Division History

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1st Calvary Division

1st Calvary Division patch

1st Cavalry Division units have served the nation from 1855 to the present; building a history rich in pride with solid ties to the traditions and heritage of the United States Cavalry.

The famed 1st Cavalry Division was baptized by fire and blood on the western plains in an era of horse-mounted cavalry. Dubbed the "First Team" by Major General William C. Chase, the division has always strived not only to be the first, but to be the best.

With the initiation of the National Defense Act, the 1st Cavalry Division was formally activated on September 13, 1921 at Fort Bliss, Texas. That day, the 7th and 8th Cavalry Regiments were assigned to the division. The 5th Cavalry Regiment was assigned on December 18, 1922.

Vietnam - In 1965 the division was reorganized and prepared for a new mission. Within 90 days of becoming the Army's first air mobile division, the First Team was back in combat as the first fully committed division of the Vietnam War.

Their first real combat test came during the Pleiku campaign; 35 days of continuous air mobile operations beginning October 29, 1965. The troopers destroyed two of the three regiments of a North Vietnamese Division, earning the first Presidential Unit Citation given to a division in Vietnam.

The division began 1968 by terminating Operation Pershing, the longest of the 1st Cav's Vietnam actions. For nearly a year the division scoured the Bong Son plain, An Lo valley and the hills of coastal II Corps, seeking out enemy units and their sanctuaries. When the operation ended on January 21, the enemy had lost 5,401 soldiers and 2,400 enemy soldiers had been detained. Some 1,300 individual and 137 crew served weapons had been captured or destroyed.

Moving to I Corps, Vietnam's northern most tactical zone, the division set up Camp Evans for their new base camp. In late January, the enemy launched the Tet Offensive, a major effort to overrun South Vietnam. Some 7,000 enemy, primarily well equipped, crack NVA regulars blasted their way into the imperial city of Hue and Quang Tri, the capital of Vietnam's northern most province.

The Cav went on the move and by February 1, Quang Tri was liberated followed by Hue. After shattering the enemy's dreams of a Tet victory, the 1st Cavalry Division "Sky-troopers" moved to relieve the besieged Marine Base at Khe Sann.

In May 1970, the First Team was "First into Cambodia," hitting what was previously a Communist sanctuary. Troopers deprived the enemy of much needed supplies and ammunition, scattering the enemy forces. The division's Vietnam service ended in 1972 when its last brigade began withdrawing. The 1st Cav had been the first division to go, and the last to leave.

"Firsts" had become the trademark of the First Team.

General Creighton Abrams, while commander of all U.S. Forces in Southeast Asia, said of the 1st Cav, "The big yellow patch does something to an individual that makes him a better soldier, a better team member, and a better American than he otherwise would have been."

Note: The patch of the 1st Cavalry Division has a history as colorful as its design, reflecting the proud heritage of the United States Cavalry in a timeless manner. On a "sunset" yellow triangular Norman Shield with rounded corners 5 1/4 inches in height, a black diagonal stripe extends over the shield from upper left to the lower right. In the upper right, a black horse's head cut off diagonally at the neck, appears within 1/8 inches of an Army Green border. The traditional Cavalry color of yellow and the horse's head is symbolic of the original organizational structure of the Cavalry. The color black is symbolic of iron, alluding to the organizational transition from mounted horses to tanks and heavy armor. The black stripe, in heraldry termed a "Sable Bend", represents a "baldric" (a standard Army issue belt worn over the right shoulder to the opposite hip - sometimes referred to as a "Sam Browne belt") which retains either a scabbard which sheaths the trooper's saber or revolver holster.

196th Light Infantry Brigade

196th Light Infantry Brigade patch

The 196th Infantry Brigade (Chargers) also known as the Charger Brigade was first formed on 24 June 1921 as part of the United States Army Reserve's 98th Division with the responsibility of training soldiers.

Vietnam - The 196th Light Infantry Brigade was reactivated again in September 15, 1965 at Fort Devens, MA, where it was originally scheduled to be sent to the Dominican Republic, but was rushed to Vietnam on July 15, 1966 via transport ships, arriving at Tay Ninh city on August 14, 1966, where it began combat operations in the western area of III Corps. The 196th conducted Operations Cedar Falls, Gadsen, Lancaster, Junction City, Benton, and Attleboro (War Zone C of the Tay Ninh Province), where it turned into a major action after a large enemy base was found in October, 1966.

In April, 1967, the 196th was selected, along with the 1st Brigade, the 101st Airborne Division and 3rd Brigade, and the 25th Infantry Division, to form a temporary division unit called Task Force Oregon, where it was converted into the 23rd Infantry Division, or Americal, on September 25, 1967, and participated in Operations Wheeler/Wallowa, Golden Fleece, Fayette Canyon, Frederick Hill, Lamar Plain, Elk Canyon I, and Elk Canyon II. On November 29, 1971, the 196th became a separate temporary entity to safeguard this same area of operations.

