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"Best American infantry division?" Topic

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1,215 hits since 9 Apr 2017
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Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2017 5:33 p.m. PST

Army only, sorry leathernecks.

For your money, based on whatever criteria you like, what was the "best" American army infantry division in the second world war?

Rich Bliss09 Apr 2017 5:39 p.m. PST

1st Infantry.

RudyNelson09 Apr 2017 5:58 p.m. PST

As a veteran of the 1st Infantry that fought in Europe and the 1st Cavalry which fought in the Pacific, it is hard to say. Also, the divisions that my uncles fought in are tough to say. I had relatives in both areas. So I with respect, I decline.

Rod I Robertson Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member09 Apr 2017 6:11 p.m. PST


The 30th Infantry Division "Oid Hickory" or as the Germans called it, "Roosevelt's SS".


Rod Robertson.

Mister Tibbles09 Apr 2017 6:18 p.m. PST

36th Infantry Texas Division. A good friend served in from North Africa through the end of the war. They faced some of the hardest fighting of tbe war, but often get overlooked for Day Day+ units.

Grignotage09 Apr 2017 6:24 p.m. PST

I like the 32nd. Fought on New Guinea and Philippines. It followed the common narrative path of US divisions in WWII, first entering combat with all sorts of teething problems, but finished the war an efficient and tough fighting machine.

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2017 6:59 p.m. PST

45th Infantry Division

McKinstry Fezian09 Apr 2017 7:03 p.m. PST


Personal logo The Tin Dictator Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2017 7:13 p.m. PST

4th Armored Division

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2017 7:18 p.m. PST

1st ID--and not a patch I or any family member have worn. But they are the division Patton asked for, and as a judge of fighting units, who better?

Lots of good choices, though.

Generalstoner49 Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2017 7:22 p.m. PST

101st Airborne Division, my Dad's outfit.

Major Mike09 Apr 2017 7:23 p.m. PST

1st ID, involved in almost every major landing in the European theater. They were selected to go in on the toughest beaches for the Normandy landing because they needed a veteran unit they could count on to push thru. Also found in many of the major battles in Africa, Sicily and Northern Europe. For the Pacific, have to lean towards the 1st Marines.

skipper John Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2017 7:27 p.m. PST

The 30th was the most respected by the Germans.

christot10 Apr 2017 2:24 a.m. PST

"101st Airborne Division, my Dad's outfit."
I'm sure he'd have been thrilled to be lumped in with army infantry divisions…..

Dupuy's calculations rated the 88th as the highest performer, but he didn't asses every Infantry Division, his CEV system rates it higher than the 3rd,39th,45th,and 85th (and, incidentally, above 4th armoured for those who didn't read the OP)

Skarper10 Apr 2017 2:39 a.m. PST

IMO Airborne, Armored and Marine infantry are ineligible from the OP's criteria.

The 30th were supposedly very well regarded by the Germans.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2017 2:47 a.m. PST

28th Infantry Division. "Just" a National Guard division, it had the life bled out if it in Hurtgen Forest.
Sent to the Ardennes to "rest" it held off 10 times its number for 3 days, allowing the 101st time to secure Bastogne and win all the glory.

Martin Rapier10 Apr 2017 3:10 a.m. PST

"Dupuy's calculations rated the 88th as the highest performer, but he didn't asses every Infantry Division, his CEV system rates it higher than the 3rd,39th,45th,and 85th (and, incidentally, above 4th armoured for those who didn't read the OP)"

I read an amusing anecdote (possibly in Zetterlings Normandy book) that the commander of the 88th went absolutely ballistic that his division wasn't rated even higher as iirc it was No 3 in the list, after 1st FJ Div and Herman Goering Div.

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2017 5:14 a.m. PST

Values on this thread: TMP link

Grignotage10 Apr 2017 5:19 a.m. PST

Agree with Winston, the 28th fought its heart out.

I generally disagree with the whole "infantry was the American army's weakpoint in WWII" argument.

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2017 6:25 a.m. PST

What would you say was its weak point?

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2017 6:29 a.m. PST

Whirlwind. Easy answer. Atrocious replacement system. But now getting off topic.

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2017 7:07 a.m. PST

But surely the effect of an atrocious replacement system would primarily be on the infantry (large arm suffering lots of casualties)?

Northern Monkey10 Apr 2017 7:53 a.m. PST

I'd agree with Winston about the 28th, but whilst the men fought well, Cota was not on good form for either Hurtgen or the Ardennes. Sadly I think that excludes the 28th from being rated as best Division.

The US army seems pretty homogenous to me. Poor in 1943, good by 1945. Unsurprising when you consider how the army was expanded and put so many civilian soldiers into the line, but then learnt from its experiences.

Old Wolfman10 Apr 2017 8:01 a.m. PST

3rd ID(the "Dogface Soldiers" ),442nd RCT,and a good number more.

MadMax17 Inactive Member10 Apr 2017 10:50 a.m. PST

I think it largely depends on what time-frame/campaign you're asking about. Considering the massive casualties at the rifle company level and the already mentioned replacement system (causing regiments to almost completely turn over something like every 3 months), Division X in June 1944 is very different from Division X in January 1945.

For example, people have pointed to the 28th ID, not so great performance in the Huertgen, performed admirably in the Ardennes (but was heavily bloodied in the process, necessitating more barely-trained replacements).

So it could be argued that the infantry battalions/regiments were all pretty similar, given the almost universal turnover in personnel every few months, but the parts of a division that suffered less casualties (artillery, supply, maintenance, etc) grew in experience and capability as the war progressed due to the lack of turnover the infantry experienced.

