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1st Cavalry Division (United States)

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1st Cavalry Division
The 1st Cavalry Division's shoulder sleeve insignia
Country United States
Branch United States Army
TypeCombined arms
Part ofIII Armored Corps
Garrison/HQFort Cavazos, Texas
Nickname(s)"First Team"[1]
Motto(s)"America's First Team!"
Mascot(s)Trigger the Horse
WebsiteOfficial Website
Major General Kevin D. Admiral
Full list of commanders
Distinctive unit insignia

The 1st Cavalry Division ("First Team")[1] is a combined arms division and is one of the most decorated combat divisions of the United States Army.[2] It is based at Fort Cavazos, Texas. It was formed in 1921 and served during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, with the Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the Iraq War, in the War in Afghanistan as well as Operation Freedom's Sentinel and Operation Inherent Resolve. As of July 2023, the 1st Cavalry Division is subordinate to III Armored Corps and is commanded by Major General Kevin D. Admiral.

The unit is unique in that it has served as a cavalry division, an infantry division, an air assault division and an armored division during its existence.


The history of the 1st Cavalry Division began in 1921 after the army established a permanent cavalry division table of organization and equipment on 4 April 1921. It authorized a square division organization of 7,463 officers and men, organized as follows:[3]

  • Headquarters Element (34 men)
  • Two Cavalry Brigades (2,803 men each)
  • Field Artillery Battalion (790 men)
  • Engineer Battalion (357 men)
  • Division Quartermaster Trains Command (276 men)
  • Special Troops Command (337 men)
  • Ambulance Company (63 men)
1st Cavalry Division's Horse Cavalry Detachment charge during a ceremony at Fort Bliss, Texas, 2005.

On 20 August 1921, the War Department Adjutant General constituted the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Divisions to meet partial mobilization requirements, and authorized the establishment of the 1st Cavalry Division under the new TO&E on 31 August 1921. Since 1st Cavalry Division was to assemble from existing units, it was able to be activated on 13 September 1921, even though all of the division's subordinate units did not arrive until 1922.

The 1st Cavalry Division was assigned to the VIII Corps Area, with the division headquarters and 2nd Cavalry Brigade located at Fort Bliss, Texas, and the 1st Cavalry Brigade at Camp Harry J. Jones in Douglas, Arizona. The headquarters facilities used by 1st Cavalry Division were those previously vacated by the 8th Brigade when it was commanded by MG John J. Pershing in 1916, and the wartime 15th Cavalry Division, which had existed at Fort Bliss between 10 December 1917 and 12 May 1918.

The 1st Cavalry Division Band during an Operation Iraqi Freedom 2 Color Uncasing Ceremony at Fort Hood, Texas in 2005.

The 1st Cavalry Division assembled at Douglas, Arizona. The 1st, 7th, and 8th Cavalry Regiments had previously been assigned to the wartime 15th Cavalry Division until they were returned to the VIII Corps Area troop list on 12 May 1918. The 1st Cavalry Regiment remained assigned until it was transferred to the 1st Cavalry Division on 20 August 1921. The 7th, 8th, and 10th Cavalry Regiments were transferred on 13 September 1921, although the assignment of the 10th Cavalry Regiment to the 1st Cavalry Division was controversial because the transfer violated the Jim Crow laws.[citation needed] This controversy continued until 18 December 1922, when the 5th Cavalry Regiment, then on the VIII Corps Area Troop List, swapped places with the 10th Cavalry Regiment.

In 1923 the 1st Cavalry Division held division maneuvers for the first time, intending to hold them annually thereafter. However, financial constraints made that impossible. Only in 1927, through the generosity of a few ranchers who provided free land, was the division able to conduct such exercises again. In 1928 Major General Herbert B. Crosby, Chief of Cavalry, faced with personnel cuts, reorganized the cavalry regiments, which in turn reduced the size of the 1st Cavalry Division. Crosby's goal was to decrease overhead while maintaining or increasing firepower in the regiments. After the reorganization each cavalry regiment consisted of a headquarters and headquarters troop, a machine gun troop, a medical and chaplain element, and two squadrons, each with a headquarters element and two line troops. The cavalry brigades' machine gun squadrons were inactivated, while the responsibility for training and employing machine guns fell to the regimental commanders, as in the infantry.

About the same time that Crosby cut the cavalry regiment, the army staff, seeking to increase the usefulness of the wartime cavalry division, published new tables of organization for an even larger unit. The new structure increased the size of the signal troop (177), expanded the medical unit to a squadron (233), and endorsing Crosby's movement of the machine gun units from the brigades to the regiments (2x176). A divisional aviation section, an armored car squadron (278), and tank company (155) were added, the field artillery battalion was expanded to a regiment (1,717), and divisional strength rose to 9,595.

Prelude to World War II[edit]

Standard organization chart for a cavalry division in November 1940

With the arrival of the 1930s, serious work started on the testing and refining of new equipment and TO&Es for a mechanized and motorized army. To facilitate this, the 1st Cavalry Division traded the 1st Cavalry Regiment, which was in the process of being reorganized as a separate mechanized unit, for the 12th Cavalry Regiment from the 2nd Cavalry Division on 3 January 1933.[4] Taking into account recommendations from the VIII Corps Area, the Army War College, and the Command and General Staff School, the board developed a new smaller triangular cavalry division, which the 1st Cavalry Division evaluated during maneuvers at Toyahvale, Texas, in 1938. Like the 1937 infantry division test, the maneuvers concentrated on the divisional cavalry regiments around which all other units were to be organized.

