History of the California Militia and National Guard
The Fighting 40th
by Maj Gen Homor O. Eaton, Jr.
Commanding General, 40th Armored Division
This article originall appeared in the September-October 1955 issued of the 40th Armored Division's The Grizzly magazine.
It is easy for me to write about the 40th because, with every justification, I am extremely proud of the organization and I know that my pride is shared all the way down the ranks.

Today the 40th is a veteran outfit led hy a core of battle tested officers and NCOs most of whom have served ill two wars. Our current strength is nearly 6,000-a figure we intend to increase to 10,000 by the time we move out for Summer Field Training next year. But my present purpose is not to deal with the future but to reveal how the 40th happens to stand as it does today.

The division was put together in the hectic days of World War I at Camp Kearney (sic) near San Diego. It was made up of National Guard units from California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, and these were fleshed out with volunteers and draftees from every part of the country. Many of these units traced their histories to the Civil War and beyond and had, more or less recently, served in the Spanish-American War and in the Mexican Border campaign of 1916. So the official birthday of the 40th is July 19, 1917, and its men - under hroad brimmed campaign hats-picked 'em up and lay 'em down on the Kearney reservation as they waded through various training cycles.

By August, 1918, the Division completed it's movement to France. Although the 40th was redesignated the 6th Depot Division, in which capacity it received, trained, equipped, and forwarded replacements, thousands of its troops saw combat during World War I. In fact, 100 men from Los Angeles' Own 160th Infantry Regiment fought with the famous Lost Battalion.

The World War I chapter of the Division history was closed Oll July 16, 1919, when the 40th was demobilized back where it started at Camp Kearney.

But by 1921 postwar reorganization of the National Guard was well uncler way and many units of the 40th had been reconstituted in the Guard. In 1926, seven years after the first demobilization, 'the 40th was on the rolls again with organizations in California, Neveda, and Utah. We didn't know that in another 15 years the bugle would blow again. But it did!
Another War Starts

Another war started in Europe in 1939 and, very quickly, it resulted in a number of significant map changes including the absorption of haH of France into the Reich, the dividing of Poland between Germany and Russia, and so on. The United States, preparing for any eventuality, adopted its first peacetime draft law and prepared to give draftees and National Guardsmen a year of training in the field. On March 3, 1941, the 40th Infantry Division was mobilized at home stations and a few days later found itself slopping through deep mud at unfinished Camp San Luis Obispo.
The liquid adobe finally dried out, measles and other unimportant ailments stopped plaguing the troops, and sticks and logs eventually were exchanged for guns but not quite up to allowances. At induction the 40th was a "Square Division". This meant it had four infantry regiments, in two brigades, supported by a brigade of artillery.

In line with more or less new doctrine, the Division was triangularized---cut down to three infantry regiments supported by four field artillery battalions - and the Big Whammie caught us in the middle of the switch.

The incredible happened. On Sunday, December 7, the Japanese Empire attacked United States Forces at Pearl Harbor. A recall was broadcast to all troops on pass and leave and the next day the 40th moved out to defend strategic areas of Southern California.

The following April, the 40th called Fort Lewis, Wash., home for a while as it underwent advanced training and completed its preparation for overseas movement. Hawaii was the next stop on the travel order.

In December, 1943, the Division sailed for the Solomon Islands and did a trick of duty with the I Marine Amphibious Corps on Guadalcanal.
First Taste of Combat

By that time, World War II looked very close to men of the 40th. The Division completed plans-even to the extent of going through a dress rehearsal for an assault on New Ireland, but someone else captured the Admiralties and the 40th went on to get its first taste of combat in April, 1944, when it relieved the 1st Marine Division on New Britain.

The Sunburst captured Hoskins Airfield and forced the Japanese to retreat to Rabaul. Luzon, in the Phillippines, was next on the itinerary. There were practice landings on New Guinea followed by the McCoy in the Lingayen Gulf on January 10, 1945. Eleven days later the 160th Infantry Regiment - after day and night forced marches- entered Tarilac.

