The 28th Infantry Division-The History of the “Bloody Bucket”

The 28th Infantry Division, or 28th ID and the PA National Guard trace their lineage back to the militia organized by none other than Benjamin Franklin in 1747 and were known as the “Associators”.  Franklin organized artillery and Infantry units to defend the city of Philadelphia against French and Spanish privateers.  The first meeting of the Associators occurred on November 21, 1747 and on December 7, 1747 the enlistees and Officers were formally commissioned by the Provincial Council President, Anthony Palmer.  On that day, hundreds of armed Associators presented themselves to Palmer at the Philadelphia Courthouse and he wisely stated their activities were “not disapproved” and duty commissioned all of them.

The “Bloody Bucket” is the oldest continuously serving Army Division in the United States Army.  On March 12, 1879, Governor Henry Hoyt signed General Order No. 1 appointing MG John Hartranft as the first Division Commander of the Pennsylvania National Guard and the most storied and renowned Division in the history if the US Army was born.  The keystone was prescribed as the designated symbol of the PA National Guard on August 27, 1879.

The Division was mustered into service for the Spanish –American War in 1898 and 3 Regiments, 3 artillery batteries and 3 Cavalry troops were deployed for service.  In 1916 the Division, then designated the 7th Division, was mustered into service and deployed to El Paso, TX to serve along the Mexican Border.

In response to WWI, the Division was drafted into Federal service on August 5, 1917 and trained at Camp Hancock, GA.  While in Georgia, the Division was recognized as the 28th ID on October 11, 1917.  After arriving in France, the 28th ID gained fame as a result of its gallant stand on July 15, 1918.  As the Division took up defensive positions along the Marne River east of Chateau-Thierry, the Germans commenced their attack with fierce artillery bombardment.  When the German assault collided with the main force of the 28th ID the fighting became bitter hand to hand combat.  The 28th ID repelled the German forces and decisively defeated their enemy.  After the battle, General John Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Force, visited the battlefield and declared that the 28th ID are “Men of Iron” and named the 28th ID his “Iron Division”.  The 28th ID developed a red keystone-shaped shoulder patch, officially adopted October 27, 1918.

The 28th ID was mobilized in preparation for WWII in February 1, 1941.  The first Soldiers of the 28th ID stepped ashore at Omaha Beach on July 2, 1944.  On August 29, 1944 the 28th ID had the honor of being the first American Division to parade through Paris, and later fought across Northern France into Germany.  As the 28th ID breached the formidable Westwall of the German defenses in September 1944, SSG Francis Clark from the 109th IN earned the Medal of Honor.  The 28th ID fought valiantly in the Huertgen Forest, disrupted the German counter-offensive during the Battle of the Bulge and eventually liberated Colmar, France from the grip of the German military.  The 28th ID crossed the Rhine and took up positions in the Ruhr Pocket to stop any German forces driving south, and was in those positions when the fighting in Europe came to an end.

During the Korean War, the 28th ID was mobilized and deployed to Europe as part of the NATO command defending Western Europe from the threat of Soviet attack.  The 28th ID mobilized on September 5, 1950 and remained on Federal service until May 22, 1953.

The Soldiers of the 28th ID have continued to make history since September 11, 2001.  The Division has conducted operations in places including Bosnia, Kosovo, The Sinai, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.  Many 28th ID Soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice and hundreds have been recognized for their dedicated service and valor.  The 28th ID continues to build on its legacy as the Iron Division and 28th ID Warriors take pride in being fit, resilient and well trained in order to support each other and defend our great Nation.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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10 thoughts on “The 28th Infantry Division-The History of the “Bloody Bucket””

  1. WOW! What a great piece of history. It’s so awesome to know that there are divisions like the 28th ID that are fighting hard for freedom, not just for us but for people around the world. There legacy is pretty amazing. They are, and have been for generations fighting in the trenches playing a crucial role in combat. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Candace Ginestar

    I mobilized in 09 under the 28th CAB, and while we split off from them once we got to Iraq, a lot of us made good working relationships and friendships with a lot of 28th Soldiers (particularly 2-104th GSAB). I am glad to have a connection to such a storied division and still have my patches as a good memory.

  3. I have heard people ask why we need National Guard now? I thank God for our National Guard. While so many of our troops our in countries overseas, what would we do if someone attacked? It is our Guard and Reserves that are here to protect us. If we did away with this, our enemies could take full advantage.

    A huge thanks to all of you who are members of the Guard and Reserves. You sometimes don’t get the recognition you deserve.

  4. Yeah I remember when parts of MD began to join the 28th ID. I remember seeing the “Ying-Yang Patch” and then Keystones and asking guys where in PA they lived and they told me they were in a MD Guard Unit… I think more specifically I just enjoy being in the 56th SBCT…

  5. My company transformed to the 28th ID right about the time I was leaving command. I never got to wear the patch myself, but my old unit wears it now. I know the unit has a proud history, some great units and great soldiers. Consider yourself lucky to be part of the 28th ID, Justin. And thanks for the great article.

  6. When reaching the cross road of whether to switch NG units after I moved to the DC area I was torn. However, there was a point when I realized that I am a part of one of the most unique and prestigious IDs in the whole Army, let alone the Guard. We hold the ONLY SBCT in the NG and, based on conversations with Active Duty and Doctrine writers, etc., we outperform Active Duty on a multitude of scopes. I love the Bloody Bucket and proud to be a part!

    1. Candace Ginestar

      I love hearing about outperforming done by ARNG units. I think it’s awesome to see our level of excellence and professionalism, we can definitely be on par with our active duty counterparts.

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