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1st Cavalry Division (United States)

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Title: 1st Cavalry Division (United States)  
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Subject: III Corps (United States), 8th Cavalry Regiment, Capital Mechanized Infantry Division (Republic of Korea), 4th Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, Company E, 52nd Infantry (LRP) (United States)
Collection: Cavalry Divisions of the United States Army, Military Units and Formations Established in 1921, Military Units and Formations of the Gulf War, Military Units and Formations of the United States Army in the Vietnam War, Military Units and Formations of the United States in the Cold War, United States Army Divisions During World War II, United States Army Units and Formations in the Korean War
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

1st Cavalry Division (United States)

1st Cavalry Division
Shoulder sleeve insignia
Active 1921–present
Country United States
Branch  United States Army
Type Armored division
Size 16,700 troopers
Part of III Corps
Garrison/HQ Fort Hood, Texas
Nickname "First Team"[1]
Motto The First Team!
March Garryowen
Mascot Horse
Engagements World War II
Korean War
Vietnam War
Operation Desert Storm
Major General Michael Bills
Distinctive unit insignia
U.S. Cavalry Divisions
Previous Next
none 2nd Cavalry Division

The 1st Cavalry Division ("First Team"[1]) is one of the most decorated combat divisions of the United States Army.[2] It is based at Fort Hood, Texas. It was formed in 1921 and served during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War, with the Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the Iraq War, and in the War in Afghanistan (2001–present). As of 2013, the 1st Cavalry Division is subordinate to III Corps and is commanded by Major General Michael Bills.


  • History 1
  • Prelude to World War II 2
  • World War II 3
  • Korean War 4
  • Vietnam – 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) 5
  • Cold War service 6
  • Middle East in 1990s 7
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina 1998–99 8
  • Iraq 9
    • 4th BCT 9.1
  • Afghanistan 10
  • Current structure 11
  • Shoulder sleeve insignia 12
  • Distinctive unit insignia 13
  • Awards and decorations 14
    • Campaign credit 14.1
    • Unit decorations 14.2
  • In popular culture 15
  • See also 16
  • References 17
  • Further reading 18
  • External links 19
    • Media 19.1


The history of the 1st Cavalry Division began in 1921 after the army established a permanent cavalry division square division organization of 7,463 officers and men, organized as follows:

  • Headquarters Element (34 men)
  • Two Cavalry Brigades (2,803 men each)
  • Field Artillery Battalion (790 men)
  • Engineer Battalion (357 men)
  • Division Quartermaster Trains Command (276 men)
  • Special Troops Command (337 men)
  • Ambulance Company (63 men)
1st Cavalry Division's Horse Cavalry Detachment charge during a ceremony at Fort Bliss, Texas, 2005.

On 20 August 1921, the War Department Adjutant General constituted the 1st and 2d Cavalry Divisions to meet partial mobilization requirements, and authorized the establishment of the 1st Cavalry Division under the new TO&E on 31 August 1921. Since 1st Cavalry Division was to assemble from existing units, it was able to go active in September 1921, even though the subordinate units did not arrive completely until as late as 1922.

1st Cavalry Division was assigned to the VIII Corps Area, with its division headquarters and 2d Brigade located at Fort Bliss, Texas, and the 1st Brigade at Douglas, Arizona. The headquarters facilities used by 1st Cavalry Division were those previously vacated by 8th United States Brigade when it was commanded by MG John J. Pershing in 1916, and the wartime 15th Cavalry Division, which had existed at Fort Bliss between 10 December 1917 and 12 May 1918.

1st Cavalry Division Band – Operation Iraqi Freedom 2 Color Uncasing Ceremony Fort Hood,TX

The 1st Cavalry Division’s assembled at Douglas, Arizona. The 1st, 7th, and 8th Cavalry Regiments had previously been assigned to the wartime 15th Cavalry Division until they were returned to the VIII Corps Area troop list on 12 May 1918. 1st Cavalry Regiment remained assigned until it was transferred to 1st Cavalry Division on 20 August 1921. The 7th, 8th, and 10th Cavalry Regiments were transferred on 13 September 1921, although the assignment of the 10th Cavalry Regiment to the 1st Cavalry Division was controversial because the transfer violated the Jim Crow laws. This controversy continued until 18 December 1922, when the 5th Cavalry Regiment, then on the VIII Corps Area Troop List, swapped places with the 10th Cavalry Regiment.

In 1923 the 1st Cavalry Division held division maneuvers for the first time, intending to hold them annually thereafter. However, financial constraints made that impossible. Only in 1927, through the generosity of a few ranchers who provided free land, was the division able to conduct such exercises again. In 1928 Major General Herbert B. Crosby, Chief of Cavalry, faced with personnel cuts, reorganized the cavalry regiments, which in turn reduced the size of the 1st Cavalry Division. Crosby's goal was to decrease overhead while maintaining or increasing firepower in the regiment. After the reorganization each cavalry regiment consisted of a headquarters and headquarters troop; a machine gun troop; a medical and chaplain element; and two squadrons, each with a headquarters element; and two line troops. The cavalry brigades' machine gun squadrons were inactivated, while the responsibility for training and employing machine guns fell to the regimental commanders, as in the infantry.

About the same time that Crosby cut the cavalry regiment, the army staff, seeking to increase the usefulness of the wartime cavalry division, published new tables of organization for an even larger unit. The new structure increased the size of the signal troop (177), expanded the medical unit to a squadron (233), and endorsing Crosby's movement of the machine gun units from the brigades to the regiments (2X176). A divisional aviation section, an armored car squadron (278), and tank company (155) were added, the field artillery battalion was expanded to a regiment (1,717), and divisional strength rose to 9,595.

