• Welcome to the New York State Military Museum

    Welcome to the New York State Military Museum

    The mission of the museum and research center is to preserve, interpret and disseminate the story, history and records of New York State’s military forces and veterans.

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  • Sherman Tank Returns!

    Sherman Tank Returns!

    Our Sherman Tank returns to the NYS Military Museum from Fort Drum after a year long restoration, to it's permanent exhibit spot.

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  • CIVIL WAR PAINTINGS | Now on Display

    CIVIL WAR PAINTINGS | Now on Display

    This exhibit will highlight some of the finest Civil War artwork from the collection of the Military Museum on a rotating basis. Click for more details...

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  • A CALL NOT UNHEEDED

    A CALL NOT UNHEEDED

    The exhibit features a dazzling array of militia and National Guard distinctive unit dress uniforms, ballot boxes and decorative bronze trophies that interpret the social organization of the National Guard, original artifacts from the USS Maine, and a carronade captured during the 1857 Dead Rabbits Riot in New York City.

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  • Battleground for Freedom

    Battleground for Freedom

    No less than 120 military engagements occurred on New York soil, more than in any other state, ranging in scale and significance from the decisive Battle of Saratoga to numerous bitter skirmishes and ruthless raids that raged throughout the frontier settlements...

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  • Some Great Past Exhibits

    Some Great Past Exhibits

Welcome to the New York State Military Museum

The mission of Friends is to be a support to the museum, to aid in fund raising for exhibits and displays, as well as assisting in drawing attention to the museum through programs, lectures and events. As the board of trustees, we are the elected board which helps direct the membership to facilitate the support mission of the non profit group.

 

NY National Guardsman Henry Johnson, fought for his life with a knife on May 15, 1918

New York Army National Guard Sgt. Henry Johnson, circa 1919. Johnson was part of the 369th Infantry Regiment, the Hellfighters from Harlem, who fought under French command in WWI as an all-black combat unit. Johnson received the French Croix de Guerre for his actions in defending his outpost and his comrade Needham Roberts on the night of May 15, 1918.

 He was 26 years old, 5-foot-4, weighed 130 pounds and came from Albany, New York.

And on the night of May 15, 1918, Pvt. Henry Johnson, a member of the all-black 369th Infantry Regiment, found himself fighting for his life against 20 German Soldiers out in front of his unit's trench line. He fired the three rounds in his French-made rifle, tossed all his hand grenades and then grabbed his Army-issue bolo knife and started stabbing. He buried the knife in the head of one attacker and then disemboweled another German soldier.

"Each slash meant something, believe me," Johnson said later. "There wasn't anything so fine about it," he said. "Just fought for my life. A rabbit would have done that."  By the time what a reporter called "The Battle of Henry Johnson" was over, Johnson had been wounded 21 times and become the first American hero of World War I.

Johnson's actions during the night of May 15, 1918 brought attention to the African American Doughboys of the unit, the New York National Guard's former 15th Infantry, redesignated the 369th for wartime service. 


The 369th Infantry, detached under French command, arrived on the front line trenches in the Champagne region on April 15, 1918. They were relieved to be free of supply and service tasks of past months and ready to join the fight, now under the command of the French Fourth Army.  The American Expeditionary Forces detached the all-black regiment to bolster an ally and preserve racial segregation in the American command. The French were less concerned about racial inequality, and welcomed the African American regiment that would earn its nickname as the Hellfighters from Harlem.

The regiment's first battle would otherwise be a footnote in WWI history, fought by only two Soldiers, were it not for the scrutiny the all-black regiment faced at the time.  After weeks of combat patrols, raids and artillery barrages, Pvts. Henry Johnson, 26, from Albany, N.Y., and his buddy Needham Roberts, 17, of Trenton N.J., from the regiment's 1st Battalion, Company C, stood watch near a bridge over the Aisne River at Bois d'Hauzy during the night of May 15. An enemy patrol with an estimated 20-24 troops was determined to eliminate the outpost and bring prisoners back to learn about the all- black American force. Around two in the morning, shots rang out and the sounds of wire cutters alerted the two American Soldiers. Johnson, opening a box of grenades, told  Roberts to run back and alert the main line of defense. But at that moment the first enemy grenades landed in their  position. Johnson stalled the German patrol with grenades of his own, as Roberts was struck down with shrapnel wounds to his arm and hip. When out of grenades, he took up his French rifle.

