Society of the 9th Infantry Division

9th Infantry Division

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LEFT: Listing of units assigned to or working with the 9th Infantry Division - January-July 1969
RIGHT: Map of the 9th Infantry Division Area of Operation - January-July 1969

A Brief History of the 9th Infantry Division
(Copyright: Karl Lowe, 2003)

Courtesy of:

COL Karl Lowe (Ret), 6/31st - SONID (Society of the 9th Infantry Division) Historian and liaison to 9th ID Active Bases (1940 - 1991)

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World War I (1918-1919)
World War II & European Occupation (1940-1947)
Vietnam (1966-1970)
9th ID Campaign Credits
9th ID Decorations (shown only to Brigade level)
Medals of Honor
9th Infantry Division Duty Stations
9th ID Temporary Wartime Attached Units

“The Old Reliables”

The 9th Division was organized on July 5, 1918 at Camp Sheridan (Montgomery), Alabama.[1]  The 45th and 46th Infantry Regiments, formed a year earlier at Ft Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, were the first units to join the division, providing cadre for the 67th and 68th Infantry Regiments, respectively, to give the division it’s authorized “square” configuration.  The division soon blossomed as a plethora of support units were added.  At full strength (Figure 1), the division would total around 24,000 men.  The 9th expected to go to France when it reached full strength, but the war ended before it could get into the fight.  No longer needed, it was partially demobilized at Cp Sheridan on February 15, 1919 and Cp Sheridan was closed.  The 18th Infantry Brigade’s Headquarters Company and the 45th and 46th Infantry Regiments moved to other posts.[2]

Figure 1
9th Division (1918-1919)

Special Troops                                     Division Trains                                     9th Field Artillery Brigade   
HQ Company                                        HQ & MP Company                            HQ Battery                           
Field Signal Battalion                          Supply Train                                         25th FA Regiment (75mm)  
Engineer Regiment                               Ammunition Train                                26th FA Regiment (75mm)  
Heavy Machinegun Battalion            Engineer Train                                      27th FA Regiment (155mm)
                                             Sanitary Train                                       9th Trench Mortar Battery
2 Ambulance Companies   
2 Field Hospitals                 

 17th Infantry Brigade                            18th Infantry Brigade                  
HQ Company                                        HQ Company                  
45th Infantry Regiment                     
46th Infantry Regiment  
67th Infantry Regiment                        68th Infantry Regiment 
     25th Machinegun Battalion                 26th Machinegun Battalion

The 18th Infantry Brigade remained active throughout the interwar years, carrying on the 9th Division’s lineage.   In 1921, its headquarters moved to Ft Warren (Boston), Massachusetts.  Its components were stationed at small posts all over New England.[3]  Assigned to I Corps, the brigade’s primary mission was training units of the Reserve Officer Training Corps, the National Guard, and the Organized Reserve Corps in New England.  In the 1930s, it also gained responsibility for running Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps camps in New England.  Because it was recruited where Ivy League colleges were the center of attention, the 18th Brigade began referring to itself as “The Varsity”.  The name was allegedly adopted after the brigade’s rough and tumble football team beat Harvard in a 1927 exhibition game in Boston.  The name stuck well into the 1940s.

[1] The site is now Gunter Air Force Base, home of the Air Force NCO Academy. 
[2] The 45th and 46th Infantry were reassigned elsewhere in 1918.  The 45th was reduced to just its officer cadre and deployed to the Philippines in 1921 to become a Philippine Scout unit.  It distinguished itself at Bataan in 1942.  The 46th moved to Cp Travis, Texas and was inactivated there in 1921.  Neither regiment served with the 9th Division again. 
[3] The 5th Infantry Regiment was stationed at Ft Williams, Ft McKinley, and Ft Preble near Portland, Maine; the 13th Infantry Regiment was at Ft Strong and Ft Andrews on islands near Boston and at Ft Adams, in Newport, Rhode Island. The 9th Tank Company was subsequently formed at Ft Devens, near Ayer, Massachusetts and the 2d Battalion 25th FA was formed at Madison, Barracks, in upstate New York to give the brigade a fire support component.

Text Box: Figure 2
9th Division (1923-1940)

Special Troops			Division Trains		9th Field Artillery Brigade	
   HQ Company	   		   HQ & MP Company   	   HQ Battery		   
   9th Signal Battalion  		   Supply Train	   	   25th FA Regiment (2d Bn only)   
   18th Engineer Regiment	   	   Ammunition Train  	   26th FA Regiment   
   9th Tank Company		   Engineer Train	   	   27th FA Regiment 
   		  		   Sanitary Train	   	   	   
		   		   2 Ambulance Companies
		   		   2 Field Hospitals

		17th Infantry Brigade		18th Infantry Brigade		
		   HQ Company			   HQ Company
		   36th Infantry Regiment		   5th Infantry Regiment
		   37th Infantry Regiment		   13th Infantry Regiment
Note: Units in bold indicate those active during the interwar years.  All others were assigned at zero strength.
The 9th was restored to the rolls in 1923 (Figure 2), but it was a division only on paper, with most units assigned at zero strength.  The 18th Infantry Brigade remained its only active component.  When shoulder patches were made official throughout the Army that year, the 9th Division adopted the “octofoil”, which its soldiers have worn ever since.[4]  The octofoil is a 15th Century device denoting the ninth brother, a disc centered in a ring of eight foils (points), denoting the center’s protective older brothers.  The red foils on top symbolize the division’s artillery, the blue foils symbolize the division’s infantry foundation, the white disc in the center completes the national colors, and the olive drab background was color of the Army’s uniform.  
         In October 1939, the 18th Infantry Brigade deployed to Panama to help protect the Canal.  There were fears in Washington that Germany or Japan might try to grab the strategic waterway or seek to destroy it with a commando raid.  In its new assignment, the brigade had to tear off its octofoil shoulder patches and sew on the Panama Defense Command’s insignia.  For the first time since 1918 there was no longer an active component of the 9th Division.
[4] The division’s earlier unofficial shoulder patch, adopted at Cp Sheridan, was a shield with its top half red, bottom half blue, and a gold “9” in the center. 

Text Box: Figure 3

9th Infantry Division (1940-1947)

Division Troops			  Division Trains			Division Artillery	
   HQ & HQ Company	   	     HQ Company & Band   	   HQ & HQ Battery	   
   9th Signal Battalion  		     9th Quartermaster Company  	   26th FA Battalion (105mm)   
   15th Engineer Battalion	   	     709th Ordnance Company   	   34th FA Battalion (105mm)   
   9th Counterintelligence Detachment   9th Medical Battalion   	   	   60th FA Battalion (105mm)
   9th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop     9th Military Police Platoon	   84th FA Battalion (155mm)   
39th Infantry Regiment		47th Infantry Regiment		60th Infantry Regiment
   HQ & HQ Company		   same as 39th Infantry 	   	   same as 39th Infantry
   Cannon Company
   Service Company
   Antitank Company
   3 Infantry Battalions, each with:
        Headquarters Company
        3 Rifle Companies
        Heavy Weapons Company
On August 1, 1940, the 9th Division was reactivated at Ft Bragg, North Carolina.[5]  In contrast to its cumbersome World War I “square” configuration, the new 9th was organized as a streamlined “triangular” division, organized as shown in Figure 3.  Only the 26th Field Artillery could claim a historical link to the original 9th Division formed in 1918. 

The division underwent eight months of individual and unit training and a month-long division-scale exercise.  The “Varsity” completed its graduation exercise at Ft Bragg in April 1941 and became combat ready.  In October and November of that year, the division participated in the Carolina Maneuvers, followed by amphibious training on North Carolina’s outer banks, a chain of barrier islands along the Atlantic coast. 

