The First Regiment of the North Dakota Infantry was organized on this date in 1885. The infantry would later become the foundation of the North Dakota National Guard and the 164th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army.
During the 1860s, Dakota Territory Governor William Jayne issued proclamations calling for the organization of volunteer militias to defend and protect Dakota Territory. Jayne was motivated after the federal government reassigned many of the Army troops serving in Dakota military posts to southern states to fight in the Civil War. The governor believed Dakota Territory was left vulnerable and undefended. The newly created Dakota Territorial Militia was under-funded and under-provisioned, and existed as a loose organization until 1885 when one thousand members were formally recognized as the First Regiment of North Dakota.
Four years later, North and South Dakota were divided, and the North Dakota State Constitution authorized one Guard regiment of ten companies. In 1898, the regiment was called-up for duty to defend the Philippines from the Spanish. Eight companies were selected and organized into the North Dakota Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The regiment was activated again in 1916 to defend the U.S. border with Mexico, then months later for service in World War I.
In 1917, state regiments were numbered with the state designations eliminated. That’s when the North Dakota Infantry became the 164th Regiment. In November of 1917, the regiment traveled to France to join the American Expeditionary Forces.
During World War II, the unit found itself in the Pacific theater of the war, ordered to relieve Marine forces pinned down on Guadalcanal. On October 13th, the 164th became the first U.S. Army unit in World War II to offensively engage the enemy. For their actions, the unit earned a Presidential Unit Citation, as well as the respect of their Marine cohorts. The unit was authorized to wear the 1st Marine Guadalcanal Patch on their uniforms, and became known as the “Little Marines” or the “164th Marines.” Marine Commander Puller later remarked of the 164th, “Those farm boys can fight.”
The unit also saw action during the Korean War in 1951, but it was eventually converted into engineering battalions. Today, the 164th provides engineering and officer training as part of the North Dakota Army National Guard.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job
Lounsberry, Clemente A. 1919 Early History of North Dakota: Essential Outlines of American History: 600-601.
The Cavalier Chronicle. Thursday, April 15, 2010.