The 133rd Engineer Battalion is a component of the Maine Army National Guard and the United States Army. The organization is the oldest in the Maine Guard and is one of the largest organizations in the state. The battalion has responded to natural disasters at home as well as military actions overseas. The current battalion has the capacity to execute a variety of Army Engineer missions, from horizontal construction, vertical construction, combat engineer missions, and surveying. The battalion has two horizontal companies, one vertical company, one combat engineer company, a forward support company, a survey and design detachment, and a headquarters company.
The 133rd Engineer Battalion is the oldest unit in the Maine Army National Guard. Known as “Maine’s Regiment” the 133rd traces its beginnings back to the formation of the Portland Light Infantry in 1804. The Portland Light Infantry manned the defenses around Portland, such as Forts Preble and Scammell, to prevent British attack in 1814 during the War of 1812. Other militia units flooded Portland that year, responding to a British invasion from the north that had already seized Bangor and Castine. Veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, the British were tough and determined fighters. The British government had decided to take control of Maine and turn it into a colony called “New Ireland.” Several thousand British soldiers assembled in Castine with seven ships of the line, intent on taking Portland in 1814. However, militia units from all over Maine put up such a strong defense that after a few skirmishes on the outskirts of town, the British decided that an attack would be too costly and cancelled the invasion.
Maine men would be called on again in 1861 when war divided the nation into North and South. The Portland Light Infantry was designated A Company of the 1st Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment and marched off to Virginia. The 1st Maine Volunteer Infantry reenlisted as the 10th Maine Infantry Regiment in 1862, fighting in the battles of 2nd Bull Run and Antietam that year. When their enlistments expired in 1863, the majority of the regiment reenlisted as the 29th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and was transferred to the southern theater, fighting in Louisiana in 1863 in the Red River Campaign, and then in Virginia in 1864.
The 2nd Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment was called into service the same time as the 1st, and saw action during the Seven Day’s Battles, 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. The regiment’s enlistments ran up in 1863, but about half the unit had signed papers to serve for the three years, so they were amalgamated into the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Also in 1862, the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment was raised from the Brewer area. The 20th would become one of the most famous units in the Civil War. The regiment saw limited action at Antietam but made up for it at the Battle of Fredericksburg, where they were part of the assault element that aimed to take the Confederate defenses on the high ground. The 20th sustained heavy casualties and was pinned down for over twenty-four hours under enemy fire in the cold December weather. They were positioned on the far left of the Union line at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 and sustained multiple enemy attacks, until the regiment had nearly run out of ammunition. They had been ordered to hold to the last man. The regimental commander, Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain then gave the order, “Bayonet, Forward!” knowing that he could not withdraw or the enemy would outflank the Union army. The bayonet charge by the Mainers took the Confederates by surprise and ended their attacks entirely. For his actions, Colonel Chamberlain was awarded the Medal of Honor. The 20th would serve until the end of the war, fighting with distinction in the savage battles through Virginia, such as the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg. The 133rd Engineer Battalion carries on the lineage and traditions of the 20th Maine.
At the end of the war, the Soldiers came home and returned to their civilian lives. Many kept up their military experience by membership in the 1st Maine Volunteer Militia, organized in 1873. The 1st M.V.M. had companies in Portland, Augusta, Skowhegan, Auburn, Norway, Bangor, Belfast, Hampden, and Old Town, laying out the footprint for the future 133rd Engineer Battalion. In 1893, the unit was assigned to the National Guard, and designated the 1st Maine Infantry. The 2nd Maine Infantry was also brought under the National Guard in 1893. It was called into service in 1916 for service on the Texas border and then again in 1917 for World War I where it was combined with a unit from New Hampshire to become the 103rd U.S. Infantry. They served on the front lines in France, taking part in the battles of Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihel, Meuse-Argonne, Ile de France, and Lorraine. One soldier, Private First Class George Dilboy, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in single-handedly overrunning a German machine gun position.
