The Big Red One

America's Legendary 1st Infantry Division
Centennial Edition, 1917-2017

James Scott Wheeler

“No mission too difficult, no sacrifice too great— Duty First!” For a century, from the Western Front of World War I to the wars of the 21st century, this motto has spurred the soldiers who wear the shoulder patch bearing the Big Red One. In this comprehensive history of Americas 1st Infantry Division, James Scott Wheeler chronicles its major combat engagements and peacetime duties during its legendary service to the nation. The Centennial Edition adds new chapters on peacekeeping missions in the Balkans (1995–2004) and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2001–2017), along with a new introduction and conclusion.

The oldest continuously serving division in the U.S. Army, the “Fighting First” has consistently played a crucial role in America’s foreign wars. It was the first American division to see combat and achieve victory in World War I. One of the few intact divisions between the wars, it was the first army unit to train for amphibious warfare. During World War II, the First Division spearheaded the invasions of North Africa and Sicily before leading the Normandy invasion at Omaha Beach and fighting on deep into Germany. By wars end, it had developed successful combined-arms, regimental combat teams and made advances in night operations.

“This comprehensive and well-researched book is a welcome addition to military history and exemplifies one of the most storied divisions in U.S. military history.

—Kansas History

“An exceptionally fine work of scholarship, written with a storyteller’s verve. The Big Red One is not just a vivid account of the nation’s most venerable division, but a compelling yarn for anyone interested in the history of the U.S. Army.”

—Rick Atkinson, author of An Army at Dawn and In the Company of Soldiers

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Wheeler describes the First Division’s critical role in postwar Germany and as the only combat division in Europe during the early Cold War. The division fought valiantly in Vietnam for five trying years while pioneering air-mobile operations. It led the liberation of Kuwait in Desert Storm. Along the way, Wheeler illuminates the divisions organizational evolution, its consistently remarkable commanders and leaders, and its equally remarkable soldiers.

Meticulously detailed and engagingly written, The Big Red One nimbly combines historical narrative with astute analysis of the units successes and failures, so that its story reflects the larger chronicle of America’s military experience over the past century.

Published in collaboration with the Cantigny First Division Foundation and the Cantigny Military History Series, edited by Paul H. Herbert.

About the Author

A combat veteran himself, James Scott Wheeler is former commander of the 4th Battalion, 67th Armor, and senior military analyst to the commanding general of the U.S. Army in Europe. He is the author of Making of a World Power: War and the Military Revolution in Seventeenth-Century England and Irish and British Wars, 1637-1654.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series