The 231st Transportation Battalion began as an African American independent militia company in Baltimore, Maryland on 20 February 1879. These city militia companies were patriotic social clubs that competed in military drill. During that time, African Americans were segregated into their own units. The other African American clubs were the “Baltimore Rifles,” and another in the Hagerstown area. These were all African American military clubs made up of African American officers and enlisted men. They called themselves “The Monumental City Guards.”
On 20 February 1882, the Adjutant General of Maryland and his staff examined the three African American military clubs and accepted them as infantry companies into the Maryland National Guard. In 1896, the Monumental City Guards was redesignated as the 1st Separate Company. All three of these African American companies were carried as Infantry Companies. Somehow, the “Baltimore Rifles” and the club from the Hagerstown area did not make it in the Maryland National Guard; only “The Monumental City Guard” survived, and remained as a “Separate Company.”
When the “Spanish American War” broke out, 1st Separate Company was ordered to active duty; however, they did not follow the Maryland National Guard into the war, rather they were retained in Pimlico, and relegated to do interior guard duty until the war ended and they were reinstated into the Maryland National Guard.
When World War I broke out, 1st Separate Company was again ordered to active duty on 5 august 1917. The company was redesignated as Company I and assigned to the 372nd Infantry Regiment of the 92nd Division, one of two designated “Colored divisions in the American Army during the war. Both divisions deployed to war in France. They not assigned duty with the American Expeditionary Force, but were attached to the French Army. Notwithstanding the outstanding performance of African Americans in the US Army in all wars since the Civil War, there were those in leadership who still doubted the ability of African Americans to fight in “civilized” warfare. The one advantage of attaching the 92nd and 93rd Divisions to the French was that they held no prejudice and had a long tradition of employing colonial troops including Africa. The 92nd Division fought with distinction in the Meuse-Argonne, Alsace and Lorraine Campaigns. The company was demobilized at Camp Sherman, Ohio on 6 March 1919.
On 7 June 1922, the African-American company was reorganized and federally recognized as Company A of the 140th Auxiliary Engineer Battalion in the Maryland National Guard. On 26 June the next year, the company was again redesignated and reorganized as the 1st Separate Company, Infantry
With the preparations for the war in Europe and Pacific, the 1st Separate Company was reorganized and redesignated as Service Company, 372nd Infantry on 2 August 1940. This was the unit’s initiation into the combat service support. On 10 March the next year, the 372nd Infantry was called into Federal service and sent to Fort Dix on 17 March. The United States declared war on Japan the day after their attack on Pearl Harbor on 6 December. The 372nd Infantry was then sent to New York, New York on 17 December and assigned to the Eastern Defense Command on 1 May 1942. The Regiment spent the majority of the war performing interior guard duty in the New York City area until near the end of the war. There it was assigned to the 2nd Service Command on 21 January 1944. Finally, it received orders to deploy overseas. On 11 November it fell under the Fourth Army then staged at Fort Lawton, Washington on 24 April 1945. It departed the Seattle Port of Embarkation on 29 April and arrived in Hawaii on 9 May where it was assigned to the Central Pacific Command on 15 May. It did not see any action and was inactivated on 31 January 1946 after the war in the Pacific ended.
On 1 August 1946 the Quartermaster Corps transferred the functions and responsibilities of truck units to the Transportation Corps. The old Monumental City Guards was reorganized and federally recognized as the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 231st Transportation Corps Truck Battalion in Baltimore again under the Maryland National Guard. It continued as an African-American unit. Lieutenant Colonel Vernon F. Greene assumed command from LTC Brady in 1947 and was the first African-American to command the 231st Transportation Truck Battalion. The battalion had responsibility for three truck companies: the 147th Transportation Truck Company, the 165th Transportation Truck Company and the 726th Transportation Truck Company. The battalion was not permitted to train in the huge Fifth Regiment Armory, rather they had to train at the old Fourth Regiment Armory just a couple of blocks away. Because it was above a market on Linden Avenue it was called “The Richmond Market Armory.” Truck battalion headquarters were reorganized on 1 April 1950 and the detachment became the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 231st Transportation Truck Battalion.1
The North Korean People’s Army attacked south of the 38th Parallel on 25 June 1950 thus beginning the Korean War. The 231st Transportation Truck Battalion with its four truck companies were conducting their annual summer camp training at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts.
