UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


1st Battalion - 161st Infantry Regiment

On Order, the 1-161st conducts mobilization and deployment to a mobilization station for training. On order, it will deploy to APOE/SPOE for worldwide deployment. it is also to be prepared to conduct rear operations, offensive operations and/or defensive operations.

It's state mission is to prepare for employment in protection of life and property, and the preservation of peace, order and public safety, and/or disaster relief operations as required.

The Washington Infantry began out of necessity, under attack, by Indians in the fall of 1855. At this time, acting Governor Charles H. Mason called for the formation of a Regiment of Infantry on October 11. The situation was desperate, those settlers who had not been killed, had taken refuge in the larger settlements. The Regiment was mustered in for 90 days and was to defend its home station. The Governor Major Isaac Stevens was returning from a treaty making trip to Montana when he received word of the uprising. At Spokane Falls, he mustered in two companies, the first from Spokane and Colville was called the Spokane Invincibles; the second from the Governor's won party was called the Steven's Guards. The two units, called Walla Walla Bn, made a seven hundred mile march through the hostile Indian Territory but did not make any contact. The Bn was then deactivated.

On the 9th of May to the 18th of June 1916, the 2nd Infantry of Washington assembled with 108 other Regiments of Infantry and 39 Battalions and 88 companies of other troops for active duty on the Mexican Border. The 2nd Infantry received their notice to report for duty on 18 June. They assembled at Camp Cosgrove, (Camp Murray), and entrained on July 4th for the Mexican Border. It was a gala trip south, with crowds meeting each train with sandwiches and tobacco. Sickness was at a surprising low level. On October 1916, the Regiment was mustered out of service.

On March 26, 1917, the Regiment was ordered to active duty by the President to guard communications, public utilities, bridges and railroads in the state. This duty lasted five months when on the 5th of August, 1917, the Regiment was drafted into Federal Service as part of the Army of the United States in World War I. The 2nd Infantry Washington entrained on October 25th, for Camp Mills, New York. Here they were joined by members of the District of Columbia Guard and were designated the 161st Infantry of the 81st Infantry Brigade assigned to the 41st Division. The Regiment left Mills N.Y. on 12 December, 1917, for the port of embarkation. They arrived in France on 27 December. The 41st Division was the 4th Division of 33 to arrive in France and landed at Brest. To the dismay and anguish of the 161st, they were assigned, as part of the 41st Division to a replacement and training assignment. As such many men were assigned to the 1st, 2nd, 26th and 42nd Divisions.

The Regiment was assembled at St. Aignan during a large part of its operations. much of the efforts of the Regiment was to assist the 16th Engineers Construction Battalion in building an advance camp and regulating station at Is-sur-Tille. In this activity it was detached from the 41st and operated separately. On the 31st of August, 1918, it rejoined the 41st Division. In January and February, the Regiment assembled at Brest France for shipment home. They sailed February 3rd thru 7th on the USS Georgia, Huntington, St. Louis, Pueblo, and Ortega, arriving in the U.S. near the end of February 1919. The Regiment was scattered to 15 forts and camps for mustering out. The Regiment was inactive for two years following the Great War.

On the first of May, 1921, the 161st was designated as the Infantry of the State of Washington, and the first unit was formed June 30th, 1921. The initial strength of the 161st was to be 200 men per U.S. Senator and Representative as of July 1st, 1919, and there after to be increased 50% per year until a force of 800 officers and men per U.S. Legislature was reached. The majority of the Infantry was assigned the eastern part of the state and the artillery the western. Recruiting and the rifle marksmanship were the large interest in the post war period. on 28 April, 1925, the strength of the Regiment stood at 1,243 officers and men. On March1st, 1925, the Headquarters of the Regiment moved from Seattle to Spokane, where it has remained.

The regiment was assigned to the 81st Brigade with the 163rd from Montana. This Brigade and the 82nd Brigade were the infantry part of the 41st Division.

The entire Regiment was called out on riot duty at one minute after midnight on its last day of camp in 1935. There had been disorder in Tacoma and Aberdeen by striking lumber workers. The Regiment was on duty for 44 days. The conflict was actually mediated by the 81st Brigade Commander General Carlos Pennington, overall commander. Not a shot was fired and not a death occurred.

