There's a good reason for the 1st Marine Division to be nicknamed “The Old Breed:” it's not only the largest active-duty division in the Corps, but also the oldest, with an activation date of February 1, 1941.

As was the case with the 2nd Marine Division, the regiments which eventually comprised the 1st were formed before the Division itself was activated decadeslater. During the Great War, two regiments which eventually became part of the 1st Division, the 5th and the 11th, deployed to France. While the 11th failed to see combat, the 5th made up for it by taking part in 15 major battles, including now-legendary engagements at Belleau Wood and Chateau-Thierry. But it was during World War II, after the division's activation, that it began to forge a legacy leading to its motto, “No better friend, no worse enemy.” As part of the Guadalcanal landings in August 1942, the division endured four months of nonstop combat until being relieved in December. The unit's actions here earned it the first of three Presidential Unit Citations it would receive during World War II, with the others being awarded for severely bloody battles at Peleliu and Okinawa.

During the Korean War, the 1st was selected to take part in the now-famous landings at Inchon in September, 1950. Along with U.S. Army troops, it advanced far north, reaching the mountainous area surrounding the Chosin Reservoir before a huge influx of Chinese halted the offensive and encircled the troops as brutal winter weather set in. Fighting its way out of the “Frozen Chosin,” the division suffered heavy casualties—nearly 1,000 killed or missing—but it inflicted an estimated 37,000 casualties on the Chinese forces. For this battle and its participation in subsequent U.N. Offensives, the unit earned three more Presidential Unit Citations.

In Vietnam, the 1st Marine Division was involved in major engagements as early as the summer of 1965, beginning a six-year deployment that saw it take part in scores of named operations, including savage fighting during the 1968 Tet Offensive that included the recapture of the city of Hue. 1990 saw the 1st Marine Divion sent as part of I Marine Expeditionary Force during Desert Shield, and it subsequently fought with the 2nd Marine Division and Coalition forces during the blitzkrieg-style Operation Desert Storm.
The Old Breed returned to Southwest Asia to fight again under I MEF during the 2003 Iraq Invasion. Fighting alongside the 1st Armored Division and the 3rd U.S. Army Infantry Division, the division advanced over 500 miles over a two-and-a-half period of constant combat. It was subsequently deployed to Iraq twice more before returning stateside in 2007.

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