Research on the German Armed Forces 1918-1945
Formed in 1936, the 26.Infanterie-Division was comprised mainly of Westphalian Rheinlanders and a small portion of East Prussians. It was known as the "Dom-Division" after the stylized divisional emblem it adopted of the Great Cathedral at Cologne's twin spires. It was not involved in the Polish campaign of 1939, and during the 1940 French campaign was held in reserve of XVI.Armee, seeing only minor engagement before the French armistice.
The 26.Infanterie-Division began the June, 1941 Russian campaign subordinated to Heeresgruppe Mitte, 3.Panzergruppe, VI.Armeekorps where it distinguished itself well as a front-line formation, crossing the Volga between Leningrad and Moscow in the Kalinin sector by October. In the bitter winter fighting of December 1941 thru February 1942 around the Rzhev salient, the combat hardened 39.Infanterie-Regiment under Oberst Wiese, now down to two battalions, held vital positions against determined repeat attacks by fresh Siberian ski battalions. Along with the Westphalian 6.Infanterie-Division (and other newly engaged IX.Armee formations beneath General der Panzertruppe Walter Model), the units of the 26.Inf.Div. (as part of VI.Armeekorps) were able to hold the line around Toropets-Olenino, helping to prevent any further significant Soviet gain in this sector for the remaining winter period.
The 26.Inf.Div. spent 1942 as part of VI.Armeekorps, IX.Armee, taking relatively modest losses in a mostly defensive posture on the northern wing of Heeresgruppe Mitte. By July 1943, it was moved south and next found itself heavily engaged in the aftermath of the Kursk debacle. Pushed relentlessly westward, the 26.Inf.Div. would next distinguish itself in the dogged defense of Kovel (Poland) in July 1944 during the Soviet summer offensive Bagration - being one of the few Heeresgruppe Mitte formations to avoid complete annihilation at the hands of the Soviet steamroller. By September 1944, the continuously engaged and much depleted Infanterie formation was withdrawn from combat at the East Prussian border and sent to the truppenubungsplatz - Warthelager in western Poland for rest and refit. (after this - the 26.Infanterie-Division was struck from the OKW Order of Battle.)
In the "Warthelager" training area, it was decided by OKH that the remaining cadre elements of 26.Inf.Div., along with culled remnants of the 582.Volksgrenadier-Division and surplus Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe ground-crew, would form the new 26.Volksgrenadier-Division.
Committed to the XLVII.Panzerkorps during the intial siege of Bastonge, the 26.VG-D was subsequently seconded to the I.SS-Panzerkorps of the 6.Panzerarmee in the latter stages of the battle. Taking heavy losses, by the end of the Wacht-am-Rhein offensive, the 26.Volks-Grenadier-Division would find itself with an effective combat strength of only 1,782 men.
After fighting desperately around Preum in February of 1945 - the remnants of the division went into Allied captivity at the armistice of May 1945.
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