1st Battalion - 128th Infantry Regiment
The 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, traces its history to the Spring of 1861, when the 2nd Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteer infantry, comprised of independent companies from throughout the state, was organized and activated into Federal service. The 2nd Wisconsin was joined by several other regiments to form the famous "Iron Brigade," which soon became one of the most feared and respected units on either side in the Civil War for its performance in such battles as Antietam and Gettysburg. Additionally, Eau Claire was home to the soldiers that comprised Company C of the 8th Infantry, otherwise know as the "Eagle Regiment," because of its famous mascot "Old Abe." The 8th Wisconsin fought in the western theater at places such as Vicksburg, MS.
In 1898, four infantry regiments from Wisconsin were formed and activated at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. During that brief conflict, Wisconsin Guardsmen participated in the capture of Puerto Rico.
In 1916, Wisconsin infantry units served with General Pershing to chase Pancho Villa along the Texas border and into northern Mexico. The Wisconsin troops were again activated in 1917 as the U.S. declared war on Germany. After a period of intensive training, the Wisconsin Guardsmen were redesignated as the 128th Infantry, assigned to the 32nd Division and sent to France. In the closing months of the war, the 128th Infantry participated in several major campaigns including Alsace, Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne and Meuse-Argonne. For their fury in combat, the nickname "Les Terribles" or "The Terrible Ones" was given to them by the French. As they pierced the famed Hindenburg Line, the 32nd became known as the "Red Arrow" Division - a name that has remained to the present day and is reflected in shoulder patch.
21 years later, the 128th, as part of the 32nd Division, was called to federal service on October 15, 1940. After training in Louisiana, the unit was moved by convoy to Port Adelaide, Australia. The 128th, as part of the 32nd, broke through the Japanese lines at Buna ("Bloody Buna") New Guinea; defeated Japanese General Adachi's divisions at Saidor and Aitape, New Guinea; defeated the Japanese Imperial First Marines in Leyte (Imperial First Marines only loss in 200 years); and pierced the Yamashita Line in Luzon. The 128th and 32nd were still in combat action when the cease fire order came on Aug. 15, 1945. The 32nd Division had been in combat 654 days - more than any U.S. Division in any war.
When the cold war peaked with the Soviet blockade of Berlin in October 1961, President Kennedy became the third U.S. president in the 20th Century to call the 128th, as part of the 32nd Infantry Division, to federal active service. The division trained at Ft. Lewis, WA, for 10 months, maintaining a high level of readiness until the crisis abated. In August 1962 its soldiers returned home and resumed their status as Wisconsin National Guardsmen.
The Associated Press reported on May 13, 2004 that 680 soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry Regiment had been activated and alerted to deploy. The unit has been activated for an 18 month period, 6 months for training and a year in Iraq. It is unclear when the unit will actually depart for Southwest Asia though it is possible that the unit could depart as soon as November 2004.
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