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 A Summary History of the 2nd Infantry Division – Second To None

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"Second To None"

(Updated 6-10-08)

The 2nd Infantry Division's primary mission is the defense of South Korea in the event of an invasion from North Korea. The Warrior Division has approximately 17,000 soldiers who wear the Indianhead shoulder patch, prepared to finish the Korean War, which was technically never concluded. As a result, the 2nd Infantry Division is the most forward deployed unit in the U.S. Army without being in direct combat.

The 2nd ID is the only division in the American army that has a large number of foreign soldiers assigned to it, made up partially of Korean soldiers. These South Koreans are called KATUSAs (Korean Augmentation to US Army). The program began in 1950 by agreement with South Korean President Syngman Rhee. Some 27,000 KATUSAs served with the US forces at the end of the Korean War. As of May 2006, approximately 1,100 KATUSA Soldiers serve with 2ID.

The 2nd Infantry Division was formed at Bourmont, France on October 26, 1917 during the First World War. As such the 2nd I.D. is one of the few active army units organized on foreign soil. At the time of activation the Indianhead Division had one infantry brigade and one marine brigade assigned. During WWI the 2nd Infantry Division was commanded twice by Marine generals: Major General C.A. Doyen and Major General John A. Lejune. This was the only time in U.S. military history when an Army Division was commanded by a Marine Corps officer.

Click to preview or purchase "The Boldest Plan is the Best" from Amazon.comThe 2nd ID spent the winter of 1917/1918 in training. Although judged to be not ready for combat by their French Army trainers, the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) needed the Warrior Division in a desperate attempt to halt a German advance toward Paris. As a result, the 2nd Infantry Division entered combat for the first time during Belleau Wood during June of 1918. The Indianhead Division went on to participate in the Chateau-Thierry campaign, won victories at Soissons and Mont Blanc, and the Meuse-Argonne offensive. On 11 November 1918 the Armistice was declared, and the 2nd Infantry Division marched into Germany where it performed occupational duties until April of 1919. During WWI, the 2nd ID, including their assigned marines, had 4,478 of its soldiers killed in action. The 2nd Infantry Division was returned to the United States in July of 1919.

During the Interwar years, the 2nd Infantry Division was home-based at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The Warrior Division remained there for the next 23 years, serving as an experimental unit, testing new concepts and innovations for the Army. The Indianhead Division participated in extensive training and maneuvers for the coming war. Major events included the Louisiana Maneuvers in August of 1941 and winter warfare training at Camp McCoy in Wisconsin beginning in November of 1942. The 2ID sailed from New York on October 8, 1943 in route to Belfast, Northern Ireland, then later to Wales to train and stage for the invasion of Europe.

Operation Overlord, the invasion of France by Allied Forces, began on June 6, 1944. The Second Infantry Division landed on Omaha Beach on D-day plus one, June 7, 1944. The Division attacked across the Aure River, liberating the town of Trevieres on June 10th. The Warrior Division continued to fight through the hedgerow country of Normandy, ending their participation in the campaign by seizing the heavily defended port city of Brest on September 18, 1944.

After about a week rest, the 2nd Infantry Division moved to defensive positions at St. Vith, Belgium on September 29, 1944. The 2nd ID entered Germany on October 3rd and was ordered on December 11, 1944 to attack and seize the Roer River dams. Having pierced the dreaded Siegfried Line, the Division was advancing when Nazi Field Marshal Gerd Von Rundstedt unleashed the powerful German offensive in the Ardennes. In mid-December the Indianhead Division was forced to withdraw to defensive position near Elsenborn. Throughout this Battle of the Bulge, the 2nd Infantry Division held fast, preventing the enemy from seizing key roads leading to the cities of Liege and Antwerp. The 2nd Infantry Division went back on the attack on February 6, 1945. The Division reached the Rhine River on March 9th and crossed it on March 21, 1945.

Transferred from the First Army to Patton's Third Amy, the Indianheads spent their last days of the war in Europe with a dash across Czechoslovakia, finally halting in the town of Pilsen on VE Day, May 8, 1945.

The 2nd Infantry Division returned to the United States through New York and arrived at Camp Swift, Texas on July 22, 1945. There the Warrior Division began to prepare for the invasion of Japan, but they were still at Camp Swift on VJ Day, September 2, 1945. From Camp Swift, the Division moved to their new home base at Fort Lewis, Washington in April of 1946. During WWII, the 2ID participated in five campaigns for a total of 303 days of combat. Six Indianhead Division soldiers were awarded Medals of Honor. The Division lost 3,031 soldiers killed in action during World War Two.

The Korean War began when the North Korean Army invaded the South on June 25, 1950. The 2nd Infantry Division was quickly alerted and arrived in Pusan, South Korea on July 23, 1950, becoming the first unit to reach Korea directly from the United States. Like all units early to arrive in Korea, the 2ID was employed piecemeal to stem the tide of the invading Communists. The entire division was committed as a unit on August 24th, relieving the 24th Infantry Division at the Naktong River Line. A sixteen-day battle began on the night of August 31, 1950 that required the Warrior Division's clerks, band, and logistics personnel to join in the fight to hold the "Pusan Perimeter."

On September 16, 1950, one day after the Inchon Landing, the 2nd Infantry Division was the first unit to break out of the Pusan Perimeter. The Indianhead Division led the Eighth Army drive to the Manchurian Border. The Division was within fifty miles of the Manchurian border when Chinese forces entered the fight, first encountering American troops on November 1, 1950. Soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division were given the mission of protecting the rear and right flank of the Eighth Army as it retired to the South. Fighting around Kunu-ri cost the 2nd ID nearly one-third of its strength, but was ten times more costly to the enemy. Routes south were kept open.

