45th INFANTRY BRIGADE
In the spirit of the divisional motto, Semper Anticus (Always Forward), the 45th has never yielded an inch of territory to the enemy.
A platoon sergeant on Old Baldy in Korea once explained the 45th's fighting record. "The ones from Oklahoma—the Guard guys—got pride because I guess they figure they represent Oklahoma over here . . . The others—the draftees and R.A. guys—figure they ain't gonna let somebody they figure a Saturday-night soldier out-soldier, them. And anybody that knows about a war knows that the kind of pride people are willing to pay off on can take an outfit a long, long way."
The History of the 45TH INFANTRY BRIGADE
The Oklahoma Territorial Militia was loosely organized in 1890, and was officially reorganized as the Oklahoma Territorial National Guard on March 8, 1895. The first National Guard consisted of infantry companies, cavalry troops and artillery batteries. Its total strength in peacetime was limited to 500 men. There was no pay or benefits for members, and officers were required to furnish their own uniforms and horses. This militia served an important purpose in maintaining peace and assisting in emergencies in the territory. It also stood ready to serve the nation if wars were to come…and they did.
The Territorial Militia grew in the years prior to Statehood. Federal allotments to support the troops doubled and the Territorial legislature voted to expand support in money and men. Statehood, in 1907, ended the Territorial status of the Oklahoma National Guard.
The Spanish-American War
After the sinking of the Battleship Maine on February 15, 1898, relations between the United States and Spain deteriorated until war was declared by both sides. Congress passed a volunteer bill allowing National Guard units to serve in the regular army as state units, with the approval of their governors. The Oklahoma National Guard was not federalized during the Spanish American War, but numerous officers and enlisted men served with the Rough Riders and with the First Territorial Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the latter, predecessor to today’s 1-180th Cavalry Squadron) was mobilized but not deployed before the war ended.
In 1899 the Oklahoma National Guard was reorganized as the First Oklahoma Infantry Regiment, supported by a signal company. In 1903 an engineer company was added. With statehood in 1907, units were shifted from western Oklahoma (former Oklahoma Territory) to eastern Oklahoma (former Indian Territory), and a hospital unit and two cavalry troops were added. Before World War I the guardsmen were used by Gov. Lee Cruce to combat illegal boxing and horse racing operations and liquor- and blue-law violations.
The Punitive Expedition
The Oklahoma National Guard was reorganized under the National Defense Act passed on June 3, 1916, and fifteen days later was called into federal service for duty along the Mexican border. Mobilized in Oklahoma City, the guardsmen were stationed at San Benito and Donna, Texas. They returned home and were mustered out on March 1 2, 1917. Colonel Roy Hoffman commanded the regiment, and Captain W. S. Key was in charge of a company from Wewoka. Both were later to command the division. The Guardsmen spent about a year on the border. Although they were not in combat with the forces of Pancho Villa, they policed the border between Mexico and the United States and got valuable field experience. They returned to Oklahoma to be discharged just in time to be called up for World War I.
World War I
On March 31, 1917, the First Oklahoma Infantry was mobilized for service in World War I. At Camp Bowie, Texas, the First Oklahoma combined with the Seventh Texas Infantry to form the 142d Regiment of the Thirty-sixth Infantry Division. The guardsmen arrived in France on July 31, 1918, and in October served around Blanc Mont Ridge and in the Ferme Forest. They were in reserve when the war ended on November 11, 1918. Returning home, the troops were discharged in July 1919. One of the machine gun companies was commanded by Captain Raymond S. McLain, who in World War II would attain the highest combat command position ever to be reached by a National Guardsman. This was as commanding general of the XIX U. S. Army Corps.
Other units, smaller than regiment , several of which would later be combined to form today’s 700th Support Battalion, the element of today’s Brigade with the most combat credit, became part of the Rainbow, or 42nd Infantry Division, and conscripts went to the 90th Texas-Oklahoma Infantry Division. All three of these divisions saw combat in France. Guardsman (Lee Gilstrap) falsified his age to enlist, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on his sixteenth birthday.
The Homefront and after WWI
To replace the guardsmen on active duty, in 1918 the Second and Third Oklahoma Infantry Regiments (the future 1-179th Infantry Battalion and 1-180th Cavalry Squadron, respectively) and a separate infantry battalion were recruited. These units later combined and constituted the Oklahoma National Guard until 1920. In 1919 these troops were sent to Drumright, Henryetta, Coalgate, and Haileyville during a labor disturbance.
