Oregon Army National Guard
The Oregon Army National Guard maintains 46 armories, and is present in 37 communities.
With the increase in American settlers from the east, the influence and protection afforded by the English controlled Hudson Bay Company in the area rapidly waned. In February 1843, an informal meeting was held at the Oregon Institute in Salem (now Willamette University) where a committee of six named and authorized to call a general meeting of the settlers to discuss matters of importance. On March 6, 1843, the meeting was held. The first order of business was establishing bounties on destructive animals. The second saw the naming of a committee of 12 to "take into consideration the propriety of taking measures for civil and military protection of this colony." The committee of 12 was directed to consider and recommend some type of civil government to administer the territory. At the same time, the committee was asked to make recommendation as to the need for militia or civilian-soldier force.
The settlers met again in May 1843, and the committee of 12 recommended the formation of territorial government and the formation of a military force. Prior to the meeting's end, four constables were appointed -- a major and three captains -- and instructed to form companies of mounted rifleman. These four men constituted the nucleus of Oregon's first militia and market the genesis of what is now the Oregon National Guard. A few weeks later, on July 5, 1843, territorial government was formed.
Meanwhile, the flow of immigrants into the area continued unabated, growing to 4,000 by 1847. During this time, the Indian population grew uneasy and tension increased. Nevertheless, peace was maintained.
A significant incident, so far as Oregon's military history is concerned, did occur at Willamette Falls, now known as Oregon City. In March 1844, a Wasco Indian, named Cockstock, and four Molalla Indians, rode into town, brandishing weapons and threatening local citizens. George. LeBraton, the clerk of the provisional government, attempted to arrest them but received a fatal gunshot wound. An arrow also killed an innocent bystander. In the melee that followed, Cockstock was slain by Winslow Anderson, a free black settler, but the Molallas escaped unharmed.
Until this time, good relations had been maintained by the Indians, and the military force authorized by the territorial government had never been formed. But, as the word of the Cockstock incident spread, a 25-man company of mounted riflemen was organized under the command of Captain T. D. Keysur. This unit became the first military unit in the territory, and it was here that the heritage of the Oregon citizen-soldier truly began. The force did succeed in maintaining peaceful relations with the Indians, although only for a short time.
During this lull, the United States in 1846 concluded a treaty with Great Britain which gave the United States all territory south of the 49th parallel, and fixed the southern boundary of Canada. This treaty established the final boundaries of the Oregon Territory, and the United States for the first time stretched from sea to sea.
Shortly after the Oregon Territory became part of the United States, tragedy struck. On November 29, 1847, members of the Cayuse Indian tribe, under the belief that they were being poisoned, attacked the missionary station of Doctor Marcus Whitman near Walla Walla. Fourteen people were killed, including Doctor and Mrs. Whitman, and 53 women and children were taken hostage. Later, the hostages were released, ransomed by Peter Skene Ogden of the Hudson Bay Company which still had considerable influence with the tribe.
News of the massacre reached the provincial capital of Oregon City nine days later, and Governor Abernathy immediately reported the incident to the territorial legislature, recommending prompt action. Even though federal support was not available and funds were short, the legislature authorized the governor to arm and equip a company of riflemen and directed it to proceed and protect the mission at The Dalles until help arrived.
The following noon, a 45-man company, known as the "Oregon Rifles" under the command of Captain H. A. G. Lee, was sworn in and equipped as best available means would allow. The same day, the legislature further authorized Governor Abernathy to raise a regiment of volunteers to punish the Cayuse for their part in the Whitman massacre. No real difficulty was encountered in obtaining volunteers for the regiment, but equipping the force was another story. In the end, the volunteers for the regiment had to provide their own horses, clothing, weapons, and blankets. The only available source of bulk ammunition belonged to the Hudson Bay Company, but the company would not extend credit to the territorial government. The officers had to sign for ammunition on their own personal credit, hoping to be repaid later by legislature.
