2nd Infantry Division
WORLD WAR ONE
One of the few active units organized on foreign soil, the 2nd Infantry Division was born on 26 October 1917, at Bounnont France. At the time of its activation, the Indianhead Division was composed of one brigade of U.S. Infantry, one brigade of U.S. Marines, an artillery brigade, and various supporting units. During “The Great War” the division was commanded twice by Marine Corps generals; Major General C.A. Doyen and Major General John A. Lejune. This was the only time in U.S. military history when Marine Corps officers commanded an Army Division. The Division spent the winter of 1917 – 1918 training with French Army veterans. Though judged unprepared by French tacticians, the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) was committed to combat in the spring of 1918 in a desperate attempt to halt a German advance toward Paris. The 2nd Infantry Division drew its first blood in the nightmare landscape of Belleau-Wood and contributed to shattering the four-year-old stalemate on the battlefield during the Chateau-Thierry campaign that followed. The Division won hard fought victories at Soissons and Mont Blanc, for which it was awarded the French Fourragire in the colors of the Croix DeGueme. Finally the Indianhead Division participated in the Meuse-Argome offensive, which spelled the end of any German hope for victory. On 11 November 1918 the Armistice was declared, and the 2nd Infantry Division marched into Germany where it performed occupational duties until April of 1919.
BETWEEN THE WORLD WARS
Upon returning to the United States, the Division was stationed at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. It remained there for the next 23 years, serving as an experimental unit, testing new concepts and innovations for the Amy. In 1940 the 2nd Infantry Division was the first command reorganized under the new triangular concept, which provided for three separate regiments in each Division. Indianhead soldiers pioneered concepts of air mobility and anti-tank warfare, which served the Army for the next two decades on battlefields in every corner of the globe.
WWII, THE EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS
As part of the build up for operation Overlord, the Normandy invasion, the 2nd Infantry Division was transferred from Fort Sam Houston to Ireland in October, 1943. There it spent ten months undergoing extensive training. On 7 June 1944, D-Day, the Division stormed ashore at bloody Omaha Beach. While the determined German resistance to the west stalled other units, the Indianheads blasted through the hedgerows of Normandy. After a fierce 39-day battle, the 2nd Infantry Division, fighting in the streets and alleyways, finally liberated the vital port city of Brest on 18 September 1944.
Once mop-up operations were complete in the Normandy region, the Division turned west and plunged headlong across France. From positions around St. Vith, Belgium, the Second was ordered on 11 December 1944 to attack and seize the Roer River dams. Having pierced the dreaded Siegfried Line, the Division was advancing when Nazi Field Marshal Gerd Von Rundstedt unleashed a powerful Geman offensive in the Ardennes. Throughout this Battle of the Bulge, the 2nd Infantry Division held fast, preventing the enemy from seizing key roads leading to the cities of Liege and Antwerp. Resuming the offensive on 6 February 1945, the Division joined the race to annihilate the fleeing Wehrmacht.
Transferred from the First Army to Patton’s Third Amy, the Indianheads spent their last days of the European War in a dash across Czechoslovakia, finally halting in the town of Pilsen. This city became a meeting point between invading armies from the east and from the west. It was in Pilsen that the soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division first met Soviets who represented the forces of Communism that they would face so often in the future, as adversaries.
THE POST-WAR WORLD
Though slated to participate in the scheduled invasion of Japan, V-J Day found the 2nd Infantry Division home once again. After a series of stateside moves, the Indianheads were stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. From their Fort Lewis base, they conducted Arctic, air transportability, amphibious, and maneuver training.
THE KOREAN WAR
With the outbreak of hostilities in Korea during the summer of 1950, the 2nd Infantry Division was quickly alerted for movement to the Far East Command. The Division arrived in Korea, via Pusan on 23 July, becoming the first unit to reach Korea directly from the United States. Initially employed piecemeal, the entire Division was committed as a unit on 24 August 1950, relieving the 24th Infantry Division at the Naktong River Line.
