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History of the 5th Infantry Division
"Red Devils"
Last updated:
Saturday, April 23, 2005 11:12 AM
 

 

Current Division insignia
Red worn on the left sleeve of Dress Greens
Black on BDUs (Battle Dress Uniform - the current name for fatigues)

5th Infantry Division Crest

 
World War I
11 Dec 1917 - 4 Oct 1921

 

The 5th Infantry Division was activated on December 11, 1917 at Camp Logan, Houston, Texas to help fill the need for increased manning of the AEF (American Expeditionary Forces) in France. The first commander was Major General Charles H. Muir, but he commanded only 1 day before assuming command of another division. The Division was organized as follows:
        9th Infantry Brigade comprised of the 60th and 61st Infantry Regiments and the 14th Machine Gun Battalion
        10th Infantry Brigade comprised of the 6th and 11th Infantry Regiments and the 15th Machine Gun Battalion
        5th Field Artillery Brigade comprised of the 19th, 20th , 21st Field Artillery Regiments and the 5th Trench Mortar Battery
        Divisional Troops comprised of the 13th Machine Gun Battalion, 7th Engineer Regiment, 9th Field Signal Battalion
        Divisional Trains comprised of Trains Headquarters and Military Police, 5th Supply Train, 5th Sanitary Train, and 5th Ammunition                  Train

Only HQ and a few other units were at Camp Logan, with the rest of the Division scattered across the US. On 1 Jan 1918, MG John E. McMahon assumed command and led the 5th until 17 October 1918. In GO (General Orders) No.2, the Division Insignia was adopted as "a red diamond, 6'' vertical by 4 inches horizontal with a 2 inch 5 in the center". All units were instructed to apply the Diamond to their equipment for overseas shipment, but on arrival in France the 5 was removed.

After only 2 months training in the US, portions of the Division began movement to France, with all of the infantry in place by 1 May 1918, but the Artillery and Division Trains did not arrive until June. With all the maneuver elements together for the first time, the Division began intensive training in "Trench Warfare", instructed by a cadre of French Officers. Completion of training and declaration of their "combat ready" status meant that the Division could be placed under the operational control of the French, who were directing the war effort. The Fifth Division was the 8th US Division to arrive in France.

31 May: , the Fifth was assigned to the Arnould sector (Alsace Region of north eastern France) of the Vosges Mountains, under the command of the French 7th Army. They conducted raiding missions and patrols until 14 July when they were reassigned to the St. Die sector to relieve the French troops who had been holding the area. The Fifth was soon recognized as a power to be reckoned with in the sector. German aircraft had routinely flown over the Allied lines in the sector until a machine gunner of D Co, 14th Machine Gun Battalion was skillful enough to shot one down. The "Doughboys"; conducted almost continuous patrols through "no-man's-land"; and established dominance in their sector.

17 Aug: in their first offensive action, the 3rd BN of the 6th Inf, supported by engineers and machine gunners, reduced the salient around Frapelle, occupied the town, and endured 3 days of counterattacks and heavy artillery bombardment, but never gave ground. This was the first independent action by the 5th and more importantly, it was the first Allied advance in that sector in three years. Casualties were severe: about 16% of the troops involved.

23 Aug: the Division was relieved and moved to Arches for replacements and new equipment.

4 Sep: the division moved over 100 kilometers of mud to Regnieville, the staging area for the St. Mihil offensive. The Germans were prepared to withdraw when the weather cleared, but the early arrival of the 5th and breaking weather allowed to attack to proceed 2 days ahead of schedule. Following 4 hours of artillery preparation fire, the 6th and 11th regiments commenced the attack, rapidly outrunning their own artillery and the attached French tanks. In less than 9 hours, the Division took all of their objectives and dug in for expected German counter attacks. They endured 3 days of artillery and ground attacks but held their line again. They began aggressive patrolling north of the Hindenburg Line until relieved on 17 Sep for another rest and resupply. It was during this operation that the Division earned their nickname from the Germans who called them "Die Rote Teufel";: The Red Devils! 21 of these "Red Devils"; earned the DSC (Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award in the Army), the Germans suffered 300 KIA and 1,243 German prisoners were taken, along with vast amounts of supplies, and equipment.

11 Oct:: This time the 5th moved to Bois de Rappes to attack the heavily fortified German lines. For 10 days the Germans, supported by artillery from across the Meuse River repulsed the attacks of the 5th. Finally, on 21 October, the "Red Devils"; launched a surprise attack with fixed bayonets under intense artillery support. Finally the "Red Devils" prevailed and Bois de Peppes was in Allied control. During this action, LT Samuel Woodfil was awarded the Medal of Honor, and 87 others were awarded DSC's.

