Liberation of Volterra:
Volterra is about 52 kilometers (32 miles) southwest of Florence in Italy. It was along
the path the 88th Division would travel in its World War 2 journey across central Italy.
Wikipedia Notes: Volterra is a walled mountaintop town in the Tuscany region of Italy.
Its history dates from before the 8th century BC and it has substantial structures
from the Etruscan, Roman, and Medieval periods. The site is believed to have been
continuously inhabited as a city since at least the end of the 8th century BC.
Excerpts from "The Blue Devils in Italy" by John P Delaney:
Page 105: The ancient stronghold of Volterra was the first main objective. From observation
points in the high walled city, the Germans commanded a 15-mile view in all directions and for
the sake of the entire mission, Volterra's capture was essential. Assigned to take it were the
349th and the 350th, with the 351st held in reserve. Plans called for the 349th to flank the mountain
city on the right, the 350th on the left, with both outfits then scheduled to cut in behind the stronghold
and seize high ground to the north.
Page 108: The regiments jumped off at 0500 hours on the 8th over gently rolling terrain with poor cover.
... By 2200 hours the regiments had reached their objectives and the 349th sent strong patrols to block
entrances and occupy the city itself.
Excerpts from "Draftee Division" by John Sloan Brown:
Page 143: Some observers consider the 88th's next battle, from Volterra to the Arno River (8 July to 25 July
1944), the best it ever fought. The Germans had finally stabilized their front lines on defensible terrain some
twenty-five miles south of the Arno. A key position in their defenses was an ancient Etruscan hilltop fortress,
Volterra. On 8 July the 88th seized Volterra with a textbook combination of heavy suppressive fires and
engineer breaching parties, close followed by assaulting infantrymen. Extraordinarily effective artillery-delivered
smoke did much to compensate for lack of cover in the gently rolling terrain approaching the citadel.
The 88th's rupture of the defenses around Volterra forced the Germans to abandon their defenses south of the Arno.
88th Infantry Division troops entering Volterra
Photo Credit: 88th Infantry Division book
Fast Forward 50 Years - Volterra Remembers its Liberators:
In 1997 my dad received a commemorative certificate from the town of Volterra honoring his service in its
liberation in July of 1944. An accompanying letter from the 88th Division Association reads as follows:
9-11 July 1997
Dear Fellow Blue Devil,
Fifty three years ago this week we were involved in a nasty shoot out which cost us over one
Three years ago the council of Volterra began to consider appropriate recognition for men of the
88th who had participated in the liberation of their historic city.
On 25 April 1997 at a ceremony to commemorate the liberation, special honor was given to the
men of the 88th and a testimonial document authorized for each survivor.
Enclosed is your award. It may be a small token. It may be late. You can be sure that the many citizens
of Volterra remember...with gratitude.
Signed by Art Dodge and Doc Waters
In 2006 during a once-in-a-lifetime vacation trip to Italy, my brother Richard and I, along
with our wives, made a special point of visiting Volterra. I had learned by then that one of the
Volterra residents who witnessed the liberation as a teenager had subsequently organized having a
memorial plaque placed on the stone wall near one of the entrances to the city. It commemorates
the 40th anniversary of the liberation, with the dates July 9, 1944 and July 9, 1984.
The plaque is near the eastern entrance gate, and is shown below. It depicts the soldiers moving
into the city, and has insignia on the right for (top to bottom):
- Town of Volterra
- United States of America
- 5th Army
- 88th Division