"The Labelle rifle carries a magazine clip of but three cartridges,' noted Arthur Little, the 1st Battalion Commander in his 1936 book "From Harlem to the Rhine." "Johnson fired his three shots - the last one almost muzzle to breast of the Boche (German) bearing down upon him. As the German fell, a comrade jumped over his body, pistol in hand, to avenge his death. There was no time for reloading. Johnson swung his rifle round his head, and brought it down with a thrown blow upon the head of the German. The German went down, crying, in perfectly good Bowery English, "The little black (so and so) has got me!"  As Johnson looked over to assist Roberts, he saw two Germans lift him up to carry him off towards the German lines. "Our men were unanimous in the opinion that death was to be preferred to a German prison," Little wrote. "But Johnson was of the opinion that victory was to be preferred to either." 

Johnson reached for his Army-issued bolo knife and charged. His aggressiveness took the Germans by surprise. "As Johnson sprang, he unsheathed his bolo knife, and as his knees landed upon the shoulders of that ill-fated Boche, the blade of the knife was buried to the hilt through the crown of the German's head." The Army adopted the bolo knife from its experience in the Philippine Insurrection of 1899. The big knife, used by Philippine insurgents, was heavily weighted along the back of its curved blade, and was devastating for close quarter combat. Turning to the face the rest of the German patrol, Johnson was struck by a bullet from an automatic pistol, but continued to lunge forward, stabbing and slashing at the enemy.

The enemy patrol panicked, Little wrote. Overwhelmed by Johnson's ferocity, and with the sound of French and American troops approaching, the Germans ran back into the night. "The raiding party abandoned a considerable quantity of equipment (from which estimate of strength of party is made), a number of fire arms, including automatic pistols, and carried away their wounded and dead," reported the New York National Guard annual report of 1920.  By daylight, the carnage was clear. Even after suffering 21 wounds in hand-to-hand combat, Henry Johnson had stopped the Germans from approaching the French line or capturing his fellow Soldier.

"He killed one German with rifle fire, knocked one down with clubbed rifle, killed two with bolo, killed one with grenade, and, it is believed, wounded others," the National Guard report said.

The French 16th Division, which commanded the Hellfighters, quickly recognized the actions of Johnson and Roberts. The two Soldiers received the French Croix du Guerre, that country's highest military honor.  The French orders, dated May 16, state Henry Johnson "gave a magnificent example of courage and energy."  They were the first U.S. Soldiers to earn this distinction and Henry Johnson's medal included the coveted Gold Palm for extraordinary valor.  From that point on, Pvt. Henry Johnson was known as "Black Death."

The regiment would go on to prove itself in combat operations through the rest of the war, receiving the Croix de Guerre, for its unit actions alongside some 171 individual decorations for heroism.  

But Henry Johnson would be singled out for his heroism and actions under fire. Former President Theodore Roosevelt called Johnson one of the "five bravest Americans" to serve in WWI.  The question of whether the African American 15th New York Infantry would fight as well as any other unit was answered in the darkness of May 15, 1918.

After the war, Johnson and Roberts returned home as national heroes. Promoted to sergeant, Henry Johnson led the New York City parade for the 369th in February 1919. Johnson's extensive injuries however, prevented his return to any normal civilian life. He had difficulty finding work. He died destitute in 1929 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Some 97 years after his combat service in France in 1918, the Department of Defense reviewed his records and recommended his Medal of Honor, presented by then President Barack Obama in 2015.

His citation reads "Private Johnson exposed himself to grave danger by advancing from his position to engage an enemy soldier in hand-to-hand combat. Wielding only a knife and gravely wounded himself, Private Johnson continued fighting and took his bolo knife and stabbed it through an enemy soldier's head. Displaying great courage, Private Johnson held back the enemy force until they retreated." "We are a nation -- a people -- who remember our heroes," Obama said during the June 2015 Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House. "We never forget their sacrifice, and we believe it's never too late to say, 'Thank you.'"

During the World War I centennial observance, the New York National Guard and New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs will issue press releases noting key dates which impacted New Yorkers, based on information and artifacts provided by the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.  (Courtesy U.S. Army, press release, May 8, 2018)

  • Korean/Vietnam War Exhibit

    A display case from our recent "Vietnam Reconsidered" presentation a few weeks ago.  Planning, designing and procurement is well underway for  our upcoming Korean/Vietnam War exhibit.  We hope to start actual construction of this exhibit this summer, with unveiling late summer, early fall.   Stay tuned for further details in the coming weeks.

