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The Tumultuous 1960s

 

The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1961

 

On October 1, 1961, the 156th Signal Battalion was federalized at its home stations in response to the Cuban missile crisis. It reported to Fort Benning, GA., on October 13th for one year of service. This marked the Michigan National Guard's last call to federal duty for service outside the state for almost 30 years.

 

Macomb Country and Hillsdale, 1964

 

A disastrous tornado touched down in Macomb County on May 7, 1964 and 377 Guardsmen were called to duty from May 8 to 13. They patrolled the area to prevent looting and cleared roads so utility service could be restored.

 

Later that month, employees of the Essex Wire Corporation walked off their jobs in Hillsdale and threatened property damage to the company. Six-hundred and sixty-eight Guardsmen were called to duty in a situation that resembled the 1937 General Motors sit down strike in Flint. The Guardsmen remained on duty from May 28 until June 10. They prevented strikers from destroying company or private property.

 

Benton Harbor, 1966

 

Michigan did not escape the the middle 1960s as they turned hot and violent in many U.S. cities. Street violence erupted in Benton Harbor on August 30, 1966 and Governor George Romney ordered out 1,790 Guardsmen to quell the riot. By September 5th, Benton Harbor was quieted and the Guardsmen returned to their armories. The experience they had gained would pay off in 1967, 1968, and 1969.

 

Detroit, 1967

 

Widespread protest rioting broke out following the Detroit Police raid on a "blind pig" in the early morning hours of July 23, 1967. The protests became so violent that neither the Detroit or Michigan State Police could contain them. Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh appealed to the Governor. Governor Romney called out the Guard on July 24th by ordering the 2nd Brigade, 46th Infantry Division to state actual duty. The other two brigades of the 46th were at Camp Grayling conducting annual training. Their training was cancelled and the troops quickly moved to Detroit.

 

The situation worsened and by July 26th, twelve square miles of Detroit were burning. Mayor Cavanaugh and Governor Romney consulted with U.S. Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey; they decided to commit more troops to Detroit. At the same time, the Michigan National Guard was federalized and placed under command of the U.S. Army's XVIII Airborne Corps from Fort Bragg, N.C.

 

One brigade each from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were flown to Selfridge Air National Guard Base and joined Task Force Detroit under the command of Lt. Gen. John Throckmorton. The task force cracked down on the rioters. By July 29th, the situation was calm enough to pull regular army troops out and leave the city in the hands of the federalized Michigan National Guard. The Guard returned to state control and demobilized on August 2nd.

 

During the Detroit rioting, 42 fatalities occurred, including one Guardsman--Corp. Larry L. Post of the 182nd Field Artillery. In all, 8,500 Michigan National Guardsmen were involved in quelling the rioting.

 

Dr. King Assassination, 1968

 

Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Michigan National Guard quickly mobilized 8,397 Guardsmen on April 5, 1968. Deployed to streets of major Michigan cities, the Guardsmen's presence and alertness helped prevent rioting in Michigan during the period of national sadness and rage that followed King's murder. The Michigan Guard stood down on April 10th.

 

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