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OKLAHOMA NATIONAL GUARD

One of the first actions taken by the Oklahoma Territorial Council when it convened in August 1890 was the creation of the Territorial Militia. Although the formation of two infantry regiments, two cavalry battalions, and one artillery battery was allowed, little funding was provided, and in 1895 the militia was reorganized as the Oklahoma National Guard. The Oklahoma National Guard was not federalized during the Spanish American War, but numerous officers and enlisted men served with the Rough Riders and with the First Territorial Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

In 1899 the Oklahoma National Guard was reorganized as the First Oklahoma Infantry Regiment, supported by a signal company. In 1903 an engineer company was added. With statehood in 1907, units were shifted from western Oklahoma (former Oklahoma Territory) to eastern Oklahoma (former Indian Territory), and a hospital unit and two cavalry troops were added. Before World War I the guardsmen were used by Gov. Lee Cruce to combat illegal boxing and horse racing operations and liquor- and blue-law violations.

The Oklahoma National Guard was reorganized under the National Defense Act passed on June 3, 1916, and fifteen days later was called into federal service for duty along the Mexican border. Mobilized in Oklahoma City, the guardsmen were stationed at San Benito and Donna, Texas. They returned home and were mustered out on March 1 2, 1917.

On March 31, 1917, the First Oklahoma Infantry was mobilized for service in World War I. At Camp Bowie, Texas, the First Oklahoma combined with the Seventh Texas Infantry to form the 142d Regiment of the Thirty-sixth Infantry Division. The guardsmen arrived in France on July 31, 1918, and in October served around Blanc Mont Ridge and in the Ferme Forest. They were in reserve when the war ended on November 11, 1918. Returning home, the troops were discharged in July 1919.

To replace the guardsmen on active duty, in 1918 the Second and Third Oklahoma Infantry Regiments and a separate infantry battalion were recruited. These units later combined and constituted the Oklahoma National Guard until 1920. In 1919 these troops were sent to Drumright, Henryetta, Coalgate, and Haileyville during a labor disturbance.

Under the provisions of the National Defense Act of 1920 Oklahoma was assigned to the Eighth Corps Area and allotted two National Guard divisions. The Second Oklahoma Infantry Regiment was designated the 179th Infantry Regiment and the Third Oklahoma Regiment became the 180th Infantry Regiment. Medical, engineer, and artillery regiments were allotted to Oklahoma, along with the headquarters of the Forty-fifth Infantry Division. Other troops of the division were distributed in New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. By 1923 the Forty-fifth's organization was complete.

Between 1918 and 1941 the Oklahoma National Guard was frequently called to state duty. In 1921 the guardsmen were rushed to the Tulsa Race Riot. Gov. John Walton used the troops to prevent the legislature from convening during his impeachment. Gov. William H. Murray dispatched the National Guard thirty-four times during his administration, and Gov. Ernest W. Marland used the guardsmen to allow the drilling of oil wells on the Capitol grounds in Oklahoma City.

However, it was during World War II that the Forty-fifth gained its fame. Activated in September 1940, the division was sent to Fort Sill and then to Camp Barkeley, Texas. In December 1941 the Forty-fifth was expanded. Two units, the 158th and the Second Battalion of the 158th Artillery, were separated to form the 158th Regimental Combat Team (RCT), which served in the Panama Canal Zone and in the Southwest Pacific. Another battalion deployed to Alaska to help build the Alcan Highway and participate in the invasion of Okinawa, and another was posted to Asia to help construct the Burma Road.

The rest of the Forty-fifth was organized into the 158th, 179th, and 180th Infantry Regiments and various engineer, cavalry, medical, military police, artillery, and other service troops. After training at various installations, this part of the Forty-fifth landed in Sicily in July 1943. After participating in the Sicily, Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, Southern France, Rhineland, and Central Europe campaigns, the division was deactivated on December 7, 1945. Almost immediately, work was undertaken to reconstitute it as Oklahoma's National Guard Division, and by spring 1947 most units were federally recognized.

