Following intensive training, the 25th began moving to Guadalcanal, 25 November 1942, to relieve Marines near Henderson Field. First elements landed near the Tenaru River, 17 December 1942, and entered combat, 10 January 1943, participating in the seizure of Kokumbona and the reduction of the Mount Austen Pocket in some of the bitterest fighting of the Pacific campaign. The threat of large enemy attacks caused a temporary withdrawal, but Division elements under XIV Corps control relieved the 147th Infantry and took over the advance on Cape Esperance. The junction of these elements with Americal Division forces near the cape, 5 February 1943, ended organized enemy resistance.
A period of garrison duty followed, ending 21 July: On that date, advance elements debarked on Munda, New Georgia. The 35th Infantry, under the Northern Landing Force, took part in the capture of Vella Lavella, 15 August to 15 September 1943. Meanwhile, other elements landed on New Georgia, took Zieta, marched through jungle mud for 19 days, and captured Bairoko Harbor, winning the island. Elements cleared Arundel Island, 24 September 1943, and Kolombangara Island with its important Vila Airport, 6 October. Organized resistance on New Georgia ended, 25 August, and the division moved to New Zealand for rest and training, last elements arriving on 5 December. The 25th was transferred to New Caledonia, 3 February-14 March 1944, for continued training.
The division landed in the San Fabian area of Luzon, 11 January 1945, to enter the struggle for the liberation of the Philippines. It drove across the Luzon Central Plain, meeting the enemy at Binalonan, 17 January. Moving through the rice paddies, the 25th occupied Umingan, Lupao, and San Jose and destroyed a great part of the Japanese armor on Luzon. On 21 February, the division began operations in the Caraballo Mountains. It fought its way along Highway No. 5, taking Digdig, Putlan, and Kapintalan against fierce enemy counterattacks and took Balete Pass, 13 May, and opened the gateway to the Cagayan Valley, 27 May, with the capture of Santa Fe. Until 30 June, when the division was relieved, it carried out mopping-up activities. On 1 July, the division moved to Tarlac for training, leaving for Japan, 20 September.
The division's rapid movements during its campaigns led to the adoption of the nickname Tropic Lightning. It remained on occupation duty in Japan for the next five years.
Open warfare once again flared in Asia, now the division's primary area of concern, on 25 June 1950. The North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th Parallel on that day in an unprovoked attack on the Republic of South Korea. Acting under United Nations orders, the Tropic Lightning Division moved from its base in Japan to Korea between 5 July - 18, 1950. The division, then under the command of MG William B. Kean, successfully completed its first mission by blocking the approaches to the port city Pusan. For this action, the Tropic Lightning received its first Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation. But other battles later in the conflict further enhanced the division's reputation for exceptional combat effectiveness. The division participated in the break-out from the Pusan perimeter and the successful drive into North Korea in October 1950. Task Force Dolvin, the 89th Tank Battalion under LTC Dolvin on 24 November and together these units successfully drove the enemy to the Yalu River. In a sudden and unexpected reversal, however, an overwhelming number of Chinese Communist troops crossed the Yalu and pushed back United Nations forces all along the front. The division was forced to carry out a systematic withdrawal and ordered to take up defensive positions on the south bank of the Chongchon River 30 November 1950. Eventually, these lines failed. However, after a series of short withdrawals a permanent battle line was established south of Osan.
After a month and a half of planning and reorganization, a new offensive was launched 15 January 1951, and was successfully completed by 10 February with the recapture of Inchon and Kimpo Air Base. This was the first of several successful assaults on the Chinese/North Korean force, which helped turn the tide in the United Nation's favor. The division next participated in Operation Ripper, during which it drove the enemy across the Han River. Success continued with Operation Dauntless, Detonate and Piledriver in the Spring of 1951. These offensives secured part of the famous "Iron Triangle" which enhanced the United Nations' bargaining platform. With leaders of four nations now at the negotiating tables in the summer of 1951, Division activity slowed to patrol and defensive actions to maintain the line of resistance. This type of action continued into the winter of 1952. When negotiations began to fail, the division assumed the responsibility of guarding the approaches of Seoul 5 May 1953. 23 days later, a heavy Chinese assault was hurled at it. The division held its ground and the assault was repulsed; the brunt of the attack was absorbed by the 14th Infantry Regiment ("Golden Dragons"). By successfully defending Seoul from continued attack from May to July 1953, the division earned its second Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation. Again negotiators moved toward peace. In July, the division again moved to reserve status at Camp Casey where it remained through the signing of the armistice 27 July 1953. Fourteen division soldiers were awarded Medals of Honor during the Korean Conflict, making the division the most decorated division of that war.
