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NEWS | Nov. 17, 2017

“Blue Clover” Soldiers Celebrate a Century of Service

By Lt. Col. Eric Nager 88th Regional Support Command

The Army Reserve’s 88th Readiness Division, which traces its lineage to the 88th Infantry Division, celebrated the 100th anniversary of its activation at Camp Dodge, Iowa, on Aug. 19.


“The event today is a microcosm of the story of America's Army, of which America's Army Reserve has been a part since 1908,” said LTG Charles D. Luckey, Chief of the Army Reserve and Commanding General of United States Army Reserve Command.


“The Army Reserve started with the idea of leveraging civilian medical expertise and has grown to being able to create tremendous effects at a cost savings to the tax payer,” Luckey said. “While our formations have changed status over the years, the lineage and the legacy hasn't wavered."


The division was established as America mobilized to join the First World War already raging in France—soon, the “doughboys” of Camp Dodge would be on the battlefields of the Alsace and Meuse-Argonne campaigns.


In the beginning, the division drew from the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois, becoming known as the “Cloverleaf Division” because of the clover-shaped patch they wear, said Maj. Gen. Patrick Reinart, commanding general of the 88th RSC.


The ceremony was one of many scheduled as part of the national recognition of the 100th anniversary of American participation in the First World War. In many ways, it was during this conflict that the modern Army was born, with establishment of the modern division, new branches beyond the traditional infantry, artillery, cavalry and engineering, the Army staff system, and the construction of many of the installations still in use today.


The crowning event of the WWI Centennial was the Nov. 11 dedication of a national World War I monument in Washington.


When the 88th was mobilized again for World War II, it became the first all-draftee division to enter combat, soon joining the fight in Italy. In some of the fiercest combat in the European theater, the 88th was also the first division to reach Rome, Italy, at 1530 on 4 June.  It was during the Italian campaign that German soldiers saw the Blue Clover patch and started calling the men of the 88th “Blue Devils.”


At the Aug. 19 ceremony, which included the unveiling of a commemorative plaque and a 21-gun salute, the men and women wearing the Blue Clover patch welcomed Bruce Abbott, a WWII veteran of the 88th Division, as the unit’s special guest.


After the war, the 88th Division was one of the last to demobilize.  As Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union increased, the Blue Clover Soldiers were sent to the contested city of Trieste in 1947.


Trieste is a seaport in the northeast region of Italy that was claimed by the new government of Yugoslavia that was still affiliated with the Soviet bloc.


Forming the core of the Trieste United States Troops, or TRUST, the 88th Soldiers sewed white Italian-style fleur-de-lis in the center of the Blue Clover patches to demonstrate their commitment to keeping Trieste from falling under Communist-control.


After the term of service in Europe, the 88th was transferred to the Army Reserve, where it has continued to train and deploy Soldiers from 19 states stretching from Ohio to Washington for duty in Vietnam, the First Gulf War, Bosnia and to both Iraq and Afghanistan for the Global War on Terror.