The Third Infantry Division ("Rock Of The Marne") was organized during World War I as part of the American Expeditionary Force, and has served continuously as part of the Regular Army since then.
World War I
Activated in November 1917 at Camp Greene, North Carolina, the Third deployed to France and was in combat eight months later. Holding a position on the bank of the Marne River protecting Paris, the division held hard while allied units broke on either side under the pounding of German artillery heralding the Second Battle of the Marne in July 1918. The tough defense of the Second allowed the Allied counteroffensive to succeed and break the back of the German offensive.
General Pershing hailed the Third's performance as one of the most brilliant in United States military history, and two soldiers from the Third won the Medal of Honor during it.
World War II
The Third Division is one of the few divisions to have fought on all fronts of the European Theater, fighting with distinction in Operation Torch, Sicily, the Salerno and Anzio landings, the capture of Rome after the breakout from Anzio, Operation Dragoon, and after attacking up the Rhone Valley and through the Vosges Mountains, it reached the Rhine at Strasbourg on November 27, 1944. After a brief defensive period, the Third took part in the liquidation of the Colmar Pocket from January 23 to February 18, 1945 and then assaulted the Siegfried Line south of Zweibrucken on March 15. Crossing the Rhine on March 26, the Third drove on to take Nuremberg on April 20 after three days of block-by-block city fighting. Munich followed on April 30, and by the war's end the Third was approaching Salzburg in Austria.
The Third began the Korean War understrength, with only the 7th and 15th Regimental Combat Teams assigned. It deployed to Japan where it acquired KATUSA augmentations and then landed at Wonsan where it acquired the 65th RCT. The division would spend the war as Eighth Army's "fire brigade", always being called on in crisis situations. The first of these was the withdrawal of X Corps from northeastern Korea after the Chinese Winter Offensive, notably during the withdrawal of the First Marine Division from "Frozen Chosin" through Hungnam; the Third formed the rear guard, keeping Chinese pressure off the retreating Marines, and then formed a collapsing perimeter around the port of Hungnam with the Seventh Infantry Division until the last troops were withdrawn, at which point the port was destroyed to deprive the Communists of its use. The Third went on to serve as the Eighth Army reserve until late 1953 when it was withdrawn. Eleven more Third Division soldiers earned the Medal of Honor in Korea, including one whose award was classified until he was repatriated with other prisoners of war.
The division was assigned to VII Corps in Germany from 1958 to 1996 in kasernes near the Czech border.
In November 1990, one brigade of the division deployed to the Gulf with the 1st Armored Division as part of Operation Desert Storm; other elements were sent to Western Turkey to provide relief to Kurdish refugees and later to Kuwait. All these units returned to their garrisons in Germany in September 1991.
In February 1996, as part of the Army's reduction to a ten-division force, the 24th Infantry Division was deactivated and its troops reflagged as the Third, as a result of which the division was re-based at Ft. Stewart and Ft. Benning, Georgia. The Third demonstrated its strategic mobility by maintaining a task force (initially one battalion, later expanded to a brigade) in Kuwait and participating in training and peacekeeping missions in Egypt, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Second Gulf War & Afghanistan
The Third Division took a highly visible role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, spearheading the coalition's attack on Baghdad. First Brigade captured, cleared and secured the Baghdad International Airport; it was in this action that SFC Paul Ray Smith won his Medal of Honor. The Second Brigade, meanwhile, made the much-publicized thunder run through downtown Baghdad, and was sent to Fallujah in the summer of 2003. The division returned home in September 2003 and spent 2004 reorganizing from three brigades into four smaller brigades; the division's Engineer brigade was reflagged as the 4th Brigade.
In January 2005, the Third became the first Army division to serve a second tour in Iraq; the division HQ deployed to Baghdad, taking charge of security for the greater Baghdad area while the first and third brigades were assigned to the 101st Airborne Division in the north. The 4th Brigade was deployed with elements from the California (1st/184th Infantry), Hawaii (2/299th Infantry), Georgia (48th Brigade) and Puerto Rico (C-1/195th Infantry) National Guard.
The division returned from this deployment in January 2006; it would serve a third tour in Iraq from 2007-2008 as part of the surge, and is currently deployed there (less 1st brigade, which is the reaction force for NORTHCOM) as part of the training mission in support of the Iraqi Army. The Third Division was awarded another Presidential Unit Citation and a Meritorious Unit Citation for its actions in Iraq.