A History You Probably Didn’t Know: First Division Monument – by Desiree Roose

The First Division Memorial, inaugurated in October 1924 by President Calvin Coolidge, stands as a solemn tribute. It memorializes the brave souls who sacrificed their lives serving in the 1st Infantry Division of the US Army during World War I. It is situated in Presidents Park, just west of the White House in Washington DC. This memorial commemorates the valor of those who fought under the command of General John Pershing, earning the moniker “Pershing’s Own.”

This renowned national memorial, soaring 80 feet high, features a central shaft standing at 35 feet tall with a diameter of 5 feet 6 inches. At its base lies a pedestal inscribed with the names of 5,516 soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. The original architect, Cass Gilbert, and the sculptor of the victory statue, Daniel Chester French, contributed to the memorial’s creation. Over time, it has expanded to honor soldiers from other conflicts.

The monument is crafted from Milford Pink granite sourced by the George Dodds and Sons Company (now Dodds Memorials). The shaft was meticulously cut, shaped, and polished in Massachusetts before being transported to Washington D.C. via railcar.

The monument’s dedication drew over 6,000 attendees. Major General Summerall serving as Grand Marshal, emphasizing the First Division’s exemplary character. President Coolidge delivered the dedication address. The ceremony culminated in a moving rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” by the bands of the First Division. It marked a poignant tribute to these gallant soldiers.

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