Army AND Nike team up for 2018 Army-Navy Game Uniform to honor the soldiers of the 1st Infantry DivisioN
2018 marks the 100th Anniversary of America’s First Division helping end the first great war of the 20th Century.
The FIRST Infantry Division.
The FIRST permanent division in the regular Army.
The FIRST American division to fight in the first World War.
The FIRST to use modern, combined arms operations.
The FIRST to defeat the enemy at the Battle of Cantigny.
"No mission too difficult. No sacrifice too great. Duty First!"
The Fighting First
The “First” Division
President Woodrow Wilson promised the Allies he would send “a division” to France immediately, but the Army had no such divisions. The United States quickly ordered four infantry and three artillery regiments from the Mexican border in Texas to Hoboken, N.J., to board transports to France. That group of seven regiments joined together to officially form the "1st Expeditionary Division," later the 1st Infantry Division, under Brigadier General William L. Sibert on June 12, 1917. With more than 28,000 men, the "Big Red One," as the division was later nicknamed from its shoulder sleeve insignia, was twice the size of either the allied or German divisions on the Western Front.
Black Lions of Cantigny
The 1st Division’s 28th Infantry won the first major American victory in World War I at the Battle of Cantigny, a small village north of Paris held by the German Army. Along with the rest of the 1st Division and French Troops, they successfully attacked and defeated the German forces in just 45 minutes, holding the village against repeated counterattacks. Their success raised the Allies’ morale and disproved German propaganda about American combat incapacity.
GENERAL OF THE ARMIES: JOHN “BLACK JACK” PERSHING
A 1886 graduate of West Point, John J. Pershing had been the First Captain as a cadet. As a First Lieutenant he commanded a cavalry troop in the 10th Cavalry Regiment, a Buffalo Soldier unit, earning the nickname “Black Jack.” Prior to World War I he had seen service in a number of campaigns and wars, including the Spanish-American War, Philippine War, and the Pancho Villa Expedition in Mexico. Selected to command the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), the American contribution to Allied operations during World War I, Pershing became the first full (four-star) general in the U.S. Army since Philip Sheridan. Charged with organizing, training, and supplying the over two million Americans who would serve in the AEF, Pershing would eventually be honored with a promotion to General of the Armies, a six-star rank equivalent, the only American to be so-privileged in his lifetime.
George C. Marshall, a 1901 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, served as the 1st Division’s Operations Officer before and during the Battle of Cantigny, earning widespread acclaim for his planning of the successful American attack during the battle. Later serving on General Pershing’s staff, Marshall would go on to become the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army during World War II as a five-star General of the Army. During World War II, he is reputed to have said, “I want an officer for a secret and dangerous mission. I want a West Point football player.” These words are immortalized on a bronze plaque at Michie Stadium, a plaque which all Army football players touch before they take the field for home games.
Rags, The Official Unit Mascot
A stray mixed-breed terrier, Rags, was befriended and given his name by then-Private Jimmy Donovan in Paris in July of 1918. More than just the 1st Divison’s mascot through World War I and afterwards, Rags served as a messenger and helped Donovan, a Signal Corps soldier, find broken telephone lines in need of repair. On some occasions, Rags even alerted 1st Division soldiers to incoming artillery fire, and both he and Donovan suffered injury from German artillery and gas shells during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Rags remained a celebrity after World War I, being featured in several New York Times articles and receiving a number of awards before passing away in 1936.
Although American forces had been working with troops from other nations since the alliance with the French in the American Revolution, World War I arguably saw the first large-scale contribution of troops to work with the forces of foreign nations in a coalition. AEF units were commonly armed with French machine guns and field artillery, and during the Battle of Cantigny, American infantry benefitted from the support of French tanks and French artillery.
The collar insignia replicate bronze collar disks worn by enlisted soldiers in the First Division.
FIRST division insignia - CREATION OF THE PATCH
The origins of the “Big Red One” patch are disputed. One legend says that First Division supply trucks were painted with a red “1” to distinguish them from other country’s vehicles, and the practice carried over to shoulder sleeve patches.
A more colorful tale about the origin of the patch involves an exchange between a general (or colonel) and a lieutenant over red underwear. According to this version, the general, thinking that the 1st Division needed a shoulder sleeve insignia, cut a crude red “1” from an old pair of flannel underwear. Upon seeing the patch, the lieutenant, whom some accounts name as Herbert M. Stoops of the 6th Field Artillery, then remarked “The general’s underwear is showing!” In reply, the more senior officer said something to the effect of, “All right young man, if you’re so smart, come up with something better!” The lieutenant took up the challenge, producing a patch with a red numeral “1” on a gray or olive drab shield using cloth from a captured German uniform.
The design, approved with a red “1” on an olive drab five-sided shield, was codified in a November 23, 1918 order officially announcing the format of the patch as we know it today.
Despite official specifications, many variations in size and shape for the “Big Red One” are found on uniforms from the era.
WWI Era Flag
The flag on the back of the helmet is accurate for the World War I era featuring 48 stars for the number of states during the time (Alaska and Hawaii were officially added as states in 1959).
Do you have a relative or someone close to you who served with the 1st Infantry Division? Post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using #BigRedOne and your post could be featured! Photos are encouraged. Beat Navy!