The 26th Infantry began its life overseas in the Philippines and spent its first 20 years of service on deployments to the Southwest Pacific, the Mexican and Indian frontier and in Europe. It earned its first battle streamer during the Philippine Insurrection within 2 years of its forming as a unit.
After returning to the same location for another tour of duty, the 26th Infantry Regiment fought off Mexican bandits and settled disputes in the Indian Territory until it was selected as one of only 4 Regular Army Infantry Regiments deemed fit for immediate combat to form the 1st American Expeditionary Division in June of 1917.
World War I
As part of the first American soldiers to arrive in France, the 26th Infantry Regiment immediately left for the front. Where they earned more campaign streamers than any other regiment during the First World War, but at a terrible cost, over 900 members of the Regiment lost their lives in a 6-month period. By war’s end, the soldiers earned 7 battle streamers and 2 foreign awards. It was also during this conflict that the Regiment’s name, the “Blue Spaders” came into usage. The name referred to the Regimental shield, which consisted of the Mohawk arrowhead. Colonel Hamilton A. Smith selected this to represent the regimental spirit of courage, resourceful daring and relentless pursuit of an enemy.
World War II
The 26th Infantry led America’s first-ever amphibious assault in North Africa, fought at the Kasserine Pass, assaulted Sicily, invaded Normandy, conquered the first German city of the war at Aachen, vaulted the Rhine and attacked all the way to Czechoslovakia by war’s end. The 26th Infantry Regiment conducted 3 amphibious assaults, and earned 7 battle streamers, a Presidential Unit Citation, and 5 foreign awards.
Beginning another occupation of Germany, the “Blue Spaders” were given the honor of bearing the United States National Colors at the Allied Victory in Europe parade, and were selected to serve as America’s guard of honor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.
The unit was reorganized and re-designated on 15 February 1957 as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battle Group, 26th Infantry, and remained assigned to the 1st Infantry Division with its organic elements concurrently constituted and activated. It was relieved on 14 April 1959 from assignment to the 1st Infantry Division and assigned to the 8th Infantry Division.
Serving as a battle group in Europe in the early 1960s, the unit was attached to various Divisions. It was relieved on 24 October 1962 from assignment to the 8th Infantry Division and assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division. It was relieved on 15 February 1963 from assignment to the 2nd Infantry Division and reassigned back to the 1st Infantry Division. It was then reorganized and re-designated on 13 January 1964 as the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry.
The “Blue Spaders” served longer in Vietnam with their “Big Red One” units than any other division. After 5 continuous years of combat the “Blue Spaders” received orders to return home in 1970 with 11 battle streamers, a Valorous Unit Award and 2 foreign awards for its colors.
At the conclusion of Vietnam, the Battalion returned to Germany as part of a forward-deployed brigade of the 1st Infantry Division. The unit was inactivated on 24 February 1983 in Germany and relieved from assignment to the 1st Infantry Division, when that Brigade returned to the United States.
The 26th Infantry Regiments spent several years training recruits. The 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry was inactivated on 15 January 1996 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and withdrawn from the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command.
On 16 February 1996, the Battalion rejoined the “Big Red One” in Germany only to send its soldiers to Bosnia as part of the first American forces to enter the Balkans from February to September 1996. The entire Battalion followed its initial deployment from October 1996 to April 1997. In March 1998, the “Blue Spaders” deployed again to the Balkans, this time to the Republic of Macedonia. Returning briefly in September 1998, the Battalion was the first unit alerted for deployment to Kosovo in June 1999. It returned in December 1999. During this period, the unit earned the Superior Unit Award streamer and the Defense of Kosovo streamer for the colors. Three of Task Force 1-26 Infantry’s soldiers lost their lives in Kosovo.
Global War on Terror
In 2004, the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry deployed with other elements of the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Following that deployment, the unit was re-designated on 1 October 2005 as the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment.
After serving another tour of duty in Iraq in 2007, the unit was relieved on 16 March 2008 from assignment to the 1st Infantry Division and assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. This was part of the transformation of the 2nd Brigade to the US Army’s modular force structure. 3rd Brigade Combat Team had previously converted in 2006 and the 2nd Battalion, 26th Infantry was concurrently inactivated and reflagged as the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry.
In June 2008, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, including the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. During this deployment they served with distinction in the Korengal Valley and other areas in the Kunar Province. They redeployed to Fort Hood, TX in the summer of 2009 and began the move to Fort Knox, KY in the fall.
In December 2010 the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment deployed to Khost Province, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Blue Spaders, partnered with Afghan National Security Forces, conducting
full spectrum counter-insurgency operations. The Blue Spaders received the Meritorious Unit Commendation for their service. The battalion redeployed in December 2011 to Fort Knox.
In 2013, the Blue Spaders deployed in support the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJ-SOTF). During this time the 26th was deployed in each of Afghanistan’s Regional Commands. The Blue Spaders conducted what is known as an Infantry Uplift mission, the key tasks associated with this mission is to provide security and increased logistical support to American and NATO Special Forces units. Upon return, the Blue Spaders were once again deactivated in August 2014.
On 15 April 2015, the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Blue Spaders reactivated as part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). A year later, they deployed to Operation Inherent Resolve with the largest Infantry Task Force. The Blue Spaders assisted the Iraqi forces with retaking Fallujah and helped with the initial push into Mosul, Iraq.
Global Response Forces
In late 2017, the Army realigned deployments geographical. The 26th Infantry deployed companies to Djibouti, Africa as part of a forward reaction forces. Early in 2019, elements from the battalion deployed to the Ukraine to serve for seven months as part of the Joint Multinational Training Group- Ukraine.