German Armed Forces Research 1918-1945
Destroyed in Brittany by US forces in September 1944.
The 266.Infanterie-Division was formed on May 20th, 1943 at Troop Training Grounds Münsingen in Wehrkreis V, Stuttgart. The division was formed as a static occupation division.
Gordon Harrison writes in Cross Channel Attack that "...the static divisions were formed at the request of Rundstedt in 1942 in order that he would have a nucleus of divisions not subject to transfer to the east. Though triangular with nine rifle battalions, they were substantially weaker than the normal old-type infantry division. They lacked the reconnaissance battalion and had only three battalions of artillery. Although the static divisions were expressly designed as permanent garrison troops for the west, they were by no means safe from the periodic troop collections for the east. Actually, by the end of 1943, most of the divisions had lost their third regiments (as did the 266.Infanterie-Division - JP). Attempts in 1943 and early 1944 to rehabilitate the units and fill their ranks chiefly with Ost battalions resulted in virtual abandonment of tables of organization in favor of improvisation that reflected both the particular nature of the coastal assignments and vicissitudes of the long struggle for manpower and equipment.."
Soon after formation the 266.Infanterie-Division was transfered to France where it took up station along the northern coast of Brittany.
Still in positions on June 6th, 1944, the division was not immediately involved in the D-Day fighting although a mobile Kampfgruppe was formed consisting of the staff, I. and II./Grenadier-Regiment 897, and various artillery support units, which was sent forward reaching the front on June 23rd where it likely fought alongside the 352.Infanterie-Division.
As the Allied forces pushed further out of their Normandy bridgeheads elements of the 266.Infanterie-Division were sent forward to support the garrison at St. Malo, a French port declared a Fortress by the German High Command and ordered to be defended to the last.
In the second week of August the remaining elements of the 266.Infanterie Division began to fall back from their positions in the north towards the even more vital Fortress port of Brest in the south. While in route to Brest lead elements of the division stumbled head-long into the path of the US 6th Armored Division which had surged through Brittany and was poised at the gates of Brest. The 6th Armored was promptly redirected after leaving a screen towards Brest and a swirling battle ensued on August 9th and 10th centered around Plouvien, Kerdalaes and Lananneyen. To the south a Kamfgruppe formed by General Ramcke fought its way to Gouesnou outside the main permitter of Brest in an attempt to link up with the beleaguered division but a tenable corridor could not be forced open.
During this fighting units of both divisions became intermeshed resulting in the capture of the 266.Infanterie-Division commander, Gen.Lt. Karl Spang, and the 6th Armored Divisions HQ almost being overrun as well! In the end the 6th Armored overcame the 266.Infanterie-Division, effectively crushing it as a combat capable formation. Various survivors and stragglers managed to find their way into Brest and continued to hold out until September 19th when the Fortress of Brest finally fell.
Gen.Lt. Karl Spang 1.06.43 - 8.08.44
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