The 28th Infantry Division (28ID) and the PA National Guard trace their lineage back to the militia organized by Benjamin Franklin in 1747 known as the Associators. Franklin organized artillery and infantry units to defend the city of Philadelphia against French and Spanish privateers. The first meeting of the Associators occurred on Nov. 21, 1747, and on Dec. 7, 1747, the enlistees and officers were formally commissioned by the Provincial Council President, Anthony Palmer. On that day, hundreds of armed Associators presented themselves to Palmer at the Philadelphia Courthouse and he wisely stated their activities were “not disapproved” and duly commissioned all of them.
The 28ID is the oldest continuously serving division in the United States Army. On March 12, 1879, Governor Henry Hoyt signed General Order Number One appointing Maj. Gen. John Hartranft as the first division commander of the National Guard of Pennsylvania, and the most storied and renowned division in the history of the U.S. Army was born. The keystone was prescribed as the designated symbol of the National Guard of Pennsylvania on Aug. 27, 1879.
The division was mustered into service for the Spanish-American War in 1898, and three regiments, three artillery batteries, and three cavalry troops were deployed for service. In 1916 the division, then designated the 7th Division, was mustered into service and deployed to El Paso, Texas, to serve along the Mexican border.
In response to World War I, the division was drafted into federal service on Aug. 5, 1917, and trained at Camp Hancock, Ga. While in Georgia, the division was reorganized as the 28ID on Oct. 11, 1917. After arriving in France, the 28ID gained fame as a result of its gallant stand on July 15, 1918. As the division took up defensive positions along the Marne River east of Chateau-Thierry, the Germans commenced their attack with a fierce artillery bombardment. When the German assault collided with the main force of the 28ID, the fighting became bitter hand-to-hand combat. The 28ID repelled the German forces and decisively defeated their enemy. After the battle, Gen. John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, visited the battlefield and declared that the 28ID soldiers are "Men of Iron" and named the 28ID his "Iron Division." The 28ID developed a red keystone-shaped shoulder patch, officially adopted Oct. 27, 1918.
The 28ID was mobilized in preparation for World War II on Feb. 1, 1941. The first soldiers of the 28ID stepped ashore at Omaha Beach on July 22, 1944. On Aug. 29, 1944, the 28ID had the honor of being the first American division to parade through Paris, and later fought across northern France into Germany. As the 28ID breached the formidable Westwall of the German defenses in September 1944, Staff Sgt. Francis Clark from the 109th Infantry earned the Medal of Honor. The 28ID fought valiantly in the Huertgen Forest, disrupted the German counter-offensive during the Battle of the Bulge, and eventually liberated Colmar, France, from the grip of the German military. The 28ID crossed the Rhine and took positions in the Ruhr Pocket to stop any German forces driving south, and was in those positions when the fighting in Europe came to an end.
During the Korean War, the 28ID was mobilized and deployed to Europe as a part of the NATO command defending Western Europe from the threat of Soviet attack. The 28ID mobilized on Sept. 5, 1950, and remained on federal service until May 22, 1953.
The soldiers of the 28ID have continued to make history since Sept. 11, 2001. The division has conducted operations in places including Bosnia, Kosovo, the Sinai, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. Many 28ID soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice, and hundreds have been recognized for their dedicated service and valor. The 28ID continues to build on its legacy as the Iron Division and 28ID warriors take pride in being fit, resilient and well-trained in order to support each other and defend our great Nation.