The Savannah Volunteer Guard




War and Military Action

World War II

On September 16, 1940, the 118th Field Artillery Regiment was called to active duty with the Thirtieth Infantry Division, and began its training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. When the infantry division was "streamlined," the artillery components were battalions, and the Savannah Volunteer Guards was designated as the 118th; the Chatham Artillery and the batteries there were formerly a part of the First Georgia Regiment of the Infantry werre designated as the 230th. After a long period of intense training in the United States and in England, the two battalions landed at Omaha Beach, Normandy, France. The 118th formed a "combat team" with the 117th Infantry regiment, and the 230th formed a similar team with the 120th Infantry Regiment. Both were a part of the Thirtieth Division and participated in practically all of the major battles from Normandy, right up to the Elbe River, where the Germans surrendered. They were often commended by the Corps commander for outstanding action.

In July 1940, the Georgia Legislature created the Georgia State Guard, or which four companies, one headquarters detachment, one medical detachment, and one signal detachment functioned in Savannah during the absence of our National Guard troops.

President Roosevelt's declaration of the state of emergency was followed by the mobilization of all National Guard Units. Ther 118th Field Artillery Regiment, a unit of the 30th ID, National Guard, Georgia-Tennessee, entered Feeral Service as of September 16, 1940, under the command of Colonel Sheftell B. Coleman.

The morning of June 6, 1944, "D-Day," found the Battalion engaged in sseveral tasks around the area. Putting the final touches to equipment or fixing camouflage nets; extensive plan activity and varied rumors said that the "big deal" was on, but after many false alarms, no one was quick to credit what they heard. A little later in the morning, General Eisenhower's broadcast confirmation wiped away any doubts.

The Guard arrived six days after the initial assault on Omaha Beach. Views from the boats gave them men a good view of the debris and destruction. On June 16, 1944 parts of the battalion went into battle near Neuilly, France. From there, they moved to Lison without major incident.

The Guard performed very admirably during many battles and marches throughout Europe. On May 7, 1944 the word was passed that hostilities would cease at midnight and that the following day would be V-E Day. this provoked no back-slapping celebreation though everyone was happy it was at last over. Workd went on as usual and by all appearances it was just one more day in the life of the Battalion. The SVG history of World War II ended with the surrender of the Germans. The war with Japan was continuing and under the War Department plans, the 30th Division was scheduled to return to the states on the way to the Pacific. the personnel from SAvannah and many of the others h ad accumulated sufficient service to be entitled to release from active duty. Those so desiring were transferred to units scheduled to return to the states for demobilization and many took advantage of the offer. the 30th division returned to the states in August, 1945, and was mustered out at Fort Jackson in September 1944.