While at camp in 1937, the 161st as part of the 41st Division under Major General White, fought a maneuver against the regular Army commanded by Brigadier General George C. Marshall. In December of the same year, the Regimental Commander Col Thomas Aston died in Spokane, Col Clarence Orndorff succeeded him. In this period, the guard helped to dedicate the new Spokane Airport at Felts Field and the Grand Coulee Dam.

The year 1940 started very innocently, the word rifle was added to the 161st making it the 161st Rifle Regiment. The phony war and armistice began on 25 June, between Germany, Italy, and France. Camp that year, a maneuver involving 40,000 men of the guard and regular Army took place in an unusual three week session. A review was held involving all of the participating troops. When the units left for home station much tent-age and equipment, normally returned, was left at camp. On the 31st of August, the Regiment was ordered to active duty by executive order number 8350, reporting date was September 16, 1940, for one year of active duty. Intense recruiting followed and after a few days at the home station the Regiment assembled at Fort Lewis. Equipment shortages and the winter weather at Camp Murray, combined to give the Regiment, quartered in tents a bad time but spring found them in new gleaming barracks at North Fort Lewis.

Selective Service replacements were received, double training was conducted and the Regiment was brought to full strength. Several exercises were held under the watchful eye of LTC Mark Clard and a Col Dwight D. Eisenhower. In may, the Regiment participated in the 4th Army maneuvers at Hunter Liggett in California, 65,000 troops took part. In September, another big maneuver was held in the Olympic Peninsula. Later the one year of active duty for the 161st was extended. Early in November, the 161st was cut out of the 41st Division and ordered to the Philippines. The night before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the Regiment left for San Francisco. The news of the attack was received more with disbelief than shock as the report of the raid was orally passed to the men on the trains going south. The move to the Philippines was cancelled and the Regiment took up guard positions in the San Francisco area.

The setting for the action of the 161st in World War II is the 55 million square mile area in the vast Pacific Ocean. Geographically portrayed it's path would resemble a monster triangle represented by the Hawaiian Islands, New Zealand and Japan. Historically portrayed it would encompass the Gifu Sector on Guadalcanal, the Zita trail on New Georgia and the Balete Pass on Luzon. Dramatically portrayed it would deal with purple and orange sunsets, coral sand beaches, jungle locked blue lagoons. Present are all the ingredients worthy of the best traditions of "tales of the South Pacific" but such a picture would present a grim betrayal of the alumni. They know better; they were there. The 161st learned there is little that is romantic in the infantry, in the war in the Pacific. They learned to know it for what it was day to day existence of fire, canned rations, booby traps, kill or be killed.

In the middle of December, 1941, the Regiment sailed for Hawaii on the Lurline, Matsonia, Monterey and the Bliss. Some of the men landed on Christmas Eve, smoke still rose from Pearl Harbor. Here they did guard duty. Early in their tour, the Regiment Commander, Col Orendorff, learned plans were being formulated to break up the Regiment for replacements. This would be a bitter pill as this was the fate of 161st in World War I. He asked for permission to make an official call to Washington D.C. Shortly there after, he was notified the call would not be necessary as the Regiment would remain intact. In October, the Regiment joined the 25th Division and became the 161st Regimental Combat Team with the addition of the 89th Field Artillery Battalion and Co A, 65th Engineers.

Almost a year later, the 161st departed for Guadalcanal. The action there by the 161st was so fast and decisive that the 25th Division, which until this time was without a shoulder patch, was given a Taro Leaf, Familiar to the Hawaiian Islands, with a bolt of lightning running thru it. The Division to this day is known as the "Tropical Lightning Division". The morale of the 161st increased with the issuing of this insignia.

