85th Infantry Division (United States)

85th Division
85th Infantry Division

85th Infantry Division shoulder sleeve insignia
Active 1917–1919
Country  United States
Branch  United States Army
Type Infantry
Size Division
Nickname(s) Custer (special designation)[1]

World War I
Russian Civil War
World War II

MG Joseph T. Dickman
MG James Parker
MG Chase Kennedy
MG Wade Haislip
MG John B. Coulter
MG Angelo M. Juarez
MG Wilbur J. Bunting
MG George M. Woywod
MG William Cockerham
MG George Hillard
MG William Allen
MG Michael Corrigan[2]
Distinctive unit insignia

The 85th Infantry Division also known as "Custer Division"[1] (named after the cavalry commander George Armstrong Custer) was an infantry division of the United States Army.

World War I

The division was first activated 25 August 1917 at Camp Custer, Michigan, and comprised the 169th and 170th Infantry brigades and the 160th Field Artillery Brigade. After a year of training the division left the United States for England.[3]

Square Division example: 1940 US Infantry Division. On the far left can be seen two Brigades of two Regiments each

The Division was composed of the following units:[2]
Headquarters Troop, 85th Division

From England the 339th Infantry Regiment sailed to Archangel, Russia to fight along the White Army in the Russian Civil War against Bolshevik forces as part of the Polar Bear Expedition. Accompanying the 339th were the 1st Battalion, 310th Engineers, the 337th Ambulance Company, and the 337th Field Hospital.[2] After arrival in France as part of the American Expeditionary Forces, the remainder of the division was broken up to support other units. The Headquarters was stationed in Lorraine as a depot division and therefore did not participate in any combat operations. Doughboys of the Division served in other Divisions at the Battles for St. Mihiel, Marbache and in the Meuse-Argonne on the Western Front. After the war the division remained on occupation duty in Germany and by August 1919, the last elements of the division returned to the United States.[4]

World War II[5]

On 15 May 1942, mere months after the United States entered World War II, the 85th Infantry Division was reactivated at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Divisions in the U.S. Army at that time were "triangularized" with three combat regiments instead of the four regiment structure "Square Division" used during World War I. The 340th Infantry Regiment was redesignated as the 410th Quartermaster Battalion and left the Division. Basic infantry training was begun in June 1942 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, under the command of Major General Wade H. Haislip. In April 1943, it participated in large-scale army training in the Louisiana Maneuvers near Leesville, Louisiana. In August, the division was moved to Camp Coxcomb, California for desert warfare training. In October, the division was transferred to Fort Dix, New Jersey, for final preparations before shipment overseas. Major-General John B. Coulter was transferred as commander and retained this position throughout the war. The Assistant Division Commander throughout the war was Brigadier General Lee S. Gerow.[6] [7] [8]

Triangular Division example: 1942 US Infantry Division. The Brigades of the Square division have been removed, and there are three Regiments directly under Divisional control

World War II organization:

The 85th Division left the United States on 24 December 1943 and arrived in Casablanca, French Morocco, 2 January 1944. It received amphibious training at Port aux Poules near Arzew and Oran, Algeria, 1 February to 23 March, then embarked for Naples, Italy, arriving on 27 March. The 339th Infantry Regimental Combat Team was the first division element to depart Port-Aux-Poules for movement to the Italian Campaign. Arriving in Italy on March 14, the 339th was attached to the 88th Infantry Division and became the first regiment of the 85th to see combat during World War II on the Minturno-Castelforte front north of Naples, 28 March. The 85th Division, under II Corps of the U.S. Fifth Army under Mark W. Clark, was committed to action as a unit, 10 April 1944, north of the Garigliano River, facing the Gustav Line, and held defensive positions for a month.

