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The Beginning for The Red Arrow, 32nd Infantry

A Family of 32nd Infantry. (from

The 32nd Division, known as the ‘Red Arrow’, was a division of the army made up by the National Guardsmen from Michigan and Wisconsin. As rivals these men did not fit together at first. In a fight for our country and allies, the Wolverines of Michigan and the Badgers of Wisconsin snuffed out their differences to become on of the most successful Division in American History. During World War I the units of the Red Arrows were faced with front line duties, always the first ones in and the last ones out of battle. Throughout history the Red Arrows saw many different battles.  In all forms of battles, the Red Arrows were successful, offensive and defensive, the division helped the cause and the outcome of the wars. This division would come to accomplish a great deal during the wars to come.

Red Arrow Insignia (from

To be a part of this division was and is a great honor. The ‘Les Terribles’, a nickname from the French, meaning to
fight through any line an enemy provides in battle. “More than 800 officers and enlisted men were decorated by the American, French, and Belgian government.”, (, DMVA, 2016). History shows that this group of individuals was always full of heroes. They fought together like brothers, many say they were loyal and devoted to one another as a family. They were proud to be brothers on the battle field, “they had brotherly regards for all, but sought favor of none”, (Joint War Commission, The 32nd Division in The World War, 1920). As new installments came in, the rookie soldiers quickly learned what being a Red Arrow was all about. Most new recruits adapted to their ways of family and fortitude.

After war was declared with Germany, the 32nd division was assembled. Most installments were sent down south to begin training at camp MacArthur. The National Guard organizations lost the units’ identities, which formed the new units of the 32nd division, commanded under General Wm. G. Haan (Joint War Commission, The 32nd Division in The World War, 1920). The units consisted of all Michigan and Wisconsin troops as follows:

  • 1st through 6th Wisconsin Infantry Regiments.
  • 31st through 33rd Michigan Infantry Regiments.
  • 1st Wisconsin and Michigan Field Artillery.
  • 1st Wisconsin and Michigan Engineers.
  • 1st Wisconsin and Michigan Field Signal Battalion.
  • Wisconsin Ambulance Companies No. 1 and 2.
  • Wisconsin Field Hospitals No. 1 and 2.
  • Michigan Ambulance Company No. 2
  • Michigan Field Hospital No. 1

(Joint War Commission, The 32nd Division in The World War, 1920)

The Red Arrows were trained vigorously, when inspected for battle, Washington decided they were one of the most qualified and battle ready division in the army (Joint War Commission, The 32nd Division in The World War, 1920). Washington then moved to send the Red Arrows overseas to France. After landing in France the troops of the 32nd trained for months before going into battle, this is why they rarely ever fail to accomplish a battle field goal or expectation.

In May, 1918, the 32nd Division would have its front line debut in Alsace Germany, fighting alongside their French comrades. This marked the first American troops on German soil in Alsace during WWI (DMVA, World War I, 2016). Alsace consisted of mostly trench defensive battles. For a short time, this produced a low number of causalities. Most of which were during skirmishes while on patrol in the battle field area known as No Mans Land. The short installment in Alsace ended by the end of July, when the 32nd began lashing at the Germans. The Red Arrows began their first major battle effort, with the hope of penetrating the German battle line of the Oureq river. This battle would prove to be a significant test for them. It would prove if the American soldiers could keep their tenacity and finish a battle, or if they would roll over and be defeated. The battle was a climactic point in the war, the Americans were able to capture an important town called Fismes, while the French brigades were able to capture important German rail yards. The capture of Fismes would allow the American troops safe passage over the Vesle River to continue the campaign through Germany (Joint War Commission, The 32nd Division in The World War, 1920). A French commander over saw the front, impressed by the way the Americans stormed the banks of the Oureq and the over running the German strong holds. This was when the French realized just who their allies really were. Thus the 32nd Division procured the name ‘Les Terribles’ or ‘The Terrible’. (DMVA, World War I, 2016)

The soldiers fought continuously for over two weeks in attempt to puncture the Kriemhilde Stellung line to cross the Meuse River. After a long march to the Rhine river, the 32nd engaged the Cobenz bridgehead. They captured sixty-three towns and 400 square kilometers of land. For nearly six months the Red Arrows fought and took continuous fire from the enemy, never to be deterred.

Out of the three major offensive battles, the 32nd fought on five fronts with the allies. They fought by the French in  Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne and Meuse-Argonne. They took on and defeated a significant amount German units and divisions, 23 German divisions from which 2,153 prisoners were captured (DMVA, World War I, 2016).

Memorial Statue for the Red Arrow (from

In the beginning the 32nd infantry was two separate installments that dated back to the union in the Civil War. The brigades campaign was astonishing throughout the war. They covered more area and pushed back more attacks than any other division on the line. They are still known as a prodigious fighting divisions to this day. Unfortunately, with victory comes great cost. The Red Arrows ranked 3rd in causalities, they had a total battle related deaths of approximately 14,000 men (Joint War Commission, The 32nd Division in The World War, 1920). Many men had fallen but the Red Arrow achieved more during the war than most any other division. The 32nd had a great impact on the war, they did what most divisions could not.

To this day the Red Arrows are to be honored. In Oshkosh Wisconsin there is a monument honoring those who have served the 32nd division. The memorial is located at the Red Arrow Park. Designated as the 32nd Division Memorial Highway for their numerous achievements, Wisconsin named a highway in honor of the division stretching from Michigan through Wisconsin, down to Illinois.


Primary Sources

  1.  (The 32nd Division in the World War, Joint War Commission, 1920)

Secondary Sources

  1. (DMVA, World War I, 2016)
  2. (Chris Baker, The History of 32nd Division, 1996)
  3. (The 32nd ‘Red Arrow’ Veteran Association, 2011)
  4. (Wisconsin DMA, 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team)