Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

With a rich heritage rooted in colonial military formations – such as the forces furnished in 1740 for a disastrous English expe­dition against Cartagena, Spain’s principal seaport in South America, and Benjamin Franklin’s ten thousand mem­ber military Association, estab­lished in 1747 – the 28th Infantry (Keystone) Division, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, is the oldest regularly constituted division of the United States Armed Forces. Throughout its long and dis­tinguished history of service to both the Commonwealth and the nation, the 28th Division has served admirably in war­time, as well as during times of peace. It has, above all, played a vital role in the heritage of a young, fledgling nation – and one that continually evolves as the Division faces new chal­lenges and opportunities with every passing day.

The Pennsylvania Militia Act of 1755 provided for a volunteer militia led by officers elected from the ranks. The Pennsylvania Militia saw much campaigning between 1755 and 1764, but unlike other colonial period militias, its roster was made up of volun­teers. Troop A of the 28th Division’s 104th Armored Cavalry traces its lineage to the Philadelphia Light Horse, later designated the First Troop, Philadelphia City Cavalry, created in 1774, and the Divi­sion’s 103rd Engineer Battalion and 111th Infantry descended from the Artillery Battalion, formed in 1777.

The Pennsylvania Militia Act of 1783 called for training six days each year and several years later militia enrollment was mandatory, but only vol­unteers could be employed for active service. Pennsylvania’s militia fought in the invasion of Canada and in Ohio during the War of 1812, including the Battle of Lake Erie in Septem­ber 1813. Two Pennsylvania infantry regiments participated in the battles of Vera Cruz and Cerro Gordo during the Mexi­can War, and contingents took part in the engagements lead­ing to the seizure of Mexico City. By the outbreak of the Civil War, the Pennsylvania militia numbered 19,000 men in 339 infantry, eighty-four artillery and fifty-three cavalry units. For the North’s war effort, the units helped form the 210 regiments which Penn­sylvania contributed to Presi­dent Lincoln’s assault on the Confederacy.

In 1870, the term “militia” was abandoned by state law, and the forces were officially named the National Guard of Pennsylvania. Between 1871 and 1877, the National Guard of Pennsylvania was called upon repeatedly for strike and riot control duty. As terrible and bloody as several of these disorders became, the Guard gained much experience in rapid deployment, transporta­tion, logistical support for, and command and control of, large bodies of troops. Inevitably, these experiences would prove invaluable during the Spanish-­American War two decades later. According to military historians, the troops never precipitated gunfire or blood­shed during the civil incidents but only used their weapons in self-defense.

Following the Civil War, the Commonwealth was appor­tioned into ten geographic divisions to organize the Guard. Each division was allotted a major general, a number of brigadiers and a host of staff officers. During the severe and often violent labor strikes and riots of 1877, this system proved so un­wieldy and cumbersome that Adj. Gen. James W. Latta recommended to Gov. John Frederick Hartranft (1830-1889) that the National Guard of Pennsylvania be reorganized as a single division having “but one general, with three or four brigades” and con­forming “to the organization of a division of an army …. ”

Latta realized his wish on June 12, 1878, when the state legislature reorganized the Guard, specifically calling for one major general of the line and no more than five briga­diers. Essentially, the restric­tion to one major general dictated a single division, and the ten divisions were dis­banded and replaced by an organization of five brigades. On March 12, 1879, former Governor Hartranft was ap­pointed Major General, Divi­sion Commander, National Guard, signaling the advent of the what has since been known as the 28th Division. During that summer, the Na­tional Guard of Pennsylvania adopted the keystone as its badge.

When the United States declared war against Spain on April 21, 1898, Gov. Daniel Hartman Hastings (1849-1903) ordered the 28th to assemble at Mount Gretna, Lebanon County, within a week. By April 29, more than eighty­-nine hundred men – ninety­-seven percent of all personnel – had reported for duty! Fifteen infantry regi­ments, three cavalry troops and three artillery batteries were activated. The 4th and 6th Regiments, plus the cav­alry and artillery, served in Puerto Rico. The 10th Infantry, dispatched to the Philippines, engaged in hard campaigning: fifteen men died and another sixty-one were wounded. The 10th Infantry returned from the Philippines with the appe­llation “The Fighting 10th.”