Shortly after Christmas 1847, Governor Abernathy selected A. L. Lovejoy as the first Adjutant General of the Territory of Oregon. Also selected for command of the regiment was Colonel Cornelius Gilliam, a veteran of the Black Hawk War of 1832 and the Seminal War of 1835. Gilliam, who had immigrated to Oregon in 1844, was an ordained minister. Joel Palmer was appointed Commissary General and Superintendent of Indian Affairs.
Meanwhile, Captain Lee's Oregon Rifles reached The Dalles and encountered a heavily armored band of Indians attempting to steal cattle from the mission. During a running fight, one volunteer was wounded and three Indians were slain. The Indians, however, successfully made off with 300 head of cattle, a serious loss to a territory where beef was exceedingly scarce and a single chicken egg cost fifty cents.
The Indians continued raiding and skirmishing at The Dalles, and Lee's troops became hard-pressed to defend the mission. During several Indian raids, Privates Pugh and Jackson were killed, the first two men slain in service of the militia and the state. The defenders continued to be harassed by various war parties until Colonel Gilliam and the regiment arrived late in January. During the last week of January, the regiment went from defense to the offense. After numerous reconnaissances missions proved the hostile force to be a mixture of warriors from the Cayuse, John Day, and Des Chutes tribes.
By early February, the regiment's strength had increased to 537 men, and with arrival of a peace commission appointed by the Governor, the militia force set out for Walla Walla and the Whitman Mission. On the trail, the commission met with representatives of the Yakima and Nez Perce tribes who expressed their neutrality. The Cayuse still remained hostile, as witnessed by an ambush of the column at Sand Hollow on February 24. Five volunteers, including the regimental executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel Waters, were wounded in the engagement. The Cayuse dead in the engagement included Chief Grey Eagle, while the war Chief Five Crows, was wounded. Colonel Gilliam was also killed in this ambush.
At Walla Walla, the regiment made camp near the mission site. Using the camps as base of operations, strong probes were made into Indian territory. Patrolling continued well into late spring of 1848 when a shortage of supplies and the need for many of the men to return to their farms for spring planting made a withdrawal necessary. The Cayuse also were so dispersed by this time that further operations were futile. As the regiment departed, it left one company behind at the mission to patrol and to protect the immigrant trail as well as to pursue any Indians should it become necessary. Finally in August, the tribe grew so weary of being hunted that they surrendered the five key Indians who had committed the massacre. These were taken to Oregon City, tried, and executed.
Late in 1848, the first segment of federal troop, the First Regiment of Mounted Rifles of the United States Army, arrived at Fort Vancouver after a six-month overland trek from Missouri. Following them came other regular US Army infantry and artillery units which took over relations with the various Indian tribes.
In 1853, another major Indian War broke out in southern Oregon with the Rogue River Indians. The large southern Oregon area occupied by the Rogue River tribe was extremely rugged and made traveling difficult. The Indians conducted a hit and run type of warfare against the widely scattered white settlements, and regular US Army forces could not cope with the situation. An appeal was made for volunteer reinforcement units. As reinforcements arrived, the large force took the field, and the Indians sued for peace. Quiet prevailed on the Rogue for the following two years.
Just as war ended at one part of the Oregon Territory, another flared up. The regulars were soon called upon to quell trouble with the Yakima tribe. And, as against the Rogue Indians, the task was greater than the regulars could handle. Volunteers again were asked to leave their families, homes, and farms to protect the territory. The Oregon citizens-soldier, as before placed the need of his country above his own. The situation remained the same for the next two years, with conflicts against the Yakimas, Klickitats, Des Chutes, and other tribes. As always, the volunteer soldier had to pick up for the regular forces.
During 1855, when most regular forces were in the northern part of the territory, trouble developed again in the south with the Rogue River Indians. This time, the heavily armed Indians grouped together in large forces. Since insufficient regular US Army units were in the region, the weight of the second Rogue River War fell upon the Oregon Volunteers.
As the war progressed, a small force of regulars and equipment were sent south from Fort Vancouver. Along the way, volunteer units were attached from each of the towns it passed through.
