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 A Summary History of the 24th Infantry Division

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Victory Division

24th Infantry Division(Updated 9-22-10)

The United States Army's 24th Infantry Division has a special designation as the "Victory Division from the Center for Military History. The 24th Infantry Division shoulder sleeve insignia is a green taro leaf bordered in yellow, superimposed on a red circle that is bordered in black. It symbolizes the Division's heritage in the Hawaiian Division. Soldiers of the 24th ID are veterans of the Pacific Theater in WWII, the Korean War, the Cold War, and the Persian Gulf. In their service to the country, they have lived up to the division motto of "First to Fight!"

On February 25, 1921, the Hawaiian Division was activated at Schofield Barracks on Oahu, Hawaii. The 21st and 22nd Infantry Brigades, assets of the WWI era 11th Infantry Division, were initially assigned to the Division. The Hawaiian Division, along with the Philippine Division and the Americal were the last three divisions in the army to be designated with a name rather than a number. In the late summer of 1941, as part of the reorganization of the army in the buildup for World War II, the Click to preview or purchase "The Boldest Plan is the Best" from Amazon.comHawaiian Division was disbanded and its subordinate units were used to create two new divisions: the 24th Infantry Division and the 25th Infantry Division (Tropical Lightning). The 24th ID received the Hawaiian Division's shoulder sleeve insignia, which was created in 1921.

The 24th and 25th Divisions were organized under a new table of organization and equipment (TO&E) that created a three brigade, or "triangular," division. The 24th Infantry Division Headquarters was activated on October 1, 1941. The Division's three infantry regiments were the 19th and the 21st from the active army, and the 299th Infantry Regiment of the Hawaii National Guard. Also attached to the division were the 13th Field Artillery Battalion, the 52nd Field Artillery Battalion, the 63rd Field Artillery Battalion, the 11th Field Artillery Battalion, the 24th Signal Company, the 724th Ordnance Company, the 24th Quartermaster Company, the 24th Reconnaissance Troop, the 3rd Engineer Battalion, the 24th Medical Battalion, and the 24th Counter Intelligence Detachment.

The 24th Infantry Division was among the first divisions to see combat in World War II. Headquartered at Schofield Barracks on the island of Oahu, the 24th I.D. sustained minor casualties when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The division was tasked with the defense of northern Oahu, where it built an elaborate system of coastal defenses. In May 1943, the division was alerted for movement to Australia and by September of that year, it had deployed to Camp Caves, near Rockhampton on the eastern coast of Australia. The 24th was part of the assault forces that landed on Dutch New Guinea, where it fought its way to the Hollandia airfield. After occupation duty in the Hollandia area, the 24th Infantry Division was assigned to X Corps of the Sixth United States Army in preparation for the invasion of the Philippines. The 24th Division was among the assault forces on Leyte. From there the division went to Luzon and eventually formed an element of the assault forces in the Southern Philippines. During World War II the division adopted its nickname, "Victory Division." After serving in five campaigns and being decorated by the Philippine government, the 24th ID departed Mindanao on October 15, 1945 for occupation duty in Japan.

During World War II, members of the 24th Infantry Division won 3 Medals of Honor, 15 Distinguished Service Crosses, 2 Distinguished Service Medals, 625 Silver Star Medals, 38 Soldier's Medals, 2,197 Bronze Star Medals, and 50 Air Medals. The division itself was awarded eight Distinguished Unit Citations for actions during their participation in the Pacific Campaign.

During the post-war occupation, the Victory Division remained on mainland Japan. The 24th ID occupied Kyushu from 1945 until 1950. During this time, the US Army shrank from its wartime strength of 89 divisions to only 10 active. The 24th Infantry Division was one of four under strength divisions on occupation duty in Japan. The Division retained the 19th, 21st, and 34th Infantry Regiments, but the formations were undermanned and ill equipped due to the post-war drawdown and reduction in military spending.

After North Korea attacked South Korea on June 25, 1950, elements of the 24th Infantry Division were the first to arrive in Korea. On June 30, a 406-man infantry force from 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, supported by a 134-man artillery battery (also from the 24th Infantry Division) was sent into South Korea. This battalion task force, known as Task Force Smith for its commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Smith, was lightly armed. Smith was ordered to delay the advance of North Korean forces while the rest of the 24th Infantry Division moved into South Korea. On July 4, the task force set up in the hills north of Osan and prepared to block advancing North Korean forces. The next day witnessed a column of North Korean tanks approaching the American position. The ensuing battle was a rout, as the Task Force's obsolescent weapons were no match for the North Koreans' T-34 Tanks and full-strength formations. Dozens of US soldiers were captured, and when US forces retook the area, some of the prisoners were discovered to have been executed. Task Force Smith suffered 20 killed and 130 wounded in action, approximately thirty percent of the unit. However, the task force was successful in delaying the North Korean forces' advance for seven hours. The Victory Division continued to fight a delaying action against overwhelming odds. The delay permitted the United Nations to build up its forces in the "Pusan Perimeter" around the port city. The 24th ID was awarded the Presidential Citation (Army) for its actions during this period. Over the next nineteen months the 24th Infantry Division fought in seven campaigns and was twice decorated by the Republic of (South) Korea. In February 1952, the Victory Division returned to Japan where it served as part of the Far East reserve.