  On August 1, 1942, the division moved to Ft Dix (Wrightstown), New Jersey to stage for overseas deployment.  Most expected the 9th to deploy to England, following the path of other divisions deployed earlier that year.  To their surprise, they were instead sent to North Africa to help throw the Germans and Italians off the continent.  Equally surprising, their opponents on the beaches of Algeria and Morocco were neither German nor Italian, but French.  After France was overrun in 1940, the French government had aligned itself with the Germans to retain some vestige of sovereignty.  Consequently, French troops stoutly opposed the allied landings.[6]
[5] The 36th and 37th Infantry Regiments were concurrently relieved from assignment without having seen a day of active service with the division.  The 18th Brigade in Panama was also relieved from assignment.
[6] France held a deep grudge against Britain, America’s partner in the North Africa landings, because Britain had bombed the French fleet at Mers el-Kbir, Algeria in 1940 to keep it from falling into German hands after France surrendered. 

The 9th did not initially operate as a division in North Africa.  Its 39th Infantry Regimental Combat Team (RCT)[7] landed in Algeria under the Eastern Task Force, while the 47th and 60th RCTs landed in French Morocco under the Western Task Force.  The 47th RCT took the Moroccan port of Safi, allowing elements of the 2d Armored Division to land unopposed and attack toward Casablanca.  The 60th RCT landed near the French garrison city of Port Lyautey, Morocco where it encountered tougher resistance.  Aided by naval gunfire, the 60th RCT took the nearby airfield on the first day, but it took two more days of hard fighting to take the city.  French resistance ceased on November 11, a date laden with irony since it was the anniversary of World War I’s end.  Troops that had just fought bitterly against Americans and the British, suddenly became allies against the Germans.  Trust would take longer to develop.

When the Germans were driven from Libya into Tunisia by the British Eighth Army in February 1943, the 9th Division moved over a thousand miles from the border of Spanish Morocco to join the fighting.  Its 60th RCT was attached to the 1st Armored Division on March 12 and took the important road junction of Sened Station nine days later.  The 9th Infantry Division fought as an entity for the first time on March 28, 1943.  Attacking from positions abandoned earlier by the 1st Infantry Division, it tried to open a path for the 1st Armored Division, but was repulsed with heavy losses.  A similar attempt to isolate and capture Hill 772, which dominated the area, also met with failure.  Finally, in a corps-level effort alongside the 1st Infantry Division, the 9th broke through German lines and established contact with advanced patrols of the British Eighth Army.  

On April 11, the 9th relieved the British 46th Infantry Division in northern Tunisia.  Reinforced by the French Corps d’Afrique, the 9th attacked along the Sedjenane Valley toward the port of Bizerte, through which German and Italian troops were trying to escape across the Mediterranean to Sicily.  The attack began from a string of hills west of Sedjenane on April 23 and ended on May 8 when the 47th RCT and the Corps d’ Afrique entered Bizerte.   The war in North Africa ended five days later when remnants of the Italian First Army surrendered to British forces near Tunis.  

For the 9th Infantry Division, the war in the Mediterranean was still not over.  The division landed at Licata, Sicily on September 15, 1943, five days after the initial allied landings to enter combat in northern Sicily on July 23.  Pushing itself to near exhaustion across a long string of hills just north of Mount Etna, the 9th Division outflanked the German 15th Panzer Grenadier Division, rendering its foe’s carefully-prepared defenses useless.  Its unexpected speed forced the Germans to evacuate Troina where they had held up the 1st Infantry Division for days.  The 9th then raced the US 1st and 3d Infantry Divisions and the British 78th Division toward the port of Messina where the Germans and Italians were struggling to evacuate their remaining forces across the Straits of Calabria to Italy.  After running out of passable roads in its sector, the 9th’s attack ended, but it had done its job admirably.  By October 17, the battle for Sicily was over.

A regimental combat team was formed around an infantry regiment (3 infantry battalions), reinforced by a field artillery battalion, a combat engineer company, and sometimes a tank battalion or tank destroyer battalion. 

After its well-executed offensive in northern Tunisia and its lightning dash across northern Sicily, the 9th was becoming known as one of the Army’s most reliable divisions.  Because of its performance, it was among the divisions selected for redeployment to England in preparation for the coming invasion of Europe.  It left Sicily on November 8, 1943, exactly a year after landing in North Africa, and reached England on November 25.

In England, the 9th was assigned to the US First Army and began preparing for the coming invasion of France.  After six months in England, it landed on France’s Normandy coast on June 10, 1944.  Following the path of the 4th Infantry Division, the 9th crossed Utah Beach and took the German gun positions dominating the beach head.  The 39th RCT, spearheading the attack, earned its nickname “anything, anywhere, any time--bar none” in hard fighting against German units that had held up the 82d Airborne and 4th Infantry Divisions for nearly a week. 

  With the 60th RCT in the lead, the 9th drove straight across the Cotentin Peninsula to isolate the port of Cherbourg, making a drive of 12 miles in two days, the farthest and fastest advance of any division in the campaign to date.  In the process, they destroyed the German 77th Division, killing its commander and 300 of his troops.   Turning north to Cherbourg, the 9th then helped capture the city and took the surrender of its garrison commander.  Ernie Pyle, the war’s most famous reporter, paid the division a compliment he rarely uttered, “The 9th Division is good.  In the Cherbourg campaign, it performed like a beautiful machine, not only in individual fighting, but in the perfect way that the whole organization clicked.  It kept tenaciously on the enemy’s neck.  When the Germans withdrew a little, the 9th was right on top of them.”  

  Lieutenant John E Butts, a platoon leader with E Company 60th Infantry, was hit and knocked off his feet by a burst of machinegun fire as he led his platoon in an assault on Cherbourg’s outskirts.  He got up, rallied his platoon, and sent a squad out to try to outflank the well protected German position.  Wounded severely, he held his stomach with one hand while leading a frontal assault against the town.  Wounded again, he dragged himself to within 10 feet of the enemy position before a third burst of fire killed him.  He had so completely dominated enemy attention that his flank squad was able to get safely behind the enemy position and destroy it.  Lieutenant Butts became the first member of the division to earn the Medal of Honor. 

  As the allied drive to break out of Normandy’s hedgerow-laced countryside faltered, the 9th was sent to help spearhead the breakout.  True to its reputation, the 9th did the deed, splitting apart German defenses near St Lo on July 10, 1944 to open the way for Patton’s tanks to dash into open country.    To trap the surviving Germans in Normandy,   the 9th attacked alongside the 1st Infantry and 3d Armored Divisions to link up with the British near Argentan.  Although most German troops escaped before the trap was sprung, they had to leave most of their artillery and armor behind, along with 50,000 men who couldn’t get out in time. 

  Lindsey Nelson, the famous sportswriter, served with the 9th’s public affairs office as a captain during the war.  He was asked by Colonel George Barth, the Division Chief of Staff, to help him find the division a new nickname.  “The Varsity” was OK in peacetime, but it just didn’t capture the division’s wartime spirit.  When Nelson saw a letter from Major General Clarence Heubner, the V Corps Commander, commending the division and calling its soldiers “The Old Reliables”, Nelson found what he was looking for.  Barth immediately put the word out and the name stuck. 

 After a brief rest, the 9th crossed the Seine River on August 27, driving north toward the Belgian border.  Belgium’s liberation began when a patrol of the 9th Reconnaissance Troop crossed the border near Charleroi at 1107 on September 2, 1944.  For the next 12 days, the division pushed across southern Belgium to the frontiers of Germany, crossing the border through an array of concrete barriers and bunkers with interlocking fire known as the Siegfried line.  It took five more days of hard fighting, but the 9th got through, exposing the southern approaches to the city of Aachen, the first German city to fall to the allies.  The 1st Infantry Division would have the honor of taking Aachen, but it was the 9th that opened the door. 