  • Can you identify these individuals?

    Stan Dube's
    World War Two Sketches

    These sketches provided by Ira Dube of U.S. Army 27th Infantry Division soldiers were among more than a dozen done by his father, Stan Dube, during World War II. Ira Dube, found them stashed in the attic of his sister’s home. Now Ira Dube is hoping to identify the men, so he has donated 15 sketches to the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center in Saratoga Springs.

    The museum's web site address to view these sketches is:   https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/wwii/Dube/

     

    If you can identify any of these men please contact:
    Mark Koziol
    (518) 581-5101
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

     

    Dube Sketch 1 Dube Sketch 2
    Dube sketch 3 Dube sketch 4
    Dube sketch 5 Dube sketch 6
    Dube sketch 7 Dube sketch 8
    Dube sketch 9 Dube sketch 10
    Dube sketch 11 Dube sketch 12
    Dube sketch 13 Dube sketch 14
    Dube sketch 15

     

     

     

    New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History 

  • In 1917, 42nd Division Guard Soldiers celebrated Christmas, then faced "Valley Forge Hike"

    In this photograph from the book "the Story of the Rainbow Division" Missouri National Guard Soldiers of the 117th Field Signal Battalion of the 42nd Division make their way through the snowy French countryside during December 1917 in what became known as the "Valley Forge Hike". The troops marched 100 kilometers in the snow from the Vaucouleurs to Rolampont France.

     

    In December of 1917 the National Guard Soldiers of the 42nd Division were all in France, waiting for training in the trench warfare that marked World War I in Europe.

    The division's 27,000 troops had started moving from Camp Albert Mills on Long Island to France in October. The last elements of the 26-state division--the 168th Infantry Regiment from Iowa-- had reached France at the end of November.

    The 42nd Division had been formed by taking National Guard units from 26 states and combining them into a division that stretched across the country "like a rainbow" in the words of the division chief of staff, Colonel Douglas MacArthur.

    The largest elements were four regiments from Ohio, Iowa, Alabama and New York organized in two brigades of two regiments and supporting units. 

    The New York National Guard's 69th Infantry, renowned as the "Fighting 69th" had been renamed the 165th Infantry.

    By Christmas 1917 the division's elements were located in a number of villages northeast of the city of Chaumont, about 190 miles east of Paris. The men had hiked there from Vaucouleurs where they had originally been deposited by train.

    The 165th Infantry celebrated Christmas 1917 in the village of Grand. Father Francis Duffy, the regiment's famous chaplain, celebrated a joint American-French mass on Christmas event.

    According to Sgt. Joyce Kilmer, a poet, and editor, "the regimental colors were in the chancel, flanked by the tri-color. The 69th was present, and some French soldier-violinists. A choir of French woman sang hymns in their own language, the American Soldiers sang a few in English, and French and American joined in the universal Latin of "Venite, Adoremus Dominum."

    On Christmas Day the men ate turkey, chicken, carrots, cranberries, mashed potatoes, bread pudding, nuts, figs and coffee. The Army, wrote Corporal Martin Hogan "was a first rate caterer."

    The 168th Infantry, from the Iowa National Guard, hosted 400 French children at a Christmas celebration in the village of Rimaucourt. Two American Soldiers dressed like Santa Claus gave presents to the French children and a French band played the Star Spangled Banner. The kids received dolls, horns and balloons, recalled Lt. Hugh S. Thompson in his book "Trench Knives and Mustard Gas." 

    The 168th didn't eat as well as the 165th on Christmas day, according to Thompson. "Scrawny turkeys and a few nuts were added to the usual rough menu" he recalled.

    The 166th Infantry from the Ohio National Guard, was reviewed by General John J. Pershing, the commander of the American Expeditionary Force just before Christmas. On Christmas they enjoyed music from the regimental band and a good meal.

    While Christmas 1917 was a good one for most Soldiers of the Rainbow Division the next week went down in the division's memory as "The Valley Forge Hike."

    It was 30 to 40 miles from where the division's troops had celebrated Christmas to the town of Rolampont, where the U.S. Army's Seventh Training Area, had been established.   121917.