Following the test, a board of 1st Cavalry Division officers, headed by Brigadier General Kenyon A. Joyce, rejected the three-regiment division and recommended retention of the two-brigade (four-regiment) organization. The latter configuration allowed the division to deploy easily in two columns, which was accepted standard cavalry tactics. However, the board advocated reorganizing the cavalry regiment along triangular lines, which would give it a headquarters and headquarters troop, a machine gun squadron with special weapons and machine gun troops, and three rifle squadrons, each with one machine gun and three rifle troops. No significant change was made in the field artillery, but the test showed that the engineer element should remain a squadron to provide the divisional elements greater mobility on the battlefield and that the special troops idea should be extended to include the division headquarters, signal, and ordnance troops; quartermaster, medical, engineer, reconnaissance, and observation squadrons; and a chemical warfare detachment. One headquarters would assume responsibility for the administration and disciplinary control for these forces.

Although the study did not lead to a general reorganization of the cavalry division, the wartime cavalry regiment was restructured, effective 1 December 1938, to consist of a headquarters and headquarters troop, machine gun and special weapons troops, and three squadrons of three rifle troops each. The special troops remained as structured in 1928, and no observation squadron or chemical detachment found a place in the division. With the paper changes in the cavalry divisions and other minor adjustments, the strength of a wartime divisional rose to 10,680.

In order to prepare for war service, 1st Cavalry Division participated in the following maneuvers:

  • Toyahvale, TX Maneuvers – 7 October through 30 October 1939.
  • Cravens-Pitkin Louisiana Maneuvers – 13 August through 24 August 1940.
  • Second 3rd Army Louisiana Maneuvers – 10 August through 4 October 1941.
  • VIII Corps Louisiana Maneuvers near Mansfield, LA – 27 July 1942 – 21 September 1942.

World War II[edit]



1st Cavalry Division organisation early World War II
1st Cavalry Division organisation 1944–1945

The division was composed of the following units:[5]

  • 1st Cavalry Brigade
    • 5th Cavalry Regiment
    • 12th Cavalry Regiment
  • 2nd Cavalry Brigade
    • 7th Cavalry Regiment
    • 8th Cavalry Regiment
  • 1st Cavalry Division Artillery
    • 61st Field Artillery Battalion
    • 82nd Field Artillery Battalion
    • 99th Field Artillery Battalion
    • 271st Field Artillery Battalion
  • 1st Medical Squadron
  • 8th Engineer Squadron
  • 16th Quartermaster Squadron
  • 1st Signal Troop
  • 27th Ordnance Company
  • 302nd Reconnaissance Troop
  • 603rd Medium Tank Company
  • 801st CIC Detachment


1st Cav soldiers during the Battle of Leyte.

With the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the "great laboratory" phase for developing and testing organizations, about which Marshall wrote in the summer of 1941, closed, but the War Department still had not developed ideal infantry, cavalry, armored, and motorized divisions. In 1942 it again revised the divisions based on experiences gained during the great GHQ maneuvers of the previous year. As in the past, the reorganizations ranged from minor adjustments to wholesale changes.[citation needed]

1st Cavalry Division retained its square configuration after the 1941 maneuvers, but with modifications. The division lost its antitank troop, the brigades their weapons troops, and the regiments their machine gun and special weapons troops. These changes brought no decrease in divisional firepower, but placed most weapons within the cavalry troops. The number of .50-caliber machine guns was increased almost threefold. In the reconnaissance squadron, the motorcycle and armored car troops were eliminated, leaving the squadron with one support troop and three reconnaissance troops equipped with light tanks. These changes increased the division from 11,676 to 12,112 officers and enlisted men.[citation needed]

The last of the 1st Cavalry Division's mounted units permanently retired their horses and converted to infantry formations on 28 February 1943. However, a mounted special ceremonial unit known as the Horse Platoon – later, the Horse Cavalry Detachment – was established within the division in January 1972. Its ongoing purpose is to represent the traditions and heritage of the American horse cavalry at military ceremonies and public events.[6]

1st Cavalry Division reported for its port call at Camp Stoneman, CA as follows:

Unit Staged Departed Arrived
HHT, 1st Cavalry Division 21 June 1943 26 June 11 July
HHT, 1st Cavalry Brigade 21 June 1943 3 July 24 July
HHT, 2nd Cavalry Brigade 18 June 1943 26 June 11 July
5th Cavalry Regiment 20 June 1943 2 July 24 July
7th Cavalry Regiment 18 June 1943 26 June 11 July
8th Cavalry Regiment 18 June 1943 26 June 11 July
12th Cavalry Regiment 20 June 1943 3 July 24 July
HHB, Division Artillery
61st Field Artillery Battalion 3 July 1943 24 July
82nd Field Artillery Battalion 4 June 1943 23 June
99th Field Artillery Battalion 23 May 1943 23 June
8th Engineer Squadron 23 May 1943 18 June
1st Medical Squadron
16th Quartermaster Squadron
7th Cavalry Recon Squadron 26 June 1943 11 July
1st Antitank Troop
1st Signal Troop
101st Unit Search and Rescue Team 10 May 1945

Combat chronicle[edit]

Although originally being part of the III Corps (which eventually participated in the European Theater), while training in the United States, most of the 1st Cavalry Division arrived in Australia as shown above, continued its training at Strathpine, Queensland, until 26 July, then moved to New Guinea to stage for the Admiralties campaign 22–27 February 1944. The division experienced its first combat in the Admiralty Islands, units landing at Los Negros on 29 February 1944. Momote airstrip was secured against great odds. Attacks by Japanese were thrown back, and the enemy force surrounded by the end of March. Nearby islands were taken in April and May. The division next took part in the invasion of Leyte, 20 October 1944, captured Tacloban and the adjacent airstrip, advanced along the north coast, and secured Leyte Valley, elements landing on and securing Samar Island. Moving down Ormoc Valley (in Leyte) and across the Ormoc plain, the division reached the west coast of Leyte 1 January 1945.

