Brief History of the 88th Division in the First World War 1917-1918
September 4, 1917, to July 24, 1918
The 88th Division, a National Army Division, was organized September 4, 1917, at Camp Dodge, Iowa, from men drafted from the states of Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, and Illinois.
Later, when these first drafts had been transferred in large measure to Camps Cody, Bowie, Doniphan, Pike, Travis, and Gordon, newly drafted men from these original states, together with men from Missouri and Nebraska, constituted the bulk of the Division.
The Division was officered largely by reserve officers from the First Training Camp at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, and from the Second Training Camps at Forts Sheridan, Snelling, and Benjamin Harrison.
July 25, 1918, to September 4, 1918
July 25, 1918, the Division began moving from Camp Dodge overseas and was assembled in the 21st Training Area with headquarters at Semur, Cote d'Or, France, less the 163d Artillery Brigade, which was sent to the artillery training school at Clermont Ferrand in the south of France and never rejoined the Division.
September 5, 1918, to September 13, 1918
On September 5, 1918, Major-General William Weigel, who had just been promoted from Brigadier General in command of the 56th Infantry Brigade of the 28th Division, U. S. A., which had taken part in the Second Marne offensive, was assigned as Commander of the 88th Division. The Division was assigned to the VI American Corps, First Army, for training in open warfare.
September 14, 1918, to September 27, 1918
September 14, 1918, the Division moved by rail to the Hericourt, Haute-Saone Training Area near Belfort, France. Its position in support enabled the 29th American Division to be withdrawn from the Center Sector of Haute-Alsace and sent to take a prominent part in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, where, crossing the river Meuse at Samogueux, it advanced to the high ground east of Consenvoye and captured the enemy artillery observation points and massed artillery there.
This maneuver enabled the American divisions west of the Meuse River to advance without having their right flank held up by artillery fire from these heights. Thus, by releasing the 29th Division from the Haute-Alsace Sector, the 88th Division contributed, not indirectly, to winning the important Meuse-Argonne offensive.
On leaving the 21st Training Area at Semur, Cote d'Or, on September 14, 1918, the 88th Division was transferred to the VII American Army Corps (with headquarters at Remiremont) for administrative purposes.
September 23, 1918, to November 1, 1918
On September 23, 1918, advanced elements of the 88th Division moved into the Center Sector of Haute-Alsace, which was being temporarily held by the 38th French Division that had relieved the 29th American Division.
These advanced elements, totaling eight officers and four hundred men, were augmented until on October 7, 1918, Division Headquarters of the 88th Division was moved to Montreaux Chateau, Haute-Alsace; and on October 15, 1918, the command of the Center Sector of Haute-Alsace passed from the 38th French Division to the 88th American Division, which formed part of the 40th. French Army Corps of the VII French Army, while remaining under the VII American Army Corps for administrative purposes.
To reach the sector, the infantry and engineers of the Division had been forced to make long marches—sometimes 25 kilometers a day—on congested roads, pulling with them their heavily loaded machine gun carts, combat and field wagons, in cases, the average weight pulled per man being 250 pounds.
Furthermore, the Division had been forced to go without essential supplies because all available transportation was being used to the Argonne drive maximum. On arrival in France, the Division had been required to turn in all its field ranges, overcoats, and all except one blanket per man; and means of cooking had to be improvised or secured by purchase from the French or by the utilization of small French stoves in billets, supplemented by the extensive use of camp kettles and water cans.
Until October 6, 1918, there were only two ambulances in the Division—and they had to serve the French troops in the area also.
Meantime, on September 20, 1918, a wide-spread epidemic of influenza set in, and in eight days, there were 1,370 cases in one regiment alone. This epidemic increased until October 14, 1918, on which date there were eighty deaths. All told, there were 6,845 cases of influenza and 1,041 cases of pneumonia reported, from which 444 deaths resulted.
After arrival in the sector, much additional marching was made necessary by reason of the withdrawal of French divisions and the re-arrangement of their forces on the north and south of the Center Sector of Haute-Alsace.
On October 24, 1918, the Division took over the Fulleren subsector of the South Sector of Haute-Alsace, making a total of approximately nineteen kilometers of the front line held by the 88th Division.
While in this (Haute-Alsace) sector, energetic patrolling, often in force, in connection with the French Division in the sector and later when the 88th American Division alone occupied the sector, kept the enemy constantly on the alert, held in the south many German planes, considerable artillery, and several divisions which had remained in this sector of the German line for a long time. Consequently, all this force was held out of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, and again the 88th Division contributed, less indirectly, to the success of that offensive.
In this (Haute-Alsace) sector, several night raids were carried out by the 88th Division, and a number of prisoners were captured, enabling the identification of the opposing divisions to be kept up-to-date. German "stormstruppen" troops, assigned to the duty of roving from one sector to another between the Voges and the Swiss Border, also made several raids on the lines of the 88th Division, both at night and in the daytime. These enemy raids were accompanied by gas projector attacks and by intense artillery bombardments, but at no time were the German raiding parties able to enter the Division's lines.
On November 2, 1918, the 88th Division began to withdraw from the Haute-Alsace sector. On November 4, 1918, it turned over command of the sector to the 154th French Division; 88th Division Headquarters was established temporarily on the outskirts of Belfort.
November 2, 1918, to November 11, 1918
Meanwhile, on November 1, 1918, the 88th American Division was transferred to the Second American Army (with headquarters at Toil), and on November 6, 1918, began moving the advance brigade to the Lagney Area, north of Toul, where it was placed in the IV Army Corps (American) Reserve, which corps had headquarters at Wienville, preparatory to taking an active part in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. The Division's balance was placed in Second American Army Reserve, with 88th Division Headquarters at Lagney.
Again, the presence of the 88th Division, this time on the Meuse-Argonne front, made possible during the days immediately preceding the armistice the delivery up to the very hour of the armistice of even more powerful blows by other elements of American divisions released by the arrival of the 88th Division in Corps Reserve.
The plans of the Second Army for the contemplated attack east of the Mozelle River, effective November 14, 1918, and which was to strike the German line between Metz and Sarrebruck, provided for the 88th Division an important part in what could have been a very important phase of the Metz coup. On November 11, 1918, the signing of the armistice stopped this new offensive and effectively put an end to the fighting.
The achievements of the 88th Division have been measured only by its opportunities.
Men Trained for Three Months or More in the 88th Division and Then Transferred to Other Divisions and Miscellaneous Organizations
Number of Men Transferred to Approximate Time
- 1,500 30th Division March 28, 1918
- 2,300 33d Division March 26, 1918
- 3,000 34th Division October 22, 1917
- 3,780 35th Division April 1-20, 1918
- 8,300 82d Division April 1, 1918
- 8,000 87th Division November 17, 1917
- 7,500 90th Division May 16, 1918
- 14,110 Miscellaneous Sept. 1917, to Aug. 1918
- 48,490 Total of transferred men.