Re-forging the Iron Division: The Reconstitution of the 28th Infantry Division between the Huertgen and the Ardennes
Technical Report,01 Jun 2014,01 May 2015
US Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth United States
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The 28th Infantry Division of the Pennsylvania National Guard suffered near collapse in the Battle of the Hrtgen Forest in November 1944 but recovered in time to delay a German force eight times its size in the Battle of the Bulge just four weeks later. This analysis looked at how the Division was able to recover by analyzing it as a system set in a larger systemic context. The research showed that the individual replacement system, despite its reputation, ultimately enabled the foundation for the Divisions rapid reconstitution by improving the average replacement soldiers physical and mental quality, their level of individual training, and providing them when requested and in sufficient numbers. Also, due to the unique nature of the Battle of the Hrtgen Forest and the Divisions resilient structure, headquarters elements at battalion and above, supporting units, and core groups of veterans in the infantry companies provided continuity that enabled reconstitution. In addition, during the four-week recovery period, leaders at all levels rebuilt teamwork by strengthening the effectiveness of leadership, conducting progressive training, and working holistically to raise soldier morale. More broadly, the Iron Divisions example shows that many of the conditions for success or failure in a future war may already be set. The Army and nation must look holistically at how current systems tie back to the broader national moral and physical capabilities. Quality, training, and morale of soldiers will always be critical to maintaining the cohesion and thus effectiveness of units engaged in combat, and when they falter, it requires a holistic effort, with sufficient time and space to fix it.