23rd (Americal) (Infantry) Division
Americal patch
23rd Infantry Division shoulder sleeve insignia
Active 24 May 1942–12 December 1945
1 December 1954–10 April 1956
25 September 1967 – November 1971
Country United States
Branch Regular Army
Type Infantry
Size Division
Nickname Americal
Colors Blue and White
Engagements World War II
*Southern Philippines,
Vietnam War
*Tet Counteroffensive,
*Sanctuary Counteroffensive
Decorations Presidential Unit Citation
Valorous Unit Award
Meritorious Unit Commendation
Republic Of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Unit Citation
MG Alexander M. Patch, Jr.
(May–December 1942)
BG Edmund B. Sebree
(January–May 1943)
MG John R. Hodge
(May 1943 – April 1944)
MG Robert B. McClure
(April–October 1944)
MG William H. Arnold
(November 1944 to WW II inactivation)
Distinctive Unit Insignia AmericalDUI
US infantry divisions (1939–present)
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The 23rd Infantry Division, more commonly known as the Americal Division, of the United States Army was formed in May 1942 on the island of New Caledonia. In the immediate emergency following Pearl Harbor, the United States had hurriedly sent three individual regiments to defend New Caledonia against a feared Japanese attack. This division was the only division formed outside of United States territory during World War II (a distinction it would repeat when reformed during the Vietnam War).[1] At the suggestion of a subordinate, the division's commander, Major General Alexander Patch, requested that the new unit be known as the Americal Division—the name being a contraction of "American, New Caledonian Division". This was unusual, as most U.S. divisions are known by a number. After World War II the Americal Division was officially re-designated as the 23rd Infantry Division. However, it was rarely referred to as such, even on official orders.

During the Vietnam War, despite its solid service in numerous battles and campaigns, the name of the division became associated with the My Lai massacre, which was committed by a platoon of the division's subordinate 11th Infantry Brigade, led by Lieutenant William Calley.

Operational historyEdit


Americal Division in Tam Ky - March 1968a

Americal Division in Tam Ky – Armored cavalry assault vehicles with RPG-screen on front (M 113)- March 1968

The Americal was reactivated in 1967 in Vietnam from elements already in Vietnam and newly-arrived units. Its precursor, a division-sized task force known as Task Force Oregon was created in Quang Ngai and Quang Tin provinces from the 3rd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division, the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, and the 196th Light Infantry Brigade (all separate brigades that deployed to Vietnam in 1966). Task Force Oregon operated in close cooperation with the 1st Marine Division in the I Corps Military Region. As more US Army units arrived in Vietnam the two divisional brigades were released back to their parent organizations and two arriving separate brigades were assigned to Task Force Oregon, which was in turn re-designated the 23rd Infantry Division (Americal). The Division was composed of the 11th, 196th, and 198th Light Infantry Brigades and divisional support units.

The Americal, in Vietnam, suffered an important defeat at the Battle of Kham Duc but gave a solid performance during TET, The Battle of LoGiang and the Battle of Nui Hoac Ridge (Hill 352). Platoon Sergeant Finnis McCleery was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valiant efforts on Hill 352. Sgt. Alan Allen was awarded the Silver Star for this same battle. Both men were members of A Co. 1/6 198th. 20 men from A Company were lost in the Battle of LoGiang on 8 February 1968. A Co. of the 198th was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its heroic efforts in the Battle of LoGiang, 8 February 1968.

The 198th and 11th Brigades were withdrawn from Vietnam in November 1971, and the Division was inactivated. The 196th Brigade was reconstituted as a separate brigade and remained in Vietnam until 29 June 1972, the last major combat unit to be withdrawn. Its 3rd Battalion, 21st infantry (Gimlets) was the last U.S. maneuver battalion to leave Vietnam, on 23 August 1972.


The shoulder sleeve insignia was originally approved for the Americal Division on 20 December 1943. It was redesignated for the 23d Infantry Division on 4 November 1954. On 14 December 1967 the Distinctive Unit Insignia was approved.[2]

The shoulder sleeve insignia's four white stars on a blue field are symbolic of the Southern Cross under which the organization has served. The blue color stands for infantry.[2]

On the Distinctive Unit Insignia, the blue saltire (cross of St. Andrew) alludes to New Caledonia in the Southwest Pacific where the Division was created and first activated on 27 May 1942. Each of the four white stars stands for the Southern Cross constellation on its division insignia, as well as the four World War II campaigns (Guadalcanal, Northern Solomons, Leyte and Southern Philippines) in which the Division participated. The anchor refers to the Presidential Unit Citation (Navy) awarded the Division for Guadalcanal. The red arrowhead and Philippine sun stand for the assault landing, Southern Philippines, and the award of the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation (7 October 1944 to 4 July 1945). The unsheathed sword with point to top refers to Vietnam where the Division was active. In view of the Division's origin and outstanding service in World War II and inasmuch as it was one of the few U.S. Army Divisions to bear a name instead of a number, the Division's former name "Americal" has been taken as a motto, the association with that name being both inspirational and of historical military significance.[2]

Notable membersEdit


  1. Stanton, Shelby. The Rise and Fall of an American Army. Presidio Press, 1985. p. 186.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The Institute of Heraldry. 23d Infantry Division. Retrieved on 11 May 2012.


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Further readingEdit

  • Eric Bergerud, Touched with Fire: the Land War in the South Pacific, Penguin, 1996. ISBN 0-14-024696-7
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External linksEdit

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