Between the World Wars the Oklahoma National Guard was frequently called to state duty. In 1921 the guardsmen were rushed to the Tulsa Race Riot. Gov. John Walton used the troops to prevent the legislature from convening during his impeachment. Gov. William H. Murray dispatched the National Guard thirty-four times during his administration, and Gov. Ernest W. Marland used the guardsmen to allow the drilling of oil wells on the Capitol grounds in Oklahoma City.
The Division is Formed
Following World War I, the National Defense Act of 1920 created the authority to form the 45th Infantry Division from four states. These were Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. This division started organizing by 1923, and Oklahoma members camped together for the first time in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1924. First commanding general of the division was Major General During H. Markham, an Oklahoma City businessman, who owned an early city automobile dealership in a structure still bearing his name just north of the Daily Oklahoman building on North Broadway. He later became executive director of the powerful American Petroleum Institute, with headquarters in New York City. General Markham commanded the division until 1931 Of the division's five commanding generals prior to World War II, four were from Oklahoma.
From Swastika to Thunderbird
For the first 15 years of its existence, members of the 45th Infantry Division proudly wore on their left shoulders an ancient American Indian symbol of good luck, most commonly referred to as the swastika. The insignia served as recognition of the great number of Native Americans proudly serving in the 45th Infantry Division. The yellow swastika on a square background of red symbolized the Spanish Heritage of the 4 Southwestern states that made up the membership of the 45th. A similar symbol was adopted by the Nazi party in the late 1920’s, and as the N.S.D.A.P. (Nazis) rose to power in 1933 the symbol became so closely associated with German National socialism that it had to be abandoned as the insignia of the 45th Infantry Division.
For many months division members wore no insignia, while the 45th Infantry Division held a contest to assist in selection of the new insignia. The contest was overseen by a board of officers who eventually determined the Thunderbird would become the new insignia of the 45th Infantry Division. In keeping with the tradition formerly established, it was also decided to maintain the same colors and design of the original insignia. In 1939 the Thunderbird design was officially approved by the War Department and authorized for manufacture and wear. The document approving the design, stated that, the Thunderbird was a Native American symbol , the "sacred bearer of happiness unlimited."
In September, 1940 the 45th Infantry Division was ordered into federal service for one year to engage in a training program. Its members arrived in Fort Sill while the camp was being enlarged, and most of the Guardsmen were camped in tents on the bald prairie near where its summer training encampment had been located. Winter clothing was very inadequate. Most of the training aids were improvised. It moved from Fort Sill to Camp Barkeley, In the summer of 1941 the 45th Infantry Division participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers-a major training operation involving several other divisions. By the end of the one- year call-up period, America was faced with World War II, and the call was extended. The division trained at Camp Barkeley; at Fort Devens and Camp Edwards, Massachusetts; at Pine Camp, New York; at Camp Pickett, Virginia; at Solomon's Island, Maryland; and at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, before moving overseas in June, 1943, for Algeria, North Africa for further preparations for combat, including amphibious training. On the eve of their embarkation for overseas duty. 1,500 members of the 45th Infantry Division, all American Indians, staged a war dance. The convoy of 45th Div. troops and equipment sailed June 8, 1943, from Norfolk for Oran, North Africa.
Some elements would participate in WWII differently. Two units, the 158th and the Second Battalion of the 158th Artillery, were separated to form the 158th Regimental Combat Team (RCT), which served in the Panama Canal Zone and in the Southwest Pacific. Another battalion deployed to Alaska to help build the Alcan Highway and participate in the invasion of Okinawa, and another was posted to Asia to help construct the Burma Road.
10 June 1943, the Thunderbird Division, the first major amphibious operation on the European continent landed near Scoglitti, Sicily.
