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 A Summary History of the 34th Infantry Division

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Red Bull Division

(Updated 10-27-10)

The 34th Infantry Division, "Red Bulls," is a mechanized infantry division in the Army National Guard. Most of the citizen soldiers of the 34th ID come from the Minnesota and Iowa National Guard. The 34th Infantry Division traces its history through both world wars and continues to serve today through deployments in support of the Global War on Terror.

As a side note, one of the 34th Infantry Division's subordinate units traces its history to the Civil War. The First Minnesota Regiment, today the 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment (2/135) was the first volunteer regiment to offer its services to President Lincoln. The men of the 1st Minnesota are most remembered for their actions on the late afternoon of July 2, 1863, during the second day's fighting at Gettysburg, resulting in the prevention of a serious breach in the Union defensive line on Cemetery Ridge.

The Red Bulls were established as the 34th Division of the National Guard in August of 1917. The troops were primarily from Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, and Nebraska. The Red Bulls arrived in France in October of 1918 but was too late to see action in World War I as the war ended the following month. The 34th Division returned to the United States and was inactivated in December of 1918.

Click to preview or purchase "The Boldest Plan is the Best" from Amazon.comThe insignia of the 34th Infantry Division was designed by Marvin Cone of Cedar Rapids, IA who drew it for a contest while training with the Division at Camp Cody in 1917. A steer skull imposed on the shape of a Mexican water jar (called an "olla") recalled the Division's desert home not far from the Mexican border. During WW II, German soldiers in Italy referred to the American soldiers who wore the familiar patch as "Red Devils" or "Red Bulls." The latter name stuck, and the Division soon adopted it officially, replacing its WWI name of the "Sandstorm Division."

The 34th Infantry Division was activated as part of the buildup for WWII on February 10, 1941. The Division participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers, which involved the Second and Third U.S. Armies. The Division made a good showing at the Louisiana Maneuvers, which made put it on the top of the list for deployment. War was declared with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. By January 1, 1942, the 34th Infantry Division was on its way to Fort Dix, N.J. for subsequent shipment overseas. As the first U.S. Division to be shipped overseas, Pvt. Henke of Hutchinson, Minnesota was credited as being the first American soldier to step off the boat in support of the war effort.

The U.S. Rangers trace their lineage through the 34th Infantry Division. It was while training in Great Britain, that volunteers from the 34th Infantry Division provided 80 percent of the men for a newly formed 1st Ranger Battalion and many of them participated with the British Commandos in the famous raid on Dieppe, France. During WW II, the 1st Ranger Battalion was formed under the command of one of the Division's officers, CPT William Darby, and they soon became famous as "Darby's Rangers."

During WWII, the Red Bulls participated in six major Army campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. The Division is credited with amassing 517 days of continuous front line combat, more than any other division in the European theater. One or more 34th Division units were engaged in actual combat with the enemy for 611 days. The division was credited with more combat days than any other division in the theater. The 34th Division suffered 3,737 killed in action, 14,165 wounded in action, and 3,460 missing in action, for a division total of 21,362 battle casualties. Casualties in the 34th Infantry Division are considered the highest of any division in the theater when daily per capita fighting strengths are considered. There is little doubt the division took the most enemy-defended hills of any division in the European Theater. Red Bull soldiers were awarded 10 Medals of Honor, 98 Distinguished Service Crosses, 1 Distinguished Service Medal, 1,052 Silver Stars, 116 Legion of Merit medals, 1 Distinguished Flying Cross, 1,713 Bronze Stars, 51 Soldier Medals, 34 Air Medals, with duplicate awards of 52 oak leaf clusters, and 15,000 purple hearts.

The 34th Infantry Division inactivated on November 3, 1945. In 1946, the 34th Infantry Division was reorganized within the Iowa and Nebraska National Guards with its division headquarters in Iowa. An additional National Guard division was authorized, and Minnesota, anxious to have a division headquarters, received the headquarters for the new 47th Infantry Division.

In 1968 a reduction in Army National Guard divisions was ordered, and political and military leaders in Minnesota prevailed in placing the 34th Infantry Division on inactive status while retaining the 47th Infantry Division (which had never seen combat) as an active Guard division. The 34th Infantry Division was reactivated as a National Guard division (renaming the 47th Division) for Minnesota and Iowa on February 10, 1991, upon the fiftieth anniversary of its federal activation for World War II. At that point, the Division transitioned into a Medium Division, with a required strength of 18,062 soldiers. Although the 34th Infantry Division Headquarters was originally located in Iowa, but is now in Minnesota, most Red Bull veterans feel that a grievous wrong has been corrected.

Currently, the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division is ranked number one of the eight National Guard Divisions with regard to key readiness indicators. The 34th Infantry Division was the first National Guard Division to transform to the Army's modular and expeditionary Brigade Combat Team Structure. The Red Bull Division's force structure has grown and is now spread across several Midwest states (Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, and Missouri). The Minnesota National Guard provides the 34th Infantry Division Headquarters and is located in Rosemount (Main Command Post), and Inver Grove Heights (Tactical Command Post). Both communities are southern suburbs of the Twin Cities.

The 34th Infantry Division has deployed approximately 11,000 soldiers to fight in the War on Terror. For example, in May 2004, members of the 2nd Brigade, 34th Infantry Division, commenced combat operations at 13 Provincial Reconstruction Team sites throughout Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. This deployment returned the Red Bull patch to combat after 59 years and earned those participating units the distinction of becoming the first unit in the 34th Infantry Division to wear the Red Bull patch as a right-shoulder combat patch since WWII.

In March 2006, the 1st Brigade of the 34th Infantry Division deployed for combat operations in central and southern Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This marked the largest single unit deployment for the 34th Infantry Division since WWII. With its return in July 2007, the Brigade became one of the longest serving National Guard units in Iraq (activated for 22 months total with 16 in Iraq).

The citizen soldiers of the 34th Infantry Division, Red Bulls, continue to serve their communities and their country. They live their motto of "Attack, Attack, Attack!"

 

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