Utah State Defense Force

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Utah State Defense Force
Utah State Guard patch.png
The shoulder patch worn by Utah State Guard soldiers during World War II.
Active 1903 - January 2001
Country  United States
Allegiance  Utah
Type SDFBranchInsigniaColor.jpg  State defense force
Role Military reserve force
Civilian leadership Governor of Utah

The Utah State Defense Force (USDF), formerly known as the Utah State Guard, is the currently unorganized state defense force of the state of Utah. The USDF, along with the Utah National Guard, is part of the organized militia of Utah. However, unlike the National Guard, the State Defense Force is by law solely under the command of the Governor of Utah and cannot be federalized or deployed outside the borders of Utah. Although inactive, Utah's State Defense Force Act allows the Governor to reactivate the USDF through executive action.[1]


The first militia in Utah was the Nauvoo Legion which was composed of Mormon volunteers. This unit served as the primary militia for the state of Utah until it was dissolved by the Edmunds-Tucker Act. After the passage of the Militia Act of 1903 which created the modern National Guard of the United States, states who lost their National Guard units due to federalization in times of war were forced to recruit their own replacement units, leading to the birth of the modern state defense force. During World War II, the Utah State Guard was organized to replace the Utah National Guard, and consisted of approximately 600 members who were responsible for protecting National Guard armories and other state facilities.[2] The Utah State Guard was tasked with recovering debris from fire balloon attacks launched by Japan which had landed in Utah.[3]

The Utah State Guard was reactivated in 1981. However, due to various issues, including a concern that white supremacists had infiltrated the ranks, the Utah State Guard was reorganized in 1997 by General John L. Matthews, the Adjutant General of Utah, as a cadre of around thirty officers who would be tasked with securing National Guard armories during federal deployments. At this time, the Utah State Guard was also renamed the Utah State Defense Force.[4][3]


The Utah State Defense Force was disbanded by an act of legislature in January 2001.[5]

Legal basis

State defense forces are authorized by the federal government under Title 32, Section 109 of the United States Code.[6] Nearly half of all U.S. states, as well as the territory of Puerto Rico, actively maintain these forces.[7] Under state law, the Utah State Defense Force Act allows the governor to organize and maintain the Utah State Defense Force, making a reactivation of the USDF possible by either an act of legislature or by an executive order by the Governor of Utah.[1]

See also


  1. ^ Carter, Mike (23 December 1990). "Utah State Defense Force Ready to Offer Its Limited Resources in a Time of War". Deseret News. Deseret, Utah. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  2. ^ a b Stentiford, Barry M. (2002). The American Home Guard: The State Militia in the Twentieth Century. Texas A&M University Press. pp. 211–213. ISBN 1585441813. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  3. ^ Anderson, Jack (21 November 1991). "Independent state defense forces costly, without purpose". Kentucky New Era. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  4. ^ Foy, Paul (24 December 2000). "Legislators ready to 'disband' militia". Deseret News. Deseret, Utah. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  5. ^ "32 U.S. Code § 109 - Maintenance of other troops". Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  6. ^ Carafano, James Jay; Brinkerhoff, John R. (October 5, 2005). "Katrina's Forgotten Responders: State Defense Forces Play a Vital Role". www.heritage.org. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
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