  In late September, the 9th entered the bloody Huertgen Forest, hoping to quickly take the dams on the Roer River and prevent the Germans from flooding the approaches to the Rhine.  Rain, fog, cold, mines, artillery, and ever-present German machinegun nests and snipers were constant companions as hand-to-hand battles raged for gains of only a few muddy yards of forest, only to have the Germans counterattack, canceling hard-won gains.  The Huertgen Forest was a meat grinder, inflicting 3836 casualties on the division in 23 days. Relieved by the 28th Infantry Division on October 16, unshaven, wet, miserable infantrymen of the 9th filed out of the forest looking more like refugees than the proud division they were.  A succession of American infantry divisions, the 9th, the 28th, and then the 4th would each suffer losses equivalent to a regiment in that hated patch of forest.  Many would curse Eisenhower for giving the Germans the opportunity to escape from France and occupy their fortified frontiers. 

  Throughout November, the division rested and replaced its losses, serving as the VII Corps’ reserve just north of the Ardennes Forest in Belgium.  Its location proved fateful.  When the Germans launched their offensive in early December, pushing the adjacent VIII Corps aside, the 9th was rushed into the line to help the newly-arrived 99th Infantry Division hold the shoulder of the penetration.  The 47th RCT led the way, gathering remnants of several units torn apart by the offensive and feeding them back into the line near the town of Monschau.  Digging into the snow-covered landscape alongside the 99th on Elsenborn Ridge, the 9th clung stubbornly to its positions, denying the Germans the roads they needed to widen the penetration and cross the Meuse.  Battling both the bitter cold and constant German attacks, the 9th held on throughout December and into January.  Determined not to repeat the hellish experience of the Huertgen Forest, service elements made winter camouflage uniforms, felt inner soles to keep men’s feet from freezing, toboggans to evacuate the wounded, snow plows to clear supply routes, and even raw wool liners to make foxholes less miserable.  The 9th was perhaps the best cared for division in the line, but the environment was still miserable. 

 On December 22, 1944, a platoon of E Company 39th Infantry, led by Technical Sergeant Peter J. Dellesondro, held a road junction under attack by a battalion of German paratroopers.  Their attack followed right on the heels of a nerve-shattering mortar and artillery concentration.  Dellesondro’s men, expecting their position to be overrun, began to abandon their positions under heavy fire but he managed to keep the platoon together by moving constantly up and down the line, shouting and shoving or dragging his terrified men back to their foxholes.  He worked his way to an exposed observation point to direct mortar fire against the Germans nearing his line.  His accurately placed fire stopped the Germans initially, but when the mortar fire lifted, they resumed their attack, concentrating their fire against Dellesondro’s prominent position.  When his rifle ran out of ammunition, he crawled 30 yards across open ground to reach a machinegun, which he fired until it jammed.  After clearing a jammed cartridge from the gun’s chamber, he fired another short burst to keep four Germans from killing one of his medics who was trying to give first aid to two wounded soldiers in a foxhole.   Again the gun jammed and became useless.  When his platoon was surrounded, he threw hand grenades until he ran out and then called in mortar fire on his own position, buying time for his company to block a further German advance.  He was captured but survived to be presented the Medal of Honor after the war. 

  By the end of January 1945, the Germans were in full retreat and the 9th was close on their heels, dashing through heavily forested terrain to capture the Roer River dams they had been denied several months earlier.  From there it was on to the Rhine, capturing Bonn and Bad Godesberg.  At Frenzerberg Castle overlooking the Rhine, K Company was having a difficult time rooting the Germans out.  Although the company captured two outbuildings and took 40 German paratroopers prisoner, only 35 of the 150 men who had begun the assault remained.  The castle’s thick gate barred further progress.  PFC Carl V. Sheridan, who had just joined the company as a replacement, grabbed a bazooka and 3 rounds of antitank ammunition and dashed through through a torrent of automatic weapons fire to reach a waist-high wall near the gate.   He calmly loaded, aimed and fired twice, splintering the gate, but it remained standing.  With only one round left, he stood directly in front of the gate and fired again, blasting the gate off its hinges.  He then threw down the bazooka, drew his pistol, and led a wild dash into the castle’s inner courtyard where he was killed soon after.  Sheridan was the second man in the division to earn the Medal of Honor posthumously[8].

Sheridan Kaserne, in Augsburg, Germany was named after him during Germany’s subsequent occupation.  Nelson Barracks at Neu Ulm was named after another of the 9th Division’s Medal of Honor winners, William L. Nelson of the 60th Infantry Regiment. 

Because all bridges across the Rhine had been blown but one, the First Army pressed its attack to capture the remaining bridge before the job got any harder.  Arriving just behind the 9th Armored Division, which captured the Ludendorff Bridge on March 7, the 9th Infantry Division surged across to widen the bridgehead.  For six days, it held the contested east bank of the Rhine, taking command of a small corps as an array of units from other divisions and corps troops crossed the river under the direction of the division’s 9th MP Company.  MPs steadfastly stood at their posts on the bridge without protection from steady German shellfire and air attacks.  When one MP went down, another took his place.  MPs forced drivers who tried to abandon their vehicles on the bridge during an air attack, to get back in their vehicles and continue driving.  In more than one case they had to do so at gunpoint, but they kept the convoys rolling. 

  In early April, the 9th cut the Frankfurt-Cologne highway and turned north to join in the First and Ninth Armies’ encirclement of the Ruhr Valley industrial basin.  55,000 German troops were captured in the ensuing fight.  The 9th then dashed on to capture Dessau on the Mulde River, holding the town from April 25 until the Russians arrived on May 7.  As Russians flooded in to occupy their assigned sector, the 9th moved to Bayreuth and Bamberg.  The 47th RCT was sent to Norway to help disarm the Germany Army there.  For the next year and a half, the 9th remained in southern Germany on occupation duty, serving alongside its partner and rival of many years, the 1st Infantry Division.  It was inactivated at Bad Toelz, Germany on January 15, 1947.

  During its time in combat, the 9th earned 8 campaign streamers and awards for valor from four countries, but it had paid the butcher’s bill in full.  4581 of its members were killed in action, 16,961 were wounded, and 750 were missing in action.   It was one of only six divisions in the Army to suffer more casualties than its authorized strength.   Five of the division’s soldiers earned the Medal of Honor[9], 66 earned the Distinguished Service Cross, and 1855 earned the Silver Star.  Lieutenant Colonel Matt “the ghost” Urban of the 2d Battalion 60th Infantry was second only to Lieutenant Audie Murphy as the most decorated soldier of World War II. He earned the Medal of Honor, 2 Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, 3 Bronze Stars, and 7 Purple Hearts.  His Purple Hearts, received for battle wounds, testify to the fact that Matt Urban earned every medal he got.    

Text Box: Figure 4
9th Infantry Division (1947-1957)

Division Troops			Division Trains			Division Artillery	
   HQ & HQ Company	   	   HQ Company & Band   	  	   HQ & HQ Battery	   
   9th Signal Battalion  		   9th Quartermaster Battalion  	   26th FA Battalion (105mm)   
   15th Engineer Battalion	   	   709th Ordnance Battalion   	   34th FA Battalion (105mm)   
   61st Tank Battalion		   9th Medical Battalion   	   	   60th FA Battalion (105mm)
   9th Reconnaissance Company   	   9th Military Police Company	   84th FA Battalion (155mm)
39th Infantry Regiment		47th Infantry Regiment		60th Infantry Regiment
   HQ & HQ Company		   same as 39th Infantry 	   	   same as 39th Infantry
   Heavy Mortar Company
   Service Company
   Tank Company
   3 Infantry Battalions
The “Old Reliables” remained inactive for only six months.  It was reactivated at Ft Dix, New Jersey on July 15, 1947.  Ft Dix was the division’s last stateside post before being shipped off to North Africa in 1942 and its first post when it returned.  Organized at cadre strength (Figure 4), the division’s mission was to conduct basic and advanced individual training for soldiers recruited in the northeastern states.  On May 25, 1954, the 69th Infantry Division assumed the training mission at Ft Dix and the 9th Division’s colors were sent to Germany, replacing the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 28th Infantry Division, which had relieved the 9th in the Huertgen Forest nearly a decade earlier. 