When called for Mexican border duty in 1916, the 28th was officially designated the 7th Division by the War De­partment. Grueling training, including marches of up to one hundred miles, artillery prac­tice with live ammunition, and combined arms maneuvers, prepared the soldiers for World War I. Upon being called for service during World War I, the unit assembled at Camp Hancock, Augusta, Georgia, where it was rede­signated the 28th Division. The 28th chose the nickname “Keystone” and adopted the distinctive red keystone shoul­der patch in 1918.

Deployed to France in May 1918, the troop transport Olym­pic rammed and sank a Ger­man submarine which had surfaced near it. After training several weeks with the British, the 28th was committed to the second line of defense south of the Marne River and east of Chateau-Thierry, but several companies and infantries were hastily dispatched to the front to stiffen the line. During an attack by the Germans on the second day of action, French units withdrew without in­forming their American allies, and four entire companies were decimated in fierce combat. The Germans collided with the remainder of the 28th and were stopped. Com­mander of the American Expe­ditionary Force, Gen. John J. Pershing, upon learning of the courageous stand mounted by these few companies, ex­claimed, “Why, these are Iron Men!,” thus giving rise to the 28th’s moniker, “The Iron Division.”

The 28th Division partici­pated in the Allied counter offensive along the Marne River, moved to the Vesle River, known as “Death Val­ley,” and in a bloody battle seized Fismette across the river. During the Meuse­-Argonne offensive in Septem­ber, the 28th suffered crippling casualties. Before the close of World War I, the 28th endured 135 days of combat and lost 14,356 officers and men.

In 1939, the 28th Division took part in First Army ma­neuvers near Manassas, Vir­ginia, and by the following year training increased, and the men spent three weeks at Fort Drum in New York. Mobi­lized on February 1, 1941, the 28th later participated in Caro­lina maneuvers. Jn December, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Division was retained on active duty “for the duration of the war.” The command was reorgan­ized from a “square II division of four infantry regiments to a “triangular” division of three infantry regiments of three battalions each. In turn, each battalion had three rifle com­panies. As a result of the reor­ganization, the 111th Infantry Regiment left the 28th and
fought in the South Pacific.

After training at Louisiana’s Camp Livingston-where it was briefly commanded by Maj. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, later United States Army Chief of Staff-the 28th departed for Wales in October 1943. In July of the following year, the Divi­sion landed in France and entered combat within a week near Percy. On August 13, 1944, Maj. Gen. Lloyd D. Brown left the Division as commander and his successor, Brig. Gen. James E. Warton, was killed by a sniper the same day. Brig. Gen. Norman D.Cota, appointed to com­mand the 28th, remained in charge for the remainder of the war.

It was on August 24 that Pennsylvania’s 28th Division made its famous march through the streets of Paris on its way to another part of the front. The 28th cleared the Compeigne Forest and moved into Luxembourg, reaching the German border on September 10.During the ensuing battles of Germany’s West Wall, Staff Sgt. Francis J. Clark of the 109th Infantry won the Con­gressional Medal of Honor. Despite being wounded sev­eral times during a five day span, Clark commanded two platoons when their leaders were killed, rescued a unit and single-handedly wiped out a machine gun nest, forcing the enemy’s retreat.

In October, the 28th Divi­sion was ordered to seize the small crossroad village of Sch­midt, located in the dark and dense Hurtgen Forest. Earlier in the month, the U.S. 9th Infantry lost four thousand men in the Hurtgen Forest – a sacrifice for which they gained only three thousand yards. The challenge then fell to the 28th. From October 26 to mid­November, the 28th – locked into a bitter struggle with determined German offenders who christened the unit the “Bloody Bucket” – suffered 6,184 casualties. To the Ger­mans, the 28th’s keystone resembled a red bucket and the outstanding casualties suffered by the command rendered the sobriquet more than appropriate.