From Scoglitti, the division moved inland, to Vittoria and Ragusa. To the north lay the next objective; Comiso airport wich was taken with all the planes and valuable ammunition and materiel. The Germans fell back, reorganized and launched a desperate counter-attack. But the thrust was repelled, and attackers were battered even harder. After a bitter fight, during which elements of the Hermann Goering Div. were defeated, Biscari was occupied. Again the division plunged ahead, along with the British. Vizzini, headquarters for the Goering troops, fell. The 45th rolled ahead. Caltanissetta, Sicily's largest inland city and a Fascist stronghold, fell to the Thunderbird troops. A large arsenal and considerable rolling stock were captured. North of San Caterina, a hard fight developed, but the 45th reached the Palermo-Messina highway. Large enemy equipment stores were seized, including Sicily's largest oil and gasoline depots. Now, the division turned east on the coast road, clearing and mopping up resistance until it reached the Motta Hill mass. This was the sector, near San Stefano, which the world was to know as "Bloody Ridge." "Bloody Ridge" was the toughest fight of the Sicilian campaign. It was a series of five peaks with slopes so steep that equipment and supplies had to be manhandled. The enemy was dug-in with artillery and mortars on each peak. Infantry inched up the first slope, only to come under artillery fire from the next peak. The story was the same for each succeeding peak. After four days of fighting up steep ridges under complete enemy observation, "Bloody Ridge" finally was taken. The 45th Div. pulled back to rest near Trabia — a well deserved rest after 22 days of sustained combat. Sicily had been occupied.
10 SEP 1943: The 45th Div. landed at Paestum near Salerno, Italy. The initial operation lasted five days. Germans retaliated with an all-out effort to drive the division from the bitterly-contested beach. They nearly succeeded in pounding a wedge through the Allied forces — a wedge that might have reached the sea. But the 45th took their objective and held it.
The Calore-Sele Rivers salient became the pivot on which the Salerno operation revolved. Here, Thunderbird troops smacked the line harder than ever before. Forces were consolidated, the beachhead made secure. Although casualties were high, the enemy began referring to The Team as the "Falcon Division." The division turned inland. Stiff resistance was encountered near Olivetto and Quaglietta where, months before, Germans had constructed strong defenses. But the 45th breached this line and rolled over Eboli and S. Angelo di Lombardi. Again the direction of the advance changed as the Thunderbird moved on Benevento, to the northeast. It is 209 miles by air from the beaches of Salerno to Venafro. As in Sicily, the Germans exercised great skill in mine-laying and demolition. Nearly every bridge in this rugged, mountainous country was blown and every possible by-pass heavily mined. Division engineer units worked to expedite the forward movement. The fight the Germans put up at Guardia was their strongest bid after Salerno. Here, a steep hill separated the division from the town proper and the drive up the hill's slope had to be made in the face of devastating fire. The battle for Guardia lasted most of the day and that night. The following morning the town had been taken and the penetrating troops shoved ahead, adding Telese and Piedimonte d'Alife to the captured list. Suddenly, the terrain flattened out and veterans saw the broad, flat "pool table" that was the valley of the Volturno River. The swift-moving stream, swollen by continuous rains, snaked diagonally across their path. To reach the enemy staring down at Thunderbird from dug-in positions in the hills ahead, it was necessary to cross the three-mile stretch of valley and to throw a bridgehead across the river.
After 46 days of fighting following the Salerno landing, leading elements crossed the Volturno, Nov. 3, 1943, and swung north. There began the battle of "Men, Mud and Mules." Immediate objective after bridging the Volturno was Venafro. Here again, extremely bitter fighting preceded the taking of the town. With the tortuous mountain trails too steep and winding for jeeps to pass, supply problems became acute. Mule teams were formed. Supply personnel became "mule skinners." Food, ammunition — everything the troops needed for living and fighting — were hauled up the mountainside on the backs of these mules. To reach Venafro, division elements pulled an end run. On the town's far side, Germans had established a well-defended, prepared line, the Winter Line. It was their intention to hold off the Allied advance at this line for the winter. Continuous snow and rain, extremely difficult terrain and constant enemy observation made the fighting exceptionally severe. Despite these conditions, the division pushed ahead to capture Pozzilli, Concasale, Lagone and other mountain towns, each of which bristled with enemy defenses. Germans had been using Acquafondale, Viticuso and Lagone for supply points. Thunderbird troops built "foxholes" from mountain boulders because the ground was too rocky and solid for digging. Division Artillery hammered the enemy without letup. The Nazis were being shoved back. Thunderbird GIs fought their way up Mt. Molino, took Hills 960, 1040, 1115, all along the road to S. Elia, which lies north of Cassino. Early November sped along to Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving gave way to Christmas. Gifts got up to mountain foxholes by muleback. After 119 combat days, the 45th was relieved Jan. 9, 1944.
