The 9th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army is nicknamed
the "Old Reliables." It was created during World War I as the 9th Division, but
it was never deployed overseas. The division proved to be an important asset
during World War II, Vietnam, and the Cold War.
During the pre-war buildup for World War II, the 9th
Infantry Division was constituted August 1, 1940 at Fort Bragg, NC. The Old
Reliables were among the first U.S. troops to enter combat in WWII. Along with
the 3rd Infantry and 2nd Armored Divisions, the 9th landed in North Africa on
November 8, 1942. It pushed through Tunisia into Bizerte, which fell May 1943.
The 9th Infantry Division then entered the Sicily campaign with landings at
Palermo in August. The Division took part in the capture of Randazzo and
After Sicily, the Old Reliables were sent to England to
re-equip and train for the impending cross-channel invasion of France. The 9th
Infantry Division landed on Utah Beach in Normandy on June 10, 1944 (D-day plus
4). The Division advanced to cut off the Cotentin Peninsula and assisted in the
capture of the fortified French port city of Cherbourg.
July, the division participated in the breakthrough at St.-Lo and in August
helped to close the Falaise Gap. The Old Reliables then swept across northern
France. The 9th Infantry Division held defensive positions near the Roer River
from December 1944 through January 1945, and then crossed the Rhine at Remagen
Bridge on March 7, 1945, pushing into the German Harz Mountains. On April 21,
1945, the Division relieved the 3rd Armored Division along the Mulde River near
Dessau and held that line until VE Day, (May 8, 1945).
During WWII, the Old Reliables spent 264 days in combat,
participating in eight separate campaigns. The 9th Infantry Division lost 4,581
soldiers killed in combat, 16,961 wounded, 750 missing in action, and 868
captured. Their total of battle and non-battle casualties represented more than
240 percent of their authorized strength. Along with this sacrifice, Old
Reliable soldiers earned 4 Medals of Honor, 86 Distinguished Service Crosses,
1,789 Silver Stars, and 5,518 Bronze Stars.
Shortly after the war, the 9th Infantry Division was
inactivated. Nevertheless, they were re-activated on July 15, 1947 at Fort Dix,
NJ, serving some 15 years before being inactivated once more. On February 1,
1966, however, the Old Reliables were called on again. The Division was
re-activated at Fort Riley, Kansas and deployed to the III Corps Tactical Zone
in Vietnam on December 16, 1966. During the Vietnam War, the 9th Infantry
Division's units often served with the Mobile Riverine Force and other US Navy
units that made up the Brown Water Navy. Its area of operations was in the
rivers and canals of the Mekong Delta from 1967 to 1972.
The division swept through Dinh Tuong Province during
January 6-May 31, 1967 in Operation PALM BEACH, spending February and March
with South Vietnamese forces combating the enemy in Long An Province.
Meanwhile, Old Reliable's 2nd Brigade was selected to fulfill the concept of a
Mobile Riverine Force (MRF) created in 1967 and integrated with Navy Task Force
117 at each level of its command. One of the unique units serving with the
division was the experimental Armor Platoon (Air Cushion Vehicle) which used
the specially designed hovercraft to patrol marshy terrain like the Plain of
Reeds along the south Vietnamese/Cambodian border.
For the first time since the Civil War, when Union Army
forces operated on the Mississippi, Cumberland, and other rivers, the U.S. Army
was utilizing an amphibious force operating afloat. The force was a complete
package, independent of fixed support embarked or in tow. The troops lived on
barracks ships docked at the MRF anchorage. On tactical operations, Navy
armored troop carrier boats, preceded by minesweeping craft and escorted by
armored boats (monitors) transported the soldiers along the vast waterways in
the Delta. The first element of the Mobile Riverine Force (2nd Brigade) arrived
in Vietnam in January 1967 and after training in the Rung Sat swamps moved into
a base near My Tho. This base was named Dong Tam, a 600-acre island created
among inundated rice paddies by dredging earth from the bottom of the Mekong
River. The MRF often operated with other specialized units such as Navy Seal
teams, South Vietnamese Marines, units of the ARVN 7th Division and River
Assault Groups on reconnaissance blocking and pursuit operations.
During the Tet Offensive in 1968, the 9th Infantry
Division engaged in bitter fighting in the Saigon area. After the battle,
General Westmoreland stated that the Old Reliables and the Mobile Riverine
Force saved the Delta region from falling to the North Vietnamese Army. In
1969, the division also operated throughout the IV Corps Tactical Zone. As part
of the U.S. draw down in Vietnam, two brigades were brought home in August
1969. The 3rd Brigade stayed in Vietnam (and fought in Cambodia) until October
1970. Elements of the 9th Infantry Division had served 1,440 days in
After Vietnam, the 9th Infantry Division was stationed at
Fort Lewis, Washington for the remainder of the Cold War. Beginning in the
mid-1980s, the division served as the high-technology test-bed for the army.
This led to the division testing the concept of "motorized infantry," designed
to fill the gap between light infantry and heavy mechanized forces. The idea
was to create lighter, mobile units capable of rapid deployment with far less
aircraft than a heavier mechanized unit. Motorized infantry doctrine
concentrated on effectiveness in desert warfare.
The Division eventually fielded two brigades of motorized
infantry in battalions of designated either "motorized" or "attack." Motorized
units fielded the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV or
"humvees") and attack units drove Fast Attack Vehicles (FAV), which were
essentially dune buggies (later designated the "Desert Patrol Vehicle"). The
FAVs were prone to rollover and offered the crew little protection to enemy
fire. They were eventually all replaced by versions of the humvee.
The Old Reliables was one of the divisions identified for
inactivation at the end of the Cold War. Although their special training and
equipment made them a logical asset to deploy to the Gulf War, they did not
deploy to the Middle East. Since the 9th Infantry Division was already in the
process of inactivation, during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the
division provided soldiers and equipment to fill out deploying units from other
divisions and trained National Guard and Army Reserve units deploying to the
The existing 3rd Brigade of the 9th Infantry Division did
not inactivate and was instead reflagged as the 199th Light Infantry Brigade
and assigned directly to I Corps. By December of 1991, all of the units of the
9th Infantry Division had cased their colors. This ended over 50 years of
service to the country, earning the Division's nickname: The Old Reliables.
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