In previous Indian Wars, casualties had been light. It did not remain so at the Rogue River. In one engagement alone, Graye Creek, 26 volunteers were killed or wounded, along with 11 regular Army killed or wounded.
As the war intensified, more and more regular forces concentrated in the Rouge River area, and the initial volunteers were released to return home, only to be replace by other volunteer units. Throughout the winter, battles raged and stretched from Gold Beach on the coast inland to Jacksonville. Further reinforcements of regulars became impossible, and the burden of fighting fell almost entirely upon the volunteers. By May 1856, more than 700 men comprised the volunteer force which continuously pressed the Indians throughout the harsh winter. With little food and goods left, the Indians surrendered in June 1856 after nearly nine months of continuous battle.
The following five years saw peace with the Indians, but in 1861 the War Between the states began, and the Oregon citizen-soldier soon became involved. Federal troops stationed in the northwest rapidly were withdrawn to the fighting in the east. By spring 1862, only 700 regular Army troops remained in what is now Oregon.
Since Oregon had been admitted to the Union in 1859, President Lincoln called upon the State to furnish troops for the war; but Governor Whiteaker, the first Governor of the State of Oregon, was very reluctant to furnish men for a war on the other side of the continent. He had good reason. Indians in eastern Oregon seeing the withdrawal of federal troops already were creating incidents. If a major war with the Indians occurred, the governor would need every volunteer he could get.
There was still another reason. During the 1850's, many migrants came to Oregon from southern states and stood for secession. Governor Whiteaker felt, and rightly so, that a decision to send forces eastward might lead to an insurrection at home. The governor's apprehensions were communicated to the War Department and, in lieu of sending forces to the east of what appeared to a be a short war, an agreement was reached whereby Oregon volunteer troops served only in the territory. Governor Whiteaker's apprehensions soon were justified with signs of further Indian unrest and by a troubled political environment. With no time to waste, he directed the formation of two volunteer regiments, one of infantry and one of cavalry.
By spring 1862, both regiments began operations that lasted throughout the Civil War and until late 1866, guarding the frontier, along with other volunteers from Washington, Idaho, and California. The presence of these large formations proved to be successful deterrent to secessionist's aim for a separate nation in the northwest and prevented a major Indian upheaval.
Notable among Oregon forces of this era was the commander of the First Oregon Cavalry Regiment, Colonel George B. Curry, the namesake of Curry County. Colonel Curry patrolled his troops constantly in a show of force. Against those bands of Indians hostile toward the white population, he adopted a tactic learned seven years earlier in the Rogue River Wars -- that of displacing the Indians during the winter from areas that could support them and their stock. By following this tactic, he found that the Indians could be forced into submission without a major battle, and without a large loss of life. The lesson was well learned and noted by the US Army forces. The campaign of the late 1860's by General Custer and the campaigns of the 1870's and early 1880's by General Cook proved again and again the wisdom of his strategy.
The story of the Oregon volunteers during the Civil War was one of long years of constant marching through winter snows of the high desert and the summer heat of the plains. At best, issued equipment was poor for the use intended. The wool uniforms was agony in the summer, and sodden, cold dampness in the winter. Boots were good for only a few weeks on the trail. Rations consisted of hardtack, green coffee beans, salt pork and beans. With scurvy a constant threat, foraging for fresh fruits and vegetables became the rule of the day. Fish and game also were sought by the troops along with other foodstuffs. The diary of one infantry corporal noted that "today we found a slow bear and feasted royally." "Slow Bear" in fact was a local farmer's hog stolen for the hungry soldiers.
The Oregon volunteer troops were demobilized in 1866 when federal troops moved once again back into the northwest. From that time on, the status of the militia forces declined. No longer did the citizens of Oregon nor did the state legislature consider the need for a well-armed and disciplined reserve force. On October 20, 1870, the legislature passed an act abolishing the position of Adjutant General and placed all military goods under the control of the Secretary of State. By September 1, 1872, only three volunteer infantry companies and the Portland Light Battery of Artillery remained. The errors of this policy soon became evident.
