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8th Infantry Division
8th Infantry Division patch.svg
8th Infantry Division shoulder sleeve inisgnia
Active 1918–1919
Country United States of America
Allegiance United States of America
Branch United States Army
Type Infantry Division
Nickname(s) Golden Arrow Division
Motto(s) "These are my credentials."
Engagements World War I
World War II
War in Southwest Asia
Thomas L. Harrold
Andrew Goodpaster
Carl E. Vuono
William S. Graves
Distinctive Unit Insignia 8 Inf Div DUI.gif

The 8th Infantry Division, ("Pathfinder"[1]) was an infantry division of the United States Army during the 20th Century. The division served in World War I, World War II, and Operation Desert Storm. Initially activated in January 1918, the unit did not see combat during World War I and returned to the United States. Activated again on 1 July 1940 as part of the build-up of military forces prior to the United States' entry into World War II, the division saw extensive action in the European Theatre of Operations. Following World War II, the division was moved to West Germany, where it remained stationed at the Rose Barracks in Bad Kreuznach until it was inactivated on 17 January 1992.

World War I

  • Activated: January 1918
  • Overseas: November 1918
  • Commanders:
    • Col. Elmore F. Taggart (5 January-14 February 1918)
    • Col. G. L. Van Deusen (15–24 February 1918)
    • Brig. Gen. J. D. Leitch (25 February-9 March 1918; 18 March-17 July 1918; 4–10 August 1918; 12 August-1 September 1918 )
    • Maj. Gen. J. F. Morrison (10–17 March 1918)
    • Maj. Gen. William S. Graves (18 July-3 August 1918; 11 August 1918)
    • Maj. Gen. Eli A. Helmick (2 September 1918 – 19 November 1918; 26 November 1918-)
    • Brig. Gen. J. J. Bradley (20–26 November 1918)

The 8th Division was organized at Camp Fremont, California, from men of the regular army, August 3, 1918. The division consisted of the 8th Division Headquarters, Headquarters Company and Detachment; 15th and 16th Infantry Brigades; 8th, 12th, 13th and 62nd Infantry Regiments; 22nd, 23rd, and 24th Machine Gun Battalions; 8th Field Artillery Brigade; 2d, 81st and 83rd Regiments Field Artillery; 8th Trench Mortar Battery; 8th Ammunition Train; 319th Engineer Regiment (Pioneers) and Train; 320th Field Signal Battalion; 8th Train Headquarters and Military Police; 8th Supply Train; and the 8th Sanitary Train, consisting of the 11th, 31st, 32nd and 43rd Ambulance and Field Hospital Companies.

Major General Graves, with his staff, 5000 men, and 100 officers, transferred to Siberia in August 1918, and Major General Eli A. Helmick succeeded Graves in command of the division. The overseas movement of the division to Europe began October 30, 1918. The 8th Field Artillery Brigade, 8th Infantry Regiment, 16th Infantry Brigade headquarters, and the 319th Engineer Regiment were the only divisional units to go to France. The 13th and 62nd Infantry Regiments were at sea when recalled after the Armistice, and the 12th Infantry did not leave its pre-embarkation point at Camp Mills, New York, because it was quarantined for Spanish influenza.

The troops who did reach France became the garrison of Brest and assisted in building huge camps for troops about to embark for return to the United States. The 8th Infantry Regiment became part of the American occupation forces in Germany until August 1919 and the remainder returned to the United States in January 1919, after which the division disbanded.

Between wars

The 8th Division officially demobilized at Camp Lee, Virginia, in September 1919. The division was reconstituted on 24 March 1923, allotted in inactive status to the Third Corps Area for mobilization purposes, and assigned to the III Corps. Camp George G. Meade, Maryland, was its designated mobilization station for reactivation. The 16th Infantry Brigade, 12th and 34th Infantry Regiments, 1st Battalion 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 15th Ordnance Company, and 8th Tank Company (Light) were assigned to the division in June 1923 as active units and formed the base force from which the remainder of the division would be reactivated in the event of war. The commanding general of the brigade was considered the division commander for planning purposes. The 16th Brigade was stationed at Fort Howard, Maryland, from 1922 to 1928; Fort Hunt, Virginia, from 1928 to 1931; in Washington, D.C., from 1931 to 1936; and at Fort Meade from 1936 to the activation of the division.

The division headquarters was organized in April 1926 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as a Regular Army Inactive unit using personnel of the Organized Reserves. The active units of the division conducted annual training with the III and XIII Corps and the 79th, 80th, and 99th Divisions. Summer training camps were usually conducted at Camp Meade.[2]

The 16th Brigade’s 12th and 34th Infantry Regiments, reinforced by the 3d Cavalry and the District of Columbia National Guard’s 260th Coast Artillery, were called out on 28 July 1932 to quell potential trouble from the Bonus Army in Washington, D.C. The 12th Infantry was ordered to clear the United States Capitol and the camps on the Anacostia Flats of the veterans that afternoon.[2] The division was also provisionally organized in 1939 for the First Army Maneuvers at Manassas, Virginia, with the 16th Brigade reinforced by the 66th Infantry (Light Tanks). In preparation for becoming a "triangular" division, the 8th Infantry Division was reactivated on 1 July 1940 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, without its Reserve units and assigned to the I Corps .[2]

