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 A Summary History of the 25th Infantry Division

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"Tropic Lightning"

25th Inf Div - Tropic Lightning(Updated 5-9-08)

The U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Division, nicknamed "Tropic Lightning," is headquartered at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii and is assigned to the Pacific Command. The Division of nearly 17,000 soldiers stationed in Hawaii, at Fort Wainwright and Fort Richardson, Alaska, focuses primarily on training for low intensity conflicts throughout the Pacific region. However, the 25th ID is fully involved in the Global War on Terror and deploys units in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq. The Tropical Lightning Division underwent the Army's modular re-organization in 2006. The 25th Infantry Division now has four Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) and an Aviation Brigade. The 1st and 2nd BCTs have fielded the Stryker combat vehicle, and the 4th BCT is Airborne qualified.

The division's shoulder patch, a lightning bolt superimposed on a taro leaf, was formally adopted in 1943. The colors of gold and red were those of the late Hawaiian monarchy. While soldiers over the years have jokingly nicknamed the patch the "Electric Chili Pepper" or the "Electric Strawberry," in 1953, the nickname "Tropic Lightning" was officially adopted.

In 1921, the United States Army formed the Hawaiian Division to protect the islands and our growing interests in the Pacific region. On October 1, 1941, the Hawaiian Division was split to create the 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions. The 25th Infantry Division was stationed at Schofield Barracks, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. The Division was just over two months old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor thrusting the United States into World War Two. After the attack, the Division moved into beach defensive positions, preparing to defend Honolulu from invasion.

Click to preview or purchase "The Boldest Plan is the Best" from Amazon.comThe division continued in its role as protector of Oahu until November 1942, when they were ordered into action against the Japanese in the Solomon Islands. On November 25th the Division moved to Guadalcanal. The 25th Infantry Division took part in some of the bitterest fighting in the Pacific Theater. By February 5, 1943, organized enemy resistance had ended on Guadalcanal. A period of garrison duty followed until July. Due to their superior performance during the operation, the 25th Infantry Division earned its nickname: "Tropic Lightning."

Beginning July 21st the Tropic Lightning participated in the seizure of the islands of New Georgia, Vella LaVella, Sasavele and Kolombangara. The Solomons Campaign ended in August of 1943. The Division was sent to New Zealand for rest and training, with the last elements arriving December 5th. The soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division then moved to New Caledonia on 8 February 1944 to prepare for the invasion of the Philippines.

On 11 January 1945 the 25th Infantry Division landed on Luzon, entering the fight for the liberation of the Philippine Islands. The Division met stiff resistance from the Japanese as it drove across the central plain of Luzon. Beginning on February 21, 1945 the Tropic Lightning attacked Japanese forces in the Caraballo Mountains in order to secure the left flank of the Sixth Army as it drove for Manila. The 25th Infantry Division fought its way from hill to hill until the key Balete Pass fell to the Division on May 13, 1945. The Tropic Lightning Division was relieved on June 30, 1945. The 25th Infantry Division had suffered the most casualties of any division of the Sixth Army in its amazing 165 days of continuous combat. The 25th Infantry Division participated in four campaigns of the Pacific Theater: Central Pacific, Guadalcanal, Northern Solomons and Luzon. Six Tropic Lightning soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor.

The Division was in Tarlac on the island of Luzon in the Philippines when the Japanese surrendered. On September 20, 1945 the Tropic Lightning began moving to Japan to act as occupation forces. The 25th Infantry Division remained on occupation duty for the next five years until called upon again to serve their country. This time the fight would be on the Korean Peninsula.

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950 when the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th Parallel in an unprovoked attack on the Republic of South Korea. Under United Nations orders, the 25th Infantry Division was deployed to Korea from 5-18 July 1950. Upon arrival they successfully completed their first mission of blocking the approaches to the port city of Pusan. After weeks of bitter fighting, the division was able to break out from the Pusan area in September 1950 along with U.S. and United Nations forces to link with U.S. Marines who landed at the city of Inchon. Most of Korea was liberated and North Korean forces were driven to the Yalu River, when Chinese forces joined the fight in November 1950. The 25th Infantry Division and allied forces were driven south once again. A permanent battle line was established south of Osan. The division began retaking lost territory in January 1951. By February 10, 1951 the city of Inchon and Kimpo Air Base were recaptured. The Division next participated in Operation Ripper, which drove the enemy north of the Han River. The spring of 1951 continued with successful Operations Dauntless, Detonate, and Piledriver. These offensive operations enhanced the United Nations position for negotiating an end to the fighting. Peace talks began in the summer of 1951. Unfortunately the Chinese and North Koreans were not ready to settle. A stalemated, trench warfare situation continued with patrolling and defensive actions for the next two years. On occasion, fierce battles were fought as enemy forces tried to break the main line of resistance. From May to July of 1953, a heavy Chinese assault was thrown at the Tropic Lightning's section of the line that guarded the approaches to Seoul. The 25th Infantry Division repulsed this attack and protected the South Korean capital. The 25th was placed in reserve status in July. The Korean War ended on July 27, 1953 when an armistice took effect.

