1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment History

     In early 1861 a group of citizens living in Placer County decided to form a volunteer company of militia. To make it an official organization they sent a petition to the County Judge, who authorized their effort to enroll the necessary numbers. Public notices were posted, asking for volunteers. On June 20, 1861 those volunteers met for the first time to organize a company. Those present immediately voted to elect the officers from amongst the volunteers. Before concluding the meeting it was decided to call the company “The Auburn Greys”. Today C Co. 1-184 Infantry (Light) carries on as Citizen Soldiers in the spirit of the “Auburn Greys”.

     The Official Lineage for the First Battalion, 184 Infantry, begins in 1864 with the organization of the California Militia, headquartered in Sacramento as part of the Sacramento Light Artillery. It may sound strange to a 21st century infantry soldier to learn that his unit first formed, long ago, as an artillery organization.  It may seem less strange to consider the light artillery of 1864 the crew served weapons of the day.  The guns would be rapidly brought up, suppress the enemy, and enable the infantry assault. 

     During the Civil War the California Volunteers replaced the Regulars on the frontier and therefore did not participate in the war. But Confederates from Texas threatened the New Mexico and Arizona Territories and a column of soldiers from California was sent to keep those territories loyal to the Union. In 1862 the California Column was formed and sent east. The Sacramento Light Artillery was merged into the 1st California Artillery Regiment who marched with the rear guard of the California Column. Although the regiment did not take part in the fighting in New Mexico it did participate at the Battle of Apache Pass, Arizona in July, 1862. There the Apache leader Cochise had posted his warriors on high ground; the accurate rifle fire of his warriors denied the column access to the wells which the column needed access to greatly. The 1st Artillery unlimbered their guns out of Apache rifle range and suppressed them with accurate shell fire enabling the infantry to clear them off the high ground.

     On 19 March 1880, the Sacramento Light Artillery consolidated with multiple Northern California companies to form the First Infantry Battalion. The First was later reorganized and consolidated many times into the Eighth California Volunteer Infantry Regiment and, later, the Second California Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  Our official Department of the Army lineage and honors includes the title “184th Infantry (Second California).

      As such, they were activated for both the Spanish American War and the Mexican Border Crises of 1916. Shortly after returning home from the border crises, a long and dull experience for the California National Guard, the Second Infantry Regiment was divided into the 159th Infantry and the 160th Infantry Regiments and assigned to the newly created 40th Infantry Division. 

     The entry of the U.S. into the First World War would bring the California soldiers their first taste of conventional warfare. Upon arriving in France in 1917, the 40th Infantry Division was used as a replacement unit, meaning individual California companies were taken and used as replacement companies in units that had sustained casualties. One such company was attached to the New York National Guard becoming Company K, 307th Infantry. This company reinforced the "Lost Battalion" before its bloody fight in the Argonne Forest 2-8 October, 1918. Although thousands of Californians served on the front lines in World War One, it was not until World War Two that the battalion fought together as a unit.

     On the 20th of October 1924, Central and Northern California elements of the California National Guard were reorganized to form the 184th Infantry Regiment, assigned to the 40th Infantry Division. During the interwar years the unit was activated several times by the Governor, to respond to the Folsom Prison riots beginning Thanksgiving Day 1927, or to counter civil disorder in San Francisco during a longshoreman strike of May 1934.

     The 184th Infantry Regiment was inducted into Federal Service on March 3, 1941. After spending a short period training at Camp San Luis Obispo, using outdated equipment and training techniques, the unit was transferred from the 40th and sent to the 7th Infantry Division at Ft. Ord.  The unit was then re-designated the 184th Regimental Combat Team (RCT), composed of three battalions of Infantry plus a regimental artillery battery and various support elements. Extensive amphibious warfare training followed in order to prepare the 184th for the Pacific War. Having completed their training, while stationed at Fort Mason, San Francisco, occurred the infamous bell incident.  A group of 184 Soldiers, irritated by the constant clanging of one of the City’s bells, and frustrated by the typical Army system of hurry up and wait, stole the bell.  Upon polite inquiries by City authorities they denied all knowledge.  In July 1943 the Regiment shipped out to the Aleutian Islands, occupied by the Japanese since the Battle of Midway the year before.

     Landing unopposed on Kiska Island on 15 August 1943, as the regiment’s band played “California Here I Come”, and a private stood on the beach ringing the Battalion’s bell, the men found that the Japanese had left in such a hurry their dinners were still on the table, ready to eat. Nearby blankets were found, soaked in oil, ready to burn the island in a scorched earth operation, but the blankets were never used. Since Kiska the bell has accompanied the unit whenever it deploys.  Throughout World War II the bell consistently was rung on the beach during each subsequent landing.  At the end of the war the City of San Francisco presented the Regiment with a bell mounted on a plaque to honor the unit, and in commemoration of the incident.  Today the bell is rung by the lowest ranking Soldier in the unit, whenever it first arrives on foreign soil.

     On 1 February 1944 the 184th RCT, accompanied by the 32nd RCT, assaulted the heavily defended island of Kwajalein, in the Marshall Islands. After four days of intense fighting the island was secure, the 184th completed the tough assignment of clearing out a heavily fortified sector of blockhouses the Japanese had spent years preparing for battle. It has been said of this operation that the men had “seized a large atoll, as heavily defended as Tarawa, but with only a fraction of the cost in lives and in equipment.”

