Oregon National Guard Units of WWII consisted of the 123rd Observation Squadron, the 249th Coast Artillery and the 41st Infantry Division.

123rd Observation Squadron marks the activation of the Oregon Air National Guard.  Activated in April 1941, it trained at Swan Island in Portland and Grey Field at Fort Lewis.  Wartime training changed after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On that day, 123rd air crews launched the first combat air mission from the US to look for submarines or other enemy activity on the Oregon/Washington coastline. Most of the 123rd was later sent to the Burma/China/India Theatre to do photo reconnaissance.

249th Coast Artillery is the only American unit to receive enemy fire in the United States during WWII. In June 1942 Japanese submarine fires 17 shells at Fort Stevens in retaliation for the Doolittle Raid.  The command to not fire back frustrates the men because they finally get a chance to fight, but are not allowed.

41st Infantry Division was an Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana National Guard Infantry Division considered the “Best” National Guard Infantry Division prior to WWII. It was one of only four National Guard Infantry Divisions called to active duty on September 16, 1940. 41st Infantry Division trained outside of Fort Lewis at Camp Murray (the men called it Camp Swampy), moved to large unit training maneuvers at Camp Roberts in California and then back to Camp Murray. On Dec. 7, 1941 the 41st was called to protect the Northwest coastline from the possibility of Japanese invasion.  The 41st effectively performed its first wartime mission with few incidents.

41st is then quickly mobilized for overseas duty and sent to Australia, the first American unit to arrive on Australian soil.  The Australians are thrilled to see them because most of the Australian fighting men had been sent off to fight for England and the Japanese had started bombing at Darwin.  The 41st trained to fight in the jungle in Rockhampton and is then sent to Port Moresby in New Guinea.

The 163rd Regiment is the first unit of the 41st to encounter the Japanese in a place called Sanananda. They relieve the 32nd Infantry Division which had sustained almost 100% casualties.  The rest of the 41st is then flown over the Owen Stanley Mountains, a 5,000 foot high mountain range that divides New Guinea, to fight for the Buna/Gona airstrip where MacArthur will start his drive back to the Philippines.  The 41st makes the first amphibious landing at Nassau Bay in 1944 and after a brief rest continues on to fight in Hollandia, Wakde and into Biak.

Biak is the longest and bloodiest battle the 41st “Jungleers” fought during WWII.  Biak was supposed to have 2,000 defenders. Instead there were 10,000 reinforced by an additional 2,000 well trained Japanese soldiers.  This is the first battle of the Pacific where the Japanese used a new strategy of letting the Americans land relatively unopposed, then fought from well fortified cave locations.  Biak was also the first tank to tank battle in the Pacific. The 41st Sherman tanks quickly defeated the Japanese Ha-Go tanks.

After a chance to recover, the 41st joins General MacArthur in his “I shall return” quest to the Philippines as they fought through Zamboanga, Jolo and Mindanao.

The 41st prepared for the fight of its life as it was designated to be a spearhead unit for the invasion into mainland Japan.  In 1945, the atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima August 6 and August 9 on Nagasaki.  The 41st then begins occupation duty in the Hiroshima district of Japan.  It is deactivated from Federal service on December 31, 1945.  A job well done for a unit deployed for 45 months, one of the longest deployed American units of WWII.

The National Guard

Thanks to our writers and researchers who prepared these WWII NarrativesJosh Pierson, A.J.Allen, Don Bourgeois, Alisha Hamel, Sarah Holcomb

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