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 A Summary History of the 5th Infantry Division – The Red Devils

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"Red Devils"

5th ID Veteran(Updated 6-2-10)

The 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized) has the nicknames of "Red Devils" or the "Red Diamond" for the simple design of their shoulder sleeve insignia. The 5th I.D., currently inactive, is a regular army division that saw service in WWI, WWII, Vietnam, and Operation Just Cause in Panama.

As part of the United States Army's buildup for World War I, the Fifth Division was activated on December 11, 1917 at Camp Logan, near Houston, Texas. The Division's organization called for four infantry regiments. However, only the headquarters and a few units were at Camp Logan. The Division's remaining units were training at locations spread over the Eastern and Southern United States. The 5th Division did not assemble as a unit until their arrival in France was completed on May 1, 1918.

It was during WWI that the 5th Infantry Division adopted their shoulder patch, the red diamond, and their nom de guerre. German soldiers during the St. Mihiel campaign called the American soldiers "Die rote teufel," which means "red devils."

The Red Diamonds were the eighth division to arrive in France. On arrival, the 5th Division conducted intensive training under the tutelage of French instructors. By the end of May the 5th Division was declared ready for combat and placed at the disposal of the French to reinforce the French Seventh Army in the Anould Sector in the Vosges Mountains in Alsace. Here they occupied trenches with French troops and suffered the Divisions first casualties on the night of June 14, 1918.

Click to preview or purchase "The Boldest Plan is the Best" from Amazon.comOn July 14, the Red Diamond was removed from the line and took over the St. Die Sector, relieving French troops. The 5th Division immediately initiated aggressive patrolling. The Division's artillery relished the opportunity to fire on live targets. As a result, "No Man's Land" became "Our Land." The 5th Division's machine gunners even brought down the first enemy airplane from ground fire.

By Armistice Day, the 5th Division had advanced further east than any other Allied division. In World War I, the 5th Division participated in the following campaigns: Alsace 1918, Lorraine 1918, Saint Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne. Since its first introduction into the trenches in June 1918, the Red Diamond had been in the line for 103 days. The 5th Division captured 2,367 German soldiers. The Red Devils sustained 9,981 casualties, 1,098 of those were killed in action. Decorations for valor were awarded to 351 Red Devils.

After the Armistice on November 11, 1918, the 5th Division was one of ten American divisions that served as occupation troops. Beginning November 27, the Red Diamond was stationed in Luxembourg and southeastern Belgium where it guarded the line of communications for Allied troops in Germany. During the summer of 1919, the Red Devils returned to the United States. The 5th Division was inactivated on October 4, 1921, at Camp Jackson, South Carolina.

With the American concern over the start of World War II in Europe, the 5th Infantry Division was once again activated on October 16, 1939 at Fort McClellan, Alabama. This time the Red Diamond was formed as a "triangular" division with the 2nd, 10th, and 11th Infantry Regiments for an authorized strength of approximately 15,000.

After periods of intensive training, the Red Diamond settled in their permanent post at Fort Custer, Michigan in September 1940. By April of 1941, the 5th Infantry Division had received their first batch of draftees, approximately 5,000, that brought the Division up to authorized strength. In September 1941, units of the Red Diamond began deployment to Iceland. The remainder of the Division had arrived by May 1942. While in Iceland, the Red Devils performed arduous and monotonous duties of operating observation posts, unloading boats, building roads and buildings, all while still maintaining training schedules.

In August 1943, the 5th Infantry Division moved from Iceland to Tidworth Barracks, England. Then in October, the Red Devils moved to Northern Ireland to continue training for the invasion of France. The Red Diamond landed in Normandy at Utah Sugar Red Beach, in the St. Mere Eglise area, on July 9, 1944. It was assigned to the V Corps, First Army, and relieved the 1st Infantry Division in the Coumont area. The division launched its first attack on Vidouville on July 26, 1944. From August 3, 1944, the 5th Infantry Division served in the XII and XX Corps, in Patton's Third Army until the end of hostilities on May 7, 1945.

The 5th Division, from its landing in Normandy July 9, 1944 to the last Division Headquarters in Vilshofen, Germany, traveled 2049 miles and engaged in all five of the ETO's major campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe. The Red Diamond has spent 300 days in combat, where they suffered battle casualties of 2,659 killed in action, 9,153 wounded, 1,050 missing in action, and 101 captured. Red Devils recognized for valor included the Medal of Honor (to Private Harold A. Garmen, a medic), 34 Distinguished Service Crosses, 602 Silver Stars, 10 Soldiers Medals, and 2,066 Bronze Stars.

The Red Diamond Division was inactivated September 20, 1946 at Camp Campbell Kentucky. However, this was not the end of the Red Diamond's history. The 5th Infantry Division would be activated and inactivated many times in the future. The Red Devils were part of NATO forces in Germany in the mid 1950's as part of the United States' Cold War defense of Europe. On March 25, 1968, the 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized) was alerted for deployment to Vietnam.

In order to make the Red Devil's 1st Brigade combat effective as a separate maneuver unit, there were a number of new assignments and attachments. In addition to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized); the following units were assigned: 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment; 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment (Mechanized); 1st Battalion, 77th Armor; A Troop, 4th Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment; 5th Battalion, 4th Artillery; 75th Support Battalion; A Company, 7th Engineers; 298th Signal Company; 517th Military Intelligence Detachment; 86th Chemical Detachment; 48th Public Information Detachment; 407th Radio Research Detachment; and the 43rd Scout Dog Platoon. On February 24, 1969, the 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mech) was assigned operational control of the 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry. Charlie Troop, 3rd Squadron, 17th Air Cavalry was placed under the operational control of the Red Devil Brigade in the summer of 1970. At peak strength, the brigade had over 6,000 personnel assigned and was one of the most potent fighting forces in the Republic of Vietnam.

