81st Infantry Division (United States)

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81st Infantry Division
US Army 81st Infantry Division SSI.svg
81st Infantry Division shoulder sleeve insignia
Active 1917–19
Country  United States
Branch  United States Army
Type Infantry
Size Division
Nickname "Wildcat" (special designation)[1]
Motto "Wildcats never quit"
March The Wildcat March
Mascot Sergeant Tuffy the Wildcat

World War I

World War II

US infantry divisions (1939–present)
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80th Training Command (Army Reserve) 82nd Airborne Division

The 81st Infantry Division ("Wildcat"[1]) was a unit of the United States Army in World War I and World War II.

The 81st Infantry Division “Wildcats” was organized as a National Division of the United States Army in August 1917 at Camp Jackson, South Carolina. The division was originally organized with a small cadre of Regular Army officers, while the solders were predominately Selective Service men drawn from the southeastern United States. After organizing and finishing training, the 81st Division deployed to Europe, arriving in France in August 1918 to serve in World War I. Elements of the 81st Division first saw limited action by defending the St. Dié sector in September and early October. After relief of mission, the 81st Division was attached to the American First Army in preparation for the Meuse-Argonne offensive. In the last days of World War I, the 81st Division attacked a portion of the German defensive line on 9 November 1918, and remained engaged in combat operations until the Armistice at 1100 hours, 11 November 1918. After the cessation of hostilities, the 81st Division remained in France until May 1919; after which the elements of the division were shipped back to the United States and deactivated on 11 June 1919.[2]

The 81st Infantry Division was reactivated for World War II service in June 1942 at Camp Rucker, Alabama. As in World War I, the division was filled primarily with inducted men. The division trained at locations in Tennessee, Arizona and California before embarking for Hawaii in June 1944. After completion of amphibious and jungle training, the 81st Infantry Division departed for Guadalcanal in August 1944. There the division was attached to the III Marine Amphibious Corps reserve.[3] In September 1944 the 321st Infantry Regiment of the 81st Infantry Division performed a combat landing on Angaur Island in support of the operations to secure the Palau Islands chain. After finshing the battle of Angaur, the 81st Infantry Division was ordered to assist the 1st Marine Division in their efforts to seize Peleliu. The 81st Division eventually took over the operation to finish the Battle of Peleliu; an operation to which it was engaged until 18 January 1945 at a heavy cost. In early February 1945, the 81st Infantry Division sailed to New Caledonia to rest and refit. In May 1945, the 81st Infantry Division was deployed to the Philippines to take part in mopping up operations on Leyte Island, and to prepare for the planned invasion of Japan. After the end of World War II, the 81st Infantry Division deployed to Aomori Prefecture in Japan as part of the Allied occupation force. The 81st Infantry Division was inactivated in Japan on 30 January 1946.[4]

In November 1947, the 81st Infantry Division was reconstituted in the Organized Reserve Corps (known as the United States Army Reserve after 1952) on 10 November 1947 with a headquarters at Atlanta, Georgia. Under War Department guidelines, the 81st was organized as a Class C unit with 60% of the authorized officer cadre, but no enlisted members. During the 1950s and 60s, the 81st Infantry Division was not called up for service during the Korean War or Berlin Crisis. As part of the 1962 reorganization of the Reserve Components under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the 81st Infantry Division was selected for inactivation, which occurred on 31 December 1965.[5]

World War I[edit]

  • Activated: September 1917. Camp Jackson, South Carolina.
  • Overseas: August 1918.
  • Major Operations: Meuse-Argonne, Alsace-Lorraine.
  • Casualties: Total-1,104 (KIA-195, WIA-909).
  • Commanders: Brig. Gen. Charles H. Barth (28 August 1917), Maj. Gen. Charles J. Bailey (8 October 1917), Brig. Gen. Charles H. Barth (24 November 1917), Brig. Gen. George W. McIver (28 December 1917), Maj. Gen. Charles J. Bailey (11 March 1918), Brig. Gen. George W. McIver (19 May 1918), Brig. Gen. Munroe McFarland (24 May 1918), Maj. Gen. Charles J. Bailey (30 May 1918), Brig. Gen. George W. McIver (9 June 1918), Maj. Gen. Charles J. Bailey (3 July 1918).
  • Inactivated at Hoboken, New Jersey on 11 June 1919.