Fortieth units took San Miguel, and, in 53 days of frighting, Capas, Bamban, and Clark Field killed or captured 6,145 Imperial troops. The Island of Panay in the Visayas Group was next and within 10 days Divisional elements liberated virtually all of the island and converted air strips into a freld capable of accommodating American planes.

If this 10-day operation was fast, I cannot refrain from ,pointing out that only 27 hours after our invasion Bacolod, capital of Occidental Negros, fell to the 40th.

This was the Sunburst Division's last action in World War II for, shortly, the hearts of two cities, one named Nagasaki and the other Hiroshima, were obliterated and the 40th went to Korea-"The Land of the Morning Calm"-instead of crossing Chigasaki beach in the "Land of the Rising Sun."

Occupiers Take Trophy

In Korea the Sunburst was part of the Occupation Force. It was there long enough to acquire a trophy -since presented to the State of California and now standing at the entrance to Camp San Luis Obispo-a bronze eagle commemorating Admiral Togo's yictory over the Russian Fleet in 1905.

Personnel were stripped from the Division for their return to civil life. In fact, the Sunburst was just about demobilized in Korea, although it wasn't until April 7, 1946, that the final Morning Report went in at Camp Stoneman, Calif. The record shows that the 40th was the last Guard division home.
A few veteran Guardsmen, their discharges in hand, didn't bother to lay in stocks of mothballs for their uniforms. Instead they started reorganizing the 40th in the National Guard and gradually their forces were joined by other old timers. On October 14, 1946, Division Headquarters received its Federal Rewgnition. And this time instead of hp-ing spread through Neveda and Utah as well as California, the Sunburst's area was limited to Southern California from Santa Maria and the Tehachapi mountains to the Mexican border. Meantime a sister Division, first called the 52nd and now designated the 49th Infantry Division, was being organized in Northern California.

Former Guardsmen, Army Reservists, and veterans of every branch of the Services including the Coast Guard joined up as temporary armories sprouted throughout the area. Weekly drill periods were supplemented with a one·week school at Fort Ord in 1947 and two·week open air sessions at Camp San Luis Obispo in 1948 and 1949. Emphasis, then as now, necessarily was on recruiting. At the beginning of one drive, for instance, the Sunburst was 23rd in strength among 27 National Guard divisions. At the end of the drive it was third.

This reorganization period never really ended. But it was closed abruptly when the North Koreans crossed the 38th parallel starting a warnot really called a war. Within a month of the start of shooting the 40th was ordered to active duty commencing September 1, 1950 One hundred and ten units in 46 communities were called up and by September 6 had started a 28 week training cycle at Camp Cooke, a fog-bound, windswept World War II camp hastily put more or less in working order and which only the veterans knew probably would be looked upon later as a great place. Draftee, volunteer, and reservist "fillers" put war strength muscles on the Division's frame. There were week·ends at home and steak dinners at the Hitching Post.
Meantime the rumor factories were at work. Authenticated-well, almost-stories had it that we would go to Germany. Most personnel hop-ed so. Naturally, therefore, on February 24, 1951, the 40th was alerted for movement to Japan where it was to continue its training and provide security for the northern half of Honshu. On April 10 leading elements of the Sunburst, on a ship carefully piloted around wartime hulks in the harbor at Yokohama, became the first members of a Guard division to arrive overseas since World War II. Oklahoma's 45th wasn't far behind us in reaching Hokaido.
Fuji to Hachinohe

Units of the Division were rapidly dispersed to posts all the way from Mount Fuji and Tokyo in the south to Hachinohe on the northern tip of Honshu.