The first big test came when the North Koreans struck in a desperate human wave attack on the night of 31 August. In the 16 day battle that followed, the Division’s clerks, bandsmen, technical and supply personnel, joined in the fight to defend against the attackers. Shortly thereafter, the 2nd Infantry Division was the first unit to break out of the Pusan perimeter, and they led the Eighth Army drive to the Manchurian border. It was at this time that the 2nd Infantry Division received a crucial new support element. In August of 1950, with American forces dwindling, the Korean Augmentation to the United States Army program was established. These valiant new 2nd Infantry Division troops, known since simply as KATUSA, helped turn the tide of the war for American forces. Now within fifty miles of the Manchurian border when Chinese forces entered the fight, soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division were given the mission of protecting the rear and right flank of the Eighth Army as it retired to the South. Fighting around Kunu-ri cost the Division nearly one third of its strength, but it cost the enemy many times more and the way was kept open. The 2nd Infantry Division finally blunted the Chinese winter offensive on 31 January 1951 at Wonju.
Taking up the offensive in a two-prong attack in February 1951, the Division repulsed a powerful Chinese counter offensive in the epic battles of Chip-yong-ni and Wonju. The United Nations front was saved and the general offensive continued. Again in April and May 1951, the 2nd Infantry Division was instrumental in smashing the Communists’ spring offensive. For its part in these actions the 2nd Infantry Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. What followed were alternating periods of combat and rest, with the Division participating in the battles Bloody Ridge, Heart break Ridge, the outposts, and Old Baldy. Finally, on 9 April 1953, the Division was moved to a rear area and on 20 August 1954, four years after its last unit arrived in Korea, the 2nd Infantry Division was alerted for redeployment to the United States.
A REST FROM THE FIGHT
In the summer of 1954 the 2nd Division was transferred from Korea to Fort Lewis, Washington, where it remained for only two years, until being transferred to Alaska in August of 1956. Sadly, on 8 November 1957, it was announced that the gallant 2nd Infantry Division was to be transferred to Washington DC, without personnel. In short, the Division was to be deactivated.
However, a few months later, in the spring of 1958, the Department of the Amy announced that the 2nd Infantry Division would be reorganized at Fort Benning, Georgia, with personnel and equipment of the 10th Infantry Division returning from Germany. Fort Benning remained the home of the new 2nd Infantry Division from 1958 to 1965, where it was initially assigned the mission of a training division. To improve combat readiness, in March of 1962 the 2ID was designated as a Strategic Amy Corps (STRAC) unit. Following this the Division became engaged in intensified combat training, tactical training, and field trainimg exercises, in addition to special training designed to improve operational readiness.
ARMISTICE PERIOD AND BEYOND
As a result of increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula, the 2nd Infantry Division returned to the Republic of Korea in July of 1965. North Korea increased border incursions and infiltration attempts and the 2nd Division was called upon to help halt these attacks. On 2 November, 1966, six soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry were killed in an ambush by North Korean forces. In 1967 enemy attacks in the demilitarized zone increased. As a result, 16 American soldiers were killed that year.
In 1968 North Korea continued to probe across the DMZ but by 1970 the North had decided that their efforts against the 21D weren’t worth the cost and most organized attacks stopped that year. By March of 1971 ROK forces had assumed the responsibility for the defense of all but a mile’s yards of the DMZ, allowing the 2nd Infantry Division to maintain combat readiness in case of any eventuality.
On 18 August 1976, during a routine tree trimming operation within the DMZ, North Korean border guards bludgeoned two American officers to death in a melee in the Joint Security Area, what resulted is known as Operation PAUL BUNYAN. The 2nd Infantry Division was chosen to spearhead the United Nations Command response to this incident and on 21 August, Task Force Brady, a group of ROK soldiers, American Infantry, and engineers, swept into the area and cut down the now infamous “Panmunjom Tree”. The 2nd Infantry Division delivered an unmistakable message to the North Koreans, as well as to the world. Throughout the 1980s, soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division continued to patrol along the DMZ. With the end of the Cold War, 2ID Warriors left the DMZ in 1991, but remained forward deployed along the most heavily defended frontier in the world. In 1994, the death of the North Korean leader, Kim, Il Sung, saw a period of increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula, this time the North was threatening nuclear development.
In 1994, and again in 1999, the 2nd Infantry Division received their 4th and 5th Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citations. The 2nd Infantry Division is still stationed in Korea, with a number of camps near the DMZ. Command headquarters is at Camp Red Cloud in Uijongbu. Today 2ID stands guard on “FREEDOM’S FRONTIER.”