1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment
1st Battalion (Light), 21st Infantry Regiment
In 2006, as part of the reorganization of the 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, "Gimlet," was inactivated, reorganized, and reactivated as part of the reorganized and redesignated 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
The 21st Infantry Regiment, "Gimlet," was first constituted on 3 May 1861 as the 12th Infantry Regiment at Fort Hamiltion, New York, as part of the expansion of the Army at the beginning of the American Civil War. 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment was first constituted on 3 May 1861 in the Regular Army as Company A, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry. The unit was organized on 28 May 1862 at Fort Hamilton, New York.
The first order that created the Regiment as a whole left much work to be done. Officers were appointed and then required to recruit the men they would command. A year later, on 24 May 1862, the unit was ordered to Washington. Still without arms, the unit was used to help the artillery in the defense of the Capital. However, this type of duty did not last long, for, on 14 July 1862, the unit was ordered to Cedar Mountain.
On 9 August 1862, the Regiment was ordered to deploy as skirmishers and cover the front of the 2nd Division. Less than 9,000 Union troops faced 20,000 Confederates. The order came to advance. A thousand yards across a creek and into the cornfield advanced the young unit. The Southerners soon found they were facing regulars and their left flank collapsed. The Regiment moved forward, but a Federal Battery mistakenly directed a barrage of murderous fire upon the new unit. A young private sent to report the incident was wounded. Crawling, stumbling, and bleeding, he delivered a report of the mistake, thus becoming the first member of the Regiment to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. With the battle over, the young unit had received its baptism of fire.
The Regimental crest bears a cedar tree to commemorate the unit's action against the enemy. The unit was then sent to such places as Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellors Ville, and Gettysburg. Later, at Spotsylvania, the unit hit the nose of the famed Bloody Angle and then attacked the Confederate fight flank. It was at Petersburg that the Regiment last saw action in the Civil War. The Regiment was reorganized and redesignated on 7 December 1866 as the 21st Infantry. Company A, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry was reorganized and redesignated as Company A, 21st Infantry.
In May of 1869, a new and different type of fighting became known to the members of the 21st infantry, as it began its first campaign against the Indians. For the next 26 years the numerous Indian tribes throughout the West learned to respect the 21st Infantry.
The Regiment was consolidated between 9 and 31 August 1869 with the 32nd Infantry and consolidated unit was designated as the 21st Infantry. Company A, 21st Infantry was consolidated on 27 August 1869 with Company A, 32nd Infantry. Company A, 32nd Infantry was first constituted on 3 May 1861 in the Regular Army as Company A, 3rd Battalion, 14th Infantry and organized in August 1865 at Fort Trumbull, Connecticut. That unit was reorganized and redesignated on 21 September 1866 as Company 1, 32nd Infantry. It was then consolidated on 27 August 1869 with Company A, 21st Infantry, and the consolidated unit was designated as Company A, 21st Infantry.
As it traveled west for the first time, the 21st became the first United States Army unit to cross the country by rail. It was at Promontory Point, in Utah that the 21st Infantry band provided the music at the lying of the last spike of the transcontinental railroad, while the other members of the 21st Infantry witnessed the historic occasion. After the ceremonies at Promontory Point the officers and enlisted men of the 21st Infantry experienced little joy or rest in their campaigns against the Indians.
In Arizona they fought the Apache for nearly 7 years and covered over 1,000 miles in their pursuit of the Nez Perces Indians. The 21st next defeated the Bannocks Indians in the year 1878. The 21st Infantry coat of arms bears 4 arrows in testimony of these campaigns against the Indians. The Rattlesnake encircling the arrows is the Indian emblem of war. In 1895 with the end of the fighting in the Indian Campaigns, the 21st Infantry moved to New York's Plattsburg Barracks.
The start of the Spanish-American War called the 21st to arms once more. The entire Regiment left for Tampa, Florida and soon found itself aboard ship with the V Corps, destined for Cuba. Landing near Santiago, the Regiment fought not only the Spanish, but also a continuous battle against the heat, terrain and the ever-present yellow fever. In keeping with the Regiment traditions, units of the 21st advanced further against the enemy than did any other unit throughout the war. The 5-bastion fort, the symbol of the V Corps, appeared on the 21st Infantry crest to indicate the valor shown by the 21st during the Spanish-American War.
