US 1st Infantry Division – WW II

US 1st Infantry Division (WW II)

This Virtual Battlefield Tour presents the locations of the numerous commemorations in Europe to the men of the 1st Infantry Division.

Unit History:

The US 1st Infantry Division is the oldest division in the United States Army with units dating back to the American Revolution. It was the first American unit to arrive on the First World War battlefield. Units of the division fired the first artillery shot of the American Expeditionary Corps and suffered the first three soldiers killed. In 1918 it launched America’s first offensive operation against the Germans at Cantigny. In September the entire division was committed in the Battle of the Mihiel Salient and only two weeks later in the decisive Meuse-Argonne Offensive where it fought as far east as Sedan. The unit insignia provides its nickname as well, a ‘Big Red One’ on a brown/ grey background.

The division entered Second World War when it landed near Oran, Algeria on 8 November 1942. It fought in North Africa under the Tunisian garrison surrender on 9 May 1943. In July 1943, it landed in Sicily and fought in the brutal mountain campaign. The Big Red One returned to England for refitting and led the Normandy Invasion by being the first infantry unit on Omaha Beach. It continued to participate in the Normandy fighting and across France to the German border near Aachen, where it captured the first German city by direct infantry assault. The 1st fought in the Hürtgen Forest until, completely exhausted after almost six months of continuous fighting, its men were moved back on 7 December. The German Ardennes Offensive was launched nine days later and the 1st Infantry was quickly called back into action. It fought in the Ardennes, broke through the Siegfried Line, and crossed the Rhine at the Remagen bridgehead. The unit was fighting in Czechoslovakia when the war ended.

Motto: “No Mission Too Difficult, No Sacrifice Too Great—Duty First!”


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Action at Elouges

After the defeat at Mons and with the French forces on their right flank collapsing, British forces withdrew to the south. However, not all of the individual units received the direct instructions to do so and believed that they were under orders to hold at all costs. Thus, two battalions of the British 5th Division were attacked by the entire German 8th Division west of the town of Elouges.

13b Action at Elouges: 24 August 1914
Region: Wallonia
Country: Belgium

A French Battlefields “Virtual Battlefield Tour” [This battlefield is not included in Fields of War.]

Summary: On 24 August, German 8th Infantry Division was moving along the Mons – Valenciennes road. North of the village of Audregnies they encountered elements of the British 5th Infantry Division that had not received the orders to withdraw. As the German troops advanced and started to turn the British left flank, two cavalry squadrons charged across open ground scattering German infantry, but falling to the guns of German artillery. The German attack continued. Almost out of ammunition, the British 1st Norfolk and 1st Cheshire Regiments retired later that evening. They had suffered over 750 casualties, but they had delayed the German Army’s critical timetable to execute the Schlieffen Plan.


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Battle of Mons

13a Battle of Mons – 23 to 24 August 1914
Region: Wallonia
Country: Belgium

A French Battlefields “Virtual Battlefield Tour” as described in Fields of War: Fifty Key Battlefields in France and Belgium.

Summary: In the early morning of 22 August, a patrol of the British 4th Dragoon Guards encountered an advance unit of German Cuirassiers northeast of Mons, who were reconnoitering the approaches to the city. A few shots were fired, and a short chase took place, during which the dragoons caught the retiring Germans after 3 km and inflicted twenty-three casualties.

In the early mists of a drizzly rain the next morning, a short artillery bombardment from guns established on the high ground north of the Canal du Centre, northeast of Mons, fell upon the 4th Middlesex Regiment positioned south of Obourg. At approximately 09:00, they and the adjoining 4th Royal Fusiliers to their left at Nimy were surprised to see waves of German 18th Division infantry advancing across the meadows to the north. Rapid fire rifle slew lines of the German infantry, much like machine guns were to do to British infantry in the Somme battles two years later. The German were forced to withdraw to regroup. A short time later the German infantry, strengthened by regiments from the 17th Division, advanced again, extending the fight to the south. The German losses were again heavy and their massed formations broke into smaller units which started infiltrating the British flanks.

View Battle of Mons: 23 to 24 August 1914 – A Virtual Battlefield Tour by French Battlefields ( in a larger map

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