In April, 1971, the 196th moved to Da Nang to assist in port security duties, and left Vietnam on June 29, 1972, as the last combat brigade to leave Vietnam. The brigade suffered 1004 KIA, and 5591 WIA while in Vietnam.

Note: The 196th Light Infantry Brigade shoulder patch has a double headed match design lighted on both ends that signifies readiness. The blue shading signifies infantry, while the yellow shading signifies cavalry, and the red for artillery.

199th Light Infantry Brigade

199th Light Infantry Brigade Patch

The 199th Infantry Brigade, known as the "Redcatcher," was formed on March 23,1966 at Fort Benning, Georgia. In September 1966 the 199th was sent to Camp Shelby Mississippi for advanced Infantry training.

Vietnam - The 199th Light Infantry Brigade, tailored and trained for duty in the Republic of Vietnam, arrived on 12 December 1966, and set up a base camp just north of Long Bien Post. Its primary mission was to assist in the defense of Saigon, including the guarding of major infiltration corridors into the capital city. The Redcatchers had a nucleus of four combat infantry battalions and an artillery battalion. These in turn were backed by a combat support battalion, a helicopter aviation section, an armored cavalry troop, long range reconnaissance patrol units, a helicopter gunship troop and a company of engineers. The 199th rendered outstanding performances in its many engagements with the enemy. For its efforts in the 1968 Tet offensive, the Brigade received the Valorous Unit Award. The 199th was deactivated at Fort Benning, Georgia in September 1970.

Note: The distinctive patch of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade depicts a flaming spear with a red ball of fire in the middle giving the appearance of a REDCATCHER. The Blue and White denote the Infantry. The Spear, an early Infantry weapon, in flames symbolizes the evolution and firepower of the modern Infantry. It represents early Infantry's use of thrusting weapons and projectiles thrown or shot from bows, ballistas. The RED BALL in the center of the patch represents man's splitting of the atom, the Nuclear Age in which Infantry fights side by side with weapons of sophisticated warfare. The Yellow flame signifies the advent of gunpowder and the new trend in Infantry warfare. Fusillades through the centuries echoed from reports of the matchlock, the flintlock, the percussion cap and repeating rifle. The overall patch is symbolic of the development of Infantry and Infantry support through the ages. The oblong blue shield of the patch is a depiction of the shields used by the forerunners of modern Infantry, namely the Greek Phalanx and Roman Legion.

25th Infantry Division

25th Infantry Division Patch

The 25th Infantry Division was activated at Schofield Barracks, Territory of Hawaii, October 1, 1941. After its return to Hawaii from Korea in 1954, the Division established and conducted intensive training programs in jungle warfare techniques and the study of Asian languages, thus becoming the only trained counter-guerrilla unit in the U.S. Army.

Vietnam - In response to a request from the U.S. Military Assistance Command in Vietnam (MACV), the Division sent 100 helicopter door-gunners to the Republic of South Vietnam in early 1963. By the time this first phase was completed in the latter part of 1965, 2,200 men of the 25th Infantry Tropic Lightning Division were involved. By August 1965, further Division involvement in the coming war in Vietnam came when Company C, 65th Engineer Battalion, was deployed to South Vietnam to assist in the construction of port facilities at Cam Ranh Bay. Again the Division was asked to contribute soldiers in December of that year, so in response to a MACV request for additional combat support, the Division sent 4,000 3rd Brigade infantrymen to the jungles of Vietnam. Operation Blue Light was the largest and longest airlift of personnel and cargo into a combat zone in military history until recently. The Brigade deployed its first soldiers from Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu, to the central highlands at Pleiku. These men arrived in Vietnam December 24, 1965. By mid-January, the deployment operation was complete, giving combat planners in Vietnam a favorable balance of power. An important unit to these combat planners, the Division was heavily engaged from April 1966 until 1969 throughout the area of operations in Southeast Asia. This would lead Tropic Lightning soldiers into battles against a seemingly insurmountable opposition in jungles seemingly impossible to penetrate.

TET OFFENSIVE/Vietnamization - During the Tet offensives of 1968 and 1969, Tropic Lightning personnel were instrumental in defending the besieged city of Saigon. Due to its success in fending off that attack, from May 1969 through April 1970, the 25th Infantry Division was mostly involved in the Vietnamization Program, helping the people of Vietnam rebuild their war-torn country, rather than in actual combat. The Division continued to see limited fighting, clearing the Ho Bo and Bo Loi Woods of remaining Viet Cong and assisting in other surrounding areas.

CAMBODIA - During the three-month period, April through June 1970, Tropic Lightning soldiers participated in Allied thrusts deep into enemy sanctuaries located in Cambodia. In these operations, the men confiscated thousands of tons of supplies and hundreds of weapons. This operation nearly crippled the Cambodian efforts against American units. Following its return from Cambodia to South Vietnam, the Division resumed its place in the Vietnamization Program. The war was winding down. By late December 1970, elements of the 25th Infantry Division were able to begin redeployment operations to Schofield Barracks. Second Brigade was the last element of the Tropic Lightning Division to depart Vietnam and arrived at Schofield Barracks in the early days of May 1971. During the war in Vietnam, 22 Medals of Honor were awarded to Tropic Lightning soldiers; the most number of Medals of Honor received by any other single unit in the war.

