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8th Infantry Division in WW1
  Members of the 8th Division embarking for home in the port of Brest, France after the end of the war. Note the 8th Division patch on the officer in front.

The 8th Division is the 8th Regular Army Division formed by the U.S. Army. It was activated in January 1917 during WW1. At that time there were only one type of divisions (all were considered standard infantry) so the unit was known only as the "8th Division."  When all divisions were ordered to come up with a unit nickname and a shoulder sleeve insignia, the 8th became known as the "Pathfinder Division" and wore a blue shield bearing a white number 8 and a golden arrow. The war ended while the division was halfway en route to France, and did not see action in Europe. 

Due to the dire need for combat troops, the French and British had asked the Americans to ship over mainly infantry and machine gun troops, as they had enough artillery and support units to back them up if needed. Therefore it was the infantry sections of the Division that were shipped first, embarking from Hoboken, New Jersey, at the end of September 1918. Roughly half of the Division arrived in France before the end of the war. The flu epidemic hit many of the men at this time. The commanderof the 121st infnatry Regiment, Colonel J.A. Thomas, died aboard ship from the flu before ever touching France.Most of the elements of the 8th that reached France were broken up and the men sent to units in combat as individual replacements. 

Those that did never made it out of the camps surrounding the ports and into he combat zone. Many of the officers and NCOs were assigned to positions processing the men who had been in France for a while to get them home as fast as possible. 

The Division Commander of the 8th, General William Graves, did not go to France with them. He had been selected to command the American expedition sent to Siberia.  They were sent to Siberia not to fight the Communist troops, but to guard the large stocks of war material that had been sold to Russia during the war so they would not be taken by the Communist Government and used against the west. There was also the very fear that the war materials would be sold by the Russians to Germany who could use them against the Allies in France. The American Forces, in conjunction with Japanese, Chinese, British, Canadian  and French Troops (from Viet Nam),  also were to guard stretches of the Trans-Siberian Railway. 

They were also tasked with keeping the railway open to help evacuate he Czech Legion (a group of Anti-German soldiers) so they could be moved from Russia to fight on the eastern Front. A very good website on the Czech Legion can be found here.

When the war finally ended and the German threat was over, they attempted to keep the area (and railway) stabilized so it would not descend into the chaos seen in other parts of Russia. There was also an issue with keeping the Japanese dreams of expanding their control along the Pacific coast in check. General Graves and his staff left the USA in August with roughly 5,000 men of the 8th Division. He landed in Vladivostok on 1 September 1918. These American forces stayed in Siberia until April 1, 1920. The mission to Siberia did not directly involve the 8th Division, but with so many of its men assigned to it, it remains linked to the Division's history. 




Gallery of WW1 era insignia






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