Military History

Due to the fact that Ludlow became a town in 1774, Ludlow has been around long enough for every war that the country ever participated in. The military history of Ludlow also starts very early on in the town's history. In late 1774, there was already a detachment of militiamen in Ludlow that was commanded by a Sergeant Israel Warriner.

The Revolutionary War

Throughout the American Revolution which started in 1775 and ended in 1783, 67 men from Ludlow went into military service. This was about one sixth (according to McChesney, Noon says one seventh) of Ludlow's population at the time. On April 20, 1775, 16 minutemen from Ludlow went to Cambridge and Boston. After a few days, half of the minutemen returned to Ludlow, while the others joined George Washington's army for 3 months. Many other men from Ludlow who were not a part of a minuteman company also joined Washington's army soon after the war began. In addition to soldiers, the Town of Ludlow also provided money and supplies to the troops, including blankets (which were often taken from beds in use by residents) shoes, coats, shirts, and stockings. During this war there is no indication that the townspeople were ever reluctant to support the war effort in any way.

Shay's Rebellion

After the Revolutionary War ended, life in Massachusetts was not what many had hoped for. Due to a poor economy and a political system that favored the wealthy in the state, many ended up losing everything that they owned to pay debts. As a result, in 1786 a poor farmer named Daniel Shays who had also been a distinguished captain in a Massachusetts Line Regiment joined with a Captain Luke Day and created an uprising known as Shays' Rebellion. Due to the fear of being indicted by the state supreme court, they decided to march on the court house in Springfield. Although guarded by a militia, the fall court session was ended after three days due to the rebels. After this confrontation Shays and Day decided that their forces were undersupplied and would have to attack the Federal Arsenal in Springfield, in order to have an effective fighting force. This attack failed and eventually soon after the rebellion was put out but it is believed that some of the rebels who were in Pelham went through Ludlow on their way to joining the rest of the forces near Put's Bridge. These forces also reportedly stayed at a tavern in Ludlow overnight owned by Ezekiel Fuller who the next day marched with the forces to the Chicopee River, where some of his friends convinced him to desert the rebels. When the rebels retreated from the failed attack on January 25, 1787, they also spent the night in Ludlow before heading out to Chicopee. Many residents in Ludlow being farmers and not very wealthy at this time, supported the rebels and some even joined them. According to Noon, those who joined were Isaiah Call, Samuel Olds, John Jennings, and Tyrus Pratt (of the four only Isaiah Call was killed, he was shot while marching in South Hadley by a stray shot fired from a house). Although unsuccessful, the Shays' Rebellion shed light on one of the weaknesses of the existing Federal Government - that was unable to send Massachusetts any help to stop the uprising. The Congress at the time simply did not have the power to help the State under the Articles of Confederation, which was the precursor to the U.S. Constitution.

The War of 1812

This war was very unpopular in Massachusetts and only 13 men from Ludlow left to fight in it, two of which deserted as described by Alfred Noon;

Facts are facts, and it must be recorded that two of these men deserted from the ranks and concealed themselves at their homes. One narrowly escaped capture by concealment for days inside a large stone chimney then standing in the southwest part of the town, and by a kindly warning from a female friend who knew officers were on his trail. The other was not so fortunate. Taken prisoner, he was court-martialed and sentenced to be shot. The coffin was produced and he was bound and made to kneel upon it. The soldiers drawn up to execute the rigorous military law included his own brother-in-law. But just as the fatal shot was about to send him to eternity a reprieve was granted and a pardon eventually obtained, through the instrumentality of a Lieutenant Clary of Springfield.

The Ludlow Militia

Sometime around 1820 a militia company called "Flood-wood" was created in Ludlow. This company conducted their drills across the street from what was then the Ely Fuller Tavern (today this is the north corner of Lyon and Center Streets). Although this militia never saw any battles, there was an incident that led to the commander of the Militia being court martialed and suspended for one year. When the previous captain of the militia resigned, Lieutenant John Miller commanded the militia. As was custom at the time, at a general muster in Springfield, the Ludlow Militia had to form in an inferior position to where it usually was due to the fact that it was commanded by a Lieutenant at the time. Miller told the Colonel that Ludlow would leave if not allowed to hold its regular position in the muster (as he represented the position the Captain held). When the colonel refused, Miller kept to his word and ordered the Ludlow Militia to leave accompanied by the fife and drum from the company musicians. The only problem with this was that it took place during a regimental prayer service and made a lot of noise. Despite this, when Miller's suspension was up he eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in command of a regiment.

All men who were between 18 and 45 and were able, served in the local militia until a law in 1840 allowed for both an active and an inactive militia. An active militia would be first to be called to action if needed and pay was offered to anyone who volunteered to join. An inactive militia was comprised of the men that did not volunteer for the active militia. In Ludlow the active militia at this time was known as the Independent Company of Militia or the Light Ludlow Infantry. Over time the inactive militia idea was discontinued and today we have a draft in it's place.

Westover

Due to the events taking place in Europe in the late 1930s, the U.S. Government decided to expand its air power by authorizing the construction of several new airbases. One of these new airbases would be built partly on land in the western part of Ludlow (the rest of the base being in Chicopee) that consisted of flat farmland. The name Westover was chosen in honor of Major General Oscar Westover, the first chief of the Army Air Corps. Mr. Westover died in September of 1938 when his plane stalled and crashed in Burbank, California. Over 1500 acres of farmland were taken from Ludlow to construct the airbase in 1939 and the airbase was activated on April 6, 1940 becoming a bomber base for B-17 and B-24 bombers during the war.

After World War II ended, Westover became a major part of the Military Air Transport (MATS) and was an important part of the Berlin Airlift. In 1955 the Strategic Air Command (SAC) came to Westover and Westover also became the headquarters of the Eighth Air Force. Starting in 1956 Westover also became the home of the 57th air division and the 99th Bombardment Wing. Finally on May 19, 1974, Westover was deactivated as an Air Force Base and became the Westover Air Reserve Base which it still is today. A large portion of Land was also returned to the Town of Ludlow and used to create industrial parks. Today Westover houses the 439th Airlift Wing, which uses its 16 C-5B aircraft to transport troops and supplies all over the world.