The Guadalcanal story had started four months before 161st arrived. The area had been occupied by one army division plus some marines, but the effort had reached a stalemate. The 161st as part of the 25th was to turn the tide. The 161st as part of the 25th was to turn the tide. The attitude of the 161st was apprehension, in the eyes of their of their regular army sister Regiments, they were a question mark. They took over defensive positions of the marines on the Mataikau river. The Division then picked the Regiment to spear head the attack, the first major attack against the enemy in months. The movement of the 161st was so rapid and decisive it was left with this mission for the rest of the campaign, which lasted until they linked up with the 2nd battalion 132nd Infantry at Cape Esperance on February 9th. In 19 days of combat, it had covered 20 miles of beach and enemy infested jungle. At the end of the campaign, the Division Commander, General Collins told the Regiment they were no longer a question mark in the eyes of their sister Regiments. On February 7th, Col Clarence A. Orndorff was ordered to the states because of illness and Col James L. Dalton assumed command. Patrol and security occupied the unit until July 17th, when the regiment embarked for New Georgia.

The first impressions of the 161st were the grisly scenes of those who had preceded them. Forty eight dead bandaged slaughtered Americans lay in their first bivouac area. For the initial fighting on New Georgia, the 161st was detached from the 25th Division and assigned to the 37th Division from Ohio. After extensive combat, the 161st went from their bright sun tan uniforms to the new camouflage uniforms on New Georgia. Everyone got size 40 or 44, and one company was attacked as it changed its uniforms. The first major action was on Hartley Ridge and Tank Hill. Intense fighting took place for five days and for six days more they defended their gains against counter attack. one time a patrol from a neighboring unit withdrew from a fire fight and found itself closely pursued by the enemy, who fell on the patrol's rear. Just as GI's reached the out position of the 161st Infantry, the Battalion Commander said let them come thru, the Japanese moved right in between the withdrawing patrol to find themselves in a full fledged fire fight that lasted for 24 hours or until every Japanese soldier was wiped out.

After Bilbo, there was a ridge name for 1st Lt. Charles J. Hastings from Walla Walla, who died there. After Hastings Ridge, the 161st fought to the beach via the Zieta trail and this ended the main phase of the battle for New Georgia. The Munda air strip was secured on the 7th of August, 1943.

The Regiment then went into a rest period in New Zealand for a period of rebuilding depleted ranks and supplies. This necessitated retraining. From 15 November to 24 February, 1944, they remained there, then hey went to New Calondonia for further training. Here they built their own camp naming it Camp Ritchie after Cpt. Ritchie who was killed at New Georgia.

On the 11th of January, 1945, the Regiment with the rest of the 25th Division clambered down scramble nets, poured into landing craft, and for the 2nd time in its history, started for the beaches of an island name Luzon. They landed in the San Fabian area on the west shore of the island, and were to drive across the central plain of Luzon. They crashed into the enemy six days later at Binalonan. It was here that T4 Parrish earned his Medal of Honor. On the 26th of January, they smashed thru San Manul by a sheer force of arms. here the last 13 officers of the original 114 officers who were inducted with the 161st had an unofficial reunion. They called themselves the Dirty Dozen. After that came Bryan Hill, Dig Dig, Dunken and Dalton Pass. Dalton Pass was named for the former Regimental commander of the 161st who was killed there. Dalton Pass was the new name given to Balete Pass where one of the toughest battles of the Pacific took place. The terrain was comparable to Cassino and more forbidding than that of Burma, its fall was the key to the Luzon campaign. The Luzon campaign lasted 165 days. The 161st had been in combat 225 days, this is a record equaled by few Regiments in the war. not one man surrendered to the enemy and not one foot of ground was given up due to enemy pressure.

In the spring of 1945, the war had come to an end in Europe, Japan surrendered in August of 1945. The 161st marched ashore in the Wakayma area in Japan on the 2nd of October, 1945. After a short period the 161st was relived from assignment to the 25th Division and on 1 November, 1945, the Regiment was deactivated at Nagoya, Japan. LTC Bankston returned the colors to the State of Washington.

On the 17th of June, 1946, the 161st Infantry was assigned to 41st Division. Activation of the Regiment started on 24 March, 1947, with the Regimental Headquarters in Spokane. There was no summer encampment that year. The first encampment of the newly reorganized 161st took place at North Fort Lewis in June 1948. As there were only a few companies organized a provisional battalion was established for the Regiment. In 1949, the authorized strength of the Regiment was 80 officers and 1162 enlisted men, the actual strength was 42 officers and 356 men and all units had been organized. The 161st had most of its companies in Spokane, and had units in Okanogan, Walla Walla, Pullman, Ellensburg, Wenatchee, Everett, and Seattle.

