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1st Engineer Battalion
1st Engineer Battalion coat of arms
Active 1846–present
Country United States
Branch Regular Army
Type Engineer battalion
Part of U.S. 1st Infantry Division
Garrison/HQ Fort Riley
Engagements mexican american war, Civil War
Spanish-American War
World War I
World WarII
Vietnam War
Desert Storm
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Decorations Presidential Unit Citation (3 awards)
Joint Meritorious Unit Award
Valorous Unit Citation (2 awards)
Meritorious Unit Commendation (4 awards)
Superior Unit Award

Col. Robert E. Lee
Col. Ulysses S. Grant III

Col. John C. Mehaffey
Distinctive Unit Insignia 1 Eng Bn DUI.png

The 1st Engineer Battalion is one of the oldest and most decorated engineer battalions in the United States Army.

History[edit | edit source]

19th century[edit | edit source]

The battalion's history can be traced back to 15 May 1846 when a company of Miners, Sappers, and Pontoniers was formed at West Point, New York. Alpha Company, 1st Engineer Battalion is that company's direct descendant. During this period, the battalion has received 67 decorations and campaign streamers and eight foreign awards. Alpha Company served gallantly during the Mexican-American War of 1846, participating in the Veracruz campaign and leading the charge up the formidable heights of Chapultepec in Mexico City. During the war, George McClellan and P.G.T. Beauregard served as lieutenants in Alpha Company, and the company worked closely with Captain Robert E. Lee, an engineer aide to General Winfield Scott. These three future Civil War generals lead the list of distinguished Americans who have served in or with the battalion.

Alpha Company was expanded into the Battalion of Engineer Troops during the American Civil War and was assigned to the Union Army of the Potomac. The battalion served with distinction and earned ten campaign streamers. The battalion fought at Antietam, bridged the Rappahannock River six times at Fredericksburg, breached fortifications at Petersburg and was present at the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox. The battalion's first Sergeant Major, Frederick W. Gerber, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his 23 years of service to the battalion, which included the Mexican-American and American Civil War.

During the Spanish-American War, Charlie and Echo companies of the battalion were sent to Cuba where they fought in the campaign to take the city of Santiago. The remainder of the battalion was sent to the Philippines where they provided engineer support during the battles for Manila and Cavite. Alpha Company remained in the Philippines and conducted pacification operations during the Philippine Insurrection.

World War I[edit | edit source]

With the start of World War I, the battalion was expanded to the 1st Engineer Regiment and assigned to the 1st Infantry Division. The regiment fought as part of the "Big Red One" and participated in the Lorraine and Meuse-Argonne campaigns and was awarded the French Fourragère and two awards of the Croix de guerre for valorous service. Sergeant Wilbur E. Colyer of Alpha Company received the Medal of Honor for advancing under fire and destroying a series of enemy machine gun positions near Verdun, France in 1918.

Depression Era[edit | edit source]

In May 1922, the 1st Engineer Regiment arrived at Fort DuPont in Delaware City, Del., and garrisoned the army post until 1941. In 1931 and 1933 the unit was responsible for floating six sets of officer quarters from Fort Mott in Pennsville, N.J., just across the Delaware River. From 1934 to 1936, the unit was commanded by Col. Ulysses S. Grant III, the grandson of the former general and president. The unit oversaw the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration programs while in Delaware. At Fort DuPont, the First Engineers along with these civilian workers, constructed four identical sets of brick duplexes and a 398-seat movie theatre, all of which still stand today.[1]

World War II[edit | edit source]

Prior to the start of World War II, the 1st Engineer Regiment was reorganized as the 1st Engineer Combat Battalion and again assigned to fight as part of the 1st Infantry Division. In 1942, the battalion landed with the initial forces in the North Africa invasion. In 1943, the battalion cleared underwater obstacles and destroyed enemy pillboxes during the landings on Sicily. During the Normandy landings at Omaha Beach in 1944, the battalion led the assault forces, breaching gaps in the extensive enemy mine and wire obstacles and clearing the combat trails leading off the beaches. The battalion received its third Presidential Unit Citation for actions at Omaha Beach and received a Distinguished Unit Citation[citation needed] for combat action at Gafsa, Tunisia, and Normandy. The battalion fought as part of the 1st Infantry Division during the remainder of the war in the European Theater and after 10 years of occupation duty moved to Fort Riley, Kansas.

Vietnam[edit | edit source]

On 2 May 1965 the battalion, under the command of Lt. Colonel Howard L. Sargent, Jr., deployed to South Vietnam as part of the 1st Infantry Division. For five years the battalion cleared obstacles, built roads, airfields, basecamps and bridges in support of numerous combat operations including Junction City I and II and the Tet Offensive of 1968. The battalion became famous for the DieHard Tunnel Rat section that bravely cleared the extensive Vietcong tunnel systems with little more than small arms and demolitions. The battalion received four Meritorious Unit Commendations for actions during the Vietnam War.

Desert Shield/Storm[edit | edit source]

During the next 20 years at Fort Riley, the battalion took part in numerous training exercises, NTC rotations, and REFORGER deployments. In December 1990, the battalion deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The battalion breached and cleared lanes through Iraqi obstacle belts that allowed the passage of two divisions. Elements of the battalion destroyed 58 Iraqi tanks, 41 anti-aircraft artillery pieces, and other large quantities of ammunition and war material. The battalion returned to Fort Riley in 1991 and received the Valorous Unit Citation for actions in Southwest Asia.

Since 1991, the battalion participated in many NTC and JRTC rotations, fought fires in the Northwestern United States, and supported anti-drug operations as part of JTF-6. In 1995, the 1st Engineer Battalion was awarded the Superior Unit Award for exceptional performance during the Engineer Restructuring Initiative on Fort Riley.

Bosnia and Herzegovina[edit | edit source]

On 30 August 1999 the Battalion deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina in support of SFOR. Units redeploying on 12 December 1999, the battalion helped provide a stable and secure environment in the area. To this end, the battalion conducted reconnaissance of over 1,230 kilometers of routes and 298 bridges; destroyed 116,000 anti-personnel land mines; constructed 30 kilometers of roads and 5 bridges; supervised Entity Armed Forces' clearance of more than 43,000 square miles (110,000 km2) of minefields; and distributed toys, clothing, and humanitarian aid to Bosnian children and homeless families.

Operation Iraqi Freedom[edit | edit source]

On 8 September 2003, the 1st Engineer Battalion deployed to Iraq as part of the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division for Operation Iraqi Freedom. In one year the battalion exploited over 370 enemy caches consisting of 28 tons of munitions and weapons, found and destroyed over 150 improvised devices, fortified 21 government buildings and coalition camps in the Anbar Governorate, cleared several hundred kilometers of roads, supported six battalions in the Ar Ramadi and Habbaniyah areas with combat engineer operations for six other camps in the Ar Ramadi area. The battalion returned to Fort Riley in October 2004 having successfully accomplished its mission in Iraq.

The battalion restructured its companies in 2006 as part of the Corps of Engineers restructuring plan for engineer forces Army wide. The battalion deployed to Iraq again in the fall of 2006 for a 15-month deployment.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "http://www.riley.army.mil/view/article.asp?id=984-2005-01-28-50628-64".

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