History of the California Militia and National Guard
185th Infantry Regiment (Sixth California): Company B
 
 
 
The Story of Hanford's Company B, 185th Infantry
By Judy Finney, Lemoore Advance Reporter, 13 November 2008

This article is taken from the publication, "War Album," produced by the Hanford Sentinel and Journal in the late 1940s. This is a brief history of one company of National Guardsmen from Kings County who served in during World War II. This article is reprinted as found with few exceptions.

On March 3, 1941, members of Hanford's Company B, 185th Infantry, assembled in the Civic Auditorium for a rally and farewell banquet. They had been called up for a year's active service.
 
But before the year was over, war was declared. It would be five years before the men were to meet again.
By then they were rugged veterans of some of the hardest fighting in the Pacific.

Of the 81 Kings County men marched away with Company B nine would never return. They lost their lives in the line of duty, adding to the glory and honor of their proud unit whose history goes back nearly a half century.

When Company B entrained for Camp San Luis Obispo, Kings County people went to the railroad station to give the men a cheery send off. The soldiers were in high spirits as the cars carried them away on the great adventure.

At Camp San Luis Obispo, Company B joined with units of the 185th Infantry and other regiments to consolidate the 40th division. This fighting group known as the Sunshine Division was composed of National Guard units from California, Nevada and Utah.

In camp the men were put through rugged training and were then deployed over the coast on tactical maneuvers. Pearl Harbor came and when the coast defense jitters subsided the division was shipped to Ft. Lewis, Wash. on April 29, 1942 for final training. In August of that year the outfit moved to Camp Stoneman staging area near the San Francisco Port of Embarkation. On August 22, 1942, the outfit slipped slowly out of the Golden Gate under the cover of night and sailed to Hawaii, the Island of Kauai, where they remained for a year in defense of Hawaii.

Meanwhile the company had been undergoing changes. New men were coming into the company and experienced troopers were moved out to form the nucleus for new units. Even before the company left Hanford, its commanding officer, Capt. Lee G. Brown, had been ordered to Ft. Benning, Ga., for special training.

In August 1943 the zero hour for combat came. Already a highly trained outfit, the company moved to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, for specific training in jungle warfare. On December 15, 1943, the regiment boarded ship and after 25 days at sea arrived at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. There they consolidated with other forces in preparation for an attack on New Ireland. As the men waited tensely for the orders to take them into combat they learned the attack had been called off.

The troops moved to Cape Gloucester, New Britain and assisted in pushing the enemy northward in relief of the First Marine Division. Thereafter the unit was assigned to keep the port at Cape Gloucester open to friendly shipping.

When the battle for Luzon began on Jan. 9,1945, Company B fighters were in the first wave that landed at Lingayen Gulf, where nearly four years before the Japanese opened their invasion.

Jerry Chandler is credited with killing the first enemy soldier, but only a short time he later met his death in furious mortar fire. With Chandler at Lingayen were James Chester, Veion Coleman, George Cornwell, Clinton Davenport, Dominic Faruzzi, Walter Jollif, Abe Montes, John Randall, Tony Rogers, Bob Ortiz, Frank Oliveira, Hemy Thomas, Ray Wilkinson and Ralph Young, the only remaining Company B members that had left from Hanford, the rest having transferred out.

Kings County men who took part in the Luzon Invasion with other units were Joe Thomas, Bucky Orr, Ray Ortiz, Richard Frantzich, Fred Dean, Bill Mchaffey and Dixon L. Dalby.

Securing the beach head, the troops cleared the area then fought down Luzon to Clark Field where all elements of the Sunshine Division were united. In March the troops were relieved by the 43rd Infantry Division and they returned to Lingayen.

Piling about LSTs with other members of the 185th Infantry the troops moved down to Panay Island where they spent 10 days clearing the area of guerrilla fighters. They then pushed further down to the Negros Island on March 20 where they fought a bitter 72-day town-to-town and hill-to-hill battle clearing out enemy forces.

This fierce fighting cost the lives of two more Kings County men. On Easter Sunday Walter Jollif fell under heavy Japanese machine gun fire and a week later Ray Wilkinson died during thunderous mortar fire.

Their mission completed, the remnants of Company B went back to the Island of Panay to prepare for the big show --the invasion of Japan. (But it never came off for Japan capitulated before the invasion was launched.) The war was over and the boys looked homeward anxiously. Instead they were shipped to Korea for occupation duty. High in points earned for long service, these men soon began returning to the states and home.

When the veterans met in Hanford early in 1946 for their first reunion gold stars reflected memories of the men who paid the supreme sacrifice. Some had died while with Company B. Others met death serving in other units.

On March 5, 1947 they met for their second reunion and heard the story of the guard company that was activated on March 14, 1900 as Company I, Sixth Infantry Regiment, California National Guard. Later it became Company M, Second Infantry. Company M was mustered to the Mexican border in 1916. The company was sent into World War I on April 8, 1917. Company B, 185th Infantry earned many distinctions and numerous awards through the heroic efforts of its officers and men. It served in three wars, men ready on a moment's notice to help write history with their sweat and blood.
(Nov. 13,2008)
 
 
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