The division was officially founded on 15 July 1943 at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas, where it remained throughout its training. Like the 20th Armored Division, it has never received and had any nickname and it has not been allocated as of regular army.
The emblem of armoured units – a triangle with three colours was approved and partially designed by later General George PATTON during his service in France in 1917 during the World War I to distinguish them from infantry units and others. He even well paid 1,000 francs from his own pocket for the first manufacture.
During the World War II, the emblem has been complemented by various numbers of armoured divisions at the top of the emblem or by adding a nickname or a motto of the division in the bottom part of the emblem.
After successful completion of its training and all the division units in January 1945, the entire division was moved by train to Camp Shanks near New York. Early in February, it embarked SS Hermitage in New York aboard and pulled out on 5 February to Le Havre in France where it arrived on 19 February. After landing, the division took part in maneuvers lasting several weeks exercise. 16th–20th April, the division units moved from the areas around Le Havre via Gourney, Reims, Verdun to the concentration area near Mainz in Germany. On 26th April, the division was in Würzburg and on 28 April it started to advance to Nuremberg, where it supported the 80th Infantry Division in patrolling and maintaining security in previously conquered city. The Division remained there until 5 May when it moved to the vicinity Waidhaus. Being a practically fresh division inexperienced in combat, it was chosen to be the first to liberate Pilsen and to verify in combat how successful its previous training had been.
At that time, the division had already been assigned to the assembly of the V Corps of the 3rd Army of General Patton. Early in the morning on 6th May, the division started advance, in several streams, via Rozvadov, Tachov, Stříbro and Bor to Pilsen. It passed through the positions of the 97th and 2nd Infantry Divisions. Overcoming a relatively minor enemy resistance, it entered Pilsen after 8 o’clock in the morning and began to occupy major buildings in the city and to clean the city from German snipers and saboteur. The first units to arrive in Pilsen were Combat Commands "B" and "R" under the command of col. Charles H. Noble.
The exception being 23rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron that was allocated to the 86th Infantry Division from 29 April to 5 May and it attacked, and in conjunction with the 20th Armored Division, towards south-west to Salzburg, Austria, the enemy positions in the area of Nieder-Neuching, Isar River, Aufhausen, Altewerding, Neuhausen, Papferding, Indorf, Pretzen, Walpertshausen, Haag, Wasserburg it secured the right side of the 16th AD on the Czech territory where it met with greater resistance in the forested area near Spálené Poříčí. This unit had also been selected for the well-known Velichovka Mission between 7 and 12 May and it was also a U.S. Army unit that went furthest to the east. Its combat activities were assessed at a high level.
The 16th AD remained in Pilsen after the war until September 1945 as the only of the original divisions that liberated western Bohemia on 5 to 6 May. Its units were stationed in almost all the major cities of western Bohemia. They participated in the repairs of roads, bridges and railways. The members of these units acquired many friends there.
Mariánské Lázně was a recreation centre for the soldiers of the 16th AD and also a place that featured the then entertainment stars like Bob Hope, Grace Moore, Martha Tilton, Ingrid Bergman and others.
In Planá near Mariánské Lázně, Company of the 137th Workshop Battalion under the command of Master Sergeant John Zopti was stationed. One day, General Patton passed Planá in his Jeep; he stopped in these workshops and asked John Zopti to replace the original Willys engine for a more powerful Ford V-8. The men from Co. C carried out the replacement and when the then Sergeant John Zopti, who is a Major today, visited the Museum of Armored Units in Fort Knox, Kentucky, after several years, he found out that the Patton’s Jeep was on display there with the engine which he and his men from Co. C replaced in Planá somewhere in Bohemia many decades ago.
Other units were also in Cheb, Kraslice Tachov, Stříbro, Konstantinovy Lázně – there were the headquarters – Touškov, Bezdružice and at many other places around Pilsen.
In September 1945, most units of the 16th AD began to concentrate around Bezdružice and Tachov. On about 15 September, the division left western Bohemia and it set sail from France to the USA on 6 October; having landed in New York, it was transported to Camp Kilmer, N. J., where the whole division was disbanded on 15 October 1945.
Thus ended its short history but not the memories of its members who have attended the May celebrations in Pilsen and its vicinity almost every year after 1990; and they have always been warmly welcomed there. Unfortunately, their numbers are currently very thin and only a handful of living soldiers can undergo a long journey across the ocean due to high age and health problems. One of the last, but always welcome, guests is well-known Erik O. Peterson, a driver of M-7 from 397th AFA, who even attended a trip to Normandy with us in 2004.
|Major-General Douglass T. Greene||June 1943 – July 1944|
|Brigadier General John L. Pierce||September 1944 – September 1945|
|5th Tank Battalion||18th Armored Infantry Battalion||395th Armored Artillery Battalion|
|16th Tank Battalion||64th Armored Infantry Battalion||396th Armored Artillery Battalion|
|26th Tank Battalion.||69th Armored Infantry Battalion||397th Armored Artillery Battalion|
|23rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron||216th engineer Battalion||216th medical battalion|
|137th workshop Battalion||156th signal company||MP squad|