By Samira Hedayat
Originally riding on horseback and patrolling the Mexican border following the Mexican Border War, the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division, nicknamed the “First Team,” was activated on September 13, 1921, at Fort Bliss, Texas. Since then, the 1st Cavalry, which is made up of soldiers known as “Troopers,” has served an essential role in many conflicts throughout history including World War II, Vietnam and the Gulf War.
In honor of its 99th anniversary on September 13, here are some need-to-know facts about this historic Army unit:
1. The 1st Cavalry Division’s combat patch is as meaningful as it is iconic.
The patch features a silhouetted horse head, a solid diagonal black line and yellow background. The yellow background (yellow is a traditional cavalry color) and the horse’s head symbolize the Division’s horseback roots. The black line (black is symbolic of iron), alludes to the unit’s transition from horses to tanks and armor.
2. The 1st Cavalry Division is one of the most decorated combat divisions of the Army.
Forty-three Troopers have been awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry in WWII, Vietnam and the Korean War. Thirty of the recipients alone received medals for actions in the Vietnam War. Additionally, 261 Troops have been given Distinguished Service Cross, with 113 of them being awarded posthumously.
3. You can catch the 1st Cavalry on the big screen.
The unit is featured in the 1986 film “Platoon,” which is an extrapolation of the veteran and film director Oliver Stone’s experiences in Vietnam while serving in the unit. The 1st Calvary is also showcased in the 1979 film “Apocalypse Now.”
4. During WWII, the 1st Cavalry Division was the first unit to make it into Manila.
Following an order by Gen. Douglas MacArthur to “go to Manila, free the prisoners at Santo Tomas, take Malacanan Palace and the legislative building.” Troopers entered the Philippines capital and freed the internees at Santo Tomas University in February 1945. Troopers also lead the charge into Tokyo in September.
5. Speaking of firsts, during the Korean War in July of 1950, the division was the first to Pyongyang.
During Vietnam, the division became the first air mobile division in the Army.
6. The 1st Cavalry has worn many hats over the years.
It has served as a cavalry division, an infantry division, an air assault division and an armored division throughout its years of service.
7. In 1998, the 1st Cavalry Division conducted peace support operations in Bosnia-Herzegonvia.
America’s “First Team” ensured peace and stability throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina for over a year, transferring authority to the U.S. 10th Mountain Division in August 1999.
8. The 1st Cavalry Division currently holds three of the active Army’s 10 armored brigade combat teams.
The armored brigade combat team (ABCT) is the Army’s main armored force.
9. The official song of the 1st Cavalry Division, “Garryowen” is undeniably the most famous of all the regimental marches in the Army.
Here is the song’s chorus:
Instead of spa we’ll drink brown ale
And pay the reckoning on the nail
For debt no man shall go to gaol (jail)
From Garryowen in glory
-This story was first published on USO.org in 2019. It has been updated in 2020.
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