Prelude to World War II

With the arrival of the 1930s, serious work started on the testing and refining of new equipment and TO&Es for a mechanized and motorized army. To facilitate this, 1st Cavalry Division traded 1st Cavalry Regiment for 12th Cavalry Regiment on 3 January 1933.

Taking into account recommendations from the VIII Corps Area, the Army War College, and the Command and General Staff School, the board developed a new smaller triangular cavalry division, which the 1st Cavalry Division evaluated during maneuvers at Toyahvale, Texas, in 1938. Like the 1937 infantry division test, the maneuvers concentrated on the divisional cavalry regiments around which all other units were to be organized.

Following the test, a board of 1st Cavalry Division officers, headed by Brigadier General Kenyon A. Joyce, rejected the three-regiment division and recommended retention of the two-brigade (four-regiment) organization. The latter configuration allowed the division to deploy easily in two columns, which was accepted standard cavalry tactics. However, the board advocated reorganizing the cavalry regiment along triangular lines, which would give it a headquarters and headquarters troop, a machine gun squadron with special weapons and machine gun troops, and three rifle squadrons, each with one machine gun and three rifle troops. No significant change was made in the field artillery, but the test showed that the engineer element should remain a squadron to provide the divisional elements greater mobility on the battlefield and that the special troops idea should be extended to include the division headquarters, signal, and ordnance troops; quartermaster, medical, engineer, reconnaissance, and observation squadrons; and a chemical warfare detachment. One headquarters would assume responsibility for the administration and disciplinary control for these forces.

Although the study did not lead to a general reorganization of the cavalry division, the wartime cavalry regiment was restructured, effective 1 December 1938, to consist of a headquarters and headquarters troop, machine gun and special weapons troops, and three squadrons of three rifle troops each. The special troops remained as structured in 1928, and no observation squadron or chemical detachment found a place in the division. With the paper changes in the cavalry divisions and other minor adjustments, the strength of a wartime divisional rose to 10,680.

Standard organization chart for a cavalry division in November 1940

In order to prepare for war service, 1st Cavalry Division participated in the following maneuvers:

  • Toyahvale, TX Maneuvers – 7 October through 30 October 1939.
  • Cravens-Pitkin Louisiana Maneuvers – 13 August through 24 August 1940.
  • Second 3rd Army Louisiana Maneuvers – 10 August through 4 October 1941.
  • VIII Corps Louisiana Maneuvers near Mansfield, LA – 27 July 1942 – 21 September 1942.

World War II

With the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the “great laboratory” phase for developing and testing organizations, about which Marshall wrote in the summer of 1941, closed, but the War Department still had not developed ideal infantry, cavalry, armored, and motorized divisions. In 1942 it again revised the divisions based on experiences gained during the great GHQ maneuvers of the previous year. As in the past, the reorganizations ranged from minor adjustments to wholesale changes.

1st Cavalry Division retained its square configuration after the 1941 maneuvers, but with modifications. The division lost its antitank troop, the brigades their weapons troops, and the regiments their machine gun and special weapons troops. These changes brought no decrease in divisional firepower, but placed most weapons within the cavalry troops. The number of .50-caliber machine guns was increased almost threefold. In the reconnaissance squadron, the motorcycle and armored car troops were eliminated, leaving the squadron with one support troop and three reconnaissance troops equipped with light tanks. These changes increased the division from 11,676 to 12,112 officers and enlisted men.

The last of the 1st Cavalry Division's mounted units permanently retired their horses and converted to infantry formations on 28 February 1943. However, a mounted special ceremonial unit known as the Horse Platoon – later, the Horse Cavalry Detachment – was established within the division in January 1972. Its ongoing purpose is to represent the traditions and heritage of the American horse cavalry at military ceremonies and public events.[3]

The division shipped out equipped as an "augmented light infantry division." 1st Cavalry Division reported for its port call at Camp Stoneman, CA as follows:

1st Cavalry Division organisation early World War II
1st Cavalry Division organisation 1944–1945
Unit Staged Departed Arrived
HHT, 1st Cavalry Division 21 June 1943 26 June 11 July
HHT, 1st Cavalry Brigade 21 June 1943 3 July 24 July
HHT, 2nd Cavalry Brigade 18 June 1943 26 June 11 July
5th Cavalry Regiment 20 June 1943 2 July 24 July
7th Cavalry Regiment 18 June 1943 26 June 11 July
8th Cavalry Regiment 18 June 1943 26 June 11 July
12th Cavalry Regiment 20 June 1943 3 July 24 July
HHB, Division Artillery
61st Field Artillery Battalion 3 July 1943 24 July
82nd Field Artillery Battalion 4 June 1943 23 June
99th Field Artillery Battalion 23 May 1943 23 June
8th Engineer Squadron 23 May 1943 18 June
1st Medical Squadron
16th Quartermaster Squadron
7th Cavalry Recon Squadron 26 June 1943 11 July
1st Antitank Troop
1st Signal Troop
101st Unit Search and Rescue Team 10 May 1945

The 1st Cavalry Division arrived in Australia as shown above, continued its training at Strathpine, Queensland, until 26 July, then moved to New Guinea to stage for the Admiralties campaign 22–27 February 1944. The division experienced its first combat in the Admiralty Islands, units landing at Los Negros on 29 February 1944. Momote airstrip was secured against great odds. Attacks by Japanese were thrown back, and the enemy force surrounded by the end of March. Nearby islands were taken in April and May. The division next took part in the invasion of Leyte, 20 October 1944, captured Tacloban and the adjacent airstrip, advanced along the north coast, and secured Leyte Valley, elements landing on and securing Samar Island. Moving down Ormoc Valley (in Leyte) and across the Ormoc plain, the division reached the west coast of Leyte 1 January 1945.