Japan produced legends-some true - that will live beyond the men who went there with the 40th. After an initial scare - in which word was passed by the Communists that National Guardsmen were all robbers, murderers, arsonists, and whatnot the Japanese decided they were glad to see Sunburst troops. Besides, Russia wasn't very far away. There were of course those in our ranks who studied Japan. They rushed off on pass at every opportunity to marvel at Tokyo and Fujiyama. They learned to say ihio gozaimasu, hiyaku, and a few other things. Spiced noodles, sukiyaki, and sake enlivened every possible occasion. A land of sharp contrasts between the old and the new, with train berths too short for most, Japan fascinated nine out of every ten men. Division postal clerks worked overtime keeping up with the flood of pictures, kimonos, lacquer ware, jewelry, and heaven knows what sent home. Stateside children blossomed out with fancily embroidered satin jackets and teetered around on geta (slippers with stilts on them) and wives coped with salt and pepper shakers of every conceivable size and shape.

There was serious business, too, as the 40th prepared for whatever additional missions might be ordered. There were platoon and company exercises, regimental combat team manuevers, amphibious warfare and air transportability training. For instance, the RCTs engaged in a seaborne operation which took them by truck and rail and ship from their Honshu homes to splash through the surf of Chigasaki Beach in Toyko Bay... albeit five years late.

Rumors began to fill the air again, but of course no one had seriously doubted that the 40th would see combat again. The rumble of fighting wao; just over the horizon to the west, deeper in the Orient. On Christmas Eve, 1951, the 40th was alerted for movement to Korea. As was the case when we went to Japan, I headed an advance detachment to pave the way for the Division, and in the following month-in sub-zero weather-we completed relief of the 24th Infantry Division in a sector jutting far into Chinese-held territory on the. Central Front. The fact is that ours was the northermost position held by American troops.

Winter turned slowly to spring as virtually stalemated troops engaged in small-scale but nevertheless vicious fighting in extremely rugged terrain. Nightly patrols made frequent contact with the Chinese Communists. But, characteristically in a period of a war that wasn't a war, neither UN nor Chinese/North Korean forces launched all-out attacks. For the most part we held the line by sitting on it and keeping the Chinese away from it. We broke up the Chinese habit of improving their fortifications in full view of our front line observers. We shelled them every time we saw them. We even conducted an artillery school-intended to teach infantry officers how to serve as forward observers for the artillery right on the front line. In short, while just living was tough, the fighting during the time we were there-was not. Nevertheless it must be granted that a man is equally dead whether killed in a big fight or a little one.
Biggest Attack Launched

Our largest infantry attack was launched by a reinforced rifle company, while a reinforced battalion of about 100 tanks engaged in the Division's biggest armored attack. Three companies of Chinese infantry made the heaviest attack against us when they sought, unsuccessfully, to dislodge units of the 223rd Infantry Regiment.

The Army announced it would start relieving all National Guardsmen because their terms of service were nearing expiration. In March, 1952, the first increments started the homeward trip by way of Chunchon and Inchon, Korea, and Sasebo, Japan. By June 6 all Guardsmen were home except those who signed over for additional service. And within a few more months the draftees, volunteers, and reservists who had joined us at Camp Cooke were home and out of the service and the 40th, at that stage, bore no further resemblance to the fine Division organized and trained by dedicated Guardsmen.

Holding detachments were created in the California National Guard for officers and men anxious to reorganize the 40th and the now familiar cycle started all over again.

The first step was to organize the headquarters of each organization, then its subordinate units. Insofar as was possible, units were returned to their former homes and veteran officers and NCOs began to show up for new or old assignments. At this point the Table of Organization called for three infantry regiments, four field artillery battalions, one AAA battalion, one tank battalion, one engineer battalion, one medical battalion, and quartermaster, signal, ordnance, and military police companies.

On Aug. 28, 1952 we received the thanks of the community at a civic luncheon sponsored by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. And on Sept. 2, 1952, the 40th came into being in the Guard again-this time being designated the 40th Infantry Division, (National Guard of the United States). Meanwhile, the 40th designation remained active in Korea. Thus, to the confusion of lay folk, there were two
40th Divisions.
Changes Were Made

While we were gone, a number of changes had taken place here at home. The 111th Armored Cavalry Regiment was organized and while it had units up and down the state, many were in our area and constituted a competitive factor in recruiting. But on the other side of the coin new armories had been completed so that actually we were in much better shape than we had been during the comparable period of 1946-47. As a matter of fact, at the moment we are in better shape, from the standpoint of armories than we have ever been. Nevertheless additional new armories are badly needed at Ventura, Escondido, South Gate, Anaheim, Alhambra, and Victorville.

