351st Infantry Regiment, 88th Infantry Division
Herman William Ohme was born in Alexander City, Alabama, but grew up in Montgomery. He was the second child and only son of Dr. Bruno Max Ohme, a German immigrant, and Sue Moon Ohme. His father was a dentist and his mother a homemaker. Herm, as his closest friends called him, had five sisters: Mary, Wilhelmina, Jenny, Elizabeth, and Minnie.
As a child, Ohme became a dedicated Boy Scout and eventually earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He attended Sidney Lanier High School in Montgomery where he played football and served as student class president. Ohme was appointed to West Point Military Academy in 1926. Ohme tried out for the football team while at the Academy, but a knee injury suffered during summer training kept him off the team. Despite this setback, Ohme showed his knowledge of football by coaching the L Company intramural football team.
After graduating from West Point in 1930, Ohme began his first assignment at Fort Benning, Georgia. He arrived in the Philippines in 1933 for a tour of duty at Fort McKinley. In the Philippines, he met, fell in love with, and married Martha Charleton Field, the daughter of Colonel Edgar Field of the Inspector General’s Office. After leaving this tour of duty, Ohme served at Fort Screven, in Tybee Island, Georgia, and at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.
His First Love—The Infantry
At the outbreak of war, Ohme volunteered to attend the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was given an overseas assignment, leaving the United States on December 1, 1943. He left behind Martha and two young sons, Edgar and Herman, Jr.
Ohme entered the war in the Mediterranean in Libya before being transferred to the 85th Infantry Division in Italy. He served on the staff of General Mark Clark for three months. On October 3, 1944, Ohme was given command of the 3rd Battalion, 351st Infantry Regiment, 88th Infantry Division under Brigadier General Paul Kendall.
The Blue Devils
The 88th Infantry Division was activated for war on July 15, 1942. They first entered combat when part of the outfit was moved to Cassino, Italy. When Ohme joined the 88th Infantry Division, he proudly wore the blue clover leaf insignia of the division. He was officially a member of the Blue Devils, a name the group acquired after Axis Sally broadcasted, “Those blue clover-leafed devils are after us again.”
Lieutenant Colonel Ohme assumed command of the 3rd Battalion in October 1944. He had only three days to get to know his men before leading them into battle. The battalion was in the direct line of Mount Codronco when they were ordered to capture Hills 429 and 475, two prominent German strongholds. Finding his battalion held up by heavy enemy machine gun fire, the presence of snipers, and what witnesses described as “relentless artillery and mortar barrage,” Ohme took decisive action to help his battalion achieve their objective of taking Hills 429 and 475.
Five days later, on October 11, 1944, the 3rd Battalion was ordered to take the town of Gesso. The battalion was still fighting the enemy. Ohme knew the men had to break through the resistance if they had any chance of meeting their objective. From an observation post, Ohme began directing tank and artillery fire while undergoing heavy mortar fire himself.
Sustaining heavy casualties, Ohme moved his observation post to a new location, a foxhole on the slope of a hill. He once again began directing tank and artillery fire. While he stood on the edge of the foxhole, an enemy mortar shell made a direct hit, killing Ohme instantly. Ohme’s tactics allowed the 88th Infantry Division to capture Gesso, thus meeting the objective for which Ohme so bravely died. His “bold and gallant” behavior earned him the Silver Star posthumously.
A few weeks prior to his death on the battlefield, Ohme penned a letter home to his young sons, Edgar and Herman, Jr. He wrote:
“Remember you are looking for a happy and worthwhile life. But knowing you both, I am sure that you can only be happy if your conscience is clear and you love, and are loved and respected by other people. With your basic qualities of fine personality, good minds and bodies, life will not be difficult for you. When you need a helping hand and understanding, you have your Dad to call upon as your friend.”
Upon Ohme’s death one of his closest friends wrote to Martha, “He went out just as he would have wanted it—in battle, with his first love, the Infantry.” Ohme’s body rested in a temporary grave shortly after his death on the battlefield. His body was permanently interred at the Florence American Cemetery on May 31, 1949. Martha was informed that her husband was laid to rest side-by-side with comrades who gave their lives for their country.
Ohme’s sister, at the request of her mother Sue, arranged for a tombstone to be erected at Greenwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama, so the family had a local place to honor him.
88th Infantry Division, 1940-1948; World War II Operations Reports, 1940-1948, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1917-, Record Group 407 (Box 108407); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
88th Infantry Division, 1940-1948; World War II Operations Reports, 1940-1948, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1917-, Record Group 407 (Box 10845); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
Bryan, Jami. “The 88th Division in Italy.” National Museum of the United States Army. Last modified 2015. Accessed January 15, 2015. https://armyhistory.org/the-88th-infantry-division-in-italy/.
Delaney, John. The Blue Devils in Italy. Washington, D.C.: Infantry Journal Press, 1947.
Mule Pack Train Moving Across Foot Bridge, Built by the 19th Engrs Near Castle Del Rio. Photograph. September 30, 1944. National Archives and Records Administration (196046). Image.
Fuller, James. Email interview by author. January 29, 2016.
Herman Ohme, Individual Deceased Personnel File, Department of the Army.
Madrick, Casey. Email interview by author. January 5, 2016.
Ohme, Jr., Herman. “Be Thou at Peace.” West Point Academy Connection. Last modified April 21, 2003. http://defender.west-point.org/service/display.mhtml?u=9019&i=1505.
Ohme, Mary. “Last Roll Call.” Assembly, January 1948, 13-14. http://cdm16919.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/assembly/id/1883.