1st Cav soldiers during the Battle of Leyte.

The division then invaded Luzon, landing in the Lingayen Gulf area 27 January 1945, and fought its way as a "flying column" to Manila by 3 February 1945. More than 3,000 civilian prisoners at the University of Santo Tomas, including more than 60 US Army nurses (some of the "Angels of Bataan and Corregidor") were liberated,[4] and the 1st Cavalry then advanced east of Manila by the middle of February before the city was cleared. On 20 February the division was assigned the mission of seizing and securing crossings over the Marikina River and securing the Tagaytay-Antipolo Line. After being relieved 12 March in the Antipolo area, elements pushed south into Batangas and provinces of Bicol Region and aiding Filipino forces under the Philippine Commonwealth Army and Philippine Constabulary together with the recognized guerrillas. They mopped up remaining pockets of resistance in these areas in small unit actions. Resistance was officially declared at an end 1 July 1945.

The division left Luzon 25 August 1945 for occupation duty in Japan, arriving in Yokohama 2 September 1945 and entering Tokyo 8 September, the first United States division to enter the Japanese capital. 101 unit was set up in May 1945 to search for the missing soldiers in the Second World War II. The detachment consisted of 17 people, three of them officers: Captain MacColeman, Lieutenant Foley and Sergeant Ryan. The operation was successful, although it lasted three years. Occupation duty in Japan followed for the next five years.

  • World War II casualties
  1. 734 killed in action
  2. 3,311 wounded in action
  3. 236 died of wounds.

Korean War

In the summer of 1950, North Korea attacked South Korea, and the 1st Cavalry Division was rushed to Korea to help shore up the Pusan Perimeter. After the X Corps attack at Incheon, a breakout operation was launched at the Pusan Perimeter. The 1st Cavalry Division remained in the line until it was relieved by the 45th Infantry Division from the United States Army National Guard in January 1952. Following the relief, the division returned to Japan. The division returned to Korea in 1957, where it remained until 1965.

During the Korean War, there were disparaging rumors about the 1st Cavalry Division's fighting abilities, including a folk song of the time called "The Bug-Out Ballad".[5] The series of engagements that are rumored to have given rise to the song were due (at least partly) to the myth that the division lost its unit colors.[6] Other Army and Marine units disparagingly described the division shoulder insignia as representing 'The horse they never rode, the river they never crossed, and the yellow speaks for itself'. Another version goes: "The shield they never carried, the horse they never rode, the bridge they never crossed, the line they never held, and the yellow is the reason why." The incident that apparently gave rise to this rumor appears to be the Battle of Unsan, which took place on November 1–2, 1950 at Unsan, Korea. In that battle, the 8th Cavalry regiment, a component of the 1st Cavalry Division, was pushed back from positions in and around the town of Unsan by superior Chinese forces. The regiment was severely battered, experienced heavy casualties, and lost a considerable amount of equipment. This was one of the first major Chinese operations in the Korean War and, like the Changjin (Chosin) Reservoir Battle of this same period, it took the United Nations Command by surprise.

On 28 October 1950, Gen. Walker relieved the 1st Cavalry Division of its security mission in P’yongyang. The division’s new orders were to pass through the ROK 1st Division’s lines at Unsan and attack toward the Yalu River. Leading the way on the twenty-ninth, the 8th Cavalry regiment departed P’yongyang and reached Yongsan-dong that evening. The 5th Cavalry regiment arrived the next morning, with the mission to protect the 8th Cavalry regiment's rear. With the arrival of the 8th Cavalry Regiment at Unsan on the 31st, the ROK 1st Division redeployed to positions northeast, east, and southeast of Unsan; the 8th Cavalry took up positions north, west, and south of the town. Meanwhile, the ROK 15th Regiment was desperately trying to hold its position east of the 8th Cavalry, across the Samt’an River.

During the afternoon of 1 November, the Chinese force’s attack north of Unsan gained strength against the ROK 15th Regiment and gradually extended to the right flank of the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry. At nightfall, the 1st Battalion controlled the northern approaches to the Samt’an River, except for portions of the ROK 15th Regiment’s zone on the east side. The battalion’s position on the left was weak; there were not enough soldiers to extend the defensive line to the main ridge leading into Unsan. This left a gap between the 1st and 2d Battalions. East of the Samt’an the ROK 15th Regiment was under heavy attack, and shortly after midnight it no longer existed as a combat force.

The ordeal of the 8th Cavalry now began. At 19:30 hours on 1 November, the Chinese attacked the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, all along its line. At 21:00 hours Chinese troops found the weak link in the ridgeline and began moving through it and down the ridge behind the 2d Battalion, penetrating its right flank and encircling its left. Now both the 1st and 2d Battalions were engaged by the enemy on several sides. Around midnight, the 8th Cavalry received orders to withdraw southward to Ipsok.

As of 01:30 hours on 2 November, no enemy activity was reported in the 3d Battalion’s sector south of Unsan. But as the 8th Cavalry withdrew, all three battalions became trapped by Chinese roadblocks south of Unsan during the early morning hours. Members of the 1st Battalion who were able to escape reached the Ipsok area. A head count showed the battalion had lost about 15 officers and 250 enlisted men. Members of the 2nd Battalion, for the most part, scattered into the hills. Many of them reached the ROK lines near Ipsok. Others met up with the 3rd Battalion, the hardest hit. Around 03:00 hours, the Chinese launched a surprise attack on the battalion command post. Hand-to-hand fighting ensued for about half an hour before the enemy was driven from the area. The disorganized members of the 3rd Battalion formed a core of resistance around three tanks on the valley floor and held off the enemy until daylight. By that time, only six officers and 200 enlisted men were still able to function. More than 170 were wounded, and the number dead or missing were uncounted. Attempts by the 5th Cavalry to relieve the beleaguered battalion were unsuccessful, and the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry, soon ceased to exist as an organized force.

