BISMARCK, ND — Soldiers who served together in combat more than 70 years ago gather in Mandan this weekend for an annual reunion.
In February 1941, the 164th Infantry Regiment, North Dakota Army National Guard, mobilized for what was to be a year of training at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. In October 1942, they made history as the first U.S. Army unit to engage the enemy offensively, in either theater, when they reinforced the beleaguered Marines at Guadalcanal.
To put that into perspective, it’s almost 20 months before the Allies landed in Europe on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
“The entire state has been affected by the mobilization of the 164th Infantry,” said Vern Fetch, current president of the 164th Infantry Association, which hosts the annual meeting. “The regiment numbered approximately 1,700 men in 17 communities across North Dakota.”
These locations were Fargo, Devils Lake, Harvey, Lisbon, Bottineau, Bismarck, Cavalier, Grafton, Rugby, Cando, Williston, Carrington, Valley City, Jamestown, Edgeley, Dickinson and Wahpeton.
Fetch, a retired colonel who joined the 164th Infantry during the Korean War, noted that many other North Dakotans and Minnesotans who were drafted in early 1941 were processed through Fort Snelling and sent at Camp Claiborne to rejoin units from their home states.
The first casualty of the war for the 164th was a soldier from Grand Forks who was killed by Japanese naval artillery on October 13, 1942, the day the regiment landed on Guadalcanal. Just 11 days later, the 1st Marine Division was struggling to defend the line on Edson’s Ridge and requested reinforcements. Their support came in the form of the 3rd Battalion, 164th Infantry.
Marine Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Chesty Puller and 164th Third Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Robert K. Hall of Jamestown worked together to place soldiers in foxholes with Marines to reinforce the defense. Eight-round automatic fire from Army-provided M1 rifles and additional machine guns from the Heavy Weapons Company helped turn the tide in the Second Battle of Henderson Field. The second night of this action became known as the Battle of Coffin Corner, so named for the thousands of Japanese infantry killed in the banzai attack on the perimeter.
The soldiers earned the respect of the Marines, and the Army regiment was awarded the Navy Presidential Unit Citation.
The regiment served for a month with the Marines before the next U.S. Division regiment arrived at Guadalcanal. The 182nd Infantry, Massachusetts Army National Guard arrived on November 12, and the 132nd Infantry, Illinois Army National Guard followed on December 8.
The 164th participated in campaigns on Guadalcanal; Bougainville (North Solomons); Leyte; and Cebu, Bohol, Mindanao (southern Philippines), earning four “battle” bronze stars on the Asia-Pacific Campaign ribbon and serving over 600 days in enemy contact. The American division was to spearhead the invasion of Japan as part of Operation Olympic. They were training for this invasion at the end of the war.
The roots of the 164th Infantry go deep into North Dakota history. The unit evolved from the 1st North Dakota Volunteers, which served in the Spanish–American War, the Philippine Uprising, and the Mexican Border Incident. The 164th Infantry served in World War I, World War II, and served as a training regiment at Fort Rucker during the Korean War.
“The 164th Infantry Association has 106 World War II veterans in its roles,” said Ben Kemp, a retired chief warrant officer who serves as secretary/treasurer and meetings coordinator for the organization. “There are almost as many members of the Korean War,” he added.
Membership also extends to approximately 400 spouses, descendants and friends. In addition to hosting the annual meeting, the association published a book “They Were Ready” in 2010, prints an informational magazine that continues to tell the stories of soldiers who served, and features a presentation titled “History, Heroism , Legacy” which discusses the importance of the 164th Infantry in North Dakota history, with an emphasis on its performance during World War II and its lasting legacy.
The first meeting was held in Fargo by a few guys from B Company who met shortly after returning from the South Pacific in late 1945. The 69th annual meeting begins Friday at the Seven Seas Motel in Mandan.
The Patriot Guard will help greet some of the World War II soldiers arriving at Bismarck Airport on Thursday and Friday. Participants include 11 World War II veterans, with an average age of 93. They come from North Dakota, California, Missouri, Kentucky, New Mexico and Alabama. Additionally, 10 Korean War Mobilization veterans and many family members plan to attend. Activities include a short program at the 164th Memorial at ND Veterans Cemetery, music concert, memorial service with tap dancing, banquet and dancing.
The public is invited to the concert of the 188th Army National Guard Band, a descendant of the 164th Infantry Band, at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Dykshoorn Park, Mandan. The bad weather location will be Mandan Secondary School Auditorium. Exhibits of American and Japanese World War II military equipment will be on display at Seven Seas on Friday and Saturday afternoons.
For more information or research on the 164th Infantry, contact Shirley Olgeirson, PO Box 1111, Bismarck, ND 58502 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Date posted:||14.09.2014 20:46|
|Location:||BISMARCK, North Dakota, USA|
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