The 25th Infantry Division had spent 37 months in combat during the Korean War. The Division received two South Korean Presidential Unit Citations and was credited with participation in all ten Korean War campaigns. Fourteen Tropic Lightning soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor. By October 1954, the division had returned home to Hawaii after a 12 year absence.

In response to a request from the U.S. Military Assistance Command in Vietnam, the Division sent 100 helicopter door-gunners to the Republic of South Vietnam in early 1963. By August 1965, further Division involvement in the coming Vietnam Conflict included the deployment of Company C, 65th Engineer Battalion, to South Vietnam to assist in the construction of port facilities at Cam Ranh Bay.

In December 1965, the Tropic Lightning Division deployed to South Vietnam in force. In a massive airlift, 3rd Brigade deployed to the central highlands at Pleiku, while the rest of the division was transported by sea. Operation Blue Light was the largest and longest airlift of personnel and cargo into a combat zone in military history before Operation Desert Shield. The Command Group of the division had established their base in Cu Chi district, 20 miles northwest of the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon. By April 1966, the entire division had arrived in country and ready to strike the enemy.

During the period from the summer of 1966 to the spring of 1967 the 25th Division was the largest division in Vietnam with four brigades under its command, the division's 1st and 2nd Brigades as well as the 3rd Brigade, 4th Division and the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. During 1966 and 1967 the division engaged in operations to destroy communist forces within their Area of Responsibility while engaging in humanitarian missions to support the Vietnamese people. In the fall of 1966 the division took part in Operation Attleboro, which was the largest unit operation of the war at that time. The fierce fighting during this operation resulted in the defeat of the 9th Viet Cong Division. The lessons learned were successfully applied by the Tropic Lightning in Operations Cedar Falls and Junction City conducted in War Zone C in early 1967.

From 1966 to 1970, the Division fought the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong north and west of Saigon. In late January 1968, enemy forces began a major offensive during Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. During the 1968 Tet Offensive the 25th Infantry Division stopped the Viet Cong attempts to seize Tan Son Nhut airfield and participated in the defense of Saigon.

The Vietnamization of the war, or the turning over of fighting roles to South Vietnamese forces, and the withdrawals of U.S. forces began in 1969. In April 1970 the division took part in operation Bold Lancer, which took the Vietnam War into neighboring Cambodia to destroy enemy sanctuaries previously immune from attack. In this operation, the division confiscated thousands of tons of supplies and hundreds of weapons. This incursion crippled the Cambodian-based efforts against American units and allowed the South Vietnamese time to prepare to take over the war.

By late December 1970, elements of the 25th Infantry Division were able to begin redeployment to Schofield Barracks. The 2nd Brigade was the last element of the Tropic Lightning Division to depart Vietnam. It arrived at Schofield Barracks in the early days of May 1971. The 25th Infantry Division served for 1,716 days in Vietnam, receiving participation credit for twelve Vietnam campaigns and being twice awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm. Eight Tropic Lightning units were awarded Presidential Unit Citations and eleven received Valorous Unit Awards. Twenty-one Tropic Lightning soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor.

The face of the 25th Infantry Division changed in 1985 when it was selected to change into a light infantry formation. By 1 October 1986, the division had lost its heavy equipment and gained the designation of 25th Infantry Division (Light). The four primary characteristics of this new light infantry division were: mission flexibility, rapid deployment and combat readiness at 100 percent strength with a Pacific Basin orientation.

The 25th Infantry Division would see its first major deployment as a Light Infantry Division in January 1995 when the 2nd and 3rd Brigades were sent to Haiti as part of Operation Uphold Democracy. The division became a critical element in the stabilization and reconstitution of Haiti, providing security and rebuilding the infrastructure. The division's mission was officially completed in March 1995; however, the final contingent of Tropic Lightning soldiers stayed until June. From April to September 2002, the 25th Infantry Division (Light) continued its peacekeeping mission into the 21st Century as 1,000 Tropic Lightning soldiers took part in operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. As part of Stabilization Force XI, division troops took part in mine-clearing operations, reconstruction, and the destruction of weapons turned in by civilians.

