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Big Red One: 100 Years and Counting

I am a Big Red One Spouse.

If you’ve been to any kind of ceremony on Fort Riley lately, you’ve probably heard something similar to that. This year, 2017, the 1st Infantry Division celebrates its 100th anniversary, and it’s not to be outdone.

The official anniversary is June 8, but the BRO (Big Red One) was deployed to Iraq at the time so festivities were postponed until now. Over the next two weeks, events will be taking place both on Fort Riley and in other locations to celebrate.

So what? What’s the big deal?

Without ruining the story, the 1st ID has a pretty storied past, and soldiers today are continuing to make history as we speak. To avoid a history lesson, here’s the BRO history in a snapshot (and some of my own words):

  • June 8, 1917: Organized in New York, New York, as the First Expeditionary Division
  • July 4: Marched through Paris after sailing from the states for involvement in WWI
  • July 6: Re-designated the First Division
  • WWI: The first shell of the war and the first casualties were sustained by the division. It was still involved when Armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918
  • Aug. 1, 1942: First Division was reorganized and designated as the 1st Infantry Division
  • Nov. 8, 1942: Entered WWII as part of “Operation Torch”
  • May 9, 1943: German commander of “Afrika Korps” surrenders, and BRO soldiers move to Sicily as part of “Operation Husky”
  • July 10: Storm the beach at Gela, overpower the Italian forces, and push back 100 tanks of the Herman Goering Tank Division to capture Troina, opening the allied road
  • June 6, 1944: On D-Day, the soldiers stormed Omaha Beach, then liberated Liege, Belgium
  • Oct. 21: The first major German city, Aachen, was attacked, and the German commander surrendered to the BRO
  • Dec. 16: At The Battle of the Bulge, BRO held the critical hinge of the Bulge while destroying multiple hundreds of enemy tanks

    Battle of the Bulge


  • May 8, 1945: End of World War II
  • While most soldiers returned home, BRO soldiers remained in Germany until 1955 while participating in the Nuremburg War Crime Trials
  • After transitioning out with 10th Infantry Division, the 1st ID settled back into Fort Riley, Kansas, and set up basic training and advanced individual training for new soldiers.
  • “If you’re going to be one, be a Big Red One” began the unofficial motto as the unit expanded to a combat status after the Berlin Wall was built in 1961.
  • October 1962: 1st ID stood guard for the Cuban Missile Crisis in forward positions in Florida, and Operation Long Thrust deployed troops to Berlin
  • July 12, 1965: Arrived in Vietnam

Soldiers move away from a Huey helicopter in Vietnam. Photo from

  • The 1st ID participated in ongoing operations that included Bushmaster I, Bushmaster II, Junction City, Cedar Falls, Ap Cha Do, and Manhattan, which uncovered one of the largest weapons and ammo caches of the war on April 23rd, 1967.
  • April 7, 1968: Conducted the largest operation of the Vietnam War: Operation Toan Thang (Certain Victory), included all allied troops
  • August through September 1969: Participated in numerous battles on Thunder Road, including sending the 1st ID band to march along the road to intimidate the Viet Cong
  • April 1970: BRO returned to Fort Riley
  • Feb. 24, 1991: Led the armored attack in Iraq as part of Operation Desert Storm
  • May 10, 1991: 1st ID colors returned to Fort Riley after securing site for the cease-fire agreements

As I continue to learn about this Division, I’m more proud to be affiliated with this organization.

The history continues in part two here.

The information for this piece came from Featured image by Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson, Combined Joint Task Force—Horn of Africa.



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