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Military Athletic Medals


Back in 1916-17 when the National Guard was called up for duty on our Mexican Border an alarmingly high percentage of the guardsmen were found to be physically unfit for military duty. Why was physical fitness a much greater problem for the National Guard than the regular armed forces? My guess is that regulars got lots of exercise every day in the form of work details, training and plain old boring calisthenics. Members of the National Guard however spent most of their time as civilians at home and at their civilian jobs which usually meant too much rich food and too little exercise. The Mexican Border duty and WWI washed out all of the unfit but what could be done to prevent this kind of situation from occurring again during the next period of prolonged peace time. The answer was medallic motivation. An army travels on it’s stomach but needs medals for motivation. In that line of thought during and after WWI most National Guards held annual athletic competitions. Illinois had regimental Athletic Carnivals with some prize medals in solid gold like the second regiment medal below. Wisconsin had WNG Field Days in July of every year with medals for many track and field events in bronze, silver and gold plated versions A bronze third place version for the relay of 1925 is illustrated below.

About Fred Borgmann

Retired from KP after nearly 31 years as new issues editor and the Standard Catalogs.
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