Later moved to a quiet sector along the Oise River, the 28th occupied a twenty-five mile front where it regrouped and refitted for battle. The 112th Regiment held six miles in the north, the 110th ten miles in the center, and the 109th the remaining nine miles of the southern front. The frontage was more than triple that of routine coverage, but in most places, particularly in the area watched by the 110th Regiment, the line was only a series of strong points. And the worst was yet to come.

Before dawn on December 16, 1944, the Germans attacked the 28th Division. Although the 112th Regiment was able to extricate itself after holding the enemy through the following day, the hapless 110th was shattered by repeated assaults by the 26th Yolks Grenadier and 2nd Panzer (Armored) Division. Remnants of the 110th Regiment finally with­drew on the third day of battle – minus 2,750 officers and men. The 109th initially fought the 352nd Yolks Grena­dier Division to a standstill, but was forced back the same day. During the three day battle, the 28th fought eight German units, inflicting more than 11,700 casualties, but counting 3,850 dead and wounded, and another two thousand captured.

The 28th’s valor and cour­age prompted war correspon­dent Morley Cassidy’s remark that, “The type of resistance offered by the Keystone troops was one of the greatest feats ever performed in the history of the American Army.” If the Pennsylvania division had not sacrificed itself there would not have been the crucial stand at Bastogne – the Germans would have taken it before the 101st Airborne Division arrived.

On February 1, 1945, the reconstituted 28th Division attacked and soundly beat the Germans on the Colmar Plain, its last great battle. By August, the 28th had returned to the United States. In nearly two hundred days of combat, the Division claimed staggering losses: 2,146 dead, 9,893 wounded, 2,597 missing, 2,247 captured, in addition to non­-battle casualties totaling 8,893.

Just five years had passed when the 28th, at annual :train­ing at Indiantown Gap, heeded the alert for active duty for the Korean War on August 2, 1950. Within one month, 9,700 members of the 28th were inducted, and move­ment to Camp Atterbury in Indiana began on Sunday, September 10. Early the fol­lowing day a train carrying soldiers from throughout northeastern Pennsylvania stopped near Coshocton, Ohio, because of a broken air hose. In spite of warning flares, a passenger train smashed into the rear of the troop train, killing thirty-three men of the 109th Field Artillery Battalion and injuring hun­dreds of others. The dead were returned to Pennsylvania ac­companied by an honor guard of grieving comrades.

Training commenced at Camp Atterbury and thou­sands of filler troops swelled the ranks of the 28th Division. During February and March 1953, two levies took more than six thousand men from the command for duty over­seas. New soldiers arrived to replace them and by mid-April the 28th regained full wartime strength. The command de­ployed to Germany in Novem­ber, and components were stationed in the southern part of the country at Gablingen, Ulm, Heilbronn, Ellwangen, Leipheim, while headquarters were established at Goep­pingen. Part of the United Nations forces defending Europe, the 28th Infantry Division remained until June 1954.

Not all of the 28th Divi­sion’s service to the Common­wealth has been rendered during wartime. In fact, the Guard has supported civilian authorities in peacetime and may be called to active duty by the governor, who is consid­ered the commander-in-chief of the force, to assist civilian officials during natural disas­ters and emergencies. How­ever, Guard troops are only called when civil authorities have exhausted personnel and equipment. During wartime or national emergencies, the Guard – its members serving as reservists – is subject to federal duty at the call of the president or the Congress.

Since its organization as a division in 1879, the Pennsyl­vania Guard has been called to assist during one tornado (1890), seven floods (1889, 1936, 1958, 1971, 1972, 1975 and 1977) and two snowstorms (1958 and 1977). R>ur thousand soldiers were deployed to Pittsburgh in 1968 to quell civil disturbance and the following year six hundred were dis­patched to York.