Just over a year after the Stateside return of the last Guardsmen, the 40th designation was dropped from the active list in the Army and returned to California-along with our colors and
standards (from which today flutter the streamers from many campaigns).
The return was marked by the most impressive military ceremony I have ever seen. Market Street and the San Francisco civic center were the setting. Eleven hundred combat veterans of the 40th, in battle gear and wearing new field uniforms, marched up Market Street, from the Embarcadero, and around the civic center square to form a solid phalanx before the grandstand erected in front of the City Hall.

Walter Pidgeon, the actor, narrated events for spectators. I had journeyed to San Francisco with some of my staff members and commanders to receive the colors. First they were handed, by Brig. Gen. William J. Bradley, who brought the 40th AUS home, to Lt. Gen. Williard Wyman, Sixth Army commander. General Wyman presented them to Governor Knight, who handed them to me. It was a thrilling moment, one I shall always remember. Of the people who accompanied me-and they were all pretty tough soldiers who had "had it" in all theatres of World War II-none would admit he didn't have a lump in his throat.

As nearly everyone knows, we call ourselves the "Grizzly" Division. Previously this outfit's nickname was the "Sunshine" Division, which seemed to us to be more than some-what passive. We labeled ourselves the "Sunburst" Division and succeeded in making that fairly well known. After we Guardsmen left Korea, there was an effort to nickname the 40th the "Ball of Fire" and a new, lozenge shaped patch was designed. It didn't stick, I am happy to report. However, the Army a couple or so years ago decided that every division should have a nickname, and we quickly realized we had a chance to bury the "Sunshine," the "Sunburst," and the "Fireball" all at one funeral. In Korea our code name was Grizzly. We felt that name was particularly fitting for a California unit and, moreover, it had an aggressive connotation we liked. We sent all the necessary papers, complete with long arguments, to the Department of the Army, and as a result the 40th officially became "The Grizzly Division" and we're proud of it!

If, on Sept. 2, 1952, we were back in business in the Guard, I assure you that on June 19, 1953, we were back in husiness with a vengeance! And two months later we were able to count 1,940 noses present and available for duty at Hunter Liggett Military Reservation where we had our first post Korean War Summer Field Training. As usually seems to happen before the event, rumors began to circulate that the 40th would be converted to armor. There were many obvious difficulties, not the least of which was the fact that our Division had three regiments of infantry and only
one battalion of tanks. This could have necessitated a wholesale re-qualifying of commanders, to mention only one difficulty. All the problems were aired thoroughly and cussed and discussed
with the Adjutant General of California, the National Guard Bureau, and Sixth Army. Plans were developed and firmed and, on Thursday, fuly 1, 1954 - ju.st a few, short weeks before our next Summer Field Training- I was able to announce that we had swapped our historic role in the infantry for a new mission lwith a new designation as the 40th Armored Division . .

No Impossible Problems

We are still feeling the effects of the changeover, but thus far have faced no impossible problems. In the switch we absorbed a good part of the 111th Armored Cavalry Regiment and had to redesignate all of our organizations and switch the assignments of the bulk of our line officers-artillerymen excepted. The basic structure of the 40th today is this: We have three Combat Commands, to which are attached varying numbers of battalions of tanks and infantry; we have Division Artillery; and we have Division Trains, which carries the 40th's logistical and administrative
Actually we have:
  • Division Troops
  • Combat Command A
  • Combat Command B
  • Combat Command C
  • Division Artillery
  • Division Trains

    "Armor, the Combat Arm of Decision."

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    Posted 11 April 2016