Initially the Red Diamond Brigade conducted a 13-week training and familiarization program to adjust the brigade's personnel to situations in Vietnam. The emphasis was on independent small unit tactics and rapid response to alerts. In June 1968, the brigade began the long and difficult overseas movement. The advance party arrived in Quang Tri base on July 2, 1968. The remainder of the Brigade had closed on Quang Tri by July 22, and three maneuver battalions were located at separate base camps outside Quang Tri base proper.

A Company, 1st Battalion, 77th Armor was the first unit of the Red Diamond Brigade to be tactically committed. On August 12, 1968, the unit moved north to Con Thien to support the 1st Marine Regiment for ten days against North Vietnamese Army units attempting to infiltrate through the demilitarized zone. A Company made five contacts, was credited with 80 killed, and set the standard for the Brigade.

The Red Devils continued to operate in an area known as "Leatherneck Square," assisting the 3rd Marine Division deny access to the south through the DMZ. During April and May 1969, the Red Diamond Brigade attempted to deny the enemy access to the rice harvest. To accomplish this, the Brigade provided security for the friendly populace as they harvested their crops and patrolled at night to inhibit the movement of North Vietnamese tax collectors. The Red Diamonds showed that mechanized forces could be effective, even though they operated in terrain that was not optimal for armored forces.

In August 1969, the Red Devils assumed full responsibilities for "Leatherneck Square." For six weeks, constant activity kept all units of the Brigade busy in this area. On October 22, the Brigade was removed from the operational control of the 3rd Marine Division and placed directly under the commanding general of XXIV Corps. In conjunction with the 1st ARVN (South Vietnamese) Division, the Brigade now had sole responsibility for the defense of Quang Tri and Dong Ha combat bases.

In January 1971, the reinforced 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division, initiated operation Lam Son 719. The Brigade opened the QL9 Road from Dong Ha to the Laotian border; at the same time, engineers constructed access roads from the Rock Pile through the Punch Bowl to Khe Sanh. Following this, a 20,000-man ARVN Task Force moved to the Laotian border. The Red Diamond Brigade's missions were to secure QL9 as a supply route and provide mobile defense for the huge forward support area of Vandergrift and Khe Sanh. For 69 days of increasingly confused and bitter fighting, the Red Devils prevented the enemy from making a successful offensive move against any of these vital links in the ARVN offensive. A body count of 400 North Vietnamese was made, and the primary mission to keep the logistical support channels operational at all times was accomplished. When the last of the logistical units had withdrawn, the Red Diamond resumed its search and cordon patrols and rice denial efforts in eastern Quang Tri Province.

In June, the Red Devils received stand down orders with stateside redeployment to commence on July 1, 1971. Brigade activities were limited to base security in anticipation of a North Vietnamese Army effort to achieve a propaganda victory over the departing unit. The Brigade colors departed Quang Tri on August 8, 1971, after a ceremony the previous day in which several Vietnamese decorations were awarded to the Brigade and to Brigade personnel. The Red Devils returned to Fort Carson, leaving the defense of Quang Tri in the hands of the ARVN 1st Division, a unit that they had largely trained. On August 22, 1971, the Brigade colors were cased at Fort Carson, Colorado. The Red Diamond was inactive once again.

The 5th Mechanized Infantry Division was re-activated and re-organized at Fort Polk, LA in 1976. From 1989 through 1992, the division was attached to III Corps and shared its Cold War mission of reinforcing Allied Forces in Central Europe. According to Army doctrine of the time, the division was organized with two active brigades and "rounded out" by a brigade from the Army National Guard. In 1989, after months of deteriorating relations between the governments of the United States and that of Dictator Manuel Noriega of Panama, the situation became critical with the killing of a Marine officer and the harassment of American personnel by the Noreiga forces. When it came time for U.S. President George H.W. Bush to stop Noriega's repressive regime, the Red Diamond was standing in the wings and ready to be called.

A part of the division had been deployed in the Panama City area in May 1989 to secure American facilities. The following September these troops were replaced by "Task Force Regulars." This task force consisted of the 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized), and supporting elements. Task Force Regulars was assigned the mission of the assault of "la Comandcia," the headquarters of Noriega's Panama Defense Forces (PDF). Augmenting the 4/6 Infantry were Company A, 7th Engineers, elements of 5th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery, 5th Support Battalion (Forward), Company C, 508th Airborne Infantry Regiment, four M551 Sheridans from the 82nd Airborne Division, four Marine light armored vehicles (LAVs) and two platoons of military police from Fort Benning, GA. Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama, opened in the first hours of December 20, 1989. Task Force Regulars returned to their home station, Fort Polk, Louisiana, in late January. The returning Red Diamond veterans of Operation Just Cause were honored with a division review and awards ceremony on February 9, 1990.

The last inactivation of the Red Diamond was on November 24, 1992, exactly 75 years from the date of its first order to activate, November 24, 1917. Through the efforts of the unit soldiers, the Red Devils, the 5th Infantry Division earned its motto: "We will."

 

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