The division then invaded Luzon, landing in the Lingayen Gulf area 27 January 1945, and fought its way as a "flying column" to Manila by 3 February 1945. More than 3,000 civilian prisoners at the University of Santo Tomas, including more than 60 US Army nurses (some of the "Angels of Bataan and Corregidor") were liberated,[7] and the 1st Cavalry then advanced east of Manila by the middle of February before the city was cleared. On 20 February the division was assigned the mission of seizing and securing crossings over the Marikina River and securing the Tagaytay-Antipolo Line. After being relieved 12 March in the Antipolo area during the middle of the Battle of Wawa Dam, elements pushed south into Batangas and provinces of Bicol Region together with recognized guerrillas. They mopped up remaining pockets of resistance in these areas in small unit actions. Resistance was officially declared at an end on 1 July 1945.


  • Total battle casualties: 4,055[8]
  • Killed in action: 734[8]
  • Wounded in action: 3,311[8]
  • Missing in action: 9[8]
  • Prisoner of war: 1[8]


The division left Luzon 25 August 1945 for occupation duty in Japan, arriving in Yokohama 2 September 1945 and entering Tokyo 8 September, the first United States division to enter the Japanese capital. 101 unit was set up in May 1945 to search for the missing soldiers in the Second World War. The detachment consisted of two officers (a Captain MacColeman and a Lieutenant Foley) and 15 enlisted members (among them a Sergeant Ryan). The operation was successful, although it lasted three years. Occupation duty in Japan followed for the next five years.

Korean War[edit]

On 25 June 1950, North Korea attacked South Korea, and the 1st Cavalry Division was rushed to Korea to help shore up the Pusan Perimeter, landed on Pohang On 18 July 1950.

After the X Corps attack at Incheon, a breakout operation was launched at the Pusan Perimeter. The division then joined the UN counteroffensive that recaptured most of South Korea by the end of September. The UN offensive was continued northwards, past Seoul, and across the 38th Parallel into North Korea on 1 October. The momentum of the attack was maintained, and the race to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, ended on 19 October when elements of the division and the Republic of Korea Army (ROK) 1st Infantry Division captured the city. The advance continued, but against unexpectedly stiffening resistance. The Chinese People's Volunteer Army (PVA) entered the war on the side of North Korea, making their first attacks in late October.

On 28 October 1950, Eighth Army commander General Walton Walker relieved the 1st Cavalry Division of its security mission in Pyongyang. The division's new orders were to pass through the ROK 1st Division's lines at Unsan and attack toward the Yalu River. Leading the way on the twenty-ninth, the 8th Cavalry regiment departed Pyongyang and reached Yongsan-dong that evening. The 5th Cavalry Regiment arrived the next morning, with the mission to protect the 8th Cavalry regiment's rear. With the arrival of the 8th Cavalry Regiment at Unsan on the 31st, the ROK 1st Division redeployed to positions northeast, east, and southeast of Unsan; the 8th Cavalry took up positions north, west, and south of the town. Meanwhile, the ROK 15th Regiment was desperately trying to hold its position east of the 8th Cavalry, across the Samt'an River.

During the afternoon of 1 November, the PVA attack north of Unsan gained strength against the ROK 15th Regiment and gradually extended to the right flank of the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry. At nightfall, the 1st Battalion controlled the northern approaches to the Samt'an River, except for portions of the ROK 15th Regiment's zone on the east side. The battalion's position on the left was weak; there were not enough soldiers to extend the defensive line to the main ridge leading into Unsan. This left a gap between the 1st and 2nd Battalions. East of the Samt'an the ROK 15th Regiment was under heavy attack, and shortly after midnight it no longer existed as a combat force. At 19:30 on 1 November, the PVA 116th Division attacked the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, all along its line. At 21:00 PVA troops found the weak link in the ridgeline and began moving through it and down the ridge behind the 2nd Battalion, penetrating its right flank and encircling its left. Now both the 1st and 2nd Battalions were engaged by the enemy on several sides. Around midnight, the 8th Cavalry received orders to withdraw southward to Ipsok. At 01:30 on 2 November, no PVA activity was reported in the 3rd Battalion's sector south of Unsan. But as the 8th Cavalry withdrew, all three battalions became trapped by roadblocks made by the PVA 347th Regiment, 116th Division south of Unsan during the early morning hours. Members of the 1st Battalion who were able to escape reached the Ipsok area. A head count showed the battalion had lost about 15 officers and 250 enlisted men. Members of the 2nd Battalion, for the most part, scattered into the hills. Many of them reached the ROK lines near Ipsok. Others met up with the 3rd Battalion, the hardest hit. Around 03:00 the PVA launched a surprise attack on the battalion command post. Hand-to-hand fighting ensued for about half an hour before the PVA were driven from the area. The disorganized members of the 3rd Battalion formed a core of resistance around three tanks on the valley floor and held off the PVA until daylight. By that time, only six officers and 200 enlisted men were still able to function. More than 170 were wounded, and the number dead or missing were uncounted. Attempts by the 5th Cavalry to relieve the beleaguered battalion were unsuccessful, and the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry, soon ceased to exist as an organized force.[9]

Following the battle, there were disparaging rumors about the 1st Cavalry Division's fighting abilities, including a folk song of the time called "The Bug-Out Ballad".[10] The series of engagements were rumored to have given rise to the song were due (at least partly) to the myth that the division lost its unit colors.[11] Other Army and Marine units disparagingly described the division shoulder insignia as representing 'The horse they never rode, the river they never crossed, and the yellow speaks for itself'. Another version goes: "The shield they never carried, the horse they never rode, the bridge they never crossed, the line they never held, and the yellow is the reason why."