The Division's 14th Infantry Regiment had three recipients of the Medal of Honor, Donn F. Porter, Ernest E. West and Bryant E. Womack. The 24th Infantry Regiment had two recipients, Cornelius H. Charlton and William Thompson. The 35th Infantry Regiment had three recipients, William R. Jecelin, Billie G. Kanell and Donald R. Moyer. Finally, the 27th Infantry Regiment had five recipients, John W. Collier, Reginald B. Desiderio, Benito Martinez, Lewis L. Millett and Jerome A. Sudut.
The division remained in Korea until 1954 and returned to Hawaii from September through October of that year. After a 12-year absence, the 25th Infantry Division had finally returned home.
In response to a request from the U.S. Military Assistance Command in Vietnam, the division sent 100 helicopter door-gunners to the Republic of South Vietnam in early 1963. By August 1965, further division involvement in the coming Vietnam Conflict included the deployment of Company C, 65th Engineer Battalion, to South Vietnam to assist in the construction of port facilities at Cam Ranh Bay. By mid 1965, 2,200 men of the Tropic Lightning Division were involved in Vietnam. The division was again ordered to contribute combat forces in December of that year.
In response to a MAC-V request, the division deployed 4,000 3rd Brigade infantrymen and 9,000 tons of equipment from Hawaii in 25 days to the Northwest sector of South Vietnam to firmly establish a fortified enclave from which the division could operate. Operation Blue Light was the largest and longest airlift of personnel and cargo into a combat zone in military history before Operation Desert Shield. The Brigade deployed its first soldiers from Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu, to the central highlands at Pleiku. These men arrived in Vietnam 24 December 1965. By mid-January, the deployment operation was complete - giving combat planners in Vietnam a favorable balance of power. The division was heavily engaged from April 1966 until 1972 throughout the area of operations in Southeast Asia. During this period, Tropic Lightning soldiers fought in some of the toughest battles of the war.
During the Tet offensives of 1968 and 1969, Tropic Lightning soldiers were instrumental in defending the besieged city of Saigon. Due to its success in fending off that attack, the 25th Infantry Division spent most of 1970 more involved in the Vietnamization Program than in actual combat. From May through June 1970, Tropic Lightning soldiers participated in Allied thrusts deep into enemy sanctuaries located in Cambodia. In these Incursion operations, the division units confiscated thousands of tons of supplies and hundreds of weapons. This operation crippled the Cambodian-based efforts against American units. Following its return from Cambodia to South Vietnam, the division resumed its place in the Vietnamization Program. The war was winding down. By late December 1970, elements of the 25th Infantry Division were able to begin redeployment to Schofield Barracks. Second Brigade was the last element of the Tropic Lightning Division to depart Vietnam. It arrived at Schofield Barracks in the early days of May 1971. During the war in Vietnam, 22 Medals of Honor were awarded to Tropic Lightning soldiers.
After its return to Schofield Barracks, the 25th Infantry Division remained the only Army division to have never been on the mainland. In a time of overall military downsizing, it was reduced to a single brigade numbering 4,000 men. The division was reactivated in March 1972. It was reorganized to include as a "Roundout" Brigade the 29th Infantry Brigade of the Hawaii Army National Guard which included: the 2nd Battalion, 299th Infantry, Hawaii Army National Guard; 100th Battalion, 442d Infantry, US Army Reserve; and the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry California Army National Guard. Now reorganized, the 25th Infantry Division trained for the next eight years throughout the Pacific Theater and continued to improve its combat capabilities with troop deployment varying in size from squads, who participated in training missions with Fijian forces, to operations as large as Operation Team Spirit, where more than 5,000 divisional troops were airlifted to South Korea for this annual exercise.