After only 4 days rest, the Division was again in the field. Their objective was to force a crossing of the River Meuse, east of Bois de Rappes. Meeting little resistance they reached the river and on 3 Nov the 6th Regt. crossed with engineers and a footbridge was soon established. The 6th was pinned down for the rest of the day by machine gun fire, but on 4 Nov, reinforcements were able to cross and the heights were secured.

5 Nov: The 60th Regiment crossed to the north meeting heavy resistance, but by the end of the day, the two units had linked up and had secured a viable crossing.

Another "Red Devil" earned the Medal of Honor during the Meuse operation: Captain Edward Allworth, Commanding I Company, 60th Infantry

General John "Blackjack"; Pershing said of the Meuse operation: "This operation was one of the most brilliant military feats of the American Army in France. The Division earned it's second nickname: "The Meuse Division".

The Division then drove to the Loison River as other Allied troops used the crossing behind them.

11 AM, 11 Nov, 1918, the Armistice brought peace to Europe (for awhile, anyway) and the "Red Devils" moved to Luxemburg for occupation duty on 27 Nov. The Division returned home in the summer of 1919 and was deactivated at Camp Jackson, SC on 4 Oct, 1921. 1,019 "Red Devils"; died in combat, 8,883 were wounded, and 351 were decorated for valor.

 

World War II
16 Oct 1939 - 20 Sep 45

 

16 Oct 1939: The "Red Devils"; were again called to active duty at Ft. McClellan, Alabama, with the 2nd, 10th, and 11th Infantry as the "triangular" maneuver units. These units had served together as a unit before - as the Second Brigade at Chancellorsville during the Civil War (or War Between The States depending on which history book you read). The GI's bane: training and maneuvers occupied their time until the 10th embarked for Iceland in Aug 1941 to protect against projected German occupation of this strategic island in the North Atlantic. From Sep 41 to May 42, the rest of the Division trickled in. In addition to training, the Division manned guard posts, patrolled the coast, built roads, and unloaded ships. MG Charles H. Bonesteel commanded for a short time, replaced by BG Courtland Parker. On 3 July, MG Albert E. Irwin assumed command and led the 5th until near the end of the war.

Aug 43: the Division embarked for England, then in Oct moved to Northern Ireland to train for "Operation Overlord", the invasion of ";Festung Europa"  -  "Fortress Europe" as Hitler called it.

D+33, 9 Jul 44: the Division landed at Utah Beach, around Mere Eglise, France where they immediately relieved the 1st Infantry Division.

26 Jul: In their first offensive, the "Devils" liberated the town of Vidouville.

3 Aug, the Division was transferred to Patton's Third Army. Following the breakthrough at St Lo, the Division crossed the Vivre River, and meeting only light resistance, crossed the Loire and Maines Rivers. Their final task was the liberation of Angeres, which also went quickly because most of the Germans had withdrawn. Now the primary German escape route from the Bretton Peninsula was in Allied hands.

Immediately, new objectives were assigned: Etamps, just south of Paris; Fountainbleu, 60 miles away on the Seine River; and Montereau, 72 miles away. 3 days later Etamps was liberated by the 2nd Regt,, then Fountainbleu by the 11th Regt., and on 25 Aug, the 10th Regt secured Montereau. France was now cut in two by the Third Army and Paris was flanked. During German counterattacks after the 10th's crossing of the Seine River, boats returning wounded to the friendly shore came under intense fire, disabling the operators. PVT Harold A. Garman, a litter bearer, swam to the boat and towed it to shore, earning the Medal of Honor, the only one earned in the division during the war.

After an essential rest and resupply, the 3rd Army continued East and encountered a strong defensive line at the Moselle river. The 11th Regiment made the first attempt at breaching the Moselle. They made a short advance and were subjected to 26 enemy counter attacks. Casualties were extreme and the 11th was forced to withdraw. Next, the 10th regiment attempted an assault south of where the 11th had been repelled. With 2 battalions of the 11th in support, the 10th Regiment pierced the German lines and established a beachhead. For the next  days, the Red Devils defeated numerous German attacks. During this time, the Red Devils engaged in some of the fiercest fighting of the war for them. Over 1,400 Red Devils were killed or wounded in the assault and the bridgehead was finally secured on September 15. The 5th Division now stood outside Metz.

On November 9, the 3rd Army began the assault on Metz. Some of the forts around Metz surrendered while others were bypassed. Soon the 3 regiments of the 5th Division converged on the city and forced it to surrender on November 21. After suffering heavy losses, the 5th Division had opened the road to the Saar river,  the dreaded Siegfried Line, and Germany itself. The planned attacks were called off when the Germans began their Ardennes Offensive ("Battle of the Bulge"). The 3rd Army received orders to attack the southern flank of the German forces. The 5th Division was ordered to march 100 miles, in the dead of winter to Luxembourg City.

