Click here to read personal stories from the Veterans of the 25th Infantry Division
In 1872 Major General John M. Schofield stepped ashore to evaluate the military potential of Oahu's seaports. He found two excellent harbors in the middle of the Pacific, only six miles apart. General Schofield, now Commanding General of the Army, was able to convince Congress that Hawaii was vital to the defense of the United States. Hawaii was annexed as a U.S. territory in August of that year and four days later 1,300 troops of the 1st New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment and 3rd Battalion, 2nd U.S. Volunteer Engineers landed near Diamond Head to set up the first military base.
Schofield Barracks was built eleven years later to provide a base for the Army's mobile defense of the island. Beginning as a simple camp, Schofield quickly became a full fledged military community. With the onset of World War I, the two infantry regiments and single cavalry and artillery regiments that now called Schofield Barracks home, departed the islands to take their place in the trenches of Europe. Eventually the Hawaiian National Guard took over the defense of Oahu and Schofield Barracks was used as an officer training camp.
The end of the war marked the beginning of what would eventually become the 25th Infantry Division. The 35th and the 44th Infantry Regiments (now the 21st) arrived on the islands. The 27th Infantry came from the Orient. Three field artillery regiments arrived, as well as the 3rd Engineers from Manila. On February 28, 1921 under the command of Brigadier General Joseph E. Kuhn, the Hawaiian Division was formed.
World War II
On October 21, 1941, the Hawaiian Division was inactivated. The major portion of the old unit became the 24th Infantry Division. The 24th ID, 25th ID Regiments, plus a field artillery brigade formed the core of the new 25th Infantry Division. Nine weeks later Japanese planes launched the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor and the 25th entered World War II.
A year after Hawaii was attacked; Major General J. Lawton Collins, led the Division to the Solomon Islands to reinforce other Army units and relieve the Marines. The 25th Infantry Division proved to be the element that tipped the scales in favor of the U.S. side. The speed with which the Division executed this mission earned it the nickname of "Tropic Lightning."
The 27th Wolfhounds and the 35th Cacti inched forward through thick jungles and drove the enemy from its strongholds. The Division took part in the seizure of Kokumbora, then joined in the advance on Cape Esperance on the island's northwest coast. Then in the summer of 1943, the call went out to the 25th Division, standing by on the Guadalcanal: "Bring Tropic Lightning to Munda."
In a few short weeks the Wolfhounds annihilated an enemy force of 200 and took Bairoko Harbor on August 14th. The 35th Cacti had taken Vella Lavella Island to the North and the two regiments joined the rest of Tropic Lightning in New Zealand for a much needed rest after a year of jungle fighting.
The Philippine Campaign
The Division then headed for New Caledonia to prepare for the invasion of the Philippines. On January 11, 1945, Tropic Lightning, under the command of General Charles L. Mullins, clambered into landing craft and headed for the shoreline of Luzon. They landed in the San Fabian area and drove across Luzon's central plain to crash full force into the enemy at Binalonan. In swift succession the Division captured Umingan, Lupas, and San Jose, destroying the Japanese tank force on Luzon.
Tropic Lightning flashed through Digdig, Putlan, and Kapintalan despite ferocious Japanese counterattacks. In the Spring of 1945 the Division headed for the knockdown fight at Balite Pass, key to the Cagayan Valley. Elsewhere in the Pacific, Leyte was secured and the Marines had provided a fighter base within 400 miles of the Japanese heartland by capturing Iwo Jima in March. The new 10th Army held Okinawa. By the time the 25th finally captured the Pass, it suffered more combat deaths than any other U.S. division at Luzon. With the Battle of Luzon at a close, Tropic Lightning was moved to Camp Patrick to prepare for the invasion of Japan.
