Gimlet History and Lineage



The 21st Infantry Gimlets were first organized on 3 May 1861 as the 12th Infantry Regiment at Fort Hamiltion, New York. Six years later the unit was officially designated as the 21st Infantry Regiment. The first order that created the unit left much work to be done. Officers were appointed and then required to recruit the men they would command.

A year later, on 24 May 1862, the unit was ordered to Washington. Still without arms, the unit was used to help the artillery in the defense of the Capital. However, this type of duty did not last long, for, on 14 July, the unit was ordered to Cedar Mountain. On 9 August the Regiment was ordered to deploy as skirmishers and cover the front of the 2d Division less than 9,000 Union troops faced 20,000 Confederates. The order came to advance. A thousand yards across a creek and into the cornfield advanced the young unit. The Southerners soon found they were facing regulars and their left flank collapsed. The Regiment moved forward, but a Federal Battery mistakenly directed a barrage of murderous fire upon the new unit. A young private sent to report the incident was wounded. Crawling, stumbling, and bleeding, he delivered a report of the mistake, thus becoming the first member of the Regiment to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. With the battle over, the young unit had received its baptism of fire. Today, the Regimental crest bears a cedar tree to commemorate the unit's action against the enemy.

The unit was then sent to such places as Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellors Ville, and Gettysburg. Later, at Spotsylvania, the unit hit the nose of the famed Bloody Angle and then attacked the Confederate fight flank. It was at Petersburg that the Regiment last saw action in the Civil War. It wasn't until December 1866 that the unit was officially designated as the 21st Infantry Regiment.


In May of 1869, a new and different type of fighting became known to the members of the 21st infantry, as it began its first campaign against the Indians. For the next 26 years the numerous Indian tribes throughout the West learned to respect the 21st Infantry. In 1895 with the end of the fighting, the 21st Infantry moved to New York's Plattsburg Barracks.

As it traveled west for the first time, the 21st became the first United States Army unit to cross the country by rail. It was at Promontory Point, in Utah that the 21st Infantry band provided the music at the lying of the last spike of the transcontinental railroad, while the other members of the 21st Infantry witnessed the historic occasion.

After the ceremonies at Promontory Point the officers and enlisted men of the 21st Infantry experienced little joy or rest in their campaigns against the Indians.

In Arizona they fought the Apache for nearly seven years and covered over a thousand miles in their pursuit of the Nez Perces Indians. The 21st next defeated the Bannocks Indians in the year 1878.

The 21st Infantry coat of arms bears four arrows today in testimony of these campaigns against the Indians. The Rattlesnake encircling the arrows is the Indian emblem of war.


The start of the Spanish-American War called the 21st to arms once more. The entire Regiment left for Tampa, Florida and soon found itself aboard ship with the 5th Corps... destination Cuba. Landing near Santiago, the Regiment fought not only the Spanish, but also a continuous battle against the heat, terrain and the ever-present yellow fever. In keeping with the Regiment traditions, units of the 21st advanced further against the enemy than did any other unit throughout the war.

The five-bastion fort, the symbol of the Fifth Corps, appears on the 21st Infantry crest to indicate the valor shown by the 21st during the Spanish-American War.


Rested and ready after the conflict in Cuba, the 21st was once more called on to fight for their country. This time they were called to the Philippines. Expecting a rather pleasant garrison life, elements of the Regiment arrived at Luzon in May of 1899. Twenty-four hours later, they were in the trenches facing fanatical guerrillas. The Regiment sent three different expeditions to the islands: one in 1899, one in 1905, and another in 1909. Each of these groups was successful in suppressing the guerillas that continued to fight them.

The Kaptipunan Sun on the 21st Infantry coat of arms symbolizes the part the Gimlets played in the Philippine Insurrection.


In 1909, the Regiment was reassigned to Vancouver Barracks, Washington, and remained there until World War I. During the World War I, the Regiment was assigned the task of patrolling the Mexican border and training troops. The 21st furnished 8,000 trained Soldiers to units fighting in France, and was on orders for deployment to France when the Armistice was signed. In 1921 the Regiment moved to Schofield Barracks, where it remained until World War II.

It was here that the 21st Infantry acquired the nickname "Gimlet" as a result of the efforts of the athletes led by PFC Eugene Riley. They set the Regiment's tradition in maintaining superiority of the athletic field and were noted chiefly for their fighting spirit. Their motto "Bore Brother Bore" exemplifies there strong will to win.


The 21st Infantry participated in World War II from the opening battle, and was among the last of the Allied units to cease firing.

A member of the 24th Infantry Division, the unit that was here at Schofield Barracks when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, suffering minor casualties when the billets were strafed. The Gimlets moved to the northern side of the island and took up defensive positions. It was on that day the Gimlets began the long and rugged road through the Pacific en-route to Japan.

After extensive training in Hawaii and later in Australia, on 22 April 1944, the 21st Infantry spearheaded the assault at Hanahmerah Bay in New Guinea.

