After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Californians
were anxious about the defense of their state from possible attacks
by the Japanese. This was concern was heightened during Christmas
week of 1941 when submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy began
attacking commercial shipping along the West Coast of the United
States and Canada. Several ships were attacked, and many were
sunk. Later in February 1942, the IJN returned to California waters
to again attack commercial shipping and launch a gunfire attack
on the Ellwood Oil Fields, north of Santa Barbara. These attacks,
coupled with the panic caused by a possible INJ overflight of
Los Angeles on the night of 24-25 February 1942, caused many officials
to believe that California was about to be invaded.
Although California already had the California
State Guard, the force that replaced the then Federalized California
National Guard, that had 13 infantry regiments and supporting
troops, these troops were primarily in major metropolitan areas
and then only two of these were in Northern California. These
left large portions of rural California where there were no Army,
Marine Corps or State Guard land forces to guard important infrastructure
and lines of communications. Governor Olson envisioned a 100,000-member
force of rural Californians guarding bridges, telephone and power
lines, natural gas, oil and water pipelines and other infrastructure
from sabotage and possible invasion.
On 24 April 1942, Governor Culbert Olson
authorized the formation of a tertiary state defense force known
as the California State Militia (CSM). Like the antebellum and
Civil War-era California Militia (1849-1866), the CSM would consist
of locally raised independent licensed military units. The CSM
numbered over 300 units ranging in size from a rifle squad to
an reinforced infantry battalion. These were almost universally
infantry formations known as "Rifles" (i.e., Red Bluff
Rifles, Arvin Rifles, etc.). There were also a handful of cavalry
troops and even a coast artillery searchlight battery.
Although primarily a rural defense force,
the State Militia allowed units to be formed in the same areas
of operation that California State Guard regiments operated in.
The CSM also allowed may ethnic units to be formed from the African-American,
Hispanic, Chinese, Korean and Filipino communities, as well as
at least one unit of Free French nationals known as the California
It appears that units, although formed and
functioning, did not receive their licenses from the Adjutant
General until the fall of 1942. Units were formed by American
Legion and VFW posts, county sheriffs, city and county defense
councils and groups of concerned citizens. In one case, the Army
Air Forces' Sacramento Air Depot at McClellen Field organized
many of its civilian workers into four rifles companies to augment
its air base defense forces.
Unfortunately, the CSM suffered from a lack
of funding and equipment and was almost universally self-equipped
by unit members. There was no standard issued weapons and "rifle"
units using personal hunting rifles and shotguns was the norm.
One member of the St. Helena Rifles even reported for duty with
a Civil War-era .50 caliber Spencer Repeating Rifle and bayonet.
The proscribed uniform of the CSM was the standard Army khaki
uniform with a one-inch wide navy blue band on the cuffs of their
shirts and jackets. Officers had navy blue shoulder straps on
their shirts and coats and the "CAL." Or "C.S.M."
insignia in place of the Army's "U.S.". In practice,
it's not know if this was regulation was generally followed.
In 1942, the California State Guard underwent
a reorganization that dropped the 1st Quartermaster Regiment,
1st Engineer Regiment, 1st Evacuation Regiment and several smaller
support units from their order of battle. Many of these units
were almost immediately reestablished in the State Militia as
licensed units. These were almost universally in Los Angeles County.
In 1943, Earl Warren became Governor and
Commander in Chief of the state's military forces and ordered
a review of the roles and missions of both the CSG and CSM. This
resulted in a reorganization and expansion of the CSG into many
rural communities and replacing its active defense mission to
one of internal security. Many CSM units were transferred to the
new CSG force structure while the rest were disbanded. On 1 October
1943, the Adjutant General revoked all outstanding licenses and
the California State Militia ceased to exist.
The history of the California State Militia
has never been documented officially. All that exists are some
mentions in the 1946 History of the California State Guard, a
handful of primary source documents and about 2,000 news articles
on the internet. If you know of any information or images of the
CSM, please contact the author at email@example.com.