World War II

  • Activated: 1 July 1940
  • Overseas: 5 December 1943
  • Campaigns:
  • Days of combat: 266.
  • Distinguished Unit Citations: 5
  • Awards: Medal of Honor-3 ; Distinguished Service Cross (United States)-33 ; Distinguished Service Medal (United States)-2 ; Silver Star-768; LM-12 ; DFC-2 ; SM24 ; BSM-2,874 ; AM-107.
  • Commanders:
    • Maj. Gen. Philip B. Peyton (June 1940 – December 1940)
    • Maj. Gen. James P. Marley (December 1940 – February 1941)
    • Maj. Gen. William E. Shedd (February 1941)
    • Maj. Gen. Henry Terrell, Jr. (March 1941)
    • Maj. Gen. James P. Marley (April 1941 – July 1942)
    • Maj. Gen. Paul E. Peabody (August 1942 – January 1943)
    • Maj. Gen. William C. McMahon (February 1943 – July 1944)
    • Maj. Gen. Donald A. Stroh (July 1944 – December 1944)
    • Maj. Gen. William G. Weaver (December 1944 – February 1945)
    • Maj. Gen. Bryant E. Moore (February 1945 – November 1945)
    • Maj. Gen. William M. Miley (November 1945 to inactivation).
  • Returned to U.S.: 10 July 1945.
  • Inactivated: 20 November 1945.

Major General William C. McMahon was relieved shortly after the division arrived in Normandy. His replacement, Major General Donald A. Stroh was temporarily relieved during the Hurtgen fighting; the death of his son, a pilot in the U.S.A.A.F. who was shot down over Brittany, had made a deep psychological impact. After a rest, Stroh went on to command another overseas division.

Combat chronicle

During World War II, the 8th Infantry Division was sent to Europe to fight against the Axis. After training in Ireland the 8th Infantry Division landed on Omaha Beach, Normandy, 4 July 1944, and entered combat on 7 July. Shortly after its arrival, the division captured the French cities of Rennes[3] and Brest.[4] Fighting through the hedgerows, it crossed the Ay River, 26 July, pushed through Rennes, 8 August, and attacked Brest in September.

Following these actions, the 8th turned eastward toward the German border, taking part in the heavy fighting in the Hürtgen Forest in November 1944. The Crozon Peninsula was cleared on 19 September, and the division drove across France to Luxembourg, moved to the Hurtgen Forest, 20 November, cleared Hurtgen on the 28th and Brandenberg, 3 December, and pushed on to the Roer.[4] That river was crossed on 23 February 1945, Duren taken on the 25th and the Erft Canal crossed on the 28th. The 8th reached the Rhine near Rodenkirchen, 7 March, and maintained positions along the river near Koln.[5] In early March 1945, the 8th had advanced into the Rhineland. It fought its way into the Ruhr region the following month.

On 6 April the division attacked northwest to aid in the destruction of enemy forces in the Ruhr Pocket, and by the 17th had completed its mission. After security duty, the division, under operational control of the British Second Army, drove across the Elbe, 1 May, and penetrated to Schwerin when the war in Europe ended.

On 2 May 1945, as it advanced into northern Germany, the 8th Infantry Division encountered the Neuengamme concentration camp Wöbbelin subcamp, near the city of Ludwigslust.[4] The SS had established Wöbbelin in early February 1945 to house concentration camp prisoners who had been evacuated from other Nazi camps to prevent their liberation by the Allies. Wöbbelin held some 5,000 inmates, many of whom suffered from starvation and disease. The sanitary conditions at the camp when the 8th Infantry Division and the 82nd Airborne Division arrived were deplorable. There was little food or water, and some prisoners had resorted to cannibalism. In the first week after liberation, more than 200 inmates died. In the aftermath, the United States Army ordered the townspeople in Ludwigslust to visit the camp and bury the dead.[4]

The 8th Infantry Division was recognized as a liberating unit by the U.S. Army's Center of Military History and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1988.[4]

Assignments in the European Theater of Operations

  • 30 November 1943: Attached to First Army.
  • 24 December 1943: XV Corps.
  • 1 July 1944: VIII Corps, attached to First Army.
  • 1 August 1944: VIII Corps, Third Army, 12th Army Group.
  • 5 September 1944: VIII Corps, Ninth Army, 12th Army Group.
  • 22 October 1944: VIII Corps, First Army, 12th Army Group.
  • 19 November 1944: V Corps.
  • 18 December 1944: VII Corps.
  • 20 December 1944: Attached, with the entire First Army, to the British 21st Army Group.
  • 22 December 1944: XIX Corps, Ninth Army (attached to British 21st Army Group), 12th Army Group.
  • 3 February 1945: VII Corps, First Army, 12th Army Group.
  • 2 April 1945: XVIII (Abn) Corps.
  • 26 April 1945: XVIII (Abn) Corps, Ninth Army, 12th Army Group, but attached for operations to the British Second Army in the British 21st Army Group.

