Mayor Figley reflects on Veterans Day, Woodburn Armory

Mayor Kathy Figley wrote a guest blog this week on Veterans Day, as well as touching on the vast history of the Woodburn Armory.

This past Monday I had the privilege of addressing a group of veterans at Belle Passi Mausoleum and I was reminded of Woodburn’s rich military history.

Veterans Day is a national holiday we celebrate each Nov. 11 to honor all of our veterans whether active, reserve, retired or passed away. It is a holiday that means a lot to me, personally, too, with the Woodburn Armory right here in our town.

Woodburn has a long military heritage. The City is located eight miles south of Champoeg where, in May 1843, settlers created Oregon’s first government and adopted its first militia law. Company H, Second Regiment was organized Nov. 20, 1895 as Woodburn’s first National Guard unit, with Capt. John M. Poorman named as its commander.

In addition to serving the recent Middle East conflicts, men and women stationed in Woodburn have been involved in wars and disputes all over the globe.

·         The Philippines (1898-99): In anticipation of war with Spain, on April 25, 1898 the President of the United States informed the governor that Oregon was to furnish one regiment of infantry. On May 7, 1898 Oregon National Guard unit Company H of Woodburn consolidated with Company E of Hubbard to form Company M.

·         Mexican Border Duty (1916): In June 1916 Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa crossed the border and raided Columbus, New Mexico. President Woodrow Wilson ordered a general call-up of National Guard units from across the country. Oregon’s Third Infantry Regiment, including Company I from Woodburn, mustered in on June 19 and headed for the border.

·         World War I (1917-19180: When the troops arrived home from the Mexican Border, war was already raging in Europe. On March 25, 1917 President Wilson called most of the National Guard into federal service. Oregon’s Third Regiment, including Company I from Woodburn, mobilized at home stations overnight — the first regiment in the country to be ready.

·         Post World War I: Soon after World War I, the 41st Division was designated as the National Guard division encompassing Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. On May 19, 1921 Howitzer Company, 186th Infantry Regiment, 41st Division was reconstituted as Woodburn’s Oregon National Guard unit. On Oct. 1, 1939 the Woodburn unit reorganized as Anti-Tank Platoon, 186th Infantry Regiment, 41st Division, Oregon National Guard.

·         World War II (1941-1945): In September 1940 President Franklin Roosevelt called most of the National Guard units of the Pacific Northwest into Federal service for one year, including the 41st Division and its Woodburn unit.

Soon after the end of World War II, Oregon started reorganizing its National Guard and the 41st Infantry Division became the National Guard division of Oregon and Washington. On July 3, 1947 Anti-Tank Company, 186th Infantry Regiment, 41st Infantry Division was reconstituted in Woodburn. On Nov. 1, 1948 this unit was reorganized as Tank Company, 186th Infantry Regiment. In 1959 it became Troop B, 162nd Combat Arms Regiment, then Troop B, 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, 82nd Armor Regiment. In 1965 it became Troop E, 82nd Cavalry, then Troop E, 116th Cavalry Brigade in 1989, then back to Troop E, 82nd Cavalry in 1995. Then it again became Troop B, 1st Squadron, 82nd Cavalry for a few years.

A separate unit was also located in Woodburn from 1995 until 2011: Detachment 1, Troop G, 82nd Cavalry, which became Detachment 1, Company B, 3d Battalion, 186th Infantry Regiment.  The Woodburn unit is now Company B (Rifle), 3rd Squadron, 116th Armored Cavalry regiment. It has been recently equipped with the M2A3 Bradley tracked armored personnel carrier, one of the first National Guard units to be issued this up-to-date combat vehicle.

In 1912 a state-built Armory was completed in Woodburn. Total cost was $24,608 ($10,764 state, $8,285 county, $1,000 city and $4,558 private). The 100 by 119-foot two-story building was constructed of brick trimmed in stucco. It was part of a seven armory construction project.

In 1957, federal and state funds were allocated for a new armory and the City provided a site in northeast Woodburn to build what is now the current Armory. It was completed in September 1957 at a cost of $137,483 ($96,675.56 federal, $40,808.56 state). It was built as a 15,923 square feet, single story one-unit “K-style” Armory, featuring a drill floor roof with glue-lam barrel arch beams.

The Armory underwent a minor remodel in 2011. This included installing some new windows, asbestos abatement, new office floors, repainting the exterior and a new roof over the former indoor rifle range area.

I know a lot of us take the Armory for granted as we drive along Park Street or go to Legion Park, which the Woodburn Armory sits right across the street from. Soldiers are their day in and day out, carrying out their duties to make our country a better place. They are always ready to serve at a moment’s notice and I am grateful for that sacrifice. If you see our soldiers out in the community, make sure to thank them for their service. Not only will they feel appreciated, you will feel something special as well.

If you are interested in learning more about Woodburn’s Armory, and its history, I suggest you click here and read this document that was put together by the Oregon Military Department.

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