- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2003

The American ground forces expected to lead the charge into Iraq are among the most storied in the U.S. military.
The main Army units expected to sweep north from Kuwait to Baghdad are the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), which earned its nickname the "Rock of the Marne" on a battlefield in France, and the 101st Airborne Division, known for exploits from Normandy to Afghanistan.
Joining them will be the 1st Marine Division, best remembered for winning World War II's brutal Battle of Guadalcanal.
With more than 20,000 soldiers, 200 tanks and 260 Bradley fighting vehicles, the 3rd Infantry Division is likely to smash head-on into Iraqi defenses.
The troops of the 101st are to be flown in on helicopters to seize key bridges and facilities ahead of the 3rd.
The 3rd Infantry Division's history dates back to World War I, when it earned its nickname, said Walter Meeks, the director of the division's museum at Fort Stewart, Ga.
In northeast France, near the Marne River, American troops rebuffed a German offensive while two French divisions fled. The victory was credited with helping turn the tide in the war.
During World War II, the 3rd took part in the Allies' first offensive in North Africa and fought in Italy and Germany.
The unit has 42 Medal of Honor recipients more than twice as many as any other Army division. One of them, World War II hero Audie Murphy, went on to play himself in the movie "To Hell and Back."
The 101st Airborne Division, the "Screaming Eagles," has perhaps even more cultural cachet.
Its paratroopers were among those who led the D-Day assault on Normandy during World War II, dropping in behind Utah Beach. Members of the 101st also earned acclaim for holding out in the Belgian city of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.
Beginning as a corps of paratroopers, the 101st was reorganized during the Vietnam War with the advent of the helicopter. It now functions as an "air assault" division, combining Apache attack helicopters and heavy-lift Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters to deliver cargo and troops.
During the last Persian Gulf war, attack helicopters from the 101st delivered the opening salvo, destroying two radar installations. Members of the 101st later cut off the retreat of Iraq's Republican Guard and captured thousands in the largest helicopter assault in history.
In Afghanistan, the 101st was called on to help root out al Qaeda fighters in the Shah-i-Kot Valley in Operation Anaconda, the largest battle involving U.S. troops in that conflict. One member of the 101st was among the eight Americans killed.
About 50,000 Marines also are gathered in Kuwait awaiting a likely war. The 1st Marine Division is expected to join the Army's 3rd in the main thrust, moving north and then east toward Baghdad.
The 1st is the oldest division in the Marine Corps and has seen the most combat. It has fought in every conflict since World War II, according to Chuck Nelson, chief historian at the Marine Corps Historical Center.
The unit is perhaps most famous for its six-month campaign in Guadalcanal, in which it sustained 3,000 casualties but ultimately handed Japanese forces their first ground defeat.

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