The 5th Division arrived within 24 hours and relieved the 4th Infantry Division. The Red Devils immediately launched a counter-offensive against the southern flank of the Germans. In driving the Germans back across the Sauer river, the Red Devils eliminated 2 German Divisions, recaptured lost American equipment and secured the southern flank. In a surprise move, the 5th Division moved further north and attacked across the Sauer river and continued north to the Our River. Soon after, the Germans were defeated and plans began again for the attack East and into Germany.

As the lead Division for the XII Corps, the 5th Division crossed the Sauer River, breached the Siegfried Line, moved North to Bitburg and then east to the Rhine river. The Division regrouped at the Rhine river near Oppenheim. On the night of March 22, 1945, K Company 11th Regiment crossed the Rhine without a shot being fired. By the next day, the entire 5th Division had crossed the Rhine and established a bridgehead 5 miles deep and 7 miles wide. Next the 5th Division moved towards Frankfurt.

Expecting to make another river crossing, the 5th Division found a bridge that was still standing but was under heavy artillery fire from the retreating Germans who were trying to bring it down. Advancing under the heavy bombardment, the 5th Division crossed the bridge and entered Frankfurt. Over the next four days, the Red Devils fought house to house against tanks and snipers. On March 28, Frankfurt had been cleared of enemy forces and the 5th Division enjoyed a short break.

On April 7, the 5th Division was ordered to link up with the III Corps of the 1st Army to clean out the" Ruhr Pocket". Three German Divisions had been on their way back to Germany to join the defense of their homeland only to be trapped at Ruhr. The 5th Division assaulted the center of the pocket. For several days the Germans resisted but could not stop the advancing Red Devils. All three German Divisions were wiped out. On April 23, the 5th Division began a long advance to their next objective; the town of Regan, 300 miles away on the German/Czech/Austrian border. The division arrived on April 30 and attacked east into southern Czechoslovakia and Northern Austria to mop up the remaining German resistance in the area. The division made fast progress and met little resistance. On May 7, the 2nd Regiment prepared to move out to continue an attack in the area of Volary, Czechoslovakia when they were ambushed by elements of the 11th Panzer Division. After 10 minutes of furious fighting both sides received word to cease fire. The German surrender had been signed.

For the text of a WW II radio broadcast about the Division and a newspaper article published in England go to:
Reflections 4B Ellis Johanson

The 5th Division served occupation duty until they were relieved by the 83rd Infantry Division on June 13. Shortly after that, 4,000 Red Devils were "swapped" with the 103rd Infantry Division and prepared for transfer back to the United States. The 5th Division, with a fresh infusion of troops from the 103rd prepared for transfer back to the US to prepare for service in the Pacific theater of operations. The 5th never made it - Japan surrendered before they could participate in the Pacific campaign.

In just under a year, the Red Devils of the 5th Infantry Division had traveled 2,050 miles and had participated in all 5 of the European Theaters, 5 major campaigns. Of the 5th Division, General Patton said "Nothing I can say can add to the glory which you have achieved. Throughout the whole advance across France you spearheaded the attack of your Corps. You crossed so many rivers that I am persuaded many of you have web feet and I know that all of you have dauntless spirit. To my mind history does not record incidents of greater valor than your crossing of the Sauer and Rhine." The 5th Division was inactivated on September 20, 1945 at Camp Campbell, KY. During World War II, 2,659 "Red Devils" were killed, 9,153 wounded, 1, 050 missing, and 101 were captured. The "Red Devils" captured over 71,000 enemy soldiers and earned 1 Medal of Honor and 34 Distinguished Service Crosses.

 

Post World War II
Jul 48 - Apr 50, Mar 51 - Sep 53, May 54 - May 57

 

From  6 July 48 through 30 April 50, the 5th Division saw active duty at Ft Jackson, SC.

Another active duty tour ran from 1 March 51 through 1 September 53 at Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA., training troops for the Korean "Conflict".

Actual locations of the Ft Jackson and Indiantown Gap periods are not known but one individual reports seeing a picture of an engineer wearing the Diamond at Templehof Airport in Berlin during the Berlin Airlift

25 May 54, the 5th Division was reactivated and sent to Germany as part of the NATO forces there. For 3years the 5th Division, now the 5th Division (Mechanized) participated in occupation and training duties, then returned stateside (date unknown) to Ft. Ord, CA. where it served as a training unit until it was inactivated on 1May '57. There was apparently a period of active duty at Ft. Devens, MA in the late 50's-early 60's for some units of the Division.

