Since the end of WWII, veterans of the 88th Infantry Division Association have been gathering to meet old friends, and to remember those who did not come back from the Italian campaign. The association could be one of the only remaining all-WWII-era division associations that are active and meet annually. Every year it adds veterans to the membership who after so many years just discover the group. I am writing to get the word out that we are still meeting, and to see if we can find other veterans who wish to join us.
The 88th Infantry Division was activated July 1942 at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, and was made up of selective service soldiers. In fact, the 88th is officially credited with being the first all-draftee division to enter combat in WWII. In Italy, the division battled through mountainous terrain against a determined enemy who was well dug in, becoming officially recognized as the first unit to enter Rome. In April of 1945, the final push across the Po Valley was launched, catching the Germany Army “flat-footed.” The aggressiveness with which the division knocked enemy positions from mountain tops and leaped out onto the Po Valley was no surprise to the now battle-hardened soldiers. When the war ended in Italy, it was the 88th Infantry Division who accepted the surrender of the elite German Parachute Corps in the Northern town of Borgo Valsugana, not far from the Brenner Pass that leads into Austria.
Between February 1944 and May 1945, the 88th recorded 344 days in combat, and suffered over 13,000 casualties. Upon the surrender of Germany the 88th moved into a new role. They were among the first troops to be positioned in the fight against the spread of communism by occupying the “Morgan Line” anchored around Trieste, Italy.
It wasn’t long after the close of WWII that the veterans of the 88th formed an association. It continues to bring in veterans as new members, as well as families of veterans. If you are interested in becoming a member you can contact the association. Send an email to Don Thompson, association president at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by sending a letter to: 88th Infantry Division Association, P.O. Box 10464, Burke, VA, 22009-0464.