In October 1944, at the focal point of the U.S. invasion of the Philippines on Leyte, the 21st Infantry was instrumental in the capture of the Island of Pancan off the southern tip of Leyte. The capture of this island was strategically important because it enabled the Panoan Straits to be kept open for use by PT boats operating against enemy shipping.

In early November 1944 the 21st rejoined the 24th Division and took part in the action against strong enemy forces at Pinamopoan on Leyte. It fought the terrible battle of Breakneck Ridge. This battle was costly for the 21st. It resulted in the loss of 630 men killed, wounded and missing. In addition 135 were lost for other causes. At Breakneck Ridge the 21st accounted for 1,779 Japanese dead. For it's part in the operation it received the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation.

Following Breakneck Ridge the 21st was attached to the West Visayan Task force on Mindoro, another island in the Philippines. Throughout the months of 1945 and until the Japanese surrender the unit was engaged in continuous combat.

In October of 1945 the 21st Infantry arrived in Japan for occupation duties where it remained until the Korean conflict.


In 1950 the Gimlets were still in Japan. Little did these men realize that their lives would change in a few short months, for the 21st was to be called to battle again. This time it would be Korea.

The Korean chapter of Gimlet history began on 25 June 1950, when North Korean Communist forces launched an overwhelming attack across the 38th parallel aimed at the occupation of Seoul and subjugation of all South Korea.

President Truman's historic decision to use American forces placed the responsibility on the 24th Division in Japan. The 24th in turn called on the Gimlets to become the first American unit to face the Korean Communists.

On 2 July 1950, a small band of Gimlets found themselves debarking at Pusan, Korea. Under the command of LTC Charles B. Smith, they immediately entrained and headed north for Taejon. When "Task Force Smith" reached Taejon, they loaded onto trucks and pushed north. Near Osan contact seemed imminent. The force unloaded and set up positions in the neighboring hills.

On 5 July the Communists struck. Led by 33 Russian T-34 tanks, a force of infantry estimated at well over division strength tried to push the small task force from their positions. The rocket launchers failed to penetrate the Russian tanks. The artillery 105mm howitzers were depressed pointblank in order to stop the advancing armor. Enemy infantry units moved around the small tasks force's position, and LTC Smith realized he must withdraw or lose his entire command. Fighting the Communist forces every step of the way the exhausted task force finally reached the main body of the 21st some 12 miles to the south. Task Force Smith had delayed an entire division for eight long hours. The Gimlet heroic stand gave the Americans time to bring more troops from Japan.

During the days and weeks that followed, the 21st was used to cover the withdrawal of the 24th Division to Puson Perimeter. Here within the perimeter the Gimlets withstood repeated fanatic attacks.

On 19 September, the Regiment struck back. Attacking to the north, the fighting men of the 21st were well above the 38th parallel by the middle of October. By November the Gimlets had succeed in reaching Sonchon, a scant 17 miles from the Yalu River.

The intervention of Chinese Communist forces forced the Gimlets back towards the south. The Regiment fought delaying actions, which allowed the main Allied forces to withdraw and consolidate defensive positions just south of Seoul.

The Gimlets fought the Communists near the Han River in the months that followed. Eventually a stalemate developed. It lasted until the end of hostilities during the summer of 1953. In January of the same year, the Regiment returned to Japan and a well-earned life of comparative ease. A year and a half later, they returned to Korea to guard Communist prisoners at Koje-do Island.

In 1954 the Regiment moved near Seoul where they guarded the ancient invasion route from the north towards Seoul. Here they stayed a constant reminder to communists that aggression in this area would be met by a strong, aggressive group who rightfully earned the title of "First in Korea".


In 1966 and again in 1968, "Gimlet" colors were called to battle as 3rd and 4th Battalions, 21st Infantry went to Vietnam, where they served with the 196th Infantry Brigade (Light), respectfully. In February 1969 both Battalions became part of the 23rd Infantry Division (Americal). As one their missions, the Gimlets helped in conducting offensive operations to assure the security of the Chu Lai base complex. On 11 August 1972, with the de-escalation of the Vietnam War, the Gimlets became the last ground combat unit in the Republic of Vietnam to stand down.


In December 1989, the 4th and 5th Battalions, 21st Infantry deployed to Panama with the 7th Infantry Division (Light) as part of OPERTION JUST CAUSE.


The 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry was reactivated 5 June 1972 at Schofield Barracks and assigned a member of the 25th Infantry Division.

In 1985 the Gimlets were called on again to be first. It was the first Infantry Battalion to convert to the Light Battalion configuration of the 25th Infantry Division. The Gimlets set the standards for equipment turn-in, Light Leaders course in Ft. Benning, Georgia, and Light Fighter 1 and 2. Today the Gimlets are known as the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry (Light).


Presidential Unit Citation (Army)

Streamer embroidered DEFENSE OF KOREA

Presidential Unit Citation (Army)

Streamer embroidered SANGHONGJONG NI

Philippine Presidential Unit Citation

Streamer embroidered 17 OCTOBER 1944 TO 4 JULY 1945

Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation

Streamer embroidered PYONGTAEK

Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation

Streamer embroidered KOREA


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