Legendary Military Units: 1st Infantry Division, “The Big Red One” – No Mission Too Difficult. No Sacrifice Too Great. Duty First!

The Big Red One

One U.S. Army division has been around since 1917. The 1st Infantry Division has seen many battles in various countries over the last 105 years.

Creation of The Big Red One

The division fought in just about every war America has been involved in, from World War I & II to Vietnam, Iraq, Afghan, and many wars in between. The Big One was formed in May 1917.

Maj. Gen. John Pershing had orders to gather four infantry divisions, plus an artillery regiment, and take them to France. Since there were so many soldiers, Pershing made them into a division.

He called them the First Expeditionary Division, a unit with an artillery regiment. Eventually, their name would change to First Division.

Their first mission was to fight alongside the French to keep Germany in line. They even ended up fighting on the frontlines at one point. They also claimed an American first.

The first American shell to be fired in a ground war. The shell was fired on October 23. 1917, but they soon claimed another first. The first American casualty was two days after.

The doughboys fought at Cantigny, pushing through Soissons, the St. Mihiel Salient, and the Meuse-Argonne Forest. At the end of WWI, the division got its “Big Red One” patch that still adorns their shoulders.

WWII & Beyond

The division headed to Africa during World War II. They were integral to Operation Torch and its subsequent victory for the Allies. They also stemmed the supply of oil to the Axis powers in Europe.

They were a big part of D-Day at Normandy, Operation Husky, and Operation Overlord, which made them a part of two huge amphibious operations in WWII and one of the largest ever.

The second brigade was one of the first to land in Vietnam. They fought for many years, captured supplies, and took out a weapons stockpile. They also participated in the Tet Offensive, where they lost their commanding general, Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware.

In Desert Storm, the division was able to break through the defensive berm and into Iraq. They took on the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division, taking 2,500 prisoners. Before Desert Storm was over, they faced around 11 enemy divisions and took over 11,400 prisoners. The Big Red One even fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of their missions was to secure the Sunni Triangle.

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