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7th ID celebrates 100 years

Hourglass Division history

Headquarters 7th Infantry Division. Photo credit: Facebook

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As Joint Base Lewis-McChord celebrates its centennial, it is not alone in reaching this historic milestone.

Three months and a day after the opening of then Camp Lewis, the 7th Infantry Division was activated Dec. 6, 1917, and organized  Jan. 1, 1918, at Camp Wheeler, Georgia.

Later in 1918, the distinctive shoulder sleeve insignia was adopted. It originated from the use of two sevens, one upright and one inverted to create the hourglass look. As a result, the 7th Division also became known as the Hourglass Division.

During World War I, the division deployed to France, just before the war's end. Returning to the United States in 1919, the unit was deactivated in September 1921.

As the clouds of war gathered over Europe and Asia in 1939, the 7th was reactivated in July 1940 and commanded by MG Joseph Stilwell. Many of the division's new soldiers were draftees, called to duty in the first peacetime conscription in the nation's history.

After the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the 7th trained for action in the Pacific Theater. They first saw combat in the Aleutian Islands. From that point on, the division fought on Kiska Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Engebi in the Eniwetok Atoll, Leyte in the Philippines, and on Okinawa.

During the war, the division earned three Medals of Honor, 26 Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal, 982 Silver Stars and 3,853 Bronze Star Medals. It also received nine Distinguished Unit Citations and four campaign streamers.

As the Second World War ended, the division remained as an occupation force in Japan.

Then the Korean War broke out, and the 7th ID was one of four understrength and undertrained divisions able to answer the call.

That challenge came when the Hourglass Division and the 1st Marine Division landed at Inchon, a landing that took the North Korean army completely by surprise.

It is after the Inchon landing that Gen. Douglas MacArthur labeled the 7th ID the "Bayonet Division," because it would stab into the heart of Korea.

That stab took form Nov. 20, 1950, when the 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, first reached the Manchurian border on the northern Korean border with China.

From then until the end of the war in 1953, the division took part in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, the Battle for Heartbreak Ridge, the Battle for Old Baldy, the assault on the Triangle Hill, and the Battle at Pork Chop Hill.

After the war's end, the division remained on the demilitarize zone (DMZ) in South Korea until it returned to Fort Lewis in 1971 where it was deactivated. Three years later, however, the 7th was reactivated in October 1974 at Fort Ord, California.

In October 1985 it was re-designated as the 7th Infantry Division (Light), the first of its kind in the Army, under the leadership of Maj. Gen. William Harrison.

The division proved its worth in 1989 when it participated in Operation Just Cause in Panama.

After another deactivation in May 1994 at then Fort Lewis, the division was re-activated at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in October 2012. In the summer of 2015, the 7th ID reorganized its division headquarters in partnership with the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, to form Task Force Bayonet.

This element deployed to Afghanistan to assume responsibility for the train, advice and assist mission of Afghan forces.

In keeping with its historic uniqueness, today the division serves as a 250-person deployable headquarters at JBLM.

"As we look to the future and our centennial celebration in 2017," wrote former Hourglass Division commander MG Thomas James, "we will never forget our past."

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