Military


1st Battalion, 126th Field Artillery

The 1-126 Field Artillery Battalion headquarters is located in Kenosha, WI with subordinate units located throughout southeastern Wisconsin in Racine, Burlington, Elkhorn, Whitewater, and Oak Creek. The 126th itself is under command of the 57th Field Artillery Brigade, also known as the "Iron Brigade", located in Milwaukee. On order, 1st Bn 126th FA mobilizes at home station, moves to the mobilization station and prepares for deployment. It then deploys to a theatre of operations Outside of the COntinental United States (OCONUS), moves to and occupies an assigned assembly area. Assigned to the 57th Field Artillery Brigade, it then provides General Support (GS) or Reinforcing (R) cannon fire in support of a maneuver unit.

In June of 1880, a reunion of the grand army of the Republic was to be held in Milwaukee. Leading the invasion of 100,000 veterans were the great Civil War Generals Grant, Sherman and Sheridan. The city was embarrassed, it had no cavalry to escort the illustrious leaders. As a result, the Light Horse Squadron of the Wisconsin National Guard was organized on 6 April 1880 and 65 men were mustered into State service under the first commanding officer, Captain Robert Hill. On 27 June 1894 the Light Horse Squadron was redesignated Troop A, First Wisconsin Cavalry to conform to the regulations of the War Department relative to the National Guard at that time.

As years passed, they became the best mounted cavalry and rode away from all competition all over Wisconsin and Illinois with top prizes. When the Spanish-American War flared, they were ready and eager to fight, but the Army had enough cavalry and declined their offer. In June 1916 the Troop had expanded to form Troop A and Troop B, First Wisconsin Cavalry and on 27 June 1916 and 24 July 1916, respectively, they were mustered into Federal Service for the Mexican border. Troop A was stationed at the Mexican border under General John Pershing to guard against the raiding bandit General, Pancho Villa. Troop B was ordered to Camp Wilson, and on arrival were assigned as the Divisional Headquarters Troop of the 12th Provisional Division until the final breaking up of that Bivision. Troop A and Troop B were mustered out of Federal Service on 20 October 1916 and 6 March 1917, respectively.

On 6 Apr 11 1917, war was declared on Germany. Soon after the declaration of war, the Adjutant General, Wisconsin, directed the Milwaukee Troops to expand to a squadron and Troop C and Troop D were added. The job completed, word came from the Adjutant General, Wisconsin, to effect the formation of a regiment and that Second and Third Squadrons would be formed with units in various cities, the whole to comprise the First Wisconsin Cavalry. Kenosha provided a unit on 10 May 1917, Troop E, First Wisconsin Cavalry, and the Troop was to be commanded by Captain John S. Coney. On 29 May 1917 the regiment officially came into existence.

The 126th Field Artillery Battalion was cited for extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy on Luzon, Philippine Islands, from 30 January to 3 June 1945. For the entire 125 days necessary to complete this operation, the 126th Field Artillery Battalion was in continuous direct support successively of the 127th, 126th, and finally, of the 128th Infantry Regiments of the 32nd Infantry Division. To do so, it was forced to position itself and its guns amidst treacherous terrain and precipitous cliffs, carving its final position by hand and by bulldozer form a hillside 4,000 yard west of Mt. Imugan, in order that it might support decisive infantry operations toward Mt. Imugan and Santa Fe in the ensuing 10 weeks. Only from this position and no other could fire support be effectively maintained against a fanatical and well dug in enemy, who subjected the unit to all kinds of harassment, registering continually upon its position with small arms and artillery fire of all calibers and ceaselessly practicing well developed infiltration tactics.

Regardless of the extreme hazard and danger of necessity placed upon it and with a grim tenacity of purpose and even greater heroism, the 126th Field Artillery Battalion, with a magnificent esprit de corps, maintained both its position and its fires until the completion of the 32nd Division's operations, covering its relief and withdrawal and being the last unit to leave the scene of the action. In this period it fired more than 69,200 rounds of ammunition for a rate of better than 1 every 2 minutes. Despite this heavy rate of fire, it was successfully delivered without inflicting a single casualty upon the supported infantry, a support action rendered under all but impossible conditions. Wire communications and supply were maintained at a great cost to the battalion, which, in addition, being denied flank support because of a shortage of troops within the Division itself, was forced to maintain its own security by constant patrolling action.

Because of the extreme hazard of the position, casualties were heavy, both at the position and in the forward areas, where forward observers and liaison parties consistently operated, the battalion suffering more than all other artillery units of the division concerned. This brought about a critical shortage of personnel, resulting in officers and men maintaining themselves for periods as long as 37 days in the forward areas without relief and despite the need in many cases for hospitalization.

Throughout this time, many acts of individual heroism and gallantry were performed by officers and men of the battalion, who so successfully completed their mission as to play a paramount role in the opening of the Villa Verde Trail, an action in which Japanese (commanded by General Yamashita) suffered more than 9,000 casualties. The skill in battle, accuracy of their fires, and selfless devotion to duty displayed by the officers and men of the 126th Field Artillery Battalion, during this critical phase of the Luzon campaign, not only reflect great credit on the members of the battalion but on the battalion itself, the 32nd Division, and military service as well.

The Battalion with the 32nd Infantry Division performed occupation duty in Japan until it was deactivated at Oita, Japan, on 28 February 1946.

The 23rd of June, 1947 marked the day that the battalion was reorganized and Federaly recognized in southeastern Wisconsin.

During February 1959 the Battalion was consolidated with the 32nd Anti-Aircraft Battalion. This was followed by another reorganization and what finally resulted was called the 126th Artillery Regiment, organized under the Combat Arms Regimental System. The 126th Artillery consisted of the lot Missile Battalion, a non-divisional unit, and the 2nd Howitzer Battalion, an element of the 32nd Infantry Division. The building of the Berlin Wall precipitated a crisis that caused President John Kennedy to call the 2nd Howitzer Battalion to Federal duty-on the 15th of October, 1961. The Battalion moved to Fort Lewis, Washington. During its ten months of active duty, the 2nd Battalion took part in Exercise Bristlecone at Fort Irwin, California and Exercise Mesa Drive at Yakima Firing Center, Washington.

The Battalion was released from Federal active duty and returned to State control on 10 August 1962. Another reorganization of 1 April 1963 set up the let Missile Battalion, a non-divisional unit, and the 2ad Battalion, an element of the 32nd Infantry Division. Less than a year later another reorganization on 05 November 1963 switched the title of the unit, with the lst Battalion 126th Field Artillery, an element of the 32nd Infantry Division and B Battery 2nd Battalion, a non-divisional unit.

During July 1967 the battalion was ordered to state active duty to assist in restoring law and order in Milwaukee. On the 30th of December 1967, the lst Battalion 126th Artillery was released from assignment to the 32nd Infantry Division. The Division was deactivated and thus ended an association of 50 years in peace and war.

On the 31st of December 1967 the unit was attached to the 257th Artillery Group which had been formed from the 32ud Infantry Division Artillery Headquarters. This attachment continues to this date. During November 1973 the Battalion was again called to State active duty to assist in fire fighting duties during a strike of the Milwaukee Fire Department.

Shortly after midnight on the night of July 2, 1977, a red alert vent out to National Guard units around the State. Members of the Wisconsin State Employees Union had voted to strike. During the next 12 hours striking employees at Wisconsin Correctional Institutions were systematically replaced by National Guard personnel implementing a pre-set emergency plan. In the cell blocks, dining halls recreation areas, workshops and kitchens, and on the guard towers, the transition took place. None of the participants knew just what to expect in the hours and days that followed.