History of the First Division

The Fighting First

Colonel Robert R. McCormick, benefactor of the McCormick Foundation, Cantigny and the First Division Museum at Cantigny, was a World War I veteran of the First Division, today’s 1st Infantry Division, of the US Army. No institution save the Chicago Tribune was dearer to him.

Organized on June 8, 1917, for duty on the Western Front in World War I, this first permanent division in the regular Army has seen action in all American wars since 1917, except the Korean, and has performed magnificently in all of its service. Often the first unit of the Army to deploy and engage the enemy, the division has been characterized by an ability to learn systematically from experience and to distill this learning into techniques and methods to improve battlefield performance. Central to this learning has been the training of soldiers and the development of competent leaders at all levels. In the process the “Big Red One” (so called for the red numeral that has adorned its shoulder patch since 1918) has also been characterized by a remarkable esprit that has remained with the veterans long after their active service has ended. That human experience is an important part of the American national experience. The 1st Division’s contributions to this nation’s defense offer insights into the history of the Army and the United States.

Start your journey through the history of America’s most storied division—the Big Red One (or BRO, as it is also known). Follow along from World War I to the modern day. The men and women who served are our grandfathers, our fathers, our sons, our brothers, our sisters and our daughters. They come from all walks of life to do their duty for their country. Their story is the 1st Division’s story, and the 1st Division’s story is America’s story. The story of the Big Red One is our story.

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