Note: During late 1943, the Division's shoulder patch, a lightning bolt superimposed on a taro leaf, was formally adopted. The taro leaf shape of the shoulder patch reflects the birth of the 25th from elements of the famous Hawaiian Division and is suggestive of the Pacific region where the Division was established, and where it had fought. The bolt of lightning symbolizes speed and aggressive spirit - a trait the Division proved in its battles for the Pacific. The colors of red and gold were those of the late Hawaiian monarchy. The 25th Division had used "lightning" as the telephone call-sign for Division Headquarters' arrival on Guadalcanal in December 1942. The Marines furthered the use of the nickname by calling the unit the Lightning Division. Lightning was subsequently changed to Tropic Lightning because the Division had spent the year in the tropics. In a break from tradition, the Department of the Army officially approved the use of the nickname Tropic Lightning August 3, 1953. Authorization for the Division to use the nickname, in addition to its regular numerical designation, marked the first time that a divisional unit had been given this kind of permission by the Army.

1st Marine Division

1st Marine Division patch

The 1st Marine Division is a Marine infantry division of the United States Marine Corps headquartered at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. It is a subordinate unit of the I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF).

It is the oldest and largest active duty division in the United States Marine Corps, representing a combat-ready force of more than 19,000 men and women. It is one of three active duty divisions in the Marine Corps today and is a multi-role, expeditionary ground combat force.

The 1st Marine Division is nicknamed "The Old Breed".

Vietnam - In 1965, the 7th Marine Regiment participated in Operations Starlite and Piranha, the first major engagements for American ground troops in South Vietnam. March 1966 saw 1st Marine Division Headquarters established at Chu Lai. By June, the entire Division was in South Vietnam, its zone of operation—the southern two provinces of I Corps—Quang Tin and Quang Ngai. Between March and October 1966 to May 1967, the division conducted 44 named operations. During the 1968 Tet Offensive, the division was involved in fierce fighting with both Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army elements. It was successful in beating back enemy assaults in its operation areas. The division received its 7th Presidential Unit Citation for service from 29 March 1966 to 15 September 1967. and an 8th one for the period 16 September 1967 to 31 October 1968.

After six hard years of combat, the 1st Marine Division returned home to Camp Pendleton in 1971. In 1975, the division supported the evacuation of Saigon by providing food and temporary shelter at Camp Pendleton for Vietnamese refugees as they arrived in the United States.

3rd Marine Division

3rd Marine Division patch

The 3rd Marine Division is an infantry division in the United States Marine Corps based at Camp Courtney, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler and Okinawa, Japan. It is one of three active duty divisions in the Marine Corps and together with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (1stMAW) and the 3rd Marine Logistics Group (3rd MLG) forms the III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF). The division was first formed during World War II and saw four years of continuous combat in the Vietnam War.

The 3rd Marine Division is known as "The Fightin' Third."

Vietnam - On 6 May 1965, the 3rd Marine Division opened the Marine Compound at the Da Nang Air Base, Vietnam. They were the first American combat troops to be sent to Vietnam to protect the Da Nang airport. By the end of 1965 the Division had all its regiments ( 3rd Marines, 4th Marines and 9th Marines ) on the ground. In October 1966, then commanding general Lew Walt was ordered to establish strong points just south of the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The division moved its headquarters from Da Nang to Phu Bai in late 1966. At the same time the division was also building outposts along the southern half of the DMZ at Con Thien, Gio Linh, Cam Lo and Dong Ha. The first major multi-regiment operations against the North Vietnamese Army was Operation Hastings in July 1966. Operation Prairie followed in October. This area would come to be known as Leatherneck Square. In late 1967 the headquarters moved again from Phu Bai to Dong Ha in the Quang Tri Province and more outpost were opened. Camp Carroll, Rockpile, Ca Lu and Khe Sanh. The two main enemy divisions the Marines fought were the 324B NVA Division and the 320th NVA Division. On November 14, 1967 the 3rd Marine Division commander was killed northwest of Hue City in a helicoper crash. Some of the major operations in 1967 and early 1968 in this area were Operation Prairie III, Operation Prairie IV, Operation Hickory, Operation Cimarron, Operation Buffalo, Operation Kingfisher and Operation Kentucky. Nearly 8,000 NVA were killed during this time period. The Marines suffered over 1400 killed and over 9,000 wounded. There were five Medal of Honors awarded and nearly 40 Navy Crosses given during this period of time. For Meritorious Service in the Republic of Vietnam the division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation in 1967.

The 3rd Marine Division departed South Vietnam in November 1969 with more than 20 Marines receiving the Medal of Honor. They moved to Camp Courtney, Okinawa, where it is presently located.

Source:  Division History information obtained from The Army Historical Foundation and other Army History Internet sources. United States Marine Corps History Division and other Marine Corps Internet sources.