037 66th Infantry Division

Nickname: Black Panther Division. . Shoulder Patch: Red-bordered circular patch, containing a Black Panthers head, against an orange background. . Training: Upon activation, April, 1943, the division was assigned to Camp Blanding under the VII Corps, remaining there until transferred to Camp Joseph T. Robinson, Arkansas, under the IX Corps, August, 1943. It was assigned to Camp Rucker, Alabama, April, 1944, remaining there until it received its orders to go overseas. When it was originally assigned to Camp Blanding, the unit became the first division ever to be organized in the State of Florida. The division sailed for the European Theatre of Operations in November, 1944. . Commanding Generals: Maj. Gen. Herman F. Kramer, April, 1943, to Aug., 1945; Maj. Gen. Walter E. Lauer, Aug., 1945, to present. . Component Units: (As of November, 1944) 262nd, 263rd and 264th Infantry Regiments: 721st (M), 870th, 871st and 872nd (L) FA Battalions. Higher command: 12th Army Group (December, 1944). . Combat Highlights: The 66th Division arrived in the British Isles in November, 1944, when the fury of the assault on Germany was mounting across the channel. In December the Black Panthers were sent to relieve the 94th Infantry Division. Mission of the 66th Division was the containing of powerful enemy forces grouped within the pockets left behind at St. Nazaire and Lorient by the victorious Yanks who by that time has swept enemy resistance before them far to the north. There were some 50,000 restless Nazi troops in the two pockets and keeping them safely out of trouble for the duration occupied the attention of the Black Panther Division until the Nazis gave up the struggle and V – E Day was announced. Fighting was sporadic and consisted mainly of continual combat patrols to keep tab on the beleaguered garrisons and heavy artillery duels to keep the Nazis pinned to the ground. It was something like a huge concentration camp fenced in by the bayonets of the 66th, the inhabitants of the camps retaining their arms. On May 8, 1945, the Germans surrendered. The 66th Division in accepting the surrender, liberated 856 square miles of French territory. Inside the liberated territory were some 180,000 civilians, virtually held prisoner by their German captors and forced to share with the Nazis the constant bombardment of the 66th Division Artillery. Their mission completed and the pockets liquidated, the 66th Division was assigned to staff three staging areas with added duties taking over the South of France port of Marseilles.