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The Infantryman's history

Statue honors all 11 Bravos

Mike & Chinook: The Infantryman statue, also referred to as Iron Mike, honors JBLM’s infantry-rich history. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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The opening of Camp Lewis in the middle of World War I Sept. 5, 1917, continued the role of the infantry in American history.

In short order, the 91st Division - the Wild West Division - arrived and trained. Soldiers learned close drill, military traditions, bayonet and hand-to-hand combat; they spent hours on rifle and machine gun ranges, engaged in mock battles in trenches and experienced gas attacks in special rooms.

The division saw combat in France, and it contributed to bringing about the end of the war.

After WWI, Camp Lewis continued to grow in size and importance. In 1927, it became known as Fort Lewis.

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, the post immediately sprang into action as the country prepared to enter World War II.

The 3rd Infantry Division, the 33rd Infantry Division, the 40th Infantry Division, the 41st Infantry Division, and the 96th Infantry Division, all trained at Lewis before going into combat.

After the war, the 2nd Infantry Division and the 4th Infantry Division called Fort Lewis home.

When war broke out on the Korean Peninsula in 1950, the 2nd ID answered the call.  As the threat of communist aggression became clear in Vietnam in 1966, the 4th ID was deployed.

Near the end of the Vietnam War, the 9th Infantry Division reactivated and served at the post, emphasizing mobile infantry tactics.

Fort Lewis' relevance in the Pacific grew with the activation of I Corps in October 1981, and it played a key role in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991.

Following 9/11, Fort Lewis units assumed a significant role in the Global War on Terror, with the 25th Infantry Division and the 2nd ID bearing the brunt of the fighting.

Today, the 7th Infantry Division and 2nd ID remain at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, training for any eventuality that may arise.

The 100-year history of JBLM is one of the infantry's role in American history, and The Infantryman statue, just inside Liberty Gate, pays honor to this service.

Recognition of this service began in 1963 when Col. Robert Green, commander, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, suggested to Maj. Gen. Claire Hutchin, commander, Fort Lewis, that there had been no monument honoring the infantrymen since the post's inception in 1917.

Hutchin agreed, and he suggested a statue similar to the Iron Mike statue on Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Green liked the idea, and he assigned Spc. Juan Guerrero and Pfc. Pekka Kauppi, 1st Battalion, 12th Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, the task of creating the monument to memorialize 4th ID soldiers.

Both soldiers, who had previous civilian sculpting experience, crafted a fiberglass-on-iron statue within a year.

The monument represents an 18-foot high early Vietnam-era infantryman holding an M14 over his head in a "follow me" pose.

His face was designed to incorporate features of all races to better represent all infantrymen.

In 1964, the statue was placed in front of the Nelson Recreation Center, but the location meant that only soldiers ever viewed it.

The Infantryman, often referred to as Iron Mike, was moved in 1992 to its current location at the intersection of 41st Division Dr. and Tacoma Ave.

After 9/11, a plaque was placed in front of the statue.

At a dedication ceremony of a plaque honoring the Combat Infantryman's Badge in 2013, then JBLM commander Col. Charles Hodges said, "You always forget that it's the infantryman who bears the brunt of combat operations, from World War One to now."

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