'Old Ironsides,' Ozzy Osbourne and Operation Torch: 6 Things to Know About the Army's 1st Armored Division

By Mike Case

Organized at Fort Knox, Kentucky, on July 15, 1940, the 1st Armored Division fought on the battlefields of North Africa and Italy during World War II. After the war, the 1st Armored would go on to participate in a variety of conflicts, from the Cold War to Desert Storm, Kosovo and most recently to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here are six facts you should know about “America’s Tank Division”:

1. The 1st Armored Division is the Army’s Sole Armored Division.

In 2011, the unit changed its home base from Baumholder, Germany, to Fort Bliss, Texas, consequently launching the Army’s largest installation construction program. With the relocation of the unit, Fort Bliss, located near El Paso, went from being home to 9,000 soldiers in 2005 to more than 34,000 in 2011.

2. Army Pvt. Roy Cobb of “Band of Brothers” Fame Was Assigned to the 1st Armored Division and Participated in Operation Torch, the Allied Invasion of North Africa.

The unit was the first U.S. armored division to see combat in WWII. As noted in Stephen Ambrose’s “Band of Brothers” book, after the invasion, Cobb returned stateside and decided to join the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, where he would earn his jump wings and be sent to Europe along with the rest of the unit.

3. Gen. Martin Dempsey Commanded the 1st Armored Division From 2003-2005.

Dempsey, a USO tour veteran and longtime supporter, received the USO distinguished service award in 2011. Dempsey led the division in Baghdad during his command tour, where he actively participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Photo credit USO Photo

Gen. Martin Dempsey, Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister, “Glee” star Dianna Agron, country music star Kellie Pickler, eight-time Pro Bowler Brian Urlacher, “Suits” star and now-Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle and actor/comedian Rob Riggle perform a song together to a group of troops and military families during one of five stops of the 2014 Chairman’s USO holiday tour.

4. The Unit’s Nickname, “Old Ironsides,” Was Inspired By a Famous Navy Ship.

The USS Constitution’s nickname is “Old Ironsides,” and after seeing a picture of the vessel, the 1st Armored Division’s first commander Maj. Gen. Bruce Magruder decided to adopt the ship’s nickname for his own unit.

5. The 1st Armored Division Added to its Firepower in Summer 2019.

In June 2019, the division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team turned in its smaller Stryker vehicles for heavier equipment. Their new vehicles include the Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

Photo credit USO Archives

Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne visit service members in Korea, 2002.

6. In 2002, Legendary Rocker Ozzy Osbourne visited the 1st Armored Division and Other Soldiers stationed in South Korea.

As part of a USO entertainment tour, Osbourne – accompanied by his wife, Sharon – performed for over 30,000 troops in South Korea and then went on to visit other service members stationed in Japan.

-This story originally appeared on USO.org in 2019. It has been updated in 2021.

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