Nicknames of United States Army divisions

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Many Army divisions have over the years earned nicknames; some laudatory, some derogatory, but all colourful. Sometimes, the nicknames themselves have overshadowed the actual name of the division, e.g. the "Screaming Eagles" for the 101st Airborne Division.

Special designation[edit]

An official special designation is a "nickname granted to a military organization" which has been authorized by the Center of Military History and recognized through a certificate signed by the Secretary of the Army.[1]

A division's nickname may derive from numerous sources:

  • it may be inspired by the division's badge or insignia, such as the 1st Infantry Division's "Big Red One". On the other hand, some division's badges are actually suggested by the nickname, such as the "CY" patch of the "Cyclone Division" (38th Infantry Division);
  • it may derive from the place where the division was raised or trained (36th Infantry Division, "Texas"), or the places of origin of the division's soldiers (29th Infantry Division, "Blue and Gray", for northern and southern states);
  • it may be bestowed by the enemy in battle, such as the moniker "Red Devils", a nickname for the 5th Infantry Division "granted" by the Germans at the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, World War I;
  • it may be the pairing of an adjective (such as "Fighting") paired with the division's ordinal, such as "The Fighting First" for the 1st Infantry Division; or
  • it may defy accurate explanation (albeit not without numerous theories), such as the 9th Infantry Division, or "Old Reliables".

Active divisions are listed in boldface; no distinction has been made between regular Army divisions and those of the Army Reserve or National Guard. The origin of the nickname is noted where possible. In some cases, the nickname was officially adopted by the division in question; this is indicated along with date of adoption (where known). Official status might also be inferred by the presence of the nickname on official distinctive unit insignia or in official military source materials.

Airborne divisions[edit]

  • 11th Airborne Division – "The Angels"; possibly after their shoulder patch, a white-bordered red circle with a white numeral "11", with white wings rising obliquely from the circle, all on a royal blue field
  • 17th Airborne Division -- "Golden Talon"; taken from their shoulder patch.
  • 173d Airborne Brigade - "Sky Soldiers"; They received their official nickname (Tien Bien translates to Sky Soldiers) from the Taiwanese locals during exercises when they were parachuting in Taiwan. The 173rd was the only major conventional airborne operation (Operation Junction City….82 days) during Vietnam War.
  • 82nd Airborne Division – "All-Americans"; original members of the division in 1917 came from every state in the Union[2]
  • 101st Airborne Division – "The Screaming Eagles"; after their shoulder insignia, an American eagle's head on a black shield. During Vietnam, the nicknames "Puking Pigeons" and "One 'o Worst", a comment on their mode of transportation and a play on the official divisional name, were used. Both were used derogatorily by other soldiers, and were not used by the division itself. In addition, the Vietnamese called them the "Chicken Men" since they had never seen a Bald Eagle. Several regiments within the 101st were nicknamed "The Battered Bastards of Bastogne", due to their part in holding the important crossroads town during the Battle of the Bulge.

Armored divisions[edit]

Cavalry divisions[edit]

Infantry divisions[edit]

"The Big Red One" of the 1st Infantry Division.

See also[edit]