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86th Infantry Division

Last in and first out—that was the unique record of the “Black Hawk” Division on the Western Front. But the men of the 86th didn't expect to be finished with war when, a few weeks after V-E Day, they were rushed from Austria to the French coast and then to New York, where they were acclaimed on June 17 as the first division to return from the war.

There had been a good reason for their speedy homecoming. They were on their way to Japan. They got there with less trouble than they had originally expected; their Pacific job turned out to be not battle, but occupation.

The Black Hawks fought for only 42 days in Europe. But during that brief spell of action they earned respect from friend and foe alike for their speed, maneuverability, and courage. The 86th served under four armies—the Fifteenth, First, Seventh and Third—claimed to be the first of all our divisions to cross the Danube River, and fought with distinction in mopping-up operations in the Ruhr pocket.

Activated in December 1942, the Black Hawks trained in the United States for more than two years, and finally embarked for Europe in February 1945. Landing at Le Havre, the 86th moved across France and Germany by train and truck, finally arriving at Cologne near the end of March. There a few units of the Division saw their first action, relieving elements of the 8th Infantry Division in position along the west bank of the Rhine.

Then the Black Hawks moved south along the river, crossing it at Bonn, travelling deep into Germany, and taking such towns as Ober Veizhelde, Attendom, and Hohenlimberg, Gosseldorf, Weizemburg and Echstatt. At Echstatt, the Black Hawks liberated a large number of Allied prisoners of war.

By April 26 the Division had moved to a position just outside of Ingolstadt, close to the Danube. Under persistent enemy artillery fire, the Black Hawks drove through the city and onto the banks of the Danube, spearheading the advance of the Third Army on the river. That evening, while American tanks lined the river banks and poured shells into the enemy lines across the water, and Black Hawk mortars and machine guns threw thousands of rounds of steel into the dusk, Doughboys of the 86th shoved off from the east side of the Danube and secured a bridgehead on the opposite bank.

The Black Hawks kept pushing forward across the river until they had established positions, and then they had to fight off an enemy counterattack designed to throw them back into the water. They held their ground.

Fighting against Germans who knew the jig was almost up but still were determined not to give in without a struggle, and against Hungarian Storm Troopers whom the Nazis had thrown into the battle, the 86th moved forward through Eitensheim, Haag, Altdorf, and Nauhen, in Austria.

At the end of the war in Europe they were in Perwang, after covering ground so rapidly that they left their own kitchens far behind. But they were used to that sort of thing. One Black Hawk unit had had its chow wagon ambushed in the Ruhr pocket. Later, at Ludensheim, they caught up with the Germans who had stolen their rations, and found that the enemy still had a lot of their stuff with them. The Black Hawks got their revenge; they made the Germans eat every bit of the captured hoard—everything except the tin boxes it was packed in.

From Fighting Divisions, Kahn & McLemore, Infantry Journal Press, 1945-1946.

"Blackhawk Division"

The division insignia consists of a small red shield with the initials "B" and "H" in black superimposed upon a design of a blackhawk which, in turn, is superimposed upon a red shield. The personnel of the division was originally drawn from the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, formerly the territory inhabited by Chief Black Hawk and his tribe. The insignia is a tribute to the pioneers of this sector, and in recognition of their prowess in battles with the Indians. The bird symbolizes keenness, cunning, and tenacity.


