28th Infantry Division (Mechanized)
As of July 2006, as part of its transformation to a modular force, the 28th Infantry Division is scheduled to be reorganized into four brigade combat teams and one aviation brigade instead of the current system of three BCTs and one aviation brigade. The division is scheduled to contain the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (Heavy), the 55th Brigade Combat Team (Heavy), the 56th Brigade Combat Team (Stryker), the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and the 28th Aviation Brigade. Additionally, Special Troops Battalions and support units will be attached to each individual brigade.
The 28th Infantry Division is a highly-responsive National Guard Division, trained to conduct a variety of missions provided by the federal government as well as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. During peacetime, Division soldiers can be called by the Governor for emergency situations. Offering disaster relief and assisting civil law enforcement authorities are only a few of the situations for which the 28th "Keystone" Division must be prepared.
For its federal mission, the Division maintains a high state of readiness to survive the pace and lethality that characterize medium- and large-scale conflicts. The Division maintains armories in 84 cities throughout the Commonwealth. As of mid-2000, strength figures reported over 15,000 soldiers within the Division.
The primary elements of the 28th "Keystone" Division include three Combat Brigades, Division Artillery, Division Support Command, Combat Aviation Brigade, Combat Engineer Brigade and several separate battalions and company-sized elements.
The 28th Infantry Division is the oldest division in the armed forces of the United States. The Office of the Chief of Military History certified that General Order No. 1, dated March 12, 1879, officially established the Division.
Elements of the Division can trace their histories back to 1747, when Benjamin Franklin organized his battalion of "Associators" in Philadelphia. Other Pennsylvania units of the 28th Infantry Division had their beginnings in the Revolutionary War. Troop A, 1st Squadron, 104th Cavalry, was organized on Nov. 17 ,1774. The 109th Artillery Regiment was formed Oct. 17, 1775 as the 24th Connecticut Militia. Both units served with distinction in General George Washington's Continental Army during the war.
During the War of 1812, the Mexican War and the Civil War, units fought victoriously at Vera Cruz and Cerro Cordo. Units of the Pennsylvania Militia won 29 battle streamers during these wars. In 1878, Governor John F . Hartranft conceived the idea of forming a single National Guard of Pennsylvania . Hartranft became the 28th Division 's first commander. The Division mustered into federal service in 1898 for theSpanish-American War. Elements saw action in Puerto Rico and the Philippines. On Oct. 27, 1918, the Red Keystone was designated the shoulder sleeve insignia of the Division. The distinctive Keystone was the second shoulder sleeve patch to receive official Army approval.
Units of the 28th Infantry Division, known at the time as the 7th Division, were called to active duty for the Mexican Border incidents in 1916. Pennsylvania's 7th Division was ordered to active duty at Camp Hancock, Georgia, on July 15, 1917. On October 11, 1917, the Division was reorganized as the 28th Division while it was still training in Georgia. The 28th Division arrived in France on May 18, 1918. It was committed to battle on July 14. Soldiers of the Division participated in six major campaigns - Champagne, Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, Oise-Marne, Lorraine, and Meuse-Argonne. During those campaigns, over 14,000 battle casualties were suffered by the division. Its fierce combat abilities earned it the title "Iron Division" from General of the Armies John J. Pershing.
On Feb. 17, 1941 , the 28th Division was ordered into federal service for one year of active duty. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 led soldiers of the 28th to remain on active for the duration of the war. Having conducted specialized combat training ineverything from offensive maneuvers in mountainous terrain to amphibious warfare, the Division's intensive training agenda culminated in its deployment to England on Oct. 8, 1943.
After another 10 months of training in England and Wales, the first elements of the Division entered combat on July 22, 1944, landing on the beaches of Normandy. From Normandy, the 28th advanced across western France, finding itself in the thick of hedgerow fighting through towns such as Percy, Montbray, Montguoray, Gathemo and St. Sever de Calvados by the end of July 1944. The fury of assaults launched by the 28th Infantry Division led the German Army to bestow the Keystone soldiers with the title "Bloody Bucket" Division.