Elements of the 45th landed at Anzio Jan. 22. Nine days later, the entire division was committed. Anzio was flat. It was open to complete daytime observation because the German perimeter defense was built along the hills surrounding the beachhead. Everyone moved underground at Anzio. All day, long-range artillery fire harassed the small strip containing Allied forces. German railroad guns, sited in the Alban Hills, pounded the area. By the first week in February, beachhead forces had pushed their lines as far out as their small numbers would permit. Hastily-summoned German reserves forged a steel ring around the beachhead. This was to be the scene of four months of stubborn warfare. At one point, the commanders on the beachhead were offered the opportunity to abandon it. The answers of the other commanders are lost to us, but the 45th Commander, Major General Troy Middleton, replied, “The rest can do what they want, but you’d better keep putting supplies and ammunition on the beach. The 45th is staying.” From Feb. 16 to 19, the 45th Div. sector was subjected to wave after wave of German infantry and tanks. Elements identified as six different divisions were thrown into the battle. Much of this fighting was in the "Factory" (Carroceto) area. Casualties were heavy. Thunderbird artillery set new records for rates of fire, and armor and tank destroyer units helped to stave off the threat to the beachhead. It was during this period that the 2nd Battalion and Co. I, 157th Infantry, and Co. G, 180th Infantry, performed so gallantly that they were cited later by the President.
German field orders, it was discovered later, had called for complete annihilation of the division by Feb. 18. Although the 45th did suffer heavy losses, the enemy was forced to halt his attacks. Lines became stabilized again. At the point of their deepest penetration, crack German troops gained only three kilometers. They suffered extremely heavy losses both in men and materiel to get that far. During March, enemy artillery and planes monotonously harassed forward and rear area installations. In April, artillery ammunition dumps mushroomed as preparations were made for the Big Push. After 76 days of continuous combat, Thunderbird was pulled back to what ironically was called a rest area. Thunderbird troops were out of the lines just two weeks. Time was devoted to infantry-tank training. The first three weeks in May were marked by numerous coordinated artillery shoots in which Division Artillery and its supporting battalions participated. For more than a week before the final attack began, every gun on the beachhead, from 37mm anti-tank guns to the giant 240s, fired into enemy positions each morning just before daylight. On May 23, after artillery and the Air Corps had combined to saturate the area, the division jumped off — destination: Rome. The artillery preparation, aggressive and determined infantry action and the coordinated effort of the supporting arms and services, forced the steel trap. For the next 12 days, Thunderbird pressure on the retreating Germans never lagged. The breakthrough became a rout.
Corioli, Campoleone fell before the advance; Hill K-9 was captured. The step-by-step progress of the division gradually blended into the overall picture of relentless pressure on the retreating enemy. No one who experienced those twelve days will ever forget the bitter battles, the gallantry displayed or the physical weariness brought on by the unceasing attack. For the 45th Div., the push on Rome climaxed the long Italian siege that began back in Sicily. On June 6, after reaching the historic hills on the far side, the division was placed in reserve and, a few days later, sent to Battipaglia for a well-deserved rest. From the time the division landed at Salerno until the day it was withdrawn after Rome, Thunderbird had been in the line 249 days. Sicily boosted the total to 271 combat days. At Battipaglia, the division moved again, this time to southern Italy for additional training in amphibious landings.
At H-Hour on D-Day (0800 Aug. 15, 1944), under ideal weather conditions, the 45th Div. landed near Ste. Maxime on the Riviera, Southern France. Beach landings near Ste. Maxime were made as scheduled. Initial objectives were taken against comparatively light opposition ,this time with VI Corps, Seventh Army. 45th troops moved rapidly, consolidating and exploiting gains made by the surprise landing. Riviera operations demonstrated the results of experience. Careful planning made the fourth Thunderbird amphibious landing a complete success. Men, supplies and equipment moved ashore with precision. Once ashore and inland, the 45th, for the first time in its year of combat experience, encountered friendly and cooperative civilians. In 17 days, the division had branched out from the beachhead to Bourg. German troops fought fierce delaying actions, dispersing Thunderbirds from the Rhone valley nearly to the Italian border.
The division raced ahead to exert constant pressure on retreating Germans. Everyone strove to maintain this lightning pace. Drivers, who couldn't take time out for proper vehicle maintenance, somehow contrived to keep trucks loaded and rolling through dust, rain, mud, blackout. Communications personnel laid hundreds of miles of wire daily so contact could be kept with various units. In rifle companies, kitchens moved three or four times a day. Supplies, ammunition and rations were delivered with the same success that front line troops experienced. The confused enemy never was allowed to relax. Pressure resulted in the capture of 4781 prisoners, representing the battered remnants of eight German divisions, 12 Luftwaffe units and 20 miscellaneous battalions. Men heard personal accounts of the treatment French civilians had received from the Gestapo. They saw concentration camps, memories of which never can be forgotten.