[9] They were Herschell F. Briles (899th Tank Destroyer Battalion), Peter J. Dellesondro (39th Infantry), William L. Nelson (60th Infantry), Carl V. Sheridan (47th Infantry), and Matt Urban (60th Infantry).  Briles’, Nelson’s, and Sheridan’s medals were presented posthumously. 

In August 1956, the 9th rotated to Ft Carson, Colorado under Operation Gyroscope.  The following year, it was reorganized under the “Pentomic” concept (Figure 5). The reconfigured 9th Infantry Division remained at Ft Carson until its inactivation on January 31, 1962. 

Text Box: Figure 5

9th Infantry Division (1957-1962)

Division Troops		Division Support Command        Division Artillery	
   HQ & HQ Company	   HQ Company & Band   	          HQ & HQ Battery	   
   9th Signal Battalion  	   9th Quartermaster Battalion      2d Battalion 4th FA (105/155mm)   
   15th Engineer Battalion	   709th Ordnance Battalion          1st Battalion 26th FA (105/155mm)   
   3d Battalion 68th Armor	   9th Medical Battalion   	          1st Battalion 34th FA (105/155mm)
   2d Squadron 9th Cavalry    9th Military Police Company     1st Battalion 60th FA (105/155mm)
   9th Aviation Company	   9th Administration Company    1st Battalion 84th FA (105/155mm)

1st Battle Group 39th Infantry	1st Battle Group 47th Infantry	1st Battle Group 60th Infantry
   HQ & HQ Company		   same as 1st BG 39th Infantry	   same as 1st BG 39th Infantry
   Combat Support Company
   Heavy Mortar Company
   5 Rifle Companies

		2d Battle Group 5th Infantry 	2d Battle Group 13th Infantry 
		   same as 1st BG 39th Infantry	   same as 1st BG 39th Infantry

For the next four years, the division’s colors remained furled, but when war came again, “the Old Reliables” returned to active service.  The division was reactivated at Ft Riley, Kansas on February 1, 1966.  On December 19, 1966, Major General George S. Eckhardt led the division ashore across the beach at Vung Tau, Vietnam.  He was met by General William C. Westmoreland, who had commanded an artillery battalion with the division in World War II and later became the division’s Chief of Staff and Commander of the 60th Infantry Regiment during the occupation of Germany. 


The division would operate initially from Bearcat Base (Camp Martin Cox), east of Saigon.  Its area of operations had been owned by the Viet Cong (VC) and their Viet Minh[10] predecessors since the early in the war of liberation against the French.  For the next four years, the octofoil shoulder patch would become a familiar sight around Saigon and along the labyrinth of waterways lacing the upper Mekong River Delta.  The division’s organization (Figure 6) reflected its unique mission.  The 1st and 3d Brigades each had two standard infantry battalions and a mechanized infantry battalion, while the 2d Brigade, with three standard infantry battalions, was organized for riverine operations, living and operating from ships and river patrol boats operated by the US Navy’s Task Force 117.

[10] The terms Viet Minh and Viet Cong derive from “Viet Nam Duc Lap Dong Minh Hoi” (Independence Party), Vietnam’s Communist (Cong San) Party.

Text Box: Figure 6
9th Infantry Division (1966-1969)

Division Troops		Division Support Command	Division Artillery	
   HQ & HQ Company	   HQ Company & Band   	  	   HQ & HQ Battery	   
   9th Signal Battalion  	   9th Supply & Transport Battalion     2d Battalion 4th FA (105mm)   
   15th Engineer Battalion	   709th Maintenance Battalion   	   1st Battalion 11th FA (105mm)   
   3d Squadron 5th Cavalry	   9th Medical Battalion   	   	   3d Battalion 34th FA (105mm
   9th Aviation Battalion	   9th Administration Company	   1st Battalion 84th FA (155mm) 
   9th Military Police Company
1st Brigade		       2d Brigade		               3d Brigade
   HQ & HQ Company	          HQ & HQ Company	    HQ & HQ Company	   
   2d Battalion 39th Infantry         3d Battalion 47th Infantry            3d Battalion 39th Infantry
   4th Battalion 39th Infantry         4th Battalion 47th Infantry            2d Battalion 60th Infantry 
   2d Battalion 47th Infantry         3d Battalion 60th Infantry            5th Battalion 60th Infantry
NOTE: Composition of the brigades changed frequently.  1-16th Inf temporarily replaced 5-60th Inf in October 1968 and 6-31st Inf joined the division in April 1968.

The division’s first combat operation of the war was Operation Colby, initiated on January 20, 1967 to drive the VC out of an area called the “Phuoc Chi Secret Zone”.  While a small operation, Colby heralded the division’s reach into an area of operations that was to expand to 7000 square miles.   Soon afterward, 3-5th Cav, the division’s armored cavalry squadron, participated in Operation Junction City, operating northeast of Saigon alongside the 1st and 25th Infantry Divisions and the 196th Light Infantry Brigade.   


In March, elements of the 3d Brigade fanned out across Long An Province, establishing fire support bases at Tan An (3d Bde HQ and HHB 2-4th FA), Tan Tru (2-60th Inf), Binh Phuoc (5-60th Inf), and Rach Kien (3-39th Inf).  The brigade’s first big fight occurred when a company of the 3-39th Infantry was attacked and overrun in its night defensive position at a road junction 4 km north of Rach Kien.  The brigade responded like a coiled snake the next day, attacking the VC 2d Long An Battalion in its base area along Doi Ma Creek, west of Rach Kien.  The enemy paid with the lives of 209 of its men. 

In May, the 2d Brigade conducted a riverine operation in eastern Long An Province near Ap Bac.  Soon after crossing a deep stream, A Company 3-47th Infantry ran into intense rifle and machinegun fire and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).  Soon every man in the lead squad was dead and several more were killed as they tried to save their buddies.  Most members of A Company were wounded.  Piling on any unit he could grab, Colonel William B. Fulton, the brigade commander, threw companies from three battalions into the fight.  By late afternoon, A and B Companies 3-60th, and C Company 5-60th Infantry had reinforced the 3-47th.  The ARVN 1st Battalion 46th Infantry (of the ARVN 25th Division) blocked the enemy’s escape route to the south.[11] The VC 514th Battalion would soon pay dearly for what it had started. 

By 1900, the counterattack, led by “Bandido Charlie” (C/5-60th Infantry), surged across the soggy paddies in armored personnel carriers while riflemen from five other rifle companies closed in on the nearby tree line.  During the ensuing fight, Sergeant Leonard Keller and Specialist Raymond R. Wright of A Company 3d Battalion 60th Infantry earned the Medal of Honor for their fierce two-man assault that knocked out a string of bunkers and a mortar position with rifles and hand grenades and then chased the VC out of an area where several men had been wounded.   The fighting was hand-to-hand throughout the tree line.  GIs wanted revenge for what had happened to their comrades back at the creek.  One man beat an enemy soldier to death with his steel helmet after his weapon jammed.  Another stabbed an enemy soldier to death under similar circumstances.  Nightfall brought the fighting to a close as surviving enemy troops slipped away.  In the end, 15 Americans and 181 VC had been killed. 

On September 14, it was 3-60th Infantry’s turn to get in trouble.  Moving by river patrol boat, the battalion advanced up the narrow Ba Rai Creek, a nipa[12]-lined tributary of the Mekong.  It was followed by 3-47th Infantry, also on boats.  The boats were spaced about 50 feet apart but in places the shore was 15 feet or less from the boat’s sides.  Suddenly at 0730, two RPGs struck the lead boat.  Four more RPGs soon followed, turning it into a floating wreck and killing two of its crew but its skipper stubbornly kept his boat in action.   Throughout the day, fighting raged all along the canal, with enemy fire coming from both banks of the creek.  Helicopter gunships, fighters, artillery, and Navy “Black Pony” attack aircraft added their fires to those of the well-armed patrol boats.   As the fight progressed, elements of four American infantry battalions piled into the swampy terrain by boat and helicopter to box the enemy in.  Aboard the boats, 7 men had been killed and 123 wounded.  As night fell, the enemy was more interested in slipping away than continuing the fight and by morning the battlefield’s stillness was broken only by the droning roar of river boats leaving the area. 

