United States Army
Salinas, CA (1959–96) Presidio of Monterey, CA (1996–99) Seaside, CA (1999–2007)
The 149th Armor Regiment was an armor regiment that was part of the California Army National Guard. Its lineage dates back to a cavalry unit organized in 1895; it was deactivated as regiment the 2007 as the 149th Armored Regiment. The unit, in all its incarnations, was activated for multiple natural disasters, border service, peacekeeping, two domestic riots, and two foreign wars. The regiment is recognized by the United States Army as a valid regiment in the United States Army Regimental System, albeit inactive.
Cavalry and World War I
Initially organized as Troop C of cavalry at Salinas on 5 August 1895, being the first national guard unit formed in the Central Coast region. The troop's first activation was when it was called up to provide law and order in San Francisco following the earthquake in 1906, using Golden Gate Park as its base of operations. In 1911 the troop was, was redesignated as being part of 1st Squadron of Cavalry. In 1916, the unit was activated for federal service on the Mexican border near Nogales, Arizona; it was deactivated that same year. Drafted into federal service in August 1917 at Camp Kearny in San Diego, it was redesignated as Company B of the 145th Machine Gun Battalion, as an element of the 40th Division; in May 1919 it was demobilized at the Presidio of San Francisco.
194th Tank Battalion
The unit's heritage as an armor unit dates back to 1924 when it was reorganized as the 40th Tank Company for the 40th Division being equipped with eight French Renault light tanks. Its first activation was due to a strike by Longshoreman in 1934 for eight days. In 1937 the company received the M2A2.
In 1940, the company was designated as Company C, 194th Tank Battalion; other tank companies in Brainerd, Minnesota (Company A) and Saint Joseph, Missouri (Company B) formed the rest of the battalion. A large part of Company C were Salinas High School graduates from the classes of 1938 and 1939. The battalion was mustered into federal service on 10 February 1941, and began training at Fort Lewis, in Washington; their, on 22 February, the battalion finally assembled as an entire battalion. Rated among the best tank battalions in the Army, the battalion was equipped with 54 new M3 Stuart light tanks.
Company B was detached from the battalion, being sent to Alaska; the rest of the battalion boarded the SS President Coolidge in San Francisco on 8 September, bound for Manila. Also aboard the Coolidge was the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment from New Mexico, and the Air Corps' 27th Bombardment Group. The unit thus had the privilege of becoming the first U.S. armored units to serve overseas.
On 26 September 1941 the 194th, along with the 17th Ordnance Company, arrived in Manila, and was then assigned to Fort Stotsenburg. There the unit found supplies to be unavailable, especially gasoline and spare parts; worse, ammunition for the tank's 37-mm main gun was never shipped to the Philippines causing the tankers to improvise ammunition in the following campaign. The 192d arrived in the Philippines on 20 November; joining with the 194th and the 17th, they formed the 1st Provision Tank Group, under the command of Brigadier General Weaver.
Clark Field and withdrawal
The beginning of World War II found Company C in defensive positions around Clark Field, where on 8 December the first Japanese attacks occurred leading to the destruction of half of the Far East Air Force; of the nine Japanese fighters shot down that day, Private Earl G. Smith of Company C was credited with downing one of them. Due to this action, the unit became the first California National Guard unit to see combat. Detached from the rest of the battalion on 12 December 1941, it was attached to the South Luzon Force. On 13 December, Company C moved to Tagaytay Ridge, attempting to apprehend fifth columnists who had been launching flares near ammo dumps at night; this would continue until Christmas Eve. On 23 December 1941, General MacArthur initially having confidence in being able to defend the entire archipelago under war plan Rainbow Five, and with the advances of Japanese forces after landing at Lingayen Gulf dashing his confidence, he ordered a reversion to War Plan Orange and ordered USAFFE forces to withdraw to the Bataan Peninsula.
Assigned to the area east of Mount Banahao and attached to the Philippine Army's 1st Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division. The commanding general of South Luzon Force, Brigadier General Jones, upon hearing that the 1st Infantry Regiment premature movement westward away from their position at Sampaloc by a motorcycle messenger of the Company C on Christmas, he immediately made contact with the unit, and instructed them to engage the Japanese who had landed at Mauban. Deciding to go ahead and conduct reconnaissance, using a halftrack from Company C, he and the halftrack crew were engaged by a Japanese patrol north of the town of Piis. During the engagement the halftrack became immobilized in a ditch, however the crew was able to disperse the patrol allowing BG Jones and the crew to carry the halftrack's machine guns back to friendly lines. For their action BG Jones recommended the crew receive the Distinguished Service Cross; however by the time action was taken on the recommendation (April 1946), the awarding was reduced to a Silver Star and only one of the five crewmembers (Sergeant Leon Elliot) was still alive.
The next day the 2nd platoon of the company was ordered by a Filipino Major Rumbold to attack the Japanese, who were in Piis, down a narrow mountain trail. The platoon leader, Lieutenant Needham, suggested that a reconnaissance be done before the attack but was told it was unnecessary. Advancing as a column down the road, the platoon was impeded by a roadblock consisting of antitank guns, artillery, and several machine guns, which had been prepared in anticipation of exactly the type of American action that was taking place due to the firefight the night before. The lead tank, commanded by Lieutenant Needham, was hit first. The second tank, commanded by Staff Sergeant Emil Morello, drove around Needham's disabled tank and ran over a roadblock and an antitank gun behind it, firing upon other Japanese positions before his tank was disabled itself; in the end five tanks, an entire platoon, were immobilized and lost and five tankers were killed. The Japanese settled in around the tanks that night, believing all the Americans to be dead; as the front moved past them, with the Japanese advancing away from them, this allowed Morello to gather the wounded. With the wounded, he escaped with the help of Filipino guides, to Manila, where he left one wounded tanker in a Catholic Hospital; with the remainder of the wounded they were able to reach Corregidor by the end of the month. For this Morello was awarded the Silver Star (in 1983); he later rejoined the company in Bataan. This action also led the War Department to change from rivets to welding in new tank production.