On 11 May, it launched its attack, taking Solacciano, Castellonorato, and Formia. Itri fell, 19 May, and the 85th continued to mop up the Gaeta Peninsula. Terracina was taken and the road to the Anzio beachhead was opened. The division pursued the enemy to the hills near Sezze until pinched out by friendly forces from Anzio. The Gustav Line had been smashed and the 85th started for a rest area, 29 May, but was ordered to the Lariano sector which the division cleared by the 31st. Driving on Rome, the 85th pushed through Monte Compatri and Frascati, entered Rome, 5 June 1944, and advanced to Viterbo before being relieved, 10 June.

After rehabilitation and training, the 85th took over the defense of the Arno River line, 15 to 26 August. The division attacked the mountain defenses of the Gothic Line, 13 September, and broke through, taking Firenzuola on the 21st. The 85th advanced slowly through mud and rain against heavy resistance taking La Martina and gaining the Idice River Valley road, 2 October, and reaching Mount Mezzano on the 24th overlooking the Po River Valley. From 27 October to 22 November 1944, defense areas near Pizzano were held. On the 23d, the division was relieved for rest and rehabilitation.

The 85th Division relieved the British 1st Infantry Division, 6 January 1945, and limited its activities to cautious patrols until 13 March. After a brief training period, the 85th, now under command of U.S. IV Corps, during the final offensive in Italy, thrust southwest of Bologna, 14 April, pushing through Lucca and Pistoia into the Po Valley as enemy resistance collapsed. The Panaro River was crossed on the 23rd and the Po the next day. The division mopped up fleeing Germans until their mass surrender, 2 May 1945, in the Belluno-Agordo area. Three soldiers from this division earned the Medal of Honor.


Cold War

The division returned to the United States and was inactivated at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia on 26 August 1945. It was then reactivated at Chicago, Illinois on 19 February 1947 in the U.S. Army Reserve. On 1 June 1959, the division's mission was changed to training and it was named the 85th Infantry Division (Training).


Upon reactivation in the Army Reserve, the division was organized with a division headquarters, three training brigades and a training group, with division headquarters located in Chicago, Illinois. In 1983, the Division Headquarters was moved to Arlington Heights, Illinois, with subordinate brigade headquarters located in Waukegan, Illinois (1st Brigade); St. Louis, Missouri (2nd Brigade); Rockford, Illinois (3rd Brigade); Fort Sheridan, Illinois (4th Brigade); and Aurora, Illinois (Training Group). In 1999 the division was further reorganized as the 85th Division (Training Support). Its four brigades were headquartered as follows:

Distinguished Leaders

Commanders within the division who became U.S. Army general officers include:

Unit inactivation and reactivation

In September 2007, the 85th Division (Training Support) was formally inactivated and its remaining assets folded into the 75th Division (Training Support) and the 88th Regional Readiness Command. In December 2008, the 85th Division was reactivated as the 85th USAR Support Command.

Heraldry [10]

Shoulder Sleeve Insignia authorized for the 85th Infantry Division. World War I, World War II, 1970-1986, Present

Campaign Streamers

Conflict Streamer Year(s)
World War I
No Inscription
World War II

Rome-Arno[6] 1944
North Apennines[7] 1944-1945
Po Valley[8] 1945

Historical References


  1. 1 2 "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. 1 2 3 http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/023/23-2/CMH_Pub_23-2.pdf Order of Battle in the Great War P373
  3. Infantry organization and History
  4. Maneuver and Firepower p103
  5. Stanton, Shelby L. (1984). World War II Order of Battle. New York, New York: Galahad Books.
  6. 1 2 http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/072/72-20/index.html Rome Arno Commemorative Publication
  7. 1 2 http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/072/72-34/index.html North Apennines Commemorative Publication
  8. 1 2 http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/072/72-33/index.html Po Valley Commemorative Publication
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 Army Battle Casualties and Nonbattle Deaths, Final Report (Statistical and Accounting Branch, Office of the Adjutant General, 1 June 1953)
  10. http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/Catalog/HeraldryMulti.aspx?CategoryId=3992&grp=2&menu=Uniformed%20Services Division Heraldry

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