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Jun 22

Washington National Guard

100 Facts in 100 Days - 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team

Posted by Washington National Guard

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100 Facts in 100 Days - 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team

In January 1968, LTC William Bateman, a Washington Army National Guardsman, was tasked to gather the brief history of the newly formed 81st Infantry Brigade.

It was a perfect assignment for Bateman, who began his service in the 161st Infantry, 81st Infantry Brigade in 1934.  What Bateman didn't know is he started the frame work, laid the foundation and is helping us today begin recognition of the 81st Brigade's 100 years of service to our state and nation.

In the following 100 days, we will bring you 100 facts about the 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team with new facts coming each week.

We welcome you to join us as we present new facts (some you may know and some you may not) on the largest unit in the Washington National Guard!


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1. Organized under the 41st Infantry Division

On April 1, 1917, the 41st Infantry Division was activated into service, just five days before the American entry into World War I. Primarily made up of Guard units from the Northwest, the 41st Infantry Division immediately brought trained Infantrymen together to deploy for Europe as part of the American Expeditionary Force.

The 81st Infantry Brigade was constituted on July 18th and was organized as a part of the 41st Division on Sept. 18, 1917 at Camp Greene, North Carolina.  


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2. Four States and a District

Once federally activated, four Infantry Regiments: the 3d Oregon, 2d Washington, 2d Idaho and 2d North Dakota. The 81st also included a detachment from Washington D.C. and Cavalry scouts from Washington. 


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3. Where was the Field Artillery? 

Although they can trace their roots to the original militiamen that protected eastern Washington, the 146th Field Artillery Regiment was consolidated with elements of the 3rd Infantry Regiment (D.C. National Guard) to form the 161st Infantry.

However when the 41st division was being organized it became necessary to form a brigade of field artillery. Soldiers from Washington, Idaho and New Mexico serving in infantry and field artillery units of the National Guard, were brought together to form the 146th Field Artillery. Along with their sister battalion, the 148th Field Artillery (Wyoming, Colorado and Oregon) to form the 66th Field Artillery Brigade. 


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4. Field Artillery was home grown 

Unlike the Second Idaho infantry and Battery "A" New Mexico field artillery, the first battalion of Washington field artillery was not in existence at the time of the declaration of war with Germany, and most of its personnel had never had previous military training. The history of its organization is unique and one that is fraught with many trying situations. The Militia bureau at Washington had authorized the organization of a field artillery unit in the state of Washington, but the adjutant general of the state had never felt justified in attempting such an organization.

Soon after the declaration of war, Paul H. Weyrauch of Walla Walla, Washington, who was a retired officer of the regular army, felt that the organization of a battalion of field artillery from the eastern part of the state of Washington was possible and should be undertaken. Plans began to recruit such an organization, but everything was blocked by a War Department order which placed Lieutenant Weyrauch on the active list and assigned him to recruiting duty in the state of South Dakota. After much correspondence and a special trip to Washington, Lieutenant Weyrauch succeeded in being relieved from active service with the regular army in order to accept a commission as major of field artillery in the Washington National Guard.


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5. A training Brigade

On Jan. 9, 1918, the 81st Brigade moved to and set up camp at St. Aigman and in the Noyers area of France. Between Jan. 15, 1918 and Aug. 19, 1918 the Brigade trained and processed 295,000 replacements for battle worn soldiers.

This training proved vital due to the fact a great number of soldiers arrived to the European theater having not completed their basic training. 


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6. The home team grew

While the 1st and 2d Regiments of the Washington Infantry were activated for World War I, the state had to organize a home force. This was known as the 3d Washington Infantry.

As officers and infantrymen returned home many joined the unit due to the 1st and 2d Infantry being demobilized. In 1921, the 3d Washington would be redesignated as the 161st Infantry. 


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7. The Brigade Headquarters is where?

The redesignation under General Order Number 5, dated Jan. 22, 1921, assigned the 81st Brigade back to Washington state; however the Brigade was not organized until Feb. 23, 1924. Since the 81st was not organized in the state, where would it be stationed?

Well in the Brigade Commander’s home town of course!

From 1924 to 1936 the Brigade would move seven times.

Seattle – Feb. 23, 1924 to July 7, 1924
Spokane – July 7, 1924 to July 1, 1931
Walla Walla – July 1, 1931 to Sept. 3, 1932
Seattle – Sept. 3, 1932 to June 21, 1934
Spokane – June 21, 1934 to July 24, 1934
Camp Murray – July 24, 1934 to April 20 1936
Spokane – April 20, 1936 to June 10, 1937

The 81st Brigade moved back to Seattle on June 10, 1937 where the headquarters remains today. 


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8. The Lumber and Mill Workers Strike

In June 1935, the Washington National Guard assembled at Camp Murray for their annual field training when a strike among lumber and mill workers threatened to jeopardize public safety and property.

Outbreaks of violence occurred in multiple cities and the local authorities felt the situation was dire and advised Governor Clarence Martin to bring in the National Guard. On June 23, 1935, the Guard was directed to assist law enforcement to restore order, protect property and preserve the peace.

The Winthrop Hotel in Tacoma was set up as a temporary Brigade Headquarters and, in just three days, the entire 161st Infantry Regiment was activated and stationed in Tacoma.

As the situation improved, the Guardsmen were deactivated and returned to their home stations, until Aug. 9, 1935 when the strike ended.


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9. 62,000 soldiers!

In 1937, the 81st Brigade, in conjunction with the 41st Division, participated in the largest maneuver ever held in the Pacific Northwest. More than 35,000 National Guard and 27,000 Regular Army soldiers participated in the training exercise.


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10. Summer of ‘40

In the summer of 1940, entry into war was becoming inevitable for the United States. The 81st Brigade extended their annual training from two weeks to three weeks and upon completion left their equipment and tents at camp. On Aug. 27, all 81st Brigade officers received “immediate action” letters instructing them to prepare for federal induction. Recruiting efforts throughout the 81st Brigade intensified.


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11. Call to service

On Sept. 16, 1940, the 81st Brigade was called into federal service for one year. Even though training was intense, and coupled by equipment shortages and muddy living conditions, the 81st Brigade soldiers stayed positive and under the belief that they would be done with their federal mission by Sept. 16, 1941.


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12. The Long December

While enjoying a weekend pass, the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor traveled over radio and 81st Brigade soldiers began filling bus terminals to return to Camp Murray. Office windows were blacked out and by mid-afternoon on Dec. 7, the 81st Brigade soldiers had taken up defensive positions on the Pacific Coast.

The Brigade Command Post moved to the Centralia Armory, with many of the troops spending the nights at the fairgrounds. 

On Dec. 12, the Brigade’s mission shifted to the defense of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the Northern part of the Olympic Peninsula, the main water way to Seattle.

On Dec. 25, the Brigade Command Post moved from Centralia to Sequim, Wash. where the 81st Brigade would serve for two months. 


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13. Reorganization and Activation

On Feb. 26, 1942 the 41st Division was reorganized from a “square division” to a “triangular division.” The 81st Brigade was deactivated and reassigned to other units in the 41st Division. The 161st Infantry was assigned to the 25th Division.


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14. 81st Brigade in World War II

More than 12,000 Washington National Guardsmen were federalized and pressed into service between Feb. 26, 1942 and Dec. 31, 1945.


Check back next week to learn more about the 81st Brigade’s service during World War II.