Another platoon of Company C, was attached to the Philippine Army's 51st Infantry Division, and became part of a covering force covering the division's withdrawal. As part of this covering force the platoon staged defensive lines near Sariaya, then Tiaong where it rejoined the rest of the South Luzon Force, minus the Philippine Army's 1st Infantry Division which would rejoin the rest of the South Luzon Force at Santiago. From there the force bypassed Manila, which had been declared an open city, withdrawing northward to join the rest of the American-Filipino forces heading to Bataan. However, due to unfamiliarity with the geography, Company C passed through the city, with one of the tanks becoming immobile after hitting the Rizal Monument in the darkness; the tank crew of the immobilized tank eventually departed the city on Bren Gun Carriers driven by Filipino soldiers.
At Calumpit there was an important bridges over the Pampanga River, which connected Bataan to the forces that were now north of Manila. To defend these bridges the 194th took up positions at Apalit, covering the west bank of the river and ensuring the path to the units defending the bridges; To the south Compancy C of the 194th covered the southern front at Bocaue. While there observing empty trucks departing Manila to Bataan, the battalion organized the shipment of 12,000 gallons of aviation gasoline and 6 truckloads of canned food from Manila; this was little consultation as the lack of those supplies, that were either destroyed or left behind, led to immediate rationing which reduced the fighting ability of those on Bataan later on. With the bridges having been successfully defended by other units (including the 192nd), Company C became the last unit to cross the bridges before they were demolished to slow down the Japanese advance.
Moving northward on the first days of 1942, the 194th took up position east of San Fernando, with the rest of the Provisional Tank Group covering the withdrawal of the remaining American-Filipino forces into Bataan south of town on the banks of the Pampanga River. While in defensive positions, the first tank-on-tank combat occurred for that 194th, when five Japanese Type 89As approached; the Japanese unit, having not conducted reconnaissance prior to their movement, was caught by the 194th in an open field. All the Japanese tanks were destroyed. With the rest of the forces passing through the town, the tankers detonated the bridge over the San Fernando and withdrew to Guagua.
Ten days since the American-Filipino forces began withdrawing, they found themselves conducting their final delaying actions, while the rest of the force prepared the defenses in Bataan, giving those forces three additional days. The first of those for Company C were due to it serving as an advance force of the main line, north of Guagua, there the held for three and a half hours. Guagua was not held for long, less than two days, and Company C covered the retreat of the remainder of the battalion. While Company C was covering the flank of the forces retreating south from Guagua, a large enemy force of 500 to 800 Japanese soldiers approached behind three Philippine Constabulary officers waving a white flag; the covering force, consisting of two tanks and two half-tracks, opened fire upon the enemy killing them in the open.
Surrender and occupation
Some of the soldiers chose not to comply with orders and surrender, instead becoming guerrillas, resisting the Japanese occupation; one was PFC Eugene Zingheim, a radio operator, who would later be executed after being caught by the Japanese due to malaria in 1943.
Post World War II
After World War II, the 194th Tank Battalion was inactivated in April 1946, then redesignated as the 199th Tank Battalion in June of that same year. In 1949, the unit was reorganized and redesignated as the 149th Heavy Tank Battalion, as an element of the 49th Infantry Division, and then elevated to a parent regiment within the Combat Arms Regimental System in 1959. Due to the Watts Riots, while the unit was having weekend drill, the unit was called up to man roadblocks; while there the tankers were fired upon. In 1968, the 1st Battalion of the regiment was detached from the 49th and became an element of the 40th Infantry Division in 1974.
In 1982, 3rd Battalion conducted winter training at Fort Ripley. In 1989, the regiment was withdrawn from CARS and reorganized in the United States Army Regimental System. The regiment was activated in May 1992 for Operation Garden Plot due to the 1992 Los Angeles riots. In 1994, the regiment was part of the 3rd brigade of the 40th Infantry Division. In 1996 the regiment's headquarters moved to the Presidio of Monterey. Due to the force reduction in other units in 1997, the regiment saw an increase in its size. In 1999 the regiment's headquarters was moved once again to Seaside. Activated for Operation Noble Eagle III in 2003, 1st Battalion was activated to conduct NATO peacekeeping duties as part of the Kosovo Force. Following redesignated of the regiment from armor to armored in 2005, it was redesignated as the 340th Brigade Support Battalion in 2007, a part of the 65th Fires Brigade (United States). Prior to the regiment being disbanded, and redesignated, almost 90% of the soldiers of the regiment had already seen combat in the War on Terror.
Presidential Unit Citations
Philippine Presidential Unit Citation
During the Bataan Death March, Salinas had the unfortunate distinction of having the highest number of soldiers per capita in the march, of any city in the United States. Of the 105 soldiers who left Salinas, who made up a large part of the 114 men who were part of Company C, 46 or 47 survived the war. In October 2011, Sergeant Roy Diaz was reported to be the last surviving Salinas member of Company C; he was the subject of an Emmy Award winning story produced by KTEH, and in February 2012, it was proposed that an access road off Airport Boulevard in Salinas, leading to Salinas Municipal Airport, be named for Diaz.
In 2006, a memorial was erected at the Boronda History Center to commemorate the soldiers of Company C 194th Tank Battalion. This follows a memorial located at Camp San Luis Obispo depicting the actions of SSG Morello's tank on 26 December 1941.