In the spring of 1948, some units of the 161st with many other units of the Washington National Guard, were called out on flood duty to protect the citizens from the Columbia River and it tributaries. Company A, Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion and Company I, were placed on duty. For men of the Company A, it was a thing to remember as they left Omak by C47 to come home and just after takeoff the right engine caught fire. Col Frank Frost, the pilot, turned the craft around and made a miraculous landing along side the runway, discharging all passengers before the entire plane burned.

In 1957, the Pentomac concept was proposed, the Division would go from three Regiments to five Battle Groups. in 1959, the 161st was re-designated as the 1st and 2nd Battles Groups of the 161st. Col. Phelps was the Commander of the 1st of the 161st and Col. Gamble Commanded the 2nd of the 161st. The manpower was decreased and the fire power was increased.

The Washington Infantry was greatly concerned with civil defense at this time and its role in the event of an atomic and later nuclear attack. Very many of the 161st units had a classified mission. The concept was evacuation, this was changed later to shelter protection. On the 27th of July, 1960, the Spokane and Pullman Guard were called on in the Umatilla Forest Fire, where they were engaged for six days. In 1962, the 1st Battle Group, under Col. Johnson, began to wear their distinctive unit insignia on their fatigue uniform, there is no known other infantry unit that does this.

In the spring of 1963, the Pentomac concept was dropped. The Battle Groups were no more and the 161st became two separate Battalions; one in Spokane and one in Everett. The Battalion with others in Oregon were the fighting arm of the 41st Division. The authorized strength of these Battalions was 486 men and officers. By now most of the yearly drills were accomplished on weekends and the training became more sophisticated. Battalions traveled many miles to a training site, by truck or military air, to accomplish training missions. Some of these exercises were "Cold Creek" link up. In October 1965, the pentagon ordered the formation of combat ready National Guard Units, these were called "Selected Reserve Forces" or SRF the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 161st were designated as part of the 41st SRF Brigade. In this status, the two Battalions went to full strength of 841 officers and men each. In June 1967, the 41st Brigade under the command Brigadier General. David C. Baum, entered into exercise Field Train I, against the remainder of the 41st Division as it was deactivated the following January. The 41st Division had been home to the 161st Infantry for 44 years. On January 1st, 1968, a 3rd Battalion of the 161st was formed in Seattle, Washington, and the three Battalions became the major arm of the 81st Infantry Brigade of Washington, a combat organized unit completely within the boundaries of the state of Washington.

On May 1st, 1971, the 81st Infantry Brigade became a mechanized infantry brigade. With this new re-organization, the Regiment became two battalions with the 1st Battalion located in Eastern Washington and the 3rd Battalion located between Seattle and Tacoma.

The Regiment saw state active duty in May and June of 1972, when the Okanogan River flooded its banks and threatened the homes of the citizens of Okanogan and Omak. Detachment 1 Support Company in Okanogan, Company B in Colville, and Company A in Wenatchee and Ellensburg were ordered to active duty to help the residents of these two flood stricken communities. As the waters receded in the Okanogan River, the units were released from state duty just in time to travel to summer camp.

On May 18th, 1980, Mount Saint Helens, located in the south western portion of the state, erupted covering the eastern half of the state in a thick layer of volcanic ash. On 23 May, 1980, the 1st Battalion was ordered to active duty to help the smaller communities clean up the fallen ash. Most of the guardsman were on active duty for a week. Once again the Battalion was released from state just prior to reporting for summer camp.

The 1-161st Infantry is assigned to the First Cavalry Division. 1-161st Infantry Battalion is providing security at Forward Operating Base Gunner in the Baghdad area. 1-161st Infantry Battalion, LSA Highlander, adjacent to the International Zone (formerly known as the Green Zone), in Baghdad. They are attached to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division and are conducting combat operations and civil-military operations in SE Baghdad.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list