[11] This ARVN battalion operated routinely with the US 9th Division, something the ARVN 25th Division Commander, BG Truong Chinh, tolerated grudgingly.  The author of this short division history was the battalion’s senior advisor during the battle.
Nipa is a palm that grows profusely along the banks of rivers, streams, and canals throughout Southeast Asia.  It grows to a maximum height of only 10 feet, but its thick trunk, dense growth pattern, and deep roots make it a formidable defensive barrier, used extensively by the Viet Cong to shelter temporary base areas and weapons caches. 

On November 18, a battalion-size attack on an artillery fire support base near the vital road junction of Cai Lay sparked another bitter fight.  At 0200, enemy mortars were striking at a rate of about 3 per minute, keeping crews from servicing their weapons.  Seeing an enemy platoon forming to attack across an adjacent stream, PFC Sammy L. Davis, a cannoneer with C Battery, 2d Battalion 4th FA, grabbed a machinegun and sprayed the enemy to give his fellow crewmen time to recover and fire their howitzer. An enemy recoilless rifle round struck the weapon, disabling the entire crew and setting the position on fire.  Although stunned by the blast, Davis ran to the weapon alone, slammed a shell into the breech, and fired point blank at the enemy assault force.  The unstaked howitzer’s recoil sent Davis sprawling, but he got up and fired 4 more shells into the oncoming enemy force.  A mortar round struck 20 yards away, wounding Davis, but it did not stop him.  Adrenalin had taken control.  Davis grabbed an air mattress because he could not swim and paddled across the stream to rescue 3 wounded men stranded at an isolated observation post.  As the men escaped across the stream, Davis stood and fired his rifle into the tall grass surrounding the OP. Davis then returned to his gun position aboard the air mattress and joined another howitzer crew firing on the fleeing enemy.  For his exceptional courage and determination under fire, Davis was awarded the Medal of Honor.        

On January 10, 1968, a daylong fight broke out in Dinh Thuong Province when an airmobile assault by A Company 3-60th Infantry went sour.  Enemy rifles, machineguns, mortars and RPGs struck the company from three sides as it landed.  Within minutes, 30 men were down.  Aidman PFC Clarence E. Sasser disregarded his own safety and several painful wounds to dash back and forth through the fire to drag men to the protective cover of a paddy dike.  Even after both legs were immobilized by painful wounds, Sasser continued to crawl among the wounded to administer life-saving aid.  He continued his unrelenting effort for over five hours under continuing enemy fire. He was awarded the Medal of Honor. 

On January 30, 1968, the people of Vietnam were about to celebrate the lunar New Year, the country’s most important holiday.  Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army units had been moving into position around major South Vietnamese cities for over a month, however, and their support elements had stockpiled caches of ammunition near important places they were to attack.  The scale, focus, and intensity of the enemy’s attacks on Vietnam’s cities caught senior officials by surprise.  In the Saigon area, “the Old Reliables” seemed to be everywhere at once.  On the offensive’s first day, 2-47th Mechanized Infantry and 4-39th Infantry fought on the city’s northern approaches to protect part of the Army’s sprawling headquarters and support complex at Long Binh; 3-5th Cavalry fought at nearby Bien Hoa Air Base; and 5-60th Mechanized Infantry fought on the city’s west side at the Phu Tho race track. 

In the fighting at Long Binh, the VC had infiltrated and fortified the “widow’s village”, a complex of shacks adjacent to US II Field Force Headquarters.  The area was inhabited mainly by widows and families of dead ARVN[13] soldiers. When rockets and mortars began to rain down on II Field Force Headquarters from the “village” and a nearby wooded draw, 2-47th Mechanized Infantry was rushed in from the base’s southern perimeter.  Riding into a storm of RPG, mortar, and automatic weapons fire, the battalion became engaged in a fight it could not win alone.  More infantry would be needed to clear the labyrinth of well-prepared enemy fortifications.  In response, 4-39th Infantry arrived by helicopter, landing in a “hot LZ”, a term meaning the enemy controlled the landing zone and were firing on the helicopters as they landed to disgorge troops.  Supported by attack helicopters from Bien Hoa and other nearby bases, the two battalions launched a coordinated attack to clear the area.  By nightfall, over 200 enemy soldiers lay dead in the shattered ruins of the “widow’s village” and another 32 were captured.  Four Americans died in the action.

[13] ARVN is the American acronym for the South Vietnamese “Army of the Republic of Vietnam”.  The Vietnamese acronym is QDVNCH for “Quan Doi Viet Nam Cong Hoa”.

At Bien Hoa Air Base, 3-5th Armored Cavalry rushed onto the eastern end of the airfield and a nearby wooded area with all guns blazing.  The close-in fighting, like that at Long Binh, raged all day and into the night.  40 enemy soldiers and 3 members of 3-5th Cavalry had been killed by the time enemy troops were driven off the airfield.  At the French military cemetery[14] near the Phu Tho race track, 5-60th Mechanized Infantry encountered snipers in the trees and a line of hasty earthen bunkers from which the interlocking fires of a VC battalion protected a rocket and mortar unit located in the courtyards of nearby buildings.  Heavy fighting continued all day and all night, tapering off into sporadic outbursts for the next four days as trapped enemy troops tried to fight their way out of the city.  125 of them died trying.  On the city’s southern edge, elements of the 3d Brigade retook Cholon District and fought their way up the city’s east side along the Saigon River. 

In Kien Hoa Province at edge of the Mekong Delta, an enemy battalion overran the provincial capital of Ben Tre, driving government officials and advisors into a walled compound in the city’s center.  Their desperate call for help brought 3-39th Infantry into the center of town in a daring air assault while 2-60th Infantry fought house-to-house from the city’s east side and 2-39th Infantry fought its way in from the southwest.  Two battalions of the ARVN 7th Division closed in from the north, their American advisors coordinating their fires and maneuver with adjacent US units. 160 enemy troops and 11 Americans died in fighting that lasted three days and left Ben Tre utterly destroyed.  It was not a satisfying victory. 

3-5th Armored Cavalry was again in action on 2-3 February, 1968 when the Viet Cong besieged a police station and provincial government compound at Xuan Loc, northeast of Saigon.  Enemy RPGs and automatic weapons fire lashed out from both sides of the city’s main street as 3-5th Cavalry charged in on armored personnel carriers, but the cavalrymen were able to rescue the trapped policemen and helped the ARVN 18th Division secure the government complex.  The fighting did not end there, but continued for two more days in a nearby rubber plantation. 

At My Tho, the capital of Dinh Thuong Province and one of the Delta’s largest cities, infantrymen of the Mobile Riverine Force stormed ashore to help the ARVN 7th Division retake the city.  The Viet Cong 261st, 263d, and 514th Main Force Battalions fought hard to hold onto the city but were driven out by determined “Old Reliables” of the 3-47th and 3-60th Infantry blasting their way through walls and down alleyways to break up the enemy’s cohesion.  To care for civilian casualties, Lieutenant Colonel Travis Blackwell, the 9th Division Surgeon, flew into the city’s center with a surgical team to help man the city hospital’s four operating suites.  Because the hospital was too crowded, Blackwell established an operating area in a protected street where he performed 35 operations on the battle’s first day alone.  Under fire for three days, Army doctors and nurses took care of the injured around the clock with no time to rest.

[14] The well-maintained cemetery was the final resting place for French soldiers and French Foreign Legionnaires who died in the 1946-1954 war against the Communist Viet Minh, the Viet Cong’s predecessors. 