The 25th Infantry Division did not participate as a whole in Operation Desert Storm due to the division being earmarked for Pacific contingencies. However, during the Gulf War, one platoon each from Companies A, B and C, 4th Battalion, 27th Infantry, "Wolfhounds" deployed to Saudi Arabia in January 1991. These Tropic Lightning soldiers were scheduled to be replacement squads in the ground campaign; however, after observing their thoroughly outstanding performance in desert warfare training, the Assistant Commander of Third U.S. Army asked for them to become the security force for the Army's Forward Headquarters. In that role, the Wolfhound platoons were alerted and attacked with Third Army (Forward) into Kuwait City on February 26. Company A's platoon was separated from the other Wolfhounds following that battle to accompany General H. Norman Schwarzkopf into Iraq on March 1, 1991 and provided security at the truce signing. The three platoons returned to Schofield Barracks without casualties on March 20, 1991.

The Army's evaluation of Desert Storm recognized the need for a rapidly deployable organization that could fill the operational gap between initially deployed light forces, which lack staying power, and the slower deploying heavy armored forces. Originally known as the Interim Brigade Combat Team it is now known as the Stryker Brigade Combat Team. It is an infantry brigade mounted on some three hundred Stryker, 19-ton wheeled armored vehicles in ten different configurations with significant upgrades in firepower and capable of being transported in C-130 aircraft.

The transformation began in 1999 with the conversion of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis to a Stryker Brigade. In the spring of 2002 the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division began to reorganize from a light infantry brigade to the Stryker configuration. The conversion of the 2nd Brigade to a Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) began in 2005. By late 2007 the brigade had received its full complement of Stryker vehicles and became combat certified.

In July 2005, a 4th Brigade was added to the 25th Infantry Division as an airborne brigade stationed in Fort Richardson, Alaska. It deployed in October 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In January, 2006 the 25th Infantry Division (light) was redesignated as the 25th Infantry Division. The "light" segment of the name was dropped to reflect the changes the force underwent during the Stryker and modular force transformations.

The 25th Infantry Division was called on to support of the Global War on Terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan in July 2003 to prepare for deployment in 2004. This deployment would mark the first time the division deployed as a whole outside the Pacific region.

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team deployed to Iraq in January 2004. The brigade was stationed outside the city of Kirkuk where they engaged in peacekeeping operations and nation building projects. The "Warrior" Brigade fought and destroyed insurgent forces in various cities and towns including Najaf, Huwijah, Samarra, and Kirkuk. The high point of the 2nd Brigade deployment was their support of the first free elections held in Iraq in over 50 years. After over a year away from home, the 2nd BCT had returned to Schofield Barracks by March 2005.

Tropic Lightning deployed an impressive force to assist in the stabilization of Afghanistan. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, Division Artillery and units of the Division's Aviation Brigade deployed in March 2004. Soldiers of the "Bronco" brigade, "Tropic Thunder", and "Wings of Lightning" engaged in combat operations against Al-Qaida and remnants of the former Taliban regime while helping to rebuild a country ravaged by decades of war. During operations Lightning Resolve and Lightning Freedom, Tropic Lightning units supported the first ever democratic elections in Afghanistan. All units of Tropic Lightning deployed to Afghanistan returned home to Hawaii by June 2005.

In September 2005, the 25th Infantry Division was ordered to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08. The Division Headquarters, with 3rd IBCT, and 25th CAB deployed to Multinational Division-North in Iraq for a 15 month tour. During the months of July and August, the Division moved its personnel and equipment through Kuwait into Iraq. The Mission Assumption Day ceremony was held on September 13, 2006. The Division was already deep into the war as Task Force Lightning. Task Force Lightning included units from the 1st Cavalry Division, 2nd and 4th Infantry Divisions, the 82nd Airborne Division, 25th CAB, 3rd IBCT, National Guard and Reserve units, with a strength of a 23,000 Soldiers. The size of Task Force Lightning's Area of Operations was roughly the size of Pennsylvania and included over 10 million people spread through six provinces.

The efforts of Task Force Lightning during Operation Iraqi Freedom VI brought incredible results: a dramatic reduction in attacks, tribal groups working with the government, better trained and capable Iraqi Security Forces, and a once emboldened enemy beaten back. The Division returned to Hawaii in October 2007.

The high standards set by the 25th Infantry Division in its conduct of combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq effectively demonstrates the division motto "Ready to Strike, Anytime Anywhere" and such traditional high standards set by the Tropic Lightning in four wars will continue in its current and future deployments in the Global War On Terror.

 

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