World War II
Shortly after the beginning of World War II in Europe, the 1st Division was moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, on 19 November 1939 where it supported the Infantry School as part of American mobilization preparations. It then moved to the Sabine Parish, Louisiana area on 11 May 1940 to participate in the Louisiana Maneuvers. The division next relocated to Fort Hamilton on 5 June 1940, where it spent over six months before moving to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, on 4 February 1941. As part of its training that year, the division participated in both Carolina Maneuvers of October and November before returning to Fort Devens on 6 December 1941.
A day later, on 7 December 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and then the United States declared war. The division was ordered to Camp Blanding, Florida, as quickly as trains could be gathered and winter weather permitted, and arrived on 21 February 1942. The division was there reorganized and refurbished with new equipment, being re-designated as the 1st Infantry Division on 15 May 1942. Within a week, the division was returned to its former post at Fort Benning, from where it was expedited on 21 Jun 1942 to Indiantown Gap Military Reservation for wartime overseas deployment final preparation. The division departed New York Port of Embarkation on 1 August 1942, arrived in Beaminster in south-west England about a week later, and departed 22 October 1942 for the combat amphibious assault of North Africa.:75, 622
As part of II Corps, the division landed in Oran, Algeria on 8 November 1942 as part of Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French North Africa. The 1st Division commander was Major General Terry de la Mesa Allen and Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. as deputy division commander. Elements then took part in combat atMaktar, Tebourba, Medjez el Bab, the Battle of the Kasserine Pass (where American forces were pushed back), and Gafsa. It then led the allied assault in brutal fighting at El Guettar, Béja, and Mateur. The 1st Infantry Division was in combat in the North African Campaign from 21 January 1943 – 9 May 1943, helping secure Tunisia.
In July 1943, the division took part in Operation Husky invading Sicily still under the command of Major General Allen. Lieutenant General George S. Patton specifically requested the division as part of his forces for the invasion of Sicily. It was assigned to the II Corps. In Sicily the 1st saw heavy action when making amphibious landings opposed by Italian and German tanks at the Amphibious Battle of Gela. The 1st then moved up through the center of Sicily, slogging it out through the mountains along with the 45th Infantry Division. In these mountains, the division saw some of the heaviest fighting in the entire Sicilian campaign at the Battle of Troina; some units losing more than half their strength in assaulting the mountain town. On 7 August 1943, command was assumed by Major General Clarence R. Huebner.
When that campaign was over, the division returned to England 5 November 1943:622 to prepare for the eventual Normandy invasion. The First Infantry Division and one regimental combat team from the 29th Infantry Division comprised the first wave of troops that assaulted German Army defenses on Omaha Beach on D-Day with some of the division’s units suffering 30 percent casualties in the first hour of the assault, and secured Formigny and Caumont in the beachhead by the end of the day. The division followed up the Saint-Lô break-through with an attack on Marigny, 27 July 1944, and then drove across France in a continuous offensive, reaching the German border atAachen in September. The division laid siege to Aachen, taking the city after a direct assault on 21 October 1944. The First then attacked east of Aachen through the Hurtgen Forest, driving to the Rur, and was moved to a rear area 7 December 1944 for refitting and rest following 6 months of combat. When the German Wacht Am Rheinoffensive (commonly called the Battle of the Bulge) was launched on 16 December 1944, the division was quickly moved to the Ardennes front. Fighting continuously from 17 December 1944 to 28 January 1945, the division helped to blunt and reverse the German offensive. Thereupon, the division attacked and again breached the Siegfried Line, fought across the Ruhr, 23 February 1945, and drove on to the Rhine, crossing at the Remagen bridgehead, 15–16 March. The division broke out of the bridgehead, took part in the encirclement of the Ruhr Pocket, captured Paderborn, pushed through the Harz Mountains, and was in Czechoslovakia, fighting at Kinsperk, Sangerberg, and Mnichov when the war in Europe ended.
Sixteen members of the division were awarded the Medal of Honor. The division lost 3,616 killed in action, 15,208 wounded in action, and 664 died of wounds.