By February 4, the ARVN 21st Division had lost control of the important delta city of Vinh Long where the VC 306th and 857th Battalions had been on the offensive since the night of January 31.   Troops of the 2d Brigade were rushed by boats and helicopters from the fighting at My Tho to help retake Vinh Long.   After driving the VC out of the city on February 5, infantrymen of the 2d Brigade, backed by Navy “monitor” river boats and Army attack helicopters, pursued the retreating enemy along the nipa-lined Ba Moi canal.  In its attempt to cover the withdrawal of the 306th Main Force Battalion, the VC 857th Local Force Battalion was nearly destroyed.  

The following day, B Company 3-60th Infantry was ambushed aboard river boats patrolling a stream thought to be one of the VC escape routes from Vinh Long.  As riflemen struggled through the dense nipa growth to drive the ambushers out, an 8-man squad of B Company was cut off under heavy fire.   When an enemy hand grenade landed in the squad’s midst, PFC Thomas J. Kinsman threw himself on the grenade to save his comrades.  Although severely wounded in the head and chest, Kinsman miraculously survived the blast.  For his act of selflessness, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. 

On an operation south of Saigon on March 17, 1968, B Company 4-39th Inf encountered heavy fire from enemy bunkers dug into a nipa-lined stream.  One man was killed and 3 were wounded in the initial outburst of fire.  Specialist Edward A DeVore, Jr rushed forward to cover the evacuation of the wounded with his machinegun.  Recognizing the wounded men’s situation was nearly hopeless unless someone could quell the enemy fire, he assaulted the enemy position, firing his machinegun from the hip as he rushed forward across open ground.  Hit in the shoulder and knocked off his feet just 35 meters from the enemy, DeVore got back up and continued firing, drawing all enemy fire unto himself as his comrades evacuated the three wounded men.   He was killed just moments later.  For his selfless act of extraordinary valor, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. 

On May 7, 1968, the VC made a second attempt to take Saigon, although a weaker attempt than the Tet Offensive in February.  Enemy action was centered on the predominantly Chinese district of Cholon at the city’s southeastern edge.  After taking the Y Bridge over the Kinh Doi Canal, a VC/NVA regiment established itself in houses overlooking the bridge and adjacent areas along the canal.  2-47th Mechanized Infantry, reinforced by the newly-arrived B Company 6-31st Infantry[15], retook one side of the bridge and drove the enemy into a cement factory where an ARVN Ranger Battalion scaled the surrounding walls and fought its way into the center with support from US helicopter gunships.  Meanwhile, south of the city, 3-39th Infantry and ARVN 3d Battalion 46th Infantry turned back an attempt to reinforce the VC unit trapped in Cholon.   Along the Kinh Doi Canal defining the city’s southern edge, the rest of the 6-31st Infantry landed by helicopter under intense fire.  Firing into houses lining the canal, the battalion turned west along the perimeter road to secure two smaller bridges across which the enemy might try to escape.

[15] 6-31st Infantry was formed at Ft Lewis in November 1967 to join its sister battalion in the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, then part of the Americal Division in Vietnam’s northern coastal highlands.  It was diverted enroute to Vietnam to bolster the over-extended 9th Division, which had elements fighting in at least 8 Vietnamese provinces during and after Tet of 1968.

At 6:00 the next morning, the 6-31st Infantry responded to an enemy attack on an ARVN Regional Force outpost at the city’s edge while 3-39th Infantry entered an adjacent part of the city where the enemy had prepared hasty bunkers to block alleyways the night before.  The fighting raged until 7:30 that evening.  Supported by artillery, attack helicopters, and 2-47th Infantry’s APCs, companies from the 3 US battalions and ARVN troops drove the enemy out block by block in some of the war’s most desperate fighting.  Knowing they could not escape, the VC fought like cornered rats.  Over 1000 of them died, as did 50 members of the 9th Division and an unknown number of ARVN troops.  Civilian casualties in Cholon are also unknown, but must have numbered several thousand dead and wounded. 

On May 14, 1968, 3 VC were ambushed by a rifle squad of the 4-47th Infantry in Kien Hoa Province.  Two of the VC were killed instantly, but a third threw a grenade at the squad to cover his escape.  PFC James W. Fous leaped on the grenade to save his comrades.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor for sacrificing his own life to save others. 

On June 1, 1968, the action shifted to the Plain of Reeds, a watery grassland forming a triangle between the Vam Co Tay (Oriental) and Vam Co Dong (Occidental) Rivers and the Cambodian border.  The VC and NVA used the area as an infiltration corridor and established rest and resupply camps along the wooded riverbanks and several canals built by the French to allow the area to be inhabited—it never was.  There enemy units were trying to regroup after the disasters that befell them during the Tet Offensive.   C Company 2-39th Infantry was the first unit to air assault into the vicinity of a suspected base camp.   The VC let the helicopters land, disembark the troops, and depart before they struck.  As the UH-1H “Hueys” and AH-G “Cobra” gunships departed, the VC cut loose with everything they had from a complex of bunkers concealed in bramble thickets and grass that was up to 8 feet tall in places.  Enemy fire came from so close that there was no possibility of engaging the enemy with artillery and helicopter gunships.  The best C Company could do is hug the earth in the tall grass, and hope the enemy fire would pass harmlessly over their heads.  Many were not so lucky, cut down in the opening fusillade of fire. 

A Company 2-39th Infantry and two companies of 2-60th Infantry were lifted into the area to relieve the pressure on C/2-39th.  Each of the companies ran into more bunkers, precipitating a succession of hot firefights at close range.  Where feasible, artillery and Cobra gunships from 7-1st Air Cavalry were brought in to pound the area.  Despite the odds, the enemy slipped away during the night.  A sweep of the area in the morning revealed upward of 300 bunkers, 41 enemy dead, numerous weapons, and blood trails through the grass to the south.  To keep the pressure on Colonel Henry E. Emerson, the 1st Brigade’s Commander, airlifted A Company 2-39th Infantry into an area along a wooded canal where he suspected the enemy might have fled.  He was right.  As A Company moved toward the treeline, it came under heavy fire, killing its commander and several others.  Air strikes, gunships, and artillery pounded the area while Emerson landed company after company into the surrounding area to box the enemy in.  A, B, and C Companies 2-60th Infantry, A and C Companies 2-39th Infantry, and C Company 4-47th Infantry were inserted to form a tight perimeter.  A border ranger unit from Duc Hue Special Forces Camp covered the canal’s opposite bank.  In 4 days of hard fighting, 228 enemy soldiers and 36 Americans were killed.  It had been a lopsided but costly victory for the 1st Brigade. 

On December 29, 1968, an ambush patrol sent out by B Company 2-39th Infantry ran into a VC force on the move.  After routing the enemy, the patrol set up an ambush along a paddy dike, expecting the enemy to return.  They returned just after midnight, throwing several grenades to mask their location.  One grenade wounded two Americans and a second landed near a cluster of 4 soldiers that included PFC David P. Nash.  Instead of rolling away to safety, Nash shouted a warning and jumped toward the grenade, intending to throw it back.  His body took the full force of the explosion, killing him instantly, but saving the lives of his comrades.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his selfless act of courage. 

On January 6, 1969, A Company 2-39th Infantry again ran into trouble when it ran into a bunker complex in Kien Phong Province.  Caught in a crossfire, the company became pinned down.  Staff Sergeant Don J. Jenkins grabbed a machinegun from its dead gunner and crawled forward to try to relieve the pressure.  When the gun jammed, he grabbed a rifle and continued to fire into enemy bunkers from an exposed position.  When another soldier cleared the machinegun’s stoppage, Jenkins fired the weapon until it ran out of ammunition.  Repeatedly he crossed open ground to get more ammunition and return to the gun.  When he was unable to find more ammunition, he collected two antitank weapons and fired them into enemy bunkers from a distance of only 20 yards.  Although wounded, he then took up a 40mm grenade launcher and pumped round after round into other bunkers within his field of vision, relieving the pressure on his sector.  Seeing that 3 wounded men were laying in the open under enemy fire, he rushed forward again and again, dragging or carrying them to safety.  Jenkins’ inspirational leadership and repeated feats of courage rallied his platoon and earned him the Medal of Honor. 