In December 1872, an angry clash occurred in southern Oregon between a small force of federal troops and the Modoc tribe, led by Captain Jack. Hurriedly, local volunteer units were formed to protect townships and to reinforce the federal unit. With the arrival of other regular Army units, the volunteers soon were released. Nonetheless, the need for an organized and regulated militia again was illustrated. Unfortunately, few learned the lesson.
Peace in Oregon was again threatened in 1877 when the Nez Perce War began, and again in 1878 when the Bannock tribe went on the war path. When the Nez Perce War began in 1877, poorly trained and equipped Oregon volunteer units immediately took to the field. Fortunately, no major campaign developed in the state, and the volunteers were soon released.
Still, the state legislature gave no thought to the necessity for a well-trained volunteer force. And the situation did not change until the Bannock tribe declared war on the white settlers in May 1878. Hostilities began in southern Idaho where the Bannocks battled cattlemen and other white settlers settling on the Big Camas prairie, part of the tribe's treaty reservation. Two hundred warriors, led by Buffalo Horn, moved across the prairie toward the Snake River, raiding settlements as they went. Pursued by federal troops, they crossed into Oregon and joined with the Paiutes and other Indian tribes, numbers 2,000 in all.
As the Indians proceeded into Oregon, newly formed volunteer units hastily were rushed into the field with little or no training, and minimum of equipment. Additional units throughout the Willamette Valley, already in existence and somewhat trained, were called upon to help but could not respond. The legislature refused to purchase weapons and ammunition for their use. Finally, on June 12, Governor S. F. Chadwick sent 100 stands of arms and ammunition, with instructions to protect the settlers in the John Day Valley.
An initial running fight occurred with the Indian tribes near Canyon City. One volunteer was killed and three others wounded. Later, a company of volunteers was dispatched to protect Prineville when that district appeared threatened. The Bannocks, however, headed north towards the Umatilla reservation near present-day Pendleton.
With northeastern Oregon threatened, a meeting was held in Portland asking for reinforcements. The Washington Guards, Emmet Guards, City Rifles and the Portland Light Battery immediately answered the call and began preparations to leave for the battleground. Their assistance was refused, however when federal troops arrived at the scene. A few weeks later, the hostile tribes were put to flight, and a roundup of the scattered bands of Indian warriors began. By September 1878, the Bannocks were returned to their reservation in Idaho.
The end of the Bannock War resulted in a widespread interest in the need for military units. Twenty volunteer companies sprang up throughout the State, including a company of cavalry at Sheridan and batteries of light artillery at Portland and Astoria. Membership in a militia unit during this time resembled a fraternal rather than a military organization. The published by-laws of the Portland Light Battery stated that "new members shall be voted upon by the membership and if three nay votes are counted, the man will not be accepted." Dues of fifty cents per month were charged to enable a member to buy his own equipment. Centralized control and military standardization within the State was nonexistent.
The militia found a new champion to carry its cause when Civil War veteran and Portland businessman Owen Summers was elected to the State legislature in 1887. Among his first actions was the successful introduction of a new military code that was enacted by the legislature, which became known as the Summers Law. This law, not only reestablished the position of the State Adjutant General and his headquarters, but also authorized a State National Guard. According to the law, the new National Guard was to consist of regiments and districts with a minimum strength of 1, 320 men each. All existing militia units were to revert to State control and were to abide by all rules and regulations issued by the Adjutant General on behalf of the Governor. General J. C. Shofer was named to the post of Adjutant General and the reorganization began.
By 1888, three regiments of infantry, a troop of cavalry, and a battery of field artillery had been mustered into service, but many problems still plagued and organizers of the new National Guard. Paramount was the shortage of arms and equipment. Most of the weapons on hand were out-of-date Civil War muskets. The following year, however, Congress authorized an issue of 1,000 improved Springfield M-1884 .45-70 rifles along with 60 cadet rifles, two Gattling guns and a quantity of parts and ammunition.
