HISTORY OF THE SECOND INFANTRY DIVISION
The Second Infantry Division’s history is replete with heroic individual actions and exemplary unit operations against stubborn and determined enemies in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, and the Global War on Terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its exploits and reputation in peace and war have solidified its place in US military history as “Second to None.”
World War I (1917 — 1919)
The 2nd Infantry Division was born on 26 October 1917, at Bourmont, France. It is the only division organized on foreign soil. At the time of its activation, the Indianhead Division was composed of one brigade of U.S. Infantry, one brigade of U.S. Marines, an artillery brigade, and various supporting units. During “The Great War” the division was commanded twice by Marine Corps generals; Brigadier General C.A. Doyen and Major General John A. Lejeune. This was the only time in U.S. military history when Marine Corps officers commanded an Army Division. The Division spent the winter of 1917 – 1918 training with French Army veterans. Though judged unprepared by French tacticians, the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) was committed to combat in the spring of 1918 in a desperate attempt to halt a German advance toward Paris. The 2nd Infantry Division drew its first blood in the nightmare landscape of Belleau-Wood and contributed to shattering the four-year-old stalemate on the battlefield during the Chateau-Thierry campaign that followed. The Division won hard fought victories at Soissons and Mont Blanc, for which it was awarded the French Fourragere in the colors of the Croix DeGueme. Finally the Indianhead Division participated in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, which spelled the end of any German hope for victory. On 11 November 1918 the Armistice was declared, and the 2nd Infantry Division marched into Germany where it performed occupational duties until April of 1919.
Between the World Wars (1919 — 1942)
Upon returning to the United States, the Division was stationed at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. It remained there for the next 23 years, serving as an experimental unit, testing new concepts and innovations for the Amy. In 1940 the 2nd Infantry Division was the first command reorganized under the new triangular concept, which provided for three regimental combat teams in each division. Indianhead soldiers pioneered concepts of air mobility and anti-tank warfare, which served the Army for the next two decades on battlefields in every corner of the globe.
World War II, The European Theater of Operations (1942 — 1945)
The 2nd Infantry Division was transferred from Fort Sam Houston to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin in November 1942 where it trained until it deployed to Ireland in October, 1943. As part of the buildup for operation Overlord, the Normandy invasion, it spent ten months in Ireland undergoing more extensive training. On 7 June 1944, D-Day+1, the Division came ashore in France at bloody Omaha Beach. It liberated the first of many cities, Trevieres, two days later. The Indianheads battled their way through the hedgerows of Normandy in very tough fighting. Later, after a fierce 21-day battle, the 2nd Infantry Division, fighting in the streets and alleyways, finally liberated the vital port city of Brest on 18 September 1944.
Once mop-up operations were complete in the Normandy region, the Division attacked east across France. From positions around St. Vith, Belgium, the Second was ordered on 11 December 1944 to attack and seize the Roer River dams. Having pierced the dreaded Siegfried Line, the Division was advancing when Nazi Field Marshal Gerd Von Rundstedt unleashed a powerful German offensive in the Ardennes. Throughout this Battle of the Bulge, the 2nd Infantry Division along with the 101st Airborne Division and others held fast, preventing the enemy from seizing key roads leading to the cities of Liege and Antwerp. Resuming the offensive on 6 February 1945, the Division joined the race to annihilate the fleeing Wehrmacht.
Transferred from the First Army to Patton’s Third Amy, the Indianheads spent their last days of the European War in a dash across Czechoslovakia, finally halting in the town of Pilsen. This city became a meeting point between invading armies from the east and from the west. It was in Pilsen that the soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division first met Soviets who represented the forces of Communism that they would face so often in the future, as adversaries.
The Post-War World (1945 — 1950)
Though slated to participate in the scheduled invasion of Japan, V-J Day found the 2nd Infantry Division home once again. After a series of stateside moves, the Indianheads were stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. From their Fort Lewis base, they conducted Arctic, air transportability, amphibious, and maneuver training.
The Korean War (1950 — 1954)
With the outbreak of hostilities in Korea during the summer of 1950, the 2nd Infantry Division was quickly alerted for movement to the Far East Command. The Division arrived in Korea, via Pusan on 23 July, becoming the first unit to reach Korea directly from the United States. Initially employed piecemeal, the entire Division was committed as a unit on 24 August 1950, relieving the 24th Infantry Division at the Naktong River Line.
