Having proven its mettle in World War II and the Korean War, the 25th Infantry Division
began deploying to Vietnam in December 1965. Over the next four months, the division known as “Tropic Lightning” would have all its units deployed in the country, with a headquarters just over 32 kilometers northwest of the capital of Saigon. Among its finest moments were its role in the defense of Saigon during the 1968 Tet Offensive and the U.S. offensive against enemy sanctuaries in Cambodia, codenamed Operation Rock Crusher. By the time the last elements of the division had arrived in Fort Lewis, Washington in May of 1971, the unit had taken part in a dozen of the official U.S. campaigns during the war and had garnered a Meritorious Unit Commendation, Two Republic of Vietnam Crosses of Gallantry with Palm, and a Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal, First Class.
Reorganized as a light infantry division in 1985, Tropic Lightning was not deployed for Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm, but in 1995 its headquarters and two brigades were sent to Haiti as part of a U.N. Security Council Resolution in response to a coup d’etat that led to a military regime in that nation. It also sent 1,000 troops on a peacekeeping mission to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2002, but its next battlefield test would come in the deserts of Southwest Asia.
Similar to its Combat Service Identification Badge
and its patch
, the 25th Infantry Division’s Unit Crest—officially known as a Distinctive Unit Insignia—is shaped like a taro leaf, an acknowledgement of its Hawaiian origins. A streaking flash of lightning between two palm fronds is a visual interpretation of the unit’s motto and nickname, “Tropic Lightning.” A volcano belching smoke behind the lightning flash is yet another nod to the division’s ties to the Aloha State.