In 1985, the division began its reorganization from a conventional infantry division to a light infantry division. The four primary characteristics of this new light infantry division were to be: mission flexibility, rapid deployment and combat readiness at 100 percent strength with a Pacific Basin orientation. Major configuration changes included the addition of a third infantry brigade, an additional direct-support artillery battalion and the expansion of the combat aviation battalion to a brigade-sized unit. With the transfer of large quantities of heavy equipment, the 25th Infantry Division earned the designation "light"—the reorganization was completed by 1 October 1986. Training became more sophisticated and more intense. In 1988, the division's first battalions participated in rotations at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. This training center provides the most realistic training available to light forces in the Army. Coupled with Joint/Combined training exercises Cobra Gold in Thailand, Kangaroo in Australia and Orient Shield in Japan, the division's demanding exercise schedule significantly increased the division's fighting capabilities. Until 1993 Operation Team Spirit in Korea remained the division's largest annual maneuver exercise, involving more than half of the division's strength.
Not many of the Tropic Lightning's units participated in Operation Desert Storm, due to the division being earmarked for Pacific contingencies, such as a renewal of hostilities in Korea. However, during the Gulf War, one platoon each from Companies A, B and C, 4th Battalion, 27th Infantry ("Wolfhounds"), deployed to Saudi Arabia in January 1991. These Tropic Lightning soldiers were scheduled to be replacement squads in the ground campaign; however, after observing their outstanding performance in desert warfare training, the Assistant Commander of Third U.S. Army asked for them to become the security force for the Army's Forward Headquarters. In that role, the Wolfhound platoons were alerted and attached to Third Army (Forward) into Kuwait City 26 February, where they secured the headquarters area and conducted mop-up operations in the city and its adjacent mine fields. Company A's platoon was separated from the other Wolfhounds following that battle to accompany General H. Norman Schwarzkopf into Iraq 1 March 1991 to provide security at the truce signing. The three platoons returned to Schofield Barracks without casualties on 20 March 1991.
In 1995, the division underwent another reorganization and reduction as a part of the Army's downsizing. First Brigade and its direct support units were inactivated and moved to Fort Lewis, Washington, where they were again reactivated as a detached brigade of the 25th Infantry Division (Light). In early 2005, an airborne brigade was created at Fort Richardson, Alaska and added to the 25th. Today the "Tropic Lightning" Division is composed of three light infantry brigades (two in Hawaii; one at Fort Lewis), the airborne brigade at Fort Richardson, an Aviation Brigade, Division Artillery, a Division Support command and a complement of separate battalions. As a major ground reserve force for the U.S. Pacific Command, the "Tropic Lightning" Division routinely deploys from Schofield Barracks to participate in exercises in Japan, Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia and the Big Island of Hawaii.
The division did not take part in the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2001–2003. However, in early 2004, units from the division deployed to Iraq to take part in the combat operations of that country. Second Brigade deployed around February 2004 to Iraq and returned to Schofield Barracks a year later. The 3rd Brigade 25th Infantry Division began deploying to Afghanistan in March 2004. The first element to deploy was 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment ("Wolfhounds"). They were accompanied by B Battery, 3d Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment. The Wolfhounds operated in the volatile Paktika Province on the border with Pakistan in the Waziristan region. The 25th Infantry Division redeployed to Schofield Barracks Hawaii in April of 2005. The 25th Infantry Division is recognized for the first successful free democratic elections in Afghanistan on October 9, 2004. One of the missions of the 25th Infantry Division was to track down insurgent Taliban and Al-Qaeda members in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.
In July 2005, a 4th Brigade was added to the 25th Infantry Division as an airborne brigade stationed in Fort Richardson, Alaska. It deployed in October 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 2nd Brigade began its transformation as a Stryker Brigade Combat Team while the 3rd Brigade began its transformation as a Unit of Action (UA) in the same year. The (Light) status was dropped from the division name in January 2006. On 15 December 2006 the former 172nd Infantry Brigade reflagged as the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division.
25th Infantry Division
On Friday, June 18, 2008, a distraught soldier informed PETA that the members of the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division were planning to shoot live pigs as part of their medical training. PETA and animal rights activists worldwide, who consider this a blatant disregard for the rights of animals, were outraged.
In Oliver Stone's 1986 Vietnam War film Platoon, the eponymous (fictional) military unit is depicted by its shoulder patches as being part of the 25th Infantry Division.
The division's unit patch is nick-named "The Electric Chili Pepper" due to its shape and lightning bolt symbol in the center. (It is also referred to as an "Electric Strawberry".)
Rapper Ice-T was once in the 25th Infantry Division.
Track Palin, the oldest son of current governor of Alaska and the Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin, is currently serving in Iraq as a member of the 1-1 Bravo Company, 52nd Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.