Generally regarded as the most distinguished regiment in the U.S. Army, the
7th Infantry Regiment has fought in almost every engagement since the battle of
New Orleans in the War of 1812. Its lineage is detailed in a new book by
Missouri University of Science and Technology historian Dr. John C.
The book, titled “The 7th Infantry Regiment: Combat in an Age of Terror: The
Korean War Through the Present,” is the first in a two-volume set. The second
volume, which covers the War of 1812 through World War II, is due out in
“Whenever military history is made, you can expect the 7th Infantry Regiment
will be there,” McManus says.
The project began as an investigation to see if any units in the U.S. Army
could trace their lineage all the way back to the Revolutionary War. In his
research, McManus kept finding references to the 7th Infantry Regiment.
“Time and time again, they were always in the thick of it,” McManus says. “I
was aware of the 7th Infantry, but I didn’t know what the story truly was. The
more I learned, the more I realized it was a story that needed to be told.”
McManus believes that a look at the history of the 7th Infantry can tell you
a great deal about American history in general because it reflects the culture
of the day. He says it can tell us different things at different times.
In the 19th century, only white males were allowed to fight in our army but
that changes by the mid-20th century with desegregation, McManus says. At other
times, foreign-born white men were fighting for us.
“On the eve of the Civil War, more than half of the 7th Infantry are foreign
born. They came from Germany, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden. They were outsiders to
American life at that point in time.”
McManus says you can also see differences in the average 7th Infantry
soldier based on socioeconomic factors.
“In the 19th century, the 7th Infantry was made up mainly of the poor and
the disaffected, but by the 20th century that was no longer the case,” he says.
“Now it is more the everyday middle American who fights with the 7th
While race and socioeconomic class have changed throughout the span of the
7th Infantry, the one thing that has remained constant is gender integration,
“The infantry remains a male-dominated environment and that hasn’t changed
throughout the infantry’s 200 years.”
Although not in the military himself, McManus has always been fascinated by
“I have always been interested in what warfare was really like for the
person who fights,” McManus says. “It seems like so many books I read as a kid
were very antiseptic. I didn’t like that. I knew there was a real story in
there of an average person doing the real fighting and that is what fascinates
McManus thinks of himself as more of an American social historian, because
he looking at Americans in the combat environment. “To me, that is the ultimate
environment. It tells us a lot about them.
“I think military history is very important,” McManus says. “There is this
repetition of tragedy over and over again. Throughout history, humans resort to
war and I want to understand why. And more than that, how it affects the people
who do the fighting. It’s a sad thing to study, but it’s incredibly
In his research for the book, McManus conducted several hundred interviews
of 7th Infantry soldiers, from elderly veterans of World War II to very young
soldiers fighting in Iraq. As a result of his work, McManus was named official
historian for the 7th Infantry. He serves as an objective chronicler. If there
is a negative story to tell, he tells it and the soldiers of the 7th trust him
to do it well.
“It’s a great honor. I’m a good advocate for the history of this regiment
because I think it tells us a lot about our history and I think people should
know about it,” McManus says.