Unit History

The 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry

26th Infantry Infantry Division unit patch

The distinctive unit insignia of the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry.

Following the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Army found itself in dire need of personnel in order to fulfill its overseas commitments. In response to this need, Congress authorized the expansion of the regular Army by five regiments. Under this authorization, the 26th Infantry Regiment was constituted on 2 February 1901. In the first two decades of its existence, the 26th Infantry spent two overseas tours in the Philippines, where the unit was awarded its first campaign streamer for participation in the Philippine Insurrection. When not overseas during this time period, the unit was assigned to duty along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In May of 1917, the War Department ordered Major General John J. Pershing to select and command the first American units to deploy to France as part of the 1st Expeditionary Division, which was later redesignated as the 1st Infantry Division, also known as the “Big Red One.” One of the four infantry regiments that General Pershing selected was the 26th Infantry, a unit that Pershing knew well from when he commanded the Southern Department. Thus began the long association of the 26th Infantry with the Big Red One. The 26th Infantry was one of the first American units to land in France in June, 1917, and went on to earn seven campaign streamers during World War I: Montdidier-Noyon, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, Lorraine 1917, Lorraine 1918, and Picardy 1918. The unit was also awarded two Croix de Guerre (with Palms) by the French government.

Following the armistice, the 26th Infantry served on occupation duty in Germany and then returned to the United States in August of 1919. The regiment spent most of the inter-war years at Plattsburg Barracks in New York.

From the end of World War II until 1955, the 26th Infantry again served on occupation duty in Germany. The unit was chosen to support the War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg, and then remained in Germany as the first line of defense against Soviet aggression, playing a key role in the development of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The 26th Infantry returned to the United States, along with the rest of the Big Red One division, in July of 1955.

In 1957 the U.S. Army underwent a major reorganization, and Company A of the 26th Infantry was reorganized and redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battle Group, 26th Infantry. After serving with various divisions in Europe in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the unit was reassigned to the 1st Infantry Division in 1963. It was reorganized and redesignated as the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry in January 1964.

The 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry deployed to Vietnam with the 1st Infantry Division in 1965. The battalion remained in Vietnam for five years, departing in the summer of 1970. By the time it left Vietnam, it had earned participation credit in eleven campaigns: Defense, Counteroffensive, Counteroffensive Phase II, Counteroffensive Phase III, Tet Counteroffensive, Counteroffensive Phase IV, Counteroffensive Phase V, Counteroffensive Phase VI, Tet 69/Counteroffensive, Summer-Fall 1969, and Winter-Spring 1970. The unit also was awarded a Valorous Unit Award for actions in the battle of Ap Gu and two Republic of Vietnam Crosses of Gallantry (with Palms).

After leaving Vietnam, the battalion returned to Germany in support of NATO missions to deter Communist military aggression. In 1987, the battalion was assigned to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and served until 1996 in training recruits. In February 1996 the battalion was sent to Germany and again assigned to the 1st Infantry Division. The battalion spent much of the next four years deployed to the Balkans, where the unit earned the Army Superior Unit Award.

The 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry continues its tradition of serving overseas, this time fighting in the War on Terrorism. After completing its first tour in Iraq (January 2004 to February 2005), the battalion was redesignated as the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment in October 2005. The battalion returned to Iraq for a second tour from August 2006 to October 2007. True to its history of valor, the unit has earned a battle streamer for Iraq and two Valorous Unit Awards for actions in Samarra.

The 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment is currently assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, and is stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.