Occupation of Japan
The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki precluded the plan to invade Japan. Instead the 25th took part in the Occupation of Japan after the surrender. It had become characteristic of the men of the 25th to go beyond what was expected of them. In peace, as in war, Tropic Lightning put its heart into its work. During the 57 month tour in Japan, the Division was charged with the responsibility of processing the war's refugees and homeless. The 27th Infantry Wolfhounds and the 8th Artillery, Automatic Eighth founded an orphanage at Osaka for the war's forgotten children. The men have supported the orphanage since then, building it into one of the finest in the Orient.
On July 5, 1950, the Division was again ordered into combat and Tropic Lightning was again quick to respond. Hastily loaded onto boats, they landed on Korean shores less than two days later.
The situation was desperate when the Division arrived and elements of the 25th Division were in the thick of the fight by July 9th. By the end of the month, the men of the Tropic Lightning were strung out along the Northwestern fringe of the shrinking Pusan Perimeter.
In August, General Walton H. Walker, over all field commanders in Korea, ordered the 25th Division to the Southwestern sector of the 140 mile long perimeter to guard against a possible enemy breakthrough to Masan which would have meant the loss of Pusan and the destruction of the American beachhead. As the communist noose began to tighten, the Wolfhounds were shifted back and forth to whatever sector was in the most immediate danger. They beat the enemy in the Chinju Gap, threw them back when they penetrated the 24th Divisions' lines near Yongsan, and stopped them cold in their approach to Taegu.
By mid-September, the Division started moving West retaking Battle Mountain, then turning North for the drive toward the 38th Parallel. Eager to end the war by Christmas, Tropic Lightning renewed the drive toward the Yalu but a massive assault by the Chinese Army intensified the fighting. Operation Thunderbolt was launched in February and successfully inflicted maximum enemy casualties. Finally the Eighth Army was surging North after the bitter holiday months.
As the front line positions began to stabilize, it was the Division's mission to maintain contact with the enemy, detect, and destroy all forward movements. In May 1953, the Division was ordered to guard Seoul. Although for more than a year there had been only limited fighting, on May 28 the enemy began an all out push on Seoul.
The Division held its ground and the assault was repulsed, the brunt of the attack being absorbed by the 14th Infantry Golden Dragons. Successfully defending Seoul from continued enemy attack from May to July of 1953, earned the Division its second Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation. Division troops participated in ten campaigns during the Korean War. They were awarded 13 Medals of Honor making it the most decorated Division of the war.
In Operation Blue Light, the largest single troop movement in history, the 25th moved 4,000 troops and 9,000 tons of equipment in 25 days to the Northwest sector of South Vietnam firmly establishing a fortified enclave from which the Division could operate.
The 2nd Brigade in Cu Chi stood between the Viet Cong strongholds in Cambodia and Saigon, the seat of the South Vietnamese government and the prime object of attack. Two hundred and fifty miles north of Cu Chi, the 3rd Brigade task force at Pleiku made history by opening the Viet Cong controlled Highway 19, allowing tons of vital cargo to flow through.
In January and February 1968, during a truce for Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, a desperate enemy launched his all-out offensive in a dramatic attempt to regain the ground and influence that Tropic Lightning and other allied forces had taken. Moving rapidly into the path of the main units assembled for the attack, Division soldiers absorbed the full force of the enemy blows and then counter-attacked viciously to smash the offensive. Through the summer of 1968 the enemy withdrew to sanctuaries across the Cambodian border and into the triple canopy jungle North of Tay Ninh City. When the next attack came, Tropic Lightning slashed back. The First Brigade smashed the attacking forces at Tay Ninh and Fire Support Base Buell then cut through the Ben Cui rubber plantation and forced the enemy back through the fog of Nui Ba Den. Again North Vietnamese soldiers hammered at the 1st Brigade at Ben Cui and again the Brigade retaliated with killing accuracy. For four nights Division troops repelled enemy attacks on Fire Support Base Buell meeting the communists at point blank range.
On September 20, the devastated remains of eight NVA Regiments staggered back from the line of contact leaving more than 2,000 dead. Tropic Lightning troops returned tired and dirty to the base camps.
