Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, September 15, 2023

The 3rd Division's Rock of the Marne Tradition

3rd Division Soldiers Form the Distinctive Shoulder Patch

No American military unit today more enthusiastically embraces and honors its First World War experience than the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, currently based at Fort Stewart, Georgia.  Nearly 105 years ago, the German Army launched the fifth of the their "Ludendorff Offensives" on the front between Chateau-Thierry and Reims. Along the western half of the sector this meant mounting an assault across the Marne River. The key crossing  point was five miles east of Chateau-Thierry around the village of Mezy. Just behind Mezy was the opening to a valley which—if entered—would allow the attackers to penetrate the Allies' rear deeply.  Defending on either side of Mezy were two regiments of the American Third Division. Their action here  on 15 July 1918 helped halt the last German offensive of World War I. 

The Division's Engineers Constructing a Bridge Across the River Marne After the Rock of the Marne Action

Here is the division's own explanation of the importance of  what came to be known as the "Rock of the Marne" battle by Lt. Col. Tim Stoy, former Historian of the Society of the 3rd Division:

Division Headquarters, Fort Stewart

Divisional Flag with Battle Streamers

The Great War ended 105 years ago, and no known 3rd Infantry Division WWI veterans are still alive. Later the division fought with distinction in WWII, then in Korea, was a mainstay of the U.S.  Army in Europe during the Cold War and most recently has served 3 combat tours in Iraq. It is reasonable to ask what being the Rock of the Marne means in America's army today. Even as the 3rd Infantry Division served in Andernach, Germany as part of the Army of Occupation from November 1918 until late summer 1919, it was already known as the Marne Division. The letterhead of the division newsletter, The Watch on Rhine, proudly displayed that title. Two of the division’s then-constituent regiments, the 30th and 38th Infantry, proudly still bear the name Rock of the Marne on their unit insignia. Not only the words but also the symbolism of these two unit insignia depict the battle on the Marne River. The arrow with its tip pushed back represents the German attack in the division’s sector along the Marne when the regiments and division stood fast when the units to the left and right were driven back from the river.

When 3rd Infantry Division soldiers or officers meet one another, they greet one another with “Rock of the Marne.” When they see the division’s distinguished unit insignia on their service dress uniform they see a wyvern, a winged dragon, standing atop a rock, the rock symbolizing their fame as the Rock of the Marne as well as the division motto “Nous Resterons La,” We Shall Remain Here! The division also has a mascot, Rocky the Bulldog. His name comes from the division’s being the "Rock of the Marne" and from its dogged determination to win in combat, which started at its very first battle in 1918, the 2nd Battle of the Marne, and continues to be its hallmark today. 

Rocky was designed by Walt Disney, and the rights to his image were sold to the division for $1 in 1965. Every day we are reminded of our WWI heritage as we see the blue-and-white division patch everywhere in the unit areas. Our patch was designed at the end of WWI—the white stripes representing our three operations in 1918: Marne, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne. The blue represents the loyalty of the soldiers defending ideals of liberty and democracy. And everyone who wears that patch carries the name “Marne Soldier!” 

Official Army Depiction of the Rock of the Marne Action

3rd Division Memorial at Nearby Château-Thierry

Order the best historic account of the "Rock of the Marne" episode by author Stephen Harris HERE, and his other WWI works (All Recommended).


  1. The 3rd Infantry Division soldiers also sing the division song every morning, "modestly" claiming to be nothing more than "dog-faced soldiers" and favorably comparing themselves to "fancy pants Marines."

    A year or so ago, a nurse was visiting my mother. When I learned she had served in the 3rd I.D., I asked her about the division song. She whipped out her cell phone, found it on-line and sang along.

    1. "Elmer, thank you for sharing this wonderful anecdote! This is heartwarming to hear stories such as yours where traditions are kept in fond memory where camaraderie that the members of the 3rd Infantry Division have in their shared history.

  2. This article deepens my respect and reverence for the 3rd Infantry's historical achievements and their enduring significance. The division's sacrifice should remind all about the values and traditions that are upheld and passed down through generations, where the spirit of resilience and valor should not be forgotten.