Formed in 1936, the 26.Infanterie-Division was comprised mainly ofWestphalian Rheinlanders and a small portion of East Prussians. It wasknown as the “Dom-Division” after the stylized divisional emblem itadopted of the Great Cathedral at Cologne’s twin spires. It was notinvolved in the Polish campaign of 1939, and during the 1940 French campaignwas held in reserve of XVI.Armee, seeing only minor engagement before theFrench armistice.
The 26.Infanterie-Division began the June, 1941 Russian campaignsubordinated to Heeresgruppe Mitte, 3.Panzergruppe, VI.Armeekorps where itdistinguisheditself well as a front-line formation, crossing the Volga between Leningradand Moscow in the Kalinin sector by October. In the bitter winterfighting of December 1941 thru February 1942 around the Rzhev salient, thecombat hardened 39.Infanterie-Regiment under Oberst Wiese, now down to twobattalions, held vital positions against determined repeat attacks by freshSiberian ski battalions. Along with the Westphalian6.Infanterie-Division (and other newly engaged IX.Armee formations beneathGeneral der Panzertruppe Walter Model), the units of the 26.Inf.Div. (aspart of VI.Armeekorps) were able to hold the line around Toropets-Olenino,helping to prevent any further significant Soviet gain in this sector forthe remaining winter period.
The 26.Inf.Div. spent 1942 as part of VI.Armeekorps, IX.Armee, takingrelatively modest losses in a mostly defensive posture on the northern wingof Heeresgruppe Mitte. By July 1943, it was moved south and next founditself heavily engaged in the aftermath of the Kursk debacle. Pushedrelentlessly westward, the 26.Inf.Div. would next distinguish itself in thedogged defense of Kovel (Poland) in July 1944 during the Soviet summeroffensive Bagration – being one of the few Heeresgruppe Mitte formationsto avoid complete annihilation at the hands of the Soviet steamroller. BySeptember 1944, the continuously engaged and much depleted Infanterieformation was withdrawn from combat at the East Prussian border and sentto the truppenubungsplatz – Warthelager in western Poland for rest andrefit. (after this – the 26.Infanterie-Division was struck from the OKWOrder of Battle.)
In the “Warthelager” training area, it was decided by OKH that theremaining cadre elements of 26.Inf.Div., along with culled remnants of the582.Volksgrenadier-Division and surplus Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffeground-crew, would form the new 26.Volksgrenadier-Division.
Committed to the XLVII.Panzerkorps during the intial siege of Bastonge, the26.VG-D was subsequently seconded to the I.SS-Panzerkorps of the6.Panzerarmee in the latter stages of the battle. Taking heavy losses, bythe end of the Wacht-am-Rhein offensive, the 26.Volks-Grenadier-Divisionwould find itself with an effective combat strength of only 1,782 men.
After fighting desperately around Preum in February of 1945 – the remnantsof the division went into Allied captivity at the armistice of May 1945.
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