In 1909, the 1st M.V.M. became the 1st Coastal Artillery, with batteries from Bath to Kittery. In 1917, elements of the 240th were mobilized to protect the Maine coast. Additional units were mobilized and attached to the 54th Artillery and deployed to France, where they fought on the Marne and the Meuse-Argonne Campaigns.
During WWII, the 103rd served in the Pacific theater, fighting in the battles of Guadalcanal, North Solomons, New Guinea, and Luzon, helping General Macarthur liberate the Philippines. They were the first unit to reach the Ipo Dam, which controlled the water supply for Manila, a crucial step in liberating the city.
By the 1950s, the 103d transitioned to armor, becoming the 103d Armored Cavalry Regiment. On 1 June 1961 elements were designated the 20th Armor Regiment. In 1962, 3d Battalion, 20th Armor was mobilized for the Berlin Crisis and stood ready in Fort Stewart, GA until the crisis defused. In 1963, the 1st Battalion, 20th Armor was stood up in readiness during the Cuban Missile Crisis but the issues was resolved before the unit had to deploy. The 240th Coastal Artillery served until the 1960s, before being disbanded, but its lineage was assumed into the 20th Armor. The 20th Armor was designated the 133d Engineer Battalion on November 23, 1970.
The 133d Engineer Battalion has served both at home for disaster relief missions and abroad in defense of the nation. In 1992 the battalion deployed to Panama to improve infrastructure in rural areas. In 1994, the battalion functioned as Mission Command in support of New Horizons, Task Force Dirigo, in Guatemala, a humanitarian and disaster relief mission. In 1997, units of the 133rd were deployed to Bosnia-Hezegovina in support of Operation Joint Guard.
After 9/11, the 133d was mobilized in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II between 2004 and 2005. The battalion served as the Engineer Task Force for I Corps’ Task Force Olympia in the Multi-National Brigade-Northwest Area of Operations. As a battalion, the 133d completed over 730 troop missions, completed host-nation improvements in excess of 15 million dollars, built over 12 kilometers of earthen berms for force protection, and completed 15 airfield assistance missions. In addition, the 133d completed 84 humanitarian assistance missions, donating 1473 boxes of school supplies, clothes, shoes, food, and toys to Iraqi communities as well as building roads, wells and multiple schools and medical clinics. The 133d Engineer Battalion's area of operations (AO) spanned an area the size of the U.S. northeast, significantly larger than most Engineer battalion’s normal span of control in Iraq. The 133d was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for their participation in the Transition of Iraq and Iraqi Governance Campaigns.
In 2005, members of the 133d responded to Louisiana to provide security and disaster relief assistance after Hurricane Katrina. Similarly, the 133d sent Joint Task Force Maine to Vermont in 2011 to assist in Tropical Storm Irene recovery. The 133d opened several key routes in Vermont that had been closed from debris or washouts, enabling communities to get assistance.
Following Superstorm Sandy in 2012, a task force of vertical and horizontal Engineers from the 133rd assisted communities in Connecticut in their recovery efforts.
In the spring of 2013, the 133d deployed a company of vertical engineers to El Salvador to assist in critical infrastructure repairs in support of Operation Beyond the Horizon.
On 10 August 2013, the 133d was mobilized in Support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan.
An article in the Portland Press Herald dated April 30, 2014 stated the 133d Engineer Battalion is under consideration for transfer to Pennsylvania and replacement in-state by an infantry battalion. These plans were declared shelved in November 2015.
The unit is composed of:Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Brunswick, Maine
Forward Support Company, Brunswick, Maine
136th Engineer Company (Vertical), Skowhegan, Maine
185th Engineer Company (Engineer Support), Caribou, Maine
251st Engineer Company (Sapper), Norway, Maine
262d Engineer Company (Horizontal), Westbrook, Maine
1035th Engineer Detachment (Survey and Design), Gardiner, Maine
Meritorious Unit Commendation for Operation Iraqi Freedom