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TRUST • Mission Accomplished
October 1954

The Army Journal, December 1954

The nine-year American and British occupation of Trieste came to an end in October with the signing of an agreement returning Zone A, which includes the city of Trieste, to Italy, and ceding Zone B of the Free Territory of Trieste to Yugoslavia. To the world at large, the settlement meant the disarming of a dangerous land mine of international tensions. To the 351st Infantry and supporting units it meant a mission accomplished, and incidentally, the loss of one of America's most popular overseas stations.

The beautiful and busy port of Trieste has seen its share of trouble in the last 1,200 years. It has at various times been ruled by Romans, Venetians, Austrians, Frenchmen, and Yugoslavs. The end of World War II meant only a renewal of Trieste's troubles. In May 1945, Marshal Tito's troops moved into the city, in defiance of an Allied agreement. A month later, the Yugoslavs withdrew to the "Morgan Line", which is roughly the same as the present boundary between Italy and Yugoslavia. In September 1945 the battle-wise 88th "Blue Devil" Division, at the time commanded by Major General James C. Fry, moved into Trieste. Although the 88th was later inactivated, one of its regiments, the 351st, stayed in Trieste on occupation duty until the Italian Army took over Zone A last October. Other units that remained until the end of the occupation were the 88th Armored Reconnaissance Company, 508th Signal Company, 23rd Ordnance Company, 281st Military Polica Company, 12th Field Artillery Battalion, 517th Engineer Combat Company, and Headquarters TRUST.

The first years of the occupation were stormy. While the predominant Italian population of Trieste was generally friendly, a determined minority of pro-Yugoslav Communists tried to stir up trouble with the aim of annexing Trieste to Yugoslavia. In September 1946, seven U.S. MPs were injured with the the explosion of a hand grenade thrown during a Communist demonstration. A year later, after the signing of an Italian peace treaty, the borders of the Free Territory of Triest were adjusted and the Yugoslavs seized on this opportuiny to provoke other incidents. Coolness and firmness on the part of everyone form the Allied Military Governor to the non-commissioned officers at the outposts prevented the mutual hostility from flaring up into open hostility. At one outpost, manned by five enlisted men and one lieutenant, a Yugoslav colonel demanded the right to march 2,000 men through the U.S.-British zone. The colonel threatened to use force, but the American officer talked to him patiently, delaying him until higher authority could be brought to bear on the fiery Yugoslav, who finally withdrew. A smart junior officer who knew his job had prevented what easily might have become a very unpleasant and perhaps world-shaking incident.

But the main job of the 351st during its long tour of occupation duty was to live up to its motto: "Toujour Pret" - Always Ready. A year-round training cycle was continuously in progress in the hills around Trieste and on the beaches of Venezia Giulia. Recreational facilities were of the best, and the Blue Devils have left Trieste regretfully.

If the occupation of Trieste has proved that opposing powers can get along with each other at close quarters even if there is little mutual affection, it has also shown that allies can cooperate without friction in peace as well as in war.

The troubles of Trieste may not be over. This city of 800,000 still has its unfriendly minority of Communists who are not averse to causing strife. Vitally important as a strategic and economic outlet from Central Europe to the Mediterranean Sea, Trieste must still be regarded as a rich plum by the lords of the Kremlin. But a popular and sensible solution has been found, at least for the time being, for one of the world's most ticklish problems. Much of the credit for this must go to the officers and men who served at TRUST.

Photo Captions:

• A Yugoslav soldier and an American captain glare across barbed wire during a Trieste crisis of 1947.

• Seven U.S. soldiers were injured in a 1946 riot before the MPs dispersed the pro-Yugoslav demonstrators.

• Pulling out of TRUST, the medical detachment of the 351st loads into a boxcar.

• The 351st stood tall for General J. Lawton Collins, then Chief of Staff, when he visited TRUST in June 1951.

Source: TRUST: Mission Accomplished. The Army Journal. December 1954. pp. 28-29.
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