This was the race up the Rhone valley. After Bourg came Baume les Dames, then Epinal. The division then entered the heavily-wooded forests of the Vosges foothills. Movement was slower, resistance stronger and better organized. It was November and winter had come again. Cold and rain retarded forward movement. Density of the forests made observation difficult and sharp hand-to-hand clashes became routine. After 86 days in which the entire division had been committed, the 45th moved to a rest area south of Epinal. After two weeks the 45th was ready for action once more. Now it was pushing forward into the Vosges mountains.
Following in the wake of an adjacent French unit, the 45th moved to Baccarat, Sarrebourg and through the Saverne Gap on to Gougenheim. The 179th Infantry, temporarily attached to the French 2nd D.B. (Armored), cracked forts north of Mutzig, one of the heavily-defended anchors of the Maginot Line. As they moved through Alsace, clearing the enemy from Obermodern, Utterwiller, Kindwiller and Bitschhoffe, 45th doughs found Alsatians speaking less French and more German. Attacking enemy strongpoints at Zinswiller, the Thunderbird forced Germans to pull out of Pfaffenoffen, Ueberach and La Walck. Now the 45th was in Maginot country. Defenses that once were erected to keep Germans out of France now were turned against the 45th. Reichshoffen and Langesoulzbach fell before the advance. By Dec. 13, the date which marked the division's 365th combat day, the Thunderbird was well through the Maginot defensive belt, meeting bitter opposition in the Lembach-Wingen valley.
Two days later, exactly four months after they had landed in Southern France, the 45th crossed the international border between France and Germany. There is no adequate measure of the individual gallantry and heroism of the men who made possible the long, successful advances toward the fortress of Germany. Into Nurnberg, the shrine city of Nazidom. A week before V-E Day, the 45th marched into Munich. Then on 29 April 1945 elements of the division liberate portions of this infamous Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. The division then had 511 combat days on the line and one of the best records of World War II. It had taken 126,000 prisoners and suffered 28,000 casualties. It was General George S. Patton, Jr. who said, "The 45th is one of the best, if not actually the best division in the history of American Arms."
VE Day didn’t promise to end the war for the 45th. Instead it was back to training for Amphibious assaults—the 45th had as many landings to their credit as many Marine units and would be wanted for duty in Japan. But on August 15, 1945 Japan's offer to surrender was accepted. World War II is over and the 45th would not be redeployed to the Pacific. On September 4, 1945 the 45th boards the Victory Ship "Madawaska" in the port of Le Havre, France and 10 days later they arrived in Boston Harbor where a tug greeted them with welcome home banner. After disembarking, the men of the 45th proceeded to Camp Miles Standish in Boston.
The balance of 1945 would see the Thunderbirds released from federal service and reorganized as a National Guard Division entirely in Oklahoma .
In June, 1950, Communist North Korea attacked South Korea, and the United Nations declared a "police action," which, to members of 45th Division became the Korean War. Shortly after the invasion, President Truman called four National Guard Divisions to active duty for a two year period, including the 45th of Oklahoma. It was the first of four to report to active duty, moving in September to Camp Polk, Louisiana. It was one of two National Guard divisions to see combat in the Korean War. The other was the 40th Division from California. When the 45th Infantry Division arrived at Camp Polk, its membership included approximately 70 percent veterans of World War II, of whom most had served with the 45th. However, although, when called, it was filled with men who were combat trained and many combat experienced, it required an almost equal number of fillers to bring it up to wartime strength. The fillers were draftees and enlistees who came to Louisiana from throughout the nation to begin basic training, with the Oklahoma Guardsmen serving in key training and leadership positions. Training continued until March, 1951, when the division was ordered to be moved to Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan, to form a security force for the island and to continue combat training. It was the first National Guard division to move overseas during the Korean War. The move was by ship from the port of New Orleans, Louisiana, through the Panama Canal to Japan.
By November 1950, the North Korean army had been obliterated and the war was basically over – all in just five months. There was even talk of the troops returning home by the Christmas holidays, but that wouldn’t last. Communist Chinese forces came out of hiding from the remote mountain ravines in North Korea to attack U.N. forces Nov. 25, 1950, and signaled the start of a new war: the Chinese army against the U.N. forces.
