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Draftee Division

Draftee Division: The 88th Infantry Division in World War II

Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 256
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    Draftee Division
    Book Description:

    The involuntary soldiers of an unmilitary people such were the forces that American military planners had to pit against hardened Axis veterans, yet prewar unpreparedness dictated that whole divisions of such men would go to war under the supervision of tiny professional cadres. Much to his surprise and delight, Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall found that the 88th Infantry Division, his first draftee division, "fought like wildcats" and readily outclassed its German adversaries while measuring up to the best Regular Army divisions. Draftee Division is at once a history of the 88th Division, an analysis of American unit mobilization during World War II, and an insight into the savage Italian Campaign.

    After an introduction placing the division in historical context, separate chapters address personnel, training, logistics, and overseas deployment. Another chapter focuses upon preliminary adjustments to the realities of combat, after which two chapters trace the 88th's climactic drive through the Gustav Line into Rome itself. A final chapter takes the veteran 88th to final victory. Of particular interest are observations concerning differences connected with mobilization between the 88th and less successful divisions and discussions of the contemporary relevance of the 88th's experiences.

    Draftee Divisionis especially rich in its sources. John Sloan Brown, with close ties to the division, has secured extensive and candid contributions from veterans. To these he has added a full array of archival and secondary sources. The result is a definitive study of American cadremen creating a division out of raw draftees and leading them on to creditable victories. Its findings will be important for military and social historians and for students of defense policy

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6226-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations and Tables
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. 1 Draftee Divisions: The Historical Roots
    (pp. 1-11)

    H hour was 2300, 11 May 1944. From Cassino to the Gulf of Gaeta, artillery barrages broke the stillness of the Italian night as fifteen Allied divisions hurled themselves against the Gustav Line, Hitler’s string of defenses sealing southern Italy from Rome and points north. In the American sector infantrymen stormed into German positions seconds after carefully coordinated artillery barrages ceased. Mount Damiano, a critical point, fell in fifty-one minutes; the scarcely less important Mount Rotondo fell the following day. American time-on-target artillery fire annihilated a German battalion surprised in an assembly area, and in three days of savage fighting...

  7. 2 Personnel and Personnel Utilization: Bureaucratic Roulette
    (pp. 12-32)

    Of the ninety divisions with which the United States Army fought World War II, the 88th Infantry Division—the “Blue Devil Division”—was the forty-ninth activated. It was, however, the twenty-fourth into combat. In its training cycle it passed all previously activated draftee divisions, and three regular army and six National Guard divisions as well. The 88th Infantry Division went from activation to embarkation in sixteen months. This was a record in 1943 and, despite the subsequent shortening of division training cycles, only one division surpassed and three others equaled that record during World War II.¹

    Ideally, all divisions should...

  8. 3 Training: Honing the Edge
    (pp. 33-48)

    In a retrospective report on Army Ground Forces activities during World War II, Gen. Jacob L. Devers, the postwar commander of Army Ground Forces, expressed satisfaction with the training programs the draft divisions had undergone. His report acknowledged that personnel turbulence had impaired the training of these divisions, but it nevertheless held that the programs had been eminently satisfactory overall and had required few changes, except in matters of detail, throughout the war. The wartime army chief of staff, Gen. George C. Marshall, agreed and in particular cited the battlefield performances of the 85th and 88th Infantry Divisions.¹

    Marshall’s own...

  9. 4 Logistics: The Strongest Card
    (pp. 49-69)

    Of all the arguments that advocates of an incremental expansion of the army made against alevee en masse, the most persuasive were logistical. Even if masses of men could be summarily levied and properly trained—which Uptonians by no means conceded—of what use would they be in modern warfare if ill-equipped? Also, how much would it cost to feed, house, uniform, and supply so many poorly equipped troops?¹

    More than any other military activity, logistics require planning and preparation. Americans have a poor record in preparing for war while still at peace. Until the tenure of Elihu Root...

  10. 5 The Movement Overseas: Keeping the Edge
    (pp. 70-83)

    The 88th Infantry, the first American draft division into combat in World War II, took over a sector of the Italian front on 5 March 1944¹—twenty months after its activation and twenty-eight months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The American draft divisions did not weigh heavily in the balance against the Axis powers until the summer of 1944, two and one-half years after the United States entered the war.²

    Why did the United States take so long to deploy its newly mobilized divisions overseas? Some of the reasons for delay have already been discussed. The War Department...

  11. 6 Minturno: Baptism by Fire
    (pp. 84-104)

    On 4 March 1944 the draftees of the 88th Infantry Division at long last assumed responsibility for a sector of the Italian front. At that time the division’s combat proficiency was unknown; it would in most respects remain an unknown until the 88th participated in its first major offensive, which began on 11 May. For officers and men anxious to share in great events, the nine-week interval may have seemed stale and inactive. Still, those weeks proved an important period of adjustment during which the division matured as a combat organization.

    Across Europe the months of March and April 1944...

  12. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  13. 7 Diadem: The First Three Days
    (pp. 105-124)

    As April turned to May, every soldier in the 88th Infantry Division knew the first major test was at hand. However creditably the division had performed during training or during the skirmishing of March and April, its ultimate worth would be measured not by virtue of training or skirmishing, but by performance in major battles. As a larger issue, the validation of the as yet untested draftee divisions depended upon this battlefield performance as well.

    Each component of the U.S. Army made its World War II debut at different times and under different circumstances. The regular army first experienced combat...

  14. 8 Minturno to Rome: The Pursuit
    (pp. 125-139)

    Even as the 350th Infantry Regiment consolidated Mount Rotondo and the 351st inched cautiously from Hill 109 toward Santa Maria Infante, Allied chieftains shifted their attention from the immediate battle to wider vistas. Now breached in three places, the Gustav Line was but the first of a series of defensible traces separating the Italian southern front from coastal plains leading to Anzio and Rome. Of the other traces, the Germans had developed two—the Dora Extension, three miles behind the Gustav Line, and the Hitler Line, twenty miles to the rear of that—into formidable positions.¹ The Germans had long...

  15. 9 Rome to the Alps—and Beyond
    (pp. 140-163)

    The performances of the 88th and 85th infantry divisions during the final battles for Rome provided striking vindication of the draftee and the draftee division. By the hour of this triumph the value of the draftee had ceased to be much of an issue—individual replacements and the suspension of voluntary enlistments had filled most divisions with conscripts well before June 1944—but all-draftee divisions had until then remained unproven. One lesson from Diadem was clear: small cadres of professionals had, in fact, been able to mold masses of American conscripts into proficient, modern fighting organizations. In time, the War...

  16. APPENDIX 1. Cumulative Personnel-Induced Training Time Losses (Infantry Divisions Only)
    (pp. 164-167)
  17. APPENDIX 2. The Mythos of Wehrmacht Superiority: Colonel Dupuy Reconsidered
    (pp. 168-175)
  18. Abbreviations and File Numbers
    (pp. 176-178)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 179-212)
  20. Bibliographical Essay
    (pp. 213-220)
  21. Index
    (pp. 221-225)