25th Infantry Division "Tropic Lightning"

World War II

Constituted as an AUS division August 26, 1941 from the 27th and 35th Infantry regiments of the Hawaiian Division. Activated October 1, 1941 at Schofield Barracks, the division spent December 1941 on beach defense duties in Hawaii after the Pearl Harbor attack; it then engaged in a period of intense training before moving to Guadalcanal in November of 1942 to relieve the First Marine Division. Fighting on Guadalcanal continued until February 1943, with mopping up of scattered Japanese survivors continuing through July. The 25th moved on to New Georgia later that month, where it took Vella Lavella on September 15 and the Bairoko Harbor in October. Organized resistance ended on New Georgia ended on August 25th, which allowed the division to seize Vila Airport on Kolombangara October 6. The 25th spent the remainder of 1943 and the start of 1944 in New Zealand resting and then moved to New Caledonia in February 1944 for more training. The 25th landed in Luzon on January 11, 1945, as part of MacArthur's return to the Philippines, and drove across the Central Plain to engage the Japanese at Binalonan on January 17, where they destroyed much of the Japanese armor. Operations in the Caraballo Mountains began on February 21, with the division continuing its advance along Highway #5 despite fierce counterattacks. Balete Pass fell on May 13, and the way to the Cagayan Valley opened with the fall of San Jose on May 27. It was during the Luzon campaign that the division's rapid movement and demonstrated effectiveness earned it the nickname "Tropic Lightning". Mopping up continued until July 1, when the division began training for the invasion of Japan; this was cut short and the division assigned to occupation duties there on September 20.

The division was officially transferred to the Regular Army June 27, 1949.


As part of the Japan occupation force, the 25th was one of the first units to be committed to the Korean War, landing at Pusan in July 1950 and playing a significant role in the defense of the Pusan Perimeter. The division lived up to its nickname during the breakout from the perimeter in October 1950, pursuing the routed North Korean forces to the Yalu River. Unfortunately, the approach of UN forces to the Yalu triggered intervention by the Red Chinese, and the 25th was forced to retreat to the Chongchon River and then to positions south of Osan in late November. Six weeks later, after much planning and reorganization, the division took part in a series of attacks throughout the spring which freed Inchon, Kimpo Air Base, and parts of the Iron Triangle, which put the UN in a good position for the armistice negotiations. The remainder of 1951 was spent on routine patrolling as the negotiations got under way, In May 1953, the 25th took responsibility for guarding the approaches to Seoul. Three weeks later, the Chinese hurled their considerable weight against the division in a sustained assault that continued through July, but the 25th held, earning its second ROK Preisdential Unit Citation. After its epic defense, the division moved into reserve at Camp Casey, where it remained until September 1954 when it finally returned to its home in Hawaii. Fourteen soldiers from the Tropic Lightning would earn the Medal of Honor in Korea, making the 25th one of the most decorated divisions in the Korean War.


Elements of the 25th began arriving in Vietnam as early as 1963, with the transfer of 100 helicopter door gunners to MACV. More elements of the division arrived throughout 1965, until the entire division was baed at Pleiku in the Central Highlands in January 1966. For the next six years, the Tropic Lightning division would be engaged in nearly continuous combat. It played a key role in the defense of Saigon during the 1968 and 1969 Tet Offensives, and the Cambodian Incursion, while gradually shifting its emphasis away from combat and toward Vietnamization. With security increasingly in the hands of the ARVN, the division was able to being redeployment to Hawaii in December 1970, and the Second Brigade completed the withdrawal in May 1971. Twenty-two of the division's soldiers earned the Medal of Honor in Vietnam.

As part of the overall demobilization in the wake of Vietnam, the 25th was reduced to a single brigade, but was reactivated in March 1972 as a "roundout" division, whose missing brigade would be supplied in wartime by the 29th Infantry Brigade, Hawaii National Guard; this unit included the famous 100th Battalion of the 442nd Infantry as well as a battalion from the California National Guard. 1985 saw the division undergo reorganization under a light infantry TO&E, which was completed in 1986.

Gulf War

As part of the strategic reserve in the Pacific, Tropic Lightning soldiers did not play a significant role in the first Gulf War. A composite platoon from the 27th "Wolfhound" regiment was detailed as replacements but instead served as headquarters guards for Third Army (Forward). More reorganizations followed during the decade from 1995 through 2005; the division currently has two Stryker brigades, one airborne brigade, an infantry brigade, along with various artillery, aviation, and support assets.

Second Gulf War & Afghanistan

The 25th did not play any role in the Second Gulf War, but the Second Brigade deployed to Iraq in January 2004, returning in February 2005; the Fourth (Airborne) rotated through Iraq as well in October of 2006, and the bulk of the division deployed there in March 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In contrast, elements of the division began deploying to Afghanistan in March 2004 (Third Brigade), with the 4th Brigade arriving in March 2009 for action in RC-East. The First Brigade followed in RC-South a few months later, and the 3rd Brigade in April 2011. The 4th Brigade returned in late 2011, while the 3rd rotated home to Hawaii.

While all these deployments were taking place, reorganizations continued. The 4th Brigade (Airborne) was created in Alaska in July 2005, and in 2006 the 2nd Brigade reorganized as a Stryker Brigade while the 3rd Brigade transitioned to the Unit of Action TO&E. In January of 2006, the 25th dropped the (Light) from its name. At the end of 2006, the former 172nd Separate Brigade was reflagged as the 1st Brigade, replacing the 1st (Stryker) Brigade which had in turn been reflagged as the Second Cavalry Regiment and redeployed from Fort Lewis to Vilseck, Germany.

Awards & Decorations

  • Philippine Presidential Unit Citation for actions October 17, 1944 through July 4, 1945
  • ROK Presidential Unit Citations for Masan-Chinju and Munsan-Ni
  • Meritorious Unit Commendation for Vietnam, 1969
  • Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry With Palm, 1966-1968
  • Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry With Palm, 1968-1970
  • Republic Of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal, First Class, 1966-1970
  • Meritorious Unit Commendation for Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2007
  • Meritorious Unit Commendation for Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2008-2009 (1st Brigade only)
Sources: Office of the Chief of Military History, Lineage And Honors Page
  25th Infantry Division History Page

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