The enemy force that brought tragedy to the 8th Cavalry at Unsan was the Chinese 116th Division. Elements of the 116th’s 347th Regiment were responsible for the roadblock south of Unsan. Also engaged in the Unsan action was the Chinese 115th Division.

  • Korean War casualties
  1. 3,811 killed in action
  2. 12,086 wounded in action
  • Korean War honors
  1. 8 Medal of Honor recipients:
5th Cavalry Regiment: Lloyd L. Burke (28 October 1951), Samuel S. Coursen (12 December 1950), and Robert M. McGovern (30 January 1951).
8th Cavalry Regiment: Tibor Rubin (23 July 1950, to 20 April 1953), James L. Stone (21 November and 22 November 1952) Robert H. Young (9 October 1950)
16th Reconnaissance Company: Gordon M. Craig (10 September 1950).

Vietnam – 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile)

1965 Organization of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile)

On 29 June 1965, The colors of the 1st Cavalry Division, at that time assigned to Korea, were transferred to Fort Benning taking over the re-flagged units of the 11th Airborne Division (United States) and 2nd Infantry Division, while the flag of the 2nd Infantry Division was moved to Korea taking over the re-flagged 1st Cav units.[7]

The 1st Cavalry Division next fought in the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) into 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). Concurrently, the colors and subordinate unit designations were transferred to Korea to reflag what had been the 1st Cavalry Division into the 2nd Infantry Division.

Shortly thereafter, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) began deploying to Camp Radcliff, An Khe, Vietnam, in the Central Highlands and was equipped with the new M16 rifle, the UH-1 troop carrier helicopter, the AH-1 attack helicopter, the CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter, and the massive CH-54 Skycrane cargo helicopter. All aircraft carried insignia to indicate their battalion and company.[8]

The division's first major operation was the Pleiku Campaign. The opening battle, the Battle of Ia Drang Valley, described in the book We Were Soldiers Once...And Young, was also the basis of the film We Were Soldiers. Because of that battle the division earned the Presidential Unit Citation (US), the first unit to receive such in the war. 1967 was then spent conducting Operation Pershing, a large scale search and destroy operation of enemy base areas in II Corps in which 5,400 enemy soldiers were killed and 2,000 captured. In Operation Jeb Stuart, January 1968, the division moved north to Camp Evans, north of Hue and on to LZ Sharon and LZ Betty, south of Quang Tri City, all in the I Corps Tactical Zone.

January 27, 1968. 1st Cavalry Division LRP at LZ Betty prelude to Tet.

In the early morning hours of January 31, 1968, the largest battle of the Vietnam War, the Tet Offensive, was launched by 84,000 enemy soldiers across South Vietnam. In the 1st Cavalry Division's area of operation, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Vietcong forces seized most of the city of Huế. As the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, fought to cut off enemy reinforcements pouring into Huế, at Quang Tri City, five enemy battalions, most from the 324th NVA Division, attacked the city and LZ Betty (Headquarters 1st Brigade). To stop allied troops from intervening, three other enemy infantry battalions deployed as blocking forces, all supported by a 122mm-rocket battalion and two heavy-weapons companies armed with 82mm mortars and 75mm recoilless rifles. After intense fighting, 900 NVA and Vietcong soldiers were killed in and around Quang Tri City and LZ Betty. However, across South Vietnam, 1,000 Americans, 2,100 ARVNs, 14,000 civilians, and 32,000 NVA and Vietcong lay dead.[9]

In March 1968 the 1st Cavalry Division shifted forces to LZ Stud, the staging area for Operation Pegasus to break the siege of the Marine combat base at Khe Sanh—the second largest battle of the war. All three brigades participated in this vast airmobile operation, along with a Marine armor thrust. US Air Force B-52s alone dropped more than 75,000 tons of bombs on North Vietnamese soldiers from the 304th and 325th Divisions encroaching the combat base in trenches. As these two elite enemy divisions, with history at Dien Bien Phu and the Ia Drang Valley, depleted, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) leapfrogged west, clearing Route 9, until at 0:800 hours April 8, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, linked-up with Marines at the combat base, ending the 77-day siege.[9]

LRPs on Signal Hill directing artillery on enemy trucks in A Shau Valley below.

On April 19, 1968, as the 2nd Brigade continued pushing west to the Laotian border, the 1st and 3rd Brigades (about 11,000 men and 300 helicopters) swung southwest and air assaulted A Shau Valley, commencing Operation Delaware. The North Vietnamese Army was a very well-trained, equipped, and led force. They turned A Shau into a formidable sanctuary —complete with PT76 tanks; powerful crew-served 37mm antiaircraft cannons, some radar controlled; twin-barreled 23mm cannons; and scores of 12.7mm heavy machine guns. A daring long-range penetration operation was launched by members of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile)'s, long-range reconnaissance patrol, against the North Vietnamese Army when they seized "Signal Hill" the name attributed to the peak of Dong Re Lao Mountain, a densely forested 4,879-foot mountain, midway in the valley, so the 1st and 3rd Brigades, slugging it out hidden deep behind the mountains, could communicate with Camp Evans near the coast or with approaching aircraft.

Despite hundreds of B-52 and jet air strikes in Operation Delaware, the enemy shot down a C-130, a CH-54, two Chinooks, and nearly two dozen UH-1 Hueys. Many more were lost in accidents or damaged by ground fire. The division also suffered more than 100 dead and 530 wounded in the operation. Bad weather aggravated the loss by causing delays in troop movements, allowing a substantial number of NVA to escape to safety in Laos. Still, the NVA lost more than 800 dead, a tank, 70 trucks, two bulldozers, 30 flamethrowers, thousands of rifles and machine guns, and dozens of antiaircraft cannons. They also lost tons of ammunition, explosives, medical supplies and foodstuffs.[10]

July 1968. Two 1st Cavalry Division LRP teams, Quang Tri, Vietnam.