The first big test came when the North Koreans struck in a desperate human wave attack on the night of 31 August. In the 16-day battle that followed, the Division’s clerks, bandsmen, technical and supply personnel, joined in the fight to defend against the attackers. Shortly thereafter, the 2nd Infantry Division was the first unit to break out of the Pusan perimeter, and they led the Eighth Army drive to the Manchurian border. It was at this time that the 2nd Infantry Division received a crucial new support element. In August of 1950, with American forces taking many casualties, the Korean Augmentation to the United States Army program was established when Korean President Syngman Rhee provided Korean soldiers to augment understrength United States Army units. These valiant new 2nd Infantry Division troops, known since simply as KATUSA, helped turn the tide of the war for American forces. Now within fifty miles of the Manchurian border when Chinese forces entered the fight, soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division were given the mission of protecting the rear and right flank of the Eighth Army as it retired to the South. Fighting around Kunu-ri cost the Division nearly one-third of its strength, but it cost the enemy many times more and the way was kept open. The 2nd Infantry Division finally blunted the Chinese winter offensive on 31 January 1951 at Wonju.
Taking up the offensive in a two-prong attack in February 1951, the Division repulsed a powerful Chinese counter offensive in the epic battles of Chip-yong-ni and Wonju. The United Nations front was saved and the general offensive continued. Again in April and May 1951, the 2nd Infantry Division was instrumental in smashing the Communists’ spring offensive. For its part in these actions the 2nd Infantry Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. What followed were alternating periods of combat and rest, with the Division participating in the battles Bloody Ridge, Heartbreak Ridge, the outposts, and Old Baldy.
On 9 April 1953, the Division was moved to a rear area for rest and training. During July, the Warriors returned to the Main Line of Resistance to relieve the 3rd Infantry Division in the Chorwon- Kumwha sector. They defended in sector until the Armistice was signed on 27 July 1953 after which the Division withdrew to positions south of the Demilitarized Zone. Finally, on 20 August 1954, four years after its last unit arrived in Korea, the 2nd Infantry Division was alerted for redeployment to the United States.
A Rest from the Fight (1954 — 1965)
In the summer of 1954 the 2nd Division returned to Fort Lewis, Washington, where it remained for only two years, until being transferred to Alaska in August of 1956. Sadly, on 8 November 1957, it was announced that the gallant 2nd Infantry Division was to be transferred to Washington DC, without personnel. In short, the Division was to be deactivated.
However, a few months later, in the spring of 1958, the Department of the Amy announced that the 2nd Infantry Division would be reorganized at Fort Benning, Georgia, with personnel and equipment of the 10th Infantry Division returning from Germany. Fort Benning remained the home of the new 2nd Infantry Division from 1958 to 1965, where it was initially assigned the mission of a training division. To improve combat readiness, in March of 1962 the 2nd Infantry Division was designated as a Strategic Army Corps (STRAC) unit. Following this, the Division became engaged in intensified combat training, tactical training, and field training exercises, in addition to special training designed to improve operational readiness.
Armistice Period and Beyond (1965 — 2003)
With tensions increasing on the Korean peninsula, the 2nd Infantry Division returned to the Republic of Korea in July of 1965. North Korea increased border incursions and infiltration attempts and the 2nd Division was called upon to help halt these attacks. On 2 November, 1966, six U.S soldiers and one KATUSA of the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry were killed in an ambush by North Korean forces. In 1967 enemy attacks in the demilitarized zone increased. As a result, 16 American soldiers were killed that year.
In 1968 North Korea continued to probe across the DMZ but by 1970 the North had decided that their efforts against the 2nd Infantry Division weren’t worth the cost and most organized attacks stopped that year. By March of 1971 ROK forces had assumed the responsibility for the defense of all but a mile of the DMZ, allowing the 2nd Infantry Division to maintain combat readiness in case of any eventuality.
On 18 August 1976, during a routine tree trimming operation within the DMZ, North Korean border guards bludgeoned two American officers to death in a melee in the Joint Security Area, what resulted is known as Operation Paul Bunyan. The 2nd Infantry Division was chosen to participate in the United Nations Command response to this incident and on 21 August, Task Force Brady, comprised of American Infantry and Engineers, swept into the area and cut down the now infamous “Panmunjom Tree.” The Warriors, together with the Joint Security Force which led the way and a group of ROK Special Forces, delivered an unmistakable message to the North Koreans, as well as to the world. Throughout the 1980s, soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division continued to patrol along the DMZ.