On September 1, 1950, the Forty-fifth was recalled for Korean War service. Ordered to Japan in January 1951, the division was stationed on Hokkaido in Japan. Volunteers began leaving for Korea in October 1951, where, by November, the division was replacing the First Cavalry Division. The movement to Korea was completed early in 1952. Between 1952 and 1954 the Forty-fifth participated in two winter and two summer-fall campaigns. The division was released from federal service in April 1954.

Work on reorganizing Oklahoma's Forty-fifth National Guard Division started while the Forty-fifth was in Korea. In fact between 1952 and 1954 there were two Forty-fifth Divisions one in Korea and the other in Oklahoma. In 1959 the division was reorganized as a pentomic unit with five battle groups. In April 1963 it was reorganized along the lines of a three-brigade unit with three infantry brigades, each with three battalions of the 179th, 180th, and 279th Infantry, the Forty-fifth Military Police, Forty-fifth Aviation, 120th Engineers, and 145th Signal battalions. The Forty-fifth Division Artillery comprised the 158th, 161st, 171st, and 189th Artillery battalions, and the Forty-fifth Support Company comprised the Forty-fifth Administrative Company and the 120th Medical, 700th Maintenance, and 120th Supply and Transportation battalions.

In July 1965 the Forty-fifth Division again was reorganized. An infantry brigade, one direct support artillery battalion, an armored cavalry troop, an airmobile cavalry troop, and associated support units were designated a Selective Reserve Force and provided updated equipment, training, and a full complement of men. The remaining units of the Forty-fifth were designated a Reinforcing Reserve Unit.

In 1968 the Forty-fifth Division was deactivated and Oklahoma's National Guard was reorganized as the Forty-fifth Infantry Brigade, the Forty-fifth Artillery Group, and the Ninetieth Support Brigade. The infantry brigade comprised the 179th, the 180th, and the 279th Infantry Battalions, the 160th Artillery Battalion, the 700th Support Battalion, and cavalry, aviation, engineer, and other support units. The Forty-fifth Artillery Group included the First Battalions of the 158th, 171st, and 189th Artillery. The Ninetieth Support Brigade comprised the 120th Engineers, the 120th Medical, Forty-fifth Military Police, 120th Supply and Service, and the 245th Transportation battalions. Support units completed the reorganization. Throughout these reorganizations the guardsmen fulfilled their state obligation for disaster relief and mobilized during the 1973 McAlester prison riot and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Oklahoma National Guard units were federalized for participation in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991. Those called were the 2120th Supply and Support Company, the 120th Medical Battalion, the 145th Medical Company, the 158th Field Artillery Battalion, the 1045th Ordinance Detachment, the 245th Medical Company, the 745th Military Police Company, the 1245th Transportation Company, the 1345th Transportation Company, the 1120th Maintenance Company, and the 445th Military Police Company. In autumn 1999 Company C, First Battalion, 179th Infantry and Company A, First Battalion, 279th Infantry were activated for service in Bosnia and were deployed in October 2000.

SEE ALSO: CAMP GRUBER, FORTY-FIFTH INFANTRY DIVISION, WORLD WAR I, WORLD WAR II.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: C. H. Barnes, History of the 142nd Infantry of the 36th Division (Blackwell, Okla.: Blackwell Job Printing Company, 1922). Kenny A. Franks, Citizen Soldiers: Oklahoma's National Guard (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1984). Historical Annual, National Guard of the State of Oklahoma (Baton Rouge, La.: Army and Navy Publishing Co., 1938). Oklahoma Military Department, Annual Report, 1966-2001 (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Military Department, 1965-2001). U.S. Army, Forty-fifth Infantry Division, The Fighting Forty-fifth: The Combat Report of an Infantry Division (Baton Rouge, La.: Army and Navy Publishing Co., 1946).

Kenny A. Franks

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