By Buddy Blouin
World War I would find the United States becoming involved in 1917 and in need of fighters to do so. This was when the 1st Infantry Division was created, and since that time, they've been serving our country. It’s the longest-running division of the U.S. Army that has been continuously working to keep our country safe. Its nickname, “the Big Red One,” would come from its uniform. Its legacy continues because of its commitment to duty.

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The 1st Infantry Division Patch Behind the Name

There are many reasons why people, places, and things earn nicknames. Some are more obvious than others, and the 1st Infantry Division gets its secondary moniker from the striking insignia featuring a literal big red “1” on its shoulder patch. However, there are other nicknames associated with the group, including BRO, the Big Dead One, and the Bloody First. Officially, its secondary nickname is the Fighting First. As of this writing, you can find the 1st Infantry Division headquarters at Fort Riley, Kansas, where Soldiers continue to live by the division’s motto: “No Mission Too Difficult. No Sacrifice Too Great. Duty First!” Although it began its duty during World War I, there have been many other conflicts in which the 1st Infantry Division has been involved in protecting America and its allies. This includes:
  • Several major events during World War II, including, but not limited to, invading Sicily, the invasion of Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, campaigns in North Africa, and the liberation of concentration camps.
  • While Big Red One wasn’t on the ground during the Korean War, it served an important role in occupying Germany during this time post-WWII.
  • The 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam served in various capacities for years, including during the Tet Offensive, where they were in charge of safely securing the Tan Son Nhut Air Base.
  • BRO Soldiers were found throughout various conflicts in the Middle East ranging from Operation Desert Storm, the wars following 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, to missions aimed at fending off ISIS/ISIL.
Crazily enough, these are just some of the highlights. There are several other operations, such as the Balkins, that the Big Red One has played a role in while defending freedom.

The Big Red One in Popular Culture

Facing the 1st Infantry Division on the battlefield is going to be a bad time. This illustrious group of Soldiers knows what it takes to claim success in battle, which is, in part, why they have been involved in various forms of popular culture and entertainment. Long before battle packs, jetpacks, international soccer superstar cameos, and zombies, the Call of Duty franchise worked hard to convey the historical, emotional nuances of war through its titles. The game was no stranger to visiting World War II, and one of the titles that did it best was Call of Duty 2: Big Red One. As you play missions based on what the 1st Infantry Division faced during its time serving in WWII, you’ll also receive actual footage pertaining to the battles themselves. Among the many people that worked on the game is Mark Hamill, best known for his roles as the Joker and Luke Skywalker. But Hamill was also involved in another relevant piece of media: the 1980 film from Sam Fuller aptly named The Big Red One. As a Veteran who served in the 1st Infantry Division during WW2, Fuller wrote the film and ultimately its companion book based on his experiences serving. In 2018, for the 100th anniversary of the division, Nike and Army Football would collaborate on a special Big Red One-themed uniform to commemorate this historic, brave group.

How To Join the 1st Infantry Division

There’s never really a guarantee when it comes to where you’ll be serving; however, amid recruiting issues and policy transformations, it seems Soldiers may have more of a say. The U.S. Army now guarantees new enlistees their duty station of choice, meaning that depending on the availability of a job opening and your qualifications, Fort Riley could be your home. War is changing, but the need for Soldiers willing to answer the call of duty isn’t going anywhere. Recently, the Big Red One has been looking back at its Year of the Family, as more deployments have been necessary to Poland thanks to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The initiative was a consorted effort to focus more on the families of Soldiers amid a shift from the Middle East to conflicts in Europe and elsewhere demanding more attention. One thing is for certain, though; no matter where the 1st Infantry Division is called or for what reason, success on the battlefield is the only option.

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Image: Lawrence Journal-World




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