    Today you can drive the route in an hour. In 1917 it took the Soldiers four days to get there.
    The march was miserable, according to the 1919 book "The Story of the Rainbow Division."

    The Soldiers had "scarcely any shoes except what they had on their feet, there was no surplus supply to speak of. Some of the men had no overcoats."

    The Soldiers walked into a mountain snowstorm. In some places the snow was three to four feet deep. Soldier's shoes wore out. Some marched almost barefoot and there were bloody trails in the snow.

    Lt. Thompson recalled that the men in his unit were issued hobnailed boot: the soles were held by heavy nails. The problem, he said, was that the nails got cold and the men's feet froze too.

    "Bleak expanses of icey geography appeared and vanished in monotonous fields between villages," he recalled. "Legs ached, pack straps cut into shoulders, unmercifully men fell out, exhausted."

    At night the men huddled in the barns and haylofts of the French villages to keep warm. 

    The mule and horse drawn supply wagons got stuck on the icy roads and men had to move their best animals from wagon to wagon to get them unstuck, Father Duffy recalled. 

    For three days the men in the 165th Infantry Regiment's Third battalion had no food, according to Kilmer, and when rations caught up to the men they got coffee and a bacon sandwich, or a raw potatoes and bread.

    "The hike made Napoleon's retreat from Moscow look like a Fifth Avenue Parade," one New York officer remembered later.

    "The men plowed over the hills and thru the snow, enduring hardships which are not pleasant to remember," wrote Reppy Alison, the author of a book about the 1st Battalion 166th Infantry.

    Medics reported cases of mumps and pneumonia as the temperatures dropped below zero. Hundreds of men fell out-- 700 at least and 200 of the New Yorkers--but most made it to Rolampont.

    As the 165th Infantry arrived, the regimental band struck up "In the Good old Summertime".

    By New Year's Day the division's elements had arrived in Rolampont, and along with a new year they got a new commander. 

    Major General William Mann, the former head of the Militia Bureau, the equivalent of today's Chief of the National Guard Bureau, had taken command of the division at Camp Mills. 

    But Mann, who was 63 in 1917, couldn't meet the physical standards for officer laid down by General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force.

    He was replaced by 55-year old Brig. Gen. Charles T. Menoher.

    As 1918 began Menoher and the Soldiers of the Rainbow division began gearing up to go to go into the trenches.   121917.

  • World War I and the New York National Guard

    New York National Guard in World War I  - Centennial News

    NEW YORK -- Before they walked down the gangplank onto French soil in April 1918; 25,000 New York National Guard Soldiers walked down Fifth Avenue in August 1917 so New York City could say goodbye.

    On August 30, 1917, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers lined a five mile route from 110th Street to the Washington Square Arch as the 27th Infantry Division paraded down the street.

    There were so many marching Soldiers, the New York Times reported, that it took five hours for the parade to pass by. After being federalized on July 15, 1917 New York Army National Guard members remained at their armories, being issued equipment, undergoing medical checks, shoeing mules, and beginning to train for war.

    The units also continued final recruiting efforts to bring their companies and regiments up to full strength. Local men were urged to go to war with their friends and neighbors instead of waiting to be drafted or enlisting in the Regular Army.

    In Saratoga Springs, for example, Louis Dominick decided to join the local National Guard company at the last minute instead of enlisting the "depot company" the Army had established for the county. Dominick's decision meant the regular Army recruiters were now one short of their goal of 50 Soldiers for the county, the "Saratogian" newspaper reported. While the Regular Army officers who were orchestrating mobilization wanted the Soldiers to move into field camps quickly, the New York National Guard argued that it made more sense to use its armories for the mobilization process instead.

    "These measures could be taken in a much more efficient manner in the great armories of New York State than they could in open fields, while commands were endeavoring to make camp with ranks augmented by many recruits and without military property adequate for their strength," Major General John F. O'Ryan, the 27th Infantry Division commander, wrote after the war Initially, O'Ryan was told that his division-destined to be known as the 27th Division but still being called the 6th Division by the Army-would be training at Camp Wadsworth in Spartanburg, South Carolina and was slated to move in early August.

    With this early August departure date in mind, New York City's movers and shakers began planning for a big farewell parade. Initially the parade was set for Thursday, August 9, 1917. But on August 6, the division learned that Camp Wadsworth wasn't ready yet. The big parade was put off.

