Do You Know the History of America's Most Famous Military Units?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: US-Army history images

About This Quiz

When America’s Founding Fathers ratified the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, they gently but firmly informed Britain’s King George III that, "Hey, you know, we think we’ll take things from here."

In doing so, they declared the formation of the United States of America – and the king responded with vicious death threats. American colonists took up their muskets in the pursuit of their liberty, and the nation’s army was born. How much do you know about America’s famous military units?

Some U.S. units are so legendary that they are essentially household names. The 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne Divisions are iconic, famous for their brazen offensives and desperate last-ditch stands in World War II.

At Gettysburg, Union General George Meade led the Army of the Potomac against the Confederacy’s wily Robert E. Lee, somehow fending off days of ferocious Southern assaults. And of course, few units are more famous than the Continental Army, which found its ultimate leader in George Washington.

From the 1st Infantry to the 3rd Infantry, from Iwo Jima to Paris, American infantry, aircrews, and sailors have taken part in battles large and small all over the globe. Do you know the nicknames of the most famous squads?

What was the nickname of the 2nd Armored Division, which served from 1940 to 1995?

Now deactivated, the 2nd Armored Division emerged during World War II and was a force to be reckoned with. All along the Western Front, the Nazis feared "Hell on Wheels."


Who was the famous commander of the 2nd Armored Division during WWII?

The 2nd Armored Division was a heavy armored unit under the command of the ever-feisty George S. Patton. His battlefield boldness earned him great respect from his Axis counterparts.


What's special about the 28th Infantry Division?

The 28th Infantry Division is one of America's backbone units, the oldest division-size unit in the country. The 28th was first organized in 1879 and is still serving.


Where did the 6th Ranger Battalion serve during WWII?

The 6th Ranger Battalion drew the short straw. It wound up in the bloody quagmire of the Pacific during WWII. The men were famed for their actions in combat in the Philippines.


What animal would you find on the sleeve insignia for the 34th Infantry Division?

Just call the 34th Infantry Division "Red Bull," for the insignia on the men's sleeves. Red Bull served in both World Wars and has been a major force in the War on Terror, too.


What was one standout characteristic of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment?

Known as Varnum's Regiment, the 1st Rhode Island Regiment was a mostly-black unit during the American Revolution. They were no short-timers -- they served throughout the entire war.


The 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines made a stand against which enemy in WWII?

The 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, "The Professionals," fought against the Japanese in the Pacific Theater. Notably, they were part of the defense of Henderson Field during the Guadalcanal campaign.


During WWII, the Germans gave the 28th Infantry Division a memorable nickname. What was that nickname?

The Germans saw the unique red service badges of the 28th Infantry Division and concocted a new nickname: "Bloody Buckets." The name stuck.


During the Civil War, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment fought for which side?

The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment was the very first black unit formed for service in the Union Army during the Civil War. It was created in March 1863 following the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.


"Old Ironsides" is the nickname of which unit?

Activated in 1940, the 1st Armored Division, or "Old Ironsides," is a major combined arms division in the Army. The unit is now headquartered at Fort Bliss.


What happened to the 101st Airborne at the World War II Battle of the Bulge?

At the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne, the Americans were surrounded by German forces, who asked that the 101st surrender. Their official reply? "Nuts!" The Germans resumed their full-throated assault. And did they get through? What do you think? It was the 101st.


During the Battle of Belleau Wood in WWI, Daniel Daly, a member of the 73rd Machine Gun Company, shouted a line that still echoes today. What did First Sergeant Daly say?

At the 1918 Battle of Belleau Wood, U.S. 2nd and 3rd Divisions, including Daly's 73rd Machine Gun Company, led his men into German machine gun fire with these iconic words: "Come on you sons of b******, do you want to live forever?" It's still a rallying cry for the Marines.


What sort of unit is the 82nd Airborne Division?

The Army's 82nd Airborne Division has a reputation as one of the most lethal light infantry units ever organized. In both World Wars (and beyond), the 82nd is often dropped into the middle of hot zones with daunting objectives.


The Electronic Attack Squadron 138 ,"Yellow Jackets," have which critical job?