 

Vietnam Era
Feb 62 - Dec 70 (1st BDE active until 22 Aug 71)

 

Reactivated again in Feb 62, the Division was assigned to Ft Carson, CO. One Brigade served for a time at Ft. Devens, MA. On 25 Mar 68, the First Brigade of the Division was alerted for deployment to Viet Nam in what was to be the last major movement of troops to South East Asia. It was to operate as a "Separate Brigade" and totally independent of the Division. As such, the Brigade and many of its units were augmented to provide adequate support.  At peak strength the Brigade had over 6000 personnel assigned. The major units assigned were:

     1st Battalion, 11th Infantry
     1st Battalion, 61st Infantry (Mechanized)
     1st Battalion, 77th Armor
     A Troop, 4th Squadron, 12th Cavalry
     5th Battalion, 4th Artillery
     A Co, 7th Engineer Battalion
     75th Support Battalion
     517th Military Intelligence Detachment
     86th Chemical Detachment
     48th Public Information Detachment
     43 Scout Dog Platoon

During the war, other units were either attached or under the operational control of the Brigade.

The first major engagement of Red Devils was in support of the 1st Marine Regiment against enemy troops fighting to cross the demilitarized zone (DMZ). The Red Devils also conducted patrols in force north of Con Thien. After coming under heavy mortar fire, the Red Devils located and destroyed several enemy bunker complexes and routed the enemy out of the area.

For the next 2 months, the Red Devils conducted battalion sized operations along the DMZ. In October, 1968, the Red Devils began a sweep of the DMZ itself and completely routed the enemy from the area, killing over 300 and capturing hundreds of rifles and crew-served weapons. In November, the 1st Brigade was reassigned to Quang Tri city. The Red Devils stayed there for the next 5 months conducting 37 search and destroy missions. In addition, the Red Devils helped build roads, transported refugees, and established medical aid centers for local villagers.

From February to August of 1969, the 1st Brigade continued search and destroy missions in the Quang Tri province, around Khe Sanh, and near the Laotian border. In August, the 1st Brigade was transferred to the 3rd Marine Division and returned to ConThien. For the next 3 months the 1st Brigade was in almost continuous contact with the enemy and was transferred back to Quang Tri in October. The Red Devils now had sole responsibility for the Quang Tri and Dong Ha combat bases.

For the next 2 years, the Red Devils continued search and destroy missions, rice denial operations, and protected engineers working on the QL9 supply road. In one such search and destroy operation, the 1st Battalion 11th Regiment encountered the 27th NVA Regiment, which was heavily dug in. After 3 days of bitter fighting, the NVA had been driven from the area and had retreated into Laos.

Dec 1970, all of the 5th Infantry Division, less the First Brigade, was inactivated at Ft. Carson, Colorado, and re-flagged as the 4th Infantry Division (Mech), and the 7th Engineers became the 4th Engineers.

In July of 1971, the 1st Brigade, 5th Division (MECH) received orders home. On 22 August , 1971, the Brigade was inactivated at Fort Carson, CO.

For more detailed information about Vietnam operations, please visit the Society of the 5th Division web site at www.societyofthefifthdivision.com

 

Ft. Polk and Panama
21 Jul 75 - 16 Dec 92

The Red Devils were reactivated again on 21 July 1975, and based at Ft Polk, Louisiana in a training role for new recruits.

In May of 1989, part of the 5th Infantry Division (elements the 1/61 IN and A, Co, 7th EN among others) were been deployed to Panama City, Panama to secure American installations. In September, these troops (1/61 IN) were reflagged as the the 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment. Their primary mission was the assault on the headquarters of the Panamanian Defense Force (PDF) when "Operation Just Cause" launched. On December 20, the Red Devils set up road blocks leading to the PDF HQ and began their assault on the complex.

For the next three hours, the PDF soldiers defended their headquarters as best they could, but they could not stop the advancing Red Devils. With their objective secured, the Red Devils held the PDF headquarters until Manuel Noriega was apprehended and Operation Just Cause ended. The Red Devils returned to their home at Fort Polk having lost only 2 men in action.

The 5th Division was inactivated on 16 Dec 92 as a separate combat command, but its regiments stand ready today to answer the call of duty. Should the need arise, the Red Devils will undoubtedly answer the call to arms. The three maneuver battalions are still on active duty however: the 1/11th Infantry at Ft Benning, GA the 1/61st Infantry at Ft Jackson, SC (both are now acting as training units), and the 1/77th Armor is in Germany with the 1st Division. When, deactivated, the 5th was re-flagged as the 2nd Armored Division and moved to Ft. Hood, Texas. The 2nd was then, in 1995, re-flagged as the ...... 4th Infantry Division - history repeats!

 




WW I

WW II

VIET NAM

Rank Insignia
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