Labor strikes required more than thirty-five hundred Guardsmen at Homestead in 1892, two infantry regiments and a troop of cavalry in 1894 in Jefferson County, and twenty-five hundred at Latti­mer, near Hazleton, in 1897. The entire 28th Division was employed in 1902 during the anthracite strike which crip­pled seven counties. During the Truckers’ Strike of 1974, nearly sixty percent of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard was involved in “Oper­ation Safeway.”

Guard flood duty has in­cluded perilous search and rescue missions, crucial medi­cal support, transportation and distribution of food, cloth­ing, water and supplies, safe­guarding of property, bridge building, operation of mass care facilities, traffic control and recovery operations. Dur­ing the 1936 flood, which in­undated more than three thousand square miles of the Commonwealth, six thousand members of the Guard were called for duty. Thirty-five of Pennsylvania’s sixty-seven counties experienced flooding in the wake of Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972, the worst the Commonwealth has encountered, and required the serv­ices of more than twelve thousand members of the Guard. In one heroic episode, the rotor blades of an aircraft were used to break tree branches to complete a rescue mission.

Five years later, as flood waters swept through eight counties, more than thirty-four hundred members of the Guard were sent to the Johns­town area to evacuate many of the stranded residents. In one day alone, the Guard evacu­ated 212 people. Perhaps the most daring feat was under­taken by Specialist Fifth Class Barry P. Pope, Troop D, 104th Cavalry, who rappelled 125 feet from a hovering helicopter, narrowly avoiding electrically charged wires and debris, to rescue a diabetic man trapped on a flood covered bridge. He had the man safely lifted into a helicopter, then clung precari­ously to the bridge in the rush­ing water, knowing that the poor flying conditions might prevent the helicopter return­ing for his rescue. For his brav­ery, Pope was awarded the Cross of Valor, the Common­wealth’s highest decoration for heroism, as well as the Valley Forge Cross of Valor from the National Guard Association of the United States.

“Operation Snowfall” during snowstorm duty in northern Pennsylvania in 1958 employed 150 Guardsmen using trucks, half-tracks, trac­tors, bulldozers, road graders, snowplows, wreckers and two tanks and rescued people and delivered provisions and medi­cal supplies. A 112th Infantry crew transported a doctor in its tank to a stranded family to save the lives of a mother and the baby she had just deliv­ered. In 1977, heavy snows blanketed twenty-eight coun­ties and nearly a thousand members of the Guard re­sponded to prevent the loss of life and property. In the wake of the Three Mile Island inci­dent on March 28, 1979, thir­teen battalions and parts of two others were alerted to assist civil authorities in the event that evacuation was deemed necessary. Fortu­nately, their services were not required.

In the midst of the 28th’s active service, training contin­ued and in 1961, for the first time, the Division trained outside of Pennsylvania. Four years later, the 28th Division reorganized, splitting the organization among Pennsyl­vania, Ohio and Maryland. The command returned to brigade structure, with one apportioned to each state. In a subsequent reorganization in 1968, the Ohio brigade was exchanged for Virginia’s 116th (Stonewall) Brigade, whose units descended from Confed­erate Thomas J. Jackson’s so­-called Stonewall Brigade. The tri-state configuration lasted until 1975, when the 28th was once again reunited in Penn­sylvania. The return of the Division prompted a major realignment of Guard troops in the Commonwealth, but it retained a three brigade struc­ture: the 3rd Brigade in Wash­ington, the 55th in Scranton and the 56th in Philadelphia.

