At the beginning of the 20th century, the United States Army was sorely pressed to meet its overseas commitments in Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. As a result, in 1901 Congress authorized five additional Regular Army infantry regiments; the 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, and 30th Infantry.
The 26th Infantry began its life overseas in the Philippines and spent its first 20 years of service on deployments to the Southwest Pacific, the Mexican and Indian frontier and in Europe. It earned its first battle streamer during the Philippine-American War within two years of its forming as a unit.
World War I
After returning to the same location for another tour of duty (a habit the Blue Spaders would keep for the entire century), the regiment fought off Mexican bandits and settled disputes in the Indian Territory until it was selected as one of only four Regular Army infantry regiments deemed fit for immediate combat to form the firstAmerican Expeditionary Division in June 1917. This expeditionary division would later be renamed the First Division and thus began the regiment’s long association with the “Big Red One”.
As part of the first American soldiers to arrive in France, the regiment immediately left for the front. Along with its sister regiments of the division, it earned more campaign streamers than any other regiments during World War I. However, they came at a terrible cost. Over 900 Blue Spaders lost their lives in a six-month period. At Soissons alone, the regimental commander, executive officer, two of three battalion commanders and the regimental sergeant major were killed in action; sixty-two officers were killed or wounded; and out of 3,100 Blue Spaders that started the attack, over 1,500 had been killed or wounded. But the battle was won and this turned the tide for the Allies at a crucial period during the summer of 1918. By war’s end, the soldiers earned seven battle streamers and two foreign awards. Following a brief occupation duty in Germany, the regiment returned to the United States and served as a part of a smaller peacetime Army.
World War II
The 1st Battalion of the U.S. 26th Infantry Regiment passing through the railway viaduct north of Bütgenbach, Belgium, on the Monschauer St. (N647) towards Bütgenbach. The railway viaduct was part of the line running from Losheim/Eifel (Germany) to Trois-Ponts, Belgium, and had been blown up by the retreating German troops.
In 1941, the regiment once again stood with its sister regiments and prepared for war in Europe. In World War II, the 26th Infantry led America’s first-ever amphibious assault in North Africa, fought at the Kasserine Pass, assaultedSicily at the Amphibious Battle of Gela, invaded Normandy, conquered the first German city of the war at Aachen, vaulted the Rhine and attacked all the way to Czechoslovakia by war’s end. The regiment conducted three amphibious assaults, and earned seven battle streamers, a Presidential Unit Citation, and five foreign awards.
Beginning another occupation of Germany, the Blue Spaders bore the United States national colors at the Allied Victory in Europe parade, and served as guards at Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. Thus began a lengthy stay in Germany, first as conquerors and later as friends and allies. Called again to serve in the United States after a reorganization of the army, the unit was redesignated 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry and had a very short stay in the United States.
In February 1963 2nd Battle Group, 26th Infantry was activated (with assets of 1st Battle Group, 5th Infantry) & assigned to 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Riley, Kansas. 2nd Battle Group, 26th Infantry participated in Operation Long Thrust VII, reinforcing U.S. Berlin Brigade summer & autumn 1963 before redeploying to Ft. Riley where it was inactivated in January 1964.
After serving as a battle group in Europe in the early 1960s, the battalion rejoined the 1st Infantry Division shortly before receiving orders to deploy as a part of the Army’s first divisional-sized unit in Vietnam in 1965. The Blue Spaders served longer in Vietnam with their Big Red One units than any other division. After five continuous years of combat, the Blue Spaders received orders to return home in 1970 with eleven battle streamers, a Valorous Unit Award and two foreign awards for its colors.
At the conclusion of Vietnam, the battalion returned to Germany as part of a forward-deployed brigade of the Big Red One. During the 1980s, when that brigade returned to the United States, the 26th Infantry was reassigned to TRADOC, where Spader battalions spent several years training recruits at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
In 1996, the battalion rejoined the Big Red One in Germany only to send its soldiers to Bosnia as part of the first American forces to enter the Balkans from February to September 1996. The entire battalion followed its initial deployment from October 1996 to April 1997. In March 1998, the unit deployed to the Balkans, this time to theRepublic of Macedonia. Returning briefly in September 1998, the battalion was one of the first unit alerted for deployment to Kosovo in June 1999. It returned in December 1999. During this period, the unit earned the Superior Unit Award streamer and the Defense of Kosovo streamer. Three of the Task Force 1-26 Infantry soldiers lost their lives in Kosovo.
Global War on Terror
- Operation Iraqi Freedom II
- In February 2004 the “Blue Spaders” deployed to Iraq as part of OIF II. The unit primarily bore responsibility for Sammara, the capital of Salahuddin Province, a major part of the so-called Sunni Triangle. The battalion returned to Schweinfurt, Germany in February 2005.
- Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08
- On 5 August 2006 Task Force “Blue Spader” deployed to Eastern Baghdad. The battalion’s B Company was cross attached to TF 1-77 Armor, in return TF 1-26 Infantry received B Company, 1-77 Armor, B Company, 9th Engineers, a fire support team from 1-7 Field Artillery, and a maintenance support team from 299th Forward Support Battalion. Task Force 1-26 Infantry operated as the primary maneuver element in the Eastern Baghdad area. The unit returned to Schweinfurt, Germany in December 2007. 31 Soldiers from the Battalion lost their lives during the deployment.
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- In July 2008 the battalion deployed to Kunar Province of Afghanistan. Most of the unit was scattered in small combat outposts throughout the province to include the Kunar Valley, Pech Valley, Watapor Valley, Chapadara, and the Korengal Valley. The unit fell under CJTF-101 and later CJTF-82 during OEF 8 and 9. The unit returned to Fort Hood, Texas in July 2009. They were quickly moved again from Fort Hood, Texas to Fort Knox, Kentucky, having only months to get ready for another deployment in January 2010.
The invitation reads,”The President requests the pleasure of your company at a ceremony and reception to be held at The White House on Monday, June 2, 2008 at nine o’clock”. The first page of the program reads, “The President welcomes you to The White House on the occasion of the presentation of the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis, Untied States Army. Monday, June 2, 2008”. Click here to read the complete article.