On July 27, 1953 and armistice was signed ending combat operations in Korea. During this same month, the 24th ID went back to Korea to restore order in prisoner of war camps. The 24th Infantry Division suffered 3,735 killed and 7,395 wounded during the Korean War. The Division remained on front-line duty after the armistice until October 1957, patrolling the 38th parallel in the event that combat would resume.

When the United States reduced and realigned its divisions in the Far East in 1957, the 24th Infantry Division left Korea, eventually replacing the 11th Airborne Division in Germany. While in Germany, in addition to its standard infantry mission, the 24th ID fielded airborne units for about two years. Elements of the 24th Infantry Division deployed to Beirut because of the Lebanon Crisis in 1958. 24th ID units also rotated to Berlin to reinforce the Berlin Brigade when East Germany began building the Berlin Wall in August of 1961. The Division reorganized as a mechanized division under the Reorganization Objective Army Division (ROAD) TO& E in 1963. The Victory Division remained in Germany until 1969 when it redeployed to Fort Riley, Kansas, as part of the REFORGER (Return of Forces to Germany) program. As the Army withdrew from Vietnam and reduced its forces, the 24th Infantry Division was inactivated in April 1970 at Fort Riley.

In September 1975, the 24th Infantry Division was reactivated at Fort Stewart, Georgia, as part of the program to build a sixteen-division army. Because the Regular Army could not field a full division at Fort Stewart, the 24th ID had the 48th Infantry Brigade, Georgia Army National Guard, assigned to it as a round-out unit. Targeted for a NATO role, the Division was again reorganized and designated as a mechanized infantry division in 1979 and later fielded the M1 Abrams tank and the M2 Bradley fighting vehicle. The Division became a mainstay of the Cold War army for the next 15 years.

When the United Nations decided to halt Iraqi aggression into Kuwait in 1990, the 24th Infantry Division, as part of the Rapid Deployment Force, was deployed to Southwest Asia. Serving in the Defense of Saudi Arabia and Liberation and Defense of Kuwait campaigns, the Victory Division helped to arrest the Iraqi war machine. In the XVIII Airborne Corps' mission of envelopment, the 24th Infantry Division had the central role of blocking the Euphrates River valley to prevent the escape of Iraqi forces in Kuwait and then attacking east in coordination with VII Corps to defeat the armor-heavy divisions of the Republican Guard Forces Command. The 24th Infantry Division combined the usual mechanized infantry division components of an aviation brigade and three ground maneuver brigades plus combat support units. As a Rapid Deployment Force division, the 24th I.D. had extensive desert training and desert-oriented medical and water purification equipment. When the attack began, the 24th ID was as large as a World War I division, with 25,000 soldiers in thirty-four battalions. Its 241 Abrams tanks and 221 Bradley fighting vehicles provided the necessary armor punch to penetrate Republican Guard divisions. However, with 94 helicopters, and over 6,500 wheeled and 1,300 other tracked vehicles-including 72 self-propelled artillery pieces and 9 multiple rocket launchers, the Victory Division had given away nothing in mobility and firepower.

The 24th Infantry Division performed its Gulf War mission superbly. After the Iraqi forces were defeated, the UN mandated the US withdraw from Iraq, ending the Gulf War. By the time of the ceasefire on February 28, 1991, the 24th Infantry Division advanced 260 miles, destroyed 360 tanks, and other armored personnel carriers, 300 artillery pieces, 1,200 trucks, 25 aircraft, 19 missiles, and over 500 pieces of engineer equipment. The division took over 5,000 Iraqi prisoners of war while suffering eight American soldiers killed, 36 wounded, and 5 non-combat casualties.

The Victory Division returned to Fort Stewart, Georgia in the spring of 1991. As part of the Army's reduction to a ten-division force, the 24th Infantry Division was inactivated on February 15, 1996.

In the wake of the Cold War, the US Army considered new options for the integration and organization of Active duty, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard units in training and deployment. The 7th Infantry Division and the 24th Infantry Division headquarters were designated for training National Guard units. The subordinate brigades of the divisions did not activate, so they could not be deployed as combat divisions. Instead, the headquarters units focused on full-time training. On June 5, 1999, the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) was once again activated, this time at Fort Riley, Kansas. The Victory Division then consisted of an active component headquarters at Fort Riley and three enhanced separate brigades of the National Guard: the 30th Heavy Separate Brigade at Clinton, North Carolina, the 218th Heavy Separate Brigade at Columbia, South Carolina, and the 48th Separate Infantry Brigade in Macon, Georgia. The 24th Infantry Division became the U.S. Army's first integrated active duty/National Guard division.

To expand upon the concept of Reserve and National Guard components, the First Army activated Division East and Division West, two commands responsible for reserve units' readiness and mobilization exercises. Division East activated at Fort Riley. This transformation was part of an overall restructuring of the US Army to streamline the organizations overseeing training. Division East took control of reserve units in states east of the Mississippi River, eliminating the need for the Victory Division headquarters. The 24th Infantry Division was subsequently deactivated for the last time on August 1, 2006 at Fort Riley, Kansas. All of the 24th ID's flags and heraldic items were moved to the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia following its inactivation.

 

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