FORT McCOY, Wis. –
The 88th Readiness Division Historian presented a “History Brown Bag” on the Invalid Corps and the 88th Division peacekeeping mission in Italy following World War II here Oct. 28, 2022.
Ward Zischke explained that the Invalid Corps was created by the Union Army in 1863 to deal with its severe manpower shortage during the Civil War. Roughly 60,000 men comprised the Invalid Corps made up of Union soldiers who had been disabled by wounds or disease during the war. These men served a three-year contract.
Members of the Invalid Corps performed a variety of non-combat military duties, including prison guard details, arresting deserters and serving in various support roles in hospitals. This freed up able-bodied men to fight at the front.
To build esprit de corps, members of Invalid Corps wore a distinctive uniform which featured a sky-blue frock coat with dark-blue velvet collar and cuffs which was longer than the typical soldier’s uniform.
The name changed from the Invalid Corps to the Veteran Reserve Corps in 1864, and included previously discharged veterans with disabilities who wanted to rejoin the Union Army.
Zischke believes the three-year experiment with the Invalid Corps has implications for today with the Army’s challenges to man the force and the desire of wounded men to return to their units. The Department of Defense could establish a similar organization should there be a need or interest. And with the developments in prosthetics, wounded servicemembers from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with major amputations have been returned to the front lines or to support roles, proving the validity of the Invalid Corps that began nearly 160 years ago.
Also part of the Brown Bag was a short discussion on the 88th Division’s peacekeeping mission in Italy that began in September 1945 following the end of World War II. The 88th Division remained in northeast Italy near the port city of Trieste. The operations were to keep the Italians and Yugoslavs from fighting over the disputed area.
Units of the then 88th Regional Support Command returned to the region as peacekeepers in December 1985 as part of Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia-Herzegovina.