Despite these early handicaps and the fact that service in the National Guard was without pay, the Oregon National Guard rapidly grew into an efficient, disciplined force. The lack of funds prevented annual camp training until 1891, after which annual camp training became a regular part of the National Guard training schedule.
On April 10, 1892, a new role came to the National Guard -- that of providing support and assistance to civil authorities. On that day, Company "F" of the Third Regiment in Baker, Oregon was called upon to prevent the lynching of two prisoners arrested for murder and held in Vale, Oregon. The company performed its mission successfully without bloodshed or violence. This marked the beginning of a very important National Guard mission -- support of civil authorities in times of peace.
Throughout the 1890's, the Guard was called upon many times to aid civil authorities in maintaining law and order. A major incident occurred during the Astoria cannery strike in 1896 which turned into a long ordeal marked by violence on the part of both workers and management. On June 6, 1896, about 370 National Guardsmen were placed on duty to prevent further violence. The action was successful and allowed for a speedy settlement between fishermen and canneries. National Guard involvement was accomplished with neutrality and with respect for the rights and interest of both parties. While not characteristic of National Guard organizations in other states, the Oregon National Guard responded on many occasions to keep order in other labor disputes.
Early in 1898, the President of the United States, through the Secretary of War, informed the Governor of Oregon that a state of war existed between the United States and Spain. Oregon was called upon to furnish a regiment of infantry as soon as possible. Quotas for the unit, both officer and enlisted, were to be filled from existing National Guard units. Thus was born the Second Oregon Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Colonel Owen Summers, who had created the Oregon National Guard twelve years earlier, was selected as the Regimental Commander, thus making him the first Oregonian combat commander to serve on foreign soil.
The Second Regiment was mustered at Camp McKinley in Portland on the old Irvington racetrack, and with minimum of delay, reported to the War Department at full strength. Almost immediately orders were received ordering the regiment to proceed to San Francisco for embarkation to the Philippine Islands.
On May 24, 1898, the Second Oregon, along with the First California, five companies of the 14th US Infantry and a detachment of California artillery, sailed as the first of the United States Forces heading into the Pacific. This marked the first of many traditions achieved by Oregon troops. While food and accommodations aboard the transports was deplorable, the spirit of the Oregonians remained high. In Honolulu, the cruiser USS CHARLESTON convoyed the transports deeper into the Pacific.
The first brief encounter with the enemy occurred on the island of Guam, which was under Spanish control at the time. A landing party of Oregonians, along with Navy and Marine personnel went ashore and accepted the surrender of the island. Leaving the Marines behind as a security force, the convoy then proceeded to the island of Cavite in the Philippine chain. There Oregonians were first to land, and after a short skirmish, they seized control of the area. Again, an occupation force was left behind, and the Oregonians sailed onto their next objective -- to capture the city of Manila.
The "firsts" continued as Oregon troops once again landed first and raised the American Flag over the walled city. With the fall of Manila, Spanish authorities in the Philippines surrendered and control of the island passed to the United States. For six long months following the cessation of hostilities, Oregon National Guard troops helped create a provisional government and performed many public services for the Philippine citizens. Time and again, Oregon troops were called upon to use their civilian trade skills to assist in the rebuilding and improving the city.
For all intents and purposes, many thought the war had ended. But in February 1899, the Oregon soldiers found themselves in another different type of war. A Philippine insurgent movement had begun, and guerrilla-type fighting rapidly spread throughout the occupied areas. The Second Oregon, along with the 13th Minnesota, was called upon to secure Manila and drive the insurgents from within the city and the suburbs. It took months of bitter fighting in the Philippine countryside before the insurgents surrendered. The heritage of the Second Oregon rests with the 162nd Infantry. Three battle streamers won during these hard times now fly on their regimental flag.
In June 1899, after many battles, the Second Oregon returned home to a hero's welcome in San Francisco as they paraded up Market Street. After weeks at the Presidio, the troops finally returned to Oregon for another hero's welcome.