With the end of the Cold War, 2nd Infantry Division Warriors left the DMZ on 1 October 1991, but remained forward deployed near the most heavily defended border in the world. On 16 September 1992, the 3rd Brigade was inactivated at Camp Howze as part of the Nunn-Warner Amendment to the 1989 Defense Appropriation Bill.
In 1994, the death of the North Korean leader, Kim Il Sung, created increased tension on the Korean Peninsula, this time the North was threatening nuclear development. In 1994, and again in 1999, the 2nd Infantry Division received their 4th and 5th Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citations.
On 16 April 1995, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division was reactivated at Fort Lewis, Washington as part of I Corps. It gained the distinction of becoming the Army’s first Stryker Brigade Combat Team in May of 2000.
The Global War on Terrorism (2003 — 2010)
From November 2003 to November 2004, the 3rd Brigade Stryker Brigade Combat Team deployed from Fort Lewis in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In the sands of Iraq, the 3rd Brigade Stryker Brigade Combat Team proved the value of the Stryker Brigade concept in combat and stability operations.
In August 2004, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team deployed to Iraq where they worked side by side with the Republic of Korea Army; just as it had while stationed in Korea. This deployment was unique in that it was the first operational deployment from the Republic of Korea. In Iraq, the 2nd BCT was given responsibility for much of the sparsely populated area South and West of Fallujah. Its mission, however, changed when the major strategic actions began to take place within the city of Fallujah. The 2nd BCT was refocused and given control of the eastern half of the volatile city of Ar-Ramadi. For this mission, the Brigade fell under the direct command of the 1st Marine Division and for the second half of the deployment they were attached to the 2nd Marine Division. This command structure was ironic in that during World War I the 5th Marine Regiment and the 6th Marine Regiment of the 1st Marine Division had fought under the US Army’s 2nd Infantry Division.
The 2BCT fought in the Fallujah offensive in November 2004 and provided Iraqis the opportunity to vote in the historic national elections of January 2005. They spent the year helping the citizens of Iraq build a secure future by battling the insurgency and establishing more favorable conditions for the emerging democratic Iraqi government. The 2BCT also trained and partnered with thousands of Iraqi Security Force soldiers, enabling them to better secure their country. Additionally, the 2BCT provided humanitarian relief to hundreds of displaced civilians, schools, hospitals, and the underprivileged across its area of operations. In August 2005, the 2BCT redeployed from Iraq to its new home at Fort Carson, Colorado.
From June 2006 to September 2007, the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team deployed from Fort Lewis in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During the 3rd Stryker Brigade’s second deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom their mission was to assist the Iraqi security forces with counter-insurgency operations in the Ninewa Province.
On 1 June 2006 at Fort Lewis, the 4th Brigade, 2d Infantry Division was formed. From April 2007 to July 2008 the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team was deployed in as part of the surge to regain control of the situation in Iraq. The brigade assumed responsibility for the area north of Baghdad and the Diyala province.
From October 2006 to January 2008, the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team deployed from Fort Carson, Colorado in support of the Multi-National Division Baghdad (1st Cavalry Division) and was responsible for assisting the Iraqi forces to become self-reliant, bringing down the violence and insurgency levels and supporting the rebuilding of the Iraqi infrastructure. The brigade headquarters was subsequently inactivated on 15 March 2008 at Fort Carson, Colorado
Originally alerted for service in Iraq, the Department of Defense ordered the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division, which had been activated at Fort Lewis in 2007, to deploy to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom as part of a surge of forces. The 5th SBCT relieved Canadian forces in Kandahar Province in August 2009 and completed its rotation in July 2010. Upon its return to Fort Lewis, the brigade was re-designated as the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
In September 2009, the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team returned to Iraq for a one-year rotation, partnering with Iraqi security forces. It became the last combat brigade to serve in Iraq when it crossed into Kuwait after completing its mission in August 2010 at the conclusion of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the start of Operation New Dawn.
Current Operations (2010 — Present)
Today, the 2nd Infantry Division is headquartered at Camp Red Cloud, Korea. The Division’s Warriors are assigned to the Division Special Troops Battalion, the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, and the 210th Fires Brigade (Attached) in Korea as well as the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Teams which are stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Reflecting the Warrior Ethos of today’s highly modular fighting force, the Division is a melting pot of experience and expertise as the Warriors face the dangerous threat posed by the communist North Korea and terrorism.
Source: 2nd Infantry Division website, Joint Base Lewis-McChord website, Army Center for Military History website, Department of Defense news releases, and The Pacific Stars and Stripes.