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The Rock of The Marne

The Rock of The Marne

The 3rd Infantry Division was born at Camp Greene, North Carolina, on Nov. 21, 1917. The 3rd Division (later redesignated the 3rd Infantry Division) was comprised of the 4th, 7th, 30th and 38th Infantry regiments, along with the 10th, 18th and 76th Field Artillery and 6th Engineers. The division’s 28,000 Soldiers reached France in April 1918 as part of the World War I American Expeditionary Force, prepared to defeat the last wave of German offensives.

At Chateau-Thierry, along the Marne River, as French troops retreated from the German onslaught, men of the 7th Machine Gun Battalion of the 3rd Division were rushed to Chateau-Thierry and set up a defensive position along the Marne River. Maj. Gen. Joseph Dickman, the division commander, issued his famous order: “Nous resterons la” — “We’re staying there.”

The rest of the division moved into positions along the Marne and on July 15, took the brunt of what was to be the last German offensive of the war, the famous “Peace Storm.” As units on each side of the division were driven back, men of the 30th and 38th regiments held their positions, defeating the German’s bid for victory. This feat of arms, in which they stood their ground like a rock at the Marne, was called by Gen. John “Blackjack” Pershing “one of the most brilliant pages in the annals of military history,” and earned the 3rd Infantry Division the name the “Marne Division.”

That historic stand set the 3rd ID on the offensive, fighting their way through the Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne. Nearly 16,500 Marne men were killed or wounded by the end of World War I, but they had established a place for the 3rd Infantry Division in the pages of American military history. After the armistice on Nov. 11, 1918, the division undertook occupation duty in the vicinity of Coblenz, along the Rhine River, where it remained until August 1919. The division returned to the United States in 1919 and was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Lewis, Washington.

In 1946, it left the United States again for duty in World War II. The 3rd Infantry Division entered the war at Fedala, North Africa, just north of Casablanca, as part of the “Torch” invasion, the first American campaign against Germany. The division moved across Morocco to Bizerte, Tunisia, where it embarked for Sicily, the next Allied objective in the Mediterranean. The division spearheaded the American drive on Palermo and was among the first American units to reach Messina. On Sept. 3, 1943, the Allies invaded the Italian mainland at Salerno. The 3rd Infantry Division arrived in Italy on Sept. 18, and was fighting up the Volturno River when it was detached for an amphibious operation designed to break the stalemate in the Italian campaign. The assault was at Anzio.

The Allies landed at Anzio on Jan. 22, 1944. Hitler directed that the beachhead be eliminated. From January to May, the Germans launched numerous attacks in an attempt to drive the Allies from the beach. As at the Marne, the 3rd Infantry Division proved to be an immovable rock of resistance. The Anzio beachhead hung on, and in May, the Allies broke out. Rome was reached June 4, 1944. At Anzio, the division suffered more casualties in one day than any other unit in the war, as it defeated three German divisions.

The 3rd Infantry Division was again called on for an amphibious assault, taking part in the invasion of southern France, and after bitter fighting in the Vosges Mountains, it reached Strasbourg in November. In the winter of 1944-1945, the division was called upon to reduce the “Colmar Pocket,” completing the operation in February 1945. The Rhine was crossed March 26, 1945, and a speedy advance northeast to Bad Kissingen and a loop south brought the division to Nuremberg in April. After a four-day fight, the city fell.

One unit from the division, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry, reached Berchtesgaden and Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest on May 4. The war ended May 7. From Fedala to Berchtesgaden, the 3rd Infantry Division’s odyssey was over, emerging as the most decorated division in the U.S. Army. At war’s end, the 3rd Infantry Division would count 35,000 casualties suffered in 10 of the war’s more hard-fought campaigns. History records some of the most heroic individual achievements of the war by 35 Medal of Honor recipients. Among these men was Audie Murphy, the most decorated Soldier in World War II.

Stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, after WWII, the Marne Division deployed from there and entered the Korean War in September 1950 and was brought up to strength with Republic of Korea replacements and the addition of the “Borinqueneers” from the 65th Infantry Regiment from Puerto Rico. In a surprise move on Nov. 23, 1950, China entered the war and the massive weight of the Chinese army was felt all along the front. As the Allies were forced to retreat, the 3rd Infantry Division fell back to the port of Hungnam.