In mid-May 1968 Operation Delaware ceased, however, the division continued tactical operations in I Corps as well as local pacification and "medcap" (medical outreach programs to local Vietnamese). In the autumn of 1968, the 1st Cavalry Division relocated south to Phước Vĩnh Base Camp northeast of Saigon. In May 1970, the 1st Cavalry Division participated in the Cambodian Incursion, withdrawing from Cambodia on 29 June. Thereafter, the division took a defensive posture while US troops withdrawals continued from Vietnam. On 29 April 1971 the bulk of the division was withdrawn to Fort Hood, Texas, but its 3rd Brigade remained as one of the final two major US ground combat units in Vietnam, departing 29 June 1972. However, its 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, Task Force Garry Owen, remained another two months.

The 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) suffered more casualties than any Army division during the Vietnam War. Marine Corps deaths are available only in aggregate, not by unit.[9]

  • Vietnam War casualties:
    • 5,444 killed in action.
    • 26,592 wounded in action.

Cold War service

1971–1974 Organization of the 1st Cavalry Division (TRICAP)

In the aftermath of Vietnam, the 1st Cavalry Division was converted from the air-mobile light infantry role into a triple capabilities (TRICAP) division. The unit received an infusion of mechanized infantry and artillery, to make it capable of missions needing three types of troops; armored, air-mobility, and air cavalry.

In the post-Vietnam era, morale in the US Army waned. In response, from 1973 through 1979 HQDA permitted local commanders to encourage morale-enhancing uniform distinctions. Consequently, many units embraced various colored berets, for example armor and armored cavalry units often adopted the black beret. Similarly many other units including the First Cavalry Division embraced various colored berets in an attempt to improve dwindling morale. The First Cav decided to assign various colored berets to the three major TRICAP and division support units. In this implementation, armored cavalry, airmobile infantry units, air cavalry units, division artillery units, and division support units all wore different colored berets, including black, light blue, kelly green, and red.

However, the TRICAP concept was short-lived, and by 1975, the division was equipped as a two-brigade armored division with its third brigade provided by the Mississippi Army National Guard's 155th Armored Brigade from 1984–1991.

The division participated in numerous XM-1 tank. The unit assignment and structure changed significantly, notably when 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment, the division's most famous unit, was disbanded. The 13th Signal Battalion fielded mobile subscriber equipment (MSE), a secure digital communications system for corps and below units.

Middle East in 1990s

Battle plan for the first Gulf War, with the 1st Cavalry Division attacking through the center of the main force.

The 1st Cavalry next fought as a heavy division, during Operation Desert Storm[11] in January and February 1991. The 1st Cavalry Division deployed in October 1990 as part of VII Corps. The division's 'round-out' formation, the 155th Armored Brigade was not deployed in a surprise political decision. It was planned to augment the division by attaching the Tiger Brigade from the 2nd Armored Division, but that brigade was attached to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (1st & 2nd Marine Divisions) to add heavy armor support to that force. Consequently, the 1st Cavalry Division was assigned the role of the VII Corps' reserve for much of the ground war, but was crucial in the movement of ground forces to the Kuwaiti and west Saudi Arabian theaters by making two assaults into Iraqi held territory with the division's Black Jack Brigade moving north drawing Iraqi divisions out of Kuwait to support the Iraqi units defending in Iraq. This movement was led by the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, from the Wadi Al-Batien to just north of Basra through several Iraqi divisions before stopping. The assault by M-1 Abrams main battle tanks, M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, and other support vehicles moved much faster than was thought possible, catching the Iraqi Army off guard.

The 13th Signal Battalion was the first unit in the U.S. Army to deploy mobile subscriber equipment (MSE) into combat. Installing, operating, and maintaining communications equipment to support a communications network spanning over 280 kilometers, the 13th Signal Battalion again provided the division's communications. After the division returned from Kuwait, the 1st "Tiger" Brigade, 2nd Armored Division was redesignated as the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. In response to the continued hostile movements by the Iraqi Armed Forces after Desert Storm, the U.S. Department of Defense ordered successive Operation Intrinsic Action deployments by combat brigades and special forces units to the Iraq/Kuwait border. The 1st Cavalry's three brigades contributed heavily to the decade-long deployments from 1992–2002.

Bosnia-Herzegovina 1998–99

The 1st Cavalry Division took control of the U.S. peacekeeping contingent in Bosnia-Herzegovina with approximately 6,900 personnel on June 20, 1998, as part of the multinational Stabilization Force (SFOR). 1st Brigade served for Rotation SFOR 4. 2nd Brigade served for Rotation SFOR 5. 2nd Brigade was alerted for action during the Russian move from Bosnia to the Pristina International Airport in June 1999, but no action was ultimately taken after consultation at the highest levels in NATO. In August 1999, the 10th Mountain Division took over operations in the Tuzla/Multinational Division North area.

Elements of the division arrived in Washington DC shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.


Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division prepare to enter a building during the Second Battle of Fallujah
Spc. Deidre Olivas gives a toy to an Iraqi child waiting for medical treatment during a combined medical mission in Quadria, 7 December. Spc. Olivas is from Forward Support Troop, 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment.

In October 2001 an advance party of a division brigade combat team was deployed to the Iraq/Kuwait border. Some divisional units participated in the initial Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004, where the 2nd Brigade Combat Team engaged in house to house intense urban combat to root out enemy cells in the city. During its OIF2 deployment division assigned and attached personnel numbered approximately 40,000. 168 personnel were killed in action, with approximately 1,500 wounded.