     After a period of rest and refit in Hawaii, the 184th RCT boarded troopships once again and headed for their next mission, the liberation of the Philippines. On 20 October 1944, after securing the beaches near Dulag on the east coast of the island of Leyte, the 184th endured high casualties pushing into the interior of the island through the Dulag Valley. Working once again with the 32nd RCT, the 184th repulsed several enemy attacks along the Palanas River, an action that became known as the Battle of Shoestring Ridge. By 10 February 1945 the regiment was relieved of its duties on Leyte and the islands surrounding it, and were allowed to rest and refit in preparation for the invasion of Okinawa. For its service on Leyte the 184th received a Philippines Presidential Unit Citation.

     On 1 April 1945 the 184th RCT, as part of the Seventh Infantry Division, landed on Okinawa. On 9 April, the 184th seized “Tomb Hill”, after intensive supporting artillery fire. By now companies were losing 30 to 50 men per day in casualties as the Japanese tenaciously defended Gala ridge and, later, defensive positions along the Naha-Shuir-Yanabarau Road. Despite the suicidal resistance, the 184th was finally able to outflank the enemy in a driving rainstorm and cut off their forces on the Chenin Peninsula. By 30 June 1945 resistance had ended and the 184th mission was completed.

     The development of the “A” Bomb led to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At the time the 184th RCT was preparing to participate in the invasion of Japan, slated to land on a beach near Tokyo. With the Japanese surrender onboard the USS Missouri the invasion of Japan was cancelled and the 184th diverted to occupy Korea. Relieved by the 31st Infantry Regiment, the 184th RCT returned home to California in the fall of 1945. During the occupation of Korea the 184th assisted the local populace in developing government and infrastructure, as Korea had not been a self governed nation since the 1600’s. For this service the 184th received the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.

     After redeployment the unit underwent numerous reorganizations and reassignments over the years. The Regimental Combat Team was broken up and the 184th reverted back to a normal Infantry Regiment consisting of only two battalions, reduced to one battalion in the 1980's. In the 1990’s 1-184th was attached to the 29th BCT Hawaii National Guard and reorganized as an Air Assault Battalion. The 184th was called to duty in early 2001 to secure Patriot Missile sights in the tiny country of Kuwait in support of the War on Terror. This assignment was planned before the attacks of September 11th, but executed post September 11th.

     On 16 August 2004 the battalion was once again called to duty in support of the War on Terror during Operation Iraqi Freedom III. The battalion was attached to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division and sent to Baghdad Iraq, ground zero in the war on terror. The 1-184th—supposedly just a band of weekend warriors from the National Guard —was selected by the Army's renowned 3rd Infantry Division to take on its primary challenge: taking control of a sector of south Baghdad that was home to leading Baathists and Al Qaeda fanatics. In that capacity, the 1-184th conducted more than 7,000 combat patrols totaling nearly half a million man-hours. It simultaneously secured the main access points to the International Zone of Baghdad, the seat of government for the Iraqi people during the formation of a constitutional democratic government.

     Between Sep. 1 and Nov. 11, 2005 members of the 1-184th Infantry—soldiers not deployed to Iraq—were deployed to New Orleans, Louisiana as part of Task Force California to help restore order to the city and surrounding area and provide humanitarian assistance. These members of 1-184th Infantry serving in New Orleans during Operation Hurricane Katrina Relief (Operation Gulf Coast Relief) assisted the people of New Orleans in the aftermath of one of our nations most severe natural disasters.

     On Oct. 28-29 2005 in south Baghdad soldiers from the 1-184th, along with Iraqi Security Forces, conducted Operation Clean Sweep, a cordon and search mission that combined infantry, armor, air assault elements. The operation netted 49 terrorists and a large weapons cache. Soldiers assigned to 1-184th Infantry, 4-64th Armor, and Iraqi forces from the 4th Public Order Brigade swept through the eastern al-Rasheed district. The multi-pronged assault resulted in more than 350 target houses searched and the detention of 33 suspected terrorists. Bomb-making materials were also found at several of the target houses.

     Over the course of 18 months, the 600 soldiers of the 1-184th Infantry experienced almost every high and low a band of brothers could, from great distinction to shocking heartbreak. 17 1-184th Infantry soldiers were killed in action and nearly 100 wounded. The 184th Infantry was the battalion whose commander, Col. William W. Wood, became the highest-ranking soldier to die in action. But no National Guard unit saw as much combat as the 184th Infantry.

     The men of the 1-184th Infantry served in Iraq with honor, served with valor and earned distinction. In an eerie reminder of Islands conquered 60 years before, the 1-184th Infantry returned home to a military band playing "California Here I Come". This time they did not find a land abandoned, they were mobbed by their cheering and weeping families. For their efforts in OIF III the 1-184th was awarded the Valorous Unit Award.

     In August 2008, the first battalion's Alpha and Bravo companies (with Soldiers from Echo Company 79th BSTB attached) was mobilized in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 08-09 performing Combat Logistical Patrols under command of the 81st Heavy Brigade Combat Team in Northern Iraq.

     In July 2008 A & B Co's deployed to Iraq with 1-185 Combined Arms Battalion. Conducting route and convoy security the soldiers of the battalion distinguished themselves as they always do.

     In December 2008, the first battalion's HHC and Delta company was mobilized for KFOR 11, receiving Alpha company 1-185 Armor and Alpha company 79th BSTB. The battalion was deployed under the flag of the 40th Infantry Division to Kosovo in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The battalion's Charlie company remained in California, though many of Charlie Rock's soldiers deployed with Bushmaster Company to Iraq.

     Today the 1st Battalion 184th Infantry is the only Battalion to maintain the Regimental Lineage. The men of the 1-184 Infantry stand ready to serve our State and our Country at home, in the fight against terrorism, or abroad in the fight against Rogue States that support terrorism. Knowing the lineage of this battalion, the men that serve within it can only hope to equal, not surpass the achievements of the men who served before us.

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