On December 5, 1951 elements of the 180th Infantry and 171st Field Artillery Battalion, both part of the 45th Infantry Division (OK), arrive in Korea marking the first time since the end of World War II that a Guard division was committed to combat. It first served in the Yonchon-Chorwon area, and in sectors fronting Old Baldy, Pork Chop Hill, Heartbreak Ridge and Luke's Castle, relieving the 1st Cavalry Division. It was a different kind of war, because at that time the mission was to hold positions and not to significantly advance. During most of the combat period, a battalion combat team of the Philippine army was attached to the 179th Infantry Regiment. During the period from December 1951 to June 1952, the Division’s 179th and 180th Infantry Regiments fought repeatedly over Pork Chop Hill, a key piece of terrain which commanded the area. Even after the 45th Division was relocated to the Eastern side of the Korean peninsula, Pork Chop was still hotly contested.
Beginning in the spring of 1952, the Oklahoma National Guardsmen, who had been called to duty for a two year period, began to phase out of the division to return to the United States. By August, all of the National Guardsmen, with the exception of some who had opted to extend their active duty, had returned to the United States. When the first increments were mobilized for the war in August and September 1950, the existing authority allowed them to be on active duty for only 21 months. Though later increased to 24 months, this increase did not apply to the first men called up. While the units remained in place and were filled with draftees, the Guardsmen began returning home. One serious ramification of this policy was when they got back, those wishing to stay in the Guard had no unit to rejoin, as they were still in Korea. The Guard and Army came up with a novel approach, never used before of creating "holding" units with the same designations as those still deployed. For instance, while the 45th Infantry Division was still fighting in Korea a "new" 45th was organized in Oklahoma for the veterans to join.
In one of the few non-defensive actions for the 45th, when, Maj. Gen. David Ruffner took command of the 45th Infantry Division, holding the right flank of the I Corps' line in west-central Korea, facing the 39th Army of the Chinese 13th Field Army. Wishing to take the high ground in front of his division's main line of resistance (MLR), Ruffner and his staff developed a plan to seize a dozen forward hills, stretching from northeast to southwest. The last two in the southwest, Pork Chop and Old Baldy (Hill 266), were held by the Chinese 116th Division. On June 6 and 7, the 279th Infantry Regiment seized the six northern hills, while the 180th Infantry advanced on the six southern ones. Company I of the 180th took Pork Chop after a one-hour firefight and immediately fortified the position. The Chinese 346th, 347th and 348th regiments counterattacked over the next several days, but I Company, with artillery support, held them off. Ruffner had extended the 45th Division's line to provide a breakwater for his MLR, with Port Chop Hill, partially protected from Old Baldy, providing a vital part of the buffer.
The 2nd Infantry Division replaced the 45th in the fall of 1952.
Back to Oklahoma
Although the 45th Infantry Division had reverted to peacetime status, training, strength and equipment were upgraded, in order that the National Guard would be prepared for combat duty on much quicker notice than before. Federal support was increased and the Department of Defense developed a closer team relationship between active and reserve forces. The one night weekly drills were changed to one weekend monthly, in order to make it possible for the Guard to accomplish more, including field training, in a longer drill period. In May, 1959, the division organization was changed from the three regiment triangular division to a "Pentomic" division. The Pentomic division was made up of five battle groups, each smaller than a regiment, but larger than a battalion. Later divisions were restructured again into the Reorganized Army Division "ROAD" concept. This plan called for various divisions to be tailored, both in size and composition, to fit specific needs. These changes were made to fit changing needs of the Army, and to make divisions readily available for immediate service in a variety of climates, topographic conditions and combat situations.
From Division to Brigade
It was a surprise and somewhat of a shock to 45th Infantry Division members when it was announced at a summer camp parade at Fort Chaffee that the organization would be disbanded as a division, and that the Oklahoma National Guard would be reorganized to be operated as three separate organizations. The reorganization came about in January, 1969, when the former division was restructured into an infantry brigade, an artillery group, and a support command, with a state headquarters providing general administrative and logistical support. The organizations would go their separate ways to summer encampments, and would be on call separately, in the case of a national emergency. The missions and the military branches of many home town units were changed. It was a period of tremendous adjustment for Thunderbirds who had been used to operating as a division for more than 45 years.
