The 128th Infantry Regiment ("Les Terribles") is a United States military unit of the Wisconsin National Guard. The 128th has served as part of the American Civil War, Spanish–American War, Mexican Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Iraq War.
The 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, traces its history to the spring of 1861, when the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, comprising independent companies from throughout the state, was organized and activated into federal service. The 2nd Wisconsin was joined by several other regiments to form the famous "Iron Brigade," which soon became one of the most feared and respected units on either side in the Civil War for its performance in such battles as Antietam and Gettysburg. Additionally, Eau Claire was home to the soldiers that comprised Company C of the 8th Infantry, otherwise known as the "Eagle Regiment," because of its famous mascot "Old Abe," a pet bald eagle who accompanied the regiment into battle. The 8th Wisconsin fought in the western theater at places such as Vicksburg, MS.
In 1898, four infantry regiments from Wisconsin were formed and activated at the outbreak of the Spanish–American War. During that brief conflict, Wisconsin Guardsmen participated in the capture of Puerto Rico. A letter from a member of the 2nd Wisconsin describes some of the details of the guardsmen's role in the conflict:
"We landed here at Ponce Friday without opposition by the Spaniards. They fled to the hills when we came in sight. But it has been skirmish every day since we landed. We have captured 200 prisoners. The 3rd Wisconsin [National Guard] got into battle yesterday and one man was wounded in the hip, and one of the Massachusetts boys got shot in the neck, and went a mile, and a half before he fell. There was a skirmish last night but have heard of no one being wounded, or killed."
In 1916, Wisconsin infantry units served with General Pershing to chase Pancho Villa along the Texas border and into northern Mexico. The Wisconsin troops were again activated in 1917 as the United States declared war on Germany. After a period of intensive training, the Wisconsin Guardsmen were redesignated as the 128th Infantry, assigned to the 32nd Division and sent to France. In the closing months of the war, the 128th Infantry participated in several major campaigns including Alsace, Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne and Meuse-Argonne. For their fury in combat, the nickname "Les Terribles" or "The Terrible Ones" was given to them by the French. As they pierced the famed Hindenburg Line, the 32d Infantry Division became known as the "Red Arrow" Division – a name that has remained to the present day and is reflected in shoulder patch.
21 years later, the 128th, as part of the 32d Division, was called to federal service on 15 October 1940. After training in Louisiana, the unit was moved by convoy to Port Adelaide, Australia. The 128th, as part of the 32d, broke through the Japanese lines at Buna ("Bloody Buna") New Guinea; defeated Japanese General Adachi's divisions at Saidor and Aitape, New Guinea; defeated the Japanese Imperial First Marines in Leyte (Imperial First Marines only loss in 200 years); and pierced the Yamashita Line in Luzon. The 128th Regiment and 32d Division were still in combat action when the cease fire order came on 15 Aug. 1945. The 32d Infantry Division had been in combat 654 days – more than any United States division in any war.
When the cold war peaked with the Soviet blockade of Berlin in October 1961, President Kennedy became the third United States president in the 20th Century to call the 128th, as part of the 32d Infantry Division, to federal active service. The division trained at Ft. Lewis, WA, for 10 months, maintaining a high level of readiness until the crisis abated. In August 1962 its soldiers returned home and resumed their status as Wisconsin National Guardsmen.
The 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry, was formed as a result of the transitioning of the 32d Infantry Brigade from a mechanized unit to a separate light infantry brigade in September 2001.Description
A metal and enamel device 1 1/16 inches (2.70 cm) in height overall consisting of a shield blazoned as follows: Azure, on a pale Or the shoulder sleeve insignia of the 32d Division Proper (a Red arrow having shot through a line), on a chief of the second three fountains. Attached above on a wreath of the colors Or and Azure, a badger couchant Proper. Attached below and to the sides a Gold scroll inscribed "LES TERRIBLES" in Blue letters.Symbolism
The shield is blue for Infantry. The pale, dividing the shield into thirds, alludes to three of the major offensive engagements in which the organization as an element of the 32d Division participated in World War I. The red arrow is the design of the shoulder sleeve insignia of the 32d Division. Traditionally, the word "Wisconsin" means "wild rushing waters," thus the three fountains, heraldic symbols for water, appropriately stand for the Wisconsin Army National Guard regiments: First, Second and Third, from which elements stemmed to make up the organization during World War I. The motto translates to "The Terrible Ones." Background
The distinctive unit insignia was approved on 15 March 1926. It was amended to revise the description on 20 April 1926.Blazon
Shield – Azure, on a pale Or the shoulder sleeve insignia of the 32d Division Proper (a Red arrow having shot through a line), on a chief of the second three fountains.
Crest – That for the regiments and separate battalions of the Wisconsin Army National Guard: On a wreath of the colors Or and Azure, a badger couchant Proper.
Motto LES TERRIBLES (The Terrible Ones).
Shield – The shield is blue for Infantry. The pale, dividing the shield into thirds, alludes to three of the major offensive engagements in which the organization as an element of the 32d Division participated in World War I. The red arrow is the design of the shoulder sleeve insignia of the 32d Division. Traditionally, the word "Wisconsin" means "wild rushing waters," thus the three fountains, heraldic symbols for water, appropriately stand for the Wisconsin Army National Guard regiments: First, Second and Third, from which elements stemmed to make up the organization during World War I.
Crest – The crest is that of the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
Background – The coat of arms was approved on 25 March 1926. It was amended to revise the blazon of the shield on 20 April 1926.