Perhaps one of the most decorated military units in the United States armed forces, the 1st Marine Division has a long and storied history.
History of 1st Marine Division
The Old Breed
1st Marine Division
(Revised March 2006)
1st MarDiv Staff Secretary
The 1st Marine Division was activated aboard the battleship Texas on 1 February 1941. It is the oldest, largest, and most decorated division in the United States Marine Corps, with nine Presidential Unit Citations (PUCs).
The 1st Marine Division is comprised of Headquarters Battalion, the 1st, 5th, 7th, and 11th Marine Regiments, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st and 3d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions, 1st Tank Battalion, and 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion. These units represent a combat-ready force of more than 22,000 Marines and Sailors.
Division regiments were in existence as early as March 8, 1911, when the 1st Marines were formed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It saw action in Haiti in 1915, in the Dominican Republic in 1916, and throughout the Caribbean during World War I. The 5th Marines was created in Vera Cruz, Mexico July 13, 1914. It served in Santo Domingo in 1925 and participated in 15 major engagements during World War I. These included Belleau Wood, Chateau and St. Mihiel. On Aug. 11, 1917, 7th Marines was activated in Philadelphia, Penn. It spent the duration of World War I in Cuba and was disbanded after the war. It was reactivated in 1941. The 11th Marines was formed in January 1918 at Quantico, Va., as a light artillery regiment. The regiment went to France as an infantry unit, providing a machine gun company and a guard company. Decommissioned and reactivated twice between world wars, the regiment again served as infantry in Nicaragua. Re-formed in 1940 as a full-fledged artillery unit, 11th Marines joined 1st Marine Division.
Medal of Honor winners for heroism on Guadalcanal at a formation on 21 May 1943 were, from left, MajGen Alexander A. Vandegrift, Col. Merritt A. Edson, 2ndLt. Mitchell Paige and Platoon Sergeant John Basilone.
The Guadalcanal campaign in 1942 was the first major American Pacific campaign in World War II and the first time the 1st Marine Division conducted combat operations as a division. The Division’s actions during this operation won it the first of three World War II PUCs. 1st Marine Division also won PUCs for the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. Three weeks after Japan surrendered, the Division was dispatched to North China for occupation duty. While in China, the Division had numerous encounters with the Chinese Communists.
“The Old Breed,” as the Division became known, provided the Pusan Fire Brigade when war broke out in Korea and then was chosen to land at Inchon on 15 September 1950. The Division subsequently fought into the mountains around the Chosin Reservoir. The Chinese Communists suffered more than 37,500 casualties trying to stop the Marines’ march out of the “Frozen Chosin.” These battles, and those that followed between April and September, earned the Division its fourth, fifth, and sixth PUCs.
The 2d Battalion, 1st Marines deployed to Guantanamo Bay for two months in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. More than 11,000 Marines of the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade participated in the naval blockade which forced the withdrawal of the missiles from Cuba.
A landing zone is hastily prepared for a Marine helicopter and guarded by members of the 7th Marine Regiment during Operation Stockton near Da Nang, Vietnam in July 1967.
In 1965, 7th Marines participated in the first major engagements for American ground troops in South Vietnam. March 1966 saw 1st Marine Division Headquarters established at Chu Lai. By June, the entire Division was in South Vietnam; its zone of operation – the southern two provinces of I Corps – Quang Tin and Quang Ngai. Between March 1966 and May 1967, the Division conducted 44 named and unnamed operations. Major engagements included Operations HASTINGS and UNION I and II. In these operations, 1st Marine Division units decisively defeated the enemy. During the 1968 Tet Offensive, the Division was involved in fierce fighting with both Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army elements. It successfully beat back and decimated every enemy assault in its area of operations, pursuing the enemy into his sanctuaries. It was during this period that the Division earned its seventh and eighth PUCs.
This is taken directly from the 1st Marine Division website and with thanks. This only includes up to the Vietnam War. For more information about the 1st MarDiv, go to their website above.