    "If we lined the sidewalks of New York with the relatives of the Soldiers –mothers, sisters and so forth, all crying and bidding goodbye to the boys-then the troops remained here for a week, maybe two weeks, the whole big impressive parade would become ridiculous," New York City Mayor John Mitchell, told the New York Times.

    The delay in moving south was probably a good thing, the New York Times also reported, since the Soldiers of the 27th Division were still short of equipment and the units needed to be consolidated. The men of the 71st Infantry Regiment, for example, were spread out in small elements over 700 square miles of upstate New York, the Times reported. It would take 30 hours to concentrate the unit, the paper said.

    On August 23, O'Ryan was informed that the division would move south beginning in early September and the big parade in New York City was back on again. Only now the festivities would include a dinner for 24,000 New York National Guardsmen as well.  Regiments from upstate New York were moved down to Van Cortland Park. Other regiments camped at Pelham Bay Park, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Three coastal defense regiments – Soldiers trained to man the forts that still protected New York City in 1917-were on duty there.

    On August 28, Mayor Mitchell hosted a dinner at the Hotel Biltmore for O'Ryan, his division staff, and unit commanders. On August 29, a committee of 100 Prominent Women played hostess at the camps around the city as the rest of the New York National Guard troops enjoyed "farewell rallies around feast laden boards," in the words of a New York Times reporter.

    "Only a town like the City of New York could seriously undertake a hospitality of such magnitude," O'Ryan wrote.

    The big parade kicked off at 10 a.m. on August 30. Members of Soldiers families were given a special pass that allowed them access to the west side of Fifth Avenue from 110th Street south to 59th Street. Locations at the Plaza Hotel, the Pulitzer Memorial, and Madison Square were also reserved for Soldiers families. Each Soldier got four passes for his family members. The New York Police Department was geared up to handle an expected two million spectators with 4,000 officers under the command of nine inspectors stationed along the parade route. Chief Inspector James Dillon, the officer in charge of the parade, issued an order forbidding the public from using "boxes, barrels, chairs, campstools or settees of any kind" while watching the parade. The Police Department Band led the parade, which allowed all the regimental bands to march with their parent organization.

    First in line was the 22nd Engineer Regiment. The regiment's A Company had already been ordered to Yaphank on Long Island to build a camp which would eventually be occupied by the newly formed 77th Infantry Division. Its D Company was already in South Carolina helping to finish Camp Wadsworth. The rest of the regiment was due to get on a train after the troops marched past the reviewing stand at the Union League Club, and head south to help finish up construction of the post.

    At the reviewing stand Mayor Mitchell, former President Teddy Roosevelt, and other state and local dignitaries waved and greeted the troops.

    The marching troops remembered cheering crowds, with people waving flags and shouting themselves horse, while "bombarding" the troops with "candy, chewing gum and all kinds of fruits, cigars and cigarettes."

    Most of the troops in the parade finished their march and went back to camp to wait for their turn to go to Spartanburg. The men of the 102nd Ammunition Train, for example, finished up marching in late afternoon and then boarding an elevated train to head back to camp.

    A New York Times writer called the parade: "A thrilling, stirring sight!" "File upon file, hour after hour, of well-set, clear-eyed, determined men, some young and yet to be hardened in training camps, others, and many of them, made fit already by experience to take up their final training in the fields and trenches behind the battle lines in France," the New York Times said. "We have never faced such a war as this, we have never had such an Army as we now have in the making," the Times added.

    For the next couple of weeks, the big parade of August 30 was replicated several more times on a smaller scale as individual regiments left New York for Spartanburg. The 7th Regiment's march to the train station on Sept, 11, 2017, for example, even included a second march past the Union Club for a sendoff by New York City's great and good.

    With the parade and send offs behind them, the Soldiers of the 27th Division adapted to their new home in South Carolina and began to learn the art of soldiering in the 20th Century. There would be much hard fighting in France ahead in 1918.

    During the World War I centennial observance the Division of Military and Naval Affairs will issue press releases noting key dates which impacted New Yorkers based on information provided by the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. More than 400,000 New Yorkers served in the military during World War I, more than any other state.

     

    08.18.2017
    Story by Eric Durr 
    New York National Guard

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The museum is closed on
all New York State & Federal Holidays.

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Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
(518) 581-5100

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