The 25th Infantry Division: 25 Cool Facts

The 25th Infantry Division is known as Tropic Lightning. They gained this distinction because of their quick, and unforgiving offensive and defensive actions. You may be familiar with Tropic Lightning, but I bet there are some things you may not know.

In today’s post, we are going to examine 25 cool facts about the 25th Infantry Division. Scroll down and learn more about Tropic Lightning.

1: When?

The 25th Infantry Division was activated on October 1st, 1941 at Schofield Barracks on the Territory of Hawaii. Keep in mind that Hawaii did not become a State until 1959. The original Hawaiian Division was inactivated because it was a square structure, and the Army was moving to triangular structures.

2: Who made up the 25th?

As stated in #1, the Hawaiian Division was broken up. Moving to a triangular system, the 27th Infantry Regiment, the 35th Infantry Regiment and the 8th Field Artillery were all moved to the 25th Infantry Division. To gain a 3rd Infantry Regiment, the 298th Infantry Regiment of the Hawaii National Guard was attached to the 25th.

3: Pearl Harbor

Many know that Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. What we do not hear about very often is the attack Japanese planes also made on Schofield Barracks and the adjacent Wheeler Field. There were members of the 25th killed and wounded, but the 25th recovered quickly and began defensive preparations. They moved into positions to defend possible beach attacks and also to guard Honolulu.

4: Guadalcanal

In December of 1942, the 25th Infantry Division was deployed to Guadalcanal. It is during this action that the 25th earned the nickname Tropic Lightning. They moved through the area destroying pockets of enemy fighters with speed and precision.

5: Solomon Islands

The next move took the 25th to the Solomon Islands. Again they lived up to their nickname, and swept Japanese forces into the hiding. The 25th participated in the capture of Vella LaVella. They were then moved to New Caledonia for a period of rest and training.

6: Philippines

In January of 1945, Tropic Lightning landed in Luzon. Again they lived up to their nickname. For 165 days, the 25th destroyed pockets of enemy warriors throughout the Philippine Island. They traveled across the central plains and met the Japanese at Binalonan and destroying them. They then went through rice paddies and killed Japanese fighters all along the way. The 25th took a complete tour of the island and killed more than 6,000 enemies.

7: Medal of Honor Recipients

During World War II, 6 soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division were awarded the Medal of Honor. They were:

8: Japan

The 25th was prepared to invade Japan, but suddenly 2 atomic bombs exploded ending the war. Instead of invading, the 25th was sent in to occupy Japan. In doing so, these warriors took a new position; they helped set up an orphanage for children of those killed. The 25th stayed in Japan for approximately 5 years helping to rebuild and remold what was so heavily damaged.

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9: Korea

In July of 1950, the 25th quickly traveled to Korea where the North Koreans had attacked South Korea. They had now been enveloped in a new war.

10: Pusan

The 25th Infantry Division of creating a complete defensive perimeter of Pusan. They worked quickly and had the area defended lightning fast. After securing the perimeter of Pusan, the next mission was to make a drive into North Korea.

The 25th successfully broke through and drove into North Korea, but the Communist Chinese and the North Koreans pushed back. Throughout all of this, there was a lot of bloodshed.

11: The Iron Triangle

The 25th began to participate in a series of offensive operations. These operations secured a large part of what is known as the Iron Triangle. These operations were:

  • Operation Ripper

  • Operation Dauntless

  • Operation Detonate

  • Operation Piledriver

These Operations were a huge success, and it gave the United Nations room to create talks with the North Korean leadership.

12: Medal of Honor Recipients

The 25th Infantry Division had 14 soldiers awarded the Medal of Honor from the Korean War. They were:

13: Vietnam Assistance

In 1963, United States Military Assistance Command in Vietnam requested a supply of door-gunners for helicopters. The 25th Infantry Division sent 100 soldiers to operate as door-gunners.

14: Operation Blue Light

1965 was a hotbed in Vietnam. By the middle of the year, there were over 2,000 soldiers from the 25th involved in Vietnam, but there would soon be more; Operation Blue Light was the largest and longest airlift of military personnel and equipment in history. In 25 days time, the 25th deployed 4,000 soldiers and 9,000 tons of equipment. All of this was flown from Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu to Pleiku, South Vietnam.

15: Operations in Vietnam

Tropic Lightning participated in 2 major military operations in 1967. They were:

  • Operation Cedar Falls was a search and destroy mission within the Iron Triangle. U.S. forces swept the entire zone ridding the area of enemy forces.

