Danish Living History Association

1st Infantry Division

Creation of the 1st Infantry Division

The 1st Infantry Division is created in 1917. It is the first american infantry division to be created in order to fight the german forces during the First World War. It is composed of 4 infantry regiments, 3 artillery regiments and some small units. On the whole, this division is composed of 28.000 men. On november 3rd, 1917, the division gives its first engagement in Europe.

On the Picardie front, on May 28th 1918, in northern France, the 1st Infantry Division attacks the german trenches during the "Cantigny Battle". For several days, the battle is very intense and losses are terrifying: about a thousand of american soldiers are out of fight, but the victory belongs to the Americans (the first american victory in Europe).

North Africa

When the 1st Infantry Division returns to active duty, it is composed of 15.000 soldiers. Its first battle of the World War 2 starts in North Africa during "Operation Torch" on November 8th, 1942. Were the allied forces organize a big scale landing near Oran, Algeria.

The 1st infantry division, nicknamed the "Big Red One" in relation to the units insigna, fights in Tunisia and takes part in landings on Sicily in July 1943.


The "Big Red One" then goes to England to prepare for Operation Overlord, the allied invasion on mailland Europe. Indeed, the 1st Infantry division is ordered to land on Omaha Beach together with the 29th Infantry Division

On June 6, 1944 the 16th Infantry Regiment led by Major General C. Ralph Huebner lands at 06:30 a.m. on the Norman beaches in front of the village of Colleville-sur-Mer. The german resistance is very strong and the Americans are almost defeated. Losses are impressive: 95% of the officers are killed and no soldiers have landed where they were supposed to. But these veterans of the North Africa front does not lose controle and after violent fightings the unit manage to defeat the German defense. General Taylor, Commander in Chief of the 16th Infantry Regiment, tells his men : "Two kinds of people will stay on this beach: the dead and those who will die! Now , let's go out of here!"


After the Normandy landings and month of fighting in France, the 1st Infantry Division participate in the liberation of the city of Liege (Belgium) which forcedthe Germanforcesand retreatover the Rhine river. The division crosses the Siegfried line and attacks the German city of Aachen which surrender on October 21,1944.

But on December 16, 1944, the Germans launches their "Operation Nordwind" and counterattack in the Ardennes Forest (also known as the Battle of the Bulge). Located at Bullingen, the 1st Infantry Division defends its position by inflicting heavy losses to the German forces. On January 15, 1945, the U.S. situation is improving in the Ardennes and the Allied divisions counterattack the Germans. The 1st Infantry Division once again crosses the Siegfried Line reoccupied by the Germans, then it establishes a bridgehead in the area of Remagen. On April 8, 1945, the Big Red One enters into Czechoslovakia after crossing the Weser river. This is the divisions last action in the Second World War. It serves as an occupation division in Germany until 1955 before returning to Fort Riley (USA).

21.023 soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division have been killed, wounded, captured or are missing in action during World War 2.

Copyright (C) Hans Martin Nielsen - 2015