September 2, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Beginning November 1940 with the activation of the 31st Infantry Division, the Florida National Guard began its federal military service, fully one year before the attack on Pearl Harbor. By January 1941, the remainder of Florida’s soldiers were on active federal duty. Florida National Guard mobilized a total of 3,940 officers and enlisted men.
In 1940, the Florida Guard was assigned to the 31st Division alongside National Guard units from nearby states, including Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. In December 1940, all of the composite units of the 31st began converging on the Division’s new home, Camp Blanding, Florida. Although huge drafts of men were pulled from the Division between 1940 and 1944, many of Florida’s Soldiers remained with the 31st and served with it in the New Guinea and Philippine campaigns. Many other Florida Guardsmen were scattered throughout the armed forces, serving in every battle and theater of war associated with the Second World War.
By war’s end, at least 170 Florida Guardsmen are known to have died of wounds or had been killed in action. The Medical Detachment, 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 124th Infantry and the 106th Combat Engineer Battalion received the Army’s Distinguished Unit Citation. These units as well as Florida’s 116th and 149th Field Artillery Battalions received the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation. Many of Florida’s Soldiers returned home with decorations including the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Silver Star, Soldier’s Medal, Air Medal, Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart.
In recognition of the men and women who served the nation in World War II, the Florida National Guard extends its sincere thanks.