The Chinese winter offensive was finally blunted by the 2nd ID on January 31, 1951 at Wonju. Powerful counter-offensives were repulsed in February and the United Nations front was held. Again in April and May of 1951 the 2nd Infantry Division was instrumental in stopping the communist's spring offensive, earning the Warrior Division a Presidential Unit Citation. The remainder of the Indianhead Division's participation in the Korean War was a series of alternating periods of rest and combat. The Division participated in the Battles at Bloody Ridge and Heartbreak Ridge. A ceasefire agreement was signed on July 27, 1953 ending the main hostilities of the Korean War.

On August 20, 1954, four years after its last unit arrived in Korea, the 2nd Infantry Division was alerted for redeployment to the United States. During the Korean War, 17 Warrior Division soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor. The 7,094 combat deaths of the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea are the highest total among any modern U.S. division in any war since 1900.

The 2nd Infantry Division returned to Fort Lewis, Washington, where it remained for only two years. In August of 1956 the Division was transferred to Alaska. After a brief threat of deactivation, the unit was again transferred, this time to Fort Benning, Georgia to be reorganized with the personnel and equipment of the 10th Infantry Division returning from Germany. Fort Benning remained the home of the new 2nd Infantry Division from 1958 to 1965, where they were initially assigned the mission of a training division. In March 1962 the 2ID was designated as a Strategic Army Corps (STRAC) unit. Following this designation the Division became engaged in intensified combat training, tactical training, and field training exercises, in addition to special training designed to improve operational readiness.

As a result of the formation of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) at Fort Benning in 1965, the 2nd Infantry Division's stateside units were reassigned to the new formation and the existing 1st Cavalry Division in Korea took on the title of the 2nd Infantry Division. Thus the division formally returned to Korea in July 1965. North Korean forces were engaging in increasing border incursions and infiltration attempts and the 2nd Infantry Division was called upon to help halt these attacks. On November 2, 1966, soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment were killed in an ambush by North Korean forces. In 1967 enemy attacks in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) increased, as a result 16 American soldiers were killed that year. North Korean probes across the DMZ continued in 1968. In 1969, four soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment were killed while on patrol.

On August 18, 1976, during a routine tree-trimming operation within the DMZ, two American officers of the Joint Security Force (Joint Security Area) were axed to death in a melee with North Korean border guards called the Axe Murder Incident. What resulted was known as Operation Paul Bunyan. The 2nd Infantry Division was chosen to support the United Nations Command response to this incident and on August 21, Task Force Brady (named after the 2d ID Commander) in support of Task Force Vierra (named after the Joint Security Area Battalion Commander), a group of Republic of Korean (ROK) soldiers, American infantry, and engineers, swept into the area and cut down the infamous "Panmunjom Tree." The 2nd Infantry Division delivered an unmistakable message to the North Koreans, as well as to the world.

Throughout the 1980s, soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division continued to patrol along the DMZ. With the end of the Cold War, 2ID Warriors left the DMZ in 1991, but remained forward deployed along the most heavily defended frontier in the world. In 1994, the death of the North Korean leader, Kim Il Sung, has issued a period of increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula, now with the North threatening nuclear development. The 2nd Infantry Division is still stationed in Korea, with a number of camps near the DMZ. The Warrior Division faces a real threat. One of the largest armies in the world sits just across the DMZ. The fighting stopped in 1953, but the Korean War never officially ended.

Beginning in 1995, the 2nd Infantry Division began to change to reflect the modularization of the U.S. Army in the 21st Century. This included changing from a two maneuver brigade formation to a structure of four Brigade Combat Teams (BCT). While the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, the Combat Aviation Brigade, Division Fires Brigade and various support troops remain in Korea, three additional BCTs have been formed in the United States. The 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team was moved from Korea to Fort Carson, Colorado after their deployment to Iraq in 2004/05, and is structured like a traditional mechanized infantry, reinforced brigade. The 3rd and 4th Brigades were re-activated at Fort Lewis, Washington and have fielded the Stryker Armored Vehicle. These two brigades now are designated as Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (SBCT). They bridge the gap between the heavy mechanized infantry formations and light infantry troops.

While the North Korea threat is ever-present, the Warrior Division also participates in the Global War on Terror. In the August of 2004, the majority of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the 2nd Infantry Division was deployed to Iraq. The 2nd BCT was given strategic command to much of the sparsely populated area south and west of Fallujah. Their mission changed when major insurgent actions began to take place within the city proper. At this time, the Brigade Combat Team was refocused and given control of the eastern half of the volatile city of Ar-Ramadi. Within a few weeks of taking over operational control from the previous units, 2nd Brigade began experiencing violent activity. The primary focus of the 2nd BCT for much of their deployment was the struggle to gain local support and to minimize casualties. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team was in action in the city of Ramadi for several historical events, but most notably the Iraqi national elections of January 2005. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team left Iraq in July of 2005. The 3rd and 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Teams, 2nd Infantry Division are the latest Warrior Division units to be deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007.

Like all U.S. military units, the primary mission of the 2nd Infantry Division is to deter war. Should that deterrence fail, the soldiers of the Warrior Division are ready to defend "Freedom's Frontier." As in their history, the units that wear the Indianhead patch will live up to their motto of "Second to None."

 

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