Rested and ready after the conflict in Cuba, the 21st Infantry was once more called on to fight for their country. This time they were called to the Philippines. Expecting a rather pleasant garrison life, elements of the Regiment arrived at Luzon in May 1899. Twenty-four hours later, they were in the trenches facing fanatical guerrillas. The Regiment sent 3 different expeditions to the islands: one in 1899, one in 1905, and another in 1909. Each of these groups was successful in suppressing the guerillas that continued to fight them. The Kaptipunan Sun on the 21st Infantry coat of arms symbolizes the part the Gimlets played in the Philippine Insurrection.
In 1909, the Regiment was reassigned to Vancouver Barracks, Washington, and remained there until World War I. During the World War I, the Regiment was assigned the task of patrolling the Mexican border and training troops. The 21st furnished 8,000 trained soldiers to units fighting in France, and was on orders for deployment to France when the Armistice was signed. The 21st Infantry was assigned on 29 July 1918 to the 16th Division. It was relieved on 8 March 1919 from assignment to the 16th Division.
On 22 October 1921 the Regiment was assigned to the Hawaiian Division (later redesignated as the 24th Infantry Division) and moved to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, where it remained until World War II. It was there that the 21st Infantry acquired the nickname "Gimlet" as a result of the efforts of the athletes led by Private First Class Eugene Riley. They set the Regiment's tradition in maintaining superiority of the athletic field and were noted chiefly for their fighting spirit. Their motto "Bore Brother Bore" exemplified there strong will to win.
The 21st Infantry participated in World War II from the opening battle, and was among the last of the Allied units to cease firing. A member of the 24th Infantry Division, the unit was there at Schofield Barracks when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, suffering minor casualties when the billets were strafed. The Gimlets moved to the northern side of the island and took up defensive positions. It was on that day the Gimlets began the long and rugged road through the Pacific en-route to Japan.
After extensive training in Hawaii and later in Australia, on 22 April 1944, the 21st Infantry spearheaded the assault at Hanahmerah Bay in New Guinea. In October 1944, at the focal point of the US invasion of the Philippines on Leyte, the 21st Infantry was instrumental in the capture of the Island of Pancan off the southern tip of Leyte. The capture of this island was strategically important because it enabled the Panoan Straits to be kept open for use by PT boats operating against enemy shipping.
In early November 1944, the 21st Infantry rejoined the 24th Division and took part in the action against strong enemy forces at Pinamopoan on Leyte. It fought the terrible battle of Breakneck Ridge. This battle was costly for the 21st Infantry. It resulted in the loss of 630 men killed, wounded and missing. In addition 135 were lost for other causes. At Breakneck Ridge the 21st Infantry accounted for 1,779 Japanese dead. For it's part in the operation it received the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation. Following Breakneck Ridge the 21st was attached to the West Visayan Task force on Mindoro, another island in the Philippines. Throughout the months of 1945 and until the Japanese surrender the unit was engaged in continuous combat. In October 1945 the 21st Infantry arrived in Japan for occupation duties where it remained until the Korean conflict.
In 1950, the Gimlets were in Japan, but the 21st was soon to be called to battle again. This time it would be Korea. The Korean chapter of Gimlet history began on 25 June 1950, when North Korean Communist forces launched an overwhelming attack across the 38th parallel aimed at the occupation of Seoul and subjugation of South Korea. President Truman's historic decision to use American forces placed the responsibility on the 24th Infantry Division in Japan. The 24th Infantry Division in turn called on the Gimlets to become the first American unit to face the Korean Communists.
On 2 July 1950, a small band of Gimlets found themselves debarking at Pusan, Korea. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles B. Smith, they immediately entrained and headed north for Taejon. When "Task Force Smith" reached Taejon, they loaded onto trucks and pushed north. Near Osan contact seemed imminent. The force unloaded and set up positions in the neighboring hills. On 5 July 1950 the Communists struck. Led by 33 Russian T-34 tanks, a force of infantry estimated at well over division strength tried to push the small task force from their positions. The rocket launchers failed to penetrate the Russian tanks. The artillery 105mm howitzers were depressed pointblank in order to stop the advancing armor. Enemy infantry units moved around the small tasks force's position, and Lieutenant Colonel Smith realized he had to withdraw or lose his entire command. Fighting the Communist forces every step of the way the exhausted task force finally reached the main body of the 21st Infantry some 12 miles to the south. Task Force Smith had delayed an entire division for 8 long hours. The Gimlets' heroic stand gave the Americans time to bring more troops from Japan.
