The 23rd Infantry Division: 25 Cool Facts

In today’s post, we are going to take a look at an Army Division that is not in operation anymore. Even though this Division is not in use, the fame still precedes it.

Here are 25 cool facts about the 23rd Infantry Division. Scroll down and learn about this great Army Infantry Division.

1: Creation of the 23rd Infantry Division.

It was a day that will never be forgotten; on December 7th, 1941, Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor. With a hurried, but planned action, 3 regiments were sent to the South Pacific island of New Caledonia. On May 27th, 1942, the 23rd Infantry Division was activated on the island located East of Australia.

2: Mainland.

A fact that many people do not know is: the 23rd Infantry Division is the only Division formed off the mainland United States and her territories during World War II.

3: Americal.

While the majority of Army Divisions are recognized by numbers, the 23rd Infantry Division is better known by the Americal Division. This name was instituted by taking America and New Caledonia together in a contraction. While most official orders would utilize the number of a Division, many orders would use Americal for anything naming the 23rd Infantry Division.

4: The National Guard and the Original Formation.

The original “line” regiments used to form the 23rd Infantry Division were 3 National Guard regiments. They were:

  • The 132nd Infantry Regiment from Illinois

  • The 164th Infantry Regiment from North Dakota

  • The 182nd Infantry Regiment from Massachusetts

5: General Alexander Patch.

The Commander who named the 23rd Infantry Division Americal was Major General Alexander Patch. Because of the seriousness of protecting New Caledonia from the Japanese, the United States knew that putting General Patch in charge would guarantee that this island would stay out of Japan’s grasp.

6: Guadalcanal.

Under the Command of General Patch, Americal was the first Army division sent to Guadalcanal. They fought alongside the United States 1st Marine Division. This move helped keep the Japanese at bay.

7: Army or Marines?

The 164th Infantry Regiment was the first batch of Army soldiers to land at Guadalcanal. They reinforced a battle weary 1st Marine Division. The Commander of the 1st Marines, Major General Vandegrift was overjoyed with the assistance they received, Vandegrift issued a unit commendation to the 164th for their superior actions over Japanese forces. One step further, Vandegrift awarded Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hall who Commanded the 3rd Battalion of the 164th Regiment a Navy Cross. Because of this, the Army’s 164th Infantry Regiment was often called the 164th Marines.

8: To Fiji.

After securing Guadalcanal, Americal was called to the Fiji Islands to again assist Marines battling Japanese forces. Upon landing in Bouganville, the 23rd Infantry Division relieved the 3rd Marine Division. Japanese forces attacked the 23rd, but these soldiers stood strong in close quarters fighting. The Japanese retreated and Americal began offensive maneuvers. They chased Japanese forces and captured many bases during these moves.

9: Japan.

The 23rd Infantry Division was then sent to the Philippines and saw brief skirmishes. They captured the city of Cebu and the airfield. The 23rd prepared to invade Japan, but the Japanese surrendered. In September, Americal did travel to Japan to occupy Japan. They were a part of occupying the Yokohama area.

10: Inactivated.

On December 12th of 1945, the 23rd Infantry Division was inactivated. Soldiers would be able to spend the 1945 Christmas with their families.

11: 1954.

As a part of defending the Caribbean region, the 23rd was reactivated in 1954. With the Caribbean being a prime zone for enemies of the United States to attack, it was believed the 23rd would be the best defense. In doing so, the Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment was attached to the 23rd.

Other posts you may enjoy:

  1. 2nd Infantry Division – Campaigns & Decorations
  2. 25th Infantry Division – Campaigns & Decorations
  3. 4th Infantry Division – Campaigns & Decorations
  4. Top 10 Famous Infantry Battalions
  5. Army 11 MOS: Infantry Soldiers

12: Panama Canal.

It was at this time that the 23rd Infantry Division was deployed to the Panama Canal Zone. They served there until April of 1956 when both they, and the 65th Infantry regiment were inactivated.

13: Vietnam.

It was 11 years since Americal had been inactivated. Just as when they were formed off the mainland originally, in 1967 the 23rd was reactivated not on the mainland, but in Vietnam. It all started again in Chu Lai, Vietnam. Americal was back!

14: Task Force Oregon.

It was Task Force Oregon that was the start of reforming the 23rd Infantry Division. The Division was made up of:

  • The 11th Light Infantry Brigade

  • The 196th Light Infantry Brigade

  • The 198th Light Infantry Brigade

Again, the 23rd was working closely with the 1st Marine Division.

