In a prominent location on Constitution Avenue, just off The Ellipse, and only a couple blocks from the White House, is the U.S. Second Infantry Division memorial.
The massive marble and flaming gold sword is dedicated to the “Indian Head” soldiers who fought in World Wars I and II, in Korea and during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
With nearly 15,000 combat-related deaths throughout its 90-year history, the Second Division has sadly suffered more losses than any other U.S. fighting division.
The U.S. Second Infantry Division first saw action near Verdun, France, in its first taste of combat in World War I, during March of 1918.
The division was formed the year before in France and was composed of one brigade each of U.S. Infantry and U.S. Marines, along with an artillery brigade, and other supporting units. The new “Indian Head” or “Warrior” Division was only time in U.S. military history when Marine Corps officers commanded an Army Division.
After spending the winter of 1917 training with experienced French Army trench fighters, and being deemed unfit for battle by the French, the unit was thrown into battle to help stop the German’s advance toward Paris. The Division quickly proved itself and continued to contribute to the allied victories until the armistice was signed on November 11th, 1918, ending the War to End All Wars.
The Normandy invasion during WW-II was the Warrior’s next major assignment. As an element in Operation Overlord, the Second Division was assigned to land on bloody Omaha Beach and to move inland, fighting the Germans among the Normandy hedgerows.
Later in war, the Second Division also battled in Belgium and during the Battle of the Bulge. Transferred to Patton’s Third Amy, the Warriors finished the war rolling across Czechoslovakia to meet up with Soviet troops. En route, they liberated a sub-camp which was part of the infamous Buchenwald concentration camp.
In 1950, the 2nd Infantry Division was transferred to fight in Korea. In their first action, a massive North Koreans attack required that cooks, clerks and other rear echelon personnel join in the 16-day fight against a massive Korean attack by North Korean forces.
To replace losses, in August of 1950, the Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (KATUSA) program was implemented. The program recruited Korean soldiers into the Division. The unit continued to fight in Korea, including halting the advance of Chinese troops coming out of Manchuria toward the end of the war.
Before being redeployed back to the U.S. in 1954, the Division participating in the now-famous battles at Bloody Ridge (2,700 U.N. troops and an estimated 15,000 communist troops were killed), Heart Break Ridge (3,700 American and French casualties with an estimated 25,000 North Korean and Chinese killed), and the Battle of Old Baldy.
In 1958, after a brief deactivation, the unit was again activated and from 1965 until 1991, the soldiers of the 2nd Infantry patrolled and occasionally fought North Korean troops along the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea.
The “Warriors” remain stationed in South Korea to this day, with a number of bases near the DMZ. Some of the Division’s troops fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 1994.
On either side of the sword on the memorial are lists of the major battle and campaigns of World War I. The phrase below it states “To our dead – 1917-1919″. On either end of the memorial are remembrances to soldiers who fought in WW-II and Korea.
The Second Division Memorial
Constitution Avenue between 16th and 17th Ave., NW
Washington, DC (map it)
Dates and Times – open daily
Tickets – FREE
Parking – Limited metered street parking is available.
Images – War photos and icons – U.S. Army Center for Military History memorial – from personal collection – © 2008 – Jon Rochetti