|The following information is compiled from “History of the Cottage Grove National Guard Unit and Armory” by Waffen Aney, Oregon Army National Guard Historian, 2004.
A. THE OREGON MILITIA AND OREGON NATIONAL GUARD IN COTTAGE GROVE
Oregon adopted a new militia law establishing a state and federally supported Oregon National Guard in 1885. The Third Regiment of the Oregon National Guard mustered in and served in The Philippines during the war with Spain and the early months of the Philippine Insurrection in 1898. Cottage Grove did not contribute a unit to this effort.
Cottage Grove organized its first National Guard unit in April of 1907, Separate Company E under the command of CPT James C. Johnson. Company E became part of the Fourth Infantry Regiment, Oregon National Guard in July of that same year.
The Fourth Infantry Regiment disbanded in 1910 to become the Oregon Coast Artillery. The Cottage Grove unit became the 6th Company, Coast Artillery Corps, Oregon National Guard.
Cottage Grove also became headquarters for the 3rd Battalion of Oregon’s Coast Artillery in August 1916. The battalion commander was MAJ Harry K. Metcalf, former battery commander and a veteran who had served with the Oregon volunteers in the Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection.
War was raging in Europe by 1917. President Wilson called the 6th Company and 3rd Battalion into federal service in August 1917. Oregon’s coast artillery did not maintain its integrity — its units were made part of other artillery units, particularly the 65th and 69th Heavy Artillery Regiments. These regiments served during campaigns in France and Belgium.
A variety of home guard type units sprang up in Oregon during World War I, with almost every county taking part by organizing a County Defense Force unit.
The 41st Division, organized during World War I as a training and replacement division, became the post-war National Guard division encompassing Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Company D of the 186th Infantry Regiment was organized and federally recognized in Cottage Grove in January 1922.
The Cottage Grove unit went back to being a coast artillery battery and recovered its original unit letter designation in April of 1926 by becoming Battery E of the 249th Coast Artillery, Oregon National Guard. The unit came under the command of CPT LaSells D. Stewart in August of 1930, a World War I overseas veteran, innovative engineer, lumberman, and community leader. During this period, the unit conducted field training at Fort Stevens and Fort Canby on the mouth of the Columbia River while quartering at Camp Clatsop (now Camp Rilea).
War had broken out in Europe and Asia and it looked as if the United States could get involved by 1940. President Roosevelt ordered into federal service in August 1940 for one year 4 National Guard divisions, 18 National Guard coast artillery regiments, and 4 National Guard observation squadrons. Oregon’s 249th Coast Artillery, including Cottage Grove’s Battery E, was among those ordered into federal service, effective September16. The regiment took up quarters at Camp Clatsop and began training at nearby Fort Stevens. Battery commander CPT La Sells Stewart was promoted to major in battalion headquarters. His son, CPT Faye Stewart, took over command of the battery.
The U.S. Congress extended this period of service in September 1941 and on December 7, 1941 the U.S. entered World War II. The 249th Coast Artillery Regiment remained on the Pacific Coast throughout the war serving a harbor defense role. The unit was inactivated in September 1945, a month after World War II was over.
The Oregon State Guard replaced the federalized National Guard during World War II. The Sixteenth Battalion was headquartered in Cottage Grove under the command of LTC LaSells Stewart. Company A and B of the Sixteenth Battalion also formed in Cottage Grove.
Oregon started reorganizing its National Guard soon after the end of World War II Cannon Company of the 186th Infantry Regiment, 41st Infantry Division, Oregon Army National Guard, organized in Cottage Grove in August 1947. This unit was reorganized and redesignated in 1952 as Company B of the 186th Infantry Regiment.
There was a general reorganization of Oregon Army National Guard units to the Army’s new “Pentomic” concept in 1959. The Cottage Grove unit was reorganized and redesignated as Company B, 2nd Battle Group, 186th Infantry, 41st Infantry Division, Oregon Army National Guard.
A truck loaded with dynamite and fertilizer exploded in downtown Roseburg in August of 1959, killing 13 and devastating 8 full blocks. The Roseburg National Guard unit responded within 90 minutes and the Cottage Grove unit was in Roseburg within 12 hours .
