Planetary Soldiers, How to tell them apart.

It struck me last night when I was posting on the Battle of the Bulge that while I learned something about this when I was a kid, some of you may not realize that the unit patches our military wears have historical significance. There are far too many to go over them all so let’s just look at a few of the most famous.

“First In Deed”

First United States Army

First US Army; via Wikipedia

The First Army was organized in France on 10 AUG 1918 under command of John J. (Blackjack) Pershing, the Blackjack nickname came from his command of colored troops, specifically the 10th US Cavalry (the Buffalo Soldiers) after reassignment from being the tactics instructor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

The shoulder patch background is red and white as in Army flags with a black block A symbolizing both Army and the first letter of the alphabet.

It served throughout World War 1. In World War 2 First US Army was under command of then LtGEN Omar Bradley (later General of the Army). 1st Army was the American Command in the Normandy Invasion (Overlord) and conducted Operation Cobra which opened the door for Patton’s 3d Army to race across France. 1st Army held the north side of the Bulge and continued the drive east thereafter including the capture of the Ludendorff bridge at Remagen across the Rhine. Thereafter it advanced to the Elbe River; the line of demarcation with Soviet Forces. At VJ day the First Army was preparing to tranship to the Pacific for the invasion of Japan.

Campaign Participation credit

  • World War I
  1. St. Mihiel
  2. Meuse-Argonne
  3. Lorraine 1918
  • World War II
  1. Normandy (with arrowhead)
  2. Northern France
  3. Battle of the Bulge
  4. Rhineland
  5. Ardennes-Alsace
  6. Central Europe

“Patton’s Own”

Third United States Army

3d US Army; via Wikipedia

The Third United States Army was formed on 7 November 1918, at Chaumont, France, It was the army of occupation of Germany after the First World War and the insignia represents that with its “A” and “O”.

In World War 2 it was a training command until it was transferred to England in DEC 1943 for the Invasion. It entered Combat in early AUG 1944 under GEN George S. Patton, Jr, and commenced to lead the great dash across France until it ran out of gas (literally) in the  approaches to the Rhine. 3d Army commanded the southern flank of the Bulge and then restarted the advance into Germany penetrating into Czechoslovakia by VE Day. It again commanded the occupation of Germany until 1947 when it was recalled to the United States.

Third United States Army returned to combat as the main striking arm in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and again periodically throughout the ensuing decade climaxing as the command for Operation Iraqi Freedom ending with its headquarters in Baghdad on its third occupation tour in 100 years.

“The Big Red One”

1st Infantry Div (1ID) ; via Wikipedia

The 1st Infantry Division (1ID) was formed as the 1st Expeditionary Division on 24 May 1917 and is the oldest regular army division and has been in service ever since. The divisions’ battle honors speak for themselves but we should note that one of the most famous officers to serve in the 1ID in both World Wars was Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.

Engagements World War I

World War II

  • Operation Torch
  • Operation Husky
  • Operation Overlord
  • Battle of Hurtgen Forest
  • Battle of the Bulge

Vietnam War

  • Tet Offensive

Persian Gulf War

  • Operation Desert Storm

War on Terror

  • Iraq War
  • Afghanistan War


2d Infantry Division

2d Infantry Division (2ID); via Wikipedia

The 2d Infantry Division was organized on 26 October 1917 at Bourmont, Haute Marne, France.

At the time of its activation, the Indianhead Division was composed of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, which included the 9th Infantry Regiment and the 23rd Infantry Regiment; the 4th Marine Brigade, which consisted of the 5th Marine Regiment, the 6th Marine Regiment and the 6th Machine Gun Battalion; a battalion of field artillery; and various supporting units. Twice during World War I the division was commanded by US Marine Corps generals, Brigadier General Charles A. Doyen and Major General John A. Lejeune, the only time in U.S. Military history when Marine Corps officers commanded an Army division.

The Division entered Europe on Omaha Beach on D+1.

In another interesting fact, this is the only Army division to have non-Americans serving  in it: approximately 1,100 Korean soldiers, called KATUSAs (Korean Augmentation to US Army).