When the unit returned to Baltimore in the middle of the summer, it was discovered that the entire battalion was alerted for active duty to support the Korean War. A first lieutenant at the time, George Brooks had just finished college and was preparing to enter the workforce in the fall. He remembered, "We returned home on the 22nd of July. The next Saturday, the 29th, the officers of the battalion got telegrams to report to the adjutant general's office for a special meeting. He pulled out this envelope that was stamped `Top Secret,' and started reading. We were preparing for active duty."2
On 19 August 1950, the battalion, with two of its three assigned truck companies was shipped off to Camp Edwards, Massachusetts. The 165th Transportation Company remained in Baltimore until later during the summer of 1950. During mobilization training they learned they were deploying to Korea. "On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we were getting into the cars to go home to Baltimore," he said. "Just then the executive officer came running up the road towards the car, and said that there was a meeting tonight at seven o'clock. We started looking at each other. I said [to a friend] `We're going to Korea."' The 231st Transportation Truck Battalion with its three assigned truck companies were the only Maryland National Guard unit ordered to active duty to support the Korean War.3
Although many other National Guard units were called to active duty on account of the war, Brooks suspected that his battalion would deploy since as the logistics officer, he was instructed to put in requisition orders for 100 percent of the unit's equipment. He said, "The only time you need 100 percent of your equipment is when you are going overseas." After a very brief period of training in Massachusetts, the battalion headquarters was separated from some of its companies. The Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 231st Transportation Truck Battalion was ordered with the 726th Transportation Truck Company to deploy to Korea.4
The 726th Transportation Truck Company arrived in Pusan, Korea on December 31, 1950. Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 231st Transportation Truck Battalion disembarked in Pusan, Korea the very next day, New Year’s Day 1951. One of its truck companies, the 726th, had landed the day before. These two units were separated during their entire stay in Korea. The 147th Truck Company remained in the United States providing support service for about a year when it deployed to Germany. The 231st Truck Battalion was the first National Guard unit to arrive in Korea. It picked up control of the 47th, 49th and 396th Truck Companies.5
The unit arrived between two massive Communist Chinese offensives and almost immediately began to transport supplies and soldiers between rear areas and the front lines. The truck drivers also drove ambulances. The 231st Battalion provided forward truck support for I Corps as it advanced. On 7 June 1951, the battalion relocated to Seoul, then to 20 miles north to Uijongbu on 29 September. There it hauled cargo and troops for I and IX Corps plus moved ammunition to the ammunition supply points.
One afternoon, CPT Samuel Anthony Porter looked up at a hill about 3,000 yards north of him and saw that it was covered with what looked like ants moving. He told LTC Greene that he thought they were “gooks.” The colonel said, “No, Tony, I don’t think so.” Porter was certain and responded, “The hell it isn’t!” An hour and a half later I Corps sent the word, “Withdraw and quickly!” Porter was the battalion maintenance officer and had a number of deadlined vehicles awaiting parts. He did not want to leave them for the enemy to destroy so he hooked them up to trucks with cables and towed them with him. Once the Chinese were driven back, the 231st Battalion returned to Uijongbu.6
In 1948, President Truman had issued an order to finally integrate the Army. The Korean War expedited this process. With high loses and replacements pouring in at a fast rate, it would have been too difficult for the G1s and S1s to identify and assign men by race. Brooks remembered, "We integrated on active duty, late 1951: one night we went to bed, and during the night some men transferred out, and others came in," he said. "When we woke up the next morning, we had a partially integrated armory. That's when it really started. And of course, there were all these replacements coming in-they were put wherever there was a vacancy. The troops were put where they were needed." Brooks said that the unit did not have any conflicts with the integration. "We already had our base, and then whites came in," he said. "So it wasn't a big problem."7
"We were so damn busy we didn't have time to think," Brooks said. "When we started, there were no roads, just old cart paths. But in the spring offensive, we were advancing so fast we had 24-hour-a-day operations moving troops and supplies. We'd haul across corps areas, only six of the ten tires would be on the ground. We eventually ended up supporting two corps, which kept us really busy because we normally only supported one."8
Even during supply runs in the war, the battalion was involved in training replacements and organized its own school to do so. While in Korea, the unit also built a place where men of all creeds could worship. It became known as the "Trucker's Chapel."9
In March 1951, the 351st Transportation Highway Transport Group returned to Korea and in June assumed control over allied transportation operations in Allied control of Korea. The 425th Transportation Traffic Regulating Group assumed control over transportation in the Communication Zone (KCOMZ), from Puson to Taegu. The 231st Battalion fell under the 351st Group.
