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 Hürtgen 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 Würzburg. 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 2ndBattalion, 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.
The 1st Brigade Combat Team deployed to support Operation Iraqi Freedom in the fall of 2003 and returned to Fort Riley in September 2004.
As part of the BRAC changes, the Division cased its colors in Germany July 7, 2006. The 1st Inf. Div. conducted a transfer of authority with the 24th Inf. Div. on Aug. 1, 2006, assuming command and control of Fort Riley.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team deployed from Germany in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006.
Due to changes in the war strategy, 1st Brigade assumed two new missions for the Army in 2006.
Mission 1: The 1st Brigade is charged with supporting the Army’s Transition Team training mission where Brigade Soldiers train thousands of service members from across the Army, Air Force and Navy to become Iraqi and Afghan military advisors.
Mission 2: The 1st Brigade provided deployable security force elements that can move anywhere the Army wants them to be. Approximately 2,000 Soldiers from the brigade deployed fall 2006 as SECFOR companies.
The 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from Fort Riley deployed to Iraq in early 2007 and returned in April 2008. During its 15-month deployment to Iraq, 74 Soldiers assigned and from attached units gave their lives. While in Iraq, the 4th IBCT Soldiers conducted combat operations that resulted in the capture of more than 200 high-profile targets and reduced 20 enemy cells down to five. 4th IBCT Soldiers also completed more than 200 civil projects, including repairing sewer, water, medical and education facilities. Working with the Iraqi Government in Rashid, the 4th IBCT increased water accessibility by 90 percent.
The 3rd Brigade Combat Team deployed to eastern Afghanistan in June 2008, where the ‘Dukes’ would record more than 1,000 firefights, 1,000 enemy KIAs, 500 bombs dropped, 26,000 rounds of artillery fired, and 400 purple hearts awarded.
In October 2008, the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat team deployed to Iraq again, this time to Northwest Baghdad, where the Dagger Brigade would oversee the moving of American Forces out of the city and restricted to post, in accordance with the new Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi Government.
The Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, the first of its kind in the new modular division headquarters structure, deployed to United States Division – South to assume control of the ongoing United States Operations in the southern part of Iraq. The DHHB unit replaced the 34th Infantry Division ‘Red Bulls’, and was relieved by the 36th Infantry Division ‘Arrowhead’.
In April of 2010, the 1st Infantry Division Combat Aviation Brigade returned to Iraq, assuming the role of Enhanced CAB, taking responsibility for the air control over all of Iraq in August.
The 1st Brigade of the 1st Division re-formed as a combat team again and deployed in support of Operation New Dawn in November 2010.
“NO MISSION TOO DIFFICULT, NO SACRIFICE TOO GREAT”