Engagements World War I

  • Battle of Belleau Wood
  • Château-Thierry campaign
  • Meuse-Argonne offensive

World War II

  • Operation Overlord
  • Battle of the Bulge
  • Western Allied invasion of Germany

Korean War
Iraq Campaign
War in Afghanistan

“Rock of the Marne”

3d Infantry Division

3d Infantry Division (3ID); via Wikipedia

The 3rd Infantry Division was activated in November 1917 during World War I at Camp Greene, North Carolina. Eight months later, it saw combat for the first time in France. At midnight on 14 July 1918, the Division earned lasting distinction. Engaged in the Aisne-Marne Offensive as a member of the American Expeditionary Force to Europe, the Division was protecting Paris with a position on the banks of the Marne River. The 7th Machine Gun Battalion of the 3rd Division rushed to Château-Thierry amid retreating French troops and held the Germans back at the Marne River. While surrounding units retreated, the 3rd Infantry Division, including the 30th and 38th Infantry Regiments, remained rock solid and earned its reputation in the Second Battle of the Marne as the “Rock of the Marne”.

The 3ID was the first unit into Baghdad in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Engagements World War I
* Aisne-Marne Offensive
* Second Battle of the Marne
World War II
* North African campaign
*Italian Campaign
* Western Front 1944 – 1945
Korean War
Iraq Campaign

“Ivy Division

4th Infantry Division

4th Infantry Division (4ID); via Wikipedia

The Fourth Infantry Division has served in wars from the First World War on.

In World War 1 the division served in France at Battle of St. Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

The 4ID were the first surface borne troops to land in Operation Overlord on Utah Beach. Leading the first wave from the 4ID was BGEN Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., and I do mean leading, he was one of the first men of the first landing 8th Infantry Regiment of the 4ID. They landed about a mile from where they were supposed to and Roosevelt’s quick thinking allowed the division to secure their objectives. For his service on Utah he was originally recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross by General Barton, the award was upgraded at higher headquarters to the Medal of Honor which Roosevelt was posthumously awarded on 28 September 1944. This is the citation:

For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in France. After 2 verbal requests to accompany the leading assault elements in the Normandy invasion had been denied, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt’s written request for this mission was approved and he landed with the first wave of the forces assaulting the enemy-held beaches. He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall and established them inland. His valor, courage, and presence in the very front of the attack and his complete unconcern at being under heavy fire inspired the troops to heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice. Although the enemy had the beach under constant direct fire, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt moved from one locality to another, rallying men around him, directed and personally led them against the enemy. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops reduced beach strong points and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France.

He is one of only two father-son winners of the medal, the other is Arthur MacArthur and Douglas MacArthur.


World War I
* Battle of St. Mihiel
* Meuse-Argonne Offensive
World War II
* Operation Overlord
* Battle of Hurtgen Forest
* Battle of the Bulge
Vietnam War
* Operation Attleboro
* Operation Junction City
* Cambodian Incursion
Iraq War
* Liberation of Iraq
Afghanistan War


The 82d Airborne Division

82d Airborne Division (82AB); via Wikipedia

The 82nd Division was constituted in the National Army on 5 August 1917, and was organized on 25 August 1917, at Camp Gordon, Georgia. Since its initial members came from all 48 states, the unit acquired the nickname “All-American“, which is the basis for its famed “AA” shoulder patch.

The 82ID became the 82d Airborne (82AB) on 15 August 1942.

In January 1944, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, which was temporarily detached to fight at Anzio, adopted the nickname “Devils in Baggy Pants,” taken from an entry in a German officer’s diary.

In Berlin GEN George Patton was so impressed with the 82nd’s honor guard he said, “In all my years in the Army and all the honor guards I have ever seen, the 82nd’s honor guard is undoubtedly the best.” Hence the “All-American” became also known as “America’s Guard of Honor.”

To this day every member of the 82d must be parachute qualified, the only division so designated.

Engagements World War I

  • Battle of Saint-Mihiel
  • Meuse-Argonne Offensive

World War II

  • Operation Avalanche
  • Invasion of Normandy
  • Operation Market Garden
  • Battle of the Bulge

Dominican Republic occupation
Vietnam War
Invasion of Grenada
Invasion of Panama
Gulf War
War in Afghanistan
Iraq War

“Screaming Eagles”

101st Airborne Division

101st Airborne Division (101AB); via Wikipedia

The 101st Airborne Division (101AB) was stood up 16 August 1942 at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana and fought through the European theater of World War 2.

The 101’s patch is unusual, here is why. The eagle is Old Abe, the mascot of the 8th Wisconsin Infantry in the Civil War, the original home of the 101st. The black shield commemorates the Iron Brigade of the Civil War which included the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiments, along with the 19th Indiana, and was later joined by the 24th Michigan.

The Iron Brigade was officially the 1st Brigade of the 1st Corps of the First Division of the Army of the Potomac.

