World War I
The regiment’s performance in the Philippines and in Mexico made such a favorable impression on General Pershing that he personally chose it to be one of four infantry regiments assigned to the new 1st Division, soon to become known as the “Big Red One.” Sailing from Hoboken, New Jersey, the 16th Infantry Regiment landed at St. Nazaire, France, near the end of June 1917 as one of the first regiments to arrive on French soil.
The 16th Infantry Regiment, began training in July 1917 in the Gondrecourt area with the French 47th Division, Chasseaurs d’Alpines, nicknamed the “Blue Devils.” On 3 November 1917, while occupying a section of trenches near Bathlémont, the 16th Infantry became the first U.S. regiment to fight and suffer casualties in the trenches during World War I when it repelled a German night raid. In the months that followed, the 16th Infantry would sustain even more casualties in defensive battles in eastern France at Ansauville, Cantigny, and Coullemelle. The regiment’s first major attack was made during the bloody three-day drive near Soissons in July 1918. Along with the rest of the Big Red One, it relentlessly attacked until the German rail line that supplied their front line troops was severed forcing a major withdrawal of the enemy’s forces.
The regiment also participated in the US First Army’s huge offensive to reduce the St. Mihiel salient in September. Arguably the regiment’s most gallant action was the grueling drive that liberated the little village of Fléville in the Argonne forest region on 4 October 1918. This feat was significant in that the 16th Infantry was the only regiment in the entire First U.S. Army to take its main objective on the first day of the Meuse-Argonne Campaign. The 16th Infantry also participated in the 1st Division’s final drive of the war when the division attacked to seize the city of Sedan. Though the division was stopped short of that objective by international politics, the verve and vigor of that drive demonstrated the regiment lived up to the division’s new motto, “No mission too difficult, no sacrifice too great—Duty First!”