History of the 1st Battalion, 372nd Infantry (Rifle) New Jersey National Guard
Compiled by Col. Leonard Luzky, NJARNG, INF.
For many years, the Afro-American citizens of New Jersey were keenly aware of the fact that the patriotism they felt for their State and Country needed manifestation in the military forces of New Jersey. It was hard to conceive of a period when large numbers of patriotic, qualified citizens of New Jersey were barred from serving their country and state in the National Guard. This was the era of the segregated Army and the National Defense troop structure did not allow for the organization of any "Colored" units in the New Jersey National Guard. This matter was brought to the attention of the Legislature through the Office of the Adjutant General, with petitions from World War I Veterans, who had served with distinction at Alsace and in Lorraine and Meuse-Argonne and from the American Legion and non-prior service concerned citizens. The New Jersey Legislature passed Chapter 149, Laws of 1930, which was approved on 16 April 1930, authorizing the organization and equipment of a battalion of Colored Infantry, the First Separate Battalion, New Jersey State Militia. This would be the third time in New Jersey history to see the authorization of Colored Units within the State Militia/National Guard; 1872 - 1877, 8th Regiment (unattached) and 1916 - 1920, 2 separate companies for the State Militia.
In spite of the fact that its actions might be in violation of Federal Laws, the Legislature went on to pass funding appropriations. On July 14, 1931, The Adjutant General appointed committees to organize the first two companies, Company A in Newark and Company B in Atlantic City, of the proposed battalion.
Through communications sent to churches and fraternal organizations and individuals, men responded for enlistment. The Amsterdam Building located at 83 Sixteenth Avenue, Newark and a building at Kentucky and Adriatic Avenues in Atlantic City, were selected by the committees as armories, and approved by The Adjutant General of New Jersey.
Company A was mustered into service on September 25, 1931 and Company B was mustered into service on September 23, 1931 as part of the First Separate Battalion, New Jersey State Militia.
On September 17 - 30, 1932, the companies received their first field training at Sea Girt, New Jersey.
Upon reporting for field training September 8, 1934, at Sea Girt, Companies A and B were immediately assigned to rescue victims of the Morro Castle, which was burning off shore. Although the weather was stormy to hurricane proportions, the men never stopped for rest until the drowning were rescued and the dead were recovered. An improvised morgue was set up for the 78 bodies recovered, and after identifications were made, the men placed the bodies on a train, which carried them from the camp. Companies A and B received from Governor A. Harry Moore and the State Legislature Citations for their courage, courtesy, and sympathetic handling of a very gruesome duty.
In December 12,1934, HQ's Detachment was organized in Atlantic City. Company D was organized on February 4, 1935 and became the Heavy Weapons Company, on March 22, 1935 at 36 Fowler Street, Trenton, NJ. Company C was organized on February 5, 1935 at 1486-90 Broadway, Camden, NJ.
In 1936 The Adjutant General Office diligently applied through the NJ Senate to re-designate the Battalion into the New Jersey National Guard, as the 1st Battalion, NJNG. Under the provisions of Chapter 49, Laws of 1937, the First Separate Battalion, New Jersey State Militia, was redesignated the 1st Battalion, New Jersey Guard, effective May 5,1937.
After several years' effort on the part of the State, authority was granted by the War Department in 1940 for New Jersey to organize the 1st Battalion, 372nd Infantry, National Guard, succeeding the District of Columbia battalion, which had been designated as the Regimental Headquarters Company. This was accomplished by the reorganization and redesignation of the lst Battalion, New Jersey Guard; Company A, September 9,1940 Newark, Company B, September 11, 1940 Atlantic City, Company C, September 10, 1940 Camden, Company D, September 17,1940 Trenton and HQ's Detachment, December 12, 1940 Atlantic City. The 372nd Infantry (Rifle) Regiment, comprised units in New Jersey (1st BN), Maryland (Service Co), Massachusetts (3rd BN), Ohio (2nd BN), and Washington, D.C. (HQ's).
The 372nd Infantry Regiment had the following change of stations; Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, April 1944, Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, November 1944, Ft. Lawton, Washington, April 24,1945 and Schofield Barracks, April 29,1945, to prepare for the invasion of Japan. The Regiment was inactivated at Ft. Dix, New Jersey on January 31,1946, at the conclusion of World War II.
Although not officially accredited lineage-wise, the nearest successor unit in the post WW 11 National Guard was Battery "D", 122nd AAA Gun Battalion, 372nd AAA Group, Trenton, which was federally recognized March 18, 1948. Subsequently this unit was redesignated Company "M", 114th Infantry Regiment. In 1954, the 114th Infantry Regiment was redesignated the 103rd Armor Group which resulted in the inactivation of Company "M", 114th Infantry, on July 6, 1954.
Historically, it is interesting to note that while the Statute of the State specifically authorized a Colored Battalion of Infantry, State Militia, (Chapter 149, Laws of 1930), The current Constitution of New Jersey, which became effective January 1, 1948, necessitated a change. Therefore Chapter 149, Laws of 1930 were repealed. Upon the adoption of the new Constitution, The State Department of Defense, on 12 February 1948, published General Order No. 4 which in effect announced that no qualified person shall be denied any military rights, nor be discriminated against in exercise of any military rights, nor be segregated in the militia because of religious principles, race, color, ancestry or national origin.
With this order the New Jersey National Guard, in spite of federal policy, became a totally integrated force. The active military would not take this step until almost two years after ordered to do so by President Harry Truman's Executive Order issued on July 26,1948.
The 1st Battalion, 372nd Infantry (rifle), New Jersey National Guard set an example of loyalty, fidelity and military efficiency. It had brought honor and credit by its achievements, not only to Afro-American community, but also to the citizenry of New Jersey as a whole.
Since the three Battalions of the 372nd Regiment were formed under the provisions of the National Defense Act of 1920 as part of the National Guard, each had its separate Battalion Insignia, approved by the War Department. All contained the blue field of the Infantry; all carry the gold bend and the red bendelet diagonal for service in Alsace and in Lorraine; in addition the shield of the 1st Battalion carries the coiled rattlesnake for service at the Mexican Border and the famous Red Hand of the nd 157th French Division; that of the 2nd Battalion the Oak tree for home service in the Spanish American War; and the 3rd Battalion, the Red Hand and Castle for service in Puerto Rico and the Spanish American War. The Regimental Insignia is a composite of all these histories and insignia, as authorized by the War Department.
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