The infantry brigade comprised the 179th, the 180th, and the 279th Infantry Battalions, the 160th Artillery Battalion, the 700th Support Battalion, and cavalry, aviation, engineer, and other support units. The Forty-fifth Artillery Group included the First Battalions of the 158th, 171st, and 189th Artillery. The Ninetieth Support Brigade comprised the 120th Engineers, the 120th Medical, Forty-fifth Military Police, 120th Supply and Service, and the 245th Transportation battalions. Support units completed the reorganization. Throughout these reorganizations the guardsmen fulfilled their state obligation for disaster relief and mobilized during the 1973 McAlester prison riot and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Oklahoma National Guard units were federalized for participation in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991. Those called were the 2120th Supply and Support Company, the 120th Medical Battalion, the 145th Medical Company, the 158th Field Artillery Battalion (which has the distinction of being the first US unit to fire on the enemy in Desert Storm), the 1045th Ordinance Detachment, the 245th Medical Company, the 745th Military Police Company, the 1245th Transportation Company, the 1345th Transportation Company, the 1120th Maintenance Company, and the 445th Military Police Company.
Some short while later, the 45th Infantry Brigade would be assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division as its “round out” brigade, an arrangement that allowed Active Duty units to be one brigade smaller on paper, the idea being that in the event that the division was mobilized the round out would go with it.
In 1994, the brigade was selected as one of fifteen "enhanced" separate brigades of the Army National Guard, ready to rapidly deploy in case of emergencies. In 1997, the brigade was integrated under the command structure of the 7th Infantry Division, allowing the 7th Division to provide oversight and support for the brigade's activities should it be deployed. In 1996, the brigade's garrison was relocated back to Oklahoma City.
In autumn 1999 Company C, First Battalion, 179th Infantry and Company A, First Battalion, 279th Infantry were activated for service in Bosnia and were deployed in October 2000 in support of UN forces seeking to stabilize the country in the wake of the Bosnian War. Soldiers of the brigade were among the first National Guard units to see front-line patrolling duty in the conflict, a job held exclusively by active duty units until that time.
The brigade trained for a rotation in the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana throughout 2000 and 2001, before deploying to the center throughout 2002 and early 2003. The brigade received praise from center commanders as performing the mission better than many brigades before it. After its rotation, the brigade trained the 39th Infantry Brigade of the Arkansas Army National Guard, which saw the next rotation in the JRTC. The 39th Brigade was also under the command of the 7th Infantry Division.
Afghanistan and Iraq
In January 2003, components of the 45th Infantry Brigade were deployed to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Approximately 230 light infantry soldiers from A Company and B Company, 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment (1/179 Inf) comprised Task Force Ironhrse under the United States Army Central Command (ARCENT). Their primary mission leading up to the invasion of Iraq was to provide security for Patriot Missile sites defending the respective countries from impending SCUD missile attacks. In March 2003, Company A was ordered from the area in and around Riyadh to the northern border cities of Tabuk and Arar, Saudi Arabia in defense of Iraqi retaliation and security of strategically redeployed Patriot Missile sites. Company B was ordered to advance into Iraq from the Kuwaiti border to provide security for ammo caches and forward operating Patriot Missile sites. Task Force Ironhorse was the first deployment of Oklahoma National Guard soldiers to a combat zone since the Korean War. Task Force Ironhorse completed their mission and returned in August 2003. A Company 1/179 Inf was the last mission-oriented light infantry unit from the United States to set foot in Saudi Arabia.
In fall of 2003, the 45th Infantry Brigade was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, assuming command of Task Force Phoenix II from 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. The purpose of the Soldiers' deployment was to assist in training Afghan security forces. Over the next few years, Soldiers of the 45th Infantry Brigade, including its headquarters and headquarters company, would deploy in support of this mission. In April 2004, 350 soldiers from the brigade's 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment also deployed to Joint Task Force Phoenix. During this rotation, the brigade grew the size of the Afghan National Army to over 14,000 as well as fielding a Corps-sized force ahead of schedule. In August 2004, the brigade was replaced in this mission by the 76th Infantry Brigade, and subsequently returned home to the United States. The brigade spent three years back home, and in that time transformed into an infantry Brigade Combat Team as a part of a new transformation plan for the Army. In March 2006, the 180th CAV (still infantry in '06) deployed as part of Task Force Phoenix V. They were attached to the 41st BCT (Oregon ARNG). They returned in June 2007. In April 2007, the brigade was alerted that it could be deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom by the end of the year. Four months later they were alerted that they would be heading to Iraq in 2008. The brigade mobilized in October of that year and trained in infantry techniques at army posts in Oklahoma and Arkansas. The 39th Infantry Brigade was also alerted for deployment during this time. The brigade deployed to Iraq in late 2007. During its rotation, the Brigade was charged with turning over military facilities and Forward Operating Bases to the Iraqi Army as well as the Iraqi Police Force. The brigade returned to the United States in October 2008. The 45th IBCT is currently deployed to Afghanistan, reunited with the 201st Corps of the ANA, as partners this time, in combined combat operations against insurgent forces in Eastern Afghanistan. The full Brigade mobilized in April 2011, but a late change in the mission diverted the 180th CAV and 160th FA to separate missions in Kuwait.