Military training, always a priority of the 28th Division, for many years consisted of forty-eight two hour drills each year, in addition to two weeks at a military post. In 1958, the command was authorized three “multiple drills” of two four-hour training periods on the same day and one week­end drill. The number of mul­tiple drills subsequently increased to seven, permitting longer, more continuous and more effective training ses­sions. Two years later the Pennsylvania Army National Guard Officer Candidate School opened, graduating twenty-eight officers the fol­lowing summer. A result of the Berlin Crisis of 1961, when the Soviet Union blockaded road and rail communications be­tween West Germany and Berlin, National Guard and Reserve units were ordered to increase drills. Called the Intensified Training Program, the strategy directed every unit to schedule six drills each month. The program eventu­ally ceased in February 1962.

The advent of the Selected Reserve Force (SRF) during the Viet Nam Conflict required designated Division units to conduct seventy-two assem­bles each year (instead of forty­-eight) plus two weeks of intensive field training. Train­ing standards were rigorous and non-SRF units acted as the “enemy” during the tests, enhancing their training as well. And training standards remain rigorous to this day.

Since 1963, all new enlistees are required to undergo active duty basic, advanced and specialized training appropri­ate to their unit assignment, and officers and selected staff must attend frequent planning sessions. In order to qualify for retention and promotion, non-commissioned officers must meet the same standards as their Army counterparts. Staff training is augmented by Command Post exercises, usually held in the field under simulated tactical conditions to both train and test staff mem­bers individually and collectively.

The 28th Division continues to stay current in organization, equipment and training. In 1986, the Aviation Battalion was expanded to a brigade and now has helicopter attack and support battalions, as well as a cavalry squadron. Specialized training for selected units is conducted in various places, including England, the Hon­duras and the desert of Cali­fornia. Command Post exercises, most of which deal with combat, are tough and realistic, but the most complex and demanding exercise is the Army’s Battle Command Train­ing Program. This computer­-assisted exercise, dubbed WARFIGHTER, is held for both active and reserve divisions. Upon the 28th’s completion of this maneuver last year, Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Carl Vuono, praised the Keystone Division highly: “They set a standard for other divisions to follow.”

Decade after decade, gener­ation upon generation, the men and women of the 28th Division have risen to each and every challenge, during both times of peace and war. Not only has the Division met these challenges, it has ex­ceeded many. Today, more than fourteen thousand Divi­sion members, including 450 women, stand ready, as al­ways, to not only defend fel­low Pennsylvanians but the honor of the Keystone State as well. And in their day-to-day operations, unbeknownst to most of the world, they remain dedicated to setting the stand­ard for others to follow.


For Further Reading

Churchill, Allen L., ed. Pennsyl­vania in the World War: An Illustrated History of the Twenty-Eighth Division. Pitts­burgh: States Publications Soci­ety, 1921.

Clarke, William Packer. Official History of the Militia and the National Guard of the State of Pennsylvania. Harrisburg: Charles J. Hendler; 1909.

Colbaugh, Jack. The Bloody Patch: A True Story of the Daring 28th Infantry Division. New York: Vantage Press, 1973.

Crist, Robert Grant, ed. The First Century: A History of the 28th Infantry Division. Harris­burg: Stackpole Books, 1979.

Martin, Edward. Always Be On Time. Harrisburg: Telegraph Press, 1959.

____. The Twenty-Eighth Divi­sion: Pennsylvania’s Guard in the World War. Pittsburgh: 28th Division Publishing Company, 1924.

Proctor, H.G. The Iron Divi­sion: National Guard of Penn­sylvania in the World War. Philadelphia: The John C. Win­ston Company, 1919.

Roll on 28th. Atlanta: Albert Love Enterprises, 1951.

Stevens, Sylvester K. Pennsylva­nia: Birthplace of a Nation. New York: Random House, 1964.


Uzal W. Ent of Camp Hill is a telecommunications supervisor with the Pennsylvania Depart­ment of Public Welfare. A retired brigadier general of the Pennsyl­vania Army National Guard and former Chief of Staff of the 28th Infantry Division, he served a total of thirty-four years of active and National Guard duty. He directed the compilation and publication of The First Century: A History of the 28th Infantry Division (1979). The author’s work has also appeared in magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias.