Tracing its heritage to the First World War, the 1st Infantry Division, also know as the ‘‘Big Red One,’’ became the most recognized U.S. Army formation of World War II. Early wartime training was conducted under Maj. Gen. Donald Cubbison, and Maj. Gen. Terry de la Mesa Allen led the division to England and Africa in 1942. Major General Clarence R. Huebner assumed command during the Sicilian operation in July 1943.
Returning to England in November, the division went ashore at Omaha Beach on 6 June as part of Major General L. T. Gerow’s V Corps. Throughout the war the 1st Infantry Division was composed of the Sixteenth, Eighteenth, and Twenty-sixth Infantry Regiments, plus the Fifth, Seventh, Thirty-second, and Thirty-third Field Artillery Battalions. For D-Day the division was reinforced with the 116th Infantry of the Twenty-ninth Division.
- Sixteenth Infantry: Col. George A. Taylor.
- Eighteenth Infantry: Col. George Smith, Jr.
- Twenty-sixth Infantry: Col. John F. Seitz.
- 116th Infantry: Col. Charles D. W. Canham.
On Omaha Beach, Second Battalion, Sixteenth Infantry found a way through the defenses at the E-1 draw leading inland, permitting the Eighteenth and 116th Regiments to advance from ‘‘Easy Red’’ sector. On D+2 the attached 116th Infantry from the Twenty-ninth Division relieved the Second Ranger Battalion at Pointe du Hoc.
One community hard hit on D-Day was Bedford, Virginia, which lost twenty-one of the thirty-five of its citizens in Company A, 116th Infantry. Landing against ferocious opposition, nineteen of the men were killed in the first fifteen minutes ashore. Through two and a half years of combat, the 1st Infantry Division suffered many casualties and lost 19,400 men, including 4,280 killed—a toll exceeded only by four other divisions.
This article is part of our larger selection of posts about the Normandy Invasion. To learn more, click here for our comprehensive guide to D-Day.