History of the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) “Rock of the Marne”
WORLD WAR I
The 3rd Division (later re-designated as the 3rd Infantry division on August 1, 1942) was organized at Camp Greene, North Carolina, November 21, 1917. The division was composed of the 4th, 7th, 30th, and 38th Infantry Regiments, the 10th, 18th, and 76th FA Regiments, and the 6th Engineer Regiment, with a total of 28,000 men. It underwent training at Camp Green, North Carolina and Fort Bliss, Texas, and shipped to France, arriving in April 1918. A monument to the origination of the 3rd Infantry Division stands today in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the corner of Wilkinson Blvd., and Monument Street.
The division earned the designation “Rock of the Marne” at the Marne River near Chateau-Thierry on July 15, 1918. When flanking units retreated, then Division Commander, Major General Joseph Dickman, told our French Allies “Nous Resterons La” (we shall remain here). This motto is on the 3rd Infantry Division’s distinctive insignia.
Although the stand was successful, the price was high. General “Black Jack” Pershing said it best when he called the Division’s performance “one of the most brilliant in our military annals.” The division earned six battle stars in WWI. The 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers were awarded two Medals of Honor during WWI.
WORLD WAR II
World War II added even greater glory to the Marne Legend. The Division was credited with 531 combat days which was the most combat days of any unit in the European Theatre. The 3rd Infantry Division fought in places like Casablanca, Anzio, Rome, the Vosges Mountains, Colmar, the Siegfried Line, Palermo, Nurnberg, Munich, Berchtesgaden, and Salzburg.
The 3rd Infantry Division was the only U.S. unit that served in all 10 campaigns of the war, participated in four amphibious landings, and suffered the most casualties of any U. S. unit in the theatre.
The most decorated Soldier in World War II was Lieutenant Audie L. Murphy, who served with the 15th Infantry Regiment in Italy and France. Thirty-nine (39) Soldiers of the Division were awarded the Medal of Honor. Further, 133 Distinguished Service Crosses and over 2000 Silver Stars were awarded.
Early in the Korea Conflict, General MacArthur specifically asked for the 3rd Infantry Division for his Far East Command. The Division became known as “The Fire Brigade” for quickly moving up to cover breaks in the UN lines. On one cold and stormy night in May 1951, the division was given orders to disengage on the east coast and move all the way across Korea to stop a major enemy breakthrough in the west. No one thought it could be done, including the officers who gave the order. The officers and men of the 3rd Infantry Division loaded onto trucks, and 30 hours later, they engaged and stopped the advance of the large hostile force. The Chinese were amazed. They were fighting and losing to the 3rd Infantry Division, which they thought was still on the east coast.
The “Fire Brigade” received eight Battle Stars and added 13 Medal of Honor recipients, bringing the total number of Medals of Honor earned by members of the 3rd Infantry Division to 54. The 7th Infantry Regiment recorded more combat time than any other infantry unit in Korea. The Division left Korea on 10/30/54.
The Cold War officially extended from February 1945 through August 1991. The 3rd Infantry Division advance units moved to Germany in April 1958. This was a difficult period in our history. Western Europe was in the process of rebuilding and establishing a democratic from of government in the occupied zones. The communist block of nations, led by the former USSR, was determined to spread communism through the world. Europe was believed to be in a position of weakness. The 3rd Infantry Division arrived in Germany and may have been responsible for changing history. Not unlike WWII, the countries on the continent were not politically, or militarily, in a position to defend themselves. The allies had more work to do.
The 3rd Infantry Division Headquarters was in Leighton Barracks in Wurzburg. Other units were located in Bamberg, Aschaffenburg, Schweinfurt, Kitzingen, Wurzburg, Heilbronn, Bad Kissingen, Wertheim, and Wildflecken. Units were moved on some occasions based on military necessity. The Division stood as a symbol of strength for negotiations and a barrier to communist expansion on a military level. The Cold War was won and the standoff ended in August 1991.
Elements of the Division were formed and answered the call for service in Vietnam. The 3rd Battalion of the 7th Infantry Regiment (Cotton Balers) was organized in 1966 at Fort Benning and went to Vietnam on 12/10/66, attached to the 199th Infantry Brigade. The unit conducted operations in Dong Nai Province until the Tet Offensive in 1968. The communists struck quickly and overran portions of the capital of Saigon. The 3rd Battalion and other forces neutralized the enemy forces, and by mid-February, the capital was firmly in allied hands. The 7th spent two more years in Vietnam and returned to Fort Benning on October 11, 1970. The 7th earned 11 campaign Participation Credits.
In April 1958, the Marne Division returned to Germany to secure Western Europe and ultimately win the Cold War.
No battle credit was earned in Vietnam. The 3rd Infantry Division did not serve as a division or even as a regiment. One battalion was attached and served honorably during this conflict.
In November 1990, Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division were once again called into action. Following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, over 6,000 Marne men and women deployed with Operation Desert Storm as part of the Allied Coalition which brought a swift end to Saddam Hussein’s military aggression in the Gulf region. Nearly 1,000 soldiers deployed to southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq to provide comfort to Kurdish refugees. Almost 1000 were part of Task Force Victory, which began the task of rebuilding Kuwait.
A new chapter of Marne history has begun with the designation of the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Stewart and Ft. Benning. The units are now at Fort Stewart, Georgia, and Ft. Benning, Georgia, and the Aviation Brigade is at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia.
Although the Division did not receive battle credit, some units served with other Army groups at the conflicts in Bosnia and Croatia in 2000-2001.
Early in 2003, the fighting capability of the Marne Division was highly visible worldwide when the entire Division deployed to Kuwait. It was called on subsequently to spearhead coalition forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, fighting its way to Baghdad in early April, which led to the end of the Saddam Hussein government that imposed tyranny over the people of Iraq. During the capture and clearing of the Baghdad Airport, another Medal of Honor was awarded. Paul R. Smith received his medal posthumously for his actions that saved the lives of many American soldiers.
Subsequent tours by the 3rd Infantry Division, led to the eventual establishment of a democratic government in Iraq, though continued efforts have been necessary to maintain it. With the close of combat operations in Iraq, the division moved on to Afghanistan and continued combat operations and training missions (advise and assist) to prepare the Afghan Army and police to take over responsibility for security in a very difficult military and political climate. The division and aviation brigade then redeployed to duty stations in the U.S.
Soon after, the Division answered the call to arms with units deployed to hostile territory in Afghanistan. These advise and assist missions train and prepare the Afghan Army and security forces to take, hold, and occupy large areas of their nation. The final chapter to the legend and glory of the 3rd Infantry Division is yet to be written.