1st Infantry Division
History of the 1st Infantry Division
The Division’s history begins in 1917 when General John “Blackjack” Pershing arrived in France with the First American Expeditionary Force. The “Fighting First” led the way for American troops in World War I. Names like Cantigny, Soissons, St. Mihiel and the Argonne Forest tell the story of the gallantry of the soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division, now wearing the famous “Big Red One” patch on their left shoulder.
During World War II, the 1st Infantry Division was the first to reach England, the first to fight the enemy in North Africa and Sicily, the first on the beaches of Normandy in D-Day and the first to capture a major German City – Aachen.
The D-Day landings on June 6, 1944 provided the supreme test. In five days, the division drove inland and cleared a beachhead for supplies and troops. Driving eastward across France against fanatical resistance, the soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division spent nearly six months in continuous action with the enemy.
After capturing Aachen, the 1st Infantry Division still faced months of bitter fighting at places like the Hurtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge. When the War ended, the Big Red One had rolled through Germany and into Czechoslovakia.
The 1st Infantry Division remained in Germany until 1955, first as occupation troops, then as partners with the new Germany in NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In 1955, the Big Red One redeployed to Fort Riley Kansas.
In the summer of 1965, the Big Red One was the first division called to fight in Vietnam. For nearly five years, its soldiers battled the enemy while carrying out programs to aid the people of South Vietnam. In April 1970, the colors of the 1st Infantry Division returned to Fort Riley. Home again, the Big Red One became a dual based division with its 3rd Brigade in West Germany.
Another first was credited to the Division when it embarked on the beginning of a long series of REFORGER (Return of Forces to Germany) exercises. These exercises demonstrated our nation’s determination and capability to defend, with our NATO allies, Western Europe.
On November 8, 1990, the 1st Infantry Division was alerted and over the next two months, deployed more than 12,000 soldiers and 7,000 pieces of equipment to Saudi Arabia in support of Operations Desert Shield/Storm. Another first, the Big Red One led the charge into Iraq. After spearheading the armored attack into Iraq, by February 27, 1991 the division broke the enemy’s defense along the Kuwait border and cut off the path of retreat for the fleeing Iraq Army.
During the next 100 hours, the Division raced across southern Iraq into Kuwait, engaging and destroying all or part of 11 enemy divisions. The Division fought its way through 260 kilometers of enemy-held territory, and destroyed more than 500 enemy tanks and 480 armored personnel carriers. In addition, the Division captured more than 11,400 enemy prisoners of war – twice as many as any other unit.
On April 10, 1996, the colors of the 1st Infantry Division moved to the German city of Wurzburg. Shortly after their arrival, the Big Red One soldiers assumed peace enforcement responsibilities in Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of Operations Joint Endeavor/Guard. The Division deployed to the Balkans twice in 1999, first as part of Task Force Sabre in Macedonia, then in Kosovo with NATO’s Task Force Falcon on 10 June. This contingent patrolled the streets and countryside of Kosovo until June 2000, when it turned the mission over to the 1st Armored Division.
In November 2002, the 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment joined NATO’s Task Force Falcon in support of Operation Joint Guardian for a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. The 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment enforced peace agreements in the Multi-National Brigade East Sector. The 2-63 helped create a more secure environment and assisted in transition to civilian control.
In January 2003, the division primed itself for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Big Red One soldiers formed Headquarters, Armed Forces-Turkey and prepared the way for the 4th Infantry Division to enter Iraq through Turkey. When the Turkish Government denied access through their border, ARFOR-T collapsed the lines of communication it had built and the 4th ID deployed to Iraq via Kuwait.
The division took a more direct role in Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, when the 1st Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment deployed to Northern Iraq. Operating in the Sunni Triangle, Task Force 1-63 conducted combat operations while simultaneously helping bring stability to the region.
As Task Force 1-63 returned home to Germany in February 2004, the rest of the 1st Infantry Division and Task Force Danger deployed to Northern Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 1st Infantry Division’s Task Force Danger consists of Germany-based 1st Infantry Division units along with the 30th Brigade Combat Team “Old Hickory” based in North Carolina, and the 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team from Hawaii.