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81st Division - Wildcat Division

The Eighty-First Division, National Army, was established at Camp Jackson, South Carolina on August 5, 1917. Initially draftees from Florida (6,325), North Carolina (15,974), and South Carolina (10,081) were assigned to the division. The first troops of the 81st arrived in France on August 15, 1918, and the last arrived August 25. All troops moved to Le Havre and Cherbourg, France after arrival.

Soldiers of the 321st Infantry Regiment, 81st Infantry Division stand at attention in Dampierre, France. October 25, 1918.

The use of divisional insignia patches is credited to the 81st Division. Members of the division embarked for France with a cloth “wildcat” on their upper arm, without authorization from the War Department.A wildcat was chosen because the animal was a respected predator native to the Carolinas, the state where the core of the division originated. Upon the division’s arrival in France, General Headquarters ordered that the patches be removed. The Commanding General of the 81stsuccessfully argued that the War Department’s silence on the issue meant acceptance. Furthermore, the patch seemed to improve morale among troops, and unique divisional patches would expedite re-organization of soldiers on a chaotic battlefield. The British were experimenting with similar initiatives. The 81st “Wildcat” Division was allowed to continue with its patch. Indeed, all other American divisions were directed to select similar insignia.

Members of the 81st Infantry Division, France, November 1918.

On October 19 the division moved to Verdun to serve as reserve to the French 72ndColonial Corps. On November 7, the 81stDivision relieved the U.S. 35thDivision and entered the war’s final offensive, the Meuse-Argonne. This offensive had been launched on September 26, 1918. The 81stDivision did not arrive in France early enough to complete training and serve as an active participant throughout the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Nevertheless, they made significant contributions to the Allies’ final thrust. In the last few days of the war the division attacked on the Woevre plain east of Verdun. In three days, November 9 - 11, the division captured Moranville, Grimaucourt, and Abaucort.

An issue of "The Wild-Cat" published in France by the 81st Infantry Division, May 7, 1919.

Constituent Units of the 2ndDivision

161stInfantry Brigade

  • 321stInfantry Regiment
  • 322ndInfantry Regiment
  • 317thMachine Gun Battalion

162ndInfantry Brigade

  • 323rdInfantry Regiment
  • 324thInfantry Regiment
  • 318thMachine Gun Battalion

156thField Artillery Brigade

  • 316thField Artillery Regiment
  • 317thField Artillery Regiment
  • 318thField Artillery Regiment
  • 306thTrench Mortar Battery