A time of change came for the Oregon National Guard with the advent of the 20th Century. New weapons, tactics, procedures and a reorganization were introduced. The Third Oregon Infantry, along with cavalry and artillery units, came into existence. New also was the Coast Artillery. This branch was logical for Oregon with its coastline and defenses such as Fort Stevens at the mouth of the Columbia River. In all, eight companies of Coast Artillery were formed in the State, and each summer, on the huge guns and mortars, they trained for river defense. Another new element was the Oregon Navy. In 1898, to back up the US Navy, various states were selected to form Naval Militias. Oregon was among those chosen. Three Naval Militia companies were formed, two in Portland and one in Astoria, and placed under the control of the Oregon National Guard.
In 1906, the local Naval Militia received its first training ship, the USS BOSTON. It was later replaced in 1912 by the USS MARBLEHEAD, light cruiser. The ships were moored in Portland for training and take to the sea during the summer months. A Marine Corps detachment also was a part of the Naval Militia and the ship's complement. Thus, the Oregon National Guard not only had a "Navy" but also had its own "Marines". The bulk of the Marine detachment, recruited in 1915 and 1916, came from the senior class of Portland's Jefferson High School. A proving ground for the Third Regiment came in 1916 when Troop "A" of the Oregon Cavalry and Battery "A" of the Field Artillery were called for federal service on the Mexican border to forestall raids by Mexican bandit units against American ranchers and villages. The Oregonians did not see action, but did receive valuable training.
Also in 1916, Congress passed the National Defense Act which established a system of armory instruction that required members of the all organizations to assemble for drill not less than 48 times each year. For the first time, National Guardsmen were to be paid, instead of paying for use of their services. Monthly reports were to be kept and semi-annual payrolls forwarded to the National Guard Bureau from each unit receiving federal pay.
Six shorts months after mustered out of service at Camp Withycombe from duty on the Mexican Border, Oregon troops again were called upon. Again, the Oregon National Guard garnered another "first." The first Oregon Infantry Regiment became the first National Guard unit to be mobilized for service during World War I and the first to recruit to full wartime strength. The distinctive unit insignia of the 162nd Infantry bears to the motto "First to Assemble" to commemorate this achievement.
On April 6, 1917, Congress declared war on Germany. The Oregon Naval Militia, with its Marine detachment, was ordered to report to Puget Sound Naval Yard where most were assigned to the battleship, USS SOUTH DAKOTA. The Marine detachment was sent to the east coast where it eventually became part of the First Marine Division. A second battalion of Naval Militia was raised during June 1917 and was sent to the first US Naval Training Camp located at the University of Washington and then on to the east coast for assignment. A third and final militia battalion was raised to provide port security for Columbia River ports and to recruit for the US Maritime Board.
Since the coastlines of the United States were not threatened, eight companies of Oregon Coast Artillery Corps were sent to handle the huge artillery pieces on the Western Front. A bulk of the Oregon Coast Artillery units were incorporated into the 65th Artillery handling cannons and howitzers in the 6, 8 and 10 inch size. These Oregonians experienced considerable combat service in France.
Other Oregon National Guard infantry, field artillery and cavalry units were sent to Camp Green, North Carolina, where, together with other National Guard units from the northwestern states, they were formed into the 41st Division. Some units changes were made as they processed into the 41st Division. The Third Oregon Infantry became the 162nd Infantry Regiment. The Oregon Field Artillery helped form the 147th Field Artillery Regiment which later was armed with the lethal "French 75" cannon. Since no real role existed for cavalry units in World War I, Oregon's cavalry troops were disbanded. Many of the men and officers went to the 148th Field Artillery Regiment which did have horse-drawn 155mm GPF cannons. The two artillery regiments, along with the 146th Field Artillery, made up the 66th Field Artillery Brigade -- the organic artillery of the 41st Division.