  • Operation Junction City was a mission that in many ways was successful, but also resulted in the deaths of many U.S. soldiers. It was a drive to push Communist forces out of South Vietnam.

16: Vietnamization

1970 had the majority of Tropic Lightning soldiers working with the Vietnamization program. This was the process of training the South Vietnamese on ways to defend their country. It was a system to be able to bring troops back home. Many of the 25th returned to Hawaii.

17: Vietnam Medal of Honor Awards

There were a plethora of Medals of Honor awarded to Tropic Lightning soldiers in Vietnam. They were:

18: Hawaii

The 25th Infantry Division is the only Division to never have a base of operations on the mainland.

19: Multiple Reorganization

From 1972 through 1988, the 25th had some various reorganization of its operations. In 1972, it was reorganized to include the complete 29th Infantry Brigade of the Hawaii National Guard.

In 1985, the Division was reorganized from a conventional infantry division to a light infantry division.

In 1988, the 25th participated in exercises at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.

20: Security

During the Gulf War, the Assistant Commander of the 3rd U.S. Army was impressed with elements of Tropic Lightning. They became security for the Army’s forward headquarters. They accompanied General Schwarzkopf into Iraq to sign the truce.

21: Iraq Deployment

In 2004, some elements were deployed to Iraq to participate in warfare there stopping insurgents.

22: Afghan Elections

The 25th helped to make sure Afghan elections were free and safe. They performed security and helped the whole process proceed in a democratic format.

23: Current Structure of the 25th Infantry Division

This is the current structure:

1: 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team (Artic Wolves)

  • Headquarters

  • 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment

  • 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment

  • 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment

  • 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment

  • 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment

  • 70th Brigade Engineer battalion

  • 25th Support Battalion

2: 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (Warriors)

  • Headquarters

  • 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment

  • 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment

  • 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment

  • 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment

  • 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment

  • 65th Brigade Engineer Battalion

  • 225th Brigade Support Battalion

3: 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Broncos)

  • Headquarters

  • 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment (Raider)

  • 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment (Wolfhounds)

  • 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment (Cacti)

  • 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment (Steel)

  • 29th Brigade Engineer Battalion

  • 325th Brigade Support Battalion (Mustangs)

4: 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) (Spartan)

  • Headquarters

  • 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment (Denali)

  • 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment (1 Geronimo)

  • 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment (3 Geronimo)

  • 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 377th Field Artillery Regiment (Spartan Steel)

  • 6th Brigade Engineer Battalion

  • 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Centurion)

5: 25th Infantry Division Artillery (Tropic Thunder)

  • Headquarters

6: Combat Aviation Brigade

  • Headquarters

  • 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment (Lightning Horse)

  • 1st Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment (Gunfighters)

  • 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment (Diamond Head)

  • 3rd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment (Hammerhead)

  • 209th Aviation Support Battalion (Lobos)

24: Awards

The 25th Infantry Division has received several awards. They are:

  • 4 Meritorious Unit Commendations

  • Philippine Presidential Unit Citation

  • 2 Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation

  • 2 Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm

  • Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal

25: Media Depictions

The 25th has been recognized in many forms of media. Some that come to mind are:

  • The book: Blood Makes the Grass Grow Green: A Year in the Desert with Team America by Johnny Rico tells about his time with the 25th.

  • The Marvel comic: The Nam was about the 25th.

  • The movie Platoon shows soldiers wearing the 25th’s shoulder patches.

  • The book: The Thin Red Line by James Jones is about a group of soldiers in the 25th.

Final Thoughts

The 25th Infantry Division is not an old Division, but they have managed to create quite a history.

We would love to hear from anyone who was, or is in the 25th Infantry Division (Tropic Lightning). Tell us when, and any other information you may give.

Do you have any comments or questions? Please post them below. Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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2 thoughts on “The 25th Infantry Division: 25 Cool Facts”

  1. I was assigned to the Division in 1972, as it was reconstituting after Vietnam. The Division had an abundance of aircraft at the time with Hueys and Cobras at Wheeler and Chinooks at Barbers Point NAS. There was talk that we would become the Army’s second airmobile division (after the 101st). Of course, that never happened and we continued to train as light infantry.

  2. 3 Platoon/ 25th MP Company was part of Task Force 4/87 who performed the first deployment to the Sinai Desert to support the MFO (Multi Forces and Observers) peace mission. Aug 1991 to March 1992. Relived elements from 6th ID and relived by elements from 10th ID.

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