Tropic Lightning dealt several more decisive blows to the enemy in the final months of the war. In one of the most stunning defeats dealt to the enemy, the 25th captured the supplies the NVA had smuggled into the country to support their plan to mount an offensive against the newly stable government of the Republic of Vietnam. The Division pursued the enemy across the Cambodian border on search and destroy missions. The last Tropic Lightning units withdrew back to Vietnam by the end of June.
In December of 1970, Tropic Lightning began its return back to Schofield Barracks carrying with it 22 Congressional Medals of Honor, making it the second most decorated unit of the war.
Haiti - Operation Uphold Democracy
In January 1995 3,700 soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division (Light) deployed to Haiti to participate in peacekeeping operations in Operation Uphold Democracy. The Division's mission was two-fold -- the Division staff assumed the role of the Multinational Force Headquarters and members of the Second and Third Brigades became members of the United States Forces contingent.
As the Multinational Force Commander, the Commanding General of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) had responsibility for soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guardsmen from 27 nations, including the Caribbean Community, Nepal, Bangladesh and Guam. He, as well as other members of the Multinational Staff, worked with President Aristide and members of the various ministries to help Haiti reestablish itself as a democratic republic. Additionally, the staff provided the resources necessary for the Multinational Force to conduct this vital peace keeping mission.
Many of the missions undertaken in Uphold Democracy required military acumen and a great deal of diplomacy and managerial expertise. Members of the division staff and subordinate commands worked extensively with members of the Haitian government in laying the foundation for a successful democracy. Members of the Second Brigade provided security for President Aristide, the National Palace and other locations in Port au Prince critical to Haiti's government. Through their vigilance and presence, the threat to the government and governmental officials was significantly lowered.
Members of the Third Brigade were stationed at Cap Haitien, located in the Northern portion of Haiti. There the unit assisted the government in establishing law and order, developing the infrastructure and setting the conditions necessary for promoting democracy. Members of the 25th Military Police Battalion were critical in upgrading the National Prison and assisting in the training of the Haitian interim security force (IPSF).
The 25th Infantry Division (Light) officially left Haiti on 31 March 1995, when the United Nations Mission in Haiti assumed command. Approximately 500 soldiers from the Second Brigade remained as part of the United Nations Force until early June.
Today, the 25th Infantry Division (Light) is one of the two light infantry divisions in our active Army force ready to rapidly deploy to deter crisis situations, and should deterrence fail, fight and win out nation's conflicts. Since September 1995, we have been organized as a "split-based" Division with two light infantry brigades forward deployed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and one light infantry brigade at Fort Lewis, Washington. Combat, support and combat service support forces from divisional units further complement these infantry brigades at both locations. The rest of the "Tropic Team" consists of the 45th Corps Support Group which provides the full range of logistical support to divisional forces, the U.S. Law Enforcement Command which provides law enforcement support both in tactical and garrison environments, and the U.S. Army Garrison, Hawaii, which provides our power projection platform and quality of life for the total Army family in Hawaii.
The Tropic Team routinely executes troop deployments and training with our allies, both here and abroad, to hone our unique capabilities. Each year our Tropic Lightning soldiers deploy to participate in exercises in Australia, Thailand, Japan, and many other training sites including the Joint Readiness Training Center, at Fort Polk, Louisiana, the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island of Hawaii, the Makua Military Reservation and the Kahuku Training Area here on Oahu. As always, these motivated, fit, disciplined, and highly trained "Light-fighters" remain "Ready to Strike, Anytime, Anywhere.
A Young American Hero is the title of a recently published biography about Staff Sergeant Hammett Lee Bowen, Jr., Medal Of Honor. Sergeant Bowen served in Vietnam with C Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, United States Army. He was killed in action on 27 June 1969, when his platoon was ambushed at a place known as the Spiderweb. His heroic actions that day were above and beyond the call of duty.
This highly researched, authorized biography is available by sending a check for only $13.00,which includes S&H, to H. Kenneth Seymour, 122 Sunny Pt. Cir., La Grange, GA 30240. Questions may be directed to the author at 706-885-0042 or Email USAEAGLE@iopener.net
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