By Becky Coffield, HUSC Historian 2021-2022
The 2nd Infantry Division has a proud and honorable history which reflects the heart of the American Soldier. Having fought in four wars, the 2nd Infantry Division is one of the most decorated Divisions in the United States Army. It boasts 40 Medal of Honor recipients, and over 20 campaign participation credits.
The 2nd Infantry Division was organized on 26 October 1917, at Bourmont, Haute Marne, France. Twice during “The Great War” the Division was commanded by Marine Corps Generals, marking the only times in US Military history when Marine Corps officers commanded an Army Division. The 2nd Infantry Division drew its first blood in the nightmare landscape of the Battle of Belleau Wood and contributed to shattering the four-year stalemate on the battlefield during the Chateau-Thierry campaign that followed. Having fought in every major US engagement, the Indianhead Division emerged from World War I as the most decorated American Division of the American Expeditionary Forces. During the campaign, two Soldiers, six Marines and six Sailors from the Division were awarded the Medal of Honor.
With the onset of World War II, the Division moved to Ireland in October 1943, as part of the build up for OPERATION OVERLORD, the Normandy invasion. On 7 June 1944, D-day + 1, the Division landed on Omaha Beach. Attacking across the Aure River, the Division liberated Trevires on 10 June 1944 and proceeded to assault and secure Hill 192, the key enemy strong point on the road to St. Lo.Exploiting the St. Lo breakthrough, the 2nd Infantry Division advanced across the Vire to take Tinchebray on 15 August 1944. During the Battle of the Bulge, from positions around St. Vith, Belgium, the Division held its ground, preventing the enemy from seizing key roads leading to the cities of Liege and Antwerp. During World War II, six Soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division were awarded the Medal of Honor.
The Division arrived in Korea, via Pusan, on 23 July 1950, becoming the first unit to reach Korea directly from the United States. The Warrior Division was the first unit to break out of the Pusan Perimeter and led the Eighth Army‘s Drive to THE Manchurian Border. The 2nd Infantry Division was awarded the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation on 29 September, 1950 for the defense of the Naktong River line against enemy attack. On 5 February 1951, the 23rd Regimental Combat Team moved into the narrow valley of Chipyong-ni. On 13 February 1951, the 23rd Regimental Combat Team, with the attached French Battalion, was cut off and surrounded by four Chinese Divisions. For more than three days the 23rd Regimental Combat Team and the 1st ROK Division bravely fought in freezing weather, killing over 5,000 Chinese and causing the Communist Chinese Forces to withdraw. The Battle of Chipyong-ni was the first major defeat for the Chinese and proved to be the turning point of Korean War. In April and May 1951, the 2nd Infantry Division was instrumental in smashing the Communist’s Spring Offensive as they fought for hilltops in the Iron Triangle, Pork Chop Hill, Baldy Hill, Bloody Ridge, and Heartbreak Ridge. During the Korean War, 20 2nd Infantry Division Soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor. The Division was awarded the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation on 26 October, 1953, for valor in combat and excellence in the training and integration of ROK forces into their ranks. The 2nd Infantry Division emerged as the most decorated Division from the Korean War.
On 1 July 1965, the Division’s color returned to the Republic of Korea. The 2nd Infantry Division was assigned to guard portions of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and help deter war on the peninsula. North Korean forces were engaging in increasing border incursions and infiltration attempts and the 2nd Infantry Division was called upon to help halt these attacks. Throughout the 1980 and early 1990s, Soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division continued to patrol along the DMZ. The Division was awarded the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation on 14 June, 1982, for their dedicated and vital role in the combined ROK-US endeavors to ensure an effective readiness posture on the Korean peninsula. In 1994, 1999, 2011, and again in 2016, the 2nd Infantry Division received the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.
The first element of the 2nd Infantry Division to deploy to Operation Iraqi Freedom was the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, deploying out of Fort Lewis beginning in November 2003. In August 2004, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team made history by deploying to Iraq from the Republic of Korea. It was the first operational deployment from Korea, and the team worked alongside ROK soldiers, just as they had in Korea. Eventually, in a throwback to the 2nd Infantry Division’s history of fighting alongside the Marines in World War I, the 2nd BCT fell under the direct command of the 1st Marine Division. Later in its deployment, the team was attached to the 2nd Marine Division. Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division continued to answer the call in support of the Global War on Terrorism until 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team was deployed out of Afghanistan in July 2013.
The 2nd Infantry Division is the last permanently forward-stationed division in the U.S. Army. As part of the great ROK-U.S. Alliance, the Division’s mission is to deter aggression, and if deterrence fails, ensure it is ready to “Fight Tonight” to defend the Republic of Korea. Forged during the Korean War, the great ROK-U.S. Alliance is an equal partnership committed to the strong defense of Korea. Today, the 2nd Infantry Division patch is spread out across the world. On 3 June 2015, The ROK-U.S. Combined Division was activated in order to improve the abilities of Combined Operations. The ROK 16TH Mechanized Brigade, partnered with the Combined Division, accumulates expertise in combined warfare and the Warriors of the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division stand ready – to “Fight Tonight!”
For more information please visit the 2nd Infantry Division website at www.2id.korea.army.mil/About-Us/History/ and the official 2nd Infantry Division Museum facebook page.
2nd Infantry Division (2ID)-Korea.” (www.2id.korea.army.mil/About-Us/History/). November 1, 2021.