Tropic Lightning Museum, Schofield Barracks
The Tropic Lightning Museum preserves and displays artifacts and memorabilia from the 25th Infantry Division. In August 1956 the museum began collecting items representing the division and continued to grow its collection from the Vietnam War on. As the 25th Infantry Division continues to fight the museum expands and opens new galleries. Since opening, the Tropic Lightning Museum has become the post museum.
Backstory and Context
Activated October 1, 1941, the 25th Infantry Division, “Tropic Lightning,” was placed in Schofield Barracks. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 the 25th Infantry Division was moved to island positions to defend against another attack. November 25, 1942 units of the 25th Infantry Division began moving to Guadalcanal to relieve marine units. The division continued to play a vital role during the island-hopping campaigns of the Pacific and took most of the brunt in conflicts such as the Philippines in 1945. Once relieved from their position in the Philippines on June 30, 1945, the division was deployed to Japan on September 20, 1945.
On June 25, 1950, North Korea crossed the 38th parallel into South Korea, and the 25th Infantry Division was mobilized to Korea from Japan by July 18, 1950. The division's first duty was to defend the port city of Pusan which they were noted for combat effectiveness. This success continued as the 25th Infantry Division along with United Nations troops pushed the enemy to the Yalu River on November 24, 1950, but had to withdraw due to an overwhelming number of Chinese troops that crossed the river. After the systematic retreat, the division participated in numerous operations to include Operation Ripper in which the enemy was forced to the Han River in the Spring of 1951. While peace negotiations were being discussed, the division resorted to patrolling and a more defensive posture to repel enemy attacks on the capital of Seoul. Even though the ceasefire was ordered in 1953, the 25th Infantry Division remained in Korea until 1954 before they returned to Schofield Barracks Hawaii.
As fighting in Vietnam increased, the 25th Infantry Division was called upon in 1963 to provide resources that would continue to escalate until January 1966 when a large majority of the division's manpower and equipment was obligated to the conflict. The division participated in intense fighting during the Tet Offensive of 1968-1969 in the defense of Saigon. Soldiers of the division were also instrumental in operations in 1970 to infiltrate deep into Cambodia and confiscate supplies which deterred Cambodian resistance. From that point on the units of the 25th Infantry Division resumed operations in Vietnamization before units were slowly redeployed to Schofield Barracks. During the Vietnam War, there were 22 Medal of Honor recipients in the 25th Infantry Division.
After returning from Vietnam the division did not play a major role in Desert Storm and only began rotations in Afghanistan until 2004. From that point on, units from the 25th Infantry Division took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Champion Sword. Over the history of the division, it has changed the organization from a light infantry division to being composed of infantry, stryker, artillery, sustainment, and aviation brigades. The division has received numerous awards and commendations to include Meritorious Unit Commendations, the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, and many more. Lastly, the 25th Infantry Division memorial is located at Schofield Barracks consisting of four statues representing the major conflicts that the division has taken part in and will include more as the division responds to the call of duty.
Twenty-fifth Infantry Division: Tropic Lightning, Korea, 1950-1954. Vol. 2. Paducah, Kentucky. Turner Publishing Company, 2002.
Bergerud, Eric M.. Red Thunder, Tropic Lightning. Westview Press, 1993.
Walthall, Melvin C.. Lightning Forward. 25th Inf. Division Association.