When Andy McComas arrived in 1952, the 231st Battalion had control of the following companies at Uijongbu:10
After the armistice was signed on 27 July 1953, the battalion participated in Operation Big Switch, the exchange of 75, 823 Communist and 12,773 United Nations prisoners of war and wounded from August through September. As the trucks hauled the North Korean prisoners to Panmunjon, about a half a mile out from the drop off point, the prisoners shed their clothing and threw it over the side of the trucks. The main highway was lined with piles of clothes.13
Louis Diggs had enlisted in the 726th Transportation Truck Company on June 20, 1950, and had the honor of serving in Korea with them. He left the 726th Transportation Truck Company during the winter of 1951 when we were serving in North Korea and joined the Regular Army where he remained for a little over twenty years. Brooks left the battalion in 1952, but the unit stayed until May 1954. CPT Porter left Korea in May 1952 and rejoined the battalion when it returned. On 1 April 1954, the battalion headquarters was reorganized and redesignated as the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 231st Transportation Battalion and returned to National Guard control on 21 February 1955. Colonel Green still commanded the Battalion in Korea until the colors of the battalion were returned to Maryland National Guard control.
When the colors of the 231st Battalion were returned to Maryland National Guard control, there was lots of controversy over how the battalion would be organized. Brooks remembered, "The [Maryland] adjutant general called us in and asked us if we'd reestablish the unit. We said yes; however, only if it was an open unit. He said, `What do you mean?' We said, Open to join regardless of race, creed, or color.” The State Adjutant General, BG Milton A. Rekord, wanted them to revert back to a segregated organization. The officers protested. If the Maryland National Guard remained segregated, then African-American officers had no opportunity for advancement outside the 231st Battalion. Thirteen African-American officers singed a petition and sent it to their Governor. They went to an African-American paper, Pittsburgh Courier, the Urban League, and also and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) who took up their cause.14
During the time of the petitions, the Adjutant General promoted a high ranking enlisted man from the battalion to the grade of Captain with instructions to re-organize the Battalion in the Maryland National Guard as an all African American battalion. He did this by promoting several other enlisted men to the grade of Lieutenants. The Battalion went on for a year or so as a segregated unit until the unit was integrated and Lieutenant Colonel Vernon F. Green re-took over the command of the Battalion.15
In November 1955, the Second Army notified the Adjutant General that unless the state of Maryland integrated its National Guard, federal funds would be revoked. After much support from the public, the Governor of Maryland, Governor Theodore R. McKeldin, directed the integration of the Maryland National Guard and the Adjutant General issued an order on 8 December that anyone regardless of race, color or creed could join the 231st Transportation Battalion.17
On 1 March 1959, the 231st Transportation Battalion was assigned to the 29th Infantry Division and the battalion was reorganized and redesignated as the 229th Transportation Battalion. At that time the US Army was reorganizing the divisions as PENTOMIC divisions with all transportation to include armored personnel carriers in the transportation battalion. It did not take the Army long to realize that the battle group concept of the PENTOMIC division did not work. On 1 March 1963, with the restructuring of the divisions, the 229th Battalion was reorganized and redesignated the 229th Supply and Transport Battalion.