The division assumed duties as Headquarters, Multi-National Division – Baghdad from November 2006 to December 2007. 4th Brigade Combat Team, activated in 2005, arrived in Ninawa Governorate in October and November 2006. However, 2–12 Cavalry was detached, deployed to Baghdad to augment the division efforts there.

The division assumed duties as the Headquarters, Multi-National Division – Baghdad Jan 2009– Jan 2010. The deployment was extended by 23 days past the one year mark.

4th BCT

The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division was activated in a ceremony held 18 October 2005 at Noel Field at Fort Bliss, Texas. During the ceremony, MG Peter W. Chiarelli presented the colors to Col. Stephen Twitty, who assumed command of the brigade. The Brigade was built by the reassignment of 2-12 Cavalry from 2nd Brigade, 2-7 Cavalry and 1-9 Cavalry from 3rd Brigade, and the transfer of the 27th Main Support Battalion from the inactivating Division Support Command. 5-82 Field Artillery and the 4th Brigade Support battalion were newly activated units.

The 4th BCT assumed responsibility of Ninawa province from the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division on 9 December 2006. The brigade headquarters was based in Mosul, Ninawa's provincial capital. The brigade's mission was to build capable Iraqi security forces and to conduct operations against the Iraqi insurgency. The brigade transferred authority to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in December 2007 and began returning home.

4th Brigade Combat Team deployed to southern Iraq in June 2008 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom 08-10. As part of the Multi-National Division-Center, the 4th BCT trained and mentored the 10th Division of the Iraqi Army, three Provincial Police Forces and Iraq Border Patrol units along the Iran-Iraq border in the provinces of Muthanna, Dhi Qar and Maysan. The brigade's operational area had 2.8 million citizens and included Iraq's fourth-largest city, An Nasiriyah. While the brigade headquarters was located at Contingency Operating Base Adder in Dhi Qar province, the unit deployed three battalions to the Maysan province where it built 2 bases and several ports of entry along the Iraq-Iran border. 2–7 Cavalry occupied FOB Garryowen and operated in northern Maysan province while 1–9 Cavalry and 5–82 Field Artillery "Black Dragons" occupied FOB Hunter in southern Maysan province. The brigade's other 3 battalions were based at COB Adder. The 2–12 Cavalry "Thunderhorse" partnered with Iraqi units in Muthanna and Dhi Qar provinces. The brigade's 4th Special Troops Battalion "Spartans" provided enablers and performed garrison and base defense operations at COB Adder.

During its one-year deployment, the 4 BCT served as higher headquarters for three Romanian battalions: the 151st Infantry Battalion "Black Wolves," the 341st Infantry Battalion "White Sharks," and the 26th Infantry Battalion "Red Scorpions." These Romanian units were an integral part of the BCT's success through their partnership with the 10th Iraqi Army Division, Special Forces and combat patrols in Dhi Qar province. In addition to the Iraqi Army, the brigade also partnered with the provincial reconstruction teams (PRT) in each of its three provinces to improve quality of life. The unit provided logistics, movement and security support to the PRTs to allow them to improve the governance and economic conditions. The 4 BCT worked with the Iraqi security forces to seize over 10,000 dangerous munitions and apprehend dozens of criminals in the Maysan marshes to improve the security situation in southern Iraq. 2–7 Cavalry worked with the Iraqi Police in Majar al Kabir to capture the criminals responsible for murdering six British military police in November 2004. The brigade also worked with the Iraqi security forces to provide security to Iraq's provincial elections in January 2009. During the final month of the brigade's rotation in May 2009, it transitioned the security responsibility of the historic Ziggurat at Ur to the Iraqi authorities. Previously, the Ziggurat was inside the perimeter of COB Adder in Dhi Qar province. The structure is one of the world's oldest historical archeological sites and a treasure of the Iraqi people. On May 4, 2009, 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment returned home from Iraq. On May 10, a second group of 300 soldiers of the 4th BCT came home after a 15 months tour in Iraq.


On 12/15/2001, elements of the 1st Cavalry Division deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The division headquarters deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and assumed command of Regional Command-East in May 2011 replacing the 101st Airborne Division. The 1st Infantry Division HQ took command of RC-East on 19 April 2012. The 1st Air Cavalry is currently providing aerial operation in Afghanistan as part of their year-long deployment. They will soon be replaced by the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade.[13]

Current structure

On 15 July 2005, the 1st Cavalry Division transitioned to the Unit of Action modified table of organization and equipment (MTOE). No longer are battalion-sized elements made up purely of armor and/or infantry battalions. Brigades are now composed of combined arms battalions (CAB), meaning every maneuver battalion combines infantry and armor, excluding the brigade reconnaissance squadrons.

OrBat of the 1st Cavalry Division
1st Cavalry Division consists of the following elements
the 1st Cavalry Division's Combat Aviation Brigade performs a mock charge with the horse detachment.

The division is supported by the 4th Sustainment Brigade at Fort Hood. The 4th Brigade Combat Team "Long Knife" inactivated in October 2013: the Special Troops Battalion, 4th BCT; the 5th Battalion, 82nd Artillery; and 27th Brigade Support Battalion were inactivated with some of the companies of the latter two used to augment artillery and support battalions in the remaining three BCTs. The 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry joined the 2d Brigade Combat Team, the 2d Battalion, 7th Cavalry joined the 3d Brigade Combat Team and the 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry joined the 1st Brigade Combat Team.

