December can often be thought of as the culmination of the holiday season. For members of the United States Army’s 7th Infantry Division (7th ID) December marks a very important day in its storied history. On the 6th day of December, former and current members join together in celebration as the 7th ID celebrates its 105th birthday.
“Being a Bayonet Soldier means not only meeting the standard but setting the standard. As the division is growing, I want to establish policies and procedures that will be in place long after I am gone. Being a part of a brave and devoted people who are maintaining the honor established by our predecessors” expressed Cpt. Radhika Patel, Judge Advocate General Officer Attorney specializing in Administrative and Security Law. “Trust in me means my team and the staff, Soldiers below me and above me have the knowledge that I will accomplish the mission. Trust is earned not just freely given. Once earned we must keep it and nurture it.”
The Bayonet Division was forged December 6th, 1917, at Camp Wheeler in Georgia. The unit was a part of the American Expeditionary Force in France during World War I. The Division entered the conflict in historic fashion, setting the troop-carrying record for the War when the entire 14,000 Soldier Division transited the Atlantic aboard a single ship, the USS Leviathan. Upon arrival in October 1918, the 7th immediately joined the line in the Saint Mihiel woods and began probing attacks near Preny. “Hourglass” Soldiers (as they were called due to the distinctive unit patch) then fought up the Moselle River, rapidly capturing key terrain and driving the Germans out of the Bois duTrou de la Haie Salient. Following initial success, the Division was preparing for the Second Army’s drive on the Hindenburg line when Armistice was reached, and the war ended.
Spc. Allen Keene, truck driver assigned to 7th Infantry Division feels “What being a Bayonet Soldier means to me is living the Army values. Trust in me means to always have your battle buddies back and knowing that they have yours.”
During the Second World War, the “Lucky 7th” initially patrolled the coast of California from its home station at Fort Ord, protecting the homeland. In the spring of 1943, the Bayonets were called upon to move west into the Pacific, experiencing brutal arctic combat in Alaska before a brief reset on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. From Hawaii, the Division aggressively pushed forces west through bitter, close combat from Kwajalein Atoll and the Marshall Islands to Leyte in the Philippines before securing the victory and raising the American Flag on Okinawa. At the end of the war the 7th restationed to Camp Fuji, Japan in 1948 at the end of US Military Governance on the Korean Peninsula.
“The part of my job I most enjoy is much more than just telling the Army story. It’s about capturing those moments that are frozen in time.” Stated Spc. Christopher Wilkins, an Infantryman assigned as a Public Affairs Specialist with 7th Infantry Division. “Being a Bayonet Soldier means being a member of an organization that takes pride in its history, its capabilities, and the ability to shape young leaders. Trust in me means being able to go into any endeavor with the skills and capabilities learned as a Soldier to accomplish any mission in any part of the world.”
At the onset of the Korean War, the 7th was immediately augmented with over 8,000 Korean Soldiers then sailed across the Eastern Sea and “plunged the bayonet into the heart of the enemy” at the Inchon Landing in September and subsequent liberation of Seoul. After Inchon, the Bayonet Division conducted another massive amphibious assault on Iwon before moving violently north to the Yalu River, the farthest north any element advanced in the Korean War. In November 1950, Bayonet Soldiers under LTC Don Faith bore the brunt of the Communist Chinese Forces as they forcefully entered the fray, decimating 1-31 IN. The Bayonet Soldiers retrograded and rejoined the fight at Heartbreak Ridge, Triangle Hill, Porkchop Hill, and Old Baldy, where the Division was on the line when the Armistice was reached in July 1953. The Division remained on the line at the Demilitarized Zone until 1971.
17 Bayonet Soldiers have been recipients of the Medal of Honor (the highest military decoration offered by the US government to its military members). Private Joseph Pantillion Martinez of Taos, New Mexico and two other Soldiers during World War 2 (Martinez was the first Hispanic American and first Coloradan to receive the Medal of Honor). 14 other Bayonet Solders were recipients for the units participation in the Korean War. One of whom was Private First-Class Anthony Thomas Kaho’ohanohano of Wailuku, Maui (the most recent member to receive the honor).
The Division returned to Fort Lewis in 1971, its first time on U.S. soil since 1943. In 1985 the Division was selected as the vanguard element of the new “Lightfighter Initiative” and returned to its pre-war home of Fort Ord, CA. The “Lightfighters” were called to Honduras in 1988 for "Operation Golden Pheasant" and then to Panama in 1989-90 for "Operation Just Cause."
In 2015, the 7th deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan to assume responsibility for the Train, Advise, and Assist Command (TAAC) South mission from the 1st Cavalry Division. After one year in Afghanistan, the 7th completed its mission, conducted a transfer of authority with the 36th Infantry Division, and returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord on June 27, 2016.
“What I most enjoy about my job is being able to assist people. Getting to know my fellow Soldiers and helping them with whatever situation they have.” Stated Cpl. Joy Mendoza, a Human Resources Non-Commissioned Officer assigned to the G1, 7th Infantry Division. “As a Bayonet Soldier, we represent one another and work together as a team. As our motto states we take the time to develop strong relationships. Trust in is not instantaneous. It takes effort and repetition in communication and being comprehensive within your team.”
This year’s celebration sees its Soldiers sharing this occasion with members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces Western Army, during the Yama Sakura 83 exercise currently ongoing in Japan as well as back home at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Trust In Me!