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26th Infantry Division
"Yankee Division"

In 1993, with the post Cold War reduction of armed forces, the 26th Infantry "Yankee Division" was disbanded. This National Guard division played key roles in the siege of the Nazi "Fortress City" of Metz, France and in the Saar Campaign. They went on to spearhead one of General Patton's Third Army columns fighting their way through to relieve the surrounded defenders of Bastogne, Belgium during the "Battle of the Bulge".

During World War I, the division was activated July 1917, consisting of National Guard Division from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. A press conference of Boston newspapermen was called by the Commanding General to determine a nickname for this division, which had just been inducted from New England National Guard units. The adopted suggestion was, "Call it the 'Yankee Division' as all New Englanders are Yankees", and a dark blue monogrammed 'YD' on an olive drab background was officially designated as the division insignia. Major Operations included: Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne. Days of combat: 210. Casualties: Total-13,664 (KIA-1,587 ; WIA-12,077). Inactivated: May 1919.

The 26th Infantry Division landed in France at Cherbourg and Utah Beach, 7 September 1944, but did not enter combat as a Division until a month later, 7 October. Elements were on patrol duty along the coast from Carteret to Siouville, 13-30 September, and the 328th Infantry saw action with the 80th Division to which it was attached, 5-15 October. On 7 October the 26th relieved the 4th Armored Division in the Salonnes-Moncourt-Canal du Rhine au Marne sector, and maintained defensive positions ; a limited objective attack was launched, 22 October, in the Moncourt woods. On 8 November the Division went on the offensive, took Dieuze, 20 November, advanced across the Saar River to Saar Union, and captured it, 2 December, after house-to-house fighting. Reaching Maginot fortifications, 5 December, it regrouped, entering Saareguemines 8 December. Rest at Metz was interrupted by the Von Rundstedt offensive. The Division moved north to Luxembourg, 19-21 December, to take part in the battle of the Ardennes break-through. It attacked at Rambrouch and Grosbous, 22 December, beat off strong German counterattacks, captured Arsdorf on Christmas Day after heavy fighting, attacked toward the Wiltz River, but was forced to withdraw in the face of determined enemy resistance; after regrouping, 5-8 January 1945, it attacked again, reached the Wiltz River, and finally crossed it, 20 January. The Division continued its advance, took Grumelscheid, 21 January, and crossed the Clerf River, 24 January. The 26th then shifted to the east bank of the Saar, and maintained defensive positions in the Saarlautern area, 29 January-6 March 1945. The Division's drive to the Rhine jumped off on 13 March 1945, and carried the Division through Merzig, 17 March, to the Rhine, 21 March, and across the Rhine at Oppenheim, 25-26 March. It took part in the house-to-house reduction of Hanau, 28 March, broke out of the Main River bridgehead, drove through Fulda, 1 April, and helped reduce Meiningen, 5 April. Moving southeast into Austria, the Division assisted in the capture of Linz, 4 May. It had changed the direction of its advance, and was moving northeast into Czechoslovakia, across the Vlatava River, when the cease-fire order, was received.

The 761st Tank Battalion, activated April 1, 1942, was the only "all-black" tank unit deployed to Europe during World War II -- landing at Omaha Beach in France Oct. 10, 1944. While listed as all-black, the battalion actually had six white officers, 30 black officers and 676 black enlisted men. Known as the Black Panther Tank Battalion, the 761st was attached to the XII Corps' 26th Infantry Division, assigned to Gen. George S. Patton Jr.'s Third Army, an army already racing eastward across France. Patton had argued against assigning this black unit to his command, saying that "a colored soldier cannot think fast enough to fight in armor." However, he welcomed them with, "Men you are the first Negro tankers to ever fight in the American Army. I would never have asked for you if you weren't good. I have nothing but the best in my army. I don't care what color you are as long as you go up there and kill those [expletive deleted]. Everyone has their eyes on you. Most of all, your race is looking forward to you. Don't let them down, and damn you, don't let me down." By war's end, 761st troops had accrued 11 Silver Stars and 69 Bronze Star Medals -- most for valor under fire.

By the time of the Gulf War, all of the active infantry divisions converted to Army of Excellence (AOE) or variants of AOE designs. Though the National Guard Bureau activated the 29th Light Infantry Division with an AOE structure, its five previous infantry divisions had not converted to the new design. Of them, the 26th Infantry Division was closest, as it had mainly converted its subordinate units. As a result, the five National Guard infantry divisions were not using AOE designs, nor had they structured themselves to fight according to AirLand Battle doctrine.



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