The "Yellow Jackets" are a Navy squadron that conducts attacks on an enemy's sophisticated electronics. They suppress radar and destroy enemy communications systems.


During WWI, the 2nd Armored Division was part of which critical battle?

In 1944, the Germans launched an attack that became known as the Battle of the Bulge. The 2nd Armored Division rolled into the fray, and in terrible winter weather, they helped push back the Germans ... and then chased them across the Rhine.


"Gunslingers" is a famous unit in which branch of the military?

The Navy's Strike Fighter Squadron 105 is also known as the "Gunslingers." They fly F/A-18E Super Hornets, and fittingly, their insignias prominently feature old-school revolvers.


The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment was made even more famous thanks to Hollywood. Its men were lionized in a movie titled ______.

In 1863, at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment conducted a frontal assault against the Confederates. "Glory" shows how they charged into withering fire -- and were cut down. They lost the fight but found eternal fame in the halls of American courage.


The 28th Infantry Division prefers its nickname from the Great War. What is that nickname?

During WWI, General John J. Pershing, the top commander of American forces, gazed upon the 28th Infantry Division and gave them the nickname its men cherish most: "Iron Division."


The Hellfighters were a black and Puerto Rican unit that gained fame during which war?

It was the Germans who gave the 369th Infantry Regiment their best-known nickname of "Hellfighters." They saw more combat than any other American unit of WWI -- six months of hell, during which they suffered more than 1,500 casualties.


A guy named Audie Murphy served in which division during WWII?

During WWII, Audie Murphy's heroism as part of the 3rd Infantry was literally the stuff of Hollywood movies. In just one battle, he single-handedly killed dozens of Axis troops to save his own men. After the war he became a popular movie star.


True or false, was the 2nd Armored Division part of the first D-Day Landings in Normandy?

The 2nd Armored Division under Gen. Patton demonstrated plenty of heroics, but it was not part of the initial D-Day landing. These men arrived a few days later and then pushed inland.


What formidable objective was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division on June 6, 1944?

On June 6, 1944, the 1st Infantry was told to storm Omaha Beach in Normandy. There was just one little problem: Heavily-armed Germans were already there. Some of the 1st's units were decimated by one-third before the end of the day.


The 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion ("Destroyers") saw action in which fight?

The Destroyers were a vital unit during the Gulf War, when a coalition forced pushed Iraq out of Kuwait. They mostly relied on LAV-25s, a type of eight-wheeled light armored vehicle.


During WWII, the 4th Infantry Division may have been the very first unit to arrive in which location?

Several other groups make the same claim, but the 4th Infantry Division was among the very first (surface-borne, not airborne) units to land at Normandy on D-Day. More than 20,000 men of the 4th streamed ashore, and they were lucky, suffering far fewer casualties than other divisions.


The 1st United States Sharpshooters became famous in the Civil War. What color were their uniforms?

In the Civil War, the 1st United States Sharpshooters were proficient in hitting long-range with their rifles. In their signature green uniforms, they made life hell for Confederate infantry and artillerymen.


The "Bounty Hunters" serve in which branch of the military?

The "Bounty Hunters" are Strike Fighter Squadron 2, part of the U.S. Navy. They deploy from the supercarrier USS Carl Vinson.


In the Great War, the United States 77th Division was cut off and surrounded by the Germans. They became known as the _______.

During WWI, the United States 77th Division was isolated in the Argonne Forest, and then the Germans went to work, slicing apart the Americans for the better part of a week. But the "Lost Battalion" fought on, and a week later, about 200 of the 550 men were rescued.


What's the current mission of the famed 2nd Infantry Division, which was formed in 1917?

The 2nd Infantry Division fought major engagements in both World Wars, and it was a fixture in the Korean War, too. Now, it stands on South Korean territory in hopes of deterring North Korean aggression.


VFA-102 is a Strike Fighter Squadron that’s known by which nickname?

Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-102 was formed in 1955 and flies for the U.S. Navy. The Diamondbacks played major roles in both the Vietnam and Gulf Wars.


The 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team suffered terrible losses in which war?

During the Vietnam War, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team was the very first large-scale team to hit the ground. It suffered thousand of casualties, one reason its troops were decorated with more than 6,000 Purple Hearts.


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