The California National Guard - Always Ready, Always There



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, Air Assault carries on the lineage of the “Auburn Greys”.

The Official Lineage for the First Battalion, 184 Infantry, Air Assault, begins in 1864 with the organization of the California Militia, headquartered in Sacramento as part of the Sacramento Light Artillery. The Grays were later combined with other units from Northern California and the Central Valley to form the First Infantry Battalion. The First was later reorganized and consolidated many times into the Eighth Infantry Regiment and, later, the Second Infantry Regiment. 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. 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 in war.

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. As such, they were inducted into Federal Service on March 3, 1941. Shortly after the unit was relieved from the 40th and sent to the 7th Infantry Division at Ft. Ord, undergoing extensive amphibious warfare training. In July 1943 the Regiment headed 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”, 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.

On 1 February 1944 the 184th, accompanied by the 32nd Infantry Regiment, assaulted the heavily defended island of Kwajalien, 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 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 Infantry Regiment, 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, 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 Infantry was preparing to participate in the invasion of Japan. 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 Infantry returned home to California in the fall of 1945.

After redeployment the unit underwent numerous reorganizations and reassignments over the years. The 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 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 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 184th, along with Iraqi Security Forces, conducted the largest Air Assault mission since the Vietnam War, dubbed Operation Clean Sweep. The operation netted 49 terrorists and a large weapons cache. Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment 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.

Today the 1st Battalion 184th Infantry is the only Battalion to maintain the Regimental Lineage. Under the current structure the 1st Battalion 184 Infantry (Air Assault), is organized administratively as part of 3rd BDE 40th ID (Mech) California National Guard. At the same time the 1-184 Infantry comprises one of the three Infantry battalions assigned to the 29th Separate Infantry Brigade. 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.

Note on Sources:

The California State Military Museum Website –

Keegan, John, ed. ¬The Times Atlas of the Second World War New York: Times Books Ltd. 1989.

Spector, Ronald H. The Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan New York: The Free Press, 1985. [Pages 267-271, 417-517, 532-540]

McKee, Dale: The Spectrum, After Katrina: Soldiers to the Rescue, October 2005.

Read, Simon: Tri-Valley Herald, Soldier Recounts Relief Efforts, October 9, 2005.

Murtagh, Heather: The Daily Journal, Home from the Hurricane, October 4, 2005.

Joint Task Force California, Press Accounts of the California State Military Forces’ Response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita 31 August-11 November 2005. California Military History Publication: 1 December 2005. California State Military Department. [Home from the Hurricane, Pages 169-171]

Perry, Robert C.J. The War You Didn’t See Los Angeles: The LA Times, February 2006.

Perry, Robert C.J. GOOD SOLDIERS, BAD PRESS San Mateo County: San Mateo County Times, February 19, 2006.

Conway, Alayne 22 terror suspects taken off streets of Baghdad BAGHDAD: Army News Service, 2006.

Cpicpressdesk U.S., Iraqi forces sweep up 49 terror suspects BAGHDAD: MNFI Release A051031a, 2006