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The 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley build and maintain combat ready forces; on order deploys these forces in an expeditionary manner to conduct Decisive Action to fight and win in complex environments as members of a Joint, Inter-organizational, and Multinational (JIM) team.
-- The Command Team
Organized on June 8, 1917, 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. When the United States entered the war in April 1917, the Army had no divisions. The 1st Infantry Division was formed from regiments that were ordered from the Mexican border to New Jersey.
The Division won the first American victory in WW1 at the battle of Catigny, a small village north of Paris. From May 1918 to November 11, 1918, the First Division suffered more than 20,000 casualties at names like Cantigny, Soissons, St. Mihieland, and the Argonne Forest. These 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. The armistice was declared on November 11, 1918. The division was one of four that was retained after the war.
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 on 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 rolled through Germany and into Czechoslovakia.
The 1st Infantry Division was the only American combat force in occupied Germany until 1950 and 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 was redeployed to Fort Riley, Kansas.
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. The division participated annually in REFORGER, the biggest deployment and maneuver exercise in Europe.
The division was the first to send a brigade to train at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.
During these years the Army was undergoing many changes and the Division was a part of the process including going from a draft Army to volunteer Soldiers, doctrinal, training, and equipment modernization.
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 Iraqi 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 played a major role in stabilizing Boznia-Herzegovina.
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 June 10th. 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 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment joined NATO's Task Force Falcon in support of Operation Joint Guardian for a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
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. Task Force 1-63, operating in the Sunni Triangle, helped bring stability to the region.
Task Force 1-63 returned home to Germany in February 2004, while the rest of the 1st Infantry Division and Task Force Danger deployed to northern Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) changes, the Division cased its colors in Germany on July 7, 2006. The 1st Infantry Division conducted a transfer of authority with the 24th Infantry Division on Aug. 1, 2006, assuming command and control at Fort Riley.
On June 8, 2017, the Division celebrated 100 years of continuous years of service to the nation. They were the first division to fight in WWI, WWII, and Vietnam and the first to return to Iraq in 2014. Today, 1st Infantry Division Soldiers continue to be on point for the nation. The Division has a proud and honorable history that reflects the heirs of the American Soldier. Having fought in five wars, the 1st Infantry Division is one of the most decorated divisions in the U.S. Army. It boasted 35 Medal of Honor recipients and more than 35 campaign participation credits. The Soldiers of the Big Red One continue to support the fight in the War on Terror in locations around the world. Today's 1st Infantry Division Soldiers live the division motto as their courageous predecessor has done throughout history.