In a movement north toward the Seine in late August, the Division succeeded in trapping the remnant of the German 7th Army through Vorneuil, Breteuil, Damville, Conches, Le Neubourg and Elbeuf before entering Paris to join in its liberation. The famous photograph of American troops before the Arc de Triomphe, marching in battle parade down the Champs Elysees, shows the men of 1st Battalion, 110th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division. With no time to rest, the Division moved on to fight some of the most bloody battles of the War the day following the parade.
The advance continued through the Forest of Compeigne, La Fere, St. Quentin, Laon, Rethel, Sedan, Mezieres, Bouillon and eventually across the Meuse River into Belgium. The Keystone soldiers averaged 17 miles a day against the resistance of German "battle groups." The city of Arlon, Belgium, fell to a task force as the Division fanned out into Luxembourg in early September.On September 11, 1944, the 28th claimed the distinction of being the first American unit to enter Germany.
After hammering away in assaults which destroyed or captured 153 pillboxes and bunkers, the Division moved north toward the Siegfried Line, clearing the Monschau Forest of German forces. After a brief respite, the Keystone soldiers made another move northward to the Huertgen Forest in late September. Attacks in the forest began November 2, 1944. The 28th Infantry Division stormed into Vossenack, Kommerscheidt and Schmidt amid savage fighting and heavy losses.
By November 10, the 28th began to move south, where it held a 25-mile sector of the front line along the Our River. It was against this thinly fortified division line that the Germans unleashed the full force of their winter Ardennes "blitzkreig" offensive. Five Axis divisions stormed across the Our River the first day, followed by four more in the next few day. Overwhelmed by the weight of enemy armor and personnel, the Division maintained its defense of this sector long enough to throw Von Runstedt's assault off schedule. With allied forces able to a move in to counterattack, the "Battle of the Bulge" ensued, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy forces.
Having sustained a devastating 15,000 casualties, the 28th withdrew to refortify. But within three weeks, the Division was back in action. By January 1945, Division soldiers had moved south where they served with the French First Army in the reduction of the "Colmar Pocket." The 109th Infantry Regiment was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for its action which helped lead to the liberation of Colmar, the last major French city in German hands. By February 23, 1945, the Division returned north to the American First Army. The 28th was in position along the Olef River when an attack was launched on March 6, 1945, carrying the Division to the Ahr River. Schleiden, Germund, Kall, Sotenich, Sistig and Blankenheim all fell in a raid advance. By early April, the Division moved west of the Rhine and took up occupation duties in the area north of Aachen along the Holland-German border. Permanent occupation came two weeks later at the Saurland and Rhonish areas. In early July 1945, the 28th began its redeployment to the U.S.
The Division was deactivated on December 13, 1945. Five campaign streamers - Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Rhineland, and Central Europe - were earned during World War II, in addition to the Croix de Guerre.
Early in 1946, the 28th Infantry Division was organized as part of thePennsylvania National Guard. In 1950, the Division, once again, was ordered into active service to become part of the United States NATO force in Germany after the North Koreans invaded South Korea. The Division was returned to the control of the Commonwealth on June 15, 1954.
In October 1965, the 28th Infantry Division was one of three National Guard Divisions selected as part of the Army Selected Reserve force (SRF). In 1968, as part of the SRF and high on the list for activation, it was again reorganized, this time into a three-state configuration.
Although the 28th was not mobilized in force for Operation Desert Storm, division volunteers were deployed to serve in the Middle East and other locations. The 121st Transportation Company, which is now part of the Division's 103rd Engineer Battalion, served in Saudi Arabia during the war.
In early 1996, soon after the Dayton peace accords were signed, forward observers from the 28th Division Artillery were called up for nine months to support NATO peacekeeping forces in Bosnia. The Target Acquisition Battery of the 109th Field Artillery was mobilized for the peacekeeping mission two years later. And in 1999, the Division's Company H, 104th Aviation (Air Traffic Control) was activated, with its tour of duty extending into 2000.
As of mid-2001, the 28th Mechanized Infantry Division was scheduled to lead the multinational peacekeeping force in the U.S. sector of Bosnia for six months beginning in October 2002.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|