15: Battle of LoGiang.

During the Battle of LoGiang, the 198th was knee deep in war. A Company of the 198th lost a total of 20 men. A Company of the 198th was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for their fearless and heroic actions during that Battle.

16: My Lai.

While I have a difficult time calling this a “cool fact,” it is a fact that needs to be in this article.

One of the most negative actions by any U.S. Army divisions happened at My Lai, Vietnam. It was committed by Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the 23rd Infantry Division. It is called the My Lai Massacre, and somewhere from 4-500 innocent Vietnamese people were killed in cold blood. 26 soldiers were charged, but in the end, only the Platoon Leader: Lieutenant William Calley was found guilty and given a life sentence. He served 3 1/2 years on house arrest.

My Lai was a terrible action, and we all hope that leaders will learn from this atrocity.

17: Inactivated.

In November of 1971, the 198th and 11th Brigades were sent home and the 23rd was inactivated. The 196th was left until 1972 and was the last combat unit withdrawn from Vietnam.

18: Shoulder Sleeve and Unit Insignia.

The Shoulder Sleeve is 4 white stars on a blue background. The stars depict the Southern Cross and the blue represents the infantry.

The Unit Insignia has many depictions. They include:

  • The Cross of St Andrew which represents New Caledonia.

  • 4 stars representing the Southern Cross.

  • An anchor representing the awarding of the Navy Cross.

  • A red arrow and rising sun represents the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation.

  • The sword pointing upward represents Vietnam.

  • And the name of the Division…Americal.

19: 23rd Commanders During World War II.

These were the Commanders of Americal during World War II:

20: 23rd Commanders During Vietnam.

These were the Commanders during Vietnam:

21: Famous Members of Americal.

There are 5 previous members of the 23rd that need to be mentioned:

  • Jesse Drowley. While you may not recognize his name, he needs to be mentioned because during World War II with the 23rd, Staff Sergeant Drowley was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions he performed in the Fiji Island campaign.

  • Robert Murray. While in Vietnam, this Staff Sergeant saved many soldiers by throwing his own body on a grenade. He was with the 23rd Infantry Division and earned the Medal of Honor.

  • Tom Ridge. The 1st Secretary of Homeland Security served as a Staff Sergeant with the 23rd Infantry Division in Vietnam.

  • Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. Then Lieutenant Colonel Schwarzkopf was on his 2nd tour of Vietnam, and was with the 23rd.

  • Colin Powell. When Colin Powell served in Vietnam on his 2nd tour, he was the Assistant Chief of Staff of Operations for the Americal division. At that time, his rank was Major.

22: ADVA.

Americal has their own Veterans Association reserved for members of the 23rd Infantry Division. You can visit their website here.

23: 23rd Organization During Vietnam.

During Vietnam, the 23rd Infantry Division was comprised of this format:

11th Infantry Brigade

  • 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry

  • 4th Battalion, 3rd Infantry

  • 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry

  • 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry

  • 6th Battalion, 11th Artillery

  • 6th Support Battalion

  • and, 6th Engineer Company

  • E Troop, 1st Cavalry

196th Infantry Brigade

  • 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry

  • 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry

  • 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry

  • 3rd Battalion, 82nd Artillery

  • 8th Support Battalion

  • 175th Engineer Company

  • F Troop, 17th Cavalry

198th Infantry Brigade

  • 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry

  • 5th Battalion, 46th Infantry

  • 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry

  • 1st Battalion, 52nd Infantry

  • and, 1st Battalion, 14th Artillery

  • 9th Support Battalion

  • 155th Engineer Company

  • H Troop, 1st Cavalry

16th Aviation Regiment

  • 123rd Assault Helicopter Battalion

  • 14th Assault Support Helicopter Battalion

  • F Troop, 8th Cavalry

24: Americal’s Awards. The 23rd has amassed awards. These include:

  • The Presidential Unit Citation

  • Valorous Unit Award

  • Meritorious Unit Commendation

  • Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Award

  • Cross with Palm Unit Citation

25: More About Americal.

There have been books written about this great Army Division. You may want to see:

  • Americal Division

  • Touched With Fire

  • Guadalcanal

or watch this documentary:

Final Thoughts

I hope you learned more than you originally knew about the 23rd Infantry Division. Did you, or anyone you know serve with the 23rd? Tell us more…

The 23rd has a great history and it was wonderful researching all of this. If you have any comments or questions, please ask below.

Thank you, and have a great day.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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