After months of hard work, training, reorganizing and re-equipping for war, the Division moved to Camp Mills, New Jersey, for shipment overseas. The first divisional units departed the United States on November 26, 1917. Within sight of the French coast, tragedy struck. Two torpedoes from a German U-boat ripped in the "TUSCANIA" which was carrying, among the others, men of the 66th Field Artillery Brigade. Fortunately, French fishing boats were in the area and pulled survivors from the freezing waters thus avoiding a great loss of life.
In France, the 41st Division received a major disappointment. It was designated a replacement division and did not go to combat as a unit. The majority of its infantry personnel went to the 1st, 2nd, 32nd and 42nd Divisions where they served throughout the war. The 147th Field Artillery was attached to the 32nd Division and saw action at Aisne-Marne, Meuse-Argonne and other areas. The 146th and 148th of the 66th Field Artillery Brigade were attached as corps artillery units and participated in the battles of Chateau Thierry, Aisne-Marne, St Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne.
After World War I, as after the Spanish-American War, further changes came to the Oregon National Guard. In 1921, the designation of the 41st Division was allocated to Pacific Northwest states, and each state was instructed to form certain divisional units. Oregon received the 162nd and the 186th Infantry Regiments, comprising the 82nd Brigade of the Division, as well as the 218th Field Artillery Regiment. Other divisional units were to be furnished by Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
Also back from the war and with a new designation was the Oregon Coast Artillery Corps, known as the 249th Coast Artillery. Training began anew on the big guns located at the mouth of the Columbia River. In many respects, the Coast Artillery, was considered an elite group. Their assigned mission and tasks were among the most complex in the Army and demanded a high degree of proficiency on the part of all members in order to be successful. Each year, the 249th Coast Artillery grew progressively better until they won the Coast Artillery Association Trophy for Proficiency in 1938. The trophy was awarded to only one unit per year. This was the first time a "part-time" National Guard outfit, had ever won this coveted award.
The 186th Infantry was particularly noted for its sharpshooters. At one time, its Company "B" then located in Portland, had nine individuals who wore the Army's Distinguished Marksman Medal for Rifle. As a results of its marksmanship achievements, it was the first National Guard Regiment in the United States to receive in 1938 the then new M-1 rifle.
As the international situation worsened in the 1930's, the intensity and urgency of training in the 41st Division increased. In 1937, the Division paired with the US 3rd Division for Corps Maneuvers at Fort Lewis. The 1940 summer camp at Fort Lewis witnessed the Division training with maneuvers at regimental level. One month after annual training in 1940, the 41st Division, along with the 249th Coast Artillery and State Headquarters, was called to active service. During the 14 months prior to the beginning of the World War II, the Division underwent intensive combat-type training and was equipped with the latest, most modern equipment available. By December 7, 1941, the 41st Division was ready. It continued the series of "firsts" by being the first United States Division to deploy to the South Pacific.
The 41st Division first stopped at Australia for even more training and then proceeded to New Guinea. This time, the 41st Division became the first American division to meet the Imperial Japanese Forces, not in defense, but in an offensive operation. Places with the strange names of Buna, Gona, Sanananda, and Salamaua became Oregonian battlegrounds in a war with an enemy during which no quarter was given or taken. The Division fought for 76 continuous days in combat against the Japanese at Salamaua. For 26 days only canned "C" rations were available. At the end of this campaign, Tokyo Rose, in her propaganda broadcasts, referred to the 41st as the "Butcher Division."
After the New Guinea campaign, the 41st Division returned to Australia for rest and re-equipping. In a few weeks, the Division then made another thrust to the north and the Islands of Holland, Aitape, Wakde, and Biak fell. The road continued into the Philippines where more bitter fighting occurred at Palawan, Zamboanga, and the Sulu Archipelago. After the fall of the Philippines, the Division began training for the attack on Japan itself, but surrender came first. The Division did move to Japan where it occupied the island of Honshu for a few months. Soon after, it was deactivated and the men returned home.