The 1st Cavalry Division remained in the line until it was relieved by the 45th Infantry Division from the Oklahoma Army National Guard in January 1952. Following the relief, the division returned to Japan. The division returned to Korea in 1957, where it remained until 1965.

Vietnam War[edit]

Troopers of the 1st Cavalry Division dismount from a hovering Huey helicopter.
1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) organization in 1965.

As a result of the Howze Board, helicopters were used in Vietnam for reconnaissance, command and control, troop transport, attack gunships, aerial rocket artillery, medical evacuation, and supply.[12] It was a revolution in maneuver doctrine that freed the infantry from the limitations of terrain to attack the enemy at the time and place of its choosing.

The 11th Airborne Division had been reactivated at Fort Benning on 1 February 1963 and redesignated as the 11th Air Assault Division (Test). In September 1963, Air Assault I exercises tested the Airmobility concept at the battalion level at Fort Stewart in Georgia. Air Assault II, a much larger exercise, was conducted across two states in October 1964. The 11th Air Assault Division operated against the 82nd Airborne Division and the 11th thoroughly dominated the exercise.[13]

When the test proved successful, the assets of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test), the 10th Air Transport Brigade, and the 2nd Infantry Division were merged into a single unit. The colors and subordinate unit designations of the 1st Cavalry Division were transferred from its post in Korea. On 3 July 1965, the colors of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) were cased and retired and the 1st Air Cavalry Division colors were moved onto the field at Doughboy Stadium and passed to the commander of the former 11th Air Assault Division, Major General Kinnard.[14] At the same time the personnel and units of the 1st Cavalry Division that remained in Korea were reflagged as a new 2nd Infantry Division. On 29 July 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered the 1st Air Cavalry Division to Vietnam.[15]: 30 [13][16][17]

1st Cavalry Designation Previous Designation
HHC, 1st Cavalry Division HHC, 11th Air Assault Division (Test)
1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry
HHC, 1st Brigade (Airborne), 1st Cavalry Division HHC, 1st Brigade (Airborne), 11th Air Assault Division (Test)
1st Battalion (Airborne), 8th Cavalry 1st Battalion (Airborne), 188th Infantry
2nd Battalion (Airborne), 8th Cavalry 1st Battalion (Airborne), 511th Infantry
1st Battalion (Airborne), 12th Cavalry 1st Battalion (Airborne), 187th Infantry
HHC, 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division HHC, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division
1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry
2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry 2nd Battalion, 38th Infantry
2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry
HHC, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division HHC, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division
1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry 2d Battalion, 23d Infantry
2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry
5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry
HHB, 1st Cavalry Division Artillery HHB, 11th Air Assault Division Artillery
2nd Battalion (Airborne), 19th Artillery (105mm) 6th Battalion, 81st Artillery (105mm)
2nd Battalion, 20th Artillery (Aerial Rocket) 3rd Battalion, 377th Artillery (Aerial Rocket)
1st Battalion, 21st Artillery (105mm) 5th Battalion, 38th Artillery (105mm)
1st Battalion, 77th Artillery (105mm) 1st Battalion, 15th Artillery (105mm)
Battery E, 82nd Artillery (AVN) Battery E, 26th Artillery (AVN)
HHC & Band, Support Command, 1st Cavalry Division HHC & Band, Support Command, 11th Air Assault Division (Test)
15th Medical Battalion 11th Medical Battalion
15th Supply & Services Battalion 408th Supply & Services Battalion
Aerial Equipment Supply Company (Airborne) 165th Aerial Equipment Supply Detachment
15th Administrative Company 11th Administrative Company
27th Maintenance Battalion 711th Maintenance Battalion
8th Engineer Battalion 127th Engineer Battalion
13th Signal Battalion 511th Signal Battalion
15th Transportation Battalion 611th Aircraft Maintenance & Supply Battalion
545th Military Police Company 11th Military Police Company
191st Military Intelligence Detachment 11th Military Intelligence Detachment
371st Army Security Agency Company Company C, 313th Army Security Agency Battalion

Shortly thereafter, the division began deploying to Camp Radcliff, An Khe, Vietnam, in the Central Highlands and was equipped with the new M16 rifle, the UH-1 troop carrier helicopter, UH-1C gunships, the CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter, and the massive CH-54 Skycrane cargo helicopter.[18] All aircraft carried insignia to indicate their battalion and company.[19]

The division's first major operation was to help relieve the Siege of Plei Me near Pleiku and the pursuit of the withdrawing People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) which culminated in the Battle of Ia Drang, described in the book We Were Soldiers Once...And Young, was also the basis of the film We Were Soldiers. Because of that battle the division earned the Presidential Unit Citation (US), the first unit to receive such in the war. In 1966, the division attempted to root the communist Viet Cong (VC) and PAVN out of Bình Định Province with Operation Masher, Operation Crazy Horse and Operation Thayer. 1967 was then spent conducting Operation Pershing, a large scale search and destroy operation of PAVN/VC base areas in II Corps in which 5,400 PAVN/VC soldiers were killed and 2,000 captured. In Operation Jeb Stuart, January 1968, the division moved north to Camp Evans, north of Hue and on to Landing Zones Sharon and Betty, south of Quang Tri City, all in the I Corps Tactical Zone.[20]