Additionally, elements of the 45th Brigade have deployed to Egypt (1–180th Infantry MFO), Kuwait (245th Military Intelligence Co OIF), and for separate rotations to Iraq (245th Engineer Co OIF) and Afghanistan (1–180th Infantry OEF Task Force Phoenix V) as well as various homeland security missions.
Changes inevitably come with war as new lessons are learned and applied. The Army had, through the 1990’s been contemplating a number of changes to their units to reflect changes in technology and the Global War on Terror started making some of those thoughts into realities. Between rotations to Afghanistan in 2004 and Iraq in 2007, those new realities came home to the 45th. Much of it was in the form of new equipment, and thus new capabilities, organic Unmanned Arial Vehicles for reconnaissance, new rifles, new uniforms, and many improvements to old standbys. Some was changes in personnel, rather than being commanded by a Brigadier General, transformed Brigades would be commanded by a Colonel and many new skills, for all the new equipment were added. Mostly, it was reorganization. The 279th Infantry was originally slated to become the Brigades Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition (Cavalry) Squadron, but Oklahoma political factors changed that to the 180th. The 160th received larger cannon, but fewer of them, and a whole new battalion, the 45th Brigade Special Troops Battalion was created by combining the 245th Engineers and 245th Military Intelligence Companies with a new Signal Support Company, the first Signal element in the 45th larger than a platoon, since the Korean War and the 145th Signal Battalion.
45TH INFANTRY DIVISION Medal of Honor Recipients
PFC WILLIAM J. JOHNSTON received for action in February, 1944
CPL JAMES D. SLAYTON received for action in September, 1943
2LT ERNEST CHILDERS received for action in September, 1943
2LT VAN T. BARFOOT received for action in May, 1944
CPT JACK L. TREADWELL received for action in March, 1945
2LT ALMOND E. FISHER received for action in September 1944
1LT JACK C. MONTGOMERY received for action in February, 1944
CPL EDWARD G. WILKEN received for action in March, 1943
PFC CHARLES GEORGE received for action in Korea, 1952
CAMPAIGN PARTICIPATION CREDIT
World War II
Sicily (with arrowhead)
Naples-Foggia (with arrowhead)
Southern France (with arrowhead)
Second Korean Winter
Korea, Summer-Fall 1952
Third Korean Winter
Korea, Summer 1953
Global War on Terror
Liberation of Iraq
Afghanistan, Consolidation I
Afghanistan, Consolidation II
Afghanistan Current Campaign (unnamed)
Iraq Current Campaign (unnamed)
French Croix de Guerre with Palm, World War II, Streamer embroidered ACQUAFONDATA (Headquarters, 45th Infantry Division, and 179th Infantry cited; DA GO 43,1950)
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, Streamer embroidered KOREA (Headquarters, 45th Infantry Division, and 179th Infantry cited; DA GO 30, 1954).
Distinctive Unit Insignia
A gold color metal and enamel device 1 1/4 inches (3.18 cm) in height overall consisting of a blue square with one point up on which is superimposed the crest for the Oklahoma Army National Guard, an Indian’s head with war bonnet all gold. Attached below the square a two segmented gold scroll inscribed “SEMPER” on the dexter segment and “ANTICUS” on the sinister segment in blue letters. The insignia is manufactured to be worn in pairs.
The Indian appears of the seal of the State of Oklahoma. The colors gold and blue are representative of the Territory of Oklahoma, a portion of the Louisiana Purchase. The motto translates to “Always Forward.”
The distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for the 45th Infantry Brigade on 28 July 1971. It was redesignated for the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team with the description and symbolism updated on 1 July 2010.