To War with the 4th

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  • Author:
    Martin King, Michael lCollins and Jason Nulton
    "The long and proud history of the 4th Infantry Division is unknown to most people"

    The 4th Division is among one of the oldest divisions of the American Army and with its centenary approaching (10th December, 2017) the authors have sought to write its definitive history, from World War 1 to Afghanistan.

    Activated on 17th November, 1917, the 4th Division quickly became known as the "Ivy" Division by virtue of the Roman numeral 1V in its designation. As part of the American Expeditionary Force commanded by Black Jack Pershing, they were by the 5th June, 1918 on French soil and ready to fight alongside the Allied forces. The American forces were deployed on the understanding that they would serve under their own commanders to prevent them becoming cannon-fodder for the Allies. However, the 4th first saw battle at the Second Battle Of The Marne (18th July - 17th August) while forming part of the The French 6th Army under General Degoutte. They sustained heavy casualties but what was never in doubt was their courage and determination when fighting.

    Following the German surrender, the 4th took up occupation duties in the Rhineland area, finally returning home on 21st September, 1921. They were the last American division to leave Europe and on their return were inactivated in accordance with the Army Reorganisation Act, 1921.

    Reactivation occurred on 1st June,1940 as the 4th Motorised Division, but it was not until January, 1944 that they landed in the UK to start preparations for the invasion of Europe. They were to lead the assault at Utah Beach on 6th June, 1944.

    The majority of the book is taken up by the the First and Second World Wars, the historical narrative interspersed with many first-hand accounts which vividly bring to life the realities of warfare.

    Twenty two years after landing at Utah Beach, the 4th made another beach landing at Qui Nonh, Vietnam, this one was unopposed and subsequently they moved to Camp Enari, near Pleiku, in the Central Highlands. A tour lasted 12 months and during the four and a half year deployment 2,500 were killed and many thousands were wounded. After Vietnam the 4th were involved in various deployments to Europe as part of the ongoing "Cold War'.

    Then, in late 2002, they were once again in action in Iraq, ending up near Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, they also played a central part in his eventual capture. After three deployments they finally returned home in in early 2009.

    After the initial deployment to Iraq, the adoption of the Brigade Combat Team concept meant that large divisions no longer served as a whole, but sub-units would be detached to serve with and supplement other units to form a Brigade Combat Team whose composition depended on the situational need. This was also the case in Afghanistan where soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team were deployed in 2010.

    It is surprising that the sections referring to Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan sadly do not amount to much, although there is a wealth of literature on all three conflicts. Obviously the way the Division was deployed in these three theatres was different to the former mass deployments of the two World Wars, but, given that this is intended to be a one hundred year history of the 4th Division, it does rather let itself down in the closing chapters.

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  1. LeoRoverman
    To war with the 4th

    King, Collins and Nulton.

    This book unfortunately does not engage, but it is not entirely the fault of the Authors. It’s a Book ostensibly written for soldiers of the 4th Division US ARMY and for those who can identify with Divisional level. Therein lies the problem. Most Soldiers are regimental animals, not divisional. The Division as an organisation varies as circumstances change and regiments come and go as do ancillary units. Regiments may change their Roles, but essentially they remain the family and they wander from Division to division as required. This is sad for this book, because the reminiscences included are valid, but they are quintessentially at regimental or platoon level. That’s where the disconnect lies. Apart from that, the compilers appear to be struggling to pad the book out. Nothing can take away the experiences of front line soldiers but the chapters about the First war would leave many cold. The oft used phrase “Too little, too late” springs to mind in terms of the relatively short spell in 1918, which really gives little credit to the American infantrymen. They don’t deserve that. The only thing of note is the admission that despite words to the contrary by Political leadership, the 4th was under French control. (P52 Meuse Argonne offensive)

    The other interesting thing of note is impression of dispersal and disjointedness during the German Bulge offensive, plus the severe logistical problems suffered by the Allies in the Post D Day phase, despite by now having Cherbourg and Liberated Paris which are attributed to infighting at the top. The Book is at pains to point out that the 4th Divison were in the Battle of the Bulge as though others have stolen the Kudos. None of this again can belittle the efforts of the soldiers themselves but one is left with a slight aftertaste. It’s undoubtedly a researchers book and I’ll leave it at that.