Although the battalion was gradually integrating, it was hard for white officers and soldiers to overcome their preconceived notions about African-American soldiers and prejudice lingered. While the 229th was training at Fort A. P. Hill, the band would go around and perform music for the troops. When it was in the area of the 229th the all-white band would only play “Dixie” and “Suwannee River.” The troops would not come out and show their support. One day, Colonel Felder told CPT Porter, “Send one of your men down to the ration breakdown. I have something that your boys would like, watermelons and pork chops.” The captain responded, “Colonel, if you make it cantaloupes and lamb chops, I’ll send troops down right away.” The colonel did not like his response.17
On 21 January 1968, the 229th Supply and Transport Battalion consolidated with Company B, 121st Engineer Battalion and the resulting organization was reorganized and redesignated as Company C, 103rd Engineer Battalion. On 1 April 1975, the company was reorganized ad redesignated as 243rd Engineer Company, an element of the 58th Infantry Brigade. On 1 July 1986, it was again reorganized and redesignated as the Headquarters and Supply Company, 229th Supply and Transport Battalion of the 29th Infantry Division with organic companies pulled from new and existing units. On 1 April 1992, the battalion was reorganized and redesignated ad the 229th Support Battalion and its headquarters moved to Reistertown.
Asiatic-Pacific Theater, Streamer without Inscription
Free UN Counteroffensive
CCF Spring Offensive
UN Summer-Fall Offensive
Second Korean Winter
Korea, Summer-Fall 1952
Third Korean Winter
Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army), Streamer embroidered Korea 1951
Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army), Streamer embroidered Korea 1952
French Croix de Guerre with Palm, WWI, Streamer embroidered Meuse-Argonne
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, Streamer embroidered Korea 1951-1952
Louis S. Diggs email to Richard Killblane, Subj: 231st Trans Bn, October 2, 2006. Louis.Diggs@comcast.net
Louis Diggs, http://www.louisdiggs.com/forgotten_roads/center_frame.html
Chris Maddaloni, “Fighting for Equality,” National Guard, September 2000, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3731/is_200009/ai_n8921517
Andy McComas letter to Richard Killblane, 30 October 2006.
MAJ (R) Samuel Anthony Porter interview by Louis S. Diggs, nd.
Shelby L. Stanton, Order of Battle US Army World War II, Novato, California: Presidio Press, 1984.
_____, notes on unpublished manuscript US Army Korean War Order of Battle at Center of Military History 2 April 2003.
Department of the Army, “Lineage and Honors, 229th Support Battalion (Monumental City Guards)”
1 Louis Diggs, http://www.louisdiggs.com/forgotten_roads/center_frame.html and MAJ (R) Samuel Anthony Porter interview by Louis S. Diggs, nd.
2 Chris Maddaloni, “Fighting for Equality,” National Guard, September 2000, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3731/is_200009/ai_n8921517
3 Maddaloni, “Fighting for Equality.”
4 Louis S. Diggs email to Richard Killblane, Subj: 231st Trans Bn, October 2, 2006 3:13 pm.
5 Maddaloni, “Fighting for Equality,” and Diggs email.
6 Louis Diggs sent this extract from a book in which Porter was interviewed.
7 Maddaloni, “Fighting for Equality.”
8 Maddaloni, “Fighting for Equality.”
9 Maddaloni, “Fighting for Equality.”
10 Andy McComas letter to Richard Killblane, 30 October 2006.
11 Not listed among Korean War units.
12 Not listed among Korean War units.
13 McComas letter.
14 Maddaloni, “Fighting for Equality,” and Diggs email.
15 Maddaloni, “Fighting for Equality,” and Diggs email.
16 Maddaloni, “Fighting for Equality,” and Diggs email.
17 Porter interview