The 41st Infantry Division reorganized again in 1963 under the Army’s new ROAD (ReOrganized Army Division) concept. The Cottage Grove unit became Detachment 1 of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, 41st Infantry Division, Oregon Army National Guard.
The 41st Infantry Brigade was formed from elements of the 41st Infantry Division in both Oregon and Washington two years later, in November 1965. This brigade received intensified and advanced training as part of the U. S. Army’s Select Reserve Force (SRF). The Cottage Grove unit became Company A of the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry (SRI), 41st Infantry Brigade, Oregon Army National Guard. Training progressed to the battalion and brigade level and the brigade was the principal player in a 1967 combined forces exercise at Yakima Firing Center, Washington.
The 41st Infantry Division disbanded, with colors retained by the new all-Oregon 41st Infantry Brigade in 1968. The Cottage Grove unit became Detachment 1 of Company C, 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, 41st Infantry Brigade, Oregon Army National Guard. Defense of Alaska became part of the mission of the 41st Infantry Brigade and Company C trained in Alaska in 1973 and 1976. In other years, the unit performed annual field training at Yakima Firing Center, Camp Rilea or Fort Lewis.
The brigade was designated as a “Round Out” unit for the U.S. Army’s 7th Infantry Division In 1975 stationed at Fort Ord, California. For annual training, the brigade traveled to Camp Roberts and Fort Hunter-Liggett in central California to train with parts of the 7th Infantry Division.
The Cottage Grove unit reorganized in 1979 to become Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, the designation it retains to the present. The 41st Brigade left the command and control of the 7th Infantry Division in 1985 and was designated as a Separate Infantry Brigade (SIB) with the capability to be a self-contained effective combat element. The unit did annual field training in amphibious operations in 1986 and 1990 at Coronado, California. A battalion task force went to Korea in March 1988 to participate in Team Spirit Exercise.
A detachment of the company was organized in Eugene in September 1992, The Cottage Grove unit retained the battalion headquarters and staff sections, a communications platoon, a medical platoon, and a staff section platoon. The 41st Separate Infantry Brigade was named as one of 15 <‘Enhanced” brigades in 1994 to be equipped and modernized at the same level as its active army counterparts. In that year the battalion’s annual field training was at the Jungle Operations Training Center in Panama.
The 41st Separate Infantry Brigade (Enhanced) returned to an association with the 7th Infantry Division in 1998, now located at Fort Carson, Colorado. The 41st Brigade became one of the division’s three combat power brigades. Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, including members from Cottage Grove, deployed to Japan in 1996 to participate in the U.S.-Japan cold weather training exercise Northwind 96.
The battalion provided a company size unit for Operation Southern Watch in Kuwait in 1999. Company C in Eugene was given the task but soldiers from throughout the battalion area, including Cottage Grove, volunteered to assist in this 6-month deployment. The unit returned home in July 2000.
Members of the Cottage Grove unit supported and participated in forest fire fighting efforts in Oregon in 2000 and 2001.
The unit responded to orders mobilizing the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry for duty supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom in September 2003. The unit departed for Ft. Hood, Texas in October, where they underwent intensified training preparatory for deployment to Iraq as part of the 39th Separate Infantry Brigade, Arkansas Army National Guard.
B. ARMORY HISTORY
Before and after World War I the Cottage Grove unit occupied an armory located on Main Street and River Road (Figure 2). This building still stands and currently houses an antique store. The current Cottage Grove Armory was completed in 1931. Armory dedication festivities on April 11, 1931 included two parades, beginning with an afternoon march from the old armory on the corner of Main and River, followed by a formal military procession through town in the evening. Over 2,000 spilled out of the drill hail during the dedication ceremony and dance.
The Cottage Grove Armory was designed by the Eugene firm of Hunzicker, Smith and Phillips, and constructed by Stevens, Niblock and Leabo in 1930-193 1. The armory was built for $60,000 and employed primarily local laborers, including the suppliers of lumber, millwork, plumbing and heating, plaster, gravel, and cement (Voss 1993:7). A January 1931 article recounted that the armory construction required 4,800 sacks of cement, 230,000 feet of lumber, 14,500 feet of maple flooring, and employed 21 men (Cottage Grove Sentinel 1931 a). During the 1 930s the drill hail was used for ballroom dancing and roller-skating.