Medals of Honor

Three soldiers of the 8th Division were awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II.

  • Private First Class Ernest Prussman, 13th Infantry Regiment. Prussman took over his squad on 8 September 1944 during the advance on Les Coates [wrong transliteration of Loscoat, near Brest] in Brittany, and disarmed several Germans, including a machine gun crew. Shot by a German rifleman, his dying act was to unleash a hand grenade that killed the man who shot him. His Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously.
  • Private First Class Walter C. Wetzel, 13th Infantry Regiment. As acting squad leader in the regimental Anti-Tank Company, PFC Wetzel defended his platoon's command post from an enemy attack on 3 April 1945. Wetzel threw himself on either 1 or 2 enemy grenades (sources vary) thrown into the C.P. His Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously.
  • Staff Sergeant John W. Minick, Company I, 121st Infantry Regiment. After his battalion was halted by enemy minefields during an advance on 21 November 1944 during the Hurtgen fighting, he led four men through the obstacle, then successfully destroyed an enemy machine gun post that had opened fire on the small party. Moving forward again, he single-handedly engaged an entire company of soldiers, killing 20 men and capturing 20 more. Resuming the advance, he attempted to scout through another minefield, but detonated one in the attempt. His Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously.

After World War II

The 8th Infantry Division was reactivated in 1950 as a training division at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. The Division became a regular infantry division. In 1957 it was rotated to West Germany, initially on a temporary basis in Operation Gyroscope, but remained in West Germany for decades.[6] The Division's First Brigade (with subordinate units) was stationed in Mainz, the Second Brigade (with subordinate units) was stationed in Baumholder, and the Third Brigade (with subordinate units) was stationed in Mannheim (Sullivan and Coleman Barracks). The Division's Fourth Brigade (actually, an attached brigade from the 4th Infantry Division) was stationed in Wiesbaden and made the 8th Infantry Division unique - it was the Army's only four brigade division. From 14 December 1957, until it was inactivated on 17 January 1992, it was headquartered at Bad Kreuznach.[7]

4/34 Armor, stationed at Lee Barracks in Mainz,and the 12th Engineer Battalion stationed at Coleman Barracks, were attached to the 3rd Armored Division during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. +Elements of the 8th ID (M) were deployed to Southern Turkey in support of Operation Provide Comfort in the Spring of 1991. Upon completion of that tour they were authorized to wear the 8th ID shoulder sleeve insignia as a combat patch on the right shoulder of their uniform.


The 8th Infantry Division was known as the "Pathfinder" division during World War I, and both it and the "Golden Arrow" division during World War II. Both nicknames originated from the division's insignia, which includes a gold arrow to represent the 19th-century explorer of California, John Fremont. The division was formed at Camp Fremont, California in 1918. Later known to many of its post World War II soldiers as Eight Up (Ate Up: a military term meaning out of order, screwed up) and "The Crazy Eight" after the card game.

Published histories

  • Official History of the U.S. Army in World War II—also known as the "Green Books", contains brief mention of the 8th Division. Still available via the U.S. Government Printing Office. Specifically, see the following volumes:
    • Breakout and Pursuit by Martin Blumenson
    • The Siegfried Line Campaign by Charles MacDonald
  • Boesch, Paul. Forest in Hell. Originally published as Road to Hurtgen: Forest in Hell). Memoir by officer of Company G, 121st Infantry Regiment.
  • Greisbach, Marc. Combat History of the 8th Infantry Division in World War II, softcover booklet originally published 1945. Reprints made by Battery Press in Nashville, TN.
  • A Combat History by Regiment and Special Units—a series of books by the Army/Navy Publishing Company released in 1945. Also known as "Blue Books", these were styled after school yearbooks and sold with dark blue covers, containing sketch histories and photos of men returning home. The following titles are known to exist:
    • Division HQ & Special Troops
    • 13th Infantry Regiment
    • 28th Infantry Regiment
    • 121st Infantry Regiment (The Gray Bonnet)
    • Division Artillery and Arty units


 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Army Center of Military History document "8th Infantry Division".

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Special Unit Designations". United States Army Center of Military History. 21 April 2010. Archived from the original on 9 June 2010. Retrieved 24 June 2010. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Clay, Lt. Col. (ret) Steven E. (2010). U.S. Army Order of Battle 1919-1941 (Vol. I The Arms: Major Commands and Infantry organizations, 1919-41). Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: Combat Studies Institute Press (United States Army). Retrieved 23 December 2012. , p. 216-217
  3. "Video: Allies Liberate Florence etc.". Universal Newsreel. 1944. Retrieved February 21, 2012. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 "The 8th Infantry Division". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Archived from the original on 10 December 2008. Retrieved 9 December 2008. 
  5. "8th Infantry Division". United States Army Center of Military History. Retrieved 9 December 2008. 
  7. Stanton, Shelby, Vietnam Order of Battle: A Complete Illustrated Reference to the U.S. Army and Allied Ground Forces in Vietnam, 1961-1973, Stackpole Books 2006, p. 340-341 where a divisional order of battle in Korea can be found.

External links

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