Commander Major Richard H.Mayer

  • September 16, 1940: The National Guard 30th Division was mobilized and sent to Ft Jackson, South Carolina.
  • The 118th F.A.Regiment ,Commanded by Colonel Sheftall B. Coleman, consisted of Regiment Headquarters, the 1st Battalion 118th F.A. commanded by Major Mayer,2nd battalion ,118thF.A. Commanded by Major Charles Peterson. The 55th Brigade was commanded by General Travis.
  • The 1st Battalion 118th F.A. consisted of the Savannah Volunteer “Guards”.
  • The 2nd Battalion 118th F.A. consisted of the Chatham Artillery, Irish Jasper Greens, Republican Blues and the German Volunteers. The Waysboro Artillery Battery was also in the 2nd Battalion 118th F.A.
  • The Guard Units were encamped at Daffin Park, records were updated and recruiting was begun.
  • Several weeks after September 16, 1940 the “Guards” arrived at Ft Jackson. Ft Jackson was an old Fort and intensive work was in progress. Next several months was dedicated to setting up camp and training.
  • June1941: the Guard units participated in the Tennessee Maneuvers in North Georgia and Tennessee. They received high praise for their efforts. Colonel Coleman took sick and was retired. Colonel R.C.Stanford of the Regular Army was appointed Commander. He made many changes.
  • October 1941: the Guards again participated in the 2nd Tennessee Maneuvers, returned to Ft Jackson. They were on weekend leave when on December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor was bombed.
  • Many changes had taken place in the units, 316 men went to Officers Candidates School, and all passed but only one came back to the guard units.
  • February 16, 1942: the 30th Division changed from a Square to a Triangular Division. The 55th Brigade became the 30th Division Artillery Headquarters and Battery.
    The 1st Battalion 118th F.A. Bn. Commanded by Lt Col Mayer. A new battalion was activated, namely the 230th F.A .Bn Commanded by Lt Col Paul Googe. Another Battalion, the 197th F.A.Bn Commanded by Lt Col Patrick Seawright.It might be noted that all three Battalion Commanders were taken from the old 1st Bn 118th F.A (Savannah Volunteer Guards).
  • August 23, 1942: the local Units went to Ft Screven while new draftee was filling ranks of the three Battalions. The 118th, 197th, 230th. This move was designed to give the men time off from training. The men spent most of their time with family and friends in Savannah.
  • September 1942: They returned to Ft Jackson; the Unit continued to lose personnel. Some going to Officers Candidate School & Army RIR Corps. Mean while the draftees began filling the ranks.
  • October 4, 1942: The Guards left Ft Jackson for Camp Blanding. Florida.
  • May 1943: The “Guards” left Camp Blanding for Ft Gordon, Georgia. The Regular Army put the 118th, 230th, and 197th Battalions through the Army ground test. The units obtained a mark of 97.5.
  • May 18, 1943: They left FT Gordon for Camp Tick, Tennessee for maneuvers and field test.
  • November 9, 1943: They began movement to Camp Atterbury, Indiana.
  • February 1, 1944: They left Ft Atterberry for Camp Miles Standish, New Jersey and later to Boston Harbor. They boared the JOHN T ERICKSON and cast off for England.
  • February 22, 1944: They landed in Liver Pool, England and taken to Bucks Green and Five Oaks.
  • Extensive training from March to May 1944was conducted .In April 1944 they were inspected by Field Marshall Montgomery.
  • On D-plus 12 they loaded on LST’s for Omaha Beach, and June 16, 1944 went in position at town of Nevilly, France where the first fire missions were fired by the 118th Battalion (SVG).
  • They crossed the Vire River and were in the thick of the battle of St.Lo.
  • July 1944: They passed Point Hebert. Shortly after the Headquarters was accidentally bombed by our own Air Force, killing many men, including Lt General Leslie McNair.
  • July 28, 1944: The Guards pass St Rompnaire Falaises, Avranches near Mortain.The 118th supporting the 117th Infantry Regiment found they were being attacked by Adolph Hitler’s 1st S.S. Panzer Division. The 117th held their lines, aided by the 118th Artillery, but the Germans broke thru the 120th Regimate, supported by the 230th F.A.Battalion.The 120th although surrounded, fought back, with support of the 230th, and back up Artillery of 118th.
  • August 10, 1944: The enemy withdrew as other units were brought up and relieved the surrounded 120th Infantry Regiment.
  • As the Germans were retreating, the 118th followed and took up positions near Donfront.
  • August 21: The 118th took up positions at Brezelles.
  • September 3: The 118th crossed the border into Belgium.
  • September 19:“C” Battery fired on German troops on German soil.
  • October 20: The 118th occupied the town Palenburg.
  • October 21: The 30th Division left the First Army and joined the Ninth Army under Lt General Simpson, They were placed in the town of Herzogenrath.
  • December 3: The 118th were ordered to Bordloon for a period of R&R.
  • December 5: The 118th was return to Lanweigler.
  • Shortly after Von Rundstedt launched an attach on the thinly held lines of the First Army.
  • December 19: The 118th went to position and began to fire at twice the normal rate of firring, to two rounds per gun per minute. Hot turkey and fixin’s served.
  • December 19: On through Christmas the 118th fired 20,000 rounds.
  • January 13, 1945: The Germans efforts had failed and they began to retreat, closely followed by the 30th Division.
  • When the Germans began to retreat, the 118th found that they were again fighting the 1st S.S. Panser Division that they had defeated at Mortain, France.
  • February 3: The 118th F.A. took the town of Harren, Germany.
  • February 24: The 118th crossed the Roer River. The 118th then passed thru Hambrach, Paffen, Bedburg-Dyck, Schondf, Borth.
  • March 23: The 118th was crossing the Rine River. They were the first F.A.Battalion to cross and go into position.
  • April 5: They passed through Lemgo, then Grupenhagen, Hemlin, Hottela and on to Brunswick.
  • April 19: The mopping–up phase near the Elbe River, awaiting contact with the Russians.
  • May 7, 1945: VE DAY

The entire history of the Guard during World War II is more extensive than may be summarized here. We will add more information as time permits. However, greater detail is available in History of the Savannah Volunteer Guards, Inc. 1802-1992 by Henry J. Kennedy.

Caisson Song

The song is based on the "Caisson Song" written by field artillery First Lieutenant (later Brigadier General) Edmund L. Gruber, Lieutenant William Bryden, and Lieutenant (later Major General) Robert Danford while stationed at Fort Stotsenburg in the Philippines in March 1908. The tune quickly became popular in field artillery units. In 1917 the Secretary of the Navy and Army Lieutenant George Friedlander of the 306th Field Artillery asked John Philip Sousa to create a march using the "Caisson Song." Sousa changed the key, harmony, and rhythm and renamed it "U.S. Field Artillery." The recording sold 750,000 copies. Sousa did not know who had written the song and had been told that it dated back to the Civil War. Upon learning of the true composer, he gave the royalties to Gruber.[5] "The Caisson Song" was never designated as the official Army song likely because the lyrics were too closely identified with the field artillery and not the entire Army. (Source Wikipedia)

The Savannah Volunteer Guard has great affection for this music as the group is, at its foundation, an artillery unit.

Click to hear the music...