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“In 1917 just prior to the United States entry into World War I there were only eight Regular Army divisions on active duty. The composition of an army division during that period consisted of three brigades of three regiments each. This was a large and unwieldy force difficult for a commander to maneuver and control under existing army warfare doctrine. By August 1917 when the 80th Division was born, the War Department had restructured divisions into a more manageable and streamlined unit. The altered organization consisted of two brigades of two regiments each. These were referred to in military jargon as "square divisions."


By the end of hostilities on November 11, 1918, the army had 42 divisions organized for combat, of these, eight were Regular Army, sixteen were National Guard and eighteen were National Army or Selective Service Divisions.


In the early stages of the US Army involvement in the "Great War" it was impossible to identify the division to which a soldier belonged because his uniform bore no distinctive divisional insignia. This, however, was soon to change. In 1918 as divisions were deployed to France for commitment against the Central Powers, personnel of the 81st Wildcat Division arrived on French turf sporting the first shoulder patch worn by any division in the United States Army. The patch design consisted of a black wildcat against a circular olive drab background. The insignia and nickname were inspired by a tiny stream called Wildcat Creek, which flowed through Ft. Jackson, SC, the 81st Division training camp.


As quickly as the Wildcat Division arrived on the European continent, personnel of other divisions already in France questioned the right of the 81st to distinguish itself in that manner. When the matter was brought to the attention of General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing, Allied Expeditionary Force (AEF) Commander, he not only authorized the Wildcats to wear their patch, but encouraged all other divisions to design a distinctive insignia of their own. Many interesting and colorful designs emerged. Many had geographic connections, some had patterns related to their numerical designations and others were modeled after eventful experiences or important persons.


Patch positioning on the uniform was soon regulated for uniformity. The patch was to be sewn on the left sleeve one half inch from the shoulder seam and centered. Distinctive insignia, at division level, in particular, became a badge of pride and a family identity whose honor the individual soldier was prepared to defend at nearly any cost. This was especially true in response to diatribe levelled by boastful members of other American Divisions or other branches of service.


The title "Blue Ridge Division" adopted by the 80th was aptly depicted in her carefully considered, geographically oriented shoulder patch design.”


“To the descendants of those brave men of the 80th who imperilled their lives in "The Great War" for the restoration of freedom and the vanquishing of tyranny.”


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The Book Contains Much More Of The History And Photos

Of The 80th Infantry Division World War One

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Bill J. Krehbiel

921 Ridge Drive

Halstead, KS 67056


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