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Mexican Border Duty


Just 15 days after the passage of the National Defense Act, June 18,1916, Michigan National Guard units were called into federal service for duty on the Mexican border. The units mobilized at their home stations on the following day. The organization of the Michigan National Guard at that time included:

  • Company A, Signal Corps
  • Company A, Engineers
  • First Michigan Field Hospital
  • First and Second Michigan Ambulance Companies
  • Troops A and B, First Michigan Cavalry
  • Batteries A and B, First Michigan Field Artillery
  • First Michigan Infantry Brigade, composed of the 31st, 32nd, and 33rd Michigan Infantry Regiments.


Along the Mexican border, 1916 From their home stations, the units were sent to Camp Grayling, then to El Paso, Texas, for patrol duty on the Mexican border. The 31st Infantry, the first organization to leave, departed in June, with the 32nd following in July. The balance of the troops were sent at various times during succeeding months, with the last embarking during the latter part of October.


Service on the border was uneventful, consisting mainly of guard duty, drill instructions, marches, etc. The troops started to return home in November, leaving the border in the same order in which they had been sent, with the 31 st Infantry the first to return.Camp Custer, circa 1917


 The last unit to be ordered home was the 33rd Infantry, but the War Department, realizing that war with Germany was very likely, changed the order. Rather than returning home the 33rd was sent to guard vulnerable spots in Michigan, and to Camp Custer near Battle Creek, which was then being built.


Regimental duties included garrison duty at Camp Custer, Fort Wayne, and Fort Brady; guard duty at the railroad tunnels under the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers; and guarding the ore docks at Marquette and Escanaba. When war was finally declared on Germany, the 33rd Infantry was still in federal service.



Camp Custer photograph from the Willard Public Library collection