Shoulder sleeve insignia

Shoulder Sleeve Insignia: Traditional, BDU, DCU, ACU, OCP
On a yellow, triangular Norman shield with rounded corners 5.25 inches (133 mm) in height overall, a black diagonal stripe extends over the shield from upper left to lower right, and in the upper right a black horse's head cuts off diagonally at the neck, all within a 0.125-in green border.
Yellow, the traditional cavalry color, and the horse's head refer to the division's original cavalry structure. Black, symbolic of iron, alludes to the transition to tanks and armor. The black diagonal stripe represents a sword baldric and is a mark of military honor; it also implies movement "up the field" and thus symbolizes aggressive elan and attack. The one diagonal bend and the one horse's head also allude to the division's numerical designation.
The shoulder sleeve insignia was originally approved 3 January 1921, with several variations in colors of the bend and horse's head to reflect the subordinate elements of the division. The design was authorized for wear by all subordinate elements of the division on 11 December 1934, and previous authorization for the variations was canceled. The insignia is worn subdued on field uniforms after experience in Vietnam, where the gold was too conspicuous. Normally, the gold is changed to the base color of the uniform to subdue it.[15]
A soldier wearing the SSI of the 1st Cavalry Division speaking with Gen Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Distinctive unit insignia

Description: A metal and enameled device, 1 inch in height overall, consisting of a gold-colored Norman shield with a black horse's head couped in sinister chief, and a black bend charged with two five-pointed stars. Properly: Or, on a bend sable two stars of five points Or, in chief sinister a sable couped horse head, a border vert

Symbolism: The device is a miniature reproduction of the 1st Cavalry Division's shoulder sleeve insignia with the addition of two five-pointed stars. The Division Commander and the Division Staff wore the distinctive insignia design from 1922 to 1934 as a shoulder sleeve insignia.

Background: The distinctive unit insignia was approved 25 August 1965.

The Flag of the 1st Cavalry Division is a white field with the distinctive yellow triangular Norman shield with rounded corners, a black diagonal stripe extending over the shield from upper left to lower right and in the upper right a silhouetted horse's head cut off diagonally at the neck with a green border.[16]

Awards and decorations

Campaign credit

Conflict Streamer Year(s)
World War 2
New Guinea 1943
Bismarck Archipelago 1943
Leyte with Arrowhead 1944
Luzon 1944
Korean War
UN Defensive 1950
UN Offensive 1950
CCF Intervention 1950–1951
First UN Counteroffensive 1951
CCF Spring Offensive 1951
UN Summer–Fall Offensive 1951
Second Korean Winter 1951–1952
Vietnam War
Defense 1965
Counteroffensive 1965–1966
Counteroffensive, Phase II 1966–1967
Counteroffensive, Phase III 1967–1968
Tet Counteroffensive 1968
Counteroffensive, Phase IV 1968
Counteroffensive, Phase V 1968
Counteroffensive, Phase VI 1968–1969
Tet 69/Counteroffensive 1969
Summer–Fall 1969 1969
Winter–Spring 1970 1969–1970
Sanctuary Counteroffensive 1970
Counteroffensive, Phase VII 1970–1971
Gulf War
Defense of Saudi Arabia 1991
Liberation and Defense of Kuwait 1991
Iraqi Governance 2004
National Resolution 2005
Iraqi Surge 2007
Iraqi Sovereignty 2009
Consolidation III 2011
Transition I 2011–2012

Unit decorations

Ribbon Award Year Notes
Presidential Unit Citation (Army) Pleiku Province
Valorous Unit Award (Army) Fish Hook
Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army) Southwest Asia
Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation 1944–1945
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation (Army) Waegwan–Taegu
Gold Cross of Valour (Greece) 1955 Korea
Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, with Palm 1965–1969 For service in Vietnam
Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, with Palm 1969–1970 For service in Vietnam
Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, with Palm 1970–1971 For service in Vietnam
Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Unit Citation 1969–1970 For service in Vietnam

