Oregon Military Department Records Guide

Agency History - 1919-1945

Two agencies involved with state World War I veterans were created in 1919. A committee to provide designs for medals included the Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, State Librarian and Adjutant General (O.L. 1919 ch. 382). It operated until 1929. The Overseas Welcome Commission, set up to welcome returning veterans disembarking in New York City, consisted of five executive appointees and was abolished in 1927 (O.L. 1919 ch. 177). In 1923, the state accepted the battleship U.S.S. Oregon and designated the general staff to supervise its maintenance. Two years later this was amended by the Legislative Assembly authorizing a five-member commission to assume these duties. After the ship was returned to the federal government during World War II, the commission was placed in charge of administering a marine museum which included relics from the Oregon (O.L. 1923 ch.169). The Legislative Assembly abolished the commission in 1957 (O.L. 1957 ch. 196).

No major revisions in the military code occurred during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Laws passed dealt mainly with commissioned officers, although one 1931 bill recognized the service of Indian War volunteers upon accepted proof of participation (O.L. 1931 ch. 256). This changed with the advent of World War II. President Roosevelt declared a limited national emergency after Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. Oregon responded by being the first in the nation to attain its authorized increase in National Guard manpower, over 900 men in less than a week. Roosevelt mobilized most of the Oregon guardsmen by executive order in August 1940, when he named the 41st Division as one of four National Guard divisions to be called up. By 1943 over 600 men from the Oregon National Guard and Reserves entered federal service.

Oregon took several measures to bolster its defense preparedness during the war. The Legislative Assembly passed legislation authorizing the Oregon State Guard and formed the Guard the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor to assume the local role of departing guard troops (O.L. 1941 ch. 91). Aircraft observers had already been recruited and were manning observation posts throughout western Oregon by fall of 1941. With the declaration of war most of the 500 posts were manned 24 hours a day seven days a week until placed on a reserve status with the army in 1943. Bills passed in 1941 and 1945 to construct, equip and furnish armories. The federal Office of Civilian Defense helped with the organizing of a civil defense network within Oregon, the structure of which was already in place due to the appointment of a state defense council by the Governor in 1941. All war connected services other than protection were merged into one division known as the Civilian War Services in July 1942.

The next year the Legislative Assembly reorganized the state guard and passed the civil defense act which officially created the Oregon State Defense Council (O.L. 1943 ch. 140). Headed by the Governor, the council supervised and coordinated civil defense activities in the state. Also put into operation were an Internal Security Section under the direction of the Governor, a state Information and Public Relations Division to promote civil defense activities, and a Rumor and Propaganda Division whose task was to receive and track rumors to check on their validity and thus undermine and minimize enemy propaganda efforts in Oregon.

Delta On to historical narrative, 1946-present

State Archives • 800 Summer St. NE • Salem, OR 97310

Phone: 503-373-0701 • Fax: 503-378-4118 • reference.archives@state.or.us