During the days and weeks that followed, the 21st Infantry was used to cover the withdrawal of the 24th Infantry Division to Puson Perimeter. Within the perimeter the Gimlets withstood repeated fanatic attacks. On 19 September 1950, the Regiment struck back. Attacking to the north, the fighting men of the 21st Infantry were well above the 38th parallel by the middle of October 1950. By November 1950, the Gimlets had succeed in reaching Sonchon, a scant 17 miles from the Yalu River. The intervention of Chinese Communist forces forced the Gimlets back towards the south. The Regiment fought delaying actions, which allowed the main Allied forces to withdraw and consolidate defensive positions just south of Seoul. The Gimlets fought the Communists near the Han River in the months that followed.
Eventually a stalemate developed. It lasted until the end of hostilities during the summer of 1953. In January 1953, the Regiment returned to Japan and a well-earned life of comparative ease. A year and a half later, they returned to Korea to guard Communist prisoners at Koje-do Island. In 1954 the Regiment moved near Seoul where they guarded the ancient invasion route from the north towards Seoul. Here they stayed a constant reminder to communists that aggression in this area would be met by a strong, aggressive group who rightfully earned the title of "First in Korea."
The 21st Infantry Regiment was relieved on 5 June 1958 from assignment to the 24th Infantry Division and reorganized as a parent regiment under the Combat Arms Regimental System. Company A, 21st Infantry was redesignated on 5 June 1958 as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battle Group, 21st Infantry and remained assigned to the 24th Infantry Division with its organic elements concurrently constituted and activated on 1 July 1958 in Germany. It was reorganized and redesignated on 1 February 1963 as the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry. The Battalion remained in Germany until it was inactivated on 15 April 1970.
The 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry was relieved on 5 June 1972 from assignment to the 24th Infantry Division, assigned to the 25th Infantry Division, and activated at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. In 1985, the Gimlets were called on again to be first. The 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry was the first infantry battalion to convert to the Light Battalion configuration of the 25th Infantry Division. The Gimlets set the standards for equipment turn-in, Light Leaders course in Fort Benning, Georgia, and Light Fighter 1 and 2. The unit was subsequently designated 1st Battalion (Light), 21st Infantry Regiment.
With the rotation number 40 Multinational Force and Observers deployment approaching, soldiers from 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry reported to the Battle Simulation Center located on Wheeler Army Airfield in November 2000 and participated in a command post exercise to help validate their observation and reporting skills. With the use of a computer systems network called Janus, the units received simulated situations, which allowed team leaders and squad leaders to practice reporting what they saw. The system gave them the opportunity to work on their communication and reporting skills.
On 11 January 2001, more than 525 Soldiers from soldiers from 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, part of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) deployed for 6 months to join the Multinational Force and Observers mission in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt until July 2001. The soldiers helped to enforce the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty of March 1979 by establishing and operating observation posts, performing reconnaissance patrols and maintaining checkpoints along the international border between Egypt and Israel. Soldiers were stationed at observation points to ensure both parties abided by the treaty. The 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry occupied remote sites for 23 days, where they observed and reported all activities on land and in air. At the end of their rotation they returned to South Camp for 23 days, and then returned to the remote sites for another rotation.
The 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry had been training for more than 3 months to prepare for the deployment. Lieutenant Colonel James C. Close, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry commander, accepted control of South Camp from Task Force 2nd Battalion, 505th Infantry's commander, Lieutenant Colonel Richard D. Hooker, on 19 January 2001, during the change-of-responsibility ceremony held in front of battalion headquarters. The more than 500 "Gimlets" from Task Force, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, returned to Hawaii from Sinai, Egypt on 23 July 2001.
In 2006, as part of the transformation of 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry was reorganized and reassigned to the reorganized and redesignated 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
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