Commanding General

3 March 1945 Maj. Gen. Harris M. Melasky

Assistant Division Commander

3 March 1945 Brig. Gen. George V. W. Pope

Artillery Commander

3 March 1945 Brig. Gen. Einar B. Gjelsteen

Chief of Staff

3 March 1945 Col. Charles P. Jones

Assistant Chief of Staff G-1

3 March 1945 Lt. Col. James R. Williams, Jr.

Assistant Chief of Staff G-2

3 March 1945 Lt. Col. William K. Weaver, Jr.

Assistant Chief of Staff G-3

3 March 1945 Lt. Col. Robert Outsen
22 April 1945 Maj. Stanley M. Gotikov

Assistant Chief of Staff G-4

3 March 1945 Maj. George V. Nunn

Assistant Chief of Staff G-5

1 May 1945 Capt. Kalford K. Miazza (Acting)

Adjutant General

3 March 1945 Lt. Col. Charles J. Perry

Commanding Officer, 341st Infantry

3 March 1945 Col. Henry J. Hunt, Jr.

Commanding Officer, 342d Infantry

3 March 1945 Col. Christian Hildebrande
1 April 1945 Col. Pete T. Heffner, Jr.

Commanding Officer, 343d Infantry

3 March 1945 Col. Leo F. Kengla
22 March 1945 Col. George F. Bloomquist



Activated 15 December 1942
Arrived ETO 3 March 1945
Arrived Continent (D+270) 3 March 1945
Entered Combat 29 March 1945
Days in Combat 34

Casualties (Tentative)

Killed 84
Wounded 653
Missing 21
Captured 2
Battle Casualties 760
Non-Battle Casualties 473
Total Casualties 1,233
Percent of T/O Strength 8.8


Central Europe

Individual Awards

Distinguished Service Cross 1
Silver Star 8
Soldiers Medal 1
Bronze Star 45

Prisoners of War Taken 53,354


  • 341st Infantry
  • 342d Infantry
  • 343d Infantry
  • 86th Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized)
  • 311th Engineer Combat Battalion
  • 311th Medical Battalion
  • 86th Division Artillery
  • 331st Field Artillery Battalion (105mm Howitzer)
  • 332d Field Artillery Battalion (105mm Howitzer)
  • 911th Field Artillery Battalion (105mm Howitzer)
  • 404th Field Artillery Battalion (155mm Howitzer)
  • Special Troops
  • 786th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company
  • 86th Quartermaster Company
  • 86th Signal Company
  • Military Police Platoon
  • Headquarters Company
  • Band


Antiaircraft Artillery

446th AAA AW Bn (Mbl) 1 Apr 45-4 Apr 45
839th AAA AW Bn (Mbl) 8 Apr 45-10 May 45


Cos A & B, 740th Tk Bn 8 Apr 45-18 Apr 45
27th Tk Bn (20th Armd Div) 21 Apr 45-23 Apr 45
787th Tk Bn 2 May 45-10 May 45


Tr C, 33d Cav Rcn Sq 21 Apr 45-23 Apr 45
23d Cav Rcn Sq (16th Armd Div) 1 May 45-2 May 45


Co A, 95th Cml Mort Bn 8 Apr 45-18 Apr 45
Co A, 90th Cml Mort Bn 21 Apr 45-23 Apr 45
95th Cml Mort Bn 22 Apr 45-2 May 45

Field Artillery

746th FA Bn (8" How) 28 Mar 45-4 Apr 45
417th FA Gp 31 Mar 45-4 Apr 45
805th FA Bn (155mm How) 31 Mar 45-4 Apr 45
672d FA Bn (155mm How) 31 Mar 45-4 Apr 45
Btry B, 724th FA Obsn Bn 1 Apr 45-4 Apr 45
18th FA Bn (105mm How) 9 Apr 45-13 Apr 45
172d FA Bn (4.5" Gun) 9 Apr 45-13 Apr 45
205th FA Gp 9 Apr 45-16 Apr 45
190th FA Bn (155mm Gun) 9 Apr 45-16 Apr 45
670th FA Bn (155mm How) 14 Apr 45-16 Apr 45
281st FA Bn (105mm How)  20 Apr 45-2 May 45
254th FA Bn (155mm How)  1 May 45-2 May 45

Tank Destroyer

Co A, 644th TD Bn (SP) 8 Apr 45-18 Apr 45
648th TD Bn (T) 15 Apr 45-18 Apr 45
807th TD Bn (SP) 21 Apr 45-10 May 45



86th Infantry Division World War II Missing in Action

There are 1 soldiers of the 86th Infantry Division World War II still listed as missing in action.

Sergeant Marshall T. Shultz 342nd Infantry Regiment 05/11/1945

86th ID Insignia Patch 86th Infantry Division

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86th Infantry Division World War II patch, front view


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