aircraft.
During May of 1942, the Regiment, which was originally scheduled for the Phillipines, left Hawaii for futher duty in the Pacific Theatre. As part of a lonely two ship convoy (the SS MORMAC STAR and the SS MORMAC SEA), it slowly weaved and sailed to VitiLevu in the Fiji Islands where it established the anti-aircraft defense for the islands' single critical airfield. All weapons and the housing of troops was artfully hidden under thatched native huts, called bures.
As the Pacific Theatre progressed, the regiment began "island hopping" according to the following sequence:
|Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands||November-December 1943|
|Bougainville, Solomon Islands||December 1943-December 1944|
|Luzon, Philippine Islands||December 1944-December 1945|
On March 1, 1944 the regiment was officially broken up to form the 251st Antiaircraft Artillery Group with the Regimental Headquarters becoming the Group Headquarters and the 1st Battalion forming the 746th Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Battalion and the 2nd Battalion forming the 951st Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion. The Regimental Band was redesignated as the 288th Army Band and separated from the group. The two battalions were to remain together under the 251st AAA Group, thus maintaining the "regiment"
After the end of the war, the 251st Antiaircraft Artillery and its two battalions were returned to California and were inactivated at Camp Stoneman in Pittsburg during December 1945 and January 1946. The 251st having been in the combat zone for the entire war received credit for the following campaigns:
During the latter pan of 1960, Bob Logan and Bryant Keamey, both of 1 HQ, called several former Regimental members living in San Diego and met with them a few days before December 7th of that year to commemorate old times and the attack on Pearl Harbor With what can only be described as a weird sense of humor, they chose a Japanese restaurant as their meeting place.
As these meetings led to larger attendance, the event began to become more formalized and chairmen were appointed to handle the increasing work load involved in finding former members and making meeting arrangements. Since 1966, what is now the annual "Pearl Harbor Reunion" has been held at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Officers Club in San Diego on the Saturday immediately preceding December 7th of each year
Such annual reunions have evolved into a standard pattern, a noon-hour stag luncheon, sometimes followed by an evening luau for wives and guests.
The regiment's 2nd battalion in Long Beach has held a similar annual reunion in their city, choosing September 16th, the day of federal induction, as their meeting date. Former members of the Regiment are cordially invited to attend either or both reunions.
During an annual reunion in San Diego, chairman Amos Lafaver (Regimental HQ) established a fund for the purpose of devising a memorial honoring the Regiment and its members for their participation in World War II. His efforts culminated during the 1977 reunion when chairman Bob MacDonald (1HQ) won approval of a drawing for a proposed plaque to be permanently located at three appropriate sites, to be determined by the members.
The next year; chairman Fergus Carmody (1HQ) completed arrangements for the casting of three 40-pound bronze plaques and for their installation at the San Diego National Guard Armory, the Long Beach Armory, and within the Fort De Russy Pearl Harbor Memorial building in Hawaii; each of these plaques bear the following inscription:
Mementos For The Future
Former members of the Regiment frequently ask where they can donate memorabilia pertaining to the Regiment and their period of service. As our numbers lessen, it becomes increasingly important to safeguard mementos of the past, so that they can be preserved for the future. The 251st Reunion Committee has no facilities for permanent storage of Regimental-related items and, therefore, the following sources are suggested:
- California Military Department
- The Veterans Memorial Center of San Diego: 2115 Park Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92101-4792
- Telephone: (619) 239-2300