The Iron Brigade, proportionately, suffered the most casualties of any brigade in the Civil War. For example, 61% (1,153 out of 1,885) were casualties at Gettysburg. Similarly, the 2nd Wisconsin, which suffered 77% casualties at Gettysburg, suffered the most throughout the war; it was second only to the 24th Michigan (also an Iron Brigade regiment) in total casualties at Gettysburg. The latter regiment lost 397 out of 496 soldiers, an 80% casualty rate.

The 101st AB deputy commander BGEN McAuliffe gave the famous answer to the German demand to surrender Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge “Nuts”.


World War II
Vietnam War
War in Southwest Asia
Afghanistan Campaign
Iraq Campaign

The First Team!

1st Cavalry Division

1st Cavalry Division

The history of the 1st Cavalry Division began in 04 APRIL 1921 when the War Department authorized a cavalry division. The Division fought in the Pacific Theater during World War 2. This unit is famous for its constituent units as well as itself.

Here is where you’ll find the 7th United States Regiment of Cavalry, often called “Custer’s Own”. This is also the unit that fought the Battle of Ia Drang Valley on which We Were Soldiers Once was based. This is also the unit (and battle) in which COL Rick Recorla (picture on the movies’ advertising) who heroically gave his life on 9/11 served. You can always spot the cavalrymen, they still wear the black Stetson hat they wore in the old west.


World War II
Korean War
Vietnam War
Operation Desert Storm
Global War on Terrorism
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Operation Enduring Freedom

“The Mighty Eighth”

Eighth United States Air Force

Eighth Air Force; via Wikipedia

Established on 22 February 1944 as a redesignation of VIII Bomber Command at High Wycombe Airdrome, USAAF Station #101, England, 8 AF was a United States Army Air Forces combat air force in the European Theater of World War II, engaging in operations primarily in the Northern Europe AOR, carrying out strategic bombing of enemy targets in France, the Low countries and Germany and engaging in air to air fighter combat against enemy aircraft until the German Capitulation in May 1945. It was the largest of the deployed combat Army Air Forces in numbers of personnel, aircraft and equipment. It also took the largest casualties of any like sized unit in the European Theater.

After VE day the 8th AF was transferred to the Pacific to participate in the attacks on Japan but before they could become operational Japan surrendered.

After the war the 8th AF became part of the Strategic Air Command which kept the peace all through the cold war while also flying missions in Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm and the Global war on Terror.

After the disestablishment of the Strategic Air Command, 8th AF was transferred to the Air Force Global Strike Command. It now commands

  • Barksdale AFB, Louisiana
2d Bomb Wing. B-52H Bombardment Wing
  • Minot AFB, North Dakota
5th Bomb Wing, B-52H Bombardment Wing
  • Whiteman AFB, Missouri
509th Bomb Wing, B-2 Stealth Bomber Wing

It could be noted that the 509th Bomb Wing is the only unit in the world that has carried out an attack with atomic weapons.


World War II

  • European Campaign (1944–1945)
  • Asiatic-Pacific Campaign (1945)

Vietnam War (1970–1973)

“Peace is our Profession”

Stategic Air Command

Stategic Air Command; via Wikipedia

The Strategic Air Command was established on  21 March 1946 as the strategic (and nuclear arm of the United States Army Air Forces and transferred to the United States Air Force on 18 September 1947 when the USAF was established. SAC was responsible for the strategic mission of the Air Force throughout the cold war and had control of bombers, tankers and missiles assigned to the mission as well as fighter in the early years. During the cold war it consisted of the 8th Air Force and the 15th Air Force which were the strategic bombing  air forces from the war in Europe.

SAC took part in Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm before it was disestablished on 31 May 1992 and its responsibilities transferred to United States Strategic Command.

Most of the information in this post is from Wikipedia, the articles are far more detailed, if you have any interest, look them up.


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6 Responses to Planetary Soldiers, How to tell them apart.

  1. Pingback: Invasion of Japan « ~ BLOGGER.GUNNY.G.1984+. ~ (BLOG & EMAIL)

  2. msgeode says:

    d\Do you know how to get military patches of ancestors, such as my father’s. As a youth, I used to dress in his Navy coat and his Whites, iincluding his cap, and I am not sure what happened to his medals.


  3. Pingback: Well, That Didn’t Take Long « nebraskaenergyobserver

  4. Pingback: DOD Identifies Units for Upcoming Afghanistan Rotation « The Communicator

  5. Pingback: 26 January 1945: « nebraskaenergyobserver

  6. Pingback: The Devil’s Brigade « nebraskaenergyobserver

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