A Tribute to the Infantry

"Look at an infantryman's eyes and you can tell how much war he has seen" Bill Mauldin

Combat Infantryman Badge

(Click Combat Infantryman Badge for its history)

It is the mission of all other branches of the service to bring
the infantry into close contact with the enemy.

The heart of a World War II infantry division lay within its three Regimental Combat Teams. With its nine rifle companies, and its often unheralded supporting units, it was the infantry regiment that was depended upon to push forward in victory and occupy the objective. And with only his M-1 rifle between him and the enemy, it was the individual rifleman that was the very pulse of that heart beat. While a few have been singled out, and rightfully so, for special recognition and awarded high citations, it's the Combat Infantryman Badge that proudly and distinctively identifies those who have experienced infantry warfare and is properly worn above all other awards and decorations. The other decoration, unfortunately all too familiar to the combat soldier, is the Purple Heart.

"We few... We very few... We Band of Brothers.
          For he who sheds his blood with me today shall be my brother - -"

William Shakespeare                  

Purple Heart

(Click Purple Heart to learn more about its history)

Historians have tried, most often in vain, to tell the story of the infantryman of other wars as well of World War II, but only a few have approached reality. In our war, cartoonist Bill Mauldin not only had an understanding of the life of the infantryman, but also preserved some of the unfailing sense of G.I. humor that was present even in the most trying situations. Mauldin's familiar caricatures, Willie & Joe, truthfully reflected the life of the infantryman because he had been one himself. The following collection of quotations also signifies an understanding of the life of an infantryman:

Historian Stephen Ambrose wrote, "Within the ranks of the military, a rifle company is unique. Its prolonged exposure to the horrors of face-to-face combat forges bonds that are virtually unbreakable. With a closeness unknown to all outsiders, comrades are closer than friends, closer than brothers. Their relationship is different from that of lovers. Their trust in, and knowledge of, each other is total."

And, in like manner, with reference to the German combat soldier, Siegfried Knappe, in his book Soldat, stated, "Men who share combat become brothers and this brotherhood is so important to them that they would give their lives for one another. It is not just friendship, and it is stronger than flag and country."

Of all WWII war correspondents, Ernie Pyle seemed to best understand and said, "I loved the infantry because they were the underdogs. They were the mud, rain, frost, and wind boys. They had no comforts and they even learned to live without the necessities. And in the end they were the guys without whom the Battle could not have been won." And along this same theme, in his book D-Day, Stephen Ambrose stated, "It was not a miracle. It was the infantry. The plan had called for the air and naval bombardments, followed by tanks and dozers to blast a path through the exits so that the infantry could march up the draws and engage the enemy, but the plan had failed, utterly and completely failed. As is almost always the case in war, it was up to the infantry."

With a clear perspective, developed from personal experience, General Omar Bradley proclaimed in truthful lamentation, "The rifleman fights without promise of either reward or relief. Behind every river there's another hill and behind that hill, another river. After weeks or months in the line only a wound can offer him the comfort of safety, shelter and a bed. Those who are left to fight, fight on, evading death but knowing that with each day of evasion they have exhausted one more chance for survival. Sooner or later, unless victory comes, this chase must end on the litter or in the grave."

The Queen of Battle

"We are members of one of the oldest professions in the history of the world. However, from time immemorial critics, historians and conquerors have looked askance at the lowly foot soldier. Ingenious minds have long endeavored to conceive something to replace us. From the forgotten soul who invented the chariot, to the development of the modern panzer division of tanks, one idea has ruled the trend of war - crush the Infantry. But we have replied - Abela, Crecy, Guadalajara and Stalingrad are ours. We have a heritage that is equaled by none. We do not have the glamour that the public has spread over the Air Corps or the Navy; nor are we a specialized task force as are the Marines. We are - the Doughboy, the Dogface, the Poilu and the Tommy; the men who dig, fight and die; the jack-of-all-trades; the men who must and will win all conflicts. We are the riflemen who proudly wear the crossed rifles, we will surmount all obstacles and all barriers, alone and unaided if need be. For we are - THE INFANTRY."    The Infantry School, Fort Benning, GA - 1943

The Infantry:

It has borne the brunt of human conflict through the ages - -

Encyclopedia Britannica

The infantry, the infantry, with dirt behind their ears . . . . They can whip their weight in wildcats and drink their weight in beers . . . . The cavalry, artillery and even the engineers . . . . They'll never catch the infantry in a hundred thousand years!

Follow Me! - I am the Infantry

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This page last updated: 13 April 2013
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