27 January 1968. 1st Cavalry Division LRP at LZ Betty prelude to Tet.

In the early morning hours of 31 January 1968, the largest battle of the Vietnam War, the Tet Offensive, was launched by 84,000 PAVN/VC soldiers across South Vietnam. In the division's area of operation, the PAVN/VC forces seized most of the city of Huế. As the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, fought to cut off PAVN/VC reinforcements pouring into Huế, at Quang Tri City, five battalions, most from the 324th Division, attacked the city and LZ Betty (Headquarters 1st Brigade). To stop allied troops from intervening, three other PAVN/VC infantry battalions deployed as blocking forces, all supported by a 122mm-rocket battalion and two heavy-weapons companies armed with 82mm mortars and 75mm recoilless rifles. After intense fighting, 900 PAVN/VC soldiers were killed in and around Quang Tri City and LZ Betty. However, across South Vietnam, 1,000 Americans, 2,100 South Vietnamese, 14,000 civilians, and 32,000 PAVN/VC were killed.[20]

In March 1968 the division shifted forces to LZ Stud, the staging area for Operation Pegasus to break the siege of the Marine's Khe Sanh Combat Base—the second largest battle of the war. All three brigades participated in this airmobile operation, along with a Marine armor thrust. US Air Force B-52s alone dropped more than 75,000 tons of bombs on PAVN soldiers from the 304th and 325th Divisions encroaching the combat base in trenches. As these two elite enemy divisions, with history at Dien Bien Phu and the Ia Drang Valley, depleted, the division leapfrogged west, clearing Route 9, until at 0:800 hours 8 April, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, linked-up with Marines at the combat base, ending the 77-day siege.[20][21]

LRPs on Signal Hill directing artillery on enemy trucks in valley.

On 19 April 1968, as the 2nd Brigade continued pushing west to the Laotian border, the 1st and 3rd Brigades (about 11,000 men and 300 helicopters) swung southwest and air assaulted A Shau Valley, commencing Operation Delaware. The PAVN was a well-trained, equipped, and led force. They turned A Shau into a formidable sanctuary —complete with PT-76 tanks; powerful crew-served 37mm antiaircraft cannons, some radar controlled; twin-barreled 23mm cannons; and scores of 12.7mm heavy machine guns. A long-range penetration operation was launched by members of the Division's long-range reconnaissance patrol (LRP) against the PAVN when they seized "Signal Hill"—the name attributed to the peak of Dong Re Lao Mountain, a densely forested 4,879 feet (1,487 m) mountain midway in the valley—so the 1st and 3rd Brigades, slugging it out hidden deep behind the mountains, could communicate with Camp Evans near the coast or with approaching aircraft.[22][23]

Despite hundreds of B-52 and jet air strikes, the PAVN forces shot down a C-130, a CH-54, two [CH-47s and nearly two dozen UH-1s. Many more were lost in accidents or damaged by ground fire. The division also suffered more than 100 dead and 530 wounded in the operation. Bad weather aggravated the loss by causing delays in troop movements, allowing a substantial number of PAVN to escape to safety in Laos. Still, the PAVN lost more than 800 dead, a tank, 70 trucks, two bulldozers, 30 flamethrowers, thousands of rifles and machine guns, and dozens of antiaircraft cannons. They also lost tons of ammunition, explosives, medical supplies and foodstuffs.[22]

In mid-May 1968 Operation Delaware ended, however, the division continued tactical operations in I Corps as well as local pacification and "medcap" (medical outreach programs to local Vietnamese). In the autumn of 1968, the division relocated south to Phước Vĩnh Base Camp northeast of Saigon.[20] In May 1970, the division participated in the Cambodian Incursion, withdrawing from Cambodia on 29 June. Thereafter, the division took a defensive posture while US troops withdrawals continued from Vietnam. On 29 April 1971 the bulk of the division was withdrawn to Fort Hood, Texas, but its 3rd Brigade remained as one of the final two major US ground combat units in Vietnam, departing 29 June 1972. However, its 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, Task Force Garry Owen, remained another two months.[24]

In the Vietnam War, the division suffered more casualties than any other army division: 5,444 men killed in action and 26,592 wounded in action.[20][25][26] However, the First Marine Division suffered 7,012 men killed in action and the Third Marine Division suffered 6,869 men killed in action.[27][28]

Cold War service and REFORGER Exercise[edit]

1971–1974 Organization of the 1st Cavalry Division (TRICAP)

When the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) departed Vietnam, its colors were retained by reflagging the existing 1st Armored Division at Fort Hood as the "new" 1st Cavalry Division, configured as an armored division. Concurrently, the colors of the 1st Armored Division were transferred to Germany where the 4th Armored Division was reflagged as the 1st Armored Division.

In the aftermath of Vietnam, the 1st Cavalry Division was converted from an airmobile light infantry role into a triple capabilities (TRICAP) division. The unit received an infusion of mechanized infantry and artillery, to make it capable of missions needing three types of troops; armored, airmobility and air cavalry.[29]

An infantryman with 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Brigade, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry wearing black beret, 1976[30]

In the post-Vietnam era, morale in the US Army waned. In response, the Department of the Army released a morale–enhancing order in 1973 permitting local commanders to encourage morale-enhancing uniform distinctions. Consequently, many units embraced the wear of various military berets.[31][32][33][34] The 1st Cavalry Division's use of various colored berets started in 1971 with the TRICAP experiment: black for armor, light–blue for infantry, red for artillery, and kelly–green for support.[29][34] The division eventually settled on the use of black berets for all 1st Cavalry soldiers and continued wearing them until the Army's moral enhancing order ended in 1979.[29][34][32][33]

However, the TRICAP concept was short-lived, and by 1975, the division was reorganized under the Round-Out Division concept, with two active duty armored brigades and one National Guard armored brigade - the Mississippi Army National Guard's 155th Armored Brigade from 1984 to 1991.[35]

The division participated in numerous REFORGER exercises, and was used to test new doctrinal concepts and equipment, including the XM-1 tank. The unit assignment and structure changed significantly, notably when 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry, the division's most famous unit, was inactivated. The 13th Signal Battalion fielded mobile subscriber equipment (MSE), a secure digital communications system for corps and below units.

1st Cavalry Division organization 1989[edit]

1st Cavalry Division organization 1989 (click to enlarge)

By October 1986 all heavy army and national guard divisions, including the 1st Cavalry Division, had transitioned to the Army of Excellence J-series TOE.[59] Thus the division's tank battalions fielded 58 M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks, 6 M3 Bradley cavalry fighting vehicles and 6 M106A2 mortar carriers.[60] The two tank battalions of the 155th Armored Brigade were also equipped with M1A1 Abrams tanks.[61] The division's and 155th brigade's mechanized battalions fielded 54 M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, 12 M901 ITV anti-tank vehicles, 6 M3 Bradley cavalry fighting vehicles, 6 M106A2 mortar carriers.[62][63][64]

The authorized strength for an armored J-Series division was 17,027 men,[65] 348 M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks, 316 cavalry/infantry fighting vehicles, 72 M109 155 mm self-propelled howitzers, 9 M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, 12 M110 203 mm self-propelled howitzers (transferred in 1986 to field artillery brigades at corps level),[66][41] 50 to 44 attack helicopters (50 for an all AH-1S Cobra combat aviation brigade, 44 for an all AH-64 Apache combat aviation brigade), 38 to 28 utility helicopters (38 if the Assault Aviation Company was equipped with UH-1H helicopters, 28 if the Assault Aviation Company was equipped with UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters; in the first case 2 were assigned to the aviation intermediate maintenance company as reserve), and 54 OH-58 Kiowa observation helicopters (4 assigned to divisional Aviation Office).[67] The divisional air defense artillery battalion was to be equipped with 18 MIM-72 Chaparral and 36 M247 Sergeant York (DIVAD) systems,[67] but with the cancelation of the York air defense battalions retained a mix of MIM-72 Chaparral, M163 Vulcan and FIM-92 Stinger systems, until the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger could be fielded, with the 1st Cavalry Division's 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery receiving the first systems in 1989.[53]

Middle East in 1990s[edit]

Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm[edit]

Battle plan for the first Gulf War, with the 1st Cavalry Division attacking through the center of the main force.

The 1st Cavalry next fought as a heavy division, during Operation Desert Storm[68] in January and February 1991. It participated in the Battle of Norfolk. The 1st Cavalry Division deployed in October 1990 as part of XVIII Corps. The division's 'round-out' formation, the 155th Armored Brigade was not deployed in a surprise political decision.[citation needed] It was planned to augment the division by attaching the Tiger Brigade from the 2nd Armored Division, but that brigade was attached to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (1st & 2nd Marine Divisions) to add heavy armor support to that force. Consequently, the 1st Cavalry Division was assigned the role of CENTCOMs' reserve. During the Ground war, was assigned to VII Corps and was crucial in the movement of ground forces to the Kuwaiti and west Saudi Arabian theaters by making two assaults into Iraqi held territory with the division's Black Jack Brigade moving north drawing Iraqi divisions out of Kuwait to support the Iraqi units defending in Iraq. This movement was led by the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, from the Wadi Al-Batin to just north of Basra through several Iraqi divisions before stopping. The assault by M1 Abrams main battle tanks, M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, and other support vehicles moved much faster than was thought possible, catching the Iraqi Army off guard.

The 13th Signal Battalion was the first unit in the U.S. Army to deploy mobile subscriber equipment (MSE) into combat.[citation needed] Installing, operating, and maintaining communications equipment to support a communications network spanning over 280 kilometers, the 13th Signal Battalion again provided the division's communications. 13th Signal Battalion was the first unit in the U.S. Army to provide digital communications in Southwest Asia. It was a gateway link from the Port of Dammam to the U.S. Army XVIII Airborne Corps Headquarters.

After the division returned from Kuwait, the 1st "Tiger" Brigade, 2nd Armored Division was reflagged as the 3d Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (separate lineage).[69] In response to the continued hostile movements by the Iraqi Armed Forces after Desert Storm, the U.S. Department of Defense ordered successive Operation Intrinsic Action deployments by combat brigades and special forces units to the Iraq/Kuwait border. The 1st Cavalry's three brigades contributed heavily to the decade-long deployments from 1992 to 2002.[citation needed]


The 1st Cavalry Division took control of the U.S. peacekeeping contingent in Bosnia-Herzegovina with approximately 6,900 personnel on 20 June 1998, as part of the multinational Stabilization Force (SFOR). 1st Brigade served for Rotation SFOR 4. 2nd Brigade served for Rotation SFOR 5. 2nd Brigade was alerted for action during the Russian move from Bosnia to the Pristina International Airport in June 1999, but no action was ultimately taken after consultation at the highest levels in NATO. In August 1999, the 10th Mountain Division took over operations in the Tuzla/Multinational Division North area.

2001–2020: War on Terror[edit]

Elements of the division arrived in Washington, D.C., shortly after the 11 September attacks.


Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division engaging insurgents in the Battle of Baqubah, 14 March 2007.

In October 2001 an advance party of a division brigade combat team was deployed to the Iraq/Kuwait border. Some divisional units participated in the initial 2003 invasion of Iraq.[70] The division in its entirety deployed to Iraq in January 2004, sending an initial detachment of the 9th Cavalry Regiment into combat in September 2003. The 1st Cavalry relieved the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad. Among its subordinate formations were: Louisiana's 256th Infantry Brigade; Arkansas' 39th Infantry Brigade; element of A Company, 28th Signal Battalion; elements of Washington's 81st Armored Brigade; and the 2d Battalion, 162nd Infantry (Oregon Army National Guard), and Company E (Air Traffic Control Services), 126th Aviation, MA ARNG. After spending more than a year in Iraq, it redeployed back to the US by April 2005. It was relieved by the 3d Infantry Division. Division Artillery (DIVARTY) was organized as the 5th BCT. It contained HHB, DIVARTY; 1–7 CAV; 1–8 CAV; 1–21 FA; and the 515th FSB (Provisional). The division fought in many key battles against insurgents, including the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004, where the 2nd Brigade Combat Team engaged in house to house intense urban combat to root out enemy cells in the city. During its OIF2 deployment division assigned and attached personnel numbered approximately 40,000. 168 personnel were killed in action, with approximately 1,500 wounded.

The division assumed duties as Headquarters, Multi-National Division – Baghdad from November 2006 to December 2007. 4th Brigade Combat Team, activated in 2005, arrived in Ninawa Governorate in October and November 2006. However, 2–12 Cavalry was detached, deployed to Baghdad to augment the division efforts there.

The 3d Brigade Combat Team, "Greywolf", deployed to the Diyala Province in September 2006 and fought in the Battle of Baqubah as a part of the Iraq War troop surge of 2007.

The division assumed duties as the Headquarters, Multi-National Division – Baghdad Jan 2009– Jan 2010. The deployment was extended by 23 days past the one year mark.

The 4th Brigade Combat Team "Long Knife" deployed to Mosul, Nineva Province, October 2006 to January 2008 and again September 2010 to September 2011.

Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan (2001–2014)[edit]

In November 2001, elements of the 1st Cavalry Division (3d Platoon, 545th MP CO, originally assigned to 2d Brigade "BlackJack" 1st Cav) deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan.

In May 2011, the division headquarters deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and assumed command of Regional Command East, replacing the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The 1st Infantry Division HQ took command of RC-East on 19 April 2012.

In June 2014, the division headquarters returned to Afghanistan and assumed command of Regional Command South, replacing the 4th Infantry Division.

In October 2014, the division flag returned to Fort Hood, leaving its Deputy Commanding General behind as the new Train Advise Assist Command South.

Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan (OEF-A) ended in late 2014.[71]

Operation Freedom's Sentinel (2015–2021)[edit]

After the completion of Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan, the new US deployment to Afghanistan was known as Operation Freedom's Sentinel.[71]

In June 2015, the division element in TAAC South was relieved by an element from the 7th Infantry Division Headquarters.

In September 2016, the 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters deployed again to Afghanistan, this time with the 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade alongside it.[72][73] The headquarters served as the United States Forces – Afghanistan National Support Element, and was also responsible for Bagram Airfield, the largest US military base in Afghanistan. It supported forces serving in the United States' Operation Freedom's Sentinel and NATO's Resolute Support Mission, enabling both the international effort to train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and the counterterrorism fight. The 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade also supported both Operation Freedom's Sentinel and Resolute Support and was the Army's only deployed active duty Sustainment Brigade until US forces withdrew in 2021.

Operation Inherent Resolve[edit]

The division's 3d BCT deployed in February 2017 to Kuwait, and elements of 3ABCT supported operations in Iraq to retake Mosul from ISIS.

Global missions[edit]

Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division during the 2014 Latvia Day Parade in Riga, Latvia during Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The 1st Cavalry Division currently holds three of the active Army's ten armored brigade combat teams. The division provides the Army and Combatant Commanders with trained and ready forces.

In April 2014, 2–5 Cavalry from 1st BCT, 1CD deployed to Europe to support Operation Combined Resolve II, a NATO exercise in southeastern Germany.[74] In October 2014, 1CD returned to Europe to support its NATO partners in another pair of exercises, this time participating in Operations Combined Resolve III and Atlantic Resolve with the majority of 1ABCT.[75][76]

A battalion task force from the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division deployed to Germany in November 2015; it participated in Atlantic Resolve, then stayed in Germany for the next nine months to provide aviation support to US and NATO forces across Europe.[77][78]

In June 2015, the 2d BCT was the first rotational brigade deployed to South Korea,[79] relieving the 1st BCT, 2nd Infantry Division as it inactivated. The 2d BCT deployed for nine months; in February 2016, the 2d BCT was replaced by the 1st BCT on another nine-month rotation.


1st Cavalry Division organization 2023
The 1st Cavalry Division's Combat Aviation Brigade performs a mock charge with the horse detachment.

The 1st Cavalry Division consists of a division headquarters and headquarters battalion, three armored brigade combat teams, a division artillery, a combat aviation brigade, and a division sustainment brigade.

Organization history[edit]

The 4th Brigade Combat Team "Long Knife" inactivated in October 2013 the following units: the Special Troops Battalion, 4th BCT; the 5th Battalion, 82nd Artillery; and 27th Brigade Support Battalion, with some of the companies of the latter two used to augment artillery and support battalions in the remaining three BCTs. The 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry joined the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry joined the 3rd Brigade Combat Team and the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry joined the 1st Brigade Combat Team. The 3rd Cavalry Regiment was subordinate to the division until March 2017.[86]

Shoulder sleeve insignia[edit]

Shoulder Sleeve Insignia: Class A/OG-107, BDU, DCU, UCP, OCP

The shoulder sleeve insignia was originally approved 3 January 1921, with several variations in colors of the bend and horse's head to reflect the subordinate elements of the division. The design was authorized for wear by all subordinate elements of the division on 11 December 1934, and previous authorization for the variations was canceled. The insignia is worn subdued on field uniforms after experience in the Vietnam War, where the gold was too conspicuous. Normally, the gold is changed to the base color of the uniform to subdue it.[87] With the retirement of the green "Class A" uniform in October 2015, only the subdued version of the SSI is worn, on the ACU's left sleeve.

It consists on a yellow, triangular Norman shield with rounded corners 5.25 inches (133 mm) in height overall, a black diagonal stripe extends over the shield from upper left to lower right, and in the upper right a black horse's head cuts off diagonally at the neck, all within a 0.125-in green border.

Yellow was chosen because it is the traditional cavalry color, and the horse's head refer to the division's original cavalry structure. Black, symbolic of iron, alludes to the transition to tanks and armor. The black diagonal stripe represents a sword baldric and is a mark of military honor; it also implies movement "up the field" and thus symbolizes aggressive elan and attack. The one diagonal bend and the one horse's head also allude to the division's numerical designation.

A soldier wearing the SSI of the 1st Cavalry Division speaking with Gen Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Distinctive unit insignia[edit]

Description: A metal and enameled device, 1 inch in height overall, consisting of a gold-colored Norman shield with a black horse's head couped in sinister chief, and a black bend charged with two five-pointed stars. Properly: Or, on a bend sable two stars of five points Or, in chief sinister a sable couped horse head, a border vert

Symbolism: The device is a miniature reproduction of the 1st Cavalry Division's shoulder sleeve insignia with the addition of two five-pointed stars. The Division Commander and the Division Staff wore the distinctive insignia design from 1922 to 1934 as a shoulder sleeve insignia.

Background: The distinctive unit insignia was approved 25 August 1965.

The flag of the 1st Cavalry Division is a white field with the distinctive yellow triangular Norman shield with rounded corners, a black diagonal stripe extending over the shield from upper left to lower right and in the upper right a silhouetted horse's head cut off diagonally at the neck with a green border.[88]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Campaign credit[edit]

Conflict Streamer Year(s)
World War II
New Guinea 1943
Bismarck Archipelago 1943
Leyte with Arrowhead 1944
Luzon 1944
Korean War
UN Defensive 1950
UN Offensive 1950
CCF Intervention 1950–1951
First UN Counteroffensive 1951
CCF Spring Offensive 1951
UN Summer–Fall Offensive 1951
Second Korean Winter 1951–1952
Vietnam War
Defense 1965
Counteroffensive 1965–1966
Counteroffensive, Phase II 1966–1967
Counteroffensive, Phase III 1967–1968
Tet Counteroffensive 1968
Counteroffensive, Phase IV 1968
Counteroffensive, Phase V 1968
Counteroffensive, Phase VI 1968–1969
Tet 69/Counteroffensive 1969
Summer–Fall 1969 1969
Winter–Spring 1970 1969–1970
Sanctuary Counteroffensive 1970
Counteroffensive, Phase VII 1970–1971
Gulf War
Defense of Saudi Arabia 1991
Liberation and Defense of Kuwait 1991
Iraqi Governance 2004
National Resolution 2005
Iraqi Surge 2007
Iraqi Sovereignty 2009
Consolidation III 2011
Transition I 2011–2012
Transition I 2014
Transition II 2015

Unit decorations[edit]

Ribbon Award Year Notes
Presidential Unit Citation (Army) Pleiku Province
Valorous Unit Award (Army) Fish Hook
Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army) Iraq
Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army) Afghanistan (2011–2012)
Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army) Afghanistan (2014–2015)
Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation 1944–1945
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation (Army) Waegwan–Taegu
Gold Cross of Valour (Greece) 1955 Korea
Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, with Palm 1965–1969 For service in Vietnam
Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, with Palm 1969–1970 For service in Vietnam
Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, with Palm 1970–1971 For service in Vietnam
Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Unit Citation 1969–1970 For service in Vietnam

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Division is featured in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now (1–9 Cavalry).
  • In the 1981 movie, Stripes, the division insignia is displayed on the drill sergeant’s sleeve.
  • The 1986 film Platoon is an extrapolation of director (and 1st Cavalry Division veteran) Oliver Stone's experiences in Vietnam. The characters of Sgt. Elias K. Grodin (Willem Dafoe) and S/Sgt. Robert Barnes (Tom Berenger) were real soldiers. Juan Angel Elias died in combat in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam, on 29 May 1968, serving with the 2nd Platoon, Company E, 52nd Inf. (LRP), and John Barnes, served in the same platoon at the same time and retired from the Army as a SGM. In the film, Elias wears the 1st Cavalry Division's unit insignia as his combat patch (the unit depicted in the film is: B Co, 3-22 IN, 3d BDE, 25th ID—Stone having served with both divisions).
  • The 1992 book We Were Soldiers Once… and Young, along with its 2002 film adaptation, follows the 1st Battalion of the 7th Cavalry Regiment during the Battle of Ia Drang.
  • The Division was depicted in the National Geographic Channel miniseries, The Long Road Home, created by Mikko Alanne. The miniseries was based on the 2007 book The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family by Martha Raddatz. The miniseries premiered on 7 November 2017, on National Geographic.
  • The Army football team honored the Division in the 2019 Army-Navy Game with special uniforms.[89]

Notable former members[edit]

See also[edit]


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  88. ^ Here is a link to a source showing the flag and description.
  89. ^ "First Team!". Firstteam.football. Retrieved 6 August 2022.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]


Preceded by Regional Command East
Succeeded by