66th Infantry Division (United States)
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|66th Infantry Division|
66th Infantry Division shoulder sleeve insignia
|Branch||United States Army|
|Nickname(s)||"Black Panther Division"|
|April 1943 -August 1945||Maj. Gen. Herman F. Kramer|
|August 1945 – November 1945||Maj. Gen. Walter F. Lauer|
|Red bordered circle, containing black panther's head against an orange background|
The 66th Infantry Division was a unit of the United States Army during World War II. Activated 15 April 1943, the division trained at Camp Blanding, Florida, and was later transferred to Camp Robinson, Arkansas and then later to Camp Rucker, Alabama before being shipped overseas to England on 26 November 1944. Commanded by Maj. Gen. H. F. Kramer, the 66th Infantry Division’s main role in World War II was containing and eliminating the remaining pockets of German soldiers in Northern France.
Three regiments of the 66th Infantry Division arrived in Dorchester, England on 26 November 1944, and the rest of the Division joined them on 12 December 1944. They trained and prepared for deployment until 24 December 1944, then transferred to Southampton before crossing the English Channel to Cherbourg, France. Two Belgian transport vessels, the Cheshire and Leopoldville carried the 66th across the English Channel. However, only 5 miles from the port of Cherbourg, the Leopoldville was torpedoed by a German U-Boat and sunk, taking the lives of 14 officers and 748 enlisted soldiers. The U.S. Navy later announced the sinking of the Leopoldville to be the second-largest loss of life from the sinking of a troop transport ship in the entire European Theater.
Primarily involved with destroying the Nazi troops left behind by the retreat from Northern France, the 66th Infantry Division relieved the 94th Infantry Division of control of the Brittany-Loire area on 29 December 1944, and collaborated with French forces as well. The 66th carried out its objective by harassing German installations, limited objective attacks, and running reconnaissance missions to gather intelligence. The use of artillery shelling many German positions also played a major part in the advancement of the 66th through the region. In total, there were about 100,000 German soldiers that remained in the ports of Lorient, St. Nazaire, Bordeaux and La Rochelle. Notably, a heavy German attack near La Croix was repulsed on 16 April 1945 and several strongly fortified enemy positions were taken from 19 to 29 April 1945 in a series of counterattacks. These battles played a pivotal role in ending the Nazi occupation of Northern France. The remaining Nazi soldiers surrendered to 66th Infantry Division Officers and French officials in a small cafe near Cordemais on 8 May 1945.
Ordered to change to an occupational-oriented mission 14 May 1945, the 66th made a 700-mile trek into Germany where the Black Panthers occupied 2400 square miles of territory and the city of Koblenz. As a security force, the division was charged with establishment of a military government and control of all German affairs. Tasks included the dischargement of prisoners of war, inventorying of ammunition and supplies, and organizing civilians. After spending time in Germany, the 66th returned to the French coast to aid with the allied withdrawal from the European Theater. During this time, the division was changed by the beginning of the inactivation process, until it returned to the U.S. and formally inactivated, sailing for home 27 October 1945
Order of battle
The division consisted of these units:
- Headquarters, 66th Infantry Division
- 262d Infantry Regiment
- 263d Infantry Regiment
- 264th Infantry Regiment
- Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 66th Infantry Division Artillery
- 721st Field Artillery Battalion (155 mm)
- 870th Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
- 871st Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
- 872d Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
- 266th Engineer Combat Battalion
- 366th Medical Battalion
- 66th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized)
- Headquarters, Special Troops, 66th Infantry Division
- Headquarters Company, 66th Infantry Division
- 766th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company
- 66th Quartermaster Company
- 566th Signal Company
- Military Police Platoon
- 66th Counterintelligence Corps Detachment
The 422d and 423d Infantry Regiments (from the 106th Infantry Division) were attached to the division from 15 April to 15 May 1945.
- Total battle casualties: 1,452
- Killed in action: 795 (Includes Leopoldville disaster)
- Wounded in action: 636
- Prisoner of war: 21
Assignments in European Theater of Operations
- 27 December 1944: 12th Army Group.
- 31 March 1945: Fifteenth Army, 12th Army Group.
- Nickname: Black Panther Division
- Shoulder sleeve insignia: The snarling panther suggests the power, aggressiveness and endurance of the Division. The shoulder sleeve insignia was approved on 26 August 1943.
The logo of the Black Panthers’ shoulder sleeve comes from Nicolas Viscardi, the comic book artist who was enlisted in the 66th Infantry Division. He died on 3 November 2013, served in the United States Army in World War II from 1943 to 1945, and notably earned two Purple Hearts for wounds suffered as a tank driver in the armored cavalry. Viscardi won a competition to design the patch, and subsequently created the iconic logo.
- The Lone Sentry: 66th: The Story of the 66th Infantry Division Stars and Stripes in Paris, 1944-1945, reproduced at http://www.lonesentry.com/gi_stories_booklets/66thinfantry/
- The Army Almanac: A Book of Facts Concerning the Army of the United States U.S. Government Printing Office, 1950 reproduced at http://www.history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/cbtchron/cbtchron.html.
- World War II Order of Battle: An Encyclopedic Reference to U.S. Army Ground Forces from Battalion through Division, 1939-1946 by Shelby Stanton.
- Army Battle Casualties and Nonbattle Deaths, Final Report (Statistical and Accounting Branch, Office of the Adjutant General, 1 June 1953)