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A history second to none

2nd ID at JBLM

The 2nd Infantry Division has a unique history at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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At Joint Base Lewis-McChord, many soldiers wear the 2nd Infantry Division's Indianhead patch.

The division has a storied history, and it involves JBLM.

Both the base and the division were formed around the same time: Camp Lewis opened Sept. 5, 1917; the 2nd ID was organized Oct. 26, 1917.

It is the only division to be organized on foreign soil (Bourmont, France).

During World War I, Marine Corps generals twice commanded the division, which is the only time in American military history that Marine officers commanded an Army division.

When the Great War ended, the division was stationed at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, from 1919 to 1942.  It is here that the division pioneered the concepts of air mobility and anti-tank warfare.

As WWII deepened, the 2nd ID was next transferred to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, where it trained until it deployed to Ireland in October 1943.

During its 10-month stay, the division trained in preparation for Operation Overlord, the code name for the Normandy Invasion.

The Arrowhead Division helped liberate Europe as it moved east toward Germany, and the heroic actions of Medal of Honor recipients Pfc. Richard Cowan (Cowan Stadium), Technician 4th Class Truman Kimbro (Kimbro Pool), Sgt. John McVeigh (McVeigh Sports and Fitness Center), and Technician 5th Class James Okubo (Okubo Medical & Dental Clinic) would become part of JBLM's history.

As WWII ended, the division was sent to Czechoslovakia near the town of Pilsen.  It is there that Arrowhead soldiers first met Russian soldiers, whom they would later face as adversaries during the Cold War (1945-1990).

After Germany's surrender in 1945, the division was slated to participate in an invasion of the Japanese islands.  This did not happen after the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

At the war's end, the 2nd ID was stationed at then Fort Lewis, Washington, where it conducted arctic, air transportability, amphibious and maneuver training.

With the advent of the Cold War and America's role of world leader, the outbreak of hostilities in Korea in June 1950 soon brought the 2nd ID back into combat.

The division shouldered more than its share of the fighting, and the legacy of Medal of Honor recipients Maj. Benjamin Wilson (Wilson Sports-Fitness Center), Master Sgt. Travis Watkins (Watkins Field), and Sgt. 1st Class Tony Burris (Burris Field) added to the 2nd ID's history with JBLM.

The Korean War ended, the division returned to Fort Lewis, where it remained for two years.  In November 1957, the unit was deactivated.

A year later, however, the division reorganized at Fort Benning, Georgia, where it remained until 1965.

As tensions increased on the Korean peninsula, the Arrowhead Division returned to the Republic of Korea in July 1965.

Throughout the 1960s to the early 1990s, the division provided security on the line between North and South Korea.

As the Cold War ended, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd ID, was reactivated at Fort Lewis as part of I Corps.  It gained the distinction of becoming the Army's first Stryker Brigade Combat Team in May 2000.

From 2003 until 2010, the division was deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan.  

In an ironic turn of history in 2004, the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd ID, fell under the direct command of the 1st Marine Division, just as during World War I the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments of the 1st Marine Division had the command of the 2nd Infantry Division.

Throughout a JBLM century of history, the 2nd ID holds a cherished place.

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