Oregon's Air National Guard also began in April 1941 when Major G. Robert Dodson called a meeting at the Portland's old Swan Island Airport to enlist men in the 123rd Observation Squadron. Enough men were enlisted and federal funds were obtained to construct a hanger at what is now the Portland International Airport. The unit shortly thereafter received the C-47 and L-1 aircraft.
On September 14, 1941, the 123rd Squadron was mobilized for active federal service and was redesigned as the 35th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron. Newly equipped with P-38 aircraft, the unit saw service in the South Pacific during World War II.
Within a few short months after the cessation of hostilities, new changes again took place that affected the Oregon National Guard as we know it today. The 35th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron, deactivated in 1945, was redesigned as the 123rd Fighter Squadron and returned to State status. The following year, it was enlarged into the 142nd Fighter Interceptor Group. The ensuing years saw the re-establishment of the 41st Division in the Northwest, and the end of the Coast Artillery as the 249th Coast Artillery evolved into the 249th Air Defense Artillery. Still later, this unit became the 1249th Engineer Battalion.
Early in 1951, the Oregon Air Guard was called upon to serve in the Korean War, the only Oregon Guard unit to do so. The 142nd Fighter Group was mobilized, along with a newly-formed engineer unit and an Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, but were not deployed overseas. They returned to State status in 1953.
In 1968, the 41st Division was inactivated, but its heritage remain with Oregon. The traditions and spirit of the Division passed to the 41st Infantry Brigade which proudly wears the Sunset patch and bears its colors. And in 1976, the Brigade had the distinction of being designated a roundout brigade for the US Army's 7th Infantry Division.
During Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Oregon Army National personnel from the 206th Transportation Company and the 2186th Maintenance Company were activated by Presidential and Congressional Orders and served as drivers, mechanics and support staff to active duty and allied forces on sight in Saudi Arabia. Both of these units were recognized for their outstanding dedication and superior service.
It was in winter of 1995 that the Oregon National Guard learned of the Home Station Deployment procedures recently adopted by National Guard Bureau. The 41st Personnel Services Company (PSC) served as role model for the National Guard in this new deployment procedure. President Clinton called PSC to active duty in January 1996. This new deployment procedure received special commendation from National Guard Bureau and the 6th Army. Home Station Mobilization allows the unit to do all specialized training and transition directly from their state headquarters rather than going to a special deployment training station. In June, the 41st PSC departed the State directly for active duty support of Operation Joint Endeavor. Although this Operation was mainly focused on the peace keeping mission in Bosnia, the 41st PSC were assigned to various support locations throughout Germany relieving a Louisiana Army National Guard unit.
During this post war era, the key missions of the Oregon National Guard have been to achieve excellence in training and to support civil authorities as needed. Oregon Army National Guard soldiers have participated on environmental projects, to include construction of roads, trails and buildings in many of the State's National Forests and Parks. Oregon Army National Guard soldiers and officers have provided assistance during times of natural disaster and State emergency.
FY99 was challenging and rewarding for the Oregon Army National Guard. Soldiers deployed to over six foreign countries and fifteen states. Theater commanders learned to respect and appreciate Oregon soldiers, often asking for them by name. The 1042nd Medical Company Ambulance deployed to Turkey in support of Operation Dynamic Mix, while the 1-186th Infantry Battalion deployed to Japan for Operation North Wind. For the first time, the Oregon Air National Guard and the 41st Brigade deployed together for what became known as the "All Oregon Exercise."
The 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment spent the majority of the fiscal year deployed in support of Operation Joint Forge. While in Bosnia, the 115th supplied media escorts, and print news and broadcast video production.
Oregon's 1042nd Air Ambulance Company accepted several search and rescue missions. Using the versatile UH-60 Blackhawk, the 1042nd utilized Forward Looking Infrared Radar that picks up traces of body heat. Members of the 1042nd rescued several climbers, a stranded pilot and assisted in the search for a lost boy.
The Oregon Youth Challenge Program expanded to 22 weeks this year and included over 100 students per class. Oregon youths were taught interpersonal skills, job development and self-respect during the at-risk teen program.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|