Between January and April 1969, the 9th Division was in almost constant combat, working the paddies, canals, rivers, and swamps of the northern Delta, fertile Long An Province, and the Plain of Reeds to thwart a third enemy attempt to attack Saigon.  Although exact results are hard to determine in battles fought mostly in densely foliated terrain or at night, but it is certain that the VC failed to invade Saigon again.  Estimated enemy casualties ranged between 8000 and 9000, a disastrous blow to the VC who had already suffered heavily the year before. 

In June 1969, it was announced that the 9th Infantry Division would be the first unit withdrawn under President Nixon’s Vietnamization program, turning the war in the Delta over to ARVN forces who had grown steadily stronger over the years they had operated alongside the 9th.  Elements of the division began departing in July and the division was officially inactivated at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii on September 25, 1969.  When it passed from the active rolls, the 9th had served in combat on three continents, had been in battle for nearly seven years, had earned 6 foreign awards, and its members had earned 15 Medals of Honor (5 in World War II and 10 in Vietnam). 

But not all of the division was included in the inactivation.  As in 1918, part of the division remained active.  The 3d Brigade remained in Long An Province to shield Saigon’s southern approaches.  Its components included the 6th Battalion 31st Infantry, 2d Battalion (Mechanized) 47th Infantry, 2d Battalion 60th Infantry, 5th Battalion 60th Infantry, 2d Battalion 4th Field Artillery, 99th Support Battalion, D Troop (Air) 5th Cavalry, E Company 75th Ranger Infantry, and the 118th Assault Helicopter Company.  The brigade’s robust organization was also a test of a new separate brigade concept. 

Because of the intense fighting in the 9th’s area of responsibility in 1968 and 1968, things were fairly quiet in the northern Delta and Long An Province in 1970, but there were always an occasional encounter with an enemy squad or platoon and constant encounters with booby traps to keep the “Go Devils” of the 3d Brigade on their toes.   Elements of the brigade moved from Long An Province into the pineapple fields of Hau Nghia Province on Saigon’s western approaches.  Throughout its remaining tour, the 3d Brigde operated under the control of the US 25th Infantry Division, headquartered at the sprawling Cu Chi base camp in the northwestern part of Hau Nghia.  In April 1970, ARVN troops invaded enemy base areas in Cambodia that had long been a safe haven for the Viet Cong.  The offensive was prompted by a favorable change in Cambodia’s government and the brutal slaughter of ethnic Vietnamese in several Cambodian cities.

It was not long before the 3d Brigade went into action in support of the Vietnamese, but it would not fight as a brigade.  2-47th Mechanized Infantry and 5-60th Infantry were detached to the 1st Cavalry Division, which crossed the border from Tay Ninh Province to invade a huge base area near the Snuol Rubber Plantation.  2-60th Infantry was detached to the US 25th Infantry Division in its drive along the long-closed Highway 1 linking the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh with Saigon.  Only 6-31st Infantry remained under 3d Brigade control, attacking across the Plain of Reeds to seize the Ba Thu base area and pursue retreating enemy units toward the Cambodian Provincial capital of Svay Rieng.  In a series of sharp firefights in and around towns with nearly unpronounceable names, the “Polar Bears”[16] of the 6-31st acquitted themselves well, pushing to within a few miles of Svay Rieng before President Nixon announced for political reasons that no American troops would advance more than 21.7 miles into Cambodia.  We were already at the limit and in some cases just beyond.[17]

[16] The 31st Infantry served in Siberia from 1918 to 1920, earning it the nickname “Polar Bears”, a name that stuck, no matter whether its battalions fought in the frozen hills of North Korea or the tropics of Vietnam. 
[17] On his second tour in Vietnam, the author served with 6-31st Infantry during the period described. 

At Chantrea, a district capital, Companies A, B, and D of the Polar Bear battalion engaged an enemy battalion dug into the town.  Each company took losses as it landed and attempted to rush the woodline defining the town’s straight edges.  Each landing was met with 81mm mortar, RPG, and .51 caliber heavy machinegun fire, added to intense 7.62mm machinegun and automatic rifle fire.  At least one helicopter was lost on the landing zone and several others were severely damaged, but the tough UH-1 “Huey” assault helicopters continued delivering riflemen into fire-swept landing zones, oblivious to the risks involved. 

After 3 days and 2 nights of constant see-saw battles, countless attack helicopter and air strikes, and so heavy a pounding by artillery that C Battery 2-4th FA ran out of ammunition, the battlefield became quiet.  By the morning of May 10, 159 enemy soldiers lay dead in the open, in bunkers, or in destroyed buildings throughout the city.  Six “Polar Bear” soldiers had been killed, all on the battle’s first day.  The battle was over in Chantrea but some of the enemy battalion had slipped out to the west.  D Company pursued the survivors to nearby Thnaot where another day-long battle ensued. 

Fighting at close quarters amid a previously prepared network of bunkers and trenches arrayed in depth throughout the town, D Company’s 2d and 3d Platoons fought tenaciously.  Their assault, conducted beyond the range of supporting artillery, quickly got inside the enemy’s minimum mortar range and began taking apart the enemy’s defenses by clearing out one cluster of 6-8 interlocking bunkers at a time.  Rifles, rockets, and grenades flew back and forth in nearly every courtyard and open space in the town’s southern and eastern quadrants and the company pressed its attack.  Specialist Dennis K. Walker and PFC Daniel Wood each earned the Distinguished Service Cross for their determined and successful two-man rifle and hand grenade assault to rescue a pinned down squad.  Five other members of the company earned the Silver Star that day (two posthumously) for acts of courage in destroying a numerically superior force in prepared positions. In late afternoon, a spread of folding fin aerial rockets delivered by a pair of Cobra gunships, followed by a napalm strike by an Air Force F-4C Phantom knocked out the enemy’s remaining heavy weapons but sporadic fighting continued into the night.  Rather than continue the fight another day, the enemy withdrew to the northwest around midnight, covering its withdrawal with a final weak outburst of green tracers and RPGs splitting the darkness all along the line.

On May 12, President Nixon, again appeasing vocal political opposition, announced that he was withdrawing 2 US divisions from the fighting in Cambodia—the 4th and 9th Infantry Divisions.  It was probably clear to no one that the 9th’s withdrawal amounted to only a single battalion task force.  Other battalions of the 3d Brigade remained in Cambodia for another month or more with the 1st Cavalry and 25th Infantry Divisions. 

After the Cambodia campaign, sporadic firefights resumed in Long An and Hau Nghia Provinces as VC elements tried to resurrect their shattered political and military infrastructure.   In October, it was announced that the rest of the 9th Infantry Division was going home.  The 3d Brigade turned over its bases to the ARVN 25th Division and assembled at Di An, the old 1st Infantry Division base camp, for departure.  Many members who had not yet completed their full year-long tour of duty would be sent to other divisions throughout Vietnam, but the colors would go to Ft Lewis, Washington for inactivation on October 13, 1970.  For the first time in 4 years, there were no longer any active units wearing the octofoil patch. 