World War II[edit]

  • Activated: 15 June 1942, Camp Rucker, Alabama.
  • Overseas: 3 July 1944.
  • Campaigns: Western Pacific, South Philippines.
  • Days of combat: 166.
  • Awards: DSC-7 ; DSM-2 ; SS-281; LM-7; SM-40 ; BSM-658 ; AM-15.
  • Commanders: Maj. Gen. Gustave H. Franke (June–August 1942), Maj. Gen. Paul J. Mueller (August 1942 to inactivation).
  • Inactivated: 30 January 1946 in Japan.

Combat chronicle[edit]

The 81st Infantry Division landed in Hawaii, 11 June-8 July 1944. The division minus RCT 323 invaded Angaur Island in the Palau group, as part of the Palau Islands campaign 17 September, and pushed through to the western shore in a quick movement, cutting the island in half. The enemy was driven into isolated pockets and mopping-up operations began on 20 September. RCT 321, attached to the 1st Marine Division, went into action on Peleliu Island in the Palaus and assisted in splitting defense forces and isolating them in mountainous areas in the central part of the island. The team aided in mopping up Ngesebus Island and capturing Kongauru and Garakayo Islands. RCT 323 under naval task force command occupied the Ulithi atoll, 21–23 September 1944. Elements of the team landed on Ngulu Atoll and destroyed enemy personnel and installations, 16 October, completing the outflanking of the enemy base at Yap. On 18 October, RCT 323 left to rejoin the 81st on Peleliu, which assumed command of all troops on that island and Angaur, 20 October 1944. Resistance was ended on Peleliu, 27 November. Between 4 November 1944 and 1 January 1945, the division seized Pulo Anna Island, Kyangel Atoll, and Pais Island. The 81st left in increments from 1 January to 8 February for New Caledonia for rehabilitation and training. The division arrived in Leyte on 17 May 1945, and after a period of training participated in mopping-up operations in the northwest part of the island, 21 July 1945 to 12 August 1945. After rest and training, the 81st moved to Japan, 18 September, and performed occupation duties in Aomori Prefecture until inactivation.[4]

The Story of the Wildcat[edit]

As the fighting divisions of the United States Army organized in 1917, commanders adopted nicknages and a distinctive insignia not only to foster esprit-des-corps but to help identify unit equipment and baggage. The 81st Division, manned mostly by Southern inductees, initially adopted the nickname "Stonewall Division" in honor of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. While at Camp Jackson, the men of the division trained alongside Wildcat Creek. Furthermore some of the more daring country boys trapped a Carolina wildcat near the creek, and adopted the snarling beast as the division mascot. Soon, the "Stonewall" nickname was forgotten, and the 81st Division adopted the wildcat for the division's insignia. The cat symbol and the motto "Obedience, Courage, Loyalty" were offically promulgated in General Order #16 of 24 May 1918.[6]

The 81st Division commander, Major General Charles J. Bailey, took the insignia concept a step further when he conceived of the idea of a distinctive shoulder patch for his men after he observed Allied troops wearing distinctive unit insignia. General Bailey canvassed his officers for thoughts on a divisional patch. Colonel Frank Halstead, commander of the 321st Infantry came up with the logical suggestion to continue with the wildcat symbol. Sergeant Dan Silverman, a soldier of the 321st headquarters with some artistic abilities, created several concept sketches. His final sketch showed the silhouette of a striking wildcat superimposed on a disk.[7]


 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Army Center of Military History document "The Army Almanac: A Book of Facts Concerning the Army of the United States U.S. Government Printing Office, 1950 reproduced".

  1. ^ a b "Special Unit Designations". United States Army Center of Military History. 21 April 2010. Archived from the original on 9 July 2010. Retrieved 9 July 2010. 
  2. ^ American Battle Monuments Commission (1944). 81st Division Summary of Operations in the World War. Washington D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. pp. 1–5, 9. 
  3. ^ 317th Military History Detachment. Wildcats Never Quit: A Brief History of the 81st Infantry Division and its Successor, the 81st US Army Reserve Command. East Point, Georgia: 317th Military History Detachment. pp. 4–7. 
  4. ^ a b No Author (1950). The Army Almanac: A Book of Facts Concerning the Army of the United States. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office. pp. 554–5. 
  5. ^ Crossland, Richard; Curry, James T. (1984). Twice the Citizen: A History of the United States Army Reserve, 1908-1983. Washington D.C.: Office of the Chief of the Army Reserve. pp. 159–160. 
  6. ^ Department of the Army (n.d.). Resume: Shoulder Sleeve Insignia 81st Infantry Division. Fort Belvoir, Virginia: Institute of Heraldry. 
  7. ^ No author (n.d.). 81st Regional Support Command History. Fort Jackson, South Carolina: 81st Regional Support Command. p. 2. 

See also[edit]