In popular culture

  • The 1st Cavalry Division is featured in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now (1–9 Cavalry).
  • In the 1980s TV series Airwolf, Stringfellow Hawke hints that he and his brother Saint John were members of the 1st Air Cav.
  • In the 1981 film Stripes, Warren Oates as Sergeant First Class Hulka wears the 1st Cavalry Division's unit insignia as his combat patch.
  • The 1985 nonfiction book Brennan's War: Vietnam 1965–1969[17] by Matthew Brennan provides a first-hand narrative of 1st Cavalry experiences. Brennan reveals the changes in character and attitude of the Americans serving in the war.
  • The 1986 film Platoon are extrapolations of director (and 1st Cavalry Division veteran) Oliver Stone's experiences in Vietnam. The characters of Sgt. Juan Elias (Willem Dafoe) and S/Sgt. John Barnes (Tom Berenger) were real soldiers. Juan Angel Elias died in combat in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam, on May 29, 1968, serving with the 2nd Platoon, Company E, 52nd Inf. (LRP), and John Barnes, served in the same platoon at the same time and retired from the Army as a SGM. In the film, Elias wears the 1st Cavalry Division's unit insignia as his combat patch (the unit depicted in the film is: B Co, 3-22IN, 3d BDE, 25th ID—Stone having served with both divisions).
  • The 1992 book We Were Soldiers Once… And Young, along with its 2002 film adaptation, follows the 1st Battalion of the 7th Cavalry Regiment during the Battle of Ia Drang.
  • In the 2001 film The Last Castle, General Wheeler wears the insignia of the 1st Cavalry Division on his dress uniform.
  • In the 2003 film Hulk, Sam Elliott as General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross wears the 1st Cavalry Division's unit insignia as his combat patch. Sam Elliott had previously starred as Sergeant Major Basil L. Plumley in We Were Soldiers.
  • In the 2004 fictional book "Iron Tigers", the 1st Cavalry is depicted as fighting Russian troops in Iraq.
  • The 2004 book, Time Never Heals, is the story of Dr. Frank Lunati, the first battalion surgeon for the Second Battalion, Fifth Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam.
  • In the 2008 film Gran Torino, Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) belonged to the 1st Cavalry Division in the Korean War.
  • In the 2010 film Predators, Noland (Laurence Fishburne) was part of the 1st Cavalry Division. He was stranded in a Predator game reserve planet.
  • In Eureka, General Mansfield of the Department of Defense is a veteran of the 1st Cavalry Division and wears the unit insignia on his uniform.
  • In the sketch comedy show The Whitest Kids U' Know, people in military uniform are often shown to be part of the 1st Cavalry division.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Special Unit Designations".  
  2. ^ "News Release: Army Announces Divisions to Remain in the 10-Division Force". 2009-03-12. Retrieved 2011-11-13. 
  3. ^ "The Horse Cavalry Detachment". Retrieved 2011-11-13. 
  4. ^ 50th Anniversary Commemorative Album of the Flying Column 1945–1995: The Liberation of Santo Tomas Internment Camp 3 February 1945, by Rose Contey-Aiello (1995) (ISBN 0-9645150-0-8; ISBN 978-0-9645150-0-0); G. Ward and K. Burns, The War: An Intimate History, 1941–1945, p. 342 (Alfred A. Knopf 2007)
  5. ^ "The Bug-Out Ballad". Retrieved 2011-11-13. 
  6. ^ "Loss of Colors".  
  7. ^ Flanagan, p. 378.
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b c Ankony, Robert C. (2008). Lurps: A Ranger's Diary of Tet, Khe Sanh, A Shau, and Quang Tri. Hamilton Books.  
  10. ^ Ankony, Robert C. (October 2008). "No Peace in the Valley". Vietnam Magazine. pp. 26–31. 
  11. ^ AR 600-8-27, p. 26 paragraph 9–14 & p. 28 paragraph 2–14
  12. ^ "Apaches are the attack helicopters of choice in Iraqi battle". Odessa American. Associated Press. 24 March 2003. 
  13. ^ Prepare to launch | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
  14. ^ TIOH - Heraldry - Special Troops Battalion, 1 Cavalry Division
  15. ^ For more variations on the unit's shoulder sleeve insignia, see "Rag Clippings". The Trading Post (American Society of Military Insignia Collectors): 19–20. April–June 2009. 
  16. ^ Here is a link to a source showing the flag and description.
  17. ^ Brennan, Matthew (1988). Brennan's War: Vietnam 1965-1969. Pocket Books.  

Further reading

  • The Admiralties: Operations of the 1st Cavalry Division 29 February – 18 May 1944 (reprint ed.). Washington, D.C.:   – full text
  • American Cavalry Divisions 1941–1945 order of battle information posted at the Combined Arms Research Library, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
  • revised ed., Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Landham, MD, (2009), by Dr. Robert C. Ankony, Director, CFM ResearchLurps: A Ranger's Diary of Tet, Khe Sanh, A Shau, and Quang Tri,
  • “No Peace in the Valley,” Vietnam magazine, Oct. 2008, 26–31
  • "The Brigade: A History, Its Organization and Employment in the US Army" by John J. McGrath, Combat Studies Institute Press, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 2004
  • U.S. Army Order of Battle 1919–1941, Volume 2. The Arms: Cavalry, Field Artillery, and Coast Artillery, 1919–41 by Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Steven E. Clay, Combat Studies Institute Press, Fort Leavenworth, KS, 2011
  • U.S. Army Combat Units 1 September 1939 order of battle information posted at the Combined Arms Research Library, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

External links

  • 1st Cavalry Division Association
  • 1st Cavalry Division at the Institute of Heraldry
  • 1st Cavalry Division Home Page – official site.
  • 1st Cavalry Division Lineage & Honors at the United States Army Center of Military History
  • First Cavalry Division LRRP/Rangers in Vietnam, Operation Delaware, and the division's casualties.
  • 1st Cavalry Division]
  • Photographic history of 1st Cavalry Division Lurp / Rangers in Vietnam 1968.
  • Project PRIAM - WWII 1st Cavalry Division MIAs
  • Twenty-second and Last Patrol: A Struggle against Bad Luck"—a 1st Cavalry Division LRRP / Ranger team's experience during the Vietnam War.
  • Vietnam 1st Air Cavalry Division 2nd Brigade 1st Battalion 5th US Cavalry, 2nd Battalion 5th US Cavalry, 2nd Battalion 12th US Cavalry Photos, Memorial Pages and links


  • The short film AIRMOBILE DIVISION, THE (1966) is available for free download at the Internet Archive []
  • The short film A-1-5 1st Air Cavalry, Binh Tuy Province (1971) is available for free download at the Internet Archive []
  • The short film Big Picture: The New First Team is available for free download at the Internet Archive []
  • The short film STAFF FILM REPORT 66-2A (1966) is available for free download at the Internet Archive []
  • The short film STAFF FILM REPORT 66-1OA (1966) is available for free download at the Internet Archive []
  • The short film STAFF FILM REPORT 66-12A (1966) is available for free download at the Internet Archive []
  • The short film STAFF FILM REPORT 66-20A (1966) is available for free download at the Internet Archive []
  • The short film STAFF FILM REPORT 66-21A (1966) is available for free download at the Internet Archive []
  • The short film STAFF FILM REPORT 66-22A (1966) is available for free download at the Internet Archive []
  • The short film STAFF FILM REPORT 66-29A (1966) is available for free download at the Internet Archive []
  • The short film STAFF FILM REPORT 66-30A (1966) is available for free download at the Internet Archive []
Preceded by
101st Airborne Division
Regional Command East
Succeeded by
1st Infantry Division
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