Text Box: Figure 7
9th Infantry Division (1972-1982)

Division Troops		Division Support Command	Division Artillery	
   HQ & HQ Company	   HQ Company & Band   	  	   HQ & HQ Battery	   
   9th Signal Battalion  	   9th Supply & Transport Battalion     2d Battalion 4th FA (105mm)   
   15th Engineer Battalion	   709th Maintenance Battalion   	   1st Battalion 11th FA (105mm)   
   3d Squadron 5th Cavalry	   9th Medical Battalion   	   	   3d Battalion 34th FA (105mm
   9th Aviation Battalion	   9th Administration Company	   1st Battalion 84th FA (155mm)	                   9th MI Battalion	   9th Military Police Company	   C Battery 26th FA (Target Acq)	   	   				                  
1st Brigade		       2d Brigade		               3d Brigade
   HQ & HQ Company	          HQ & HQ Company	    HQ & HQ Company	   
   2d Battalion 39th Infantry         2d Battalion 47th Infantry            2d Battalion 60th Infantry
   3d Battalion 39th Infantry         3d Battalion 47th Infantry            3d Battalion 60th Infantry 
   2d Battalion 1st Infantry           2d Battalion 2d Infantry              1st Battalion 77th Armor
General Creighton Abrams, appointed the Army’s Chief of Staff after the war, set out to rebuild the Army from its post-war low of 13 divisions and make it ready again to fight if called on.  The first division he reactivated was the 9th Infantry Division, unfurling its colors at Ft Lewis on April 21, 1972.  The division’s maneuver structure was initially more conventional than when it went to Vietnam in 1967.  Because the traditional hosts of some of the Army’s oldest regiments were no longer active, battalions of the 1st and 2d Infantry and 77th Armor replaced the 4th Battalions of the 39th and 47th Infantry and the 5th Battalion 60th Infantry.  6-31st Infantry was reactivated as part of the 7th Infantry Division at Ft Ord the following year and later moved to Ft Irwin, California where it became the infantry component of the National Training Center’s Opposing Force.  Most other elements of the division were initially the same as those that had served with the division in Vietnam. 

In 1982, the 9th Division was converted from a standard infantry division to an operational test bed or field laboratory to explore new equipment, tactics, and organizations.  Funding problems hobbled the effort from the start.  Although the Army Staff was able to overcome some of the resulting acquisition problems, legal obstacles to off-the-shelf acquisition limited the division’s usefulness as a test bed.  Moreover, the division was a hybrid that no single branch school would champion as its own, leading to lower priority status.  By 1988, budget cuts forced the elimination of the division’s 2d Brigade.  In its place the 9th incorporated the Washington National Guard’s 81st Mechanized Infantry Brigade.  The reorganization gave the division 2 light infantry battalions, 2 mechanized infantry battalions, three tank battalions, and four motorized combined arms battalions (each with 2 rifle companies and an antitank company).  Although aspects of the new structure would shape the thinking of a future generation of leaders, the division lasted only 3 more years.  It was inactivated at Ft Lewis on December 15, 1991. 

Campaign Credits

World War II                                       Vietnam
Algeria-French Morocco                      Counteroffensive, Phase II
Tunisia                                                  Counteroffensive, Phase III
Sicily                                                    Tet Counteroffensive
Normandy                                            Counteroffensive, Phase IV
Northern France                                   Counteroffensive, Phase V
Rhineland                                             Counteroffensive, Phase VI
Ardennes-Alsace                                  Tet 1969 Counteroffensive
Central Europe                                     Summer-Fall 1969
                                                            Winter-Spring 1969 (3d Brigade only)
                                                            Winter-Spring 1970 (3d Brigade only)
                                                            Sanctuary Counteroffensive (3d Brigade only)
                                                            Counteroffensive, Phase VII (3d Brigade only)


Decorations (shown only to brigade level):

Belgian Fourragere
Belgian Army Order of the Day for action at the Meuse River
Belgian Army Order of the Day for action in the Ardennes
Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm 1966-1968
Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm 1969
Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal 1st Class 1966-1969
Presidential Unit Citation DINH THUONG PROVINCE (1st Bde only)
Presidential Unit Citation MEKONG DELTA (2d Bde only)
Valorous Unit Award BEN TRE (3d Bde only)
Valorous Unit Award SAIGON (3d Bde only)

Medals of Honor (** indicates posthumous awards):

World War II:

      ·         Herschel F. Briles**, C Co 899th Tk Dest Bn
·         2LT John E Butts, E Co 2d Bn 60th Inf, near Cherbourg, France, 19 Jun 1944
·         T/Sgt Peter J. Dellesondro, E Co 2d Bn 39th Inf, near Monschau, Germany, 22 Dec 1944
·         William L. Nelson**, 60th Inf,
·         Carl V. Sheridan**, K Co, 3d Bn 47th Inf, near Aachen, Germany, 26 Nov 1944
·         LTC Matt Urban, HQ 2d Bn 60th Inf, Normandy, France, 17 Jun 1944


      ·         SGT Sammy L. Davis, C Btry 2d Bn 4th FA, near Cai Lay, Dinh Thuong Province,18 Nov 1967
·         SP4 Edward A. Devore**, B Co 4th Bn 47th Inf, Gia Dinh Province, 17 Mar 1968
·         PFC James W. Fous**, E Co 4th Bn 47th Inf, Kien Hoa Province, 14 May 1968
·         SSG Don J. Jenkins, A Co 2d Bn 39th Inf, Kien Phong Province, 6 Jan 1969
·         SGT Leonard B. Keller, A Co 3d Bn 60th Inf, Ap Bac, Long An Province, 2 May 1967
·         SP4 Thomas J. Kinsman, B Co 3d Bn 60th Inf, Vinh Long, Vinh Binh Province, 6 Feb 1968
·         SP4 George C. Lang, A Co 4th Bn 47th Inf, Kien Hoa Province, 22 Feb 1969
·        PFC David P. Nash**, B Co 2d Bn 39th Inf, Giao Duc, Dinh Thuong Province, 29 Dec 1968
·         PFC Clarence E. Sasser, HHC 3d Bn 60th Inf, Dinh Thuong Province, 10 Jan 1968
·         SP4 Raymond R. Wright, A Co 3d Bn 60th Inf, Ap Bac, Long An Province, 2 May 1967


9th Infantry Division Duty Stations:

      ·         1918-1919               Cp Sheridan, Alabama
·         1940-1942               Ft Bragg, North Carolina; Ft Dix, New Jersey
·         1942-43                  French Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Sicily (Combat Service)
·         1943-44                  England
·         1944-45                  France, Belgium, Germany (Combat Service)
·         1945-47                  Germany (Occupation)
·         1947-54                  Ft Dix, New Jersey
·         1954-56                  Germany (Occupation and NATO Service)
·         1956-62                  Ft Carson, Colorado
·         1966                       Ft Riley, Kansas
·         1967-70                  Vietnam (Combat Service)
·         1972-91                  Ft Lewis, Washington

Temporary Wartime Attachments:

World War II:

      ·         746th Tank Battalion                                                13 Jun 1944-10 Jul 1945
·         629th Tank Destroyer Battalion                                 16-25 Aug 1944)
·         899th Tank Destroyer Battalion                                 19 Jun-24 Jul 1944
·         376th AAA Automatic Weapons Battalion                 13 Jun 1944-26 May 1945
·         413th AAA Gun Battalion                                         20 Dec 1945-3 Jan 1945


      ·         H Battery 29th Artillery (Searchlight)                        24 Mar 1967-1 Jun 1969
·         6th Battalion 77th Field Artillery (105mm)                   20 Jul 1968-15 Jul 1969
·         214th Combat Aviation Battalion                               15 Jan 1967-15 Jul 1969
·         39th Cavalry Platoon (Air Cushion Vehicle)               1 May 1968-30 Sep 1970
·         1st Battalion 16th Infantry                                         1-31 Oct 1968
·         E Company 50th Infantry (Long Range Patrol)          20 Dec 1967-1 Feb 1969           
·         E Company 75th Infantry (Ranger)                           1 Feb 1969-12 Oct 1970
·         43d Infantry Platoon (Scout Dog)                             19 Aug 1967-1 Jun 1969
·         45th Infantry Platoon (Scout Dog)                             19 Aug 1967-12 Oct 1970
·         65th Infantry Platoon (Combat Tracker)                    15 Feb 1968-15 Jul 1969
·         335th Army Security Agency Company                     12 Jan 1967-31 Jul 1969

NOTE: Many other units supported the 9th Infantry Division in combat, but were neither attached nor assigned to the division.  The above listing reflects only those units that were officially attached.

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