So for example if you compare a "veteran" division to a "rookie" division in early 1945, I would say there probably wouldn't be terribly much difference at the rifle battalion level (some difference yes, but not as stark as that in the Division rear), but there would be very clear and pronounced differences in the effectiveness of the artillery, supply, maintenance, etc formations of the divisions in question, obviously with the "veteran" one being more proficient at their tasks due to experience.

So like I said, in my opinion, very dependent on time and space, pretty hard to compare such dynamic organizations over the entire war. For that, some attempt at objective data analysis like that of Dupuy is probably the best way to go.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Apr 2017 11:06 a.m. PST

I'm also going to mention the 28th Division. No, they weren't "the best" by most measures, but for three days in December of 1944 they GAVE the best that any US Army division ever did, and nobody could ask for more.

panzerCDR10 Apr 2017 11:11 a.m. PST

This is a more subjective response, but the 1st in the ETO was arguably (that's what we do here!) the best for the longest period of time. The 9th and 3rd were also very good for a long stretch. Manning policy tended to homogenize performance toward the mean, which may not have been the way to go.

In the PTO the 25th was among the best from Guadalcanal to the end though the 77th was also a solid unit.

Madmax17 had some good observations on this.

torokchar Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2017 1:01 p.m. PST

30th Infantry "Old Hickory": landed at Normandy and fought all the way to the Elbe. Held up the Germans at Mortain stalling the German drive on Avranches France so the allies could trap most of the German armor at Falaise pocket. Key player in bulge holding the northern flank and helped in the conquest of Aachen Germany.

Labeled as Roosevelt's SS by the Germans for their tenacity in combat.

Legion 410 Apr 2017 3:31 p.m. PST

IMO Airborne, Armored and Marine infantry are ineligible from the OP's criteria.
Yes, I agree I think the question is which is the Best Infantry Div. …

I'd say 1ID. But there were many INF Divs not as well known. But fought very effectively in all theaters.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2017 5:22 p.m. PST

Homogenization. Ernie Pyle, who saw more divisions than most, wrote that even the Guard units tended to lose character due to the turnover--but some of that may have been written for home consumption. I've also heard comments that certain divisions--and 1st ID is mentioned--screened replacements and organized their own schools to make sure the replacements had the basic skills when they arrived at subordinate units.
All of which said, I admit I have a weakness for the 28th ID.

zoneofcontrol10 Apr 2017 8:28 p.m. PST

There were several books I read referring to "the old saying" that "the US Army consisted of the 1st Infantry Division and 8 million replacements." Often followed by a boast (or complaint) that it was the 16th Infantry Regt. that lead the division into battle.

There were a number of other good Army divisions throughout the Western Theater. And I sure wouldn't want to slight some of the units in the Pacific Theater that did well in a hostile climate.

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP11 Apr 2017 2:34 a.m. PST

What is the origin of the "Roosevelt's SS" label? The original source, I mean?

Rod I Robertson Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member11 Apr 2017 5:06 a.m. PST


The name was allegedly given to the 30th as a result of their successful fight against and mauling of the 1st SS Pz. Div. around St. Lo in mid July to late July of 1944 and a little later in early August during the Mortain battles. AFAIK the phrase became 'fashionable' and common place in the Bulge Battles when a reconstituted 1st SS once again met the 30th ID in combat in the Ardennes. There's a book you can look up if you're interested.


Rod Robertson.

Legion 411 Apr 2017 6:30 a.m. PST

Just for context, the 82d's 504 PIR was given the nickname by the Germans "The Devils in baggy pants". Based on their loose paratroop issue trousers. That is the motto of the 504 to this day, AFAIK …

And we all know in WWI, the USMC was called "Devil Dogs" by the Kaiser's troops.

So since none of us were there(?) … we are going to have to take those on the good authority of historians …

21eRegt Supporting Member of TMP11 Apr 2017 7:25 a.m. PST

Another vote for the 28th. Not the longest serving but certainly one of the hardest fighting. For the record, I have excluded armored and para divisions since they aren't straight-leg infantry.

Pizzagrenadier11 Apr 2017 8:15 a.m. PST

I've always had a fondness for the 95th (the Iron Men of Metz) because my grandfather was in the 378th Infantry Regiment's artillery as a forward observer. I think any division having to go up against the fortifications of the Maginot at Metz and Nancy had a difficult task.

Personal logo COL Scott ret Supporting Member of TMP11 Apr 2017 1:37 p.m. PST

82nd Airborne Division, every regiment has its history of great done in the face of strong resistance.

Legion 411 Apr 2017 2:27 p.m. PST

The 101 too ! Even if my Rgt, the 187 was with the 11th ABN Div. in WWII in the PTO. But ended up in 3d Bde 101 before or during Vietnam … And was a separate ARCT during the Korean War.

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP12 Apr 2017 1:13 a.m. PST

Thanks Rod

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP23 Apr 2017 10:40 a.m. PST

I read the recommended book Rod, thanks very much.

The book doesn't analyze the issue in detail (it isn't that kind of book!) but as far as I can make out…

Axis Sally called the 30th "Roosevelt's SS", or at least a large number of US personnel thought she did, sometime around the Mortain battles. The US troops themselves adopted it, thinking, as you say, that it denoted an elite status and ferocity; there isn't any reason to think that the Germans had intended that at this time. Axis Sally was apparently using the epithet again during the Bulge fighting.

Some US personnel believed that German officers and/or German prisoners said the same thing, but none of the recollections in the book are first-hand (or even nearly first-hand) of this; I wonder if this story grew in the telling within the division?

I still find the incident quite curious – I wonder why Axis Sally was given that phrase to use in the first place.

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