From Nov. 30 until Dec. 24, the division Soldiers conducted the most massive beachhead evacuation in American military history: 105,000 troops, 100,000 refugees, 17,500 vehicles and 750,000 tons of cargo. In March 1951, elements of the 3rd Infantry Division helped to recapture Seoul. By April, the Chinese were pushed back to the 38th parallel, but immediately undertook an offensive to retake Seoul. The brunt of the attack fell upon the Marne Division’s sector, but the Rock of the Marne became the Rock of Seoul, as the Chinese attack was defeated.

After clearing the “Iron Triangle” of Chinese resistance, the 3rd Infantry Division settled into front-line duty, engaging in patrol actions and defending against Chinese attempts to seize strategic positions. The war ended in July 1953, and in October 1954, the division returned to Fort Benning. The Marne Division Soldiers had seen action in eight campaigns in Korea. More than 8,000 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers were wounded or killed. In 1958, the 3rd Infantry Division was re-stationed in Germany. Rock of the Marne stared down the threat of Soviet communism as the first line of Western defense in Europe from 1958 to 1991. They watched with unwavering determination as the Berlin Wall went up in 1962 and stood victorious as it was torn down in 1989.

In 1991, the 3rd Brigade of the Marne Division was called to action in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Fighting as the lead element of the 1st Armored Division, they penetrated deep in Iraq, rapidly destroying any and all opposition. When the cease-fire was called in the 100th hour, the 3rd Brigade of the Marne Division drove far into Kuwaiti territory, displaying with speed and devastation the full force of their combat power. Victory was achieved and the 3rd Brigade would return to Germany.

On April 25, 1996, the colors of the 3rd Infantry Division finally returned stateside. The 3rd Infantry Division makes Fort Stewart, Fort Benning and Hunter Army Airfield its home, serving as the iron fist of the XVIII Airborne Corps. Since Sept. 11, 2001, units have been sent to Afghanistan, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries to support the war on terrorism. Early in 2003, the “deployability” and fighting capability of the Marne Division was highly visible worldwide when the entire division deployed in weeks to Kuwait. It was called on subsequently to spearhead coalition forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, fighting its way to Baghdad in early April, leading to the end of the Saddam Hussein government-imposed tyranny over the people of Iraq.

In January 2003, Soldiers in the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) were officially informed that they were headed for the Middle East to do their part in Operation Enduring Freedom. Throughout the early months of the year, a multitude of flights proceeded to carry the Marne Division’s more than 20,000 Soldiers to the Middle East, where they continued to train in preparation for the possibility of war.

The 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) began deploying to Kuwait in January in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Although some elements of the division were in country as early as September, the majority of Marne Soldiers arrived shortly after the New Year. With tensions increasing and President George W. Bush and Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein in a standoff, neither willing to back down, the 3rd Infantry Division trained hard in Kuwait for the war that loomed on the horizon. The division units conducted regular physical fitness training, desert tank tables, hot refuels and road marches, military operations on urbanized terrain, artillery live-fires, enemy prisoner of war, sniper, nuclear, biological and chemical attack, trench and engineer training. Despite the uncertainty of not knowing when or whether there would be a war, Marne Soldiers stepped up to the plate to prepare themselves for whatever might happen.

As part of the training the division practiced “jumping” — quickly breaking down, relocating and building — its tactical operations center in preparation for rapid movement through Iraq. Soldiers also conducted extensive maintenance on vehicles and equipment, since the desert sand was hard on tracks and weapons. Meanwhile, hundreds of care packages flooded in for Soldiers from family members and supporting citizens. Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities included performances by visiting entertainers, boxing smokers, an FMWR tent complete with wide-screen television, and phone and Internet cafes so Soldiers could stay in touch with loved ones.